MILITARY SERVICE HISTORY
This fighter-trainer (s/n #43732) was accepted by the Navy at Pensacola Naval Air Station in 1944 and served 4 tours of duty (4000 hours of service & 4 engine overhauls) at a number of different bases throughout the US including Glenview NAS & NAAS Barin Field in Alabama.
Over a 12-year period countless cadets trained in this aircraft perfecting their skills in air-to-air combat gunnery, air-to-air ground attack strafing and bombing, and carrier landings in preparation to fly front line fighters. This is why this breed of military aircraft was known as the “Pilot Maker”.
The Navy (SNJ) version of advanced trainer differs from AT-6 variants by the inclusion of a second spar in the wing for added strength necessary for aircraft carrier landings. In addition, the rivets, fasteners and other hardware were treated with zinc chromate for corrosion protection in salt-water operations. The “-5B” designation indicates the aircraft was equipped with two 30mm machine guns; one in the cowl firing through the prop and the other in the left wing. Also, a 100lb bomb was mounted below each wing.
In a bizarre twist of fate, Mr. Ron Martin of Kokomo, Indiana, found this aircraft displayed on the flight line at the 1995 Oshkosh convention and matched the serial number identifying this aircraft as one he flew as a young naval cadet in 1956 while practicing solo air-to-air gunnery and carrier landings. He has sent me a copy of his flight logbook entry.
The Navy surplused s/n #43732 out of its inventory in the late fifties.
CIVILIAN SERVICE HISTORY
The first civilian owner was a Cuban National that flew this SNJ to Cuba and based it at Havana International. As Castro came to power, the SNJ was quickly flown out of Cuba to Miami to escape seizure. The owner went back to Havana to retrieve his remaining possessions, but was never heard from again.
The Miami Airport Authority eventually seized the plane and auctioned it to an adventurous Floridian by the name of Cordero and it was christened with a civil registration #N8214E and based at Tamiami Airport. One of the photos in the “Restoration” section below shows Corderos’ 7-year-old son on the wing in July 1967.
A Dr. John Stamer purchased the aircraft many years later and based the plane at Myrtle Beach. The airport authority there issued an odd regulation requiring any ex-military aircraft based there to amend their registration tail number to include an “MB” suffix for Myrtle Beach.
Doc Stamer sold 214MB in the mid eighties. It was dismantled for an intended restoration but ended up abandoned and languishing in thousands of unmarked pieces on a local hangar floor. The “project” was sold to its current owner, Vic Krause, in September 1987. At that time I had not yet had a single flying lesson. It was my first airplane. I did have a valid Illinois Drivers license with a Motorcycle endorsement so I did not anticipate any problems!
|Registration Number||Date of Manufacture|
|Advanced Combat Trainer||“J Bird”|
|Overall length:||Empty weight:|
|Gross weight:||Fuel capacity:|
|Oil capacity||Engine type:|
|13 Gal||P&W R1340|
|Propeller type:||Max Speed|
|Rate of Climb||Cruise Speed|
|Service Ceiling||Number of Crew|
|2 30mm machine guns||2 100lb bombs|
|Number Built||Number Surviving|
The resolve to restore 214MB crystallized in November 1987. The plan was to roll this bird out in time for the 50th Anniversary of the SNJ/T6 aircraft in Kenosha, WI July 1988. Nine months later, through inhuman efforts by countless friends and volunteers, the assembled aircraft was trucked to Blackhawk Aviation in Janesville, WI. The wings were hung, controls were rigged and she was test flown. We made the 50th Anniversary! 214MB has attended every Oshkosh convention since 1988.
Regarding the selection of paint, polish and insignia schemes for the airplane restoration, there was only one overriding philosophy: The curb appeal of the final product had to be outstanding. The planes appearance had to resonate with what people expected a Warbird to look like. The buffed accents of the cowl, canopy, wing attach covers, gunners hood, and more were a totally experimental and unique look. The paint was concocted by trial and error to achieve that perfect “Navy” look. The result is a “WOW” factor that has endured for over 25 years. “About Time” was chosen as the name for 214MB for two reasons. First, the entire Warbird of America movement is about time. Time gone by – an era of great glory for America for which we can all be proud. Second, all I seemed to hear from my deriding hangar neighbors for the first few years of ownership was…it’s about time you…”started to fly your bird”, “came out to the airport to visit your plane”, “learned to taxi that hangar queen”, etc. “About Time” seemed a very appropriate name.
In my opinion, “About Time” transcends the strict boundaries of exacting, period specific, judge able authenticity to capture the real emotion and essence of the popular Warbird image.
The photos below include 2 shots of Warbird ground personnel. The greatest guys at Oshkosh!
FREEDOM FLIGHT AMERICA
My most memorable SNJ event was the historic 1995 Freedom Flight that began in California with 100 Warbirds flying across the United States stopping at active military bases along the way. It climaxed with a fly-by past the Statue of Liberty, which required a Pentagon security clearance – which would be virtually impossible in today’s post 9/11 world.
It was a monumental, once-in-a-lifetime, probably-never-again adventure for a civilian pilot, civilian aircraft and the pilot’s 80-year-old father in the rear cockpit. My briefing notes for the 1.25 hour flight to the statue was 3.5 pages long and took us through the busiest airspace in the country at 1800 feet, pure adrenaline!! As we flew southbound down the Delaware, my father (8th Air Force Veteran) threw roses out of the rear cockpit onto the deck of the USS Intrepid. It was such an honor for us both.
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