Click on any image for a slideshow!
I don't like to judge, but if you read along, I think you will come to understand the title.
In the good news department, our earnings for last October's casino came through on February 20 at $62,726. 06. Given how little traffic we saw during the two day event, this level of return is a very pleasant surprise.
Now fasten your seatbelts for a rollercoaster ride story of what's going on with our favourite airplanes.
The Hurricane's Merlin engine is a mess. But now we know what the problem is, how it was created, and how to deal with it.
Shortly after New Year's our crew returned to Jack's hangar to continue the disassembly process. When we went to pull the heads and banks, and one of them severely resisted removal, we started to get some important information about what was wrong. What we found was so beyond everyone's experience that Bryon Reynolds, out of disbelief, seriously suggested that someone had swapped engines on us. In short, half the pistons were corroded solidly into the cylinders. A thick coating of rust covered almost all of the cylinder linings. Once we got it apart, we found the wrist pins on several pistons to be seized solid. The piston rings were so corroded that we could not find the split lines in them and a number of them snapped when we tried to pull them from the pistons. The top half of the connecting rods were completely black with corrosion. It was ugly on top of ugly. How could this happen? Let's go back to when we started work on the engine.
It took 5 strong men and a dog to get this head and bank removed from the lower block. Jack leads the effort in 'persuading it' with a mallet. It was reluctant to come off as most of the pistons were seized in the cylinders.
We moved the Packard Merlin 29 from the Aerospace Museum down to the Bomber Command Museum in 2014. The experienced Merlin crew at Bomber Command looked at it and concluded that it had never been installed in an airplane and that it probably had only factory test time on it. Despite that, all the accessories had to be overhauled and all seals and gaskets, then dry with age, needed to be replaced. We got to work doing exactly that, and finished the job and delivered the engine to Wetaskiwin in May 2016 for mounting in the Hurricane. With the airframe then complete, we attempted the first engine start in September 2019.
Above, the inside of a cylinder, covered in rust. You can see where the piston rings corroded to the cylinder walls. Below, a connecting rod. Ideally, it should sparkle and shine. Ug...
Not wanting dry metal parts rubbing against each other, we followed the standard procedure of pre-oiling the engine to ensure that the top end and most of the internals were well lubricated before we tried to start it. Once we started turning it over, we ran into several issues with the hand crank starter system, engine timing, magneto timing and ultimately a fuel nozzle that needed to be overhauled. Days were required to diagnose and resolve each issue.
Over the span of four weeks, we likely cranked the engine over 70, 80 times or more. It often fired on about half the cylinders for a few seconds, but due to the nozzle issue, it would not run. If you figure we cranked it 75 times and it fired for a few seconds on two thirds of those attempts, the engine had maybe 3 or 4 minutes of actual running time on it. Yet here we were in January 2022, with an engine that was corroded beyond belief and seized solid. How is that possible?
Jack did some research and found an article that pointed us in a likely direction. A by product of combustion is water. This is normal for all internal combustion engines and can be observed, especially on winter mornings, when the car in front of you at a stop light is shooting water out of its exhaust pipe. But what happens when the engine runs for just a few seconds and the oil doesn't have a chance to come up to temperature and pressure? The water is not expelled, and in fact it accumulates with each start. At the same time, without full oil circulation, the metal surfaces inside the engine get cleaner and dryer with each attempted start. The next player on the field arrives in the form of acids that are created when the water vapour combines with elements in the fuel and oil and are not heated and expelled as they normally would be. What we end up with was a toxic soup that started attacking the engine's now dry internal surfaces with a vengeance. And with just 3 to 4 minutes running time on it, we have a completely seized engine.
Above, the valves in a cylinder head. That is a lot of 'yuck' for an engine with just 4 minutes running time on it. Below is a piston with seriously corroded rings and seized wrist pin on the way out.
