WWII Combat Veteran F4U-1D Corsair Nearing First Flight

Mike Spaulding's F4U-1D Corsair parked out on the ramp at Mareeba ready for an engine run. Spaulding's tricycle-gear Beech H.18 VH-MBU is seen just behind WWII combat-veteran fighter. (image via Mike Spaulding)
Aircorps Art Dec 2019

It’s been some time since our last update on progress with Mike Spaulding’s Vought Corsair which has been under restoration for the past decade in Mareeba, near the city of Cairns in northern Queensland, Australia. This aircraft, F4U-1D BuNo.82640, served aboard the carrier USS Intrepid with VF-10 Grim Reapers between January and April, 1945, and likely participated in the Battle of Okinawa, making it one of just a handful of surviving WWII-era combat veteran Corsairs. Furthermore, this Corsair is one of just two surviving Vought-built -1D variants. Oddly enough, the only other complete F4U-1D is also associated with VF-10, this being the Smithsonian’s example, BuNo.50375, which helped train Grim Reaper’s pilots during their Corsair workup at NAS Atlantic City in the weeks prior to their deployment aboard Intrepid for the Pacific.

Regarding Bu.82460’s restoration, Mike Spaulding reported to us, “We have here been working along on this project without interruption which has been pretty good compared to what has been happening around the world. I hope you are well and coping with your situation in the USA.”

Progress with the restoration has moved forwards considerably since our last report HERE. The aircraft and its systems are essentially complete. Furthermore, they have painted the airframe with an overall gloss navy blue scheme representative of the period.

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Towing the F4U-1D outside for an engine run. (image via Mike Spaulding)

Asked about the project’s present status, Spaulding replied, “We have now run the engine a few times and are just finishing off small jobs… Work remaining is basically to weigh the aircraft, get the Certificate of Airworthiness and fly it, all of which we expect to have completed by midyear. Whilst doing these remaining items we also maintain in flying condition our Winjeel, Harvard & Beech 18.”

As Spaulding noted, there are several other historic aircraft in his fleet, these being: Beech H.18 VH-MBU, former Royal New Zealand Air Force NAA Harvard Mk.II NZ1040, and former Royal Australian Air Force CAC CA-25 Winjeel A85-453. Spaulding also has previous experience restoring vintage WWII fighters, having played a big role in the rebuild and operation of his Curtiss P-40N 42-104977 earlier this millennium. This aircraft now belongs to Thom Richard in Kissimmee, Florida, and flies as American Dream.

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Mike Spaulding sitting in the cockpit of his F4U-1D preparing for an engine run. (image via Mike Spaulding)

For a more evocative look at the Corsair’s engine runs, the December, 2020 video below should prove useful… make sure to turn up your speaker volume when the engine starts!

Given how close the aircraft is getting towards attaining her airworthiness certificate, we asked Spaulding about who might make the first flight. He responded, “Due to the current situation [with the pandemic] our test pilot has not yet been chosen.” So the timing of the first flight will really depend upon a few factors outside of Spaulding’s control. Even so, it is clear that the Corsair is in great hands. She looks and sounds magnificent, and we anticipate reporting on her first flight in due course!

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Mike Spaulding (left) and his chief engineer, Paul Knox (right), standing on the tow bar attached to the freshly-restored F4U-1D. (image via Mike Spaulding)

Many thanks indeed to Mike Spaulding for sending us the images included here, and for taking the time to talk about his fabulous aircraft!


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