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Restoration of ‘the Stump Jumper’ a team effort

HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. - George Bennett (right) and Fredrick Smith, from Civil Engineering, remove a piece of the P-40 for refurbishing Aug. 29. The static display aircraft is currently undergoing restoration at the motor pool complex. (U.S. Air Force photo by Rick Berry)

HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. - George Bennett (right) and Fredrick Smith, from Civil Engineering, remove a piece of the P-40 for refurbishing Aug. 29. The static display aircraft is currently undergoing restoration at the motor pool complex. (U.S. Air Force photo by Rick Berry)

HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. -- The Curtiss P-40 Warhawk was the first combat aircraft assigned to Hanscom Field during the summer of 1942. Through the years the static display on the corner of Marrett and Vandenberg Streets has stood as a visual reminder of those from Hanscom who served in Africa during World War II.

Now, "the Stump Jumper" looks better than ever after five weeks of restoration.

"This is the third time the P-40 has been restored while I've been at Hanscom," said Frank Perry, Civil Engineering heavy repair chief. "The one thing that stands out this time is that it was all done in-house by a talented mix of people. From the prop nose to the tail and wing tip-to-wing tip, CE personal brought this display back to life, and it looks great, despite the condition it was in."

According to CE personnel, the last full-restoration was completed 10 years ago.

"The last time the display was taken down for restoration was in 2002," said George Bennett, Civil Engineering, maintenance mechanic. "In 2010, the display was painted while on the pedestal, which didn't work that well. It needed to be stripped and sanded and that was difficult to do on the pedestal."

On Aug. 1 the display was taken down by a crane and delivered on a flatbed truck to the 66th Logistics Readiness Squadron to begin the restoration.

"Fred Smith spent nearly 120 hours of sanding the fuselage and wings himself," said Bennett. "He sanded as close to the metal as possible and at the same time as I was fabricating the metals that we had to replace."

Next, the aircraft, which is actually a model and not a 40s-era plane, went through several hours of being painted top to bottom.

Civil engineers actually reversed the paint scheme to more accurately depict an aircraft that flew combat missions in Africa during that timeframe.

"Painting it was more labor intensive than you would think," said Bennett. "We had to prime it bottom to top and then paint it yellow and brown bottom to top."

The team put forth a lot of effort to ensure the display was as historically accurate as possible.

"When we were done at the end of the day, we'd spend the last 10 to 15 minutes researching online for information and photos to make it as authentic as possible," said Bennett.

The artwork on the nose was a unique part of the process that made it realistic, as well.

"Bob Peach and his wife, Marcia, came in on a Saturday for more than 10 hours and painted the nose art and other details," said Bennett. "During the 40s, the nose art was hand painted on aircraft. This was the detail that we wanted to put into it to make sure it was as authentic as possible."

It was also this teamwork that made this restoration so successful.

"Bob and his wife, Marcia, were great to come in on a Saturday to paint every detail on the display," said Bennett. "John Sharpe and Rachael Larrabee from LRS were incredible. Anything we needed for the project we received faster than expected, which allowed us to continue working on it without interruption."

When the display was returned to its pedestal Nov. 15, Bennett was amazed that so many people were interested in it and stopped to take pictures.

"I was impressed that so many people noticed and stopped when it was going back up to take pictures," he said. "It was surreal when a teacher stopped because her students were asking where the plane was. I guess it's part of their lives. They see it every day and when it's not there, they wonder why."

Thanks to CE and LRS, it looks like new and isn't going anywhere for at least another 10 years.