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Her Story

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Glacier Girl Recovery (Cont.)

Bringing Glacier Girl to the Surface

Technicians began to take the P‑38 apart piece by piece. Propellers had to be removed, the wings had to be disconnected, the fuselage disassembled; every part of the plane was scrutinized, logged and recorded and then hoisted to the surface.

The last section of the aircraft, the center section, was seventeen feet by twenty-one feet and weighed seven-thousand pounds. It, too, had to travel the 268 feet to the surface. Attached to the plane were cables that ran up to several winches. The bulk of the lifting was done by one very powerful manually operated hoist. Using it required applying great pressure uniformly, and it turned out that only one member of the team had the necessary strength for the job. The crank required four turns for every quarter-inch rise.

We just want you to get a picture of how challenging this project was. Manually-operated hoist, 7,000 pounds, one guy, four cranks to raise it 1/4 inch, 268 feet. Yeah. Think about it.

Glacier Girl buried in...well...a glacier.Several people on the surface were needed to monitor the various other winches, and someone had to ride on the plane section to make sure it came up evenly and avoid any obstacles in the shaft. The raising of this section took almost two full days.

After reaching the surface, the crew had to be extremely careful removing the section from the hoist, as a mishap at this point would send the huge section plunging down the shaft. Due to the limited height of the hoisting frame, the crew had to dig away a ramp on one side of the shaft onto which the plane could be pulled and released. Once done and out of the hole, a bottle of champagne was opened and signed by the remaining team members and dropped down the shaft. The recovery took four months to complete.

Bringing Glacier Girl Home

Arrangements were made to take their cargo back to the states. A Sikorsky S‑51, a heavy-duty cargo copter, was employed to carry the center section to a sea port where two weeks later the section was loaded onto a Danish ship that carried it to Denmark, and eventually to the docks at Savannah, Georgia. From there it was delivered to project funder Roy Shoffner's hangar in Middlesboro, Kentucky, where the restoration began.

Restoration of Glacier Girl NEXT