Significance
team at work
The Lockheed P-38 Lightning.
USAF photo.
 

First delivered to the U.S. Army Air Corps in June 1941, the Lockheed P-38 was the only American fighter to remain in continuous production for the entire duration of the United States’ involvement in the Second World War. A total of 10,037 examples were built.[1] An estimated thirty-two complete or partial airframes survive in museums and private collections worldwide.[2] Approximately ten aircraft are reportedly airworthy. A similar number are displayed as extensively restored non-flying aircraft. The remaining airframes exist only as wreckage or parts to be used in rebuilds. Only one Lightning, the Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum’s P-38J 42-67762, a former training aircraft, survives as an original, unrestored example of the type.

The P-38F was the first model to see combat but no original example of the mark survives in any collection. Nearly all existing P-38s are late-production G, H, J and L models. In Papua New Guinea, components from four P-38F hulks (42-12647, 42-12652, 42-13084, and 42-13105) are being used to re-construct a single composite aircraft. Another P-38F, 41-7630, was recovered from under the Greenland icecap in 1992 and was subsequently returned to airworthy condition as “Glacier Girl.”[3] The Maid of Harlech is Glacier Girl’s slightly younger sister and the oldest surviving unrestored P-38.

The Welsh airplane is arguably the oldest surviving P-38 and the only intact P-38F in original condition. Prior to the accident, the airplane participated in fighter sweeps over the Dutch and Belgian coasts, making it the only surviving 8th Air Force combat veteran P-38 and probably the oldest surviving 8th Air Force combat veteran of any type.

Notes

1 Lockheed Aircraft Since 1913 by Rene Francillon, Naval Institute Press, 1982 and 1987, p. 502 .
2 http://www.warbirdregistry.org/p38registry/p38registry.html.
3 Ibid.

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