Sunday, September 16, 2001

'Glacier Girl' is brought to life

By Roger Alford
The Associated Press

        MIDDLESBORO, Ky. — A World War II fighter plane that spent decades encapsulated in the cold silence of a glacier has roared back to life.

        The P-38 Lightning, once one of the fastest planes in the sky, was among six fighters and two bombers forced by foul weather to land on a glacier in Greenland nearly 60 years ago.

        As a boy in Middlesboro, Roy Shoffner had become enamored with the P-38 and imagined himself flying the plane that could reach 405 mph at altitudes of up to 35,000 feet.

        Years passed, but Mr. Shoffner never lost interest in the plane. So when he learned about the squadron abandoned on Greenland, he became bent on retrieving one. In the summer of 1992, he did just that, and has been working since to restore it to a like-new condition.

        That plane, dubbed the Glacier Girl, was brought up piece by piece through an icy tunnel from beneath 268 feet of ice.

        The 1,275-horsepower engines fired a week ago, marking the first time the propellers had turned since the plane made an emergency belly landing in Greenland on July 15, 1942.

        Mr. Shoffner, who served as an Air Force fighter pilot in the 1950s, liked the challenge of pulling the plane to the surface.

        “If you can't go through it, and you can't go around it, you just work up another solution to the problem,” he said.

        The restoration crew hopes to taxi the plane at an air show on Oct. 6 and 7 at the Middlesboro Airport.


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- 'Glacier Girl' is brought to life