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Restoring a Warbird


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#1 Che_Guevara

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Posted 12 June 2007 - 02:45 PM

I always wondered how a rusty airframe can be restored into flying conditions. How can a part of the airframe, which is bent out of shape, be restored without damaging it furthermore. Does someone know which methods they use to turn the rusty surface and dented airframe into a jewel of the air?

Regards,
Che.

#2 Corsarius

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Posted 12 June 2007 - 07:11 PM

I know vague stuff, but not 100% reality.

Rust can be chemically treated. Most aircraft of the period were made of aluminium or duralinum anyway, so corrosion is less of a factor than you might think.

Re-riveting can be a slow and painful process. I have watched over the years the various aircraft rebuilt at Scone by Col Pay and seen the incredible work that has gone into it. I think that's been some of the most time-consuming.

Other aircraft of the period, such as the Nakajima Oscar, the Boomerang, or the Doflug D-3801 have much in the way of cloth or wood. This is simply replaced. Original stuff just isn't going to cut it there.

Bent airframes can be bent back into their original shape with a form, and much time. I have seen this done with a friend's P-76 (that's a car) that was wrapped around a tree and brought back to working condition. My own car was similarly repaired after having the ignominity of a Ford Falcon running a red light and straight into me.

Structural ingtegrity may suffer, but the speed that it is bent back, and heat treating, can go a long way to replacing this.

Engines are often replaced, but a basic engine block is a pretty tough thing (being dropforged in sand tends to do that). These can be sanded off, and if they were properly oiled to begin with, they can be surprisingly easily brought back up to 'working condition' with the right parts.

Avionics are often the most sought-after pieces. I know of a few restorations that are going on here in Brisbane that have all sorts of problems getting original bits. Sometimes they even trade work or incomplete projects just for bits that someone else has.

Wiring and control cables are usually replaced new

Modern avionics are added, if necessary.

I think that's about all I know. GregP could answer this much better as he actually does this sort of stuff. I'm just a placid observer.

#3 Ricky

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Posted 13 June 2007 - 04:40 PM

quote:Originally posted by Corsarius

Avionics are often the most sought-after pieces. I know of a few restorations that are going on here in Brisbane that have all sorts of problems getting original bits. Sometimes they even trade work or incomplete projects just for bits that someone else has.

You will often see adverts in Aeorplane magazines requesting bits and bobs that people might own for restoration projects.

#4 simon

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Posted 13 June 2007 - 06:18 PM

AFAIK one of the biggest killers of airframes is salt water which damages the aluminium chemically, whilst aircraft recovered from fresh water lakes may be fully restored and fly those in the sea for any great length of time are lost causes for anything other than static display (And may not even be any good for that).

From what I can gather, one of the biggest limiters to getting WWII warbirds airborne in authentic guises is the distinctly finite quantitiy of original engines available, even modern replicas which are prefect in most other details struggle to find authentic engines.

#5 GregP

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Posted 14 June 2007 - 07:12 AM

At the Planes of Fame Museum, we use the parts we can salvage and fabricate the rest. Takes money.

By way of example, we currently have a Casa (a Spanish-built version of the Me 109G with a Merlin in it) that suffered a ground loop in the year 2000 filming the movie "Pearl Harbor." The gear broke off, the starboard wing was bent and the wing tip was bent. The engine mount was bent, the prop wasa writeoff, and the Merlin suffered a ground strike.

We made a new engine mount, overhauled the Merlin, are still looking for a prop, and the spinner must be worked on together with the small, round coolant tube just behind the spinner. Takes money.

We are straightening the root rib and then we will fabricate an Aluminum doubler and rivet the doubler to the original straightened rib. The gear attachments have been replaced and we overhauled the gear which included fabricating some parts in a machine shop on-site at the Museum. Our Casa has wheels from a Bell P-39 on it so we can get parts. We cleaned the drums, put in new brake pads, repainted them and they are ready.

The radiators need to be gone through, and the hydraulic lines must be flushed, tested, and reused or replaced depending on the tests. While we are at it, we are looking at all the moving parts of the control system. Takes money.

So, the short answer is to use the original, use the original as a pattern for replacement parts or reinforce the original and use the newly-reinforced piece if there is room to do so, or machine new parts. Alternately, you can replace metric screws with English as we have or replace English with metric, like they probably do in Europe, adapt wheels or other items, such as when a Japanese Zero is outfitted with a Wright or P&W engine due to lack of Nakajimas.

In ANY case, the result must be deemed airworthy, and the standards are NOT relaxed. When we round out screws, we replace them with AN-grade new hardware, same as any OTHER aircraft application. Sometimes we reskin, re-rivit, or fabricate and install new wood.

Engines, propellers, and engine front-end gearboxes are getting tough to find. Most of the contra-props running today are from Shackletons. Most merlins are far from "stock" and almost NO turbochargers are in operation simply due to lack of parts. No one wants to expend life hours running Merlin in straight and level flight on instruments anyway, so it's NOT an issue.

