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Restoring "Warbirds"
Monday, 05 August 2013

August 5--  There's a bit of World War II aviation history being restored in South Georgia.

"It was just an incredible find.  It was the holy grail of airplanes," says vintage aircraft restorer Tom Reilly.

ImageSeveral years ago Reilly, who does his restoration work in a hangar at the Douglas, Georgia airport, discovered the remains of a P-82 Twin Mustang at an aircraft graveyard in Ohio.

The fighter was created in 1945 by North American Aviation to escort U.S. bombers on missions to Japan.  It was also used during the Korean conflict.

Reilly was astonded to learn the aircraft he found is actually the prototype and obviously is one-of-a-kind.

"On April 15, 1945 our airplane flew for the first time and proved it was 50 times faster and it had about a third-again the range.  It had two pilots for redundancy and safety.  It carried a lot of bombs underneath and had the same .650 caliber machines guns, not mounted on the wings, but in the midsection to fire between the two propellors," he reports.

Reilly is passionate about his work.

"They're addictive.  To look at at World War II airplane, if they could talk, they'd tell an incredible story.  These are combat aircraft used in World War II to stop the Axis powers from taking over our country," Reilly notes.

He says there is a small community of people like him in the country who help each other find pieces and parts of the old aircraft to use in restoration.

"There are only about 30 people in the country who do what I do.  The people who build Corsairs know where all the parts are, but if I know where some Corsair parts are, I tell them.  There are people who specialize in certain airplanes. 

"I specialized for years in B-24's, B-25's and B-17's and now I'm specializing in the P-82.  There were people out there who knew where some parts were for the P-82 and they told me and I immediately went there to buy them or try to trade for them," he said.

Reilly says he found a P-82 canopy in Maryland and an engine in Mexico.

He expects to finish the restoration of his Twin Mustang in the next couple of years, and he says he and his investors stand to make up to 500 percent return on their investment.  

According to Reilly, the plane now sitting in Douglas will attract high-end aviation enthusiasts willing to pay from $18 million to perhaps $27 million to have the only Twin Mustang prototype in the world.

 
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