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A Bolt From The Blue
Classic Wings, Issue No. 48, page 8 by Robert Greinert

Recently seen coming down out of the sky, slung beneath a helicopter, was long lost Republic P-47D Thunderbolt 42-22687. This aircraft crashed on 29th April 1944 when Lt Marion Lutes took it on a local flight for gun testing purposes. Launching from the base at Nadzab, the aircraft was not seen for another 35 years when it was discovered at 8,200 ft on a mountainside near Gusap, PNG. The impact of the aircraft appears to have been progressively absorbed as it struck trees and shed structure, resulting in the cockpit surviving completely undamaged. When found in 1979, there were no signs of the pilot or his parachute, suggesting he attempted to make his way on foot. Sadly, he was never seen again and thus his fate remains a mystery.

Having been discovered a quarter of a century ago, the P-47 had become relatively well known however its inaccessability meant that it remained mostly unmolested by souvenir hunters. It was very sad then to learn some five years ago that the aircraft had been consumed in a landslide and was lost for all time (Classic Wings Vol 6, no. 2). This story had been told to Robert Greinert who is behind the restoration of two other Thunderbolts in Sydney. He decided to investigate the site recently in the hope that something may remain that may assist with the work presently underway in Australia. Imagine his surprise then when he and colleague Peter Salmon arrived at the site to find the aircraft still sitting just as it was when discovered 25 years ago! Permission was granted from the PNG National Museum to recover the wreck and ship it back to Sydney and this was recently achieved as indicated in the accompanying photographs. While the wings, aft fuselage and tail suffered in the crash of 42-22687, the forward fuselage and engine area remained in fair condition complete with all plumbing, wiring, instruments, placards etc to accurately illustrate the exact configuration of the internal fuselage when it left the factory in 1942. This Thunderbolt was the usual mount of pilot Flt. Lt. J.W. Harris whose tally of four Japanese aircraft destroyed up to that time can be seen on the fuselage sides. The 'Jug' will eventually be restored, however, in the meantime it will serve as a guide to assist in the accurate restoration of two of its bretheren in Australia. With some 67 known P-47 survivors, the return of another early example previously lost to history is a welcome bonus for aviation heritage.

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