Nothing magic ... just hard work and a desire to see it fly again. Oh yeah, you DO need money :)

Did I mention money?

The only thing saving most WWII-era museums, including ours, is a good supply of voluteers that really DON'T cost the museum much money (well, they DO feed us lunch on Saturday if you like cheeseburgers and supply drinks). We volunteers are either interested people with lots of interest but little skill (like me) or usually retired people who used to make a living working on aircraft, such as former airline mechnics, former military mechanics, former sheet metal workers, retired machinists, etc.

Since labor is VERY expensive, retired volun teers are a huge savings to a museum. Ask the good people in England who are trying to return a Vulcan to airworthy condition! Bet you wouldn't want to sponsor the fuel bill for a Vulcan flight! ... unless you are rich, and then they'd LOVE the monetary help!

At the recent Planes of Fame Airshow in May, we had one flight of twenty seven WWII aircraft all airborne at the same times for a series of passes. The fuel bill for that ONE flight was $18,000 and we suffered an expensive bird strike on the CAF B-17 [B)].

Flattened the wing leading edge between the cockpit and the starboard inboard engine. And people wonder why the tickets are $20 each!

#6 Double T

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Posted 15 June 2007 - 02:47 AM

Che:
Check-out the website I listed under the P-61 thread. Amazing photos of a Black-Widow restoration.

Tim

#7 Trexx

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Posted 15 June 2007 - 05:24 AM

The sun ravages the plexiglass on the aircraft on outdoor static display at the California Aerospace Museum were I volunteer.

Does a company such as "Tap-Plastics" have products and methods to remove crackly-cracks and yellowing?

I'm thinking that in the 'new millenium' there'd be some swell knew solutions to fix the problem(s) and even preserve 'em too.

#8 GregP

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Posted 15 June 2007 - 10:39 AM

Hi Trexx!

There ARE some plastic restoration techniques. I'll ask this weekend and post.

One very good way to get practice is to go find a crazed canopy in the aircraft junk that has been shattered and the plastic, at least, is a writeoff. Let me know if you can't FIND a bad piece of canopy. We may have some pieces out back and maybe I can get one for you to experiment on.

Take a piece of the crazed canopy and try the various methods until you get one that works. Polishing with a cotton wheel and some restorer polish is a good start. Maybe some "Lens Doctor?" :)

Anyway, I'll ask about techniques and see what surfaces. May take a week or two.

Meanwhile, I'm working on the Casa / Messerschmitt. Steve Hinton said it FLIES great ... just a bit tricky to land on pavement, and impossible to do it without brakes! When you look at the spring-loaded slats, it's easy to image this thing turns quite well at low to medium speeds. Once the slats are retracted, you are stuck with the basic airfoil and wing area, but when the speed is low enough for the slats to be out, the wing takes a pretty good bite out of the air.

Anyway, the Merlin is ready and we are starting on the wings. The new gear is almost ready and it will go much easier when we get the aircraft on its wheels. Then we can roll it around to work on it instead of having it resting on tires on a pallet. The cowling is intact, but I'm not too sure about a prop at this time. Might fly around the end of the year or so, but I'm not holding ny breath.

I KNOW the XP-59A will fly around the end of the year and am looking forward to it with great anticipation. Will GET PICS!

#9 Trexx

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Posted 16 June 2007 - 12:30 AM

quote:Originally posted by GregP

Hi Trexx!

There ARE some plastic restoration techniques. I'll ask this weekend and post.

One very good way to get practice is to go find a crazed canopy in the aircraft junk that has been shattered and the plastic, at least, is a writeoff. Let me know if you can't FIND a bad piece of canopy. We may have some pieces out back and maybe I can get one for you to experiment on.

Take a piece of the crazed canopy and try the various methods until you get one that works. Polishing with a cotton wheel and some restorer polish is a good start. Maybe some "Lens Doctor?" :)

Anyway, I'll ask about techniques and see what surfaces. May take a week or two.

Meanwhile, I'm working on the Casa / Messerschmitt. Steve Hinton said it FLIES great ... just a bit tricky to land on pavement, and impossible to do it without brakes! When you look at the spring-loaded slats, it's easy to image this thing turns quite well at low to medium speeds. Once the slats are retracted, you are stuck with the basic airfoil and wing area, but when the speed is low enough for the slats to be out, the wing takes a pretty good bite out of the air.

Anyway, the Merlin is ready and we are starting on the wings. The new gear is almost ready and it will go much easier when we get the aircraft on its wheels. Then we can roll it around to work on it instead of having it resting on tires on a pallet. The cowling is intact, but I'm not too sure about a prop at this time. Might fly around the end of the year or so, but I'm not holding ny breath.

I KNOW the XP-59A will fly around the end of the year and am looking forward to it with great anticipation. Will GET PICS!


GregP,bless you! And a hundred thousand thanks!!!



#10 GregP

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Posted 17 June 2007 - 11:53 AM

Replied to both Trexx and Montanamotor in a separate post. :)




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