Historic aircraft leaves Curtis Field with new look

Alan Woodson said good-bye to yet another piece of artwork last Thursday afternoon as a vintage World War II Grumman FM-2P Wildcat airplane left Curtis Field with a new look. After working on the aircraft for the past several months, Woodson put the finishing details on the plane late Thursday as owner Howard Pardue of Breckenridge flew in to take her home. The Wildcat, a carrier-based airplane that saw much service in the South Pacific in World War II, is a collector’s piece that few have ever seen. This particular plane is the only one of its kind left in the world and has an estimated value well over $1 million. According to the manufacturer’s plate located in the aircraft, this particular plane was built in 1949 and was first restored in 1981 by Nelson Ezell and K.Khvan. Since that time, the plane has also been worked on and restored to near original condition by a list of experts including names such as L. Bridges, J. Fitch, J. Harvey, J. McMillan, E. Holmes and H. Pardue. Having received word that the plane’s new paint job had been completed, Pardue was shuttled to Brady Thursday afternoon. Shortly after arriving at Curtis Field, he performed his normal preflight checks, turned the propeller a few times, hopped in the shiny old airplane, cranked her up and flew home. A puff of smoke followed by the roar of a 1,500 horsepower engine brought history to life as Pardue, sitting securely on his parachute, taxied to the end of the runway. The vintage airplane is a showpiece Pardue takes to airshows across the nation for static displays. The rarity of this aircraft is seldom found especially in the near-perfect condition of this machine. This particular aircraft is one of several Pardue will be refurbishing with the help of Woodson and Texas Aerocolor, Inc.

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