Restoration: Connecticut’s State Warbird

What World War II fighter was a product of the Nutmeg State?

Everything in the hangar is on wheels, such as a cockpit simulator, center, and McBurney, to its right. (Jody Dole)
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A Connecticut native, McBurney says his infatuation with Corsairs began as a youngster when he saw restored examples at local airports. And he liked “Baa Baa Black Sheep,” the 1970s television series loosely based on Marine Major Gregory “Pappy” Boyington’s Corsair-equipped “Black Sheep” Squadron of World War II. “It’s the first airplane I admired,” he says.

McBurney got his pilot’s license in 1985 at a base flying club while serving in the U.S. Air Force as a gunner on B-52s. After discharge, he maintained and flew B-17, -24, and -25 bombers for aviation museums. Now he devotes most of his time to transforming the Connecticut Corsair into an ambassador for the state’s businesses. Even if he nets a corporate sponsor soon, complete restoration of the airplane to flight-worthy status lies at least three years away.

“I tell the guys, ‘Sometimes you have to put blinders on and ignore the big picture,’ ” he says. “That’s the only way that we can keep working on this. It’s such a phenomenal task, to have the audacity to think you can put something like this together.”

James Wynbrandt lives in New York City and flies a Mooney M20K.

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