By George Land

The Air Combat Museum in Springfield, Illinois, is restoring a Curtiss P-40N Warhawk which is expected to fly late in 2024. It has been configured as a TP-40N with full dual controls and, when complete, will appear in the scheme of Colonel Robert Lee Scott Jr’s famous American Volunteer Group (AVG – popularly known as the Flying Tigers) aircraft, P-40E s/n 41-1456 No.7 Old Exterminator.

Scott became the commander of the 23rd Fighter Group when the AVG was taken into the United States Army Air Force on the United States’ entry into World War Two. While in that unit he was one of America’s earliest aces against the Japanese; credited with shooting down 13 Japanese aircraft he later became a Brigadier General. Scott’s book God Is My Co-Pilot, which recounts his combat experiences as a fighter pilot against the Japanese in China, is considered by many to be a masterpiece of wartime literature.

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The Air Combat Museum’s Curtiss P-40N-5-CU Warhawk (s/n 42-105079) was delivered to the Royal Air Force (RAF) as a Kittyhawk Mk.IV numbered FX509. Whilst serving in the Middle Eastern Theatre with the RAF in Italy with 250 (Sudan) Squadron, it was flown by Flt.Lt. A.M. Brand (South African Air Force).  Employed on a ground attack mission with six other aircraft, it was hit by anti-aircraft fire in the glycol tank, and Brand had to carry out a forced-landing at Rimini Airfield. Here it was to remain with a broken fuselage until 1947, when Peter Jansen of Louisiana brought it back to the USA. It then passed through a couple of owners before it was acquired by the Air Combat Museum, based at Abraham Lincoln Capital Airport in Springfield, in 2020.

Along with the P-40 (which bears the civil registration N405CU and will be fitted with an Allison V1710-81 (E6) engine), the Air Combat Museum also has two other World War Two flying classics: P-51D Mustang 44-73287/N951M Worry Bird and Vought F4U-5N Corsair BuNo.124486/N494M. The museum is also home to some of the finest pre-1940 civilian aircraft which include a 1928 Stearman C3B, 1929 Kreutzer Air Coach, 1929 Stinson Detroiter, and Fleet Model 9 plus many others.

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As is the case with most small, privately-run collections and museums, the Air Combat Museum relies on not only a few full-time engineers and helpers but also its volunteers. They are always looking for people to assist them in maintaining and restoring these classic aircraft in tip-top condition. Those with mechanical skills are especially welcome.

If you have an interest in joining the dedicated team at Springfield your time and skills will be very welcome, so please visit the Air Combat Museum’s website