Steve Schapiro wrote -
Aircraft: Interstate Cadet N37366
Unit: Delaware Valley Wing
Location: Princeton, New Jersey
Expected Completion: Spring 2018
The Delaware Valley Wing has a unique opportunity to tell the story of Cornelia Fort and all the women aviators of WWII with our aircraft, which rolled out of the factory on December 6, 1941. The very next day, Fort was flying an Interstate Cadet over Honolulu during the attack on Pearl Harbor. She went on to serve in the Women's Auxiliary Ferry Service (WAFS), a predecessor to the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs), and was the first American female pilot to die on active duty.
As a civilian instructor, Fort was teaching a student pilot on the fateful day the Imperial Japanese Navy launched its surprise attack on American Forces in Hawaii. She was able to land at a civilian airport unharmed. The distressing event did not deter Fort from flying or from serving her country, as she was one of the first to sign up for the Women’s Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron (WAFS), a precursor to the WASP program. Unfortunately, Fort was killed in a mid-air collision over Texas, and on her grave is the statement “Killed in the service of her country.”
This aircraft was featured last year as one of the 12 Planes of Christmas and the attention and donations helped infuse new life into the wing, allowing it to attract several new members and kick the restoration efforts into high gear. The Delaware Valley Wing has now completed covering the wings and all tail surfaces, and each has one coat of aircraft dope (lacquer) on them. The fuselage has been stripped of its fabric and the metal has been sanded and cleaned.
The next step will be to prime the tubing and reinstall new control cables and wooden supports. Once that is complete, the fuselage will be recovered, which should be completed by the end of the year. The money raised through the 12 Planes of Christmas last year was used to purchase a new set of control cables for the Interstate Cadet as well as more fabric, glue and dope needed to complete the fuselage. Conversations with several owners and operators have encouraged the wing to look at equipping the airplane with a C-90 engine rather than an O-200 as they had originally planned. The money raised this year will help fund the acquisition of an engine and finish the interior and instrument panel.
It is clear that the story of Cornelia Fort, and of her special connection to the Interstate Cadet and the Pearl Harbor story, are important. Telling it allows us to shed light on the role of women in the War, specifically one who demonstrated tremendous resolve in fighting for the right to serve her country in the wake of the terrible events of December 7th, 1941.