Lockheed EC-121 Warning Star

(photo by Jack Weber)

As previously reported HERE by WarbirdsNews, the Yankee Air Museum has launched the “The Warning Star Rescue Project” to save a Lockheed EC-121K Warning Star, and move it to their facility in Ypsilanti, Michigan. A team has been disassembling the aircraft at the sadly now-defunct Octave Chanute Aerospace Museum, located at the former Chanute AFB in Rantoul, Illinois. Jack Weber, a former navy crew chief on the type, was involved in this effort and kindly sent in these images and details. (Incidentally, Weber is also the webmaster for the fascinating willyvictor.com, a website dedicated to those who flew and maintained Warning Stars during the Cold War.)

The aircraft started life as a ‘Willy Victor’, or WV-2, the naval variant of the Warning Star. She joined with the US Navy in August, 1956 as Bu.141311. The type became an EC-121K with the amalgamation of military aircraft designations in 1962, and it is largely equivalent to its US Air Force counterparts. Bu.141311 spent the bulk of her career assigned to the Pacific Missile Test Center at NAS Point Magu in California. She retired to the boneyard at Davis Monthan Air Force Base in 1979, but a team ferried her to Chanute AFB for display in 1983. Octave Chanute Aerospace Museum volunteers poured 16,000 man hours into restoring the aircraft between 2000 and 2005, bringing her interior back to its former glory. She is still in great condition, even if her exterior paint is a little faded, and will make a marvelous addition to the Yankee Air Museum.

The Warning Star is supposed to arrive at The Yankee Air Museum this week for reassembly. The museum plans to unveil her at their Thunder Over Michigan Air Show during Labor Day Weekend (September 2nd thru 4th, 2017). Bu.141311 will be open to the public and the Yankee Museum has invited Willy Victor veterans to be part of the event.

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And the tails are off! (photo by Jack Weber)

When the Octave Chanute Aerospace Museum closed its doors in 2015, Bu.141311’s future looked very bleak indeed. She is still owned by the National Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola, Florida, but they already have a WV-2 in their collection and had no interest in moving her elsewhere. This is understandable, as it is a massive aircraft and hugely expensive to move. So full credit must go to the Yankee Air Museum for having the courage to save this aviation gem, and take on her upkeep. There are still a number of significant airframes in Rantoul awaiting new homes though, and their days must surely be numbered, so for those who can get involved saving them, please do!

EC-121 Warnig Star collage 2

A collage of pictures of the disassembly process sent by Jack Weber

EC-121 Warning Star collage

A second collage of pictures of the disassembly process sent by Jack Weber

The Yankee team plans to restore the EC-121 to static condition, to best represent the “Star” as she looked during her Cold War days. From here, the aircraft will continue to serve a vital role, though this time as an educational tool, rather than warrior.

Click on the image below to support this project.

Screen Shot 2017-02-22 at 4.43.06 AM

11 Comments

  1. Richard Minter says:

    IS Warbirds News affiliated with the Warbirds International Magazine? If so, will the EC-121 story be the subject of story in a future issue? I was a crew member in that aircraft and among the former crewmembers that saved 141311 from the bird infestation at the Octave Chanute Museum and made it presentable for presentation and walk through tours. That evolution is worthy of a story in itself. Volunteers not only cleaned up the aircraft but also unfeathered one prop, cleaned untold bushels of bird droppings from inside the aircraft and engine nacelles, created life size wooden mock ups of some of the missing backend radar consoles and provided tours of the aircraft for museum visitors.

  2. Jack Tyler (Toby) says:

    As a former radioman flying on the WV-2 out of Pax River, MD, I am so pleased this effort is under way. Thanks to all who contribute.

  3. George Hebling says:

    I worked on this aircraft while it was being restored at Chanute 2000 to 2003.

  4. Bob Fitzsimmons says:

    I flew over 70 hours in this plane while attached to VW-13, crew 12 Goldenchain. Also proud to have worked on restoring it from 2000 to 2005 with a great bunch of guys.

  5. I was a radar operator flying in WV-2’s with VW-11 out of Argentia ,Newfoundland from 1959- 1961. I ended up with 1,500 hours flying over the North Atlantic.I am glad to see this Grey Goast being preserved it was a fine aircraft she always got us home.

  6. Lt John R Carlin USNR says:

    I flew my last 9 Barriers in 141311 in November of !959 out of Argentia NFLD. When the plane showed up at Rantoul I came back from NY twice to see it and sit in the cockpit once again . I also brought the maintenance manual which I gave to the museum, I was airframes officer as well as a co pilot and Navigator in VW-13. I sat in the cockpit with LTCDR Richard Kofsky who crashed in Argentia in the bay during bad wx in 1958. It was a very good airplane. I have a picture of our Crew and myself in front of the plane in Argentia before my last flight!

  7. What aircraft are still left at Octave Chanute? I thought most of them were removed.

  8. I was grateful to be part of the restoration team from 2001 to 2005. I logged over 2,000 hours in these birds in VW-11, out of Argentia, NFLD from May ’58 to February ’61. 8 Knothole — Hall’s 8-balls.

  9. I logged many hours as a flight engineer in this aircraft when it was at the Pacific Missile Range, Point Mugu,Ca,

  10. Spent many hours at ecm stations around Cuba looking for ground to air missels..

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