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FLIGHT JOURNAL
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   Rare aircraft, extraordinary
   people and remarkable stories


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Restoring an aircraft to its totally original condition often results in a machine that is inconvenient to operate. Unpainted aluminum is hard to maintain, drum brakes heat and fade, the turbocharger behind the pilot takes constant care, and the gunsight obscures the pilotís vision. Thatís the way the Jug was in WW II, and thatís the way Bill Klaers and Allan Wojciak define the term ďrestoration.Ē
Thunderbolt
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SHE WAS PORTLY. But she was unbelievably deadly and a surprisingly good dance partner. Those who knew her well loved the Thunderbolt and saw her in a completely different light from those who didnít. The pilots who strapped in behind that big Pratt & Whitney R-2800 and rode it into combat knew the Thunderbolt would take care of them. It could take it as well as it could give it, and more badly damaged Thunderbolts brought their pilots home than any other single engine fighter.

Those who look down their noses at the blunt form of the Jug and smirk are ignoring the facts: most references credit the rotund Jug with having knocked 3,752 enemy aircraft out of the air, many of which were supposedly much more agile. More important, only 0.7 percent of the Jugs that left on a combat mission didnít return.

The most heavily armed fighter in the American arsenal, the Thunderbolt came into its own as a ground-pounder and, because of this, it flew more than twice as many sorties as the Mustang. When its eight .50-caliber Brownings were combined with rockets and bombs, the Jug was a fiercesome ground-attack machine. In the ETO alone, between D-Day and VE day, it is credited with the destruction of 9,000 locomotives and 86,000 rail cars.

Unfortunately, the survival rate of P-47s is among the lowest of any American fighter. In recent years, however, a small handful have been recovered from South America, where they last served as front-line fighters. This P-47D-40 restored by Bill Klaers and Alan Wojciak of Klaers Aviation in Rialto, California, is one of those from far south of the border. Their veritable Thunderbolt "production line" is taking corroded and battered hulks and returning them to the air, where they belong.

Budd Davisson
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Click image to enlarge
Photos by
Budd Davisson
P47 Thunderbolt 4
P47 Thunderbolt 3
P47 Thunderbolt 7
P47 Thunderbolt 2 P47 Thunderbolt 5 P47 Thunderbolt 6



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