(KMTR) -- New life in Springfield
for a historic relic from World War II, as local engineers have restored one of the first planes involved in the conflict.
After several months of reconstruction, an antique plane restoration company Ragwood Refactory of Springfield has turned over the keys to 1940’s era Interstate Cadet plane back to its owner with hopes of spreading one of the most significant stories of World War II’s beginning.
“It was featured in Air & Space Smithsonian and they called it a national treasure and an artifact. So you're looking at a pretty important piece of history here,” says Kent Pietsch, owner of the historic plane.
The plane dates back to 1941 and a well-known female pilot by the name of Cornelia Fort. Fort was the first female pilot in American history to die on active duty. She flew the plane the day that Pearl Harbor was bombed.
Only 320 1941 Interstate Cadets were ever produced. Fort’s happened to be one of the first ones involved in World War II. The plane’s story is featured this month in the January 2012 issue of Smithsonian’s Air and Space Magazine.
December 7th, 1941, Fort was flying the plane over what is now Honolulu International Airport.
While training another pilot how to fly the Cadet plane, a Japanese Zero aircraft shot at her. She narrowly escaped, then landing the plane. The ensuing Zero then strafed the plane, killing the then airport manager of John Rodgers Civilian Airport.
The Fort and the plane were some of the first from the U.S. to encounter enemy fire in Pearl Harbor, the beginning of the United State’s involvement in World War II.
Decades later, the plane was founding Florida. A North Dakota man, Kent Piestch bought the plane, then shipped it back home. During recent flooding, Piestch almost lost the plane to high water.
In March 2011, Piestch commissioned Springfield’s Ragwood Refactory to fix it up.
“I think it’s pretty important for people to know, this very thing that happened in Pearl Harbor can happen tomorrow to us. And that's kind of why we're doing it,” says Piestch.
“This is the airplane that was there when they got attacked, when we got into World War II basically.”
Now December 2011, the plane has been complete restored.
“It is exactly the same.. Tim has told me that this is the closet restoration that he's ever done to it,” says Piestch.
December 3rd, 2011, Kent took the keys back from Ragwood Refactory. The crew there spent 9 months restoring it piece by piece with authentic parts from other Cadet planes, from the internal instruments, to the decals, even down to the nuts and bolts. Ragwood was able to keep the plane’s original engine, prop, brakes and tires.
Owner of Ragwood Refactory, Tim Talen spearheaded the effort with several other local volunteers.
“This is a one of a kind unique situation where you have a particular airplane that's really a limited production, rare airplane now and to have it be a part of the Pearl Harbor story, you know, I don't think there's going to be another one. This is probably it,” says Talen.
Kent is planning to fly the plane to Las Vegas on December 4th, 2011, for an air show. At the show, Kent and his brother are planning to reenact history, reproducing the scene with the Japanese Zero and the Interstate Cadet.
After the airshow, Kent says he’d like to sell the plane to a museum to preserve its history.