Around seventeen years ago Cavanaugh Flight Museum’s F9F-2B Panther jet became a little more precious, some have said she became priceless.
In was 1993 when the museum acquired the Panther, Bureau No. 123078, and then put it through a 25,000 man hour restoration bringing it back to its original flying condition. Since the restoration the Panther received “Grand Champion Warbird” titles at the 1995 E.A.A. Sun-N-Fun Fly-In at Lakeland, FL and the 1995 E.A.A. Fly-In in Oshkosh WI.
It was in the late 90’s, after the crash of another F9 Panther, that the museum’s F9 became the only “flyable” F9 Panther remaining in the world.
Deciding that the jet was now too valuable to risk flying, the museum has kept it in a hanger on display with its wings up ever since. I use the term “flyable” instead of “flightworthy” because in order to be “flightworthy” it will need an annual inspection and the completion of any repairs turned up in the inspection.
The F9F-2B variant is fitted with under-wing racks for bombs and rockets and served in a ground attack role. This Panther is powered by a Pratt & Whitney J42 engine which was suitable for carrier operations but still some what under powered when compared with the jets it flew against during the war, i.e. the Soviet MIG-15. She wears the livery of the Fighter Squadron VF-721 “Starbusters” with which she flew more that thirty combat missions in the Korean War.
Last Friday, June 27, 2014, CFM rolled the Panther out of the hanger and brought her wings down for the first time in about 17 years. This was one of many exclusive events available to members of Cavanaugh Flight Museum’s Photo Squadron. Photo Squadron members were able to photograph the Panther, in the early morning light, from all angles and even from 40 feet up using the museum’s motorized platform.