The P 61 B ‘Black Widow’ Rescue and Recovery Project has truly been a labor of love, with over 30 years of dedication to the project. It began as a dream of one man named Gene “Pappy” Strine, now Vice President of MAAM. In January of 1945, P-61 B #42-39445 crashed on the hills of Mt. Cyclops in modern day New Guinea. There it lay for almost forty years until Strine and his team would free it from its mountain home to bring back to the United States. The recovery process was constantly delayed with red tape from the Indonesian government; it would take 11 years before the plane could come back to America.
The importance of this quest cannot be understated: The P-61 Black Widow is a vital part of our American heritage. She alone is America’s first night fighter, equipped with radar technology to find and eliminate enemy aircraft. She began the legacy of stealth/night fighter aircraft that remains so integral to our United States Military today. Arguably, this project is the most important “Warbird” restoration project today.
While the world looked on in terror as the Battle of Britain raged on, the need for a night fighter capable aircraft became readily apparent. John Northrop submitted an aircraft design that could accommodate the weight and bulk of radar equipment without compromising aircraft maneuverability. The finished result would be the P-61: a twin boom, three-man night fighter the size of a small bomber. The plane was equipped with four 20 millimeter Hispano M2 cannons capable of holding 200 rounds and a state-of-the-art turret with .50 caliber machine guns was mounted on the top of the aircraft. The radar operator could locate enemy targets and relay locations to the gunner/pilot who would use the plane’s firepower to eliminate the enemy threat. Each P-61 would thus prove to be an efficient search and destroy operation.
Only 750 Black Widows were manufactured during World War II and relatively few saw combat. This fact, along with the plane’s unique history, makes it one of the most fascinating warbirds of the era. It was a plane used in both major theatres of World War II and achieved many accolades, including the credit of the last kill of the war in 1945. Of the 750 manufactured, only four P-61’s remain, all of them on static display only. Mid-Atlantic Air Museum’s P 61 B #42-39445 will be the only model in the world that flies.
Who We Are
The story of Mid-Atlantic Aviation is not just the story of airplanes, but of ideas. It is also a story of productivity, perseverance, patriotism, and above all, the people that made these ideas a reality.
Mid-Atlantic Air Museum is a nonprofit organization that has told the story of aviation history for over 30 years. The Museum boasts a collection of 65 historic military and civilian aircraft built between 1928-1982. The Museum is proud of its role as a specialty history museum serving the Mid-Atlantic region and the nation.
The Mid-Atlantic Air Museum is a U.S. Internal Revenue Service recognized Sec. 501 (c)(3) Not-For-Profit Educational Organization, and is registered with the Pennsylvania Bureau of Charitable Organizations. Under such exemption your Kickstarter donation may be tax-deductible in accordance with current IRS guidelines.
What We've Done
Since 1991, the Mid-Atlantic Air Museum has worked tirelessly to restore this majestic plane to her former glory. With the help of over 50 volunteers, 110,000 hours of work and $900,000, the Black Widow is well on her way to soon return to the skies.
Thankfully, the aircraft’s belly crashed upon rocks, preventing the harmful corrosion natural forest elements can have on metal. The plane’s crew pod, engine nacelles, and landing gears have been restored. Internal hydraulic systems and electric wiring were painstakingly restored to working condition. The aircraft’s airframe is almost completely restored, with the last few years dedicated to re-fitting two tail booms and the tail stabilizer. The only major restoration projects that remain are big: the wings and the engines. Because P-61 parts are not readily available, most of MAAM’s restoration efforts have focused on manufacturing airplane parts themselves. With the aid of microfilm blueprints on the plane’s specifications purchased from the Smithsonian Museum, the Strine’s continue the restoration process with extreme attention to exact specifications and detail of the plane’s original design.
At this time, we estimate about 70% of the restoration status is complete and $494,000 remain in costs to fully restore the airplane. The $35,000 raised in Kickstarter will fund one of the aircraft's wing spars.
Look what these notables in the historical aviation field have to say about the Project:
"Having been involved in the vintage aircraft airshow scene in the United Kingdom for 25 years and attending the Mid Atlantic Air Museum's World War II Weekend for several years I would like to say that the restoration on the incredibly rare P-61 Night Fighter is unbelievable! Russ and his team have done an extraordinary job on the precision and their attention to detail is truly amazing. Can't wait to see it flying. Well done to you all."
President Vector Fine Art Prints, UK
"I've had the privilege of knowing Russ Strine and the Mid Atlantic Air Museum for the past 22 years. His leadership, honesty, integrity, and professionalism, plus (his) dedication and hard work, have resulted in the creation of a great museum that has withstood the test of time. Russ has the keen ability to use the right people in the right places to get the job done. With the help and support from aircraft maintenance icon, Gene Strine and his staff, they are able to keep select museum aircraft flying, and make amazing progress on their very rare P-61 Black Widow project. "
Timothy A. Chopp
President & Board Chairman
Berlin Airlift Historical Foundation
“THE FINAL PUSH: Over the years I have watched with increasing awe as the Mid Atlantic Air Museum and its band of talented volunteers struggled against almost insurmountable odds to recover and restore a Northrop P-61 Black Widow — the ultimate Night Fighter of the Second World War. From the start, some have stated this was an impossible project and there were logical reasons for skepticism. How do you search for and then find a damaged WWII aircraft on a remote mountain top half a world away? How do you acquire then disassemble the aircraft, move it down the mountain, place it on a ship and get it back to the USA? How do you get the funds to underwrite this complex mission? Where do you find nearly extinct parts? How do you round up the talent to restore the airframe and engines? All very logical questions and when they are totaled up, it does indeed seem that the idea of restoring a Black Widow to flight status might be the ultimate Walter Mitty daydream. However, MAAM has met each challenge with victory and has moved forward to what is now THE FINAL PUSH. This is a chance for every aviation enthusiast to make a contribution to get the Widow flying and each contribution salutes the Greatest Generation — the men and women that, in a few short years, created the powerful, united country that smashed the Axis.”
Associate Publisher and Editor
Challenge Publications, Inc
Air Classics Magazine
“Russ Strine, his father (Gene), and the volunteers of the Mid Atlantic Air Museum have worked tirelessly on the P-61 restoration for many years. Their persistence, dedication and professionalism have kept this project on track, but more importantly it will be a safe, and soon to be authentic flying example of the infamous 'Black Widow'. Their unwavering commitment to this project, along with your financial help, will ensure future generations knowledge of WWII and the story of the men who bravely flew into the night to fight aboard the P-61.”
Your Support/Our Gratitude
Our volunteers, donors and supporters have a very special place in our hearts. Without the support of you in the global World War II community, this project would have never come to fruition, much less accomplish the huge strides that have been made in the past thirty years. Our sincere thanks go out to anyone who has donated their time or money to this important project paying homage to a truly magnificent aircraft.
Help us make Her Fly Again!
To give you reference to some of our excellent rewards we're offering to our very generous backers, see the photos below.
The Book (with skin of original airplane)
Risks and challenges
Mid Atlantic Air Museum has demonstrated its commitment to the P-61 Project through 30 years of hard work and dedication. In our eyes, it's not a matter of if we can complete the project, it's a matter of when.
Our dedicated volunteers and staff will continue to invest time and effort in the restoration project. We will continue to raise money for each phase of the project like we have successfully done in the past. After a successful Kickstarter campgin, MAAM will continue to raise funds through coordinated donor and membership campaigns.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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