Tony Riccio, a P-47 Test Pilot

Tony Riccio wearing a leather flight jacket with his Republic photo identification pin.
Tony Riccio wearing a leather flight jacket with his Republic photo identification pin.

Tony had heard that Republic was hiring for test pilots to fly their newly developed P-47 in the summer of 1942, and he knew that he couldn’t let this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity pass by. Two years have gone by since he first opened his Gardenville airport, and he felt this could be financially beneficial to expand his business. Could the airport survive without him, Tony thought to himself. It must, he later concluded, and began to make arrangements so the airport would remain operational while he was away.

Tony found out that he needed to complete a flight check before submitting an employment application to Republic. On December 9, 1942, he met the requirements through a test flight in a North American AT-6 trainer at the Romulus Army Air Field in Detroit, Michigan. Tony flew for 1 hour and 45 minutes with an instructor, and upon landing, he receives his certificate to fly a P-47!

Tony's logbook.
Tony’s logbook.

Tony’s last flight at his Gardenville Airport is on February 7, 1943, in a Taylorcraft model D airplane with a 65 hp Franklin engine. He finished a long dual-time lesson with one of his students for a total of 3 hours and 30 minutes under the Civilian Pilot Training program.

Tony standing in front of a P-47 in full flight gear!
Tony standing in front of a P-47 in full flight gear!
Tony would accumulate many flight hours from this cockpit!
Tony would accumulate many flight hours from this cockpit!
Tony's logbook.
Tony’s logbook.

Tony’s first test flight for Republic is on February 23, 1943, in a P-47-C warplane with a 2000 hp Pratt & Whitney R-2800-21 “Double Wasp” twin-row 18 cylinder radial engine. The plane’s registration number is 16650, and he flew for 55 minutes from Republic’s base in Farmingdale, Long Island, New York.

On March 1, 1943, Tony test piloted his first P-47-D, ship number 16864, for 55 minutes.

Tony ready to start the engine of a P-47. Clear!
Tony ready to start the engine of a P-47. Clear!

Let’s stop for a minute and think about how Tony must have felt on this day. At the beginning of February, he last flew a Taylorcraft airplane and is now test piloting a P-47 warbird, all 8 tons of her glory, pushing it to its structural limits with speeds above 400 mph at 30,000 ft. I consider this a life-changing event, almost an enlightenment of one’s self-being, that I know Tony cherished throughout his life and was very proud to share his experiences. I remember him telling me stories of flying the P-47, and I was the most popular kid during “show and tell” at grade school when he let me bring photos of him in his flight gear and the P-47. He even let me bring in his leather flight helmet and goggles one day, but I’m sure he was concerned about its safety because that opportunity never came up again.

One of Tony's many logbooks.
One of Tony’s many logbooks.

P-47 Racer 4 (photo courtesy usaaf-noseart.co.uk)
P-47 Racer 4 (photo courtesy usaaf-noseart.co.uk)

I found a fascinating entry in Tony’s logbooks while researching his flight time in the P-47. On April 6, 1943, he only flew two P-47’s that day, but the second one, he recorded ship number 28079 as “Racer #4.” I was intrigued by this. With a little research, I believe this to be a War Bond Plane used as a promotional airplane for Republic to generate civilian revenue to offset production costs and salaries. It seems to be a popular option used by other manufactures during the war, and I knew nothing of it.

A signed photo by Tony and the other test pilots in his squadron.
A signed photo by Tony and the other test pilots in his squadron.

Tony Riccio

Tony Riccio in a three piece suit, 1930s.
A very determined young man, 1930.

From the hundreds of pictures that I have of my father, Tony, I decided to assemble a short timeline to better illustrate his life but not bore you with an extensive family photo album. I have chosen the most relevant ones starting with him as a young man until his passing in 1976. I’ve divided the photos into seven pages, with about ten on each page.

Tony Riccio sitting in the pilot's seat of an Alexander Eaglerock biplane.
Tony in the pilot’s seat of an Alexander Eaglerock.
Tony Riccio wearing his leather flighting jacket, helmet, and goggles.
Tony in his new leather flight jacket, helmet, and goggles.

I hope you find this interesting as much as I do and can’t help but think about the thousands of hours of flight time he accumulated throughout his lifetime.


Tony Riccio standing next to an Alexander Eaglerock, A-15, owned by the Burgard Vocational High School.
Tony is building up his flight time in an Alexander Eaglerock, A-15, owned by the Burgard Vocational High School, where he received his aviation diploma on February 26, 1935. A Kinner K-5 radial engine powers this airplane and is easily recognized by the shape of the cylinder heads.
Tony Riccio piloting an Alexander Eaglerock, A-15, on takeoff.
Looking good Tony! Nice and steady.
Tony Riccio and his flight instructor talking about a flight lesson while sitting on the wing of an Alexander Eaglerock, A-1.
Tony, on the left, going over a flight lesson with his instructor. The airplane looks to be an Alexander Eaglerock, A-1, from the rounded shape of the front fuselage.
Tony Riccio's aviation diploma from the Burgard Evening Vocational High School dated February 26, 1935.
Tony’s aviation diploma, graduated on February 26, 1935.