Glacier Girl

  • Manufacturer
  • Lockheed
  • Model
  • P-38F Lightning
  • Name
  • “Glacier Girl”
  • Tail Number
  • N17630
 

One of WWIIʼs most fearsome warbirds, this twin-boom P-38 Lightning lay buried under arctic ice for 50 years, and eluded recovery attempted by more than a dozen expeditions. The only rescued survivor of an entire squadron of P-38s and B-17s attempting a crossing over Greenland in 1942, Glacier Girl was finally pulled piece by piece from under 268 feet of ice on the 13th effort to retrieve her. Finally, Kentucky businessman Roy Shoffner financed the Greenland Expedition Society, a team formed by Patt Epps and Richard Taylor specifically for the recovery effort, and brought Bob Cardin on board as expedition leader.

Ingenuity and endurance brought Glacier Girl back to the surface where she had crash-landed half a century before. The team created a device they called the “Super Gopher,” which circulated heated water through a metal cone to melt holes 27 stories deep and reach key sections of the plane. Then they began the long, dangerous process of dragging out the pieces, including the 3-ton, 17-foot-long fuselage. It took 20 minutes to lower each worker to the aircraft – an eternity in the claustrophobic 4-foot-diameter shafts – and three days of hand-cranking to bring up the last piece. The final section emerged on August 1, 1992, and, thankfully, the teamʼs worst fears were not realized. Glaciers have a tendency to crush anything theyʼve swallowed, but the P- 38ʼs sections were in good enough shape that the team optimistically estimated a two-year restoration. They were about eight years shy of the mark.

It would take a grueling decade of reconstruction. On October 26, 2002, 20,000 turned out to watch Glacier Girl taxi down the runway for her first public flight since her long, icy slumber. More than one veteran fought back tears of amazement at the factory-condition fighter, once snow-bound but now soaring effortlessly into the Kentucky sky as if her mission were never interrupted. The restoration team had used around 80 percent of the planeʼs original parts over a period of 10 years to bring the aircraft back to factory condition. Glacier Girl owns the only complete set of working P-38 machine guns in existence and is considered by many to be the finest warbird restoration flying.

In 2006, Rod Lewis purchased what would become the signature aircraft – the very emblem – of the Lewis Air Legends collection. The only thing to rival the wonder of Glacier Girlʼs story is to see this rare bird roaring over the field at air shows and special events across the U.S.

Specifications
 
Armament