On Friday 6th March 2020, members of the Supporters’ Club were able to visit Airframe Assemblies on the Isle of Wight which was led by Membership Secretary Nick Adlam. A minibus was hired by HTPG and driven by Matthew Bone. Supporters’ Club members were picked up in Portsmouth before heading to the Wightlink ferry port. Wightlink very generously allowed the group a free return passage for the minibus and have provided a very welcome travel partnership.
The group enjoyed a gloriously sunny day as they travelled over the Solent. Once on the Isle of Wight the minibus started the 25 minute journey to Sandown airport. Upon arrival they were met by Supporters’ Club Members from the Isle of Wight and also Chris from Airframe Assemblies, their tour guide for the day. Once inside Airframe Assemblies it was clear that it is an absolute treasure trove of aircraft parts and airframes under construction and an instantly fascinating place.
With the group looking star struck at what the building contained, Chris took them upstairs to the mezzanine floor where RB396 is located. He then proceeded to detail the measures that have been taken to restore the frames of RB396’ fuselage. How they select frames to be kept and how they will be joined together once complete was revealed alongside the manufacturers original drawings. Indeed, the knowledge of metallurgy that Chris demonstrated and the work that goes into the restoration of these frames is very impressive. Back downstairs, Airframe Assemblies have manufactured a jig for the purpose of assembling the fuselage. This too created great amazement to see how RB396 will be put back together and once again, the techniques employed.
Chris was able to answer a great many questions about these techniques and offer solutions to some of the engineering problems they faced. It was also interesting to hear of some of the modern equipment that is used such as water cutters and computer aided design alongside more traditional methods of metal work such as the ‘English Wheel.’ At the end, there was an opportunity to look around some of the other airframes under restoration and see the techniques they use when RB396 gets further down the line.
Once complete, the Supporters’ Club members re-boarded the bus for the short journey around the perimeter track to the café. This is located adjoining the control tower and the owner opened up the café especially for the group. Once the excellent meals and refreshments were consumed, Dan the airport owner gave a guided tour of the ‘Wight Aviation Museum’ which is relatively new. Containing some interesting exhibits including many artefacts relating to ATA pilot Mary Ellis (who had previously run the airfield) this was a welcome opportunity to visit this unique museum.
Finally, the Supporters’ Club members finished the day by retracing their steps and taking the minibus back to the car ferry and over the Solent to Portsmouth. The visit has proved to be popular and the waitlist has shown that there is a high demand for future visits. Over the course of the year more visits will be arranged for club members, especially as the work continues on RB396’s fuselage.
Airframe Assemblies carry out fantastic work which is clearly of a very high standard and special thanks must go to them for allowing us to visit and for taking up one of their chief engineering specialists time. Thanks also goes to Wightlink ferries for providing our return crossing and also Matthew Bone for driving the group. One final thank you must go to the Members of the Supporters’ Club, without which RB396 would not be with such a prestigious company undergoing her restoration.
This trip is one of several available this year to the members of our Supporters’ Club. If you would like to be able to access such unique opportunities that delve into the restoration of Hawker Typhoon MkIb RB396, then joining our Supporters’ Club is the only way to go. With annual membership starting at £25 per year it will bring you closer to the action. For more information please click HERE or email the Membership Secretary at: [email protected] The club is open to all, and all proceeds go towards the rebuild effort. It really is the best way to support the project to return RB396 to the skies where she belongs.