The 'Halibag' Newsletter

May '98

This months Newsletter includes a summary of the work in progress as observed by the author, Deryck Brown, upon his return from 'lolling about' in the Florida sunshine.


Click on pictures for a larger view.
 

THE LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR OF
 ONTARIO VISITS THE HALIFAX

On Wednesday April 1st, the Honourable Hilary M. Weston , Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, visited the RCAF Memorial Museum and consented to become Honary Patron. While at the museum she visited the Halifax Restoration Project and spent some 30 to 45 minutes examining the restoration work in progress. She is shown here with George Rosskopf examining a section of the forward fuselage which has not yet being restored.
Late Breaking News!

The really good news item of the week comes from the hard working group, under the guidance and constant chivying of Iain Smith, at Stornaway in the Outer Hebrides. I received word from our contacts in England that a Royal Navy helicopter had, on April 29th, lifted all the apparently usable undercarriage parts, recovered last year from the crash site of LAPG built, Halifax GR Mk.II, Serial No. JP165, from the mountainside site, 5 miles SSW of the town of Tarbert, on the Isle of Harris, to a point where they can be conveyed to Stornaway airport to await our recovery.

The Royal Air Force had attempted this same recovery operation with one of their helicopters last year but the aircraft had suffered a mechanical problem and had to abort the recovery. Due to a series of gales which had created a rash of emergency calls from fishermen, the RAF had, at that time, been unable to task another helicopter to the recovery. The approaching winter delayed any further attempt until this year.

The parts recovered, main gear oleos, axles and brake assemblies, are similar to the parts recovered from the dig in Belgium, which upon closer examination some have proven to be too distorted by the crash impact to be usable.

Restoration Progress

Wing Centre Section... George Rosskopf is doing yeoman work on the restoration of the main wing spar, the lower fuselage centre section is being reassembled onto the front spar and the bomb rack supports are beginning to take shape. Incidentally, Ian Foster, our primary gopher in Britian, has located a bomb loading winch and we hope that he will be able to secure it for us to include in the restoration.

Fortunately for the progress on the restoration I understand that certain persons, who wish to remain nameless, are thought to have conspired to delay George, in one way or another, such that he was unable to complete the restoration of his motorcycle in time for the trip to Florida for Biker's Week at Daytona. (Can we get our Halifax parts back now?)

Meanwhile the centre section is making excellent progress and it looks good for a late Spring completion.

Balance Of Wings...The wing structure of the Halifax consists of many sections, not just the five I referred to in the January issue, the centre section with the inboard engines and undercarriage, the stub wing sections between the engines which contains fuel tanks and the outer wing sections with the outboard engines. In addition there are some fairly major, non-structural, parts such as the trailing edges, which are in four major sections, the centre section leading edge double "D" boxes, the control surfaces and the engine nacelles.


Wing trailing edge section, restored by Canadair/ Bombardier.
The four trailing edge sections have now been rebuilt, two by Spar Aerospace, as reported in the January 98 Newsletter, and the two which were taken under the wing of Canadair/Bombardier were returned completed in late January. An excellent job. I wonder if those two companies would like to tackle something else?
 
The four trailing edge sections have now been rebuilt, two by Spar Aerospace, as reported in the January 98 Newsletter, and the two which were taken under the wing of Canadair/Bombardier were returned completed in late January. An excellent job. I wonder if those two companies would like to tackle something else?

Work on the outer wing sections and the intermediate stub wing sections has not yet been started due to space restrictions. Similarly the restoration of the somewhat crumpled engine nacelles and the engine cowlings are being delayed to allow the major fuselage and wing centre section to be worked upon.

The wing control surfaces, the flaps and the ailerons, have been restored and have either been recovered with fabric and painted or are in the process of being completed by Ernie Sutton's gang at the Mountainview Air Cadet Maintenance Facility.

