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Good year. Busy year. Challenging year. Successful year. Read on for all we did in the last quarter of 2022.
Being an all volunteer operation does create some challenges. As we continue to reassemble the Hurricane's Merlin engine, we need to have all the relevant parties, equipment, time and space available all at the same time. We have been relying heavily on the Bomber Command Museum's Lancaster engine specialist Brian Taylor to guide us through the reassembly process. We also need to have a lift available, a few more hands on deck, and Jack's shop time between his day job airplane duties.
Brian has been driving up to Calgary to assist in assembly (in winter conditions); most recently to drop the heads and banks back on to the lower block. It has been an education for all as the Hurricane's Packard 29 has enough differences from the Lanc's Packard 224s that it has caused some head scratching and some delays for issues like the 29 having one more set of oil rings than does the 224. Weird.
Brian Taylor from the Bomber Command Museum with Dick S. and Davy D., torque down the first head and bank reinstalled on the Hurricane's Merlin 29 back in November. At bottom, looking ever more like a whole engine with both heads installed along with the 'log' and intake manifolds. We have to cut our own valve cover and oil pan gaskets.
We are short by a few gaskets for the rocker covers, oil pan and coolant lines, so we have enlisted the assistance of Rapid3D to scan the parts and then use their scans to get a local vendor to cut the gaskets for us.
Once the gaskets are in hand we will install the oil pan and then add the accessories, pumps, lines, etc.
Given that we initially dropped the engine into the airframe before testing it and then discovering that it had all kinds of issues, we have decided to build up an engine test stand that will allow us to ground run the Merlin before reinstalling it into the Hurricane. We approached the Bomber Command Museum about sharing the cost and work as they too could use a Merlin test stand. Curator Karl Kjarsgaard has been working with Dick S. on the design and construction of a new trailer for the job. If all goes well we hope to have it ready to accept our engine within a couple of months.
We are happy to report that our three legged trade deal (buying a B-25 prop from Halifax 57 Rescue, getting Reg with the Windsor Mosquito group to haul it to Ontario for us in order to get it to Mike Niewiadomski to acquire the fuel panel and junction box he had that in all probability came from our airplane), was completed with the delivery of the panel in early December. Big thanks to all parties involved!
Reunited! We first spotted this fuel panel and junction box on a Facebook post last spring. Thanks to owner Mike Niewiadomski for trading it to us so we can continue our tradition of the highest level of authenticity and originality.
Also want to extend our thanks for KF Aero for returning our fuel lines. When they were prepping Mosquito VR796 for its delivery flight from Vancouver to Kelowna this past summer, they discovered a crimped fuel line and asked to borrow one of ours in order to get the airplane to its new home. We were happy to do so and the line they actually used came back to us in better condition than when we sent it to them.
A second thanks to KF and to D'Arcy Barker in particular for spotting us a Differential Brake Valve. We had none; they had an extra that came in a package of spares with their Tempest. When our cockpit specialist Andy W. went to dry fit it, even the mounting holes in the cockpit floor lined up to the newly acquired piece. Score!
Looking forward and down from the pilot’s vantage point, Andy W. test fits the Differential Brake Valve supplied by KF Aero. Though the part number was different, the valve fits perfectly, even matching the mounting holes in the wooden floor frame.
This report sees the completion of another year's work on the project, at a fast pace as we moved past Covid restrictions. As everyone is aware, after a year of chasing leads, Richard de B. secured the much needed plywood for the upper surface of the wing. Thanks also to Don H. who worked with personal connections overseas chasing down various leads.
Using publicity photos from Spartan Air Services in the 1950s, board member and interior systems specialist Don H. works to reinstall all of the equipment in the rear fuselage as it was back in the day.
With the wing plywood now in hand, Gary T. has been busy on right hand wing tip repairs. At some point in its history the right wing suffered rib damage that needed to be repaired in situ which makes it sort of a 'ship in a bottle' situation. Gary has also begun the huge job of removing the upper wing skin. Because the upper skin is double layered with numerous lengthwise stringers between them, and a massive amount of glue holding the top skin to the stringers, we cannot peel the top skin without seriously damaging the stringers. (Go ahead and ask us how we found that out...) The solution is to remove the top skin with a router. Good thing its only 454 square feet...
