Repairs to the damage on the nose fuselage and rear fuselage have continued. As noted previously, the starboard side of the cockpit has most of the glazing structure missing. When this was brutally removed from 9048 in the past, much damage was done to the surrounding area as well. Gradually new parts are being made to replace the missing ones and those damaged so badly as to be unusable, such as the part shown in the photo below. The adjacent photo shows one of the new fabricated brackets made with the aid of information from the Bolingbrokes at Duxford. There are several more to be made and as most of them are welded light alloy, a skill none of our restorers has, we have invested in an aluminium brazing kit which we are about to go through a learning course.
We have acquired, via ebay, the inset cockpit instrument panel shown in the photo below left. This is in good restorable condition and has all the flexible Lord’s mounts attached, for which we have sourced suitable rubber insets to replace the perished ones. Material for the remake of the severely corroded main cockpit instrument panel has also been acquired.
The severe damage to the forward starboard end of the rear fuselage has now been substantially repaired. Rather than replace the folded and crinkled skins we made up a special ’dolly’, a hollow wooden former shaped to the fuselage profile, filled with lead and with a steel skin, to enable us to hammer out the damage. This can be seen in the photo below taken during the repair process. The adjacent photo shows the repaired skin area with the end frame in place. To facilitate this we had to remove all the damaged stringers in this area, and also the 4th frame. These will also be progressively repaired before replacement in the fuselage.
The repairs to the Centre Wing have continued at the City of Bristol College. A complete new set of fuel tank ribs has been made for the starboard side of the centre wing which will be installed shortly.
Both Mercury engines and nacelles have been assembled and are nearly ready for delivery back to us. The first photo below show the two units in the Rolls-Royce Heritage Trust workshop in January. The one existing set of cooling gills has been assembled on the nearer of the two engines in the photo, and found to be fully functional with the 60 year-old electric motor. The second and third photos show the gills closed and then fully open.
Castings to replace the many broken parts of the cooling gills operating mechanism were acquired last year and one of our volunteer restorers is progressively machining these in his home workshop. The photos below show one in progress and in the adjacent photo the same one, on the left, partially completed next to one of the originals.
As delivered, the two engine units only had one set of cowlings. Using these as masters we are intending to make up a new set for the other engine. Additionally we will complete an inventory of both engine/nacelle units to establish what is missing with a view to see if we can source any replacements.
The control column and its fuselage mounting structure and seat mountings are nearly complete. One of the seat adjusters has had the handle cut off and lost, so one of our volunteer restorers is going to make a new one. We don’t have the original seat so with the help of photos and dimensions from the Duxford Bolingbrokes we are going to make one; this sits on the back of the frame in the photo on the left. The same restorer has nearly completed the repairs to the rudder pedals including remaking the rubber footrests and the leather footstraps – both of which had perished with age.
Work is now nearly complete on the landing gear in the training department of Messier Services. We finally managed to find some suitable modern inner tubes for the both the main and tail wheels. But as the orientation of their valves is not the same as the originals, slight modifications have been made to the valve holes in the wheel hubs, and for the main wheels right-angle valve extensions have been added. The photo below shows the first of the main gears assembled with wheels and mounted on a stand made by the Messier trainees. We do not have the retraction jacks for the main gears (these would have been salvaged by the farmer who bought 9048 when it was disposed of at the end of WW2), so the Messier trainees are making dummy jacks to hold the main landing gear in the down position. One of the dust covers on the main wheels was missing so a new one has been fabricated.
David Bradley, Bolingbroke 9048 Restoration Manager, Bristol Aero Collection