Stringers...The stringer dilemma has been resolved. We were considerably delayed while trying to find an economically viable source of roll formed stringers and the decision has been made to order custom extruded product of the same visual configuration as the original roll formed product. We have had two extrusions made, the "L" shape and the "T" shape. In the original production the roll formed "T" product was created by interlocking one "L" shaped roll formed section into the back of the other to form a "T" and riveting sections together. We ordered some 5,000 feet of the extruded stringer product, which has been delivered, hopefully sufficient to complete the project.

Power Plants...The engine team is making excellent progress with their restoration work and it appears three of the engines seem to be almost fully re-assembled. When the reduction gearbox is finally fitted to No.3 engine it will appear to be almost ready to go. This engine, as well as two others, are all able to be turned over, using an electric motor, to demonstrate to visitors how the, seeming complex, sleeve valve engine and it's timing system works. How many of you knew that the sleeve valve on the Bristol Hercules has four ports, three of which are used as exhaust and two for intake? Obviously, one port is used for both functions. Pretty good for an engine the design of which was conceived in the late 1930's! The cooling baffles on all engines will need to be completely replaced as they were essentially corroded away. Work is progressing on the adaptation of the reduction gearbox, thought to be from a Vickers Varsity's Hercules engine of considerably more horsepower than the Herc. XVI, which was recovered for a scrapyard near Cheltenham. We were hoping that, eventually, this source might yield other suitable gearboxes for our restoration.

We had earlier found a source of new Handley Page Hastings propeller blades, however, the Hastings blade root profile is slightly different to the Halifax A. Mk VII blade, but it could be made to work by using an adapter and probably not one visitor out of 1000 would notice the difference. However, it would not be athentic. It is apparent that the blade profile of the glider towing versions of the Halifax is different to that of the bomber version. Which is not making our search for blades any easier.

Hopefully, only a temporary measure, we have manufactured some laminated wooden blades on the profile machine using the propeller blades recovered with the aircraft as a pattern. A couple of these blades are on display in the workshop. We had originally planned to make a mould and cast nine new blades in aluminum, however this proved to be prohibitively expensive and beyond our financial means! The wooden replicas will have to suffice while our search for authentic blades continues.Unfortunately the Nord Noratlas used four bladed props so the Israel Air Force Museum connection was not any assistance.

There is still one crash site in Eire where there may be usable parts available, including propellers. We are awaiting photos to see what might be recoverable and usable from there. A task force, headed by Ian Foster's "Rescue 57" organisation is spearheading this recovery and the group is scheduled to be on the crash site the week of May 9th. However, I believe, this was a Halifax MET. Mk VI aircraft and the blades might not be exactly the same as the Halifax A. Mk VII blade profile.

A couple of the batteries, recovered with "our" aircraft, have been cleaned up and new electrolyte added and, when charged, they still worked! They are being used to spin up the number three engine using the original starter! Unfortunately the manufacturer's name is disguised in code. Should be worth some advertising mileage to the manufacturers! Why is it, under the pressures of wartime manufacturing, they are able to turn out a product that lasts 50+ years when today they can't (won't?) produce a product that lasts five years!

Undercarriage...We have now received all the parts recovered from the Belgium dig on Halifax, Serial No. LW682, and upon initial cursory inspection, the parts of the undercarriage recovered, which included undercarriage oleo legs parts and axle and brake components, looked fairly promising for re-use on our project. Unfortunately, upon closer inspection, it is evident that Halifax LW682 'went in at considerable rate of Knots' and some of the components appear to have been somewhat distorted by the considerable impact forces involved. Enough to prevent some of the heavy components from being readily dismantled. The design strength of the undercarriage forged components is such that mere 5lb and 10lb hammers make no discernible impression on these heavy forgings and we have had to resort to the use of hydraulic presses and a cutting torch to remove some of the fittings, such as the brake assemblies. Unfortunately even when we are able to get some components apart it will take considerable effort to try to straighten out each forging. It appears that the components were distorted by their own weight when the aircraft came to a sudden stop. Holes in steel have become elongated and distorted and machined components, such as one of the massive 6" diameter machined mainwheel axles have become egg shaped!

