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Dream of making World War II era plane fly in Oklahoma unites aviation fans

The project that was started in 1999 is nearing completion.
BY MATT PATTERSON Modified: January 29, 2013 at 7:56 pm •  Published: January 30, 2013

When it was no longer in use by the military it became a corporate plane, ferrying executives for several companies over the years. It was eventually acquired by a group in Arkansas that flew it for several years, apparently unaware of its structural problems.

“It was badly damaged,” Hudlow said. “The tail was about to come off and one of the wings was broken and they apparently didn't know that. It could have come off in flight. They're lucky they all didn't get themselves killed.”

Hudlow used contacts at Boeing to have critical pieces engineered and manufactured. Though the company no longer made those types of parts or used that metal, the engineers he talked with wanted to see the plane fly.

“About a year later a big box came, and it had the parts we needed,” Hudlow said.

There were seemingly endless problems beyond a broken wing. The plane's electrical system was a mess. And what's worse, there were no schematics.

Bill Hayward, 81, who spent 28 years as a project leader for the Federal Aviation Administration, started from scratch and drew the schematic necessary to overhaul the system. He also designed a new instrument panel.

Like the others, he has a great passion for aviation. He makes the trip up from his Dallas-area home most Saturdays.

“I started flying when I was 16, and I spent nine years in the Air Force,” Hayward said. “After I got out of the Air Force I wanted to do something else in aviation. The profession has a lot of romance to it when you get right down to it.”

Group leader Jim Dudnelly, 57, has spent his career working in aviation, but his involvement in the project is a way to honor his father.

“My dad was a World War II veteran, and I've always been interested in that period,” he said. “We're just trying to keep those memories alive as a way to honor the men and women who made those sacrifices.”

And when the plane does fly, it will be the culmination of many Saturdays spent at an airport hangar in Guthrie.

“When you decide you're going to do something that everyone says is impossible and you're hardheaded enough to do it anyway there's a lot of satisfaction in that,” Hudlow said.


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