About Mosquito Restoration Project... Page 2
|August 16th, 2012||#12|
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Bomber's away! Warbird ready to fly
Thursday, August 16, 2012 4:00
Warren Denholm's massive aviation workshop in Ardmore is a bloke's paradise. The sun is streaming in on this late winter's day, bouncing off the tip of the jewel in the hangar, the wooden Mosquito warbird.
Here at Avspecs in Ardmore there's a sense of anticipation and general busyness. Around a dozen men in blue overalls attend to various bits of planes, brows furrowed, all seeming to be in their own little worlds, but all working as a team.
The World War II de Havilland Mosquito, the most mysterious of planes, has been here since January 2005. It was entrusted to this award-winning specialist plane restorer by American warbird collector Jerry Yagen, who has dozens of warbirds in his Military Aviation Museum at Virginia Beach in the US.
Denholm's team had already restored a P40 Kittyhawk for Yagen, and the American was weighing up assigning them another. Denholm, meanwhile, had become fascinated by the work of local craftsman Glyn Powell. He'd seen the Mosquito moulds Powell had built for the airframe of a display Mosquito in a Canadian museum ... and began to dream of restoring a flight-capable Mosquito.
Powell pointed them towards a "project plane" he knew of in Canada. Yagen agreed to buy it. The plane's metalwork was good but it needed a new wooden airframe and wings, which is where Powell's skills came in. Avspecs began overhauling the metal and mechanical components.
In wartime, these innovative flying machines came out of huge factories. Around 6000 Mosquitoes rolled off the British production line, others were built in Canada and Australia. Around 80 ended up in New Zealand, and were used by the RNZAF.
The plane - known as the "wooden wonder" - first flew in November 1940, and was far faster than the Spitfire, meaning bombing missions were dramatically shortened, lessening the risk to pilots.
The unarmed bomber carried two crew in its tiny cockpit and Denholm, 52, who is rather too tall for this demonstration, hops in to show us how confined they would have been during missions of around five hours. In six weeks a Kiwi pilot will be sitting in this seat, when the Mosquito that Avspecs has restored will be the first to fly in 17 years. There are others on display around the world, but none flying. Yagen will be here at Ardmore that day, September 29.
"You can't help but be apprehensive when you think about the thousands and thousands of bits that are in there," says Denholm. "We've had plenty of time to get it all right ... You go through a methodical process to get it ready.
"When this thing flies it will put an end to the doubters who thought it couldn't be done."
Unlike Spitfires, there isn't a restoration industry around Mosquitoes. That means there are plenty of spare parts lying around in hangars, garages and workshops, and they're relatively cheap. The flipside is the need to search for old plans, books and manuals to work out how to do the restoration.
For Avspecs employees Paul Levitt, 34, and Andy Hosking, 44, who have spent their past seven working years full-time on the project, it's been a challenge. Many others have been involved in specific parts of the restoration, such as its wiring. With no earth return to the airframe like in metal aeroplanes, the wiring system is complicated.
WHO WILL FLY IT?
For the pilot chosen to fly a piece of aviation history on the day, it's being described as a "huge thrill".
Two people have been assigned the job - Keith Skilling, 65, from Tauranga and 57-year-old Dave Phillips, from Clevedon. Neither yet knows who will get the first public flight. Skilling is an ex-RNZAF pilot who servedwith the Air Force for 12 years, then Air NZ for 34. The retired pilot has tested a lot of warbirds for Denholm and is confident the plane will be good to go. "It's exciting and a little nerve-wracking at the same time but these guys are experts at restoring warbirds. I have no qualms about their ability."
"Any pilot would crawl over broken glass for the opportunity to fly this plane," adds Phillips. "It will be a career highlight for me."
Denholm says it's impossible to get familiar with flying the plane anywhere else. "When you get in it and start flying it will be the first time you've ever been in one. So that's kind of a challenge, but these guys are as good as anybody anywhere in theworld, if not better.
"As long as everything goes okay they won't have to have superhuman ability, they will just have to do what they do naturally."
Denholm's job is to make sure nothing goes wrong so the pilot won't have to do anything "special". He'll sit in the navigator seat behind the pilot for the test flights. "Some of the controls are a bit hard for the pilot to reach so the navigator does it. During the test flights someone will go in the plane and help with a few things from the back so the pilot can just concentrate on steering it," he says.
He admits it will be sad to see the plane fly the coop after its eight years of taking up space in the hangar. "We end up with a big picture on the wall and that's all," he says.
