Winter progress update

On the 25th November another visit went over to check in on Airframe Assemblies on the Isle of Wight, this time there were ten supporters who responded to the invite in the October eNewsletter, with one showing real dedication and travelling all the way from Edinburgh for the opportunity to get “eyes on” RB396’s rear fuselage.  

Special thanks must go to Wightlink ferries who again covered the cost of our group making the crossing. After discussion with Dave Hands who has been organising these visits, they have also pledged their future support to bring RB396 back “home” to the mainland when the rear fuselage is complete. They are soon going to be featuring a short write up on the project in their own newsletter, which is great to see.

The group were hosted again by Chris from Airframe Assemblies, he is one of the engineers who has been most involved in the rebuild of RB396’s rear fuselage. For those who hadn’t been before, he ran through the processes and materials they use and went through the Hawker drawings in detail. Chris focused on the detailed engineering around Frame K (the joint at the rear of the rear fuselage) and the modifications that were made by Hawker regarding the strengthening of this area. There was clear evidence that RB396, even though it was a late model MkIb, with the redesigned tail, had these mods in its manufacture. Chris ran through the additions of the fish plates and referenced the drawings they are using. The group kept the questions coming and all went into fine detail. It makes such a difference to see the actual frame area as well as the drawings. All were fascinated.

There has been very good progress in the areas of the vents, flare ‘chute’ and viewing window. Other areas of progress are the maintenance access door and spring-loaded foot hold. 

One guest asked Chris “how does it feel taking something from a drawing to a finished assembly?” The response was “it’s very satisfying but it seems a shame to paint it as it looks so good as bare metal!” On that note, it is worth mentioning that when complete, the rear fuselage will be painted in primer only at this stage. The colour of that primer was found to not be a standard colour, when we had it professionally colour matched. This shade has now been mixed especially for the build, another small, more costly, and ultimately mostly unseen step we have taken in our effort to make this rebuild as authentic as possible.

When it comes to the final scheme that RB396 will wear when she is complete, that has not been decided upon yet. There are many ideas for how she will appear, and nearer the time we will look to seek supporter opinion on the options, perhaps even a vote. Time will tell. For now we are focusing on the immediate next steps in the rebuild, and our efforts to raise the funds required – there is little point in discussing paint schemes when we still have ~£4.5million to raise to get to that point! What we do know, is it is our intention for RB396 to represent all Typhoons and their crews – both air and ground – and the scheme selected needs to represent that. 

Supporters were also taken to see the Tempest fuselage upstairs. Chris went into depth on how frames are sometimes made from two extrusion pieces which are not symmetrically opposite, and so very expensive. He also explained how similar the fuselage was between the Typhoon and Tempest – almost identical.

Feedback on the visit:

“A small note to say a very big thank you for all your help/assistance in organising the visit on Thursday. Really enjoyed it, it was great to meet the people involved & see the work done so far. Gives a good feeling that progress is being made & by the right people. It also brings home the enormity of the whole project.”

“Now I’ve seen the work first hand I am so impressed with how AA goes about the work and records absolutely everything. I had no idea the choice of material was so important, and so difficult to find.”

“Thank you for arranging yesterday’s visit. Great day out, really enjoyed seeing the progress on our Typhoon and talking to the very enthusiastic staff of AA.” 

The supporters on this visit were first to see some newly machined parts for the rebuild, in the shape of three of these end fittings for Frame A, as seen above. These are the brackets that fix the front of the rear fuselage, onto the rear of the cockpit. If you follow our social media then a few weeks ago you will have seen the question posed – how much do you think these cost?

For background, we had a complete, original, set of more than four of these fittings, and only four are required. Unfortunately, only one passed the tests for airworthiness, therefore we had to have three made. The originals were used as patterns, however the new ones had to be made from drawings created from the originals. Couple to that all the associated stress analysis, new drawings, certification and then find a machine shop that could turn them around at short notice (the shop chosen by AA made them in three weeks, as opposed to a three month usual turnaround), and factoring in that it was a small batch – so, how much do you think they cost? 

The answer, is £15,462, and it will give you some idea as to why the overall build cost for RB396 will be ~£5.5 million…

The latest time-lapse video of the rebuild is up on our YouTube channel, if you have not already please do subscribe to the channel and have a look through all of our other videos. It is our intention to document as much of the rebuild as we can and the videos will be uploaded to the channel.

Visits such as these, receiving behind the scenes access to the rebuild, are one of the many benefits associated with being a project supporter. Subscriptions start at Bronze level, from just £25 per year. The 2022 Bronze package has just opened up, runs until the 31st December, and now is the perfect time to join. Alongside visits such as these, supporters receive regular updates (this progress update was shared directly to them, with much more associated information in December) via the regular eNewsletter, advanced notice on future events and visits, supporter only merchandise (including the opportunity to purchase material taken from RB396’s rear fuselage) and discounts on the online shop. But the best benefit, is knowing you are supporting the rebuild of this combat veteran that some have called “the most important warbird restoration in the world”. Support tiers commence at Bronze and increase to Silver, Gold, Platinum and Diamond, depending on how much you are able to contribute. Rewards and benefits increase substantially in line with contributions. For those looking for a lower but regular contribution there is the “Sabre Club” which is £2 per month and for which you receive regular updates on the project. Details of all the options are available in the “Support us” section of the website.

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