This is our working hypothesis. Even if it's wrong (and so far no one has refuted it), we needed solutions and a plan. We went to work to strip the engine down as far as was necessary and then to de-scale and clean every surface and part inside the engine. Jack set up teams to come in and tackle various areas. Jack, Andy W. and Dick S. stripped the rings from the pistons, had the pistons vapour blasted and then they made a lot of mud re-honing the cylinders. Davey D. took on the task of cleaning the connecting rods and devoted 4.5 hours a day for two weeks to the task. Chris Z., Seina M. and I put in a day a week to clean the heads, banks and coolant transfer tubes. Our thanks also to John Phillips and Brian Taylor of the Bomber Command Museum for their hands on help to pull the engine apart and to always be on the other end of the phone when needed for some on the spot consultation.
Above, new volunteers Chris Z. and Seina M. work to clean the corrosion and aluminium oxide from the heads and banks. Below, Andy W. and Dick S. hone the cylinders to remove the rust and pitting. Between the honing tool, the cylinders and some lubrication, they made a lot of mud, reminding us once more that we are in it for the glamour...
We are now at the point of putting together a parts order and firing it off to Vintage V-12s. That order will include all seals and gaskets, a complete set of piston rings and if necessary, a wrist pin or two. Once they arrive, we will begin to turn the shelves full of parts into a Merlin engine again.
One of 12 connecting rods, before and after, courtesy of Davey D. and about 4 hours of elbow grease.
With the first quarter of the year now behind us, work continues in the usual areas of wing, stabilizer and fuselage. I will cover the stabilizer first as it is now nearing completion. The structural work and re-skinning on this component is now complete other than fabric covering. The mechanical components, such as attach hardware, tail wheel gear, elevator controls and the copper grounding strips are now being installed. Dick S. is nearing completion of the once crushed tail wheel well, or mud guard, with some riveting and welding to go. Once completed, the horizontal stabilizer assembly will move to storage to protect it from damage until it is needed for installation test fit.
Gary T. and Cam B. put the finishing touches on the joint between the new ply skins and the leading edge of the horizontal stabilizer.
Fuselage interior work continues with Andy W. working on the snake pit of hydraulic lines under the cockpit floor.
More detailed work awaits us in the form of painting which is a little backlogged from over the winter months as I haven't wanted to suck the heat out of the building with the painting booth vent fans. I will be experimenting with a wash primer to improve adhesion which has been somewhat of an issue on parts painted with the new low VOC (Volatile Organic Compound) paints.
The wing is slowly moving forward with the usual crew of Colette P., Alan W. & Catherine D. diligently scraping paint from the fuel tank bays and wheel wells. Still a long way to go but that group gets into the grove with ear buds on and not a sound from them.
Having completed the under wing fuselage panels, Don H. is now huddled in the back of the fuselage reinstalling the copper bonding strips which includes repairing and replacing damaged sections.
With a small tacking hammer, Don H. reinstalls the copper bonding, or grounding strips in the under-wing panels of the fuselage. One team stripped them, a second team completed the structural repairs and then Don reinstalled all of the hydraulic lines, valves, mechanical parts and grounding strips.
Gary T. has been working on some left-wing trailing edge parts which have been re- glued and skinned. We were able to hand Gary the proper hardware for his project courtesy of the newly acquired parts and hardware from the Jens Mosquito project out of Vancouver. More on that to follow.
Richard de B., Gary T. and Don H. have been sorting out the order for new plywood which we will need for the upper wing skins. Gary has also checked our current supply of plywood to understand how much is required for the leading and trailing edges. Until the plywood arrives, work on the wing will be limited as we will replace just one skin at a time.
Michael H. has started cleaning and inspecting some of the components from the leading edge of the wing that Davey D. has put on mock-ups boards. A lot of damage was incurred on the leading edge, with a parts search about to start for bearings, eye bolts with long shoulders and replacements for some seriously corroded hardware.
Davey D., a retired AME, sits behind the horizontal stabilizer as he begins the task of reinstalling all of the controls and mounting points for the elevator and tail wheel, and of course the ubiquitous copper grounding strips.
I will step away from the Mosquito itself and move to other work that is affecting production on the aircraft, namely the arrival of our parts and equipment from the Vancouver Mosquito.
Jack looks on as a flat deck loaded with parts, hardware, shelving and tools arrives from Vancouver.
