P38 Lockheed Lightning - The Fighter that was ahead of its time

    p38 lightning restoredWithout a doubt, the most outstanding feature of the Classic Jets Fighter Museum is the restoration of the Museum's rare P38 H Lockheed Lightning 42-66841.

    This big twin engine Pacific War Fighter Aircraft continues to attract visitor's from all around Australia and from overseas. If you are visiting Australia as an Aviation enthusiast or a student of the Pacific War, be sure to take the opportunity to closely inspect the Lightning and talk to the skilled volunteer workforce who have made the restoration of this magnificent War Veteran possible. Of the 9.923, P38 Lightning that were manufactured by Lockheed Aircraft Company between 1937 and 1945, the Classic Jets' Lightning is one of only 25 P38 Lightning's remaining today.

    42-66841 flew in the 475th FG, 432 FS, 5th Airforce USAAF in Papua and New Guinea in defence of and eventual defeat of an occupying enemy in that country, and indirectly in defence of Australia.

    Classic Jet's Lightning was flown by 2nd Lieutenant Edward G Dickey until it was force landed by an unknown pilot in September 1943, ending its combat life of two short months.

P38 H Lockheed Lightning, 42-66841

    The Classic Jets Fighter Museum's P38 Lockheed Lightning force landed on 14th September 1943 in a vast Kunai grassed area near Brahmin, 40 miles inland from the coastal town of Madang, Morobe Province, Papua New Guinea.

    The Lightning belly-landed on the Fieta emergency landing ground breaking off its propellers and dislodging its two Allison Engines. The large fighter was subsequently placed on steel 44 gallon drums, stripped of all useable components and then abandoned where it lay.

    The P38 Lightning lay derelict until 1992 when attempts were made to remove the Aircraft from Papua New Guinea. The Aircraft continued to languish on fuel drums at the former wartime airfield of Nadzab, now the airport servicing the town of Lae.

    Although the Lightning was a well-known wreck in Papua New Guinea, the Aircraft's serial number was not identified until it was acquired by Classic Jets Fighter Museum.

    The P38 Lightning eventually arrived in Adelaide by sea on 17th May 1999, three years after commencement of negotiations to acquire the Aircraft.

    The following images will take you through the Lightning's preparation for transporting to Adelaide South Australia for restoration at the Classic Jets Fighter Museum.

    P38 H-5 Lockheed Lightning 42-66841 is now displayed in Classic Jets Fighter Museum under restoration to non-flying status.

    The follow pictures give you an idea of the effort required to bring the Lightning back to South Australia - click on any image to see a larger version.

P38 salvage 1

1. P38 Lightning 42-66841 lay where it was force landed forty miles inland from Madang, PNG.

P38 salvage 2

2. The P38 was stored for many years exposed to the elements at Nadzab Airfield.

P38 salvage 3

3. Lifting by crane to transport the P38 to Lae for transporting to South Australia.

P38 salvage 4

4. The P38 was unloaded and stored for many years before clearance for transporting out of PNG.

P38 salvage 5

5. The booms and tailplane were stored in a Lae transport yard.


P38 salvage 6

6. Prefabricated transport frames were used to secure the Lightning for a safe sea journey.

P38 salvage 7

7. The transport frames were welded to the 40-foot flat rack for shipping to Adelaide.

P38 salvage 8

8. After its safe arrival to Adelaide the P38 was sealed up for fumigation.

P38 salvage 9

9. The P38 Lightning is unloaded at Parafield Airport and fitted to wheels for pushing into the Museum for deep restoration to non-flying status.



The Restoration of P38 H Lockheed Lightning, 42-66841

    Without the dedicated volunteers the P38 Lightning could never have gone through the deep restoration process that it has. The P38 Lightning is now completed and on display at the Classic Jets Fighter Museum and has the appearance of being airworthy.

    To the best of the Museum's knowledge P38 H Lockheed Lightning 42-66841 is the only Lightning to be restored that has fired its guns in anger during WWII.

    The following images will take you through the early stages of the restoration process of one of the only surviving P38 H Lockheed Lightning of the Pacific War.



1. A long way to go. Cleaning the Air Frame.


2. This damaged fin typifies the material we work with.


3. And how it must
turn out.


4. The crushed Gondola Belly was rebuilt as a training programme.


5. Mike and Frank test fit
a new skin to the refurbished boom frame.


6. Ray and Peter working on the port fin and rudder assembly.


7. The only P38 instrument panel ever offered to us was the correct panel for the
P38 H Model Lightning.


8. The cockpit Gondola was removed to repair the corroded lower wing spar cap.


9. The centre wing section was in very good condition


10. Hydraulic pipes are processed and refitted to the wing centre section leading edge spar frame.

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