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Harpoon PV-2
Dave Hansen's mighty blue bomber is a Lockheed PV-2 Harpoon of World War II vintage. Nicknamed Attu Warrior, this Harpoon is making its first AirVenture visit. Photo courtesy of Frederick A. Johnsen.
Dave Hansen
Owner Dave Hansen delights in sharing his PV-2 bomber with visitors. He especially enjoys hearing from veterans who served with this type of aircraft. Photo courtesy of Frederick A. Johnsen.

By Frederick A. Johnsen

Lockheed's ultimate taildragger patrol bomber was the PV-2 Harpoon, launched into the war with Japan. This year, a Harpoon, newly restored, makes its AirVenture debut.

This PV-2, Navy Bureau Number 37472, left the Lockheed Vega plant at Burbank, California, and was accepted by the Navy on April 4, 1945. Though the war in the Pacific still rumbled with no known end date, Harpoon 37472 did not see action. The airplane saw peacetime service at several naval installations until 1956.

Now called Attu Warrior, this PV-2 is mostly restored after a post-Navy career as an agricultural sprayer.

Dave Hansen bought the Harpoon in 2006 after it sat idle for two decades, had it airworthy the following year, and began flying it by 2009.

A reinstalled Martin 250 top turret, ventral gun mount, and triple-tone camouflage paint make this a compelling vision of Harpoons that defended Alaska's Aleutian Islands during World War II.

Attu Warrior is based in Heber City, Utah, where the nonprofit Warbird Warriors Foundation is its caretaker. Hansen is an emigre from California's busy warbird restoration airfield at Chino.

He is proud of the almost-complete ventral tunnel gun installation his PV-2 carries at AirVenture, a defensive gun emplacement deleted from most postwar Harpoons.

"Right now this is the only one with tunnel guns," he says.

Warbird restoration is not for the faint of heart - or wallet, and Hansen is seeking sponsors to help with the project he now solely supports.

To finish the tunnel gun emplacement, for example, requires a specially formed, $5,000 piece of Plexiglas.

Barely visible, the bomber's bi-fold bomb bay doors also need to be reskinned to make the hinge mechanism functional again.

Bitten by the warbird bug
"If you have the disease, you deal with it...and I have the disease," he says of his love affair with the blue bomber.

"It's a fun airplane to fly," Hansen says. "The most fun is when we get to meet some of the veterans who flew in this."

Intentions of converting the stocky twin to a firefighting air tanker in the 1980s never materialized, and old 37472 went unflown for 20 years. And that's where Dave Hansen stepped in. By his own account, at first Dave figured on a quick fix-up and sale of this old bomber. But the bug bit him, and he is now a dedicated champion of this compelling relic from a heroic era.

Light on the stick, tough on the fuel tab
Hansen says Attu Warrior is light on the controls in pitch and roll, but one has to put a lot of foot into the rudder pedals.

Taking Attu Warrior on tour, Hansen says his warbird's two R-2800 engines together hourly slurp 130 gallons of avgas at 200 mph.

Like some other sporty bombers of the 1940s era, the PV-2's cruise efficiency can be improved by "getting up on the step," Hansen says, by climbing 200 feet above the target altitude before diving, slightly, to hit the altitude at an initially faster-than-cruise speed.

The step theory remains as disputed as Sasquatch; some pilots swear by it - others swear at it. Nonetheless, some wartime bomber pilot manuals include specific directions to get on the step.

Look for Dave Hansen at AirVenture 2012. He's the proud guy under the wing of the blue and white bomber he has grown to love.

You can't miss him.

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FUTURE AIRVENTURE DATES: 2014: July 28-Aug. 3; 2015: July 20-26; 2016: July 25-31; 2017: July 24-30
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