However, we do not have too many options for alternative sources of authentic undercarriage components. JP165, lying in the Outer Hebrides appears from photographs to have some usable oleo, brake and axle fitting parts and RG843 in Eire is also alleged to have usable components lying at the wreck site. Unfortunately they too came to a fairly sudden stop! Parts from both sites will hopefully be recovered in the Spring. Apart from the need to be authentic, we have to bear in mind that the reconstruction of the undercarriage parts must be able to safely support the weight of the completed aircraft, which will be approximately the same empty weight as when it was built.

We have found a satisfactory inner tube for use in the mainwheels. The source of the new find, Dunlop Aviation in Britian, (Who thought of trying them?) assured us that they would work and 100 pounds Sterling changed hands to secure a pair! The tubes have been installed in the tires and the wheels re-assembled and the tires inflated to 15 psi. The wheels are now in storage at Mountainview.

Work is proceeding on the detailing of the design of the rather complicated welded, 1/4" thick, steel box structure, which will be hidden inside the fibreglass undercarriage moulds. We have to be extremely careful with this as the two main undercarriage legs, and the tailwheel, will have to support the total weight of some 17 or 18 tons of the aircrafdt with the public walking underneath it. Although we are planning to support the aircraft, when on display, by tripods on each side of the axles, not by the tires, as the nylon reinforced tires have long since past their 'best by' date! Terry James is hoping to be able to enlist some help from members of his old company, Messier/Dowty, in checking his design figures.

The possible sources of a complete magnesium alloy casting undercarriage leg have just about been exhausted. The two known legs in existence are, one at the RAF Museum storage facility at Cardington in Bedfordshire, England. This particular unit has been on loan to the Yorkshire Air Museum to allow them to make the fibreglass pattern mould from which our undercarriage leg moulds were made. The other is in supposedly private hands in New Zealand and the owners do not want to part with it unless we can come up with a fairly rare aircraft engine for a restoration they were working on! The difference in value between the two items was such that it was not worth pursuing. Based upon our previous experiences, we were not even sure that what they were offering was infact a Halifax undercarriage built by Messier. By default our group seems to have become the World experts on Halifax parts.

Any magnesium alloy legs remaining on crash sites would probably have suffered the same fate as our's after 50 years of exposure to rain. We will reluctantly have to go to the replica route. However, should authentic legs be found in the future, the replica component is easily replaceable.

Control Surfaces...Not too much chane here, the covering of the flaps was completed earlier by Ernie Sutton and his crew. They are now working on covering the ailerons and the rudders when time prmits. The elevator frames still require quite a bit of reconstruction work.

Rear Turret...Work is proceeding on the restoration of the rear turret components and the incorporation of the console unit from the turret donated to us through Fred Vincent and the Air Gunners Association (AGA). The AGA turret is a slightly earlier model than was fitted on NA337 but our magnesium cast console unit had dissolved, leaving us without a clue as to what it should look like. The Boulton Paul Association has come forward and offered us copies of all the rear turret drawings in their possession and we are taking them up on their offer. If anyone has turret souvenirs we could certainly use them.

Horizontal Stabilizer...The work on the horizontal stabilizer is still being temporarily by-passed in order to progress with other work.

Vertical Fins...The work on the vertical fins is moving slowly as the badly damaged starboard unit is being dismantled and used as a pattern to construct a new one while simultaneously manufacturing a complete set of mirror image parts to use in the fabrication of a new port fin.

Plastic Shop...The idea to construct our own perspex moulding oven, using an old freezer chest with a steel liner, suitably modified with heat elements installed, to mould our own nose and other perspex segments has not yet proceeded anf futher. Stay tuned!

Instruments...Restoration work on the instrument panels is pretty well complete, for the moment. Stu Thow has done a very nice job on the restoration of the pilot's control column.

Fuselage Restoration Work...The fuselage consists of four sections:

The Rear Bay, which is the section which supports the tailplane and contains the rear turret.

