The Commemorative Air Force (CAF) Dixie Wing finished restoration on the P-63A Kingcobra this week. It has been more than 40 years since it’s last flight, 16 years of restoration, being affected by the Mississippi River flood of 1993 and countless hours by the dedicated volunteers of the CAF Dixie Wing, the Commemorative Air Force (CAF) Dixie Wing Bell P-63A-6 Kingcobra serial number 42-68941 flew for the first time on February 18, 2017. Just after 1,300 hrs local time pilot Jim "JD" Dale took off from the Atlanta Regional Airport, home of the Dixie Wing. Since receiving its Airworthiness Certificate several months ago there have been opportunities to fly, but each time something got in the way and the flight was always postponed.
For this important test flight the Dixie Wing asked Dale, an experienced pilot, to perform the all-important first post-restoration flight. Dale is the director of maintenance for the Lewis Air Legends Collection and the of the highest time P-63 pilot in the U.S. Dale’s first flight in a Kingcobra was in the Palm Springs Air Museum’s P-63 Pretty Polly. Dale started flying very young under the watch of his father, a former B-29 pilot. He gained experience with historic aircraft working for Steve Hinton at the “Mecca” of warbirds, Chino, California. To date Dale has more than 6,000 hours in warbirds.
“This was very successful test flight, the Dixie Wing guys did a phenomenal job, it took a lot of perseverance to stay on this project for 16 years. The flight was great, no major issues to report but only minor adjustments. The airplane was just slightly left wing heavy and the controls are a bit heavy but nothing that can’t be fixed with ease. The trims were great, light and quick to react.” Said Dale. After the first flight Dale and the Dixie Wing crew performed a debriefing and went through some of the minor issues encountered in the first flight. Based on Dale's recommendation, a small adjustment to the RPM settings of the propeller were applied. A little after 1,600 hrs a second test flight was conducted. This time Dale flew a little longer (about 25 mins) without encountering any major issues. On February 19, three additional flights were conducted and once again the airplane performed very well.
(Top photo by Charles Burcher, Middle photo by Jay Bess)