I believe that restoring the upper wing will be much like the fuselage in that it will be a near vertical learning curve. As Gary continues to expose the internal structure of the wing, Colette P. and Alan W. have returned to their well practiced task of scraping paint.
As the upper wing skins come off, Michael H. is still hiding around the back side of the wing removing wing to firewall bolts. These bolts, though not as badly corroded as some, will be replaced with new NAS standard bolts which are critical to the structural integrity of the wing, firewall, and undercarriage areas.
Gary T. repairs a wing rib, with 'ship in a bottle' techniques while on the other side of the wing Colette P. and Alan W. clean and scrape the newly exposed wing structure as we begin the process of removing the badly weathered and delaminated upper wing skins.
Hugh G., Cam B. and others are lining up for the bead blaster to continue cleaning the infinite amount and variety of hardware which holds the airplane together. Meanwhile, Don H, one of our low profile heroes, is reinstalling system components in the rear fuselage, such as hydraulics, pneumatics, etc. One of Don's challenges is to sort out the Spartan camera installation in the rear fuselage. There are no plans and very little information available as to what went where. Over the years Don has researched and collected a number of leads as to how the camera was used and how exactly it was installed.
Don is also my right hand man in chasing down services we require in Calgary, such as cleaning, welding and painting. He has just picked up some of the larger landing gear and firewall components that due to their size could not be accommodated in the blasting and cleaning facilities in the museum shop.
Dick S., our jack of all trades and master of all trades, is still working on the last skin of the last of the 4 flap sections in this years' long project. In Dick's defense I often drag him off in other directions to put out fires which crop up along the way, and that at times are many and are always distracting.
Andy W. continues to chase parts and materials for the cockpit area. For those who haven't stopped by recently, you will see significant progress. For those involved on a day to day it may seem like we are just rearranging the dust, but the devil is in the details and we have lots of missing pages from the instruction manual, as well as lots of missing bits and pieces. Andy is also taking up the sheet metal trade and considering a welding course in order to construct some of the missing pieces in the cockpit and on the instrument panel.
Since pulling the main landing gear from its long term storage location this summer, we have invested a lot of energy in stripping and cleaning these components, starting with Andrew and Matthew S. with the pressure washer before the snow flew. After a good spray cleaning, Gene F., Colette P., Alan W., Michael H. and Chris D. started to make our workspace look more like Karl Kjarsgaard's workspace under his Hercules engine (oil, oil and more oil!). As the undercarriage is situated directly behind the Mosquito's Merlin engines, it tends to accumulate a great deal of oil, grease, grime and dirt.
'We’re in it for the glamour...' Volunteer Alan W. tackling the job of cleaning and stripping some of the main undercarriage components as a first step in the restoration process.
We have started by working on the left gear leg while leaving the right gear intact as a complete example (memory being what it is for many of us these days). We are also working on the engine firewalls as Davy D. takes the lead with his mock-up boards onto which he transfers everything he removes from said firewalls. Once the firewall parts are removed, cleaned and repaired, we will reverse this process.
Steve S. has been working on a steel frame design that we will use to hang the landing gear for reassembly. A couple of weeks ago Gene F. and Hugh C. erected the main structure as we await Steve's return to install the attach points.
Steve S. does some touch up grinding on the steel frame he designed and had cut for us. Below, the frame as assembled by Gene F. and Hugh C., in which we will assemble the main undercarriage once all components are cleaned, refinished and tested.
We have elected to powder coat the main undercarriage components for greater durability, which will be handled by Don H. and Top Gun Coatings. Once these parts are back we will assemble them on the frame which will also allow us to swing the gear. Jaime G., who is new to the group, is doing some excellent work in taking the main undercarriage components apart to ready them for cleaning and refinishing. His methods of documentation and cataloging will also be used for the undercarriage side supports before we send them out to our vendors.
Jaime G. stripping, cleaning and identifying undercarriage parts. Below, Jaime sets a new standard for organizing and documenting his work. Very pretty and very valuable.
The crew has made great progress on the landing gear and will soon work themselves out of a job (on the gear I mean). We will redeploy some of them back onto wing paint scraping as we await the return of gear parts.
I want to close out the year by throwing a spotlight on some of the other jobs and projects we get involved in to support our hosts at the Bomber Command Museum.
