FM-2P Wildcat

First introduced in 1940, the Grumman Wildcat became one of the US Navy’s and British Royal Navy’s primary fighters in the early years of WWII. The Wildcat replaced the Brewster Buffalo in the US Navy and Marine units to better combat the then dominating Mitsubishi Zero in the Pacific Theaters. While still slower then the Zero, the Wildcat was more rugged, surviving multiple battles while bringing their pilots home safely. With the development of better manuevers to counter enemy attacks, such as the Thach Weave, the Wildcat proved an instrumental fighter in several early battles including Coral Sea, Midway and in the Solomon Islands.

Grumman ceased production of the F4F in 1943 with the need to optimize factory space for the F6F Hellcat. The request for the Wildcat and Grumman’s TBM Avenger was still high so Grumman licensed out the plans to General Motors. General Motors started building Avengers and Wildcats out of their five plants of the Eastern Aircraft Division; Tarrytown, NY, Baltimore, MD, Trenton, NJ, Linden, NJ, and Bloomfield, NJ. General Motors changed the designations of their aircraft to FM and TBF, the M and F standing for Eastern Aircraft Division.

General Motors Eastern Division produced the FM-1 Wildcat, identical to the Grumman F4F-4 Wildcat, and the FM-2, which is based on a Grumman prototype designated XF4F-8. General Motors specifically made FM-2s for escort carrier operations. They featured four wing guns, a slightly taller tail fin than the previous models to handle the torque, and a more powerful engine – a Wright R-1820-56 engine (1,350 hp). After 1943 the FM-2 Wildcats were equipped with bomb racks for antisubmarine and ground attack roles.

This aircraft is an FM-2P because it has been fitted for photoreconnaissance missions. Two doors are equipped in the fuselage under the wing which when opened act as photo ports. Its flaps are vacuum operated, its under carriage is hand cranked, and the only hydraulic system in the aircraft is the brakes.

Max Speed (MPH)

38'

Wing Span

Range (Miles)

28' 9"

Length

Service Ceiling (ft)

11' 5"

Height

The history of this aircraft is still rather unknown. The museum’s FM-2P Wildcat, N5HP Serial #86777, is a late model Wildcat built in 1945 at the Lindon, NJ Eastern Aircraft plant. It was accepted July 24th 1945 and was in delivery July 27th 1945 to Trenton,NJ. It was then ferried to NAS Tillamook,OR at the end of July/beginning of August 1945. It is unclear how long it stayed at Tillamook but it was stricken from inventory on February 28th 1946. After 1946 the history is still unknown but the belief is somewhere in the 1950’s it was sold to a private owner in Medford, OR where it was used as a crop sprayer. It was later stripped for parts.

In 1974 the plane was sold to I.N. Burchinal Jr. who restored the aircraft. Burchinal served in the Coast Guard in 1928 and later started the Flying Tiger Air Museum in the early 1970’s in Paris, TX. Burchinal loved to fly and flew for several companies including Universal Studios as a stunt pilot. TFLM’s Wildcat is a Hollywood star as it was used in the movie Midway. Burchinal was unaccredited for his role as a stunt pilot in the movie along with Rudy Frasca who flew his FM-2 Wildcat. These were the only two FM-2 Wildcats used in the movie.

In 1980 the Wildcat was sold to Howard Pardue of Breckenridge, TX. Howard served in the Marine Corps in Korea and went on to a long career in the marines flying aircraft. Pardue fell in love with Navy and Marine aircraft and bought the Wildcat. He later went on to own several aircraft at his museum in Breckenridge, including his beloved F8F Bearcat. In 1982 Pardue made his debut at the Reno National Championship Air Races with the FM-2P. He would return over the years with his F8F Bearcat. Pardue would continue to fly the Wildcat for decades under the markings of Kimberly Brooke which started with Burchinall. In 1998 the Wildcat appeared at the CAF Airshow in Midland, TX with the VMF-114 markings. These are the same markings that are seen on the plane today as well as the USN 5.

In 2012 Howard Pardue was killed in a plane crash in his F8F Bearcat. Later that year some of his aircraft went up for sale and the Wildcat was purchased by the Texas Flying Legends Museum. Today it is an essential piece to the museum’s growing collection of aircraft.

Walk Around the FM-2P Wildcat with Mike Schiffer

Get the history and details of this incredible piece of our flying museum.
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