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One of the oldest existing USAFs fighter units is the 94th “Hat in the Ring” squadron.
The 94th has a historic lineage, Nieuports and Spads in WWI, P-38s in WWII, later F-86s, F-4s and F-15s, and now the F-22 Raptor. For over 25 years, the 94th displayed a full scale Nieuport 28 replica outside their squadron building in their honor.
By: WILLIAM E. SAWIN, SR.
USAF Nieuport 28s and F-22 Raptors: the Flabob Connection
Riverside, CA - One of the oldest existing USAFs fighter units is the 94th “Hat in the Ring” squadron, made famous in WW I by Eddie Rickenbaker. The 94th has a historic lineage, Nieuports and Spads in WWI, P-38s in WWII, later F-86s, F-4s and F-15s, and now the F-22 Raptor. For over 25 years, the 94th displayed a full scale Nieuport 28 replica outside their squadron building in honor of their first combat fighter.
Last summer a freak windstorm destroyed the Nieuport, and a saddened squadron vowed to restore it. Donations flooded in from 94th alumni worldwide; only problem was that the current F-22 maintenance guys didn’t know much about working on 1917 wood and fabric aircraft. Several contractors offered to replace the replica at inflated prices but their quotes were well beyond the squadron budget.
Jon Goldenbaum, president of Flabob’s Poly Fiber heard of the disaster. Goldenbaum was a member of the 94th when the replica was originally built, at the time he was an F-15 pilot whose hobby was antique/classic aircraft. In those years, he owned and maintained a Taylorcraft that he flew at Langley when he wasn’t in an F-15. Since Goldenbaum was the only pilot in the unit who knew anything about fabric aircraft, he wound up assisting builder Ken Kellett assemble and install the airplane in front of the 94th.. Later, Goldenbaum gave Kellett a ride in an F-15, a memory they share when they meet at air shows today.
Since the windstorm, Goldenbaum coached the 94th F-22 maintainers on antique aircraft restoration via email and phone. The 94th guys installed a wood shop in an F-22 hangar then launched out with enthusiasm on new skills, cutting wood, welding steel, and forming aluminum. In January, Goldenbaum and top Poly Fiber technician Hualdo Mendoza flew to Langley to help finish the restoration and teach the high- tech F-22 guys how to cover a 1917 WWI fighter with fabric. Over 20 Air Force technicians worked on the project, soon fabric components were in the paint shop receiving an authentic WWI camouflage paint job with the proud “hat in the ring” emblazoned on the side.
The replica will be re-dedicated in February, then installed in its place of honor in the front of the 94th. If you get a chance to visit Langley AFB, don’t miss seeing the 1917 airplane completely restored by 2012 F-22 maintainers, with a little help from the past and Flabob.
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