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...been doing what? Well, you are going to have to read on for the details. That said, we are alive and well and we put up some near record numbers for our volunteer time as people have been anxious to reconnect and contribute to something cool and generally hang around with other folks. We put in some time on the Hurricane engine issue and we are active on just about every part of the Mosquito airframe. Enough teasing: Read on!
I feel like I should be asking 'What do you want first, the good news or the bad?' There's plenty of both when it comes to our beloved Hurricane.
We arranged with Historic Aviation Services to join us at the Hangar Museum on August 24 to have them replace the troublesome fuel nozzle assembly and then to attempt a start once this newly overhauled unit was in place. Coming down from Wetaskiwin, were Greg Davis, Buck Hills and Ted Reynolds. In addition to the nozzle, they brought along a couple of pieces which they had made since we moved the airplane down to Calgary in October 2019. We now have a much more authentic rear view mirror and a brand new windscreen de-ice tank. Thank you HASI.
New bits installed. Buck secures the newly manufactured mirror. At bottom, between Buck's knees and Greg's head is the newly installed windscreen de-ice tank. These were 'last minute items' that the crew didn't get a chance to finish before the airplane was hauled from Wetaskiwin back to Calgary in October 2019.
The main job of removing the fuel nozzle and replacing it with the overhauled unit was a knuckle buster of a job as the unit sits at the very rear of the engine, right against the firewall and above the carburetor. Surprisingly, the lads had it in place by mid afternoon and it was time to see about a start attempt. That is when we discovered that the engine was seized solid and would not turn over.
As we discovered back in September 2019, starting a long dormant engine, even after a top overhaul, is not an event, but is rather a process. The first time we turned it over, it spewed coolant from a dozen places. Then the through shaft for the hand crank was binding and howled like a banshee. Then we discovered that the timing was off. The best we could manage, after four weeks of troubleshooting was to get the engine to fire on the fuel provided by the primer for 5 to 8 seconds at a time. But it did turn over and quite easily, even though we installed a period-correct, but somewhat paltry, 12 volt starter.
On the day of the handover ceremonies at the Hangar Museum on November 6, 2019, we turned the engine over by pulling the propeller through so as to align it to a position that pleased the media. But on August 24, 2021, it wasn't to be budged: Not by the electric starter, not by pulling the prop and not by hand cranking it. Much head scratching ensued for the balance of the afternoon. At the end of the day, our friends from HASI headed back north, having fulfilled their contractual obligations and wishing us well.
One of the world's leading authorities on Merlin engines is the owner of Vintage V-12s, Jose Flores. His company recently celebrated their 500th Merlin overhaul and every Reno air racer using a Rolls Royce engine gets them done by Jose and his crew. We called Jose to discuss our plight with him. He stepped us through the diagnosis process and we were pleased to hear that we had already checked all those items on our 'what next?' list. At the end of the phone call, Jose steered us to what we knew would be our 'Plan B': Remove the engine and tear it apart.
Mosquito Society Vice President Jack McWilliam accepted the job of overseeing the work and we put together a crew to tackle the job on September 2. After a couple of days we had the whole front end of the Hurricane stripped and were ready to pull the prop and engine only to discover that we didn't have an engine stand to drop it into. Cue the sound of squealing tires as our work came to a screeching halt. Board member Andy. W. designed a stand that will also serve as a tilt-able platform when it comes time to remove the engine's heads and banks. Our steel and welding company, Sureway Metal here in Calgary, is dealing with a backlog and we anticipate the new stand being ready by late October at which time we will return to the museum to pull the prop and engine and begin the tear down work.
There has been no shortage of armchair experts volunteering their speculations as to how and why the engine is seized. Sadly they cannot agree on what the problem may be, but given that we know the engine was turning over and even firing, it is almost impossible to imagine that the engine is dry-seized or heat-seized. As suggested by Jose Flores, we are most likely dealing with an internal mechanical jam. But what that is and where it is, remains to be discovered. Stay tuned.
Despite the re-introduction of Covid restrictions we are able to continue work on the Mosquito, provided that all volunteers remain masked and distanced. The Bomber Command Museum remains open to the public as well with the same precautions applying to visitors. That said, the balance of the open house and event days were cancelled as of mid September.
Somewhat of a short report, as work continues in all the same areas as noted in our last report but with nothing major completed.
