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Rare Navy Night Fighter Coming to AirVenture 2019
April 25, 2019 - The Collings Foundation, based in Stow, Massachusetts, has confirmed that its Grumman F6F Hellcat will be coming to Oshkosh for AirVenture 2019 after a lengthy restoration. Collings, a nonprofit educational foundation, was founded in 1979, and has actively toured a number of warbirds around the country, including a B-17 and a B-24, for more than 25 years.
The airplane is an F6F-3N, BuNo 41476, and was originally delivered to the U.S. Navy in January of 1944. The N designation indicates that it was built as a night fighter, and incorporated updated avionics and a radar pod. The Hellcat was assigned to the Pacific Fleet, and served with the VF(N)-76 Squadron as part of Task Force 58, operating at varying times off of five different carriers. VF(N)-76 was reportedly the most successful of the night fighting squadrons, and saw action in the Marianas Turkey Shoot at the Battle of the Philippine Sea , among other major engagements.
The airplane rotated stateside toward the end of the war, the type having been supplanted by the updated F6F-5N, and served as a training tool at Naval Air Station Norfolk for several years, before going into storage and being declared a museum piece. Interestingly, 41476 was pulled out of storage and restored to flying condition and showcased at air shows for several years, while it was still a government owned. The airplane was displayed at the National Museum of the Marine Corps for much of its life, followed by a decade at the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum in McMinnville, Oregon, before Collings took ownership.
The airplane has been restored at American Aero Services in New Smyrna Beach, Florida, and its appearance at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh will make it a key piece of the “Year of the Fighter” as well as our commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the push to victory in World War II.