A fully restored Grumman F9F-8 Cougar, originally built at the Bethpage Grumman facility in the 1960s, will be unveiled Saturday as a permanent exhibit on the flight deck of the Intrepid’s Sea, Air and Space Museum.
“We have about 5,500 man-hours on this project,” said Eric Boehm, the museum’s curator of aviation. “About 75 percent of that was volunteers.”
The aircraft served with fighter squadrons VF-111 and VF-94 at Moffett Field in California until it was retired in 1965. From there, it was put on display at a military ammunition depot on the Jersey Shore. In 1969, it was sent to a Town of Wall park in New Jersey for about a decade. The Cougar was put in storage in 1985 after it fell victim to vandalism and weathering.
“Anything that could have been taken off of it, was,” Boehm said. “The instrumentation was gone, the wind screens were gone, the seat was gone. You know, it was covered in graffiti.”
Though it will only be on display, the museum replaced all of the Cougar’s missing parts -- manufacturing new parts in some cases -- so that it appears complete. The $3,000 restoration project was expected to take four years, but the overwhelming turnout of volunteers cut the time in half.
“It needed a lot of TLC,” said Dina Ingersol, a volunteer who clocked thousands of hours on the project. She welded 50 of the sheet metal patches on the aircraft’s fuselage and most of the 30 repairs made to its wings.
The Cougar is set to be unveiled Saturday at 11 a.m.