NMUSAF Museum P-47D Thunderbolt Moves to The Collings Foundation

The P-47 rolling down I-75 near Cincinnati. [Photo by Honey Osborn]
Aircorps Art Dec 2019

Every now and then, as many warbird enthusiasts will know for a certainty, one can get lucky by unexpectedly witnessing a priceless warbird being driven on the back of a flatbed truck down the highway. Such was the case for the multiple sightings across the southeast of a P-47D Thunderbolt seen being driven on I-75 last week, which was previously displayed at the National Museum of the USAF but will soon find itself a new home.

The Collings Foundation confirmed with us that the aircraft is now on its way to American Aero Services in New Smyrna Beach, Florida, and will eventually become part of the Collings Foundation, in light of the recent trade between the two organizations over a Boeing-Stearman PT-17 with ties to the Tuskegee Airmen – see our article on this acquisition here: National Museum of The USAF Welcomes PT-17 to Its Collection (vintageaviationnews.com).

Additionally, Hunter Chaney, Director of Marketing and Communications for the Collings Foundation and the American Heritage Museum, told us. “This was an exchange for our Tuskegee PT-17 Stearman. The P-47 will go to American Aero Services in New Smyrna Beach for restoration review. Gary Norville will give it a look over and assess how much work is needed to restore it to flying condition. We would love to restore to flying – but short on the most important ingredient. We’ll need to produce a large capital campaign to get the fighter in the air. If that does not work we will have it on display at the American Heritage Museum in the near future.”

The PT-17 at the National Museum of the United States Air Force, in front of the P-47 and B-17 ‘The Swoose’. [Photo by Lisa M. Riley, USAF]

Constructed at Republic’s Evansville, Indiana plant as P-47D-40-RA c/n 399-55706, this Thunderbolt was accepted into the USAAF as serial number 45-49167 on May 29, 1945. The aircraft went through several assignments in Texas, Kansas, and Oklahoma. In 1952, the aircraft was contracted to TEMCO Aircraft as a test airframe through the Reimbursable Aid Program at Hensley Field (now Grand Prairie Armed Forces Reserve Complex) near Dallas, Texas.

The P-47 Thunderbolt’s dataplate. [Photo by Ty Greenlees, USAF]

Its final assignment with the USAF was with the Caribbean Air Command at Albrook AFB in the Panama Canal Zone before being officially stricken from the USAF to be reassigned to the Fuerza Aérea del Perú (Peruvian Air Force) as serial number FAP 540 on March 16, 1953. From there, FAP 540 would later be issued the second serial number of FAPe 116 before eventually being placed into storage by 1963.

In 1969, warbird pilot, television writer and producer Ed Jurist of Vintage Aircraft International Ltd in Nyack, NY acquired six surplus P-47s from the Peruvian Air Force, including 45-49167, and had them shipped to Brownsville, Texas aboard the freighter S.S. Rosaldina, which arrived on September 5, 1969.

Two of the deck cargo P-47 Thunderbolt cache on the freighter S.S. Rosaldina in 1969. [Photo via the Commemorative Air Force]

Once it was made airworthy with the CAF at Harlingen, Texas, Marvin “Lefty” Gardner flew the aircraft at the 1974 Reno Air Races as Race #13 with the colors of the 353rd Fighter Group. A year later, aircraft collector and restaurateur David Tallichet acquired the aircraft and had it displayed at a themed restaurant in St. Petersburg, Florida. Unfortunately, in 1979, the aircraft was damaged in a storm, and it was soon brought to Chino, California for repairs. Around this time, the USAF Museum was looking for a bubble-top variant of the P-47, and in 1981, the aircraft was flown into retirement with the USAF Museum.

In 2018 it was externally refurbished and painted as P-47D-30 Five by Five flown by Col. Joseph Laughlin, commander of the 362nd Fighter Group, 9th Air Force, in early 1945.

Museum restoration specialists (L-R) Nick Almeter, Casey Simmons, Chase Meredith, and Brian Lindamood with the North American P-51D Mustang and the Republic P-47D at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force on Aug. 14, 2018. [Photo by Ken LaRock, USAF]

This work was undertaken by the museum restoration specialists seen in the image above, (L-R) Nick Almeter, Casey Simmons, Chase Meredith, and Brian Lindamood, who also worked on the North American P-51D Mustang. As the museum stated at the time; “They are well versed in a variety of skills ranging from machine and woodworking expertise to precision craftsmanship in sheet metal and painting. Their knowledge of aircraft spans years of technology — from World War I fabric covered aircraft to the elite fighters of today’s Air Force.

To hear the latest developments on this P-47, stay tuned for our next update when new information is made available. We would also like to thank Hunter Chaney for his contributions to this article, and Honey Osborn for sharing the in transit photographs with us.

The aircraft on August 14, 2018, before it was returned to the NMUSAF’s World War Two Gallery. [Photo by Ken LaRock, USAF]


  1. I know the stearman has the special history to it, but I’d much rather look at that P-47, and I am sad to see it go. Too bad really.

    • The P-47 will – at the least – go on display, at a different collection, and may be returned to flight. Not a loss, really!

  2. Not sure why the museum would trade a P-47, a very valuable an rare aircraft for a PT-17 which is very common. The ties to Tuskegee are important but you are trading a $4 million dollar plane for a $150,000 one. Makes no sense.

    • We understand the puzzlement. The missing element that makes it add up is ‘provenance’. Aircraft with a proven, known, and high profile history have a greater value – historical and financial – than those with less. That adds to or overrides the ‘book’ value for a standard example. Regards –

  3. The USAAFM seems to be thinning out it’s collection over the last few years. When I was there recently there were large gaps of space in the WW1&2 halls that just didn’t feel right when looking at the rest of the collection and the flow of route people were supposed to take – like things were missing. I’m a little sore over them giving away the ShooShoo Baby as I have a picture from 20 years ago of me in front of it. I understand that “maybe” having three examples of the B17 is a bit much, but with some imagination you could easily show the evolution of the aircraft throughout the war from the Swoose to the Belle to the ShooShoo. All

  4. Frankly, I’m disappointed seeing it go to the Collings Foundation, after their B-17 “909” was found to have crashed due to deferred maintenance. That inexcusable with an irreplaceable airframe. If you can’t afford to maintain it properly, put it on static display and don’t fly it – or sell it to someone who can.

Graphic Design, Branding and Aviation Art

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.