Jim Tobul is the man behind the stick in "Korean War Hero," but rather than the owner, he considers himself more the caretaker of this beautiful warbird and her storied history. An avid pilot for over 40 years, Jim takes great pride in carrying the legacy of the veteran Corsair to airshows all over North America. He lives in Jackson, WY.
"It's very important that we keep the history of these aircraft and the men that flew them alive and active," said Jim in a recent interview. "The role these heroes played in securing democracy and our freedom cannot be measured. We owe them a great debt, and it is an honor and privilege to carry on for them and tell their stories."
Jim began flying at the age of 9 years old flying his dad’s Stinson 108 and acquired his pilot’s license in the mid ‘70’s. His dad purchased a 1943 North American SNJ-4 in 1980 and Jim started to fly that plane in 1981. Since that time, Jim has flown many different Warbirds such as the B-25, T-28, L-5, B-17, P-51, F-18 Super Hornet, PBY-5 and others. Currently, Jim flies his Mitsubishi MU-2 Solitaire all over the US and has flown this type since 1987.
Over the years, Jim & Joe have owned many different aircraft such as F8F-1, F8F-2 Bearcats, T-28, Goodyear Inflatoplane, 300 & 400 series Cessna’s, C-152, C-172 and others.
Jim has amassed over 5000 hours of flight time, many at the controls of this military icon. He also flies his SNJ-4 at airshows when not flying the Corsair.
Jim's father Joe served in the United States Marines, and instilled his love of military aircraft in his son. After Jim attended college, the two set out to find a warbird to restore and fly. In 1981, they found a Corsair in a lime and avocado orchard near Homestead, FL. Completely dismantled, the aircraft's 10,000 lb weight made for quite a project to relocate, much less restore, but Joe and Jim made the purchase, took the aircraft home to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and began an arduous10-year restoration.
In 1991, the "Korean War Hero" flew again, and both Jim and Joe piloted the airplane at airshows all over the East Coast until November 2002. Sadly, while on the way to an airshow in Columbia, SC, Joe developed engine trouble and died in the resulting crash. Onlookers said he made a heroic effort to steer the plane away from as many homes and populated areas as he could, ultimately crashing into a grove of pines.
Jim stored the wrecked plane parts for six years, then decided to put it back in flying condition. He worked at it for a year himself, laboring over the project while finding the parts and materials he needed. Then an old friend, Bill Klaers of Westpac Restorations in Colorado Springs convinced him to send the aircraft to him to finish the job. Finish he did, and two years later the "Korean War Hero" took to the skies once more.
Jim now performs at 18 or more airshows per year, bringing tears to the eyes of veterans and awakening the curiosity of upcoming generations to learn more about the fight for freedom waged by those who came before. He also is proud to participate in the U.S. Navy Legacy Flight program, in which he flies alongside a modern Navy F-18 Super Hornet fighter in a poignant display of military heritage and tribute.