Completed Hellcat flies home to Minnesota

After more than two years of restoration at Chino, California’s Fighter Rebuilders, pilot Steve Hinton Jr ferried Grumman F6F-5 Hellcat BuNo 78645 to its home at Granite Falls, Minnesota, in late March.

The former US Navy aircraft completed the first of several test flights on January 2 (see March issue) and will be based at the Fagen Fighters WWII Museum. The machine now represents BuNo 72534 Death N’ Destruction, the mount of VF-83 ace Don McPherson during its time operating from USS Essex in 1945. The same fighter was also flown by Bill Kingston Jr and Lyttleton Ward, both of whom also became aces flying various Hellcats. 

In a remarkable reunion, Don – now aged 99, and the only one of the trio still living – was able to see the restored Hellcat in person when it stopped at Beatrice, Nebraska, on March 28.

img_8-1.jpg
Fighter Rebuilders’ Steve Hinton Jr standing in the cockpit of ‘Death N’ Destruction’ 
FRANK B MORMILLO
img_8-2.jpg
The Hellcat undertaking a test flight earlier this year 
FRANK B MORMILLO

Steve flew the Grumman alongside Evan Fagen in North American P-51D Mustang Sweet Revenge at the event, which was attended by hundreds of Don’s family, friends and local supporters. 

With the Hellcat safely delivered to Granite Falls, Evan flew it for the first time on April 5. Visit: www. fagenfighterswwiimuseum.org