All photos copyright by Rato Marczak unless noted.
|Walkaround - Chance Vought F4U-1A
|Chance Vought F4U-1A
Corsair c/n 4078 Bu.17995
de um Sonho (Wings of a Dream
Museum) at São Carlos, Brazil.
|June 2nd, 2007.
Your editor (kneeling, left side) and the Southern Modelers
Here is a walkaround I promised a long time ago. This is the Corsair on
display at Asas de um Sonho museum, near São Carlos in Brazil. The
museum belongs to TAM airlines which has an ever growing fine
of airplanes on display, including Spitfire, Messerschmitt,
Thunderbolt and this Corsair, to name a few favorites of mine. But
before proceeding to the photos, let
me make straight some facts about this particular warbird.
This is a Chance Vought F4U-1A Corsair c/n
4078 Bu.17995. Therefore, it is not a Goodyear of a Brewster as
published elsewhere. Now if you check the bureau number, you will see
that it should really be a dash-A, and not a birdcage Corsair.
This aircraft served during the war in VMF-441 and crashed on March 26
1944 (pilot: Capt. L. E. Midkiff). The aircraft was displayed as a war
memorial in Provo, UT during 1944-1950, and remained as a derelict in a
railroad yard in that town until 1967. Jim Sullivan, famous author and
Corsair fan, found some photos of 17995 during its rest at Provo in
October 1967. The photos were taken by M/Sgt Walter
F. Gemeinhardt USMC (Ret.), and Jim digitalized and corrected the
originals. Thanks Jim and Walter. You rock!
can see, the retro-conversion was not yet done (there's no rear
windows), but the greenhouse canopy is just resting in place so someone
already had the idea.
It then was owned by Harry S.
Daytona Beach, FL, circa 1967-1982 and by Doan Helicopters, Daytona
Beach, FL, during 1982-1989.
The aircraft was registered as N90285 and extensively rebuilt from
1965-1982. It has its first flight on March 1982, at Daytona
and later suffered a forced landing in mudflats, New Smyrna Beach, FL,
8, 1983. Then another rebuilt during 1984-1989, New Smyrna Beach, FL
another first flight on March 11, 1989. After the third rebuilt it was
owned by Roy M. Stafford, Jacksonville, FL during 1989 and by Don
Knapp/D.K. Precision, Fort Lauderdale, FL, during 1989-1990.
I cannot, however,
tell when this Corsair had its birdcage canopy adapted. It was probably during 1981-82 timeframe (see text below - any further information on this matter would be
greatly appreciated). Jim Sullivan told me
that he also doesn't know when the retro conversion was made, but he
has 'a strong suspicion that it happened while
in the possession of Harry Doan (sic)'. To prove his point, Jim
provided another important link of the history - the photo below shows
the 17995 in Harry Doan's hangar in March 1988:
The aircraft was then handed to Tim Wallis from the
Alpine Fighter Collection, Wanaka, New Zealand where it starred during
1990-1999. It was registered as ZK-FUI and flew for the first time in
NZ, on October 20, 1991, as RNZAF/NZ5201:
The aircraft was acquired by Pratt & Whitney Aircraft, Stratford,
in 1999 and repainted in the colors of VF-17's 17-F-13 during its
1943 shakedown cruise onboard USS Bunker Hill (CV-17). Strangely, the
number painted on the fin (56432) is also of a F4U-1A.
Finally, it was negotiated with TAM afterwards and brought to Brazil in
1999, being on display on Wings of Dream Museum since 2004.
indisputable facts about this warbird:
remained to be explained:
original airframe belongs to a F4U-1A.
bureau number reveals that this Corsair belongs to the first batch of
F4U-1As produced by Vought at Stratford, CT, during 1943. Therefore,
this particular aircraft shared the production line at Vought with the
first F4U-1As used by VF-17.
