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Tue, Dec 09, 2003

ICAS 2003: Cavanaugh Brings a ‘Cat!

When You Care Enough To Bring The Very Best...

ANN Correspondent Rob Milford

At the 2003 ICAS show in Dallas, 11 rows of displays, more than 200 exhibitors, ranging from the Thunderbirds to the Berlin Airlift Commemorative Flight to the Red Barron Pizza Squadron are holding forth on their teams and services.

When you come through the doors, the first thing that catches your eye, and looks mighty threatening, is the “SHOCK WAVE JET TRUCK!” Gleaming in chrome and yellow and orange, inside and up close, it’s an awesome display. Just past the Peterbilt, there’s a replica carrier deck, and on the deck you’ll find a genuine World War II F4F/FM2 “Wildcat”.

Cavanaugh Flight Museum hails from Addison, Texas, in the northern suburbs of Dallas, and Director Doug Jeanes realized last year at ICAS that he wouldn’t be spending money for flights or hotels, so decided to turn that money into his exhibit. Enter, Southwest Museum Services, and Ron Fountain, who had wanted to do some work for the museum and the opportunity and need sort of came together in a meeting earlier this year. Fountain proposed that his company build the convention piece, “Just to show what they can do” and then, the display will be moved to the museum. Jeanes accepted, and the project was on.

“It’s a generic Navy flight deck, complete with a rounded hatch through the bulkhead, and painted tie-down rails. For the sake of safety, we won’t cut out strips where the chains latched.”

The paint is authentic down to the wood grain of the flight deck, but the real question remained “How did you get a Wildcat in the hotel?”

For moving the aircraft from Cavanaugh’s facility at Addison Airport (ADS), it involved removing the right wing, so it would clear the loading dock at the hotel, then draining and then purging the fuel tanks, and removing the batteries. “We trailered it down” and took it slow!” says Jeanes…”it took a couple of hours”

A crew of 11, (pictured above) including volunteers, Cavanaugh staffers and a Southwest Museum Services crew were there to put the aircraft in place, and the finishing touches on the diorama.

This aircraft was the Grand Champion at Oshkosh in 1979 and was one of the last FM-2’s off the assembly line at the very end of World War II, and while it never saw combat service, it’s painted to represent an aircraft that flew from the little known CVE-96, the USS Salamaua, and was part of VC-70. “It’s probably the lowest time warbird flying anywhere in the world” Jeanes says, “ We got the aircraft with 118 hours-total time, and now we’re in the mid-300 hour range. And that’s TOTAL TIME… not since rebuild, or engine, but on the airframe!” The FM-2 is painted overall dark sea blue, with a white tail, and a white slash just forward of the tail.

The Wright 1820 and the three-bladed prop that pulls the Wildcat through the air look even bigger when they’re indoors. Like the entire Cavanaugh fleet, it looks as good or better than it did the day it came off the assembly line.

You get the impression as you walk up the aircraft that somewhere in the middle of this high dollar high-rise Dallas hotel you have entered “The Twilight Zone”, and for just a split second, you’re somewhere in the south Pacific getting ready to “kick the tires, and wind it up” and go huntin’ for Zeke’s and Betty’s.

FMI: www.airshows.org, http://www.cavanaughflightmuseum.com

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