Trying to look after museum aircraft that are decades old presents many problems. Lack of money, time and volunteers must balance with the needs of aircraft on display that in some cases were built in the 1930s and the 1950s and parts are almost impossible to source. Being kept outdoors in the Comox valley means being hit with high winter winds and rains, occasional snow, and in summer high UV (ultra violet rays) attacking the finish.
Safety of visitors viewing the aircraft is always first and foremost. If it isn’t safe then it must be made safe or removed from public access. After safety we has set a goal of what we call a “20 foot” view. That is to say from 20 or more feet it must look acceptable and represent the aircraft as close as we can to how it looked when it was still flying in the RCAF. That keeps the ability of the volunteers to look after them realistic. To try and make them more accurate would be beyond our ability in most cases.
An example of what we do is the controls on our Dakota (Dak). Originally covered in fabric, which doesn’t last long out of doors in Comox. We decided that as some Dak aircraft had metal coverings instead of fabric on the rudder, elevator and ailerons we would replace the failing fabric of our Dak with metal. This would last the life of the aircraft needing only paint every few years instead of fabric and dope (a type of paint for fabric) every 3 or 4 years. Here is the process in pictures, please note this process took months and used 4-6 volunteers 2 half days a week !
Old fabric was cut away to keep the rudder from catching the wind and acting as a sail. This ensures we are safe from the rudder moving about as we remove it.
Damage in the center of the tail here is obvious, it is from years of sitting in the winds, it needed to be repaired as well.
Here it is repaired and repainted prior to reinstalling.
What the old fabric was looking like, taped seams were opening up and tears were beginning to spread due to age and UV action from the sun.
Damage like the crack shown here are highlighted in red and repaired before applying the new metal skin. We stop drill the crack and sister the metal on both sides with new metal and apply anti corrosion paint.
Aileron repair is carried out by one of our volunteers.
We use a lot of clecos (temporary rivets) to keep things lined up while we work.
The newly covered rudder is in place and we are getting ready to reinstall the elevators.
The wood block toward the top of the rudder is a gust lock to keep the rudder from moving in the wind and damaging itself. Once the Dak is put back together most of the real work is not visible, it went into making it safe and ensuring it will last another decade or 2. While the paint may not be an exact match to the rest of the airplane this is true of many active military aircraft. A part is repaired, painted and put back on the aircraft. It is not possible to repaint the entire aircraft to match due to time and costs.
The volunteers are mostly retired RCAF but there have been some with no military experience at all, just a love of military aviation. 19 Wing has been supportive of our efforts and without the very active support of 19 AMS Workshops and the ACS techs who work there these projects would have take a great deal longer, and some might never have happened at all. The Heritage Team will continue to work over the winter with parts removed prior to the winter rains and by spring we will have many newly repaired parts on display in the air park, please drop by then to see for yourself.
** Special thanks to Kevin Kinsella, Leader of our Heritage Maintenance Team for his leadership and for sharing the work this amazing team does!