At the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum now face to the important and meticulous task of resurrecting "Flak-Bait", a Martin B-26 Marauder in the Mary Baker Engen Restoration Hanger at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Va. Leadered by Pat Robinson, museum specialist Chris Moore, and conservators Lauren Horelick and Malcolm Collum.
With Flak-Bait front fuselage, conservation team members from left, Jeremy Kinney, Lauren Horelick, Pat Robinson and Chris Moore. (Photo by Michelle Z. Donahue) [Via smithsonianscience.si.edu]
Museum specialists prepare the Martin B-26B Marauder Flak-Bait's forward fuselage for removal from the World War II gallery in the Museum in Washington, DC. (Photo by Eric Long) [Via smithsonianscience.si.edu]
Conservator Sharon Norquest works on the Martin B-26B-25-MA Marauder "Flak-Bait" in the Mary Baker Engen Restoration Hangar. The aircraft was moved to the Hangar at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, in Chantilly, Virginia, in 2014 to undergo treatment to preserve the artifiact's structural, mechanical, and cosmetic features. (Photo by National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution) [Via smithsonianscience.si.edu]
"Flak-Bait" came to the Smithsonian in 1960 after being meticulously dismantled and sent home from Europe following the conclusion of the war. Surviving 207 bombing runs during its war service (2002 + 5 decoy missions). During the course of its bombing missions over Germany as well as the Netherlands, Belgium, and France, “Flak-Bait” lived up to its name by being shot with over 1000 holes, returned twice on one engine and once with an engine on fire, lost its electrical system once and its hydraulic system twice, and participated in bombing missions in support of Normandy Landings and the Battle of the Bulge.
Martin B-26B-25-MA Marauder "Flak-Bait" undergoing restoration at the Mary Baker Engen Restoration Hangar, Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, National Air and Space Museum [Via en.wikipedia.org]
It flew more missions than any other American plane in the conflict. The service life of a typical B-26 Marauder was between 15 and 20 missions, on average. "Flak-Bait" holds the record within the United States Army Air Forces for the number of bombing missions survived during World War II.
Manufactured in Baltimore, Maryland as a B-26B-25-MA, by Martin, it was completed in April, 1943 and christened Flak-Bait by its first assigned pilot, James J. Farrell, who adapted the nickname of a family dog, "Flea Bait". Flak-Bait was assigned to the 449th Bombardment Squadron, 322d Bombardment Group stationed in eastern England.
Stored for nearly two decades after its return, the forward section of the plane with its iconic nose art went on display in the museum in 1976. The rest of the plane—dents, patches, grease and all—stayed in storage. The plane was so well packaged for storage that the conservation team found bright red hydraulic fluid still inside one of the plane’s brake lines.
After retrieving an original floor board of the plane from storage as part of the reconstruction and conservation project, conservators found a previously undocumented surprise: a German round lodged in the panel beneath the radio operator’s seat. Though it will be hidden from view when the plane is completely reassembled, the project team feels it’s important to leave it in place as a testament to the battles the plane endured. (Photo by Michelle Z. Donahue) [Via smithsonianscience.si.edu]
"Flak-Bait" is a very special World War II bomber, covered in hard-earned dirt and grunge, bullet holes and riveted repair patches and this is the reason because the experts want to give it a meticulously judicious and often scientific cleaning. It’s a tricky task. In the past was very usual cover the old paint with a fresh coat of paint in a matching color, polish up the grubby bits, maybe pull some dents, or fix an unsightly crack, but the restorators don't want to do the same with "Flak-Bait", they have said.
The front fuselage of Flak-Bait which served with the 449th Bombardment Squadron, 322nd Bombardment Group, Eighth and Ninth Air Forces. This famous B-26 flew from bases in England and, after D-Day (on which it flew two missions), from bases in France and Belgium. (Photo by Eric Long) [Via smithsonianscience.si.edu]
The restoration process just started and conservators don’t expect the plane to be ready for display until 2021. The work is so painstaking and happens alongside other long-term museum work.
Curator Jeremy Kinney shares the history of the Martin B-26B-25-MA Marauder "Flak-Bait." The medium bomber and its crews flew more missions than any other American aircraft during World War II with 700 hours of combat against Nazi Germany. Kinney shares the history of the aircraft, how it got its distinctive name, and deciphers the different markings found on the body of the aircraft. [Via smithsonianscience.si.edu]