The year 2019 was a significant year for the project and for the Hawker Typhoon and her crews. Seventy-two years since the last flight, seventy-five years since D-Day and RB396’s first flight a few months later, and seventy-nine years since the first flight of a Typhoon the rebuild of a genuine combat veteran began and for the first time, a Hawker Typhoon MkIb appeared on the CAA register, as G-TIFY (RB396).
An initial £10,000 deposit with Airframe Assemblies (AA) meant that as soon as registration was completed work could commence, however, the engineers at AA took the decision to remove one of RB396’s skins so that an assessment of condition could be made without affecting the registration progress. There have been (and will continue to be) many firsts for the Typhoon and the removal of a completed skin from the rear fuselage was perhaps the first time that this has ever been done.
August commenced with the removal of frame K (at the rear) and the main frame A, assembly number D94398, located at the forward end of the rear fuselage. Double back to back channel sections which are held together with joint plates and internal cappings. Held together with bolted joints and 400 1/8” rivets (where the skin is attached) each of these had to be carefully drilled to prevent damage.
This frame is made up from approximately 60 separate pieces which had to be labelled and assessed for viability. Initial estimates were to be able to re-use 50-60% of the rear fuselage. After seventy-four years some of the parts were too corroded to be used in an airworthy aircraft but both AA and the team were delighted to find that as much as 80% of the internal structure could be re-used. It is very important to the team that as much of the original structure as possible should be preserved, in some cases it is more costly to restore than it was to make new.
After paint stripping, assessing, Non-Destructive Testing, dressing (dents, dings etc) and being chemically treated for corrosion each piece is etch-primed and then a white primer coat is applied. Alongside this process, the dreaded paperwork has to be completed. Items such as Frame A have a detailed work pack/job card. This identifies each part for originality, new build, material specifications (if new) and reference to original factory drawings or a new drawing if none exist. Every single component being used on this aircraft (and any other rebuild), from rivets upwards, have to have a paper trail.
This process has to be repeated for every frame, every stringer and every plate. However, work also commenced on the stringers and a new jig for the rear fuselage. All the stringers had to be de-riveted, there were thousands of these which we detailed in previous updates, and then paint stripped. All of RB396’s stringers had been cut at the rear frame so in another first AA reviewed the original wartime repair manuals and determined that there was a field repair that could be applied to the stringers. This involved cutting the original stringers at different intervals, rotating and then making new stringer section to splice into the original. A field repair that is believed to not have been used during WWII, it was more straightforward to replace the rear fuselage in its entirety. The final profile was perfected this month.
During November and December the design and production of a new jig for the rear fuselage continued, we have a fixture for assembly and storage but a substantial new jig was required. The watercut stations were delivered for all frames and this month also saw the delivery of a 12-foot length of truss that will form the central ‘shaft’ of the fuselage build fixture.
As with any project of this nature, there are always things that do not go to plan which push the timeframe, budget or both. In RB396’s case, this happened in November. A complete rear section of a Tempest MkII (Indian Air Force recovery) was purchased in preparation to supply engineering data and parts to fill in the sections that were missing from RB396. The rear frame which the tail is attached to was missing from RB396 and it was hoped that the example on the Tempest could be utilised. This is a special section of extruded aluminium that is produced in two halves. After removal and assessment by the engineers at AA they discovered that one half was too corroded to use, the significance of storage on its side outdoors in the UK for many years before the project acquired it, now coming to light.
There are a number of options that could be explored, new section could be ordered which would require a minimum run of 500ft (only 3ft is required) at a cost of £10,000, new examples could be milled from solid which runs the risk of requiring a number of attempts, or we could find another example. Dave Robinson has managed to locate another example in part of a cache of parts, initial review of the frame suggests that it is in far better condition. Although the total cost of this cache of parts is £25,000 there are other significant sections included in it that have been budgeted for the rebuild. By purchasing this cache we should be able to lower some of the estimates by as much as £30,000 and save a significant amount of time. As ever it will all be dependent on raising funds but in consultation with ARCo, AA and discussion within the project it is considered to be the best way forward in the long term.
So what does all this mean? Following the Crowdfunder earlier this year the aim was to use the funds raised to begin the rebuild. After costs the Crowdfunder raised £60,000 to be used on the rear fuselage. £61,000 has been spent on the significant work to date. We have sufficient funds to allow AA to continue at a cut down rate for a further two months, adding a further £10,000 to the rebuild. This will allow us to keep a reserve in order to cover the charity running costs, the pre-season costs (airshows/events and stock) and a portion of the funds we need to raise to secure the cache of parts including the rear frame. We have approximately £140,000 – £180,000 left to raise for the rear fuselage to be complete.
There has been a lot of hard work by both the trustees and our dedicated volunteer team since our launch in October 2016 and everyone can now see their dedication rewarded. Our fundraising efforts will never stop, and that is what we are all working so hard on. We are the fundraisers, not the engineers, enabling and facilitating the rebuild and the resurrection of this forgotten legend. A huge thank you must go to all our supporters and contributors for helping us to get to this significant stage of the project.
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