The Rear Fuselage, which incorporates the crew door, the parachute hatch and, on the bomber version, the mid-upper turret and the H2S dome. The forward area is part of the crew ditching and crash station. The forward underside incorporates part of the bomb bay.

The Covered Wagon, which is that part of the fuselage on top of the wing center section and contains the crew rest station which is also part of the crash and ditch station. The bomb bay takes up the part on the underside.

The Nose Section, which includes the Flight Engineer's station, the Pilot's cockpit, the Radio Operator's Navigator's and Bomb Aimer's positions. The lower rear section is an extension of the bomb bay.

Now we have cleared that up:

The Rear Bay section of the fuselage is now making excellent progress with the re-skinning of the fuselage sides almost complete. This section has been cleco-mated to the rear of the 'Hebrides Henhouse', Halifax NA142 section, and the rear fuselage section of NA337's fuselage, had been moved onto rough alignment so that a

jig could be constructed to hold the sections in alignment. This will allow the entire fuselage to be accurately aligned before the work of joining the sections and the replacement of damaged formers etc. in the 'henhouse' section begins.


This shot shows a former drawing blown up to full size
and hand beaten fuselage formers taking shape.

The restoration of the front fuselage section is being left at this time pending the completion of some of the other sections. We only have so much room. The rumour that a front fuselage section that was thought to have been buried under a housing subdivision but was alleged to have survived has been debunked! We were ever hopeful! It would make the restoration so much easier if a nose section could be found, rather than having to build it from the drawings. The Imperial War Museum in Duxford, has a nose section of a Halifax on display. Maybe we should ask them if they really need it.

Research...We now feel that we know most of the history of NA337. Peter Lloyd of Watford, England, who is writing a book about NA337, has offered to send me copies of the Parachute Raid Reports that he found in the Public Records Office in Kew in England. Also, he has recently published an appeal in the Air Transport Auxiliary Newsletter asking that their log books to see if any of them delivered the aircraft from the Rootes factory to the Squadron at Tarrant Rushton.

As commented in an earlier edition, Ian Foster our man on the ground in Scotland, who has located a cache, of some 100 plus, Halifax bomb doors in 13th century Pluscarden Abbey, a Benedictine monastery, located in Morayshire, Scotland, has now got some examples moved to RAF Leuchars where they are awaiting pick-up at our convenience. The monks had acquired the doors in 1954 and they had been exposed to the weather since that time. The doors were over 16 feet long and they proved a challenge to move. Ian has a BMW motorcycle and he drives a transport truck. I wonder how how he moved them? The doors are not suitable in their present condition but they will serve as excellent patterns from which to construct new ones.

What continues to intrigue me is the incredible luck involved in this recovery whereby a monastery acquires these items some 44 years ago, and the current monks, not knowing what they have, since the original acquisition group had long since past on, had been using them as edging to support glazing to create 'cold frames' for the cultivation of their vegetables in their garden. It has still not been made clear as to exactly who saw, and identified the potential treasure trove. After all, they are located in garden with a very substantial wall around it and the monastery, in Northern Scotland, not far from Inverness, is not exactly on a tourist route.

Potential recovery work on the remaining, known, Halifax crash sites in Britian has, understandably, been postponed until May. All these sites are marginally accessible at the best of times, this is the only reason they still have potentially usable parts remaining and to attempt to access them in winter would be foolhardy in the extreme.

Ian Foster has located a cargo pannier for the Halifax. These were used on the c. Mk VIII, transport versions and in the immediate post-war period on the civilianised versions in an effort to make them viable, interim, cargo aircraft. It would be a nice display to have to show the versatility of the Halifax.

I note that someone in the January 1998 issue of Aeroplane Monthly is offering a AP1719H Maintenance Manual for the Halifax C. MkVII for sale. Anyone want to donate one to us?

Other News

Extract from the Stornaway Gazette...The August 2nd 1997 issue of the Stornaway Gazette carried an item about bombers ending up on the town dump.

"The last remnants of two Halifax bombers that crashed on Lewis during the Second World War were taken to the town dump at Millar Road, the Gazette has learnt.