The parts from Vancouver will be a gold mine for us in several ways. For most, the parts we received are the obvious: exhaust pipes, brackets, propeller tubes, etc. There was also some support equipment in the form of jacks, work stands and parts racks -lots and lots of parts racks. But the big win for me is the quantity of hardware in the form of aircraft nuts and bolts. As I said Gary required four AN4-40 bolts which were literally at my fingertips.
Above are some of the shelving units and the wing jacks. Below, long time member Vanna L. spends a day with us sorting our pretty new hardware.
The process of acquiring this collection started for me back in September with a trip to Vancouver and a visit with the guys who cared for Bob Jens' Mosquito. I can't thank enough my old friends Claudio and Rex for being instrumental in our acquiring these parts. Negotiations started over coffee as we were talking about old times. I got to view some of the parts and my eyes lit up when I saw a couple of bracing tubes for the horizontal stabilizer. We had none: They had two.
Over time the deal was done with the Jens family agreeing to donate the materials to us for a tax receipt. Then began the logistical challenge of getting everything out of their hangar and across the big rocks to us. We had a hard deadline to meet as their building had been sold. Again, Claudio worked the weeks and weekends to get the load ready for transport. One of their Merlin engine crates was used to put our new parts in, packing every cubic inch with goodies. When it comes time for us to ship our engines for overhaul, we will be able to use this crate. The transportation issue was then complicated and significantly delayed by the flooding problems and subsequent highway closures in southern British Columbia.
Like pirates cracking open a treasure chest, Hugh G. and Davey D. dig into a crate of new exhaust stubs. (Someone offered to make them for us at $2000 USD per pipe). Below, two propeller ‘piccolo’ tubes. Four years ago, we traded one away to the Aircraft Restoration Co. in Duxford for some much needed Hurricane parts. These look better than gold and jewels to us.
Bomber Command Museum curator and board member, Karl Kjarsgaard had set up transportation for us with East/West Express to move the shipment from the lower mainland to Calgary. But then we needed to move the goods from the Vancouver hangar to the East/West warehouse in Vancouver.
Gordon at Drivers Direct, who has on several occasions helped us move various loads, gave me a contact of Whitney at Strategic Transport. Whitney then set up a truck to move the load from YVR to the East/West Express warehouse. Once Lance at East/West got the load to Calgary, we would not pick up the load until it all had arrived.
Now the word 'express' should be highlighted as Lance had the load in Calgary way faster than I thought, catching me off guard. So then it was back to Gordon at Drivers Direct who picked the load up at East/West in Calgary and moved it to Nanton. Next it was a quick call to Richard and others to help off load in Nanton, late on Friday afternoon, January 28. Nothing to it...
The next morning was a hectic one as we started to clear up our mess which was now occupying every square foot of space in the shop area of the museum. This was quickly resolved by all the individuals who saw a use for the bulky equipment. The step stands disappeared behind the wings for the paint scrappers before I could blink an eye.
Parts racking was quickly moved to one of our shared storage trailers and assembled by our crew. Cam B., Don H., Davey D. and Michael H. assembled 52 feet of shelving in the afternoon and then filled the shelving with parts that had been stacked on the floor of the trailers.
The crew, as noted above, putting our newly acquired shelving to work and living up to our 'good neighbour' policy in one of the Bomber Command Museum's storage trailers.
Over the next couple of weekends we arranged the trailer putting some of our inventory in to clear the hangar. We will continue until we have cleared our backlog of parts that need to be stored. This includes both new parts from Vancouver and our own restored parts, such as the flaps which won't be required for some time yet.
Roger D. and Gene F. have been building crates for the new stock from YVR while Richard is inventorying said parts before we move them to the storage.
The last part of this process will be to sort all the new hardware onto the racks as it arrived in bankers' boxes, but needs to be more accessible. We are very pleased to note that not a single box or part was damaged on this journey thanks to the brilliant packing job by Claudio.
I am hoping the majority of parts and crates will be out of the hangar by mid-April for the upcoming visitor season at the museum.
