Written By: Stewart Bailey / Museum Curator
McDonnell F-101A Voodoo – A supersonic fighter originally designed to escort bombers. The first Voodoo, the XF-88, was McDonnell’s first attempt at a supersonic aircraft. The Air Force felt that it was underpowered and lacked in performance and asked McDonnell to “go back to the drawing board” and re-work the design with more powerful engines. The result was the F-101A. Because of the work done with the XF-88, there was never a prototype for the F-101; they just started rolling off the assembly line.
Our aircraft was the first F-101 built and went straight from the factory to the Air Force test facility at Edwards Air Force Base, California. It first flew on September 29, 1954. After several years of testing, it was loaned to General Electric to use as a test bed for the J-79 engine. It was later returned to the Air Force and spent the rest of its operational life at Edwards. When the Air Force was done with it, it was transferred to Shepard AFB, Texas where it was used for the training of Air Force mechanics. Finally, after being declared obsolete, it passed on to a civilian aviation mechanics school. That school went out of business and the airplane was purchased as scrap by Dennis Kelsey of Lind, Washington. Mr. Kelsey set out to restore the plane and placed it with the Pueblo-WeisbrodAirMuseum in Pueblo, Colorado. In 2009, Mr. Kelsey’s widow Janice, decided to move the aircraft to Evergreen in order to bring it back “closer to home” and to see that it got the proper attention, as it had begun to deteriorate badly during its outdoor display in Colorado.
The F-101A was restored by the restoration team of Dave and Richard Martinez at the EvergreenMuseum restoration facility in Marana, AZ, before moving the aircraft to McMinnville this past summer. It was reassembled and painted here. As per Mrs. Kelsey’s request, it is being restored to the markings it wore when it was on loan to General Electric for the J-79 test project.
The restoration of the aircraft is not complete, as Mrs. Kelsey has more parts of it in her barn in Lind. The Evergreen restoration folks will be going up there in the near future to pick up the parts and put them on the aircraft. The hope is to eventually restore the cockpit, which is currently a gutted shell. In addition, there are a number of markings for the aircraft which are not finished either. We will continue to work on the aircraft until completion, and are excited for our guests to learn about this new artifact!