‘This is big’: World War II Navy bomber restored at Air Zoo

Kalamazoo County

PORTAGE, Mich. (WOOD) — An airplane from World War Two has been restored after five years of hard work from volunteers.

Now, it’s set for another takeoff.

“We have a Douglas Aircraft Built SB9-2P Dauntless Dive Bomber,” Daniel Brant, the assisatnt manager of restoration at the Air Zoo in Portage, said.

It’s a Navy bomber from World War II. Brant said there isn’t any documentation that says definitely that it flew in any key battles, but it was on an aircraft carrier during the Battle of the Coral Sea.

“The carrier was being shot at. In our book, this airplane is still a war veteran,” Brant said.

In 1944, the plane crashed into Lake Michigan during icy weather while trying to land on a flat top ship. The pilot, Lt. John Lendo, was not injured but the plane sunk 200 feet into a watery grave and stayed there for 65 years until it was recovered in 2009.

“It was brought to the surface and the Navy ultimately decided they wanted the Air Zoo to do the restoration work on the airplane,” Brant said.

Restoring the plan to quality condition took more than 40,000 volunteer hours. Some of those volunteers were retired mechanics and pilots. Others knew nothing about planes but had an interest in putting their hands on an historical artifact. It was meticulous work but Brant said it was well worthwhile.

“Being a part of something like this is big. They put their hearts and souls into this airplane and it’s going to be hard to watch it go, to watch it drive away and not be here to come in to work with it and touch it,” he said.

The aircraft will be dissembled starting on Monday and taken to Honolulu, Hawaii, later this month. In December, it will be unveiled during a ceremony which will mark the 80th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor.

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