Curtiss P-40E Taking Shape at Pioneer Aero Ltd.

Claudio Coltri's P-40E Warhawk is progressing well at Pioneer Aero Ltd. in Auckland, New Zealand. This image shows the trial fitting of the engine cowlings, but the wings will soon be spliced together, so it can't be too much longer before this fabulous aircraft is once again standing on her own feet! (photo via Pioneer Aero Ltd.)
Aircorps Art Dec 2019

Pioneer Aero Ltd. has had an extremely productive beginning to 2019 from their base at Ardmore Airport near Auckland, New Zealand. As we noted in late February, they successfully flew Jerry Yagen’s Bell P-39F Airacobra after an extensive restoration. With the successful conclusion to the flight test program, they boxed up the aircraft in a cargo container for her ocean voyage to the USA in mid-March. The rare WWII tricycle-gear fighter is now on the way to her new hoe at the Military Aviation Museum in Pungo, Virginia. A team of engineers from Pioneer will assist with the Airacobra’s reassembly once she arrives in Pungo and prepare the aircraft for the museum’s annual Warbirds Over the Beach air show due to take place over the weekend of May 17-19.

With the P-39 having flown the nest, there is now room for the two Curtiss P-40s under restoration at Pioneer Aero to spread their wings again. We recently had a conversation with Pioneer’s Operations Manager, Paul McSweeney, to see how things are going with Claudio Coltri’s former Soviet Air Force P-40E Warhawk 41-13570. As readers will recall from our previous article on the aircraft, this P-40 was recovered substantially intact from a Russian lake back in 1997. As such, a lot of original material can be incorporated into the restoration.

A shot of the P-40 during the airlift from the lakeside recovery site. Her tail feathers, control surfaces, and armament had already been removed from the airframe prior to the heli-lift from a Kamov Ki-25. (photo credit unknown)

As McSweeney noted, “…work has now intensified on the P-40E for Claudio Coltri. As can be seen from the photos, this aircraft will fly again with a large original airframe content; this is rare in today’s restorations. Included in this original content are both of the engine side cowls, which are shown here with the original battle damage being cut out and repairs [being] made…”

McSweeney then remarked, “The engine is shown fitted with the old exhaust stacks and shrouds being restored for use.”

McSweeney continued, “The centre of both wings are being dressed in preparation for fitting the splice-plate and joining of the two wings. The original instrument panel has been salvaged, but the electrical boxes were beyond repair so new ones, as per the photos, are being fabricated. Also shown is a shot of the chin cowl which is now ready for final paint and the cowl gill “hoop’ which is being prepared for fitment.”

Many thanks to Paul McSweeney and Pioneer Aero as well as Claudio Coltri for providing the details here for this report. We look forwards to publishing regular updates on this important project!

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