Air Zoo Aerospace & Science Museum in Portage.
FILE – Air Zoo Aerospace & Science Museum in Portage.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) Air Zoo History is coming to life at the Air Zoo in Portage.   For a decade, restoration teams at the Air Zoo have been working to restore a FM-2 Wildcat, that was lent to them.  Did you know that the FM-2 Wildcat was one of the U.S Navy’s best fighter planes?  Playing a big, early role, in helping the Allies win the Pacific theater during WW II.  But how the plane was able to get into the hands of the Air Zoo is a story itself.

  The date was December 18th, 1944.   Navy pilot William Forbes was training on an Aircraft carrier that was stationed in Lake Michigan.  Forbes failed during takeoff and caused the FM-2 Wildcat to roll over the carrier into Lake Michigan.   Forbes was ok but his plane was not, as the wildcat sunk 200 ft into the bottom of Lake Michigan.  It was not until 68 years later, in 2012, that the plan was discovered and resurfaced.  Crews working with the National Naval Aviation Museum found it and then lent it to the Air Zoo for restoration a year later.

Everything from the planes cockpit to the back was gone according to Air Zoo volunteer Phil LaVoy, who is overseeing the restoration.  9 years later and 1,500 volunteers, a recent announcement has made this project even more special.  The future home of the Wildcat will be in the future National Medal of Honor Museum in Arlington, Texas.  Wildcats were flown by eight Medal of Honor winners, which is the most of any single engine plane in American history. 

The restoration project is expected to be done in the about 20 months.  Then the plane will be delivered down to Arlington Texas by semi-truck, in time for the Museum’s opening in 2024.  The plane was originally slated to be the National Naval Aviation Museum, given it’s direct ties to the Navy.   But due to its relation to the highest military honor, it was felt it would have more of an impact, at the future National Medal of Honor Museum.  

Sponsor: Air Zoo