The USS Midway Museum’s airwing restoration team came to the rescue when the Navy sounded the alarm asking for help with the assembly and restoration of two display aircraft at Naval Air Station North Island.
The initial request focused on an F/A-18 Hornet, painted in the colors scheme of the Blue Angels and slated for display at the headquarters of the Naval Air Forces command, as well as an SH-3 Sea King helicopter that is already on display at the air station’s flag circle.
The Hornet was shipped to San Diego from Pensacola, Fla., and the Navy was hoping Midway could assist with aircraft reassembly and help ready it for exhibit.
“I let them know I was very familiar with the F-18,” said Walt Loftus, Midway’s airwing director who oversees the museum’s aircraft restoration program. “I had them get the aircraft and components moved to Hangar 805 so that we could evaluate what we needed to do.”
Hangar 805, located at North Island, is the museum’s primary restoration facility for refurbishing historic aircraft for exhibit on the ship.
“Fortunately, the F-18 was in fairly good condition and only needed the flight controls reinstalled and locked out, as well as mounting the afterburner section of the aircraft,” said Walt. “It only took several days to get the components installed.”
Almost simultaneously, Midway’s expertise was also requested to help restore the exterior of the Sea King helicopter whose condition was deteriorating due to weather.
“The H-3 was of immediate concern due to the condition of the aircraft,” said Walt. “I explained that we would be able to work this project provided some active-duty sailors could assist.”
Midway set up the equipment needed principally to sand and repaint the aircraft. Over the course of several weeks, a combined 650 manhours between the museum’s restoration team and Navy sailors had the helicopter looking brand new.
“Both of these projects gave my team a great deal of joy,” said Walt. “It is one of the opportunities presented where we can directly support the Navy with some of the challenges they encounter when trying to accomplish tasks outside of the norm.”
The ship’s aircraft restoration team is also excited about the newest exhibit aircraft the museum recently received – a C-2 Greyhound carrier onboard delivery (COD) aircraft.
Since 1985, North Island-based Fleet Logistics Support Squadron 30 (VRC-30) has flown the C-2 bringing cargo and passengers to aircraft carriers operating at sea from off the coast of the U.S. West Coast to the Persian Gulf.
In 2018, Fleet Logistics Multi-Mission Squadron 30 (VRM-30) was established as the Navy began its transition from its aging C-2 to the newer CMV-22B Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft.
In the summer of 2022, Midway was informed that one of the C-2s from VRC-30 being “stricken” from the Navy’s aircraft inventory was assigned to the museum. The aircraft was recently taken to Hangar 805 where it will be repainted and undergo some modifications to the interior to safely allow guests to walk inside once on exhibit on Midway.
“My goal is to have the C-2 ready to come to the ship in about six months,” said Walt. “I hope to bring it over by March of 2023. It will go on the flight deck and be open for display.”