Three and a half year project will end with return to Pensacola in 2011.
Warbird enthusiasts will be delighted to learn that the Finnish Air Force Brewster Buffalo BW-372 fighter shot down in a dogfight during the Continuation War in 1942 has returned to Finland after 65 years.
On Thursday the plane was shown off to the press at the Aviation Museum of Central Finland at Tikkakoski, near Jyväskylä.
The aircraft will be lovingly restored at the museum over three and a half years, and will then be returned to its owner, the National Museum of Naval Aviation in Pensacola, Florida.
It was lifted from a lake in Russian Karelia in 1998, but then vanished without trace, only to resurface in Pensacola in 2004.
The disputes surrounding the ownership of the aircraft were once again in evidence on Thursday in Tikkakoski, when Marja Lampi, daughter of the late fighter pilot Heimo Lampi (1920-1998), presented her views on what had happened after the wrecked plane was lifted from the bed of Kolejärvi Lake nearly ten years ago.
The Aviation Museum’s Director Kai Mecklin noted that legal experts from the US Navy have provided assurances that the ownership of the plane really does reside with the Americans.
Mecklin commented that much of the credit for getting the plane back to Finland for the task of restoring it should go to the present Finnish Air Force Commander, Lt. Gen. Heikki Lyytinen.
BW-372 is the only surviving Brewster anywhere in the world.
The Brewster proved to be a highly successful plane in Finnish hands, despite its rather poor record with the US Navy.
The 44 aircraft bought by Finland in December 1939 as “obsolete” (in order to avoid difficulties with selling arms to countries at war) did not take part in the Winter War of 1939-40, but proved to be a highly effective weapon in the Continuation War of 1941-1944, with a kill-rate of 26:1.
Brewster pilots such as Capt. Hans “Hasse” Wind shot down a total of 477 Soviet aircraft for the loss of only 19 Finnish planes.
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