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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.

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#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. :)

#11 Che_Guevara

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Posted 19 June 2007 - 02:21 PM

Wow !!!! I´m still impressed, not only by the posts, but also by you Greg. Didn´t know that you´re a member of the "Planes of Fame", boaarrr, I mean you´re a lucky guy, having his plum job. I should congratulate on your 50th anniversary this year, I´ve read the article about it in the Flugzeug Classic magazine in the issue of may, even if the anniverssary was in january. Thx for all posts lads.

quote:Originally posted by Corsarius
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......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....


I´ve read about the current Restoration of the Fw 200 C-3 at the Technik-Museum Berlin and honestly I couldn´t imagine how a corroded Bramo 323 could be restored into fine conditions, but it worked and it must be better then it was in its old days. I´ve looked for the two pictures, but didn´t found ´em in the www.

quote: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.


Good point, that seems to be a way of restoring, hehe the Leyland P76 - Australia's Own Car ;) hmm, do you know if they heat the airframe to bent it in the original shape or how do they achieve that, I just wonder, coz I don´t have any idea of "Restoring a warbird"

quote:Originally posted by simon
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).


Hi Simon, I ould like to add that it depends on the depth of the location. If you compare the condition of the Bismarck with the cond. of the HMS Audacious, you see the difference, i hope I don´t err [8D]


HMS Audacious

Posted Image

http://www.deepimage...swreckpage1.htm

and the Bismarck

Posted Image

@Greg, thx for sharing your experiences at the "Planes of Fame". Seems
to be quite expensive to keep a WW2 vet flying, but it´s worth I guess hehe

quote:Originally posted by GregP
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.


Guess I will make a trip to the "planes of fame" and will learn everything about restoring the warbirds and then I will found my own Museum, like Edward T. Maloney did. One question Greg, how does a western enigne or modern one be compatible with the cable tails for example at the original cockpit section or under the engine hood of an old japanese fighter plane ?


@Tim

thx for posting this link DT, awesome to see this beauty queen in the jungle, many really good pix of her recovery and restoration

Posted Image

Posted Image

This P-61 makes me think about the other planes, which are somewhere in the jungle. That´s a nice site about ´em, but I don´t know how to get to the photo section anymore. The jungle is a real eldorado for warbirds of WW2 enthusiasts, damn I wish I had the money

http://www.pacificghosts.com/

Btw seeing your link, what´s up with the B-17 E "Swamp Ghost", I´ve read about its Recovering (Flugzeug Classic, where else :D[8D];) ) and wonder what happend to her ?!

Best Regards,
Che.










#12 Trexx

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Posted 20 June 2007 - 06:14 AM

Thank gawd for rich people that are into restoring planes, I say!

For my dome of influence, I donate my time... and help however I can.
I've found out that parts not only are traded but sometimes commandeered outright! We send big guys out to rummage in strategic places... secret agents with cahonnies that show up when the nightwatchman is on break! Don't tell! ;)

:)

#13 GregP

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Posted 20 June 2007 - 08:35 AM

Hi Che,

Thanks! But I am not the intersting thing at the Museum ... it's the planes but, again, thanks. I am a less-than-wonderfully-skilled volunteer. There are people there who worked on, say, aircraft sheet metal for years at airline maintenance facilities or aircraft repair shops, and they make brand new stuff out of nothing but raw materials.

For instance, we have one guy who bent new hydraulic lines for our soon-to-fly XP-59A Airacomet ... and I mean MANY lines are new and shaped like the original. He's been working on THAT for awhile, you bet.

Anyway, when new engines are fitted, you just make new cables to fit. By way of example, last year we had an engine failure in the Northrop N9MB Flying Wing that was restored over a 15-year span. In the "nonflying time" we had resulting from the engine failure, we decided to install new flight control cables in the port side of the wing.

