Image: RAY BURROWS
Image: MARK J. CAIRNS
Vintage Warbird retrieved from Lough
The only Second World War aircraft in the collection, it was based at RAF Long Kesh with 882 Sqn when it had an engine fire on Christmas Eve 1944 when en route to Lough Neagh for some dive-bombing practice.
It was ditched in Portmore Lough by the then 19-year-old pilot, Peter Lock.
It was recovered from the lough in 1983/84 with the help of Ulster Sub Aqua Club, Heyn Group, Belfast and Army Air Corps as well as other organisations and individuals. Being restored to static display condition, it was a very good naval fighter aircraft which could give a good account of itself, even against Spitfires. Royal Navy had 15 squadrons of Wildcats in total.
The Grumman Wildcat was a carrier-based fighter aircraft that began service with both the United States Navy and the British Royal Navy in 1940.
Although first used in combat by the British in Europe, the Wildcat was the only United States Navy or Marine fighter during 1941–42 in the Pacific Theatre, besides the brief appearance of the F2A Buffalo.
With a top speed of 318 mph, the Wildcat was outperformed by the more nimble 331mph Mitsubishi Zero (and it was eventually replaced by the Corsair), but its ruggedness and tactics such as the 'Thach Weave' resulted in an air combat kill-to-loss ratio of 5.9:1 in 1942 and 6.9:1 for the entire war.
UAS Grumman Wildcat Plane Crash Recovery 75th Anniversary, Portmore Lough
BBC Newsline, News report, Christmas Eve 2019 on RSPB Reserve on Portmore Lough, Northern Ireland where the Ulster Aviation's Grumman Wildcat was recovered after its crash 75 years earlier. Late pilot Peter Lock crash-landed there, and the Wildcat sat in the mud until the mid-1980s when the UAS recovered it.