Lodestar being returned to its former glory at Pima

Lockheed R5O-5 Lodestar 12481 is close to completion at the Pima Air and Space Museum following a typically thorough restoration

As it’s due to go on outdoor display at the Tucson, Arizona attraction, staff have finished the machine in silver paint (instead of polished aluminium) and have installed protective panels in the windows and windshield. There is also anti-bird spikes and mesh in the engine nacelles, but to all intents and purposes the aircraft looks just as it did when assigned to the US Navy at NAS Anacostia in Washington DC. It also bears the name ‘Anacostia’ on its immaculate fuselage.

The airframe pictured at Pima in 2016
The airframe pictured at Pima in 2016 Scott Youmans

Originally delivered to the Navy in May 1943, Lodestar 12481 flew as a transport for high-ranking officials. When retired from military service shortly after World War Two it was sold as surplus to Bell Aviation and used for a while in South Africa. After a stint with US-based State Airlines it was acquired by the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum. However, it was stored by Pima on behalf of the Smithsonian until 1985 when it was officially donated to the Arizona attraction. Restoration began in the autumn of 2021, with the aircraft’s provenance a priority.

The Lodestar is prepared for restoration in December 2023
The Lodestar is prepared for restoration in December 2023 John Bezosky

The team at Pima has a few more details to complete on the Lodestar, which may have been finished by the time these words are read, after which the gleaming Lockheed is due to be rolled out.

Virtually complete – Lodestar 12481 on January 14, 2024
Virtually complete – Lodestar 12481 on January 14, 2024 John Bezosky