Catching up!

Sorry I took a little break there when I went on holiday to visit family, but I’ve been back for a little while now and I have so much news to share!

Recently I located the Certificate of Airworthiness issued to A17-370 just before she was exported to India in 1949.  This is great because it documents *exactly* what equipment was installed in the aircraft at the time of export.  It’s highly likely this is the same equipment it had when it was placed in storage by the RAAF at the end of WWII, since it remained in storage for all of the intervening years.  That’s my theory anyway, and so I’ll use this as a guide for my restoration back to RAAF configuration.  Here is the general equipment list used for weight and balance.

And here is a list specifically of instruments and cockpit equipment, which also mentions the blind flying hood!

I’ve also continued to dig through the Australian National Archives for photos and drawings.  I did find drawings of the Holt flare installation in the wings which appears to perfectly match mine, so that will be very handy.  I still have not located any photos of A17-370, but I haven’t given up yet.

I recently heard a rumor that H.A.R.S. (Historical Aircraft Restoration Society) might have de Havilland Australia Tiger Moth drawings, so I reached out and sure enough, they do!  These drawings have been VERY elusive, but H.A.R.S. has several hundred surviving sheets, and I hope I will get my hands on all of them eventually.  There will be a cost of course, but it will be worth it to have documentation for many of the unique modifications of Aussie Tigers.  I’m very grateful to them for preserving these historic documents and being willing to share them with fellow restorers.

Aside from research, I’ve mostly been working on gathering the final tools for the workshop and getting it all organized and laid out the way I want it.  This has taken a LOT of work and it isn’t done yet.  One of the drawbacks of acquiring “vintage” tools is that they often need to be rebuilt in order to work reliably and consistently.  In the process however I have learned a lot, I’ve gotten to put other tools to use and get some good practice, and I am gaining a great deal of confidence in my ability to build and rebuild things.  Sort of critical, for an aircraft restoration project, eh?  ūüėČ

Above is how I would like everything to be laid out, once it’s all in working order.  I hope to get to this point this Spring, certainly no later than the Arlington Fly-In this summer.  Once the shop gets to this point, it will be full speed ahead on the restoration!

Just Winging It

I’ve nearly got the shop ready to start some real work on the airplane.  It’s been a lot of boring drudgery organizing shelves and setting up toolboxes, but in between I can always pause for a few minutes and look over the project.  Every time I look at that airplane I discover something new.  It’s so cool!

The one discovery I definitely wanted to tell you about is the story told by my wings.  I only have two right now, the port lower and starboard upper, the other two are safe in Abbotsford until the rest of the airplane is paid off.  These wings had been hung high up on the walls in Abby and I was never able to get a close look at them.  Once I got them to the hangar and put them on the wing rack, I immediately started looking for data plates.


As I’ve mentioned, just about every bit of the airplane has a modification plate on it from Victorian & Interstate Airways, where it was overhauled in 1943.  They stripped all of the fabric off and refurbished the entire airplane before putting it back into service.  The only part I had which didn’t have a V.I.A. plate on it was the port aileron.  It has a generic RAAF modification plate, and I know exactly why:  the port wings were badly damaged when A17-695 taxiied into my airplane in 1944, and the aileron had to be replaced with one that they had on hand at No. 1 E.F.T.S.  It was a spare, basically.

Because of that, I was anxious to find out if either of my wings were not original to the aircraft either, particularly the port lower.  Had the entire wing been replaced in 1944?

As always, history is complicated.


The port lower wing… is absolutely original.  The Victorian & Interstate Airways modification plate has a date of September 20, 1943, exactly matching the documented history of A17-370.  After the incident with A17-695, it must have been repaired or substantially rebuilt, but they kept the main spar where the plates are mounted.  Personally I can’t find any evidence of repairs, it looks like a factory-built wing to me, but perhaps I’ll uncover some as I disassemble it.


The starboard upper wing, on the other hand, is another story.  And that was a complete surprise!  It doesn’t have a V.I.A. modification plate, but rather, one that says “GAL.”  That totally threw me off… what on earth could GAL stand for?  And what could that have to do with A17-370?  Was this wing from a different Tiger Moth altogether?


The interesting thing, and the real clue, was the date on that plate.  June 5, 1943.  A17-370 went to V.I.A. in August, that doesn’t make any sense!  In June it was serving at 1 E.F.T.S., not being overhauled…  Another look at my transcript of its service records put an end to the mystery, and revealed just how complicated the history of a wartime aircraft can be.