But the recollection of the nephew of the scrap yard operator who broke up the two aircraft has also provided a fresh lead in the hunt for parts for the Canadian Halifax restoration project. Mr. Iain Ritchie, of 13 Marybank, remembers that some components ended up in Harris and now the search has switched there....

The nose cone section, now the only missing section of the fuselage, appears to be lost forever, buried at a landfill site near the battery.

It was learned that the two crashed Halifax bombers....were taken to a Marybank scrapyard.... towards the end of World War II. They were cut up for their aluminum, with the fuselage forward of the tail section been sold off as hen sheds,.... the remainder being shipped to the mainland for scrap.

The remnants which had no commercial value at the time were collected up around 1947 and trucked to the town dump at Millar Road. It is thought the nose sections of the aircraft were among the bits disposed of in this way."

Remember a lot of folks out there are pulling for us!

HAA Now on the Internet...Jeff Jeffery at the Halifax Aircraft Association is now accessible on the Internet and he may be contacted at the following address: halijeff@user.rose.com

Smithsonian Air and Space Museum...On March 30th, a group of some 40 Halifax Restoration Team and Museum volunteers left on a trip to visit the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum (NASM) and the NASM's Paul E. Garber, Suitland, Maryland, restoration facility.

The group traveled by bus and stayed overnight to give ample time to explore both facilities.

The NASM is located in downtown Washington just off Independence Avenue. The building measures more than 600 feet long and is 90 feet tall, containing 24 major exhibition galleries. There are more than 68 aircraft on display along with many other museum artifacts.

The NASM Paul E. Garber facility is the restoration and storage arm of the NASM and, while they have 385 aircraft in the storage facility, they have only a restoration staff of about a dozen full-time, paid restoration technicians. Restoration work can take from 2,000 to 30,000 man-hours of highly specialized skills. The restoration staff carefully document and photograph each phase of a restoration project and the staff have completed approximately 70 artifacts since 1959.

A restoration project that attracted the attention of the team was that of the Aichi Seiran which was designed to bomb the locks of the Panama Canal. Obviously they would not have the range to reach there and to attempt an approach with a carrier would have been doomed to failure so the Japanese designed the aircraft to be folded down to fit into an 11 foot by 6 inch hanger 'tube' on a submarine. Twenty eight Aichi Seirans were built but none ever flew on a mission. The last remaining Seiran is the one undergoing restoration at the Paul E. Garber facility.

The restoration facility has a serious space problem and they can only work on three aircraft at any one time. There is a new facility planned to open in the year 2001 at Dulles airport to be known as the National Air and Space Museum Dulles Center. They already have a Lockheed SR-71 in storage at Dulles.

The visit was a tremendous success and provided there is sufficient interest, other similar trips may be arranged.

Israel Air Force Museum Offers Engines...The Israel Air Force Museum has contacted us to offer us four engines, SNECMA, licence built, Hercules engines. These were 2,090hp versions used in the French built, Nord Noratlas's, used by the Israeli Air Force.

The offer was made in response to an appeal we made for Halifax parts in the January 96 and January 97 editions of "Aeroplane Monthly".

When talking with Bill, Avi Moshe, curator , indicated that up until the late 1960's, they had held large stocks of wartime aircraft parts.

In exchange for the engines the Israel Air Force Museum was looking for help in acquiring Noorduyn Norseman, Consolidated PBY Catalina, Lockheed Hudson, Beechcraft Bonanza and other miscellaneous parts for their museum collection.

Unfortunately, we had to turn down his offer, as the SNECMA built engine is significantly visually different from the Hercules XVI engines of the Halifax A. Mk VII. (Are engine cooling baffles the same?)

Boulton Paul Association Offers Drawings...Alec Brew of the Boulton Paul Association has contacted us and offered copies of drawings of the 160+ drawings they have of the Type "E" tail turret which are held in the West Midlands Aviation Archive.

