Aircraft Restoration is in full gear at Hangar B, located at Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn. If you didn’t know it, the National Park Service oversees the restoration of several aircraft there. The program is called the Historical Aircraft Restoration Project (HARP) and is staffed with both men and women volunteers.
Having been in and around New York City for years, I never knew this place existed until last week. What’s more, it’s a real aircraft restoration facility in which the public can wander around, touch metal and fabric, and speak with some very knowledgeable people.
Above, a volunteer associated with a Boeing C-97 Stratofreighter gives a visitor a cockpit briefing. [Update per below comment from airplane owner.] The C-97 is under restoration to flying status and is owned by Berlin Aircraft Historical Foundation (www.thespiritoffreedom.com). It is one impressive airplane inside and out. Note the escape rope just above the man’s hand. With the cockpit some 35 feet (10m) above the ground, the rope would enable a crewman to slide safely to the ground.
Below is the C-97’s flight engineer station. This aircraft has one of the roomiest cockpits I have even seen or been in, it truly is a flight deck. There is more open space out of camera range to the left.
Here is a YouTube video of this airplane seen when it was flying cargo runs in the 90s.
WW 2 vets Joe (age 91) and Bill (89) pose with the Stearman N2S-2 Kaydet they restored over 10 years. As Bill said, “it came to us as pieces of junk.” Most all metal and fabric work is performed on site by volunteers such as Joe and Bill.
Bill uses his breath and a cloth to wipe away a smudge.
This North American AT-6 brought back memories of our family plane.
The aircraft are restored to original condition with the exception of running engines since they are destined for static display in museums. Here, the T-6 has its original, 1940s flight instruments.
HARP’s PBY-5 Catalina will be under restoration for many years to come. The US Navy owns this airplane and the Marines and Coast Guard own many of the others in Hangar B. Volunteers put in just a few hours a week on these airplanes.
A Navy P-2V Neptune anti-submarine patrol plane, the predecessor to the P-3 Orion.
The sole jet airplane is an A4 Skyhawk, nearing completion. Sen. John McCain was piloting an A4 when shot down over North Vietnam.
This C-47 is one of the candidates for restoration funds provided by the Partners in Preservation program. Here you can see one of the oil coolers sitting on the table awaiting installation.
One of the C-47s elevators being covered with new fabric. The cut-out section is for the elevator trim. Those are hand stitches, not staples.
Restoring an airplane that probably sat outside for years requires many skill sets. This Grumman Albatross will need work on virtually every square inch from nose to tale, inside and out. Not all airplanes are worked on simultaneously; they are stored until manpower and funds permit work to start and continue on a regular basis.
This Grumman Goose is nearly finished (with operating engines).
A Coast Guard Sikorsky HH-3 Pelican.
Finally, what would a vintage airplane shop be without some nose art?
It’s amazing the public has access to a place like this and it’s solid gold for airplane lovers. Hangar B at Floyd Bennett field should be on the list of every aviation enthusiasts and curious tourist who visits New York City.