WAPAKONETA — After an 8-month absence, Neil Armstrong’s F5D-1 Skylancer has returned home to the Armstrong Air and Space Museum.
The aircraft was removed from its perch at the museum’s parking lot entrance and was transported to Thomarios in Copley for restoration work under the supervision of the Intermuseum Conservation Association.
“We washed it and stripped all the paint off,” said Tom Casanova, fabricator and restorationist with Thomarios. “There were some really large holes in the wings. Birds got in and made nests inside it. Birds love display things.”
Casanova said the front window of the cockpit was still made of glass and had been broken out and was replaced with acrylic. The old acrylic dome window of the cockpit was replaced with new, he said.
“The first thing I noticed was how you can look through it (the cockpit),” said Christopher Burton, executive director of the Armstrong Air and Space Museum. “You’ve never been able to look through it before.”
A small but historically accurate change Casanova said was made to the Skylancer was changing the tail number from NASA 802 to the tail number the aircraft had when Armstrong flew it, NASA 213.
Burton said the museum is glad to have the Skylancer back, as it has been missed. A man stopped in a couple of weeks ago specifically to see the aircraft and was disappointed when he was informed it wouldn’t be back for a couple of more weeks.
“We learned a lot by trying to take it apart,” he said. “For one thing, we learned you can’t take the wings off of it. On most aircraft you can take the wings off. On this one you can’t.”
About 3 or 4 feet of the wing tips fold up on the Skylancer, but it had to be transported fully assembled, he said. The aircraft was transported by Ameri-Line, Inc.
“I didn’t run much faster than 50, 55 (miles per hour) because I could feel it trying to life me up,” said Chris James, the driver with Ameri-Line, Inc, who transported the aircraft. “The value of this (Skylancer) is the most I’ve ever transported.”
Burton believes the restored F5D-1 Skylancer will make a good centerpiece to the museum exhibits through 2018 leading up to the big events for the museum’s 50th anniversary in 2019.
“It’s a bright, beautiful object welcoming visitors to the parking lot and the museum,” he said.
Reach Bryan Reynolds at 567-242-0362.