Keeping the F8F Bearcat Flying in Southern California
Camarillo, CA, August 31, 2023 – The F8F Bearcat, Bu No. 122674, assigned to the Southern California Wing, was among the last Bearcats delivered by Grumman. The aircraft was built too late to see action in World War II. Bu No. 122674 first took to the air on March 10, 1949, and was delivered to the Navy on April 7, 1949. That was just one week before the delivery of the last F8F Bearcat.
The Commemorative Air Force (CAF) acquired the Bearcat in 1991 and assigned it to the Southern California Wing. Bu No.122674 had been sitting idle in Chino, California, for eight years, waiting for the right group to return her to the sky. It took 18 months for the Southern California Wing’s maintenance team to replace all the fluid lines and all the electrical wiring. The work paid off, and the Bearcat flew again in 1993. It has been a mainstay at airshows ever since, particularly on the West Coast.
Thirty-two years later, the Bearcat is undergoing a complete restoration to bring it back to its original glory. The aircraft has been disassembled, stripped to bare metal, and awaits primer and paint. The cost of the paint job and the balance of the restoration is expected to be about $75,000.
Of the 1,265 Bearcats built, it is estimated that just ten survive in airworthy condition today. The CAF’s Bearcat represents one of the last great piston-driven, radial engine fighters.
Check out this Bearcat Presentation done by Southern California Wing in October 2018.
Information submitted by CAF Col George Sands, Development Officer of the Southern California Wing.
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