The horizontal stabilizer has the second skin installed. We are now ready to reinstall it in the strong back again to facilitate installation of an inspection hole as well as painting the inside of the new skins. Trailing edge skins are trimmed with the doublers reinstalled. We will need to recover the strong back from its storage location before moving to the next step.
The horizontal stabilizer with second skin in place. In the lower image, this is how you hold the new skin to the ribs while the glue sets: puck board and lots and lots of staples.
Gary T. has also completed the third flap which has been placed in storage until it can be mated to its other half. The fourth and last flap section is in process with Dick S. Sixty per cent of the mechanical parts for the flaps are painted, with the balance in for Teflon coating.
Dick giving flap #4 a quick cleaning prior to the skin going on. Again, it's puck board and staples with just a couple of clamps for the outside edges (67 to be precise).
With the flaps and horizontal stabilizer skins nearing completion, Gary T. is looking to tackle the reconstruction of the trailing edge of the wing, aft of the rear spar. The first step in that process is to gather all the remaining parts (very few, courtesy of the airplane's time in Cold Lake) and information such as plans and drawings. For the latter we rely heavily on the materials provided by our friends at the Windsor Mosquito Bomber Group.
We also want to note the tremendous efforts and creativity of Gary T. and Dick S. in manufacturing a pair of wing tip light lenses. So far the process involves new plaster moulds, a great deal of carving, a wood frame, a homemade ratcheting winch and someone's kitchen oven. Complicating the process is the fact that the different curves on the upper and lower surfaces of the wing tips means that the lenses are not mirrors of each other meaning that two different lenses must be made.
Three iterations have gotten them very close to a good result and we are assured that after just a couple of more tweaks, perhaps involving hair pins, some Glenfiddich 15 for lubrication, a llama hoof, and a Micromesh kit, we should have a new pair of lenses.
Lenses fresh out of the oven and getting a helping hand to adhere to the shape of the mould. Below Gary shows off their latest efforts. They figure a couple of tweaks in the process should get it done, though these are, as Gary says, "Not awful".
The Soulis gang, consisting of father Steve and sons Andrew and Mathew have continued to strip the wing of bonding straps, wiring and hardware so we can get started on the structural repairs of the wing itself. This process is nearly complete with just a few components like clamps and eye bolts that are left to be removed.
Matthew in the bomb bay removing grounding straps and Andrew on the top side of the wing removing slot headed screws that haven't turned since 1946.
Davey D. has also been very active stripping all the systems from the leading edge of the front spar, in particular all of the bits along the center section of the wing. In his usual diligent way, Davey has cut plywood mockups of the front spar so he can transfer all of the pieces as they were onto the holding board until they can be restored and reinstalled on the wing. This is often tedious and complex work but we know Davey is up to the task.
Andy W. designed a way to hold the wing vertically that dovetails with our existing structure and he has overseen the production of the new steel components that will hold the wing spars rigid as we remove and repair ribs and upper skins. We have delayed moving the wing to the full vertical position until the museum closes for the winter as the job will require a major shuffle of every component on the shop floor.
The wing will present more challenges than I wish but such is life with this project. (Have you heard the one about 'The more you get into it, the more you find?). We will be going after the upper wing skins once the wing is braced to the floor with Andy's new jig components.
Andy is also keeping busy with the cockpit reconstruction, installing components as well as refitting the grounding straps. We have a jewelry roller to help straighten the copper strips. Big thanks to Andy as he has been juggling his time between the cockpit and the wing jig as well designing and overseeing the manufacturing of a new engine stand for the Hurricane's Merlin.
Colette P. and Alan W. have been plugging into their radios while scraping more paint out of the underside of the wing fuel tank bays. Basically two people you don't see much of.
'Paint on. Paint off'. New volunteer Alan W. and Colette P. painting the new steel components for the vertical wing jig and then 'enjoying' the glamorous work of mechanical paint stripping in the fuel tank bays.
Recently Dick S. and Brian C. have started straightening two metal leading edge, wing root ribs prior to sending them to the Windsor Mossie group for duplication in exchange for a rudder balance arm that we are missing. We should mention here that Windsor recently returned the rudder trim crank and indicator and that they now estimate having our ailerons back to us by the first quarter of 2022. It's a great, and mutually beneficial relationship.
