Imagine for a moment that it is January 10th, 1945. Even though it is not yet noon, the temperature is close to 100 degrees - not unusual for New Guinea. The roar of two Pratt & Whitney R-2800 engines comes through the open cockpit window of your P-61B "Black Widow" and mixes with the heat.
You taxi the almost fifteen tons of aircraft to the end of the main runway at Hollandia airfield. You complete the pre-flight checklist: intercooler doors closed, flaps set to one third, emergency hand pump selector neutral, throttles set to 2700 rpm, engine instruments all O.K. You release the brakes and begin the take-off roll.
painting by Dr. Philip Alexander.
On that January morning in 1945, Lt. Logan Southfield, of the 550th Night Fighter Squadron, began that flight in P-61B 42-39445. Minutes later, and just two short miles away, the roar of the 4,000 horsepower aircraft was drowned out as it crashed...just several hundred feet short of Mt. Cyclops' 7,000 foot summit. Two days later, rescue teams brought the injured crew down the mountain.
Lt. Logan "Red" Southfield (seated
left), the last pilot of P-61B "239445", and his radar operator,
The P-61 remained on Mount Cyclops...
1979, recovery and restoration of P-61B "239445" has been the personal
goal of Museum Director Gene Strine. In fact, the Museum was first
formed for the purpose of acquiring the rights to recover the aircraft. In this photograph, the Mt. Cyclops crash
site is barely visible... almost obscured by clouds some 7,000 feet above sea
THE NEXT CHAPTER - RECOVERY...
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