2021 started very well for the volunteers, rested over the Christmas break and keen to get stuck into the restoration.
The deck canopy continued into the new year and there was a concerted effort by many people to erect the structure which is now complete and the result is excellent, many thanks to all concerned.
Unfortunately, in late July the tarpaulins covering the canopy were ripped off in a storm and we were just about to replace them with new ones when the current Covid lockdown restrictions came into place so, “Our Girl” is shivering in the cold at the moment until we can get back to the restoration – see below:
The fuselage/hull is also going very well, it is a tough job working on the hull in particular, cramped conditions inside and working underneath getting aluminium swarf and corrosion dust all over you when removing a panel or just someone walking inside the aircraft. The centre wing spar is also moving along well but, like the fuselage the work is on the underside, with the dust and swarf falling over everyone and the added difