View Full Version : 14-year campaign to restore warbird lacks vital pieces

09-06-04, 08:17 AM
Issue Date: September 06, 2004

The Lore of the Corps
14-year campaign to restore warbird lacks vital pieces

By Robert F. Dorr
Special to the Times

“Wanted: a right-side gun bay door, canopy glass and a refueling probe, all designed for an FJ-3M Fury fighter. All letters answered. Postage refunded.”
Kregg A. Kirby of Hickory, N.C., wishes a classified ad like this would produce the items he needs to finish restoring a Marine combat aircraft. Kirby and others are nearing the end of a 14-year quest to honor Marine aviators by displaying a refurbished FJ-3M Fury fighter.

Kirby is president of the Sabre Society of North Carolina, which, as Kirby points out, is the wrong name for his group.

The society was founded in 1990 when Kirby discovered a wrecked aircraft in a town park at Taylorsville, N.C., a “bent and battered” plane that townspeople believed was an Air Force F-86 Sabre.

In fact, the plane is a Marine FJ-3M Fury that had been donated to nearby Alexander County in 1965.

“After years of proper upkeep, the plane became the target of vandals,” Kirby said. “The decision to release the airplane to us was an easy one for Alexander County.”

Kirby soon learned that restoring the FJ-3M posed significant challenges. The first hurdle was transporting the Fury 15 miles to Hickory. Help came from nearby Fort Bragg, which sent a team to evaluate the situation.

After the Fury arrived at the airport in Hickory in 1991, members of Kirby’s society began stripping paint off the plane. The long-term goal was to restore the plane with accurate Marine markings. Kirby and friends are also seeking to replace lost or damaged panels.

After first operating the FJ-2 Fury, which was a Navy version of the F-86, Marines began flying the FJ-3 and FJ-3M models in 1955. North American Aviation Inc. manufactured the FJ-3 in Columbus, Ohio. North American built 538 FJ-3s, which included 80 FJ-3M models specially equipped to carry the AAM-N-7 Sidewinder missile.

FJ-3Ms such as the one being restored in Hickory were flown by the Navy and Marine Corps. Powered by a Wright J65 Sapphire engine, the plane had a maximum speed of 767 mph at sea level and was armed with four 20mm cannons.

The plane in Hickory is bureau number 141393 and is known to have operated with Marine Fighter Squadron 235 at Beaufort, S.C., in 1958.

Kirby and his brother Kyle, the leaders of the Sabre Society, are looking for Marine veterans who can flesh out the history of the plane. This summer, with help from about a dozen volunteers, they began painting their prize aircraft in VMF-235 markings, a task they expect to complete in September.

“We especially need the parts we’re lacking,” Kregg Kirby said.

Anyone wishing to support the Sabre Society of North Carolina in this restoration effort may contact Kyle Kirby at (828) 726-1831 or by e-mail at owstoni7@aol.com.

Robert F. Dorr, an Air Force veteran, lives in Oakton, Va. He is the author of numerous books on Air Force topics, including “Air Force One.” His e-mail address is robert.f.dorr@cox.net.



Ed Fleming
09-06-04, 03:19 PM
Worked on FL-4B's in 1958 - 1959 and really love the aircraft. I do not have any parts but would gladly givr them to you if I did. The Marine Corps Museum, in Miramar has a FJ-4 B That has been restored. Contact them and see if they might know of a source for your needed parts. Ed Fleming 1555619 1955 - 1959

Ed Fleming
09-06-04, 03:21 PM
I meant FJ - 4 B, but my fat fingers got in the way !! EF