WWII Hellcat Recovered From Lake Michigan
A Navy Grumman F6F-3 Hellcat fighter plane that sank more than 60 years ago was lifted from the muddy waters of Lake Michigan on Monday. "Relatively speaking, having been down there since 1945, it's in pretty darn good shape," Mark Kish, a worker for the marine retrieval company, told The Navy Times. The lettering on the side could still be read and gauges in the cockpit were intact, Kish said. The airplane was found in water about 260 feet deep, where it sank after a mishap during a training flight for carrier landings. The pilot of the airplane, Lt. Walter Elcock, survived the crash and is now 89 years old and living in Atlanta. His grandson, Hunter Brawley, was present for the event and was the first to sit in the cockpit. "He told me to look for a pack of Lucky Strikes he left [behind]," Brawley told the Lake County News-Sun. "That's his sense of humor." The airplane will be moved to the National Naval Aviation Museum in Florida, where it will be restored for display. Click here for a video of the recovered airplane on a local news site.
Elcock said he remembers the accident like it was yesterday, according to The Daily Mail. During a training landing on the carrier deck, the aircraft's tail hook became entangled in a safety cable, and the airplane went out of control. "My right wing went out from under me and I went over the side," Elcock said. The cable snapped, and Elcock had to escape the cockpit from 10 feet under water. Brawley called his grandfather while sitting in the cockpit, and told him he suspects not many people get to sit in the cockpit of an airplane their grandfather flew. "It's made my year," he said.