BuNo 88303

Current Civil Registration Number N700G

BuNo 88303 was delivered to the US Navy in April of 1945 and immediately shipped out to the Pacific combat theater.  Its first squadron assignment was in the Philippines flying with VMF-115 “Joe’s Jokers”.  This was the squadron previously commanded by Joe Foss – the leading US Marine Corps ace of World War II.  BuNo 88303 logged fifteen combat missions during its deployment with VMF-115 before war’s end.  After its return to the United States, BuNo 88303 spent the rest of its military life serving as a workhorse for various stateside Reserve Training Units.

Gene Strine of Middletown, PA purchased BuNo 88303 as military surplus in 1956 but never flew the fighter.  It languished in an open field before finally finding an active home with William Whitesell of Medford, NJ in 1962.  Soon registered as N6594D, Whitesell refurbished the Corsair in somewhat spurious VMF-115 markings and flew it regularly as number “22”.

In 1971, Doug Champlin of Enid, OK purchased BuNo 88303 from William Whitesell and brought it home to his ‘Windward Aviation’ facility at the Enid Airport.  By 1980, Doug had established the Champlin Fighter Museum in Mesa, Arizona to serve as the permanent home for his growing collection.  BuNo 88303 would spend the next seven years on display at the museum before it was finally traded to Larry Rose from nearby Peoria, AZ.  Rose relocated to Imperial, CA soon thereafter and continued to operate the Corsair regularly before finally parting with it in 1994.

Ed Shipley of Malvern, PA maintained a high profile on the North American air show scene, flying BuNo 88303 regularly over the next four years.  This included the rare opportunity to perform an actual carrier launch aboard the USS Carl Vinson in 1994.  An engine failure in 1998 ultimately grounded the fighter and the following year it was sold to well known Microsoft co-founder, Paul Allen.

Paul Allen had begun amassing a substantial collection of warbirds around the time he took possession of his Corsair.  Like BuNo 88303, the focus of his collection primarily centered on bona fide combat veteran warbirds.  In 1999 Allen’s newly acquired Corsair was relocated to Ezell Aviation in Breckenridge, TX where its initial restoration was kept largely under wraps.  In the meantime, its owner had established the Flying Heritage Collection museum in Washington State, officially opening its doors to the public in 2004.  Today, BuNo 88303 has been relocated to another restoration facility and remains the subject of an intense and ongoing restoration back to 100% stock original condition.  Upon its completion, it’s rumored that the fighter will be configured exactly as it was during its 1945 combat assignment with VMF-115 squadron.


 

BuNo 88303 - October 1966 - Jim Sullivan Collection BuNo 88303 - Mint Moore Collection BuNo 88303 - Jim Sullivan Collection
BuNo 88303 May, 1971 - Jim Sullivan Collection BuNo 88303 - January 1974 - Jim Sullivan Collection BuNo 88303 - Doug Fisher

 


BuNo 88303