Dakota Territory Air Museum’s P-47 Update – January, 2019

Aaron tries out the pilot’s position under the trial fitted cockpit enclosure. Check out the latest progress report on the Dakota Territory Museum's P-47D Thunderbolt restoration at AirCorps Aviation in Bemidji, MN. (photo by Nic Berlin)
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WarbirdsNews has just received the January, 2019 report from Chuck Cravens concerning the restoration of the Dakota Territory Air Museum’s P-47D Thunderbolt 42-27609 at AirCorps Aviation in Bemidji, Minnesota. We thought our readers would be very interested to see how the project has progressed since our last article on this important project. So without further ado, here it goes!


The sound of rivet guns hammering away was more constant this month than usual because a large number of skin panels were riveted on permanently. The cockpit enclosure’s first trial fitting was a real milestone as shown in our cover photo. 


One of the unusual features of 42-27609, is that she was equipped with a 5th Air Force modification called a ‘Christmas tree tank’. The name of the tank derived from its shape, of course, and the capacity was 42 gallons. This tank helped to extend the Thunderbolt’s range for long range Pacific Theater operations. 

The Christmas tree tank installation occupied the space where the supercharger oil tank was originally placed. Consequently, the supercharger oil tank was moved to a location just behind the new fuel tank. The oil filler connection line between the access pan also interfered with the new Christmas tree tank installation, so it was completely removed. Access to the supercharger oil tank in the new configuration was through the large door at station 197 (visible to the left of the access pan).

Preparations for Wing Assembly 

As the work on the fuselage gets nearer and nearer to completion, the guys have been making preparations for work to begin on the wings. 

Thunderbolt History, Part 3 

The numbers connected to the Thunderbolt’s wartime production and service are staggering. Adding together the 9,087 P-47’s built at Republic’s Farmingdale, New York factory, to the 6,242 examples they built in Evansville, Indiana to the 354 which Curtiss built under license combined for a total production run of 15,683 P-47s, the most for any American-built fighter ever designed. [Ref. Roger Freeman, Thunderbolt, a Documentary History of the Republic P-47, (New York,Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1978), 141.]

Republic Aviation Farmingdale P 47s line 2
P-47s destined for the RAF and the USAAF share the production floor at the Farmingdale Republic factory,

From 1943 through August of 1945, Thunderbolts flew 545,575 sorties, 1,352,810 combat flying hours and consumed 200,504,000 gallons of fuel in the process. 

Thunderbolts dropped 132,482 tons of bombs, expended 59,567 rockets, and fired 134,899,415 .50 caliber rounds according to Republic Aviation Corporation and the P-47 Thunderbolt Pilots Association. 

P-47 combat losses totaled 824, with only .07% of Thunderbolts not returning from a combat mission, the lowest total for any Allied fighter. [Ref. Cory Graff, P-47 Thunderbolt at War, (St.Paul,Minnesota, Zenith Press, 2007, p 125.]

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P-47D-23s on the flight line of the 40th Fighter Squadron, 35th Fighter Group, photo from the Jack Cook collection by permission.

Though not conclusive, our best evidence so far points toward this squadron as the one 42-27609 flew with in 1944. Anyone having information on the 40th FS, or other knowledge pertaining to the squadron service of this P-47 is encouraged to contact us at AirCorps Aviation.

And that’s all for this month. We wish to thank AirCorps Aviation, Chuck Cravens (words) as well as John LaTourelle (images) for making this report possible! We look forwards to bringing more restoration reports on progress with this rare machine in the coming months.

Is the P-47 Thunderbolt your favorite airplane? Make sure to purchase issue #73 of Warbird Digest featuring the beautiful “Dottie Mae”




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