WAUKEGAN, Ill. (CBS) – A World War II plane is back on dry land, after sitting at the bottom of Lake Michigan for nearly 70 years.
The Birdcage Corsair plane was built in the 1930s, and crashed during aircraft carrier training for the war.
“It went into the water and to my knowledge there is not a single surviving example of this aircraft anywhere in the world,” said explained Retired Navy Captain Ed Ellis of the National Aviation Museum Foundation, which is part of the effort.
Around 10:30 a.m., the plane was pulled from the water at Larsen Marine at Waukegan Harbor.
Over the years, A&T Recovery has salvaged 31 World War II era planes from the lake, of which the Birdcage Corsair is the latest.
A&T Recovery’s Taras Lyssenko and Al Olsen studied maps of crashes and located about 100 planes, something the Navy couldn’t do itself.
“These aircraft were older aircraft, a lot of them, as this Corsair was. They had mechanical problems, they had fuel problems, they had pilot error, they had a little bit of everything that led to them going into the water,” Ellis said.
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The recovery of this aircraft and others is the continuation of a program begun in the 1990s to recover and preserve Navy aircraft lost in World War II, Navy Capt. Robert Rasmussen, director of the National Naval Aviation Museum, said upon the recovery of another plane last year.
Over the years, the effort has recovered more than 30 vintage aircraft, Rasmussen said last year.
Many of the planes are on display at aviation museums or other public venues across the country, including O’Hare and Midway airports.
Agencies began recovering lost planes in the late 1980s, but the process was on hold for the last 12 years until Navy officials pushed for its resumption.