the ice queen rises
Legendary WWII warplane unearthed from 268 feet of ice lands at Houston museum
In 1992, a crack American expedition team undertook the mammoth mission of recovering the war planes of the Lost Squadron, a group of WWII fighter planes buried beneath 268 feet of ice in Greenland.
That team led by Bob Cardin, Patt Epps, and Richard Taylor, discovered the Glacier Girl, a WWII P-38 plane that crashed during attempted landings some 50 years before in 1942. After a harrowing rescue operation the Glacier Girl was unearthed from its icy grave, the sole, rescued survivor of the squadron of P-38s and B-17 warplanes that attempted to cross over Greenland.
Now, just as Houston recovers from its own ice days, locals can get up close to the iconic Glacier Girl at the Lone Star Flight Museum (11551 Aerospace Ave. at Ellington Field). The restored aircraft will be on view at the museum through Sunday, February 18.
As those who’ve visited know, the museum’s hangar and exhibit halls are home to myriad, magnificent aircraft showcasing decades of American flight. While WWII aircraft are nothing new at the aviation museum, the Glacier Girl is unique for its dramatic recovery story.
A cinematic saga, Glacier Girl’s rescue was a precarious effort that seemed made for TV — and was eventually chronicled on a History Channel Mega Movers episode titled “Extreme Aircraft Recovery.” The heroic salvaging saw Cardin and the team fashion what they dubbed a “Super Gopher” device that circulated heated water through a metal cone to melt holes 27 stories deep.
Once the Gopher reached the plane, the team began the dangerous, painstaking process of recovering the plane by pieces. Workers were slowly lowered down shafts measuring only 4 feet wide; each drop took 20 minutes.
The Glacier Girl is considered the finest flight-ready warbird restoration. Photo courtesy of Lone Star Flight Museum
The intrepid team rescued all the essential pieces, including the 3-ton, 17-foot-long fuselage. After a 10-year restoration, the Glacier Girl now boasts the only working P-38 machine guns in existence, and is considered by many to be the finest, flight-ready warbird restoration.
A soaring tribute to the Greatest Generation and American ingenuity, indeed.
The Glacier Girl is on view through Sunday, February 18 at Lone Star Flight Museum, 11551 Aerospace Ave. at Ellington Field. For tickets, hours, and more information, visit the official museum site.