He also offered the information on the known locations of examples of the "E" type turret: the the restored turret on the Elvington Halifax; the unrestored turret on the RAF Museum Halifax and one which is being restored by a private individual. We really appreciate this kind of information.

More information on the Fate of NA142...Ron Roberts, one of our readers in B.C. on learning of our acquisition of the fuselage of NA142, contacted his friend Peter Rackliff of Newport Pagnell, Bucks., who then contacted Graham Sharpe, who lives near Huddersfield, who was able to send him a picture of the remains of Halifax NA142 when doing duty as a chicken coop at Grimshadar in the Outer Hebrides. Peter then managed to contact Joe Davies who was the navigator on NA142 for her last flight and he was able to supply the following details of the flight:

On September 7, 1945, Skipper, Jimmy Hope and his crew, flew from RAF Tiree, located on the Isle of Tiree off the West coast of Scotland in the Inner Hebrides, to RAF Tain, located on the Dornoch Firth, just North of Moray Firth, on the East Coast of Scotland, as a reinforcement crew for the 518 Squadron detachment based there. The next day, September 8th, they were briefed to fly the "RECIPE" sortie, a long range weather recce over the Norwegian Sea and extending just beyond the Arctic Circle.

Below is the chart showing the standard Meteorological Flights performed by the RAF
From Brian J. Rapier's book "Halifax at War".

On the way home they were diverted to RAF Stornaway, on the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hhebrides, because of fog at their detachment base at RAF Tain. When they reach Stornaway they were faced with a number of problems: Their W/T set was stuck on transmit, the R/T was u/s, they were low on fuel and the weather was closing in.

The flarepath was lit on the short runway but the chance light was not in position, nevertheless Flying Control fired a "green". After a number of 'hairy' approaches into the mist the skipper was finally able to get the aircraft onto the short runway but ove-ran the end and finished up some 30 yards into the sea. (The tide was in - naturally!) The time was just after 22:45hrs. They evacuated the aircraft by the top hatch and Joe Davies recalls a remark made by Ted Plumridge who commented that "Jimmy's landings are getting worse!"

The crew was an all NCO crew, consisting of Jimmy Hope, Skipper; Hugh Ray, 2nd Pilot; Joe Davies, Navigator; Ted Plumridge, Met Air Obs.; Harry Hartley, Flt. Eng.; Mervyn (Taffy) Williams, Bill (Jock) Dryburgh and Geoff Bainbridge, WOP/AG's. The crew was flown back to Tain on September 11, 1945.

Thanks Jimmy, we appreciate your help!

Note: The wartime airfield directory for RAF Stornaway shows that it had 4 runways the shortest being 870 yards!

Newsletter Update...We send copies of the Newsletter to several organizations, such as the Boulton Paul Assocition, the RAF Museum and the British Aviation Preservation Council, of which we are members. We also exchange newsletters with other organizations with an expressed interest in the project and copies of the Page Newsletter and "Flypast" the journal of the Canadian Aviation Historical Society are on display in the workshops.

Bill Tytula has recently experienced a major computer 'crash' and in the recovery process managed to 'mislay' all the Halibag News subscription records as to 'who' had paid for their subscription and on 'what date' the subscription had taken effect.

We now have over 400 names on the subscription list so - rather than request that everyone try to feed us the information from memory, Bill has suggested that, since the address files were intact, that the easiest solution would be for you to send in your subscription renewals when you think your subscription should be due for renewal and we will continue to mail out each issue, at least until a year from this date.

Having recently experienced a major computer problem myself, I know just how Bill feels.
 

The 'Halibag' Newsletter is produced to try to keep members of the Halifax groups and other interested parties in touch with the progress on the project.

The views expressed in these newsletter are those of the author(s) and may not necessarily reflect the views of the RCAF Memorial Museum, the Halifax Aircraft Association or the Halifax Restoration Team. Deryck Brown, Editor. Material for inclusion in future issues may be sent to:

Deryck Brown
RR#3, South Bay
Picton, Ontario
Canada, K0K 2T0

Tel/Fax (613) 476 4513
or by

 


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