Initially, when A17-370 reached 2,000 hours and required an overhaul, it was allotted to an outfit called Guinea Airways at the end of July, 1943.  A little over two weeks later, an entry says “Above allotment cancelled” and it is instead allotted to Victorian & Interstate.  I had interpreted that to mean it never made it to Guinea Airways, or perhaps it went there but they were too busy to look at it, so it went to V.I.A.  Now, I suspect that Guinea Airways (Ltd.) actually did begin to overhaul A17-370, but were stopped after only a couple of weeks for some reason.  In the rush to get 370 to V.I.A. to finish the overhaul, G.A.L. grabbed a spare starboard upper wing, probably one that had been completely overhauled, and installed it on 370.  I presume 370’s own wing would have taken too long to finish the overhaul, and when it was done it was probably installed on some other Tiger Moth.


So, someone out there has “my” wing.  And I have someone else’s.  It was war, and they did what they had to.  I’m dubious of anyone who claims an airplane that saw several years of service during wartime had a nice, simple history and is actually 100% original.  I’m actually relieved, the coincidence required for this to be any other airplane than A17-370 is beyond belief.  I’m as sure of its identity as a person can be, when no aircraft data plate is to be found.  And, so far, there’s been no sign that any of its parts were mixed up in India or even when it was in storage after the war (aside from the instrument panels).  Everything else on the airplane either came out of the factory on the airplane, or was swapped out during WWII.  Told you it was cool, eh?

Building a workshop

Not the most exciting update, I have some more cool things coming, but I felt this was an important one. ¬†Since moving into the hangar a month and a half ago, I have been working hard to build the workshop where the restoration work can be done. ¬†It took seven trips to relocate all of the tools and airplane parts from my apartment to the new “shop,” which made utter chaos of what little organization I had achieved at home. ¬†It all turned into piles of boxes scattered randomly on shelves, but at least now it is all here.


The next step on my agenda was to free up floor space.  Most of it was being taken up by a bunch of free wood I hoarded for future construction projects, but I needed the floor space in which to do the construction.  I used some of the wood to build a bin for the rest.


Finally, after a month, the shop is in a place where I’m ready to build some workbenches! ¬†Only… A huge windstorm is predicted to hit the next weekend. ¬†Having freed up all this space, I now had room to fit a second airplane, which meant I could shelter an aircraft that would otherwise have to weather the wind storm outdoors. ¬†Within 3 hours of making the offer I had this lovely little 1946 Cessna 140 tucked in next to the Tiger Moth.


The storm passed with no real damage luckily, the Cessna moved out, and now I could get on with building workbenches, right? ¬†Not so fast! ¬†I got an emergency call from the previous owner saying that two of my wings were in danger of being damaged if they remained in storage where they were. ¬†So, one more expedition was mounted to retrieve parts from Abbotsford. ¬†This was a pretty easy job, easily accomplished in a day, and then suddenly my shop’s floor was occupied by a pair of wings!


That’s begging for a mis-step and a *crunch* sound, they had to be gotten up off the floor. ¬†But, I don’t like hanging them on a wall, it’s difficult to examine them and wall space in this hangar is pretty valuable, so I decided my first construction project should be a rolling wing rack. ¬†After looking at the wood I have and playing in CAD a little, I put together a very sturdy rack using entirely “found” components. ¬†It does the job and more importantly gave me a chance to learn how to use power tools such as my planer, sander, and circular saw.


Ok! ¬†So, now, weeks behind schedule… I’m finally getting the shop into shape. ¬†I’ve ripped down and prepared enough wood for a workbench top, which is currently under construction, and I’ve also finally bought a big rolling toolbox that will begin to make order from the chaos of my shelves. ¬†As tools move to the toolbox, shelf space will open up for airplane parts, which will free up more floor space, and thus allow me to build more workbenches and work stations, for the restoration itself. ¬†Phew!


On that note, for those of you still reading (thank you!) I’ve decided to establish specific weekend hours during which I guarantee I will be at the hangar and working. ¬†This way, if you want to come visit or volunteer, there won’t be any uncertainty… You will definitely find me at the hangar every Saturday and Sunday between 11am and 5pm. ¬†You will still need to reach out to me to get directions, unless you’ve been before, but hopefully a fixed schedule will make it easier for you to know when is or isn’t a good time to drop in. ¬†You are all very welcome!