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Kermit Weeks to Restore, Fly Howard Hughes' Sikorsky S-43
February 28, 2013 - Kermit Weeks, EAA director and owner of the Fantasy of Flight air museum in Polk City, Florida, recently acquired the historic Sikorsky S-43 flying boat (N440) originally owned by Howard Hughes.
Weeks traveled to Brazoria County Airport, south of Houston, Texas, last month with the intention of finding out what repairs were required to ferry it back to Florida.
After he and two of his restoration specialists made a thorough inspection, Weeks decided the plane was too rare and valuable to fly now; instead, it will be disassembled and trucked to Florida, where it will be on display as parts are being restored.
Since this is the only S-43 in the world that will fly again, Weeks feels it's vital that the restoration process is done properly. It last flew in 2005, and visited Oshkosh once - during EAA's 1994 annual convention and fly-in.
There are only two other known S-43 examples and neither is airworthy. One is on static display at the Pima Air and Space Museum in Tucson and the other (the military variant JRS-1) is at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. That airplane survived the December 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor.
The acquisition completes a Sikorsky "hat trick" for Fantasy of Flight as the museum also has S-38 and S-39 models in its collection. Weeks did not give a timeline for the S-43 restoration, referring to it as a "back-burner" project for now.
Sikorsky first flew the airplane in 1934 and built a total of 53 S-43s. Most of the airplanes were used by Pan Am. Howard Hughes purchased N440 in 1937 and planned to fly it around the world, but those plans ended with the outbreak of World War II.