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The Salvage

Monday, August 23, 2004

The team has been on site for less than 6 days and we have recovered a majority of the loose pieces and are ready to make the first lift, the first step of the process that will bring the aircraft out of the water and ready for tow 68 miles down river to Lobstick.

Inspection dives confirm that the anchors are well set in the riverbed and that the rodes are secured to the main wing spars. Lift bags are in place and there is some last minute adjustments.

The large boat arrives on site and will be used to as the manifold platform for this lift. The boat is anchored upstream of the aircraft and the dive team starts to connect the air lines from the manifold to the lift bags on the aircraft.

The two high volume low pressure compressors are set up on the shore and feed the 10 valve manifold on the boat through a 3/4" line. The diver's give their thumbs up and Mark is ready to start the air - the time is 5:46pm.

The air is slowly added to each of the 8 lift bags, a 20 second flow to each pair and then onto the next pair in order to provide uniform lift.

29 minutes after the inflation process was started the aircraft climbed to the surface at a 45 degree angle. The cockpit and engines broke the surface for the first time in over 50 years!

John inspected the aircraft and its attitude in relationship to the bottom. As the aircraft began to rise off the bottom the current wedged the after end of the fuselage into a large rock outcropping and prevented it from rising. The current had the aircraft secured in its present position between the rock, buoyancy and two anchor cables.

A tow-line was tied off to the main spar of the port wing and a few attempts were made to pull the fuselage clear of the rock on the river bottom. The aircraft did not move and the operation was ended for the day. We had raised over 20 tons up from the bottom, the aircraft remained complete, demonstrating that it was still strong and worthy of recovery and restoration. The team adjourned to the mess tent for a well-deserved dinner and began plans for the next days operations.