Bahamas. There’s one sunk in the middle of the lake, been
there for years.’”
Bill wasn’t much for sitting around, so he hopped over
to the Bahamas, rented a plane and pilot, and went wreck
sightseeing. He found what he was looking for in the
middle of Lake Killarney. Being the intrepid treasure
hunter he was, he went and bought himself a blow-up
child’s raft, rented some diving gear, paddled out to the
middle of the lake, and jumped in. Little did he realize
what he had just gotten himself into.
“It was only in 30 feet of water, and I definitely knew
it was a Duck. I took a wire brush and went around the
airplane cleaning off the sediment to see if it was worthy
of being pulled out. I determined it was and set out to
get permission from the government to rescue it.
Dealing with all the red tape was the hardest part of
the whole journey.”
“There’s one sunk
in the middle of
the lake, been there
With ownership papers in hand, Bill and one of his fellow
duck hunters, Kevin Hooey, solicited help from some local
construction workers who had a large crane at their disposal.
Eventually Duck 1649 was brought to the surface.
Unfortunately, in the process one of the propeller blades dug
into muck, causing it to “twist” the engine right off.
“The engine was so rotten that it, along with the prop,
power head, and the exhaust just ahead of the accessory
case, snapped off and sunk to the bottom. Although the
engine was junk, I did manage to rescue the propeller and
the exhaust. Remarkably it is the very same exhaust that is
running on the Duck today.”
With the airplane finally high and dry after so many
years under water, it was disassembled, crated, and placed
aboard a freighter and sent to Miami. Eventually Bill
trucked his treasure back to Seattle where he began to do a
lot of head scratching. He began to acquire instrument
parts first, many of them coming from the Fly Market at
AirVenture. His biggest challenge, equal to that of finding a
Duck, was locating the correct engine.
“The J2F- 4 Duck used the Wright 1820-30 engine,” Bill
said. “Now 1820 engines are quite prevalent and found on a
Unfortunately the engine was junk after all those years underwater, but the propeller and
exhaust were salvageable.
lot of airplanes including the B- 17, but the -30 model was a 790-hp
direct-drive unit, with a lighter crankshaft made especially for the
- 4 Duck. Wright only made 112 of them, and without that engine,
this Duck would never fly.”
Bill was determined to find the right engine—and it was almost
literally hiding in his own backyard. To clear his head from all the
Duck issues, he traveled less than 20 miles from his home to the
Museum of Flight in Seattle. As he was looking at the airplanes he
stumbled across an 1820 engine that was on display. Upon closer
examination he realized it was the needle in the haystack—an 1820-
30! After a short discussion with the museum, a horse trade of 1820
engines was made with Bill taking ownership of the rare -30 model
in return for a - 87 model that he owned.
“Unfortunately I ran out of horsepower, time, and money—not
necessarily in that order! I wanted to see the Duck fly, but I realized
it wouldn’t happen under my watch, and I knew it would take someone with deeper pockets,” Bill said. He reluctantly put it up for sale,
which is how the Duck came to Chuck.
The Duck eventually landed at Wichita Air Service for its complete restoration.