This is a attempt to document the "life" of a P-38J
(converted to an F-5C), S/N 42-67543.

My uncle, Robert "Bobby" Ragsdale bought the Lightning as war surplus in about 1946. He only flew it one time and that was the "delivery" flight from Coffeyville, Kansas to Austin, Texas. On landing, the brakes failed completely and the aircraft was finally stopped after it had used all the runway and part of the grass overrun beyond the runway.

The aircraft was towed to a spot on the northeast side of Mueller airport and parked in the grass where it sat for many years.

I can remember going to Austin to visit with my aunt and uncle in the summers when I was about 10-12 years old and spending many hours "flying" the P-38 as it sat in the grass.

The only portions of the story of this aircraft that I haven't been able to amplify on is the period of time the aircraft was owned by Lefty Gardner of Mercedes, Tx (apparently just for spare parts) and when it was being rebuilt in Chino, Ca. by Steve Hinton's Fighter Rebuilders.

According to "Thunderbolt And Lightning" Lefty Gardner had the airframe from the mid 1960s (it was probably after 1966 because that is when I left Austin and moved to California) until sometime in either late 1987 or early 1988. The Lightning was still in Austin when I left there in October, 1966.

Steven Grey bought the airframe from Lefty Gardner sometime in late 1987 or early 1988 for his Duxford, UK based Fighter Collection.

The airframe was trucked to Chino, Ca. where the Fighter Rebuilders did a complete restoration. the Lightning first flew on Jan 11, 1992. In March of 1992 it was crated up and send via ship to the Fighter Collection at Duxford Aerodrome in the UK.

The last item I will add to the story is the fact that the Fighter Collection still has the remains of the airframe in storage. I visited the Fighter Collection at Duxford in April 2003 but unfortunately was not able to view what was left of the airframe.

Inquiry
M
ore info And more

The Findings of the Inquiry