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Mon, Jan 04, 2010

CT Man Works To Bring Warbirds Back To Native Skies

Project Links Connecticut History With Corsair

After spending 20 years assembling the parts and expertise needed to re-build a Corsair, Craig McBurney is closing in on his goal of flying Connecticut's Official State Aircraft. The planes were the only warbird to be completely built in a single state.

Over 12,000 Corsairs were built for the between 1940 and 1952. The distinctive aircraft were were made famous by Navy and Marine Corps fliers in the Pacific during World War II.

After serving as a gunner in the USAF, McBurney turned to museums and airshows to satiate his passion for aviation.  Soon, he took a more active role in preserving his favorite aircraft, the F4U-4 Corsair.

McBurney eventually moved back to CT from FL, "to try and tie in the history of the state of Connecticut, how much Connecticut has contributed to the history in the country and the world, for that matter."  In 2005 McBurney helped get legislation passed deeming the Corsair the state aircraft. 

McBurney is focused on restoring to flight a single "V-166B" Corsair produced in 1945 by United Aircraft Corporation at its factory in Stratford , CT. He has photos and some of the original parts from the aircraft with serial number 9484, US Navy Bureau Number (BuNo) 97330.  It is a late version of the F4U-4, distinguished by its metal wingtips, flat windscreen and style of canopy.

Spending upwards of $500,000 of his own money, McBurney has collected 10 F4U-4s along with enough parts to fill several warehouses in CT and AZ.  His hangar at Chester Airport (SNC) houses an assortment of pieces, including a 3,000 lb Pratt & Whitney engine painstakingly reassembled from 14,000 individual parts.

"We've got the expertise. Now we just need an infusion of capital," McBurney told The Hartford Courant. "We're trying to find a sponsor here in the state of Connecticut that will help us finance this over the next couple of years to allow us to stay in the state."

His goal of raising $1 million to complete the aircraft over the next three years seem steep, but McBurney says it will come back to benefit the local community.  He claims the specialized manufacturing, aircraft restoration skills, and general interest in state history generated by the project will have long-term benefits for the area. 

The real benefit may be the students that have worked on the "Connecticut Corsair."  The project allows them to get hand-on experience with manufacturing and design while meeting potential future employers. 

In addition to students and volunteers working on the project, local businesses have also donated services and time.  Mark Bliek, owner of Bolton Works, is helping create three-dimensional images of the plane's parts that will be used to create virtual models and then to manufacture new parts.  He sees the Corsair restoration as a great business networking opportunity. 

"What I learned from this is meeting up with the right companies will allow you to do things which you really thought were not possible before," Bliek told the paper.  "I think what Craig does is just bring those companies together."

The group recently built a 7-foot scale model of a Corsair that traveled to the Paris Air Show to grace a CT economic development booth.  In time, McBurney hopes to have a full-scale aircraft that can make the trip too.

FMI: http://www.ConnecticutCorsair.com

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