How long will they be able to keep the WWII warbirds flying?

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Soundbreaker Welch?

Tech Sergeant
Feb 8, 2006
Colorado, USA

I know this is a sad topic, but I really am not sure of this. Anybody have any guesses? I imagine it will be when I'm getting pretty old in years.

Wear and tear most likely are the things that will bring them down to a museum life in the end.
Its time and money - there are many engines out there and as Les says, fabrication capability is state of the art, but the biggest enemy of warbirds isn't corrosion or lack of parts - it's REGULATION AND INSURANCE!
Unfortunatly, some of these warbirds are the last survivor of their type. While we want to see them flying in the air, if it does crash, thats the end of it.
It can only be so long I say... no matter how good fabrication is, maybe there's that one inconspicuous part that no one expects. Keep in mind that the parts are 60+ years old. All it takes is one part sometimes.
syscom3 said:
Unfortunatly, some of these warbirds are the last survivor of their type. While we want to see them flying in the air, if it does crash, thats the end of it.

The guy that owns it makes that call. That is what makes the good ole USA so great. Private ownership and individual responsibility.
The N9M is the last example and it flies. It also belongs to Ed Maloney so it does what he wants it to do. When the P-26 flies this weekend, it'll be the only flying P-26 in the world, again. And the Zero is the only flying Sakai powered airplane ( did you know they had a flying Tony and Hayate in the sixties, sold them to build the museum up). Soon the only flying P-59 will be seen in the air. I look forward to it.
Charlie Nichols has a museum full of pristine fighters in flying condition, and they were flown once in the eighties, and then he didn't have them even test flown after that. It is a dead museum; beautiful and the airplanes are top rate, but they don't and won't ever fly. I was lucky to see the P-63 flown on it's first and last flight by Steve Hinton in '87 or there abouts. It'll never leave the ground again.
Now if one is to use the NASM Boeing 307 as an example, well, not fueling the airplane because it is expensive is just dumb, and there is no fixing stupid stuff like that. A well planned and operated flight operation doesn't end like that way.
These airplanes are going to fly for a long time, but fuel is going to be the biggest factor in the future, not buying it, but getting high octane gasoline that all of these piston engined airplanes must have to operate. There isn't a substitute for lead, and when it isn't available a lot of these engines just won't be viable for flight.
I can't wait for the airshow this weekend. I'll be there Friday and Saturday by the 1935 Beech Staggerwing. If anyone is passing by ask for Chris...
the larger bombers have other problems, as do most of the smaller ones, the big limiting factor in the heavies is the wing spar, it's needs replacing most often and is a huge job, about every 500-1000 hours most heavies will need a new one, PA474 (the BBMF lanc) had one a few years back and is limited to 40 flying hours a year, so it's thought she'll be in the air for 100 years and possible beyond, the thing is no one can be sure, Pelican 22, the South African Shackleton has serious problems, her airframe has less than 100 hours left on her, so they take her up on a half hour training/continuity sortie each month and she only does about 3 airshows a season, that's not her biggest problem though, firstly they have no other shackletons available for spares, the last one they could've used, 1716, crashed in the desert (1720 isn't available or suitable for spares) so no replacement parts, still not their biggest problem, the only flight engineer qualified to fly on the type is 71 years old, and it's not thought he'll pass his next medical and will be grounded, so they're gonna run out of crew for her! they're doing a good job of keeping her together so far but there's only so long it can last...........
It'll be a sad day when the last of those old war birds stay on the ground forever. :(

But I do have one little question, though. Do you people think it would be a good idea to build new World War 2 aircraft from scratch? I know those things were expensive, but do you guys think it would be practical to do so?

The folks who made the fantastic 1981 movie 'Das Boot' had a brand new submarine built for the movie. It was EXACTLY like the old boats of World War 2 and could do everything that the could and did do. Why not do the same thing for World War 2 aircraft?
I have struggled with the question of SHOULD they keep them flying? Whether they can do so safely doesn't mean that there aren't risks. When a classic cars quits running you pull over to the side of the road. When a classic planes quit running you may end up destroying it and losing life. It is great to see them in air show fly-bys and hear those unique powerplants roar. But as for movies, they can do CGI and scale models well enough to do whatever is necessary and we see planes "fly" that have no restored counterpart. The Aviator is an example of that.

Are there enough in static displays like museums that we can afford to lose some others to crash destructions? Maybe. Are there sufficient examples of planes to be seen in museums around the country so that you can do so without going to the Smithsonian only? Once the flying ones are crashed they aren't going to be able to be seen in static display either so it's a double loss.

I haven't come up with an answer as to what is best yet either.
I hear what you are saying Twitch, but I can tell you that flying the old planes is what draws people to these museums. Plus flying them at shows is a good way to raise funds for the museums. Granted, if they weren't flying, the operating costs would be drastically reduced, but to hear and see these old birds fly is a learning experience in itself. I tok my boy several times out to the museum where I volunteer and he loved it. But the first time he saw them flying and running, he got really excited.
I think that the possibility of the Collings bomber tour lasting a long time are good. I was told that Collings is quite wealthy, I also know that there were times when parts had to be fabricated to replace worn out items.I assume that you are not referring to static planes

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