The first was answered by two read readers. Tom Lund from Milwaukee, Harry Doan's sheetmetal mechanic himself wrote:
conversion to the birdcage configuration took place, and why.
it really the oldest flying Corsair (no Goodyear's or Brewster's Corsairs were in
production at the time)?
worked on Bu # 17995 in 1980 to 1982 when I worked for Harry Doan as a
sheetmetal mechanic. I helped another sheetmetal man named Joe to
convert the birdcage canopy. Harry found a wreck in a Florida
swamp and cut the center section out and hauled it back to Daytona with
one of his helicopters (S-58). We drilled the birdcage canopy
section off the wreck, cleaned and repaired it and installed it on
17995. This was all done in Harry's back yard hanger in South
Daytona before he built the new hanger in New Smyrna Beach. 17995
was towed from Harry's place to Daytona Regional Airport at night on
public roads. It was first flown from Daytona Regional Airport and was
quite a sight. My memory is getting foggy on all this and I can only
remember a couple names from his crew. Ralph Nicholas (?) was the
shop chief (Korea Vet and engine man) and Harold Buckingham
(Buck) was his sheetmetal man for many years and did most of the
sheetmatal work on 17995. Buck's health was failing so Harry hired
me (part time student) then another former USAF sheetmetal man named
John (fulltime). We worked at his South Daytona (Big Tree Rd) shop then
the new hanger in New Smyrna Beach on Corsair, TBM, Sikorski
Helicopters and a B-25.
Buck died in 1982 and he was a good old time classic. Great
...when we installed the aft upper cockpit assy the rivet holes lined up
very well which says a lot about the quality of construction. I think this all was done in 1981.
This was long before digital and computer control. It relied on
individual craftsmanship. When the first engine proving runs were done
the airplane was still at Harry's backyard hanger which was on a very
large lot in a residential area in South Daytona. The aircraft was
chained down to a concrete slab in front of his workshop and rattled
the place when it was at 100% power. Wonder what the neighbors
thought? I was there for the first flight at Daytona Intl Airport.
What a great sight! What a great time!
just remembered another of the crew. Leonard Grasso did his paint
jobs. He lived out in Deland and was a WWII vet who trained WAFS to fly
so they could deliver airplanes to Europe. Leonard was also a nice
guy and he flew nearly every fighter type of WWII. These old vets
have been around and have some good stories. Leonard preferred the
also had a B-25, another F4U in pieces, a TBM and several
Sikorski H-34's for parts and being modded. The B-25 was done
for him by Tom Reilly of Kissimmee. I was on it for it's first
high speed taxi at Daytona Regional when it briefly lifted off
the runway. "
Another interesting contribution was sent by Louis Gardner, who recalls:
grew up in Daytona Beach FL., and knew Harry Doan, who was one of the
previous owners of this Corsair. I was a teenager when they were
restoring this Corsair during the 70’s. My Dad would drive me over
to the hangar so that I could see “my” Corsairs. Harry had 2 other
Corsairs in the hangar when his shop was located in South Daytona off
Big Tree Road. One was a very rare F2G-1 “Super Corsair” (bureau
number 88458), and the other one was an F4U-4B with 4 20 MM wing
cannons. I remember how the plane was wrecked in 1983. My Dad sent
me the newspaper article when I was in basic training, because I had
just joined the Army. The article stated that Harry
lost the brakes on landing and ran off the end of the run way, ending
upside down in the mud flats which surround the end of one runway. The
plane broke in half just behind the cockpit, and there
was considerable damage to the vertical fin and rudder. This
started the 2nd restoration.
...The plane did not have the “birdcage” canopy when I
took the pictures. I remember seeing a typical blown hood canopy, and I
think it was from a dash 1D or early dash 4 model. The canopy did not
have the additional horizontal frame like on the early dash 1’s and
did have the early birdcage canopy though, when I saw it at the Spruce
Creek Airport on Thanksgiving Day in 1981 or 1982. I have some really
cool pictures of Harry flying this plane in a high speed low pass on
memory serves me correctly, I remember Harry saying that he picked a
Corsair up from the NAS Jacksonville. The Navy had it in a hangar,
pushed back in a corner and “forgot” about it being there. It was either
this plane or his F2G. Harry was killed in a landing accident at the Ti-Co Air show in Titusville, on April 4th,
1992. He was flying a 1954 AD4 Skyraider when he nosed it over on
landing. The canopy sits high in a Skyraider and he was crushed when
the plane flipped over on its back. This time unfortunately he didn’t
have mud to cushion the impact. His
wife sold off most of his collection shortly afterwards. He was a good
man and is still missed.
