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The Malakoff News
Malakoff, Texas
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February 5, 1981     The Malakoff News
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February 5, 1981
 

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8A--The Malakoff News, Thursday, Feb. 5, 1981 By Louise llull Smithsonlan News Service It sounds like a standard scene from one of those slapstick movies which pretend that war is funny. But this ac- tually happened. An aircraft technician in a workshop outside Washington, D. C., had just begun dismantling the engine of an aged warplane when he discovered a frayed, yellowing scrap of paper: "What in the hell are you looking for in here, you silly .... ?" There was a logical answer, but one which might have surprised the anonymous World War II pilot or crew chief who, in a whimsical moment, had tucked the note in the engine's innards. The technician was looking for missing parts, searching for information on the plane's history and seeking to restore it .. not to fly off on other missions but to go on public display. The technician was, in fact, a "con- servator," a term used by museum people to describe craftsmen who restore and sometimes rebuild relics of the past. He was at work in a facility which serves the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D. C. There is an urgency in his task and that of his 27 fellow craftsmen. Although fewer than 80 years have passed since the Wright brothers first fulfilled the age-old dream of light, many priceless planes have been lost forever. The plane whose engine hid that challenging note, for example, was a Corsair, of the type immortalized by Maj..Gregory "Pappy" Boyington and his colleagues of the Marines' Black Sheep Squadron, It was a superb air- craft for its era. The Black Sheep fliers alone scored 97 confirmed victories, 32 probable victories and 21 destroyed aircraft on the ground in the war in the pacific. Overall, the Corsairs were credited with downing 2,140 Japanese planes, But today, of all the Vought F4U Corsairs built by a nation at war, fewer than 50 remain. "Baa Baa Black Sheep," the popular television series based loosely on the war record of Boyington's squadron, naturally stressed the daring exploits of the pilots. The task of restoring the Cor- sair which reached the Smithsonian, in contrast, was a job of dogged deter- ruination and almost dull routine. The plane, like every aircraft put through the Smithsonian conservation process, had to be taken apart before it could be put back together again. When it was completely dismantled, the parts took up a tenth of the floor space of the 36,000-square-foot restoration shop in Silver Hill, Md. Charles Parmley, a conservator who has been working on aircraft for 37 years, carried out much of the Corsair restoration project. Because the fabric had totally rotted away (not an un- HEADQUARTERS LARGE SELECTION OF SIZES AND WIDTHS--IN STOCK McCool Dept. Store Malakoff common occurrence), Parmley had to locate identical fabric and sew it to the aircraft frame by hand. The stitch he used, incidentally, had originated with the folks who manufacture baseballs but has long since been adop- ted by the aircraft industry. Although the Smithaonian's Corsair had not actually been in combat (it bad been a training plane) it was scarred by the passage of time, and many parts were missing. Where possible, they were replaced by the real article. But if genuine parts could not be found, even by cannibalizing other planes, they were reproduced with the same materials, the same tools and the same techniques as those used back in the 1940s when II,000 Corsairs rolled off the assembly lines. Sometimes, the mechanics seeking to reproduce a missing, part cannot find one or another of the vintage tools used in the old days to make that part. In that case, they reproduce the tool as well. The goal is perfection - and truth. It's often virtually impossible to tell the dif- ference between the original part and its Smithsonian-produced duplicate. So the craftsmen place a special stamp on the replacement to distinguish it from the original. The attention to detail is such that, when the preservation work is finished, some of the planes are nearly airwor- thy. With a few minor modifications, they could be flown again. "Of course, the Smithsonian is not in the flying business," Ed Chalkley, chief of production operations, points out. "Our aim," he adds, "is to maintain the best aeronautical collection in the world." Toward that end, the Paul E. Garber Preservation, Restoration and Storage Facility, named after an Air and Space Museum historian emeritus, restores four aircraft a year. Garber joined the Smithsonian in 1920 and was respon- sible for acquiring a large portion of its aeronautical