Thanks to a very generous sponsor, the world’s oldest P-40B and only surviving airworthy American aircraft from the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor will join the Collings Foundation.
One of the 131 P-40Bs built at the Curtiss facility in Buffalo, New York during 1940-1941 and allocated the Bu No. 41-13297, this fighter was delivered to the US Army Air Corp in March 1941. It was quickly sent to Wheeler Field, Hawaii in April of that year,
becoming part of the 19th Pursuit Squadron of the 18th Pursuit Group. In October 1941, seven months after delivery, this P-40 was involved in a wheels-up landing, requiring her to be placed in a maintenance hangar for repair.
This aircraft was still in the hanger undergoing repairs when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. That seemingly minor twist of fate most likely saved
P-40B 41-13297 from being destroyed. Following repairs it was returned to flight worthy status. Then, on January 24, 1942, in another ironic twist of fate, with only nine months of service and 56 hours of flight time, while on a routine training flight the plane spun out of control. The pilot, Lt. Kenneth Wayne Sprankle, was unable to pull out from the spin, crashing into the side of a mountain, killing him. The crash occurred in a rather inaccessible area of the island. So, after recovery of the body the aircraft was left in place.
In 1985 the Tomahawk’s remains were ‘rediscovered.’ After some preliminary investigation, it was determined the airframe was not severely damaged and if it could be removed was restorable. Some parts were recovered during 1985. A second recovery mission in 1989 salvaged the rest of the airframe.
In 1989, the Curtiss Wright Historical Association in Torrance, California was formed and serious restoration of the recovered P-40 began. The restoration was named “Project Tomahawk.” Whenever possible parts indigenous to the plane were used. Two other P-40B’s, the 39-285 that also crashed in Hawaii in 1941 and 39-287, that went down in a severe storm over the Sierra Nevadas October 24, 1941 were utilized for parts. When completed, the Tomahawk eventually joined “The Fighter Collection” at Duxford (UK) in 2003. P-40B Tomahawk 41-13297 flies wearing the scheme she wore during her time in Hawaii with the 18th Pursuit Group.
Shipping of P-40B 41-13297 to the Collings Foundation is underway. Once back from
England we hope to have this very rare and iconic aircraft on display and flying in honor of our WWII Veterans for years to come.
Source / Author: Collings Foundation
Photo: Collings Foundation