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SEAFIRE

From the June and October 2004 issues           Back to index


NELSON EZELL took Super-marine Seafire FR.47 VP441/ N47SF into the air for its first flight in more than 50 years at Breckenridge, Texas, on April 14. Restored over the past six years by Ezell Aviation, the former Fleet Air Arm fighter made two flights total´┐Żling 40min. There were no major problems, although a minor wing foul was induced during the folding procedure after the second flight. Repairs were expected to have been completed for test flying to resume on April 19.
The most complex task encountered during the rebuild was the fitting of a modified Griffon engine and propeller from an Avro Shackleton. During the first test flight Ezell radioed, "It flies great, just like a jet, with no torque from the contra-rotating props".
Owned by James E. Smith from Montana, VP441 has had a chequered history since its retirement in 1954. After several years with 335 Sqn (Plymouth) Air Training Corps, it was saved by the Historic Aircraft Preservation Society (see Preservation Pioneers, February 2003 Aeroplane). In 1975 it went to Texas for Confederate Air Force founder member John Stokes.
Recently a team of three British enthusiasts, led by Laurence Bean, volunteered to research technical details for the external finish. Their advice has been carried out to the letter, and VP441 now carries the markings it wore while on charge with 804 Sqn RN, based on HMS Ocean during 1948.