War Relic To Fly Again In Chester
Maria Garriga, Register Staff
CHESTER — In a hangar at the Chester Airport, a World War II relic
is being resurrected.
The Corsair will fly again, proclaims a sign on the wall.
Craig McBurney, owner and president of Bootstrap Aircraft
Restoration, is rebuilding a Corsair aircraft.
He started the company in 1991 with the sole purpose of rebuilding a
Corsair and offering it as a "mascot" for Connecticut’s historic
The Corsair may be the only aircraft ever manufactured entirely in
one state. Pratt & Whitney built the engine. Hamilton Standard,
forerunner of Hamilton Sundstrand, built the propeller. Sikorsky
assembled the body.
"It’s like any other unique, admired item. Advertisers will pay to
use it," McBurney said.
So far, Bootstrap Aircraft has been supported by corporate
sponsorships from makers of original equipment or companies that
manufacture aviation equipment. The company is still in search of a
McBurney bought a damaged Corsair in 1993, and bought an engine in
prime condition in 2000. He estimates the cost of restoring the
Corsair at $2 million.
In the Chester Airport hangar, a model of the gull-winged World War
II fighter plane takes center stage, while an R-2800 radial engine
sits in a corner.
"This was a transition engine, from World War II to the jet age,"
To help bring in more funding, McBurney, a licensed pilot and
aircraft mechanic, works as a World War II aircraft consultant.
He helps fly and restore historic planes for museums and private
McBurney, 41, grew up in East Haven. In the mid-1970s, he loved
watching the NBC television series "Baa Baa Black Sheep," on which
the Corsair pilots of the famed Marine Corps Black Sheep Squadron
waged war from the skies.
McBurney’s father, Warren, a flight instructor who still lives in
East Haven, would often take McBurney on short flights from
Tweed-New Haven Airport to Sikorsky Memorial Airport in Stratford.
Sikorsky and its licensees built 12,751 Corsairs between 1940 and
Young McBurney was in awe of the model Corsair that hovered on a
pole over the airfield. He grew up to be an aircraft mechanic and
pilot, and his fascination with the Corsair intensified with time.
Designed in 1938, the Corsair was a groundbreaking model that made a
name for itself in World War II and Korea. In 1940, it was the
fastest thing on wings.
McBurney’s partners include Marnie Sablan, an aircraft mechanic who
helps with maintenance and marketing, and Steve Ahern, who is
building an educational curriculum around the Corsair.
After 10 years, McBurney still faces a formidable uphill climb, even
in the eyes of his supporters.
"As of today, he has an engine and some parts, but he doesn’t have a
full fuselage," said Richard Wellman, who retired this year as Pratt
& Whitney’s general manager of customer training and director of
archives and museum.
Wellman offered McBurney space in the company hangars in East
Hartford in 2000, but this year Pratt & Whitney needed to renovate
Whelen Engineering, which makes strobe lights for police cars and
ambulances, invited McBurney to use a hangar the company owns at the
end of Chester Airport. The move started last week and continues.
Despite the odds, many believe McBurney will make it.
"He is persistent, and persistence wins," Wellman said.
Maria Garriga can be reached at