Dakota Territory Air Museum’s P-47 Update – September, 2018

The Thunderbolt's fuselage is really beginning to take shape in its jig now at AirCorps Aviation. Here is the September 2018 update on this magnificent restoration project. (photo by John LaTourelle)

WarbirdsNews has just received the September, 2018 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!

Here you can see two sections of the complicated duct-work awaiting installation in the P-47. These ducts will mount on the top forward face of the intercooler and route cooled, compressed air forward to the carburetor. (photo by John LaTourelle)


During late July and early September restoration emphasis in the AirCorps shop was centered on the intercooler system and its complicated ducting, along with continuing the assembly of the upper fuselage structure. During the month, we were contacted about a possible lead on the squadron assignment. While it remains tentative, if more information can be confirmed I will write about it in subsequent updates. 

Each added component, frame, and skin section drives home the fact that the P-47 was the largest single engined fighter of WWII. The size and shape of its massive fuselage was heavily influenced by components of the General Electric super/turbocharging system, the Harrison intercooler, and all the ducting that was necessary to make them both function efficiently. 

Fuselage Structure 

The rollover structure and the structural frame for the fuselage forward of the cockpit were just some of the projects undertaken this month as the upper fuselage goes together. 

This is the bottom face of the forward fuselage tank bay panel. (photo by John LaTourelle)

Aaron peers through the structure just behind the A-frame that makes up the forward bulkhead of the razorback section and provides rollover protection for the pilot. (photo by John LaTourelle)

Aaron works in the cockpit area just forward of the rollover frame. (photo by John LaTourelle)

A similar perspective of the rollover frame shows the fuselage crash protector fitting. The green tag indicates the fitting will be proven serviceable if it passes dye penetrant testing.. (photo by John LaTourelle)

Chad works on an interior panel of the main fuel bay. (photo by John LaTourelle)

This is the cockpit area and rear of the main fuel tank panel shown from slightly above. (photo by John LaTourelle)

A side view of the same area with the protective pad removed lets us see the cockpit floor. (photo by John LaTourelle)

From near the rear of the fuselage, we look forward at the turtledeck supporting structure and the rear face of the intercooler. (photo by John LaTourelle)

The elevator lever support is clecoed in place between two fuselage formers. (photo by John LaTourelle)

This image shows the elevator lever support looking forward toward the rollover A frame. (photo by John LaTourelle)

Randy works in front of the the cockpit to fit and install an arch assembly at station 132 of the upper deck, forward fuselage. (photo by John LaTourelle)

The instrument panel will be mounted to this former assembly as the restoration progresses. Sometimes it takes a great many clamps and clecos to hold a part tightly enough that rivet holes end up in the correct place and assure that the piece lays tight to the formers or structure beneath it. (photo by John LaTourelle)

Work progresses on skinning the forward turtledeck. (photo by John LaTourelle)

This shot gives a good perspective on how big this fighter really is – Aaron almost disappears inside the fuselage. It isn’t like working on a Mustang! (photo by John LaTourelle)

The zinc chromated assembly inside the outer fuselage framework is the unique “ Christmas tree tank”. This was an innovation for the 5th Air Force to extend the P-47s range for long SW Pacific theater missions. (photo by John LaTourelle)

The added zinc chromated tank is visible in about the middle of the top line of the fuselage. (photo by John LaTourelle)

As assembly gets more detailed, the guys insert engineering drawings into handy spaces in the structure for quick reference. (photo by John LaTourelle)

From the left: Dave, Ryan, Randy, and Aaron – The last three appear to be discussing the restorations progress. (photo by John LaTourelle)

Intercooler System 

It is easy to see how much space the Harrison intercooler and associated ducting takes up, and why this system had so much to do with the Thunderbolt’s size and shape.

. (photo by John LaTourelle)

The back side of the intercooler connects to ducting that takes air from the intercooler to the exit doors. The air gains heat as it flows through the intercooler and cools the compressed air that is headed forward to the carburetor. (photo by John LaTourelle)

Robb prepares an intercooler exit duct for installation. (photo by John LaTourelle)

The intercooler exit ducts are clecoed together and ready for riveting. (photo by John LaTourelle)

The turbocharger mounting ring sits behind and below the ducting leading to the intercooler exit doors. (photo by John LaTourelle)

The two triangular former sections are actually supports for a pivot shaft that controls the intercooler exit doors. The open space below them is the hole where those doors will eventually mounted. (photo by John LaTourelle)

In this wider shot, we can better see the pivot shaft support’s relationship to the opening for the intercooler exit door. (photo by John LaTourelle)

This casting is where the bottom end of the intercooler exit door control pivot shaft mounts. (photo by John LaTourelle)


Inspection and restoration of parts needed in upcoming steps goes on as always. Another critical task is design and fabrication of the wing jig that will be needed after the fuselage is essentially complete. Steve Wold, of our CAD engineering department, shared his work on that wing fixture. It isn’t complete yet, but rather a work in progress.

This CAD rendering of the future wing fixture is the result of hours of design work. (photo by John LaTourelle)

Of the two hydraulic reservoirs seen here, the one in front is a reproduction, while the one behind is an original Republic part that will used in this restoration. (photo by John LaTourelle)

Lance disassembles and inspects a tail wheel strut. (photo by John LaTourelle)LANCE SUMSTAD, Airframe Component Repair 

Our profile subject this time is Lance Sumstad. 

Lance is a relatively new face in the restoration shop. His background is varied and interesting and his skills are a welcome addition to the restoration crew at AirCorps Aviation. 

Lance was a B-52G crew chief and currently is a licensed outstation A&P mechanic. He owned his own welding and manufacturing business making a wide variety of products including truck utility bodies, trailers, and specialized ice fishing trailer/houses that can be lowered onto the ice surface by rotating the wheel assemblies. Lance also worked as a production manager at a laser and powdercoating business, and designed production equipment for Mann Lake, LTD a beekeeping supply company. 

Akeley, Minnesota is where Lance and his wife Sheri call home. They have a grown son and daughter and are blessed with 5 grandchildren The Air Force runs in the family, both of the Sumstad offspring also served.

Bonus Images

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”


Issue #73


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