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Sat, May 22, 2004

Navy Drops Lawsuit Over MN Corsair

Congressional intervention talks Navy into letting mechanic keep the wreck

Back in March, ANN told you about vintage aircraft enthusiast Lex Cralley being sued by the Navy for his actions in digging up the wreck of a Brewster F3A-1 Corsair that crashed during a training flight in 1944.

The Minneapolis Star Tribune is reporting that the Navy has yielded to congressional pressure and has agreed to allow Cralley to keep what was left of the Corsair. Sixty years after Lt. Robin C. Pennington bailed out of the aircraft during a training mission that began at MCAS Cherry Point in NC, and in which he failed, for unknown reasons, to pull the ripcord on his parachute, the issue has been settled.

Cralley, an airline ground services mechanic, decided to dig up what was left of the Corsair in Craven County, NC, in 1991. He then took it home to Minnesota, where he began the process of trying to restore it. However, the Justice Department, on behalf of the Navy, sued him in March, claiming they wanted the aircraft back. To add insult to injury, the Justice Department accused Cralley of stealing the airplane.

Rep. Walter Jones, R-(NC), found out about the lawsuit, and decided to help Cralley by asking the Navy to drop the lawsuit and let him keep the wreck. Rep. Jones said last week that Alberto Mora, the Navy's top lawyer, has agreed to do just that, much to Cralley's relief.

"It was a whole lot more work to retain the plane than to obtain it," said Cralley. He also thanked Rep. Jones for helping him to get the issue resolved in his favor. After government attorneys and a vintage aircraft appraiser inspected the wreck, Cralley was shown the draft of the congressional amendment, expected to pass the House and Senate this summer, which would cede title of the Corsair to him.



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