LATHAM, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Inside a hangar outside of Albany International Airport, the remainder of a fuselage and scattered aircraft parts, as mechanics work to restore a piece of American history. The Prescott Foundation has been working for months to get “Old Glory,” a warbird that flew missions in World War II, back in the air.
“It’s always an honor working on a piece of history,” said Andres Morales, a mechanic at the Hangar at 743.
During World War II, “Old Glory” flew missions for the United States in the Mediterranean, “We do know that it was delivered to the Army Air Corps in 1944. We know that it transitioned over to North Africa and then got deployed with squadrons in Italy. We know that its last bombing mission was April of 45,” said David Prescott, founder of the Prescott Foundation.
After the war, “Old Glory” served as a fire bomber and tanker domestically before being retired from service in the 1950s. In August of 2019, the aircraft was purchased by Prescott to be a part of the Hangar at 743’s collection. But just over a year later, it made an emergency landing in California while on its way back to New York from Pearl Harbor, where it had been commemorating the 75th anniversary of the allied victory of Japan in World War II.
“They had a fuel issue and had to put the plane down in a field,” Prescott explained. Less than a year after”Old Glory” went down just outside of Stockton, California, she returned to the Capital Region in several shipping containers. “I saw American history,” Prescott said when asked what he saw inside the containers.
Since then, the work has continued. “Our plan in the coming weeks is to start getting the airplane back on its feet. That entails restoring the landing gear and the center section, that way we can start adding the other parts of the airplane,” Morales explained.
One of the key figures in the ongoing restoration is Tom Reilly, whose passion began decades ago when he was flying Cessnas. “And up taxis a P-51 Mustang. What is that? Big 4-inch propeller, fire command exhaust. I said, take me for a ride and he did. I was hooked,” Reilly explained.
He was brought on as the lead mechanic in the project after decades of restoring World War II aircraft, including reviving an XP-82 Twin Mustang that hadn’t flown since 1949. That project took over 200,000 man and woman hours.
“No one could ever fly again and I looked at it, parts of it at a salvage yard up in Ohio. I looked at it and said I can put that together, and we did,” said Reilly. He said he’s thankful “Old Glory” was saved by Prescott, as he’s excited to do the same with this plane, “It’s an honor to get another project that’s not ever supposed to fly again. I’ll make it flyable. I, and the men here, will make it flyable.”
Some of the shipping containers that brought “Old Glory” back to Albany are now filled with parts that can be reused. But the restoration is just part of the Prescott Foundation’s mission. David Prescott, a former Navy nuclear engineer, started the organization to preserve the history of World War II aircraft, while also giving back to veterans and other heroes.
“We really focus on living history and keeping our living history alive,” Prescott explained.
It’s a cause that’s also getting a boost from a local business. The cidery and brewery at Indian Ladder Farms are working to brew an American lager named after “Old Glory.” The beer, which is expected to be poured the weekend of March 5, even uses ingredients that would have been used by local brewers during World War II.
“I’m a huge aviation nerd, so I had to get my hands into this and try to do any way possible to get some funds together for them to actually have that warbird flying again,” said Scott Veltman, the head brewer at Indian Ladder Farms Cidery & Brewery.
And while she may not look like her former self yet, everyone is dedicated to bringing her back to glory. “It’s going to be amazing. What’s most amazing is when people hear, and see and smell it when it’s running and going. It’s awe-inspiring,” Prescott said when asked what it will be like seeing her airborne again.
The Prescott Foundation is also hoping to work with local colleges to give students a unique hands-on experience in working on the restoration. Mechanics hope “Old Glory” can get back in the air in the next several years.