Texas Flying Legends Museum – P-47D Restoration Update – Nov/Dec 2017

A 3D CAD view of a P-47D Thunderbolt which AirCorps Aviation developed to aid the restoration of Texas Flying Legends Museum's razorback Thunderbolt. What follows is the latest restoration report by Chuck Cravens! (image via AirCorps Aviation)
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WarbirdsNews has just received the latest report from Chuck Cravens on the restoration of Texas Flying Legends 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 in the intervening two months since our last article on this important project. So without further ado, here it goes!

Most of the skin has been fitted to the tail cone. (photo by John LaTourelle)

Texas Flying Legends P-47D-23RA – Nov/Dec 2017 Report

By Chuck Cravens

Last month we looked into the fabrication and assembly of the horizontal and vertical stabilizers.  This month the restoration technicians moved on to skinning the tail cone where those stabilizers will eventually mount.

We continue to seek information on 5th Air Force Thunderbolts to try and identify the original squadron in which this one served. The current leading candidate is the 35th Fighter Group, 40th Squadron.  I am waiting to get some earlier wreck images from an Australian friend who once had salvage rights to the wreck and took some images that may show some faint markings.


Sections of the fuselage were separated again to examine them carefully as patterns, while the new parts and assemblies are created. Landing gear components were disassembled, which was a real challenge after 75 years in a wet, tropical climate.  They were closely checked for condition and serviceability. Any of those landing gear parts that can be restored to service will save a great deal in fabrication costs, so it was time well spent.

This is an image of an original fuselage section; it would fit just behind the rear wing attach fittings on the lower part of the fuselage. (photo by John LaTourelle)

Here we have a photo of an original upper fuselage section. The rear area closest to us is part of the cockpit. (photo by John LaTourelle)

Landing Gear Disassembly and Inspection

Reforging new landing gear parts unique to P-47s would be extremely costly so the initial inspection of the original parts acquired for the restoration was done carefully. Many more inspections and testing procedures will follow before we can determine whether or not the parts can be reused in the restored airframe.

Steve Cotton is working on disassembly and initial inspection of the landing gear. (photo by John LaTourelle)

Here Steve heats a portion of the Aerol strut for removal. Aerol is the Cleveland Pneumatic Tool company trademark name for their pneumatic air–oil hydraulic shock absorber, or oleo strut. (photo by John LaTourelle)


These are plungers that fit inside the cylinders from the last image. (photo by John LaTourelle)

This exploded drawing from the P-47 Parts Catalogue gives an idea of how the landing gear goes together. (image via AirCorps Aviation)

The upper gear forgings are parts that would be very difficult to recreate, so any that meet usability standards will be restored and saved. (photo by John LaTourelle)

Rear Fuselage Skins

The process of making and fitting skins on a P-47 comes with the challenge of compound curves on nearly every skin piece.  A template is made of clear plastic, trimmed and fitted until it lays smoothly on its intended location.  Then the plastic template is used to mark a piece of Alclad or PureClad skin for cutting.  Holes are drilled, deburred, and the skin is clecoed on to trial fit. Once the guys are happy with the fit, the skin section gets a coat of zinc chromate on what will be the interior surface.  Only then can the skin be permanently riveted on.

Robb Lindbery works with a clear plastic template to make a good pattern before cutting expensive aluminum. (photo by John LaTourelle)

Here is one of Rob McCune’s fine CAD renderings of the framework. This image shows the fuselage ribs in the tailcone. (image via AirCorps Aviation)

Here is one of Rob’s renderings that was used for reference as the tail cone assembly was put together. (image via AirCorps Aviation)

Robb is working on laying out a skin template of clear plastic. (photo by John LaTourelle)

Robb cuts the skin panel from aluminum stock. (photo by John LaTourelle)

A closeup of Robb using shears to cut. (photo by John LaTourelle)

It is always worth the time to explain what is being done to young people who show an interest. (photo by John LaTourelle)

Some of the smaller skin pieces hang ready for their coat of zinc chromate on the interior side.   The largest one is the inner skin for the supercharger exhaust exit duct. (photo by John LaTourelle)

Sometimes bucking rivets requires actually getting inside the tail cone as Aaron Prince is demonstrating. (photo by John LaTourelle)

This shot shows the resulting aluminum skin after the entire template, cutting, and cleco fitting process has been completed. (photo by John LaTourelle)

Randy works on skin for the rear of the tail wheel opening. (photo by John LaTourelle)

A tighter shot shows him trimming the flanged edge. (photo by John LaTourelle)

An original tail wheel gear door lies on the bench, it’s useful as a pattern as Robb produces the new one. (photo by John LaTourelle)

This close up shot shows the clamps holding inner and outer door skins in alignment for drilling. (photo by John LaTourelle)

This opening is for the tail access door. (photo by John LaTourelle)

Forward fuselage

Steve checks the fixture for the forward fuselage for squareness and plumb. (photo by John LaTourelle)

Every area must be square and leveled. (photo by John LaTourelle)

Here he is shimming the fixture for final alignment. (photo by John LaTourelle)


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



  1. some of these undercart parts still are present in fair condition from ww2 crashes in the Netherlands , like the retauration very much , this is not the one found in the Traunsee in Austria is it [dottie mae] ?

    • Good to hear from you Eric… this aircraft is not Dottie Mae. That aircraft was restored to flying condition by Allied Fighters … In fact, our sister publication Warbird Digest recently published an in-depth feature on the restoration, including some magnificent air-to-air images in a recent issue which you can order HERE if you wish. Regardless, we really appreciate your interest, and thanks so much for writing in!

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