Davy D. seems to have adopted the Bomber Command's bead blaster and spends numerous Fridays cleaning it up after all parties have worn her down and dirtied her up. Roger D. and Don Y., who I haven't mentioned so far, are helping out the Lancaster crew by making prop crates for them. Gene F. has spent a lot of hours turning into a snowman as he sands 3D printed replica Halifax prop blades, getting them ready for paint.
Dick S. has gotten heavily involved with the museum's Harvard crew in restoring a crushed firewall for their airplane. Dick has invested several evenings with punches and shears to lead the way in straightening out and repairing this critical component for the team, making the hour long drive to Nanton on several Tuesday evenings.
This concludes my report for the year. As you see everything from Richard and plywood to Don with welders and Dick with stainless takes a lot of time and effort. The running joke has been that it will be done in a couple of weeks: We just aren't sure in what year.
With Covid restrictions now lifted, we again participated in the full Remembrance Day events at the Bomber Command Museum, with board member Brian C. doing the honours on our behalf by laying a wreath at the cenotaph adjacent to the museum. The ceremonies are very well attended with several hundred out in this years' relatively mild weather.
CMS board member Brian C. lays a wreath at the cenotaph adjacent to the museum.
In our last quarterly report we mentioned having been included in John Chalmers' article for the Canadian Aviation Historical Society. The story seems to have some legs and has been picked up by History Now, the quarterly publication of the Historical Society of Alberta. Our thanks again to friend and long time supporter John Chalmers.
A page from John Chalmers story as reprinted by History Now about the restoration of the Mosquito and some of the challenges locating plywood for the wing.
We continue to catch the eye of the local media as well with some television, radio and internet coverage by CBC Calgary. Doug Gilson of CBC is a self described 'history nerd' and he asked to do a year end wrap up story on our progress with the Mosquito project. CBC's website article here: CBC News Canada Calgary Mosquito Airplane WWII Calgary Canada Their TV story is 9:35 into the December 27th newscast: CBC News Canada December 27th newscast.
Our success at acquiring the plywood for the wing restoration also caught the attention of AEROPLANE magazine's News Editor Tony Harmsworth, who asked for some photos and information for which he gave us almost a full page in their December issue.
Thanks to AEROPLANE magazine's New Editor Tony Harmsworth for his ongoing interest and coverage on our project. This from their December 2022 issue.
Our historic and unique airplane continues to attract attention from many quarters. Volunteer Nigel C. is also a model railroader and he spotted an offering that highlights not just a Spartan Mosquito, but our very airplane when it was transported by rail from Ottawa to Calgary in January 1965. Here is CF-HMS in N scale loaded on a flatcar as depicted in one of our photos of its arrival in Calgary.
A new product from Micro-Trains.Com depicts Mosquito CF-HMS in January 1965 when it was sent by rail from Spartan in Ottawa to the new Air Museum of Canada in Calgary. Note that even the flatcar number in this N scale model is accurate: 665034!
After de Havilland Aircraft of Canada's announcement about a huge new manufacturing facility just east of Calgary in September, we were contacted by senior management when they learned that an example of their 'logo' airplane was under restoration in southern Alberta. We were inundated with questions about its status, restoration methods, timelines and history and have begun a dialogue with DHC about ongoing support and opportunities.
As the new owner of former Spartan Mosquito VR796, KF Aero is very interested in the history of their airplane, which is now finished as the single most successful bomber aircraft of World War II, F for Freddie, which as most know, came to a sad end in Calgary in May 1945. KF invited us to do a presentation about the original F for Freddie in their stunningly beautiful Centre for Excellence in Kelowna on November 17th. The evening event was the first public event held at the Center which just opened in late August 2022. It was attended by almost 200 people. We were able to include a couple of surprising and significant tidbits of information about the airplane that were new even to the owners and certainly to the audience. The PowerPoint presentation was professionally recorded and we may be able to make a copy available online in the near future. With the success of this event, we will continue working with KF on even grander plans for this coming year.
Above, a poster advertising the presentation we did for KF Aero. Below, the stunning 60,000 sq. ft. Center for Excellence just opened by KF Aero. Regardless of what they call it, it is one of the finest museum facilities we have ever seen. It certainly lives up to its name.
Richard de Boer, President
Jan 9, 2023