The rudder trim mechanism loaned to Windsor for duplication and now returned. Below, Dick straightens a metal wing root nose rib before we send it to Windsor for duplication.
The goal for this next quarter is to finish, or near finish, the stabilizer and to have the wing vertical and pinned to the floor with a scaffold around part of the wing to give us access to ribs and upper surface skins.
As detailed earlier in this report, we are also active on the Hurricane engine situation, so I wanted to go a little off topic just for the sake of general interest. Last month I swung by the British Columbia Aviation Museum at the Victoria International Airport to have a look at their Lancaster. As luck would have it, the crew was working on the Lanc and I had a more detailed look at one of the Merlins which they have opened up and torn apart. Victoria is working hard on Lancaster FM104 (previously in Toronto) and it was well worth the time to stop in to see another Canadian bomber restoration project in the works.
Wandering around chasing aircraft also leads one down other rabbit holes. A few years ago I stopped in to a little antique store to kill some time. Everything Old Canada Antiques had a small chisel that is now being used to strip the wing on the Mosquito. I elected to stop in again in hopes of finding another chisel.
Sadly, no luck this time, though they promised to keep an eye out for more. The owner showed me two photo albums dating back to the early 1900's, which featured early aviation in southern Manitoba and the Canadian Navy on the west coast. After chatting with the shop owner, he agreed to send them to the museum. You never know when you might stumble across something important even if it doesn't pertain to our aircraft.
In late July, the Bomber Command Museum held its first open house and Lanc engine run event of the year. The weather was great and it brought out near record crowds. As usual, our restoration work on the Mosquito was mostly suspended as we chatted with visitors for the day and sold our wares to interested parties.
Hundreds of visitors turned out for the first public engine run of the Lancaster since Covid restrictions were imposed back in the spring of 2019.
Open house and engine run days at the Bomber Command Museum always brings out hundreds of visitors, which creates the opportunity for us to talk about the Mosquito, its place in World War II, its post war Canadian history and about our restoration work on it.
That was followed by a Lanc night run on August 17th and the always popular 'Bikes and Bombers' event on August 28th. Again, lots of talking and selling ensued for us as we fulfilled our broader mandate to 'Honour and Educate'.
A rare and moving sight in this day and age: A Lancaster bomber spitting blue flame from its exhausts as it did on the night run event on August 17.
The August 28th 'Bikes and Bombers' events drew hundreds of two wheeled visitors on a gorgeous summer's day. Our permanent display in the main part of the museum can be seen at the top center of the picture.
In other news, a big shout out to first time novelist Dave Mason, for the continued success of EO-N, a story focused on a wartime Mosquito mission and the people and events it touches through to today. The book continues to garner rave reviews and awards from across the publishing and reading world. We were pleased to support Dave's research by introducing him to wartime Mosquito combat veterans George Stewart and Tom Burdge, with the latter flying the very combat ops to Norway that Dave features in his book.
The latest exciting news is that the motion picture and television rights to EO-N have been secured by producers Ruvé and Neal McDonough. Neal is perhaps best known for his long list of notable acting performances in such iconic productions as the Emmy and Golden Globe award-winning series Band of Brothers, Yellowstone, American Horror Story, and Minority Report.
Our fingers are crossed that the project gets a green light. Regardless, our congrats go out to Dave Mason for his amazing and continued success!
On the topic of television, we have been working with Rob Lennard, Alberta's 'History Wrangler' on a number of short segments for his internationally televised programs on the Cowboy Channel and others, one of which has over 40,000,000 subscribers in the USA. We have done a number of pieces on the Mosquito and Hurricane and they have started airing as of September.
Coming up in October we have a two day fundraising casino. Response from our membership base to step up and volunteer has been great and our thanks to board member Michael Harrison for stepping into the role of 'wrangler' and 'trail boss' on this one.
Back to the theme of supporting other people's efforts, we were also pleased to support writer Graham Chandler when he proposed penning a magazine piece about Spartan Air Services. We steered him to some former employees and provided a raft of photos, all of which resulted in a nice four page article in the September/October issue of LEGION: Canada's Military History magazine.
We've had lots of emails and inquiries wondering if we had seen this article on Spartan Air Services and their use of Mosquitoes in high altitude photo mapping work. Unsurprisingly, we had. Congrats and thanks to writer Graham Chandler.
Richard de Boer, President
Oct 15, 2021