By Gary Daniels
Vintage Aviation News first reported on the restoration progress of the 1954 Beechcraft E18S-9700 “Super 18” in January 2023. This aircraft is currently under a return-to-flight program at the Vintage Flying Museum (VFM) located at Meacham International Airport (FTW) north of Fort Worth, Texas.
To refresh the reader, VFM acquired the airframe several years ago after it had been used for decades as a maintenance trainer at Tarrant County College in Tarrant County, Texas. While in the care of the college, it was discovered that the Beech had once been owned and flown by Jacqueline ‘Jackie’ Cochran. Jackie’s aviation career, accomplishments, and contributions are legendary. Most notably, she was instrumental in the creation of the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) during WWII. Further research revealed that after Jackie’s ownership, the Beech was purchased by 1970s television personality, Merv Griffin. Merv used it to fly numerous stars of the day. Clint Eastwood, Dinah Shore, Burt Reynolds, Gene Hackman, and Doug McClure are a few of the celebrities listed in the logbook as passengers. This uncovered history elevated the forgotten and forlorn airframe into an aircraft of historical value.
In August 2022, VFM Founder Chuckie Hospers and Director of Operations Bill Gorin decided to prioritize the restoration of this iconic aircraft. It was decided it would be registered with the same ‘N’ number as it was when Jackie owned it, N13JC. With Jackie’s lineage traced to the aircraft, VFM will use it as a platform to honor and promote women in aviation past, present, and future. And because of its celebrity history, the restoration team nicknamed it the Hollywood Bomber.
Enter Bill Goebel, owner of Vintage Aircraft Services in Rhome, Texas. Bill was asked by VFM to manage the restoration. He eagerly accepted the project as a volunteer. Since August 2022, Bill has overseen a large and eclectic team of museum staff and local volunteers. His extensive knowledge, friendly nature, and enjoyment of teaching create a positive energy among the volunteers as they tackle the long list of restoration challenges. I witnessed Bill’s jovial and patient leadership when I visited VFM in early December for an update on the project for this article. For example, Bill was guiding the husband and wife team, Joey and Katrina Lorenzen, as they were hand-fabricating the new instrument panel. A new panel is needed since legacy avionics had to be removed, the instrument layout rearranged, and space was created for the new Garmin GTN750/GNC255 avionics and GI275 displays.
As Bill made his rounds, he checked in on mother and daughter, Serah and Miriam McMickle, and Sebastian Fernandez as they were cleaning, sanding, and priming the right and left wheel well interiors. Then, he instructed brother and sister, Benjamin and Grace Lewis, on how to install a new chip detector sensor on the left engine. Up an airstair, he darted to check in with Isaac Thompson, as he was installing a navigation strobe on top of the fuselage. Bill’s leadership of the restoration team is keeping the project on schedule and the volunteers enthused and motivated.
Bill motioned for me to come and see the racks of worn parts, ancient avionics and autopilot components, wire harnesses, and dead instruments that had been removed from the aircraft. There was even an old 8-track player in the discard pile! Bill held up a modern fuel flow transmitter next to its 1950s equivalent. The size of the new sensor is a quarter of the size and weight of the old unit. Bill said, “Modern avionics and electrical replacement is where we will see much of our weight savings.” The restoration team has a wager in play as to how much weight will have been removed from the aircraft when the project is completed. Currently, the bets are in the 200-300lb range.
The restoration team is checking off items weekly from the long ‘To Do’ list. The goal is for the Hollywood Bomber to be a safe flying aircraft, but not a completed restoration, sometime in the spring of 2024. Bill said with a wistful look, “If the planets align, we might be at Sun ‘N Fun!” Additional mechanical, interior, and cosmetic restoration will continue throughout 2024 after airworthiness is achieved.
The restoration team’s work can be viewed in weekly video updates on the HangaRatz YouTube channel, https://www.youtube.com/c/HangaRatz. If you would like to donate to the project, visit www.vintageflyingmuseum.org/join-and-support/. You may also contact the team directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.