There has been a wealth of coverage in the British Aviation magazines of the roll out of the Yorkshire Air Museum's (YAM) Halifax. Much has been made of the fact that the aircraft is not original. This should not be allowed to detract from what the YAM has managed to accomplish.
The museum's aim, when it started out some 13 years ago, was to recreate a typical bomber airfield of World War II on a part of an abandoned RAF Bomber Command airfield site at Elvington, Yorkshire.
The idea of adding a Halifax to the museum plans came in 1984 when a rear fuselage section was discovered on the Isle of Lewis, in the Outer Hebrides, where it was in use as a henhouse. (The rear fuselage section is that section that fits between the fuselage centre section and the fuselage tail section. The rearfuselage section contains the mid-upper turret, the crew entry door and the parachute exit or the H2S dome.) Getting the owner to donate the fuselage was not difficult, the recovering of the section, from it's out of the way location, to the mainland presented some problems. The RAF was coerced into transporting the fuselage section by Chinook to Stornaway from where it was shipped by boat to the mainland and then transported by road to a garage in Dishforth, Yorkshire.
British Aerospace at Brough offered to make the restoration of the rear fuselage section a work project for the apprentice's school. A mid-upper turret was located in a garden and the fuselage and the turret were mated and the whole thing was restored to display condition by early 1987.
YAM was not sitting idle during this time they were searching for other Halifax parts and any available Halifax drawings to enable them to complete the aircraft.
A Handley Page Hastings wing centre section and outer wings were found on the fire dump at Catterick in Yorkshire. The wing centre section of the Hastings is almost identical to the configuration of the Halifax although the wing span, at 113 ft. is greater. It was later to be discovered that the outer wing panels were so corroded as to be unusable. Fortunately, after considerable searching, they were able to find a virtually new set of Hastings wings in their original shipping crates, which they purchased, at considerable cost, and then spent many thousands of man-hours converting to resemble those of the Halifax. Much work had also to be done to the undercarriage attachment points which are quite different on the Hastings.
Fortunately for the group, a complete set of Halifax drawings were found in the Imperial War Museum at Duxford.
After completing the rear fuselage section, British Aerospace again offered their assistance in constructing the fuselage tail section and the vertical fins and rudders, from scratch, using the drawings supplied by the IWM. (The fuselage tail section supports the tailplane and contains the rear turret.) A rear turret had been found at the Cotswold Aircraft Restoration Group and this was restored by a group at YAM and was installed in the fuselage tail section.
A group from YAM acquired the remains of a tailplane from a crash site in the Lake District and using the drawings managed to construct a replacement tailplane and elevators.
In 1987 the French Air Force donated four SNECMA built restored Hercules engines. Yam was fortunate in locating some Hercules propellor hubs from a crash site in Germany. They were not so fortunate with propellor blades and they had to mould blades from fibreglass using an authentic(?) blade. With this work complete they then had a set of authentic looking propellors. Unfortunately, they turn in the wrong direction, but, perhaps, only a Halifax buff would be aware of that fact. Why YAM did not make the blades correct "left handed tractors" is not known. We have been having trouble locating suitable hubs for our restoration so we are very aware of the problems. However, for us, the major problem is the hubs, once suitable hubs are located the blades can be easily moulded from the one recovered with the aircraft.
The cast undercarriage legs, which, as we have discovered, are virtually unobtainable, were fabricated using a steel, load bearing structure encapsulated in a fibreglass moulding. The moulding was made from a genuine Messier undercarriage casting borrowed from the RAF Museum, and the result is an excellent replica of the Halifax's distinctive undercarriage leg. Fortunately YAM had a set of main wheel oleos to incorporate into the completed legs. Again YAM was fortunate to find a tailwheel in an orchard in France.
|While all this activity was going on the search for the front fuselage and cockpit section continued. The only known section was in the War Museum, but they were not willing to give it up. YAM then had no alternative but to construct the section from scratch using a group of ex-British Aerospaceretirees. The 25 foot long section containing the pilot's cockpit, radio operator's, navigator's and bomb aimer's positions was constructed from marine|
|plywood formers, aluminum stringers and aluminum skin which produces
an excellent exterior appearance and an acceptable interior.
YAM had no building large enough to allow them to assemble the Halifax and display it when complete. Money was raised in Canada and in Britian and they were fortunate in acquiring a large Lottery grant in 1995 which at last allowedthem to commit to building a hanger. A WWII, type hanger was
found and work on erecting it was started last winter and the building completed this past summer (1996).
Since the aircraft was assembled from parts of three aircraft and significant amounts of new-built structure it was decided that it would carry none of the serials of the aircraft from which parts had been obtained, but, rather, it would represent LV907, NP-F, a Halifax B MK III, called "Friday the 13th" which had flown with No 158 squadron RAF and had racked up 128 operations while based at nearby Lissett in 1944.
||The various sections
were moved into the hanger and finally mated so that a Halifax began to
emerge from the parts. Final assembly was completed outside using a crane
and even at that late date problems appeared such as engine mounts requiring
to be reinforced and a main wheel tire, filled with a hard rubberized foam,
bursting, a few hours after the weight of the aicraft had been placed on
them, but they were able to roll the aircraft out, on time, for it's public
debut on, fittingly, Friday, September 13th, 1996, 55 years and one day
after Lady Halifax named the original aircraft.
"Friday the 13th" is complete on the exterior but much detail finishing work remains to be done on the interior. This work will be an on going project for the next several years.
Replica or not, it is a magnificent achievement of which YAM can be justly proud.
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