Diamonds in the Wreck

Riches to rags and back again: A 1928 mailplane is reborn.

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What’s left? “We have to construct the tail flying surfaces,” says Pemberton. “We have to do the final assembly and completion of all the wing panels, scratch-build the landing gear, and finish the sheet metal.”

Since Pemberton owns the manufacturer’s data plate and has technical drawings to prove 5339’s conformity to the original design, the Federal Aviation Administration will be able to classify the aircraft as a standard—not experimental or a replica—though that may be stretching things, suggests welder Ernie Buckler. “If you have the [data plate], you can put a new fuselage, new wings, new tail, new engine, new cockpit, new instruments,” he laughs, “and it’s still the same airplane.”

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