old F2G-1 has also been perfectly restored to #57 race configuration by
Bob Odegaard in North Dakota. It flew again in 1999, and was raced by
Bob from 2006-2008. From
what I can tell, Bob was killed in September of 2012 when he was flying
another F2G-2 race #74. Another tragic loss, in both man and
machine. Now if I can just find out what happened to the dash 4B..."
a bit of confusion, since apparently 17995 was found in Provo already
with the birdcage canopy resting on the fuselage (see photos above). I
guess Louis refer to the adaption to incorporate the missing rear
Thanks Tom and Louis! As we see, there is a possibility that sometime Harry has tried to fit the original blown canopy. As for the second question, the answer is no. The honor goes to F4U-1 BuNo.17799 owned by Planes of Fame in Chino, California.
BuNo.17995 is not the oldest non-flyable Corsair, neither, since BuNo.
02465 (a genuine birdcage) was recently recovered from Lake Michigan
and is currently under restoration at the National Naval Aviation Museum, NAS Pensacola, Florida.
Louis Gardner came again to rescue us with some wonderful comments and photos on the history of this particular warbird:
I looked at the pictures again today, I realized that my memory was
wrong. The Corsair did not have the birdcage canopy until the second
restoration began at New Smyrna in 1983. Up until then she had the normal
blown style canopy. Harry Doan had his men install the bird cage canopy
when I look at the pictures now, I realize that the plane had the original
early style main landing gear wheels then. I don’t ever remember the
plane having an arrestor hook installed. You will have to look at the
pictures to see if the proper tail wheel and oleo leg are present during this
And finally the solution of the puzzle: "These pictures were taken by my Dad at the Big Tree shop during the summer of 1976.
In it I am standing next to the tail section of 17995. This is
before the wings were installed. In the background is Big Tree
Rd. Harry Doan’s home was just to the left of this picture and is
blocked by the nose of the Corsair..."
took this picture of #17995 during Thanksgiving weekend of 1982. Harry
Doan was taxiing by in preparation for takeoff at the Spruce Creek
Airport. This was how she looked after the first restoration was completed.
She has a blown canopy here and is painted in the tri-color scheme of VF-17
Commander, Tommy Blackburn. The plane was numbered #1 and was named “BIG
HOG” on the vertical fin. I believe it had 5 kill markings under the port side
flipped the plane over on its back at the end of the runway at New Smyrna
Airport during either April or May of 1983. He lost the brakes and
ran off the end of the pavement, flipping upside down in the mud flats at the
end of the runway. The fuselage broke in two just behind the cockpit. The
airframe received considerable damage but was restored to flying condition
Louis also sent many other very interesting photos about Harry Doan's shop at Big Tree Rd., but that's another story...
Summing all up:
- BuNo.17995 is a F4U-1A built by Vought during 1943.
- She served during the war in VMF-441 and crashed on March 26
1944 (pilot: Capt. L. E. Midkiff).
- The aircraft was displayed as a war
memorial in Provo, UT during 1944-1950.
- Remained at Provo as a derelict in a
railroad yard until 1967, with a birdcage canopy resting on its back.
- She was restored by Harry Doan to the 1A configuration in 1976, and flew as such until...
- ...April or May of 1983, when Harry
Doan flipped the plane over on its back at the end of the runway at New Smyrna
the accident, 17995 was restored again to the current configuration,
with the birdcage canopy, as it is today at TAM's Museum after a few
think that solves the mystery. A bit thank you again, Jim Sullivan, Tom
Lund and Louis Garner. Your help on this was priceless.
besides the wrong canopy, this aircraft carries the wrong post-war main
wheel, wrong tail wheel yoke, and wrong propeler. The arresting hook is
missing. The cockpit interior is painted in light gray and the walk-on
stripes are not painted in the correct place. These are smaller details
restoration-related. This is a fine and rare bird...
(sorry for these crappy photos - I was shaking like a leaf on
you find these photos useful to your next modeling project. If you have
any interesting information about the history of this aircraft, please drop
with his favorite all time aircraft.