So, we opened ALL the inspection panels, removed the canopy and fuel cell behind the cockpit, and started removing the cables one at a time and marking them such as "Upper Rudder Half," "Lower Rudder Half," "Flap Retract," "Flap Extend," etc. We attached nylon lines to the cables and pull them through the wing, leaving the nylon line in palce of the cables.

Then we sent them to a shop that makes aircraft cables and they made us a new set with the cable ends that were on the original cables. We installed them in reverse order one at a time (by attaching the cables to the nylon lines and pulling them back through the wing). Many places were a real challenge as we had to install the cable, the pulley, and then fit the cable holder (to keep the cable on the pulley even under slack) plus the bolt, nut, and washers ... all with one hand, by feel, inside the wing. Tightening the nuts and installing a cotter pin correctly was ALSO a real challenge!

As you can image, it took some skilled people several weeks to get all the new cables refit.

Likewise, if a new engine is fitted, the cables are measured and the cable ends are specified. If they don't HAVE the type cable ends we need, we put on an oversize end and work it by hand until it fits.

It is all very much a "by hand" process and sometimes we fail. More often, we succeed with very inventive solutions.

By way of example, I am helping work on a Messerschmitt Me 109 wing. We wanted to have it on a rotissary, so we made up a wing holder out of plumbing attachments and pipe (3/4-inch pipe) and drilled hole into a railroad tie in a stand that we made, and we can now spin the wing to any angle and work on it. When we're done, we can take the pieces and repair a toilet!

As I said in another post, nothing magic, just some volunteers and some work, sometimes over years.

When the XP-59A flies, it will be the oldest flying jet in the world. Ours was built in 1942! It will be painted as the first XP-59A ever flown, in Olive Drab USAAF colors.

I'll get pics when it starts getting close.

Meanwhile, our friend Trexx is also a volunteer at an Air Force Base Museum here in California, U.S.A. and he is getting to work on some planes, too. The only real difference is the Air Force doesn't fly their museum planes and we do. The work is the same, but we need to work on hydraulic systems, fuel systems, brakes, cables, etc. Just takes more people a longer time.

Our friend Montanamotor is BUILDING or about to build a wooden plane that he is trying to find a good engine for. Being an adventurous soul, he is considering a 550 hp Ranger V12 engine from the post-WWII years. I'd say that is a real undertaking!

Just think, Montana has to build the airframe, fit an engine never designed into the plane, plumb it, figure out the cooling baffles, the fuel system, and find a propeller that was probably never intended for the engine to start with!

Now THAT's a load of work! I know I speak for a lot of us in here when I wish him all the luck in the world plus our best wishes. Of course, we only wish him well if he presents us with some PICTURES :D in the course of his buildup! If nothing else, we can offer a lot of encouragement and good will.

Meanwhile, you other people out there building, restoring, or flying actual aircraft ... please chime in and let us hear about YOUR project.

If there is any interest, I'll do some pics of the Messerschmitt next weekend. Not much to look at, but it's the project I'm working on at this time.

Again, if there is interest, I'll get some pics of the XP-59A, too. :)

#14 Corsarius

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Posted 20 June 2007 - 10:45 AM

You know Greg, I seriously doubt that people would be interested in any WWII jet aircraft. Especially not one like an original XP-59. I mean, it's just not the genre, is it? Nobody at ALL would be interested, so you're really just wasting your time posting pictures of a silly WWII jet. I mean, it's not like anyone used jets at all in WWII anyway. No, no interest at all.[/sarcasm]

[8D]

#15 GregP

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Posted 20 June 2007 - 12:25 PM

Hi Corsarius,

I kinda' knew someone would be interested, but it doesn't look much different than the last XP-59A pics I posted. I sort of meant that I'd get pics when it looks better and more complete. Right now, the ailerons and flaps are off and the sheet metal just in front of the ailerons and flaps has been hand made.

It STILL looks like a P-59 with missing ailerons and flaps ... the progress is pieces parts that don't show yet.