He hopes the space will be filled before long, and would love to do another Mosquito. This one was in bad shape when they got it and its airframe had to be rebuilt by Powell, the master craftsman who featured in The Aucklander in July. That part took nearly three years.
"We have learnt so much about them it would be a shame not to do another one. If you have a really good one from a museum that is all complete, you could turn it around fairly quickly."
Denholm has just returned from a project-scouting trip to the US, and also attended the AirVenture show in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Avspecs won the Reserve Grand Champion World War II award, the Gold Wrench, for its work on a Curtiss P-40C Tomahawk owned by Texas oil baron Rod Lewis. It's the fifth award the company has won at the show and recognition of the three-and-a-half years spent on restoring the plane from October 2007 to Easter 2011. Awards are part of the recognition his business needs internationally, and could help it pick up another overseas contract. That, in turn, keeps his clever and dedicated team of engineers and aviation mechanics busy.
"I like to have three planes on the go at any one time so you don't have all your eggs in one basket," he says. "World War II airplanes are not high on anybody's family priorities so, if the squeeze comes on and money gets tight, that's the first thing that gets cut from the budget."
Restoring a plane like this can cost anything from US$1.5 million to $3 million ($1.8 million to $3.69 million).
THE TRIP HOME
Then there's the not-too-small task of getting this Mosquito back to its owner, the logistics for which are challenging.
"We're working on the various options to get it back to the US. The wing is one piece and it's 54 feet [16m] from tip to tip and quite wide as well, so to get it on a boat it would have to go on a roll-on, roll-off ship.
"Shipping is not great. It takes about three months and who knows where it will get offloaded and onloaded. You don't want a precious piece of wooden aeroplane sitting on the dock somewhere in Guatemala."
Would the logical option be to fly it?
"It wears it out. It would be 75 hours of flying, so it's probably not an option," says Denholm, who admits he quite likes the idea of flying the old plane across the Pacific.
"It would be a good adventure and you could track it round and show it off along the way. With the right sponsor we could do that. Perhaps Owen Glenn could offer," he laughs.
They're also considering sending it in a cargo plane so it wouldn't have to be offloaded anywhere and would reach the US quicker. "You still have to take it apart to fit it in to a cargo plane, but that would be okay."
It seems heartbreaking to take apart something that's taken so long to put back together, but Denholm says only the wings would be dismantled.
Right now those wings and the rest of the plane are being painted in the markings of RNZAF 487 Squadron, the squadron that destroyed Gestapo prison in 1944.
"We want it to be significant to Kiwis as well, and that builds up interest," says Denholm. The engines in the plane are ex-RNZAF, further adding to the Kiwi touch.
On September 29, 30 Kiwis involved in flying, navigating or as ground crew for the Mosquito will attend a dinner at Ardmore.
"They've all got great stories, but I tend to concentrate on what it was like being that particular aeroplane because it was so unusual, being made of wood," says Denholm.
If they take a look inside the cockpit they will also see an original 1948 leather pilot's seat that Yagen bought on e-Bay. "It's actually not very comfortable, but it's never been used. The seller had two of them and wanted US$300 but he talked him down."
We are more often treacherous through weakness than through calculation. ~Francois De La Rochefoucauld
|August 16th, 2012||#13|
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It's still in its original old box with the original tag hanging from it. Finds like this have excited people like Hosking, the "details man" for the project. "Andy is fantastic on the detail. Look at the cockpit, it's perfect," says Denholm. "He's one of two guys who have worked almost completely full-time on it, others are brought in for specialist parts. They've got amazing skills and ability to work things out with no history to go on.
"They've done a fantastic job of finding stuff and putting it altogether."
Levitt, originally from the UK, says the most challenging part for him was the hydraulic system. "It was huge; I spent a year just making pipes. You just have to break it down, you have pipes part 'A' and 'C' and you make the pipe in the middle."
He dumbs it down to explain it, but he had only drawings and the service manual for the plane to work from. A hydraulic system for a Mosquito isn't something you can buy on the internet. "It's been really interesting and when it flies, it's going to be a huge day. The whole world is looking at this."
He's worked as a vintage aircraft restorer for 15 years, and loves working at Ardmore.
"Compared to the UK there is a really good 'make it happen' attitude over here," he says.
And it will happen soon.
"I'm a bit nervous, considering I have worked on a number of important parts," he says.
Denholm, however, exudes confidence.
"It's kind of like going on the stage and being given the script. At the beginning you are sort of terrified that you are not going to be able to remember it, but when you step out on the stage somehow or other you know the lines."
