“There were mice camping inside the dust-covered
wings and fuselage, the paint was peeling off the belly,
and the cockpits were full of trash,” said Jim. “Still, none
of what I saw stopped me from pursuing the dream of
owning it once more. I loved that airplane, and I wasn’t
about to let a little dirt or chipped paint stand in my
way.” Even so, Jim swallowed hard when he was told
it would cost 10 times more to buy it back than he had
sold it for.
Jim went back to Connecticut in September with a
rented truck. “We dragged the PT out in the sun for the
first time in more than 30 years,” Jim said. “It was hard
for me to imagine that this airplane and engine had
a little more than 700 hours’ total time on it when it
was pushed into its time chamber. We dismantled the
whole airplane.” After it was packed safely in the truck,
Jim figured it would take no more than two years to
do a complete restoration. “I should have doubled my
figure,” he said.
Back home in Florida, Jim proved that the original
cotton covering was rotted by poking holes in it with
just the touch of a finger. After the fabric covering was
peeled away, Jim was able to get a better look at the condition of the wood and metal tubes underneath. At first
glance, the PT- 23’s innards looked pretty good. But in
actuality the metal and wood parts fared even worse. Jim
found that the rear longerons, especially those in the
tail section, were completely corroded from the inside.
When he touched the wooden wing ribs they would
start to crumble.
After a thorough examination of the PT, Jim made a
long list of things that needed to be restored or repaired.
Before Jim tackled the fuselage and wings, he sent the
Continental W-670-6N to Air Repair in Mississippi so Pete
Jones could bring the radial back to life. With the engine
in good hands, Jim began the long, tedious job of resurrecting an old warbird.
First on Jim’s long list of things to do was pack up the engine
and send it to Air Repair to get it running once again.
Jim’s restoration effort uncovered the original blue-and-white
star and bar, as well as the tail number painted on the plane