The front of the forward fuselage has been substantially disassembled and the seven light alloy tubes, which together make up the shape of the front nose, have all been gradually repaired with sleeves and reshaped to the correct geometry. With no drawings available of the original, this task was achieved by obtaining sufficient measurements from the ARC Blenheim/Bolingbroke at Duxford. All the glazing tubes are now fully repaired and the many glazing bars that fit to each of them have also been repaired. Following cleaning and painting, all the glazing components have been temporarily re-assembled in the fuselage to check their fit with the glazings supplied by GKN Transparencies.
Before permanently re-attaching this glazing structure, repairs will be made to those areas of the skin at the front that have been punctured and damaged as seen in the pictures below. These are typical of many damaged areas throughout the aircraft, but in this case are much easier to manage before re-fitting the glazing structure.
The largest component missing altogether from 9048 is the keel, which extends from under the rear of the nose, runs along the underside of the centre wing, and finishes under the front of the rear fuselage. It also serves as a divider for the bomb bay, and a support for half of the bomb bay doors. The keel is about 9 feet long, but in three separate pieces. Two days of measurements of the Duxford aircraft, including tracing much of the keel, has given us enough data to begin to construct a completely new keel, which one of our volunteers has now begun in his home workshop.
At the City of Bristol College, the aircraft servicing trainees are now well on with repairs to the centre wing. All the wing ribs in the fuel tank areas were 'chopped' out at some time in the distant past, so tooling has been made to make up new ribs and their fittings for the tank bay on the port side. Most of the newly made ribs have now been manufactured and installed. They have also started to repair the large holes in the port top skin aft of the spar. We believe these holes were caused by US customs when 9048 was exported from Canada to the US in 1976 (searching for drugs?). These repairs are being done following the WW2 repair manual guidelines.
Another BAC volunteer has taken on the gun mounting mechanism to restore in his home workshop. This unit pivots on a fitting on the floor of the rear fuselage and is provided with a seat for the gunner who can hydraulically operate the elevation and turning of the complete unit. Twin .303 Browning guns were mounted on the top of the mechanism gun mount. This is not complete - as we have found elsewhere in the aircraft - all hydraulic jacks and also the seat having been removed in the past.
The volunteers in the Rolls-Royce Heritage Trust workshop have refitted the first restored engine to the engine mounting frames and, following restoration, the few ancillary items that survived with the engine have also been reinstalled. Most of the cooling gill blades are missing and, while 17 of the 19 drive gear mechanisms are present, virtually all their cast casings are broken. Some of the cast slides which hold the gills are also missing. A survey of the second engine/nacelle unit shows that only one of the cast casings is broken and all slides are present, and only two of the gill blades are missing. Quotations for replacements of the cast parts have been requested and a company has been selected.
The Second engine has just been removed from its nacelle and the cylinders removed. The second engine/nacelle unit is very much more complete than the first unit, with virtually all ancillaries present, including the oil cooler/filter, hand starter motor and electrical generator, which are all missing from the first unit. Removal of the cylinders has revealed them to be in much less corroded condition than on the first engine, as the plug holes had been sealed up with preserving plugs.
Work is progressing well in the training department of Messier Services, who are working on the undercarriage. Many of the components have been restored and primer painted. The second main gear leg has been partially dismantled and is currently having the main bronze bearings machined out, as it has not been possible to remove them conventionally. New replacement units are being machined prior to reassembly. A tail wheel has been located and will be delivered to Messier as soon as we receive it.
David Bradley, January 2009