It's been a busy quarter in the 'other than restoration, events and interesting stuff' department. Kicking things off is another reminder that many eyes around the world are following our efforts with keen interest, including a number of modellers, both plastic and large radio control builders who want to create scale replicas of our bird. Here is a recent shot from Jack Lowe in Victoria, BC. Jack's scratch built example has a 130" wingspan, weighs in at 60 lbs, and is powered by twin 55cc two stroke engines. Wow!
Jack Lowe's scratch built RC model of 'HMS. For the metrically inclined, it's got a 3.3 meter wingspan and weights 27.2 kg. We are expecting a 'maiden flight' report at any time.
Our favourite bird is again featured in a first class magazine, this time in CLASSIC WINGS which is just finishing up a three issue series on the world's 30 surviving Mosquitoes. These guys are a class act, having sent us copies of all three issues covering the series and going to great lengths to ensure the accuracy of their material. Tip of the hat to their Deputy Editor, Dave McDonald with whom we swapped half a dozen emails until he was satisfied that all the details were right.
Our favourite bird is again featured in a first class magazine, this time in CLASSIC WINGS.
Over the past few months we've worked with Alberta's History Wrangler, Rob Lennard recording some segments about the Mosquito and Hurricane for his History Wrangler Road Show television program, and more recently providing some information for his just released book covering the Battle of Vimy Ridge & D-Day. We supported his book launch event at the Ironwood Stage & Grill on April 9th with a short talk on the aviation component to these important Canadian military events.
History Wrangler Rob Lennard’s third book in a history trilogy for adolescent readers. We were pleased to be able to consult on some of the aviation passages in the book and speak at the book launch event, April 9th. We are given to understand that our Society is name checked in the story itself, in addition to getting a generous acknowledgement.
Also in the book department, we were very pleased to work with David Biscoe of Portsmouth, UK, who just published a memoir of his father's war as a BCATP instructor at Penhold, AB and then as a Mosquito pilot flying 23 combat ops in the spring of 1945 with 605 and 4 Squadrons of the RAF. David visited us in July 2018 and spoke about having his father's wartime photo albums, his mother's diaries and a great deal of their correspondence. We were able to point him to some foundational books on the Mosquito as well as to other wartime pilots and historians and David, who has also been a tremendous asset for us in the UK, dug in and produced a beautiful, well illustrated, full colour, hardcover account of his father's war. We are very fortunate that David will be back to visit us again this June at which time he will be presenting a PowerPoint lecture based on his book at our annual Mosquito Celebration Day. David too was very generous with his thanks to the Calgary Mosquito Society in both the Preface and Acknowledgements for giving him a nudge to start this journey.
David Biscoe’s new book about his father’s time in Canada as a student, then as an instructor in the BCATP and finally as a Mosquito pilot, racking up 23 combat ops.
With Covid restrictions currently (and hopefully permanently) lifted, our hosts at the Bomber Command Museum have laid on their most ambitious ever special event and open house days for the upcoming season: Bomber Command Museum Events Calendar
Mosquito Celebration Day is Saturday, June 25, and as just mentioned above, it will feature author David Biscoe, Lanc engine runs, restoration tours and much more. Mark the date and plan to join us!
Following up on the thread of Jack's story of our acquiring parts, tools and hardware from the Jens Vancouver Mossie, is the news that Canada's only flying Mosquito has been sold and will be moving to its new home, with KF Aerospace in Kelowna, BC, in June.
When the former Jens Mosquito flies from Vancouver to its new home in Kelowna, it will be with the aid of one of our fuel lines.
Their plan is to feature it in their new Center for Excellence, which will include a number of vintage aircraft. In aid of this, we were once again called upon to support the flight by providing a critical fuel line which they found to be damaged on their airplane. We were happy to be able to come to the rescue, as we did back in 2014 with the loan of our undercarriage, flap and bomb door selector. Word is that this Mosquito, also a former Spartan Air Services photo mapping machine, which has been ground bound since 2016, is now to be a far more frequent sight in the skies over Canada. Exciting times!
The former Jens Mosquito at Abbotsford International Air Show 2014
Richard de Boer, President
Apr 14, 2022