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A view of the Planes of Fame 262.  Credit: Eric Reif c/o the Aussie 262 Connection

Easily one of the most storied Me 262s of the Whizzers' lot, the former Planes of Fame museum aircraft -- now owned by a senior Microsoft executive -- has an interesting and varied postwar history.

Some have asserted that this aircraft had an operational history of Luftwaffe service with Kommando Braunegg, although the available evidence to date has generally been viewed as insufficient to confirm this.  At Lechfeld, the plane was initially identified as "White 25," an A-1a/U3 reconnaissance variant.   Prior to the arrival of Watson's team, Master Sergeant Preston of the 54th Air Disarmament Squadron named this plane Connie ...  My Sharp Article (after his wife).

The jet was ferried to Melun, France by Lieutenant Roy Brown, who renamed it Pick II (after a nickname derived from his wife's maiden name).   A Whizzers' control number of 444 was also assigned.  Brown ferried the jet to the port of Cherbourg, where it was loaded onto the British escort carrier H.M.S. Reaper.    While on the deck of the H.M.S. Reaper, it carried the inventory control #19. 

After arrival at Newark, Watson ferried 444 to Freeman Field, Indiana on 19 August, 1945.  There, the Army Air Force assigned a new "Foreign Equipment" number:  FE-4012.  (This was later changed to T2-4012.)

 

This aircraft was selected to participate in classified tests against the Lockheed P-80, and underwent a nose section changeup with Whizzers' number 888 -- then FE-111.  The machine was given an overall reconditioning for the tests.  

On 17 May 1946, Watson flew to Patterson Field for the trials, where he ultimately participated in eight flights totaling some five hours. 

Eventually, the jet was transferred to the Hughes Aircraft Company in Culver City, California.  There is evidence that Howard Hughes expressed a desire to enter the plane in the Thompson Trophy races but was officially "discouraged" from doing so.  The rumor at the time was that the government based their decision, at least in part, on the fact that the P-80 was to have been entered by the Air Force.  In light of what is now known about the classified test results, this is hardly surprising. 

The Hughes company never flew the aircraft.  In May of 1949, RKO Pictures requested permission to use it in the production of a motion picture.  In July, the Air Force agreed, and the aircraft spent the next two years with RKO during the filming of the John Wayne film Jet Pilot.   

The plane was returned to the Air Force after filming.  In 1951, airframe destruction tests were proposed, although these were cancelled in early May.  The jet was then released to an aeronautical school as an instructional airframe.  

Roughly ten years after the war, the plane was purchased by Ed Maloney for the Planes of Fame collection, where it remained until late 2000.  

In November of 2000, Microsoft executive Paul Allen purchased the aircraft and moved it to Washington state.  The jet was recently registered with the FAA, and the best information presently available indicates that Mr. Allen intends to restore it to flightworthy status.  

 

Connie ... My Sharp Article (later Pick II) at Lechfeld.  10 June 1945. Credit: NASM

T-2 4012 at Wright or Freeman Fields in late 1945 or early 1946.

T-2-4012 in flight in 1946.  This photo was used in a composite close-up of Colonel Watson which is often mistaken as depicting a formation flight.

The Planes of Fame 262 as it appeared in 1964.  Credit:  Browning collection.

Another view of the former #444.  Credit:  Frank Mormillo


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