Same with the Messerschmitt. The fuselage looks like an Me 109 fuselage without an engine, sitting on tires on a cart. The wings are complete, but we are stripping them of skin and surfaces to check the structure ... and are straightening the bent Aluminum. Need to fabricate doublers to maintain the strength.

The Wheels are from a P-39 because we can get parts, but they are nothing special to look at ... just wheels. So ... the progress is not really evident in pics at this time.

Hence, my statement above about interest.

I figured to post when the progress becomes EVIDENT to the casusl observer.

I will get at least a shot or two of the jet engines on their wood stands, ready to install, and the one that was damaged and is now a cutaway.

I promise a shot of the Me 109 and the project leader once it is on the landing gear ... I'll also get a shot of the instrument panel. My ugly face has already been displayed by Trexx ... no more, PLEASE!

Meanwhile, Galcier Girl and Steve Hinton are getting ready to for Operation Bolero II ... to complete the trip started in 1942 (the original Operation Bolero). You can check on it at www.airshowbuzz.com. The Lockheed P-38F will be accompanied by a TF-51 Mustang. Usually, Stephen's American planes spend 8 - 15 years in England and then find their way to the U.S.A. as they get bought, traded, etc.

We'll see ... most of the British ones stay in England. Every so often they swap a Mustang, Corsair, etc. for a fresh one ...

Sometimes, a Spit or Hurricane finds it's way to the U.S.A., too. WE have some at the Planes of Fame Museum, so there ARE some English planes that get around to countries other than England, sainted home of Rolls Royce, Supermarine, Hawker and lesser companies ...

God bless R. J. Mitchell ... and whoever was the turbosupercharger genius at Rolls Royce ... might as well mention Sydney Camm, Harald Penrose, and some other pretty amazing Brits, too. Neat aircraft!

Then they went and invented the Fairey Barracuda, widely accepted as the ugliest aircraft ever made aside from most French aircraft of the WWII era. Women married to Barracuda pilots would divorce them if they found out what their husbands actually flew. It was THAT ugly. It resembled the North end of a Southbound baboon ... no, wait, the baboon looked BETTER, and was probably faster in a sprint and also probably climbed better. ;)

#16 Montana

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Posted 20 June 2007 - 04:20 PM

Hi!

1. In recent attack-helicopters, the gunner/tactical officer sits in front of the cockpit, while the pilot is seated in the rear. How was the crew arranged in the Black widow? Pilot front, radar operator rear, F-14-like or: Chopper-like? I have no Idea.

2. Speaking of "F's": Has anyone got pictures and/or data for the recce-version of the P-61 - the F-15 Reporter? Sleek - fast - mean! :D

Cheers!

Montana

#17 Double T

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Posted 22 June 2007 - 01:55 AM

Montana:
In the P-61, pilot sat up-front, the radar-operator in the rear-blister. Gunner occupied the second--raised station--behind the pilot.

Tim

#18 Lightning Guy

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Posted 22 June 2007 - 11:06 AM

Are we sure of that arangement? I always thought the RO was in the second seat and the gunner was in the rear blister.

#19 Che_Guevara

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Posted 23 June 2007 - 05:46 PM

I´ve one moral question, would it be impious to recover the wreckage of a downed plane (maybe out of a bog or somewhere else) with the sad remains of a young guy, who lost his life in this a/c and to restore this plane or to took well preserved parts of this a/c to use them in the Restoring of another Warbird ?

Regards,
Che.

#20 GregP

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Posted 27 June 2007 - 06:21 AM

Good question Che.

I have always been of the opinion that the aircraft, tanks, ships, etc. are fair game for recovery, restoration, or spare parts provided that, once discovered, the former occupant is treated with suitable respect and dignity.

Of course, if said artifact is within the territorial waters of some country, then they probably have some existing laws covering the situation. If said artifact is on land, then there ARE laws covering that. It depends on where you find the aircraft.

Personally, I have absolutely no issues with taking aircraft parts from a crash site as long as the site isn't already owned or claimed by someone. If so, you may need to negotiate for the parts.




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