Rod Lewis is a man on a mission. To own, restore and celebrate the legendary planes responsible for helping keep our country free. What started with a single T-28 Trojan has grown into an impressive collection of 36 warbirds known as the Lewis Air Legends. He also wants to recognize those responsible for making them fly. Not just the pilots, but everyone who dreamed, built, supported and flew these brilliant aircraft.
Glacier Girl serves as the jewel in Rod Lewis’ impressive Air Legends warbird collection. In July 1942, this aircraft and seven other American warbirds, low on fuel, crash-landed on Greenland’s vast ice cap. Crew members disabled the planes to dissuade any Nazi recovery effort, then slogged 17 deep-snow miles to the sea – and deliverance. For 50 years, the six P-38F Lightnings and two B-17 bombers remained. Abandoned. Covered ever deeper by the ice. A dozen expeditions trying to find the squadron failed. Sophisticated, ground-penetrating radar finally pinpointed the planes. In 1992, Glacier Girl was taken from its wheels-up position, removed section by painstaking section through shafts carved 25 stories (268 feet) into the ice. The sole rescued survivor of the entire squadron.
We needed to tell Glacier Girl’s incredible story in a way that would connect with veteran warbird aficionados, yet inspire a new generation to care and learn more. We wanted to tell about the aircraft, of course, but also its unlikely return to flight. Glaciers tend to crush anything they’ve swallowed, but the P-38ʼs sections were in good enough shape that the team optimistically estimated a two-year restoration. They were about eight years shy of the mark.
Environmental graphics detail key milestones of Glacier Girl’s recovery and decade-long reconstruction. The monumental display has made it to some of aviation’s biggest events, while a data-rich website provides information anytime, anywhere. The website helps free Lewis and his staff from fielding endless questions and requests for information. Plus, it beautifully presents his collection in a format that lets him share it with the world.
Today, Glacier Girl serves as the jewel in Rod Lewis’ impressive – and always growing – Air Legends warbird collection. Since returning to the air in 2002 before a crowd of 20,000 gathered for the event, this P-38F Lightning – once feared by the Axis powers and revered by the Allies – has thrilled thousands more at air shows and events across the country. Glacier Girl owns the only complete set of working P-38 machine guns in existence and is considered by many to be the finest warbird restoration flying. She has a new mission – perpetuating the legend. She’s doing a fine job.