In an amazing chain of events, the story of these WWII fighters continues to be written. The Goodyear F2G Super Corsair was an upgraded version of the famed F4U, optimized for fighting Japanese aircraft at low level. Before the aircraft could go operational, the war ended, and only 10 were built. Of these prototype airframes, only two still exist today.
Race 57, shown in her striking red paint job, was the fifth prototype to roll off the assembly line as serial number 88458. After the war, she was purchased by Navy Captain Cook Cleland, who won the 1947 and 1949 Thompson Trophy race with this aircraft. She would become the last propeller driven aircraft to ever win the Thompson Trophy.
The dawn of the jet age caused these aircraft to be mothballed. Race 57 lay dormant for many decades until Bob Odegaard would return her to flight in 1999. I took these photos of Race 57 on August 26, 2007, at the Alpine Airpark Airshow in Wyoming. Earlier that day, I watched in awe as Odegaard flew low level aerobatics in this beautiful bird. I was 17 years old.
Nearly ten years after seeing my first Super Corsair, I was privileged to visit the Museum of Flight Restoration Center in Everett, Washington, where I photographed the first F-2G prototype as they breathed new life into the plane. Serial number 88454 proudly wears her original Naval Air Test Center livery (as shown in the final five photos in this set).
As I experienced this later encounter with a Super Corsair, I did so with a heavy heart. Bob Odegaard, who thrilled me as a teenager with his aerobatics, was no longer with us. Odegaard owned a second Super Corsair called Race 74. He exhibited the aircraft all over the country until on September 7, 2012, he tragically lost his life while practicing for an air show in his home state of North Dakota.
Odegaard’s legacy lives on, forever entangled with the story of the Super Corsair. Race 57 has recently changed hands once again in an effort to keep her flying. Wars begin and end. Races are won. Lives are lost. As one chapter closes, another begins.