MAAM P-61B Black Widow Restoration Update

The MAAM's P-61B Black Widow as she currently appears.
The MAAM’s P-61B Black Widow as she currently appears.

We’ve written before about the Mid Atlantic Air Museum’s Northrop P-61 Black Widow here.

Northrop’s P-61 Black Widow is the only night-fighter designed as such from the ground up. Built and flown in 1942, the P-61 could arguably be called one of the first fighter aircraft designed as an entire weapon system, namely the SCR-720A Airborne Radar.

The P-61s SCR-720A  airborne radar as it appears under the aircraft's radome.
The P-61s SCR-720A airborne radar as it appears under the aircraft’s radome.

As we also mentioned there are a few on display throughout the world including the National Museum of the United States Air Force (at Wright/Patterson AFB in Dayton, OH) and the National Air and Space Museum Uvdar-Hazy Annex (at Dulles International Airport in Washington DC).

The only soon-to-be flyable P-61 is owned by the Mid Atlantic Air Museum in Reading, Pennsylvania. The Museum was gracious enough to dedicate a portion of it’s website solely to give people a chance to see the restoration in progress (the website was last updated on 13 December 2013). The P-61 has always fascinated me and it’s interesting to see the aircraft from pieces to almost a complete aircraft. Just over the past few months there has been great progress on the P-61, enough that it’s being publicly displayed so you can view the Black Widow as she’s being restored. Below is one of the latest photos from the MAAM’s P-61B restoration site.

The right nose landing gear of the MAAM's P-61B
The right nose landing gear of the MAAM’s P-61B

The video below gives you a bit of a walkaround on the MAAM’s P-61:


An interesting thing to me was the detail with which the radar operator’s station at the rear of the main fuselage. Here’s an illustration of what the radar operator’s station looks like from the P-61’s Pilot’s Operating Manual (I know you know I have one…lol):

P-61 Radar Operator's Station.
P-61 Radar Operator’s Station.

Compare that with how it now appears after the restoration:

view into the RO's compartment from the boarding laddar view into the R.O.'s compartment from the aft boarding laddarPICT1352This example of the restored Radar Operator’s station serves to underline the painstaking care that the Museum is taking to get the Black Widow not only to flying condition but also “1942” flying condition.

This particular aircraft even has an interesting history in it’s own right. You can learn more about that courtesy of Warbird Radio. If you don’t only to learn about the MAAM’s P-61, you can also be part of it by donating to the restoration here. That’s your chance to be part of history.

I can’t wait to see this aircraft completed to be flyable. Hell I’d be the first to volunteer to fly it 🙂

A P-61 Black Widow in her glory days.
A P-61 Black Widow in her glory days.

5 thoughts on “MAAM P-61B Black Widow Restoration Update”

  1. The last flying P-61 (actually an F-15 photorecon variant) died as a waterbomber in a crash that sparked the scene in “Always” where John Goodman in a PBY dumped his load on Richard Dreyfus’ crashed A-26 allowing him to survive the crash.

    In this case, a TBM Avenger put out the engine fires on the crashed P-61/F-15.

  2. The Widow is one of my favorite aircraft. I would love to see one fly.

    The He 219 is probably the first aircraft to enter service strictly as a night fighter with no preceding variants but the original design was for a bomber/recon type. So it was not designed from scratch for that role like the P-61 was.

  3. Martin Caidin – in his history of the P-38, pointed out that the AF considered the Widow its most maneuverable of WW2:

    Ah, but that huge P-61, heavier and larger than a medium bomber. Would the reader consider that this was the most maneuverable fighter plane of World War II? No? Even when you consider those full-span spoilers swifter and more efficient than any ailerons? Or that the AAF officially states that the P-61 “proved to be highly maneuverable, more so than any other AAF fighter.” And that includes the P-51D Mustang which weighed but a third the combat weight of the Black Widow.

  4. In the pic of the restored radio operator’s station, is the mast on the left side of the seat a mounting for the remote control sight for the turret? I notice that the seat base is round, and appears to a heavy casting that is made to rotate.

  5. My father flew P-61s in China and Burma. If anyone wants to be the first to fly the restored plane, they’d have to arm wrestle him for the honor.

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