With more than forty aircraft to care for, restoration and maintenance is an ongoing task here at the Museum. A little like the old tale of painting the Forth Bridge, our aircraft need continual routine tasks and snags ironing out to keep them in good shape, while others need deeper restoration work to improve their health as exhibits.
Many of our team of engineering volunteers have daytime jobs and fit in their work around home life. This means that if you visit the Museum on any Sunday, the chances are you will find engineers and crew working on the exhibits, often giving you a chance to see them being tested and prepared for events such as Thunder Days. This past Sunday was no exception, so here’s a quick overview of a few things that visitors were able to see first hand this past weekend.
C47 Dakota Engine Runs.
Following the winter work on the cylinders, our C47 Dakota engines now run very smoothly. We still have a generator snag to track down, which is something that can only be done with the engines running. So hooked up to our ground power cart and with the Fire and Rescue team looking on, the twin radial engines were pulled through a few revolutions to clear the oil from the lower cylinders before being started.
Once running, engineers on board spent some time in the dark art of World War Two aviation electrics to make some tests and diagnose the issue. It was a useful test and armed with the information, we’re hoping that the Dakota will be ready to begin taxi trials and move under her own power without the need to external power for starting.
It’s also useful practice for our resident Fire and Rescue Team who’s huge Pathfinder was on hand to supply the support needed to safely operate these aircraft live.
Buccaneer Paint Preparation
Our Buccaneer XN974 is being repainted in a fresh new Fleet Air Arm colour scheme and will look superb once finished. For the optimum quality, an awful lot of preparation work has to be done to the Cold War alloy surfaces. Right now, as you can see from these pictures, she’s a ‘work in progress’ as the entire aircraft is flatted down ready for repainting.
Nimrod Routine Work
The team looking after Nimrod XV250 are dispersed across the UK. Travelling from locations as far afield as Norfolk, some members undertake a seven hour round trip to be with us. Sunday saw some routine maintenance, plus the muscle of our Douglas P3 Aircraft Tug was called for to move her just a few feet.
Part of the anti-deterioration measures for the retired Nimrods includes moving the aircraft just a few feet. With tyre pressures of over 180psi, it’s important to keep them in good shape and rotating her wheels just a few feet helps remove flat spots where the 39,000kg weight has been sitting.
After connecting the specialist towing bar, a few grunts from the Douglas tug had her moving. Doing this not only helps preserve the tyres, but also moves the hydraulics of the oleo legs in the undercarriage to avoid the seals developing leaks.
The Victor XL231 Team were also present, the big ground power unit supplying the tanker’s interior with current to enable routine maintenance checks that keep these big jets in the best possible condition.
Aircraft maintenance is an ongoing labour of love. Without this continual attention, the aircraft would quickly deteriorate. In military service, they were constantly attended to by huge teams of technicians and of course were flying each week, day in day out. The jets in particular are complex machines and our teams make every effort to continue to maintain them to the same high standard as they enjoyed when in front line service.
If you take the time to visit the Museum this summer, take a moment to say hello to the people who keep these aircraft running in this way. It’s one of the elements of the Museum that we think makes us unique.
On any Sunday, you may stumble across anything from a Great War SE5A or Eastchurch Kitten running, through the World War Two Dakota, all they way to the mighty Cold War Jets.
Don’t ask us to try and predict what, where or when things will be running! It’s simply as we need to, so it can be the luck of the draw for our visitors. If nothing else, Sunday is always roast dinner day in the NAAFI, something that we all take a moment to enjoy.