Salvage experts last month raised a rare Navy FM-2 Wildcat fighter from the floor of Lake Michigan near Chicago. “This effort will lead to another important World War II aircraft being presented to the American public,” said retired Navy Capt. Ed Ellis, vice president of the Naval Aviation Museum Foundation, in a release from the Experimental Aircraft Association. The museum foundation plans to restore the aircraft. On Dec. 28, 1944, the Wildcat’s engine failed during takeoff on a training sortie from the aircraft carrier USS Sable, according to EAA. The fighter rolled off the deck; although the pilot, Ensign William Forbes, was able to swim free, the Wildcat sank in roughly 200 feet of water where it remained for some 68 years. A recovery crew pulled the FM-2 largely intact—except for the tail—from the water’s depths on Dec. 7, reported Chicago’s Daily Herald. Ellis said the airplane is expected to go on display “in the Chicago area” following its restoration.
The Air Force overall reduced its size by 120 aircraft in fiscal year 2021, but kept about the same number of fighter, bomber and attack aircraft, according to data supplied by the service. The F-35 fleet saw the biggest increase while the B-1B bomber fleet saw the largest decline.