collection. Cbalkley, who has worked at the Garber Facility for more than 20 years, has a simple restoration philosophy. "To do it right, you have to have your heart in it." The Smithsonlan conser- vators fill this bill: When tbey're not working at the Garber Facility, many of them are restoring planes at home or attending air shows. Altogether, the multi-talented conservators have restored 34 entire aircraft, plus hun- dreds of additional items from engines and propellers to landing gear, for exhibit at the Museum or at the Garber Facility itself. The work sometimes takes the con- servators far from Washington, D. C. When they got their hands on a P-40, a fighter craft renowned in World War II, the landing gear was missing. The con- servators checked with the military and aircraft buffs from one end of the United States to the other -- without success. They were stymied until someone remembered that P-40s in training bad sometimes crashed in New Zealand - and a landing gear was found there. Sometimes, the Garber Facility technicians find, an aircraft almost defies restoration. Take the case of the Nakajima Gekko, a Japanese night fighter nicknamed the "Irving" by the While mainstream medical education generally continues to be associated with large urban areas and hundreds of specialities, an unusual program in Texas is geared to provide family doc- tors and nurses for rural areas and enhance minority representation in the medical profession. The Texas A&M University System - with Texas A&M's medical school operated at College Station and Tem- ple, Prairie View A&M's nursing school at Houston and nursing and medical technologist programs conducted at various West Texas sites by Tarleton State - is changing the face of medical care in Texas. Texas A&M, the system's flagship, is training nearly 130 primary care physicians, such as pediatricians, ob- stetricians, gynecologists and inter- nists. Over the duration of the program, U. S. Air Intelligence during World War II to simplify verbal identification of the plane. When World War II ended, there was a reaction against militarism in Japan, and the majority of Japanese aircraft were destroyed as part of a common agreement between that country and the United States. Four of every kind of plane, however, were shipped to this country in late 1945 for testing and evaluation. The Smithsonian's Irving is the sole survivor of its kind. Once restoration was begun at the Garber Facility, conservators discovered that the plane had to be "de- Americanized." It turned out that, before testing the Irving, American Army Air Force personnel had replaced the oxygen and electrical systems for safety's sake. They bad also relabeled the equipment, placing plaques in English over those Japanese planes. Then, to their dismay, the conser- about two-thirds of those graduated are expected to remain in primary care and locate permanently in communities of less than 25,000 people. At Prairie View A&M, one of the oldest minority nurse programs con- tinues to be a leading source of black R.N.'s. Attempting to dent the shortage of front-line nurses inrural areas, Tarleton State has embarked on a program of training nurses for small- town hospitals based on the theory that a nursing student reared in a rural community would stay to practice in a small-town if the education, too, bad taken place in a rural atmosphere. Of the 36 students who have com- pleted the Tarleton training and went on to become registered nurses, 31 are now working in small hospitals around the Cross Timbers region served by the vators at the Garber discovered that the Ja turer had burned nearly of the aircraft it had War II, so the plane and the role it War remain unknown to this But months of and thousands of man spent restoring this plane to typical fighter. When completed later this year, will take its place among the the Air and Space Museum, millions of tourists who museum each year will detective work carried Smithsonian's craftsmen accurately. In fact, Cbalkley says, complaint we get is that too well, that the aircraft new." Then, he pauses and that time is an ally. "The planes always tones years." University. Tarleton State's department has also field of health care there is a desperate Dallas-Fort Worth me state's most A one-year program tification as a medical individuals who draw form other laboratory andi tests for doctors - has Saint's Episcopal Hospital th. Thirty-three students have the 40-hour-a-week laboratory work and 17 more; midway through the progra~ just started. The year in Fort Wor~ culmination of an additional 9 classroom credits required med-tech program. / i / @ @ First Savings now has checking accounts. You can have a checking account and savings account in one place where all your money earns top interest. 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