Navy Sues For Salvaged Corsair

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The wreck of a Navy Corsair that was salvaged from a North Carolina swamp in 1990 is now the subject of a court battle in Minnesota. Late last month, the U.S. Justice Department filed a lawsuit on behalf of the Navy seeking the return of the Corsair from aircraft restorer Lex Cralley. The Navy is not saying why it is suddenly interested in the wreck, but aircraft historians say it has been identified as a rare Brewster F3A-1 model, perhaps the only one of its kind. Cralley says he registered the aircraft with the FAA as a "non-airworthy model" and has been slowly working on its restoration. Cralley told the St. Paul Pioneer Press he's rattled by the lawsuit, but intends to fight it. The Corsair could have a value in the millions of dollars. The plane was on a training flight on Dec. 19, 1944, from the Cherry Point Marine Corps Training Station when it crashed. The pilot died and Navy personnel stripped the downed aircraft of its weapons and other equipment before leaving it, according to people familiar with the history of the plane, the Pioneer Press reported. The Navy suit seeks the return of the airplane, the cost of returning it and compensation for "any damage to or alteration of" the aircraft. AOPA said it appears the Navy would like to make an example of Cralley to clear the way for the pursuit of another two dozen warbirds restored and owned by aviation museums.