Photograph by Jeremy Kramer
What’s in your closet? Families rummaged through storage for the uniforms, log books, and pin-up posters now on display at the Tri-State Warbird Museum in Batavia. Of course, a WWII pilot couldn’t carry his airplane back home in his footlocker when peace arrived; many were scrapped. That makes the museum’s newest restoration—The Curtiss P-40 seen above—a rare bird. Built in Buffalo in ’43, it saw action in the South Pacific as an RAF flyer. A collector saved it from salvage in Auckland and warehoused it until 2006, when the folks at the museum bought it. Warbird president Paul Redlich restored it, often hunting down “new-old” parts. The propeller, for example, is a replacement, manufactured during the war but unused. Redlich’s goal is to restore the museum’s aircraft to historic accuracy—and to flight. The P-40’s big debut was in July, at the legendary EAA AirVenture Oshkosh in Wisconsin, where it won the WWII Grand Champion Award. Funny thing about the P-40: Virtually obsolete when the war broke out, it was pressed into service because the allies needed flyers quickly. “They were glad to get it,” says Redlich. And so is he.