March/April Dakota Territory Air Museum P-47 Update

The wings have been fitted to the fuselage, a major milestone for the restoration.


Five years ago, in April of 2016, I began writing updates on the P-47D-23-RA AAF serial number 42-27609, though much fabrication and other preparation work preceded the first update.

Once actual assembly began, the horizontal and vertical stabilizers were first. Actual parts in fixtures began for those in June of 2016. In early 2018 the main fuselage began to take shape in its fixture.

Most work in the restoration shop was on the fuselage from then until the guys began assembly of the wings. July/August 2019 was the first update to show parts (the spars) fitted to the wing fixtures. The wings came out of the fixtures and were fitted to the fuselage this month.

So, a little over a year and a half after starting wing assembly and five years from the first work in the restoration shop, joining those major assemblies to the fuselage was a big event for AirCorps Aviation.

Left Wing Install

Right Wing Install

Preparing the Wings for Removal From the Assembly Fixtures.

Over the last few months, the visual changes haven’t been very apparent because they were mainly systems installations inside the wings. To prepare the wings for removal from the fixtures, the systems tasks had to be completed.

The Wings Come Out of the Fixtures

The Wings are Fitted to the Fuselage for the First Time

The significance of this step in the restoration process is that the complexity of the P-47 wing design makes absolute precision in the wing and fuselage attachment points necessary for the four different points on each side to line up properly.

As general manager Erik Hokuf explains, the Republic wing attachment  design is more complex than that of the P-51. If the fit isn’t perfect, major work would have to be done on the wing and fuselage attachments and that would delay the restoration finish by a substantial amount of time.

The great care taken all through the process of assembling the wings and fuselage up to this point paid off as the attachment points slid smoothly into place with no issues.

As restoration specialist Randy Kraft said, it is a great feeling to reach this milestone in the restoration of such a historically significant, rare warbird. “It went really nice, it is always a concern that everything fits and we are able to just slide the fixture pins in.”

Randy and the other restoration specialists have started on the control surfaces. The rudder, elevators, ailerons and flaps all will be assembled in the coming weeks.

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