The dress rehearsals, when the plane undergoes full aviation checks, take place next month ahead of the public open day. Denholm's wife, Shona, and their boys, aged 10 and 13, will be there, it being part of the boys' lives since they were very young.
None of it has been a chore to Denholm, who set up Avspecs in 1997 after starting to restore old planes in 1986. "As soon as you put the word 'job' into it, it becomes a job. But if you can find something that you're passionate about, and you used to do as a hobby, and you can make a business and a living out of it, well, that's just great, and that's what I've done."
Photo's I hope....
|August 17th, 2012||#14|
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I think there should be more WWII era restaurations. That generation is quickly diminishing. We owe it to them. The best joy for a veteran pilot is to see his lovely bird flying again!
|August 18th, 2012||#15|
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|August 18th, 2012||#16|
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Some other substantial parts also survive.
Wellington IA serial number N2980 is on display at Brooklands Museum at Brooklands, Surrey. Built at Brooklands and first flown in November 1939, this aircraft took part in the RAF's daylight bombing raids on Germany early in the Second World War but later lost power during a training flight on 31 December 1940 and ditched in Loch Ness. All the occupants survived except the rear gunner, who was killed when his parachute failed to open. The aircraft was recovered from the bottom of Loch Ness in September 1985 and restored in the late 1980s and 1990s. A new Wellington exhibition around N2980 was officially opened by Robin Holmes (who led the recovery team), Penelope Keith (as trustee of Brooklands Museum), Norman Parker (who worked for Vickers) and Ken Wallis (who flew Wellingtons operationally) on 15 June 2011, the 75th anniversary of the first flight of the type's effective prototype in 1936.
Wellington T.10 serial number MF628 is held by the Royal Air Force Museum. It was delivered to RAF No.18 MU (Maintenance Unit) for storage at RAF Tinwald Downs, Dumfries, as a Wellington B.X, on 11 May 1944.
In March 1948 the front gun turret was removed in its conversion to a T.10 for its role as a post-war aircrew trainer; the RAF Museum later refitted the front gun turret in keeping with its original build as a B.X (wartime mark numbers used Roman numerals, Arabic numerals were adopted postwar). In Autumn 2010, this aircraft was taken to the RAF Museum's site at Cosford for restoration over the next four or five years.
|August 18th, 2012||#19|
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Apr 13, 2012No Commentsby Devang Patel
Total Vickers Wellington bomber production totaled 11,461 aircraft, built between June 1936-when the prototype first flew- and the end of the World War II in 1945. Just a handful survive and none of these are in airworthy condition.
A medium bomber and a reconnaissance aircraft with two 1,585-horsepower Bristol Hercules VI radial engines, the Wellington has become iconic thanks to its revolutionary geodetic structure, the work of British inventor Barnes Wallis who later went on the devise the “bouncing bomb” used by 617 squadron Avro Lancasters to destroy the Mohne, Eder and Sarpe Dams during the May 1943 damn-buster raids.
In mid-November 2011, the Michael Beetham Conservation Centre at the RAF’s Cosford Museum was opened to the public, one of the stars of this restoration centre being the complete airframe of Vickers Wellington MF628 with the geodetic construction of fuselage and wings exposed for all to see. This aircraft, first flown on May 9, 1944 was displayed at the RAF Museum at Hendon (north London) when it first opened in 1971. In July 2010, it was decided that after nearly 40 years on static display, its largely wood structure should be refurbished and a five-year program was commenced, first with the aircraft being dismantled and then roaded to RAF Cosford (near Wolverhampton in the English Midlands).
The whole of the external fabric covering has been stripped and much of the internal fitments and instrumentation removed. Any rotting wood and components, particularly of surface components, are being replaced before the geodectic structured is freshly recovered and the whole aircraft repainted. At this stage it will be shipped back to London and the RAFT Museum and put back on display.
The November 2011 opportunity to see the “bare bones” of this unique Vickers Wellington was taken by hundreds of visitors. As a souvenir, it was possible to purchase sections of the original fabric covering, all funds helping towards the costly five-year restoration. RAF Cosford plans to open its restoration facility to the public again in November 2012.
For more info, go to rafmuseum.org.uk/cosford – Geoff Jones
Here is a reasonable list of Fleet Air Arm aircraft around the world and there condition (basic list)
Last edited by MontyB; August 18th, 2012 at 21:16..
|August 19th, 2012||#20|
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Sad to say I have heard she was the last airworthy (at present) example, she was destroyed in a crash killing the crew.
Last edited by BritinAfrica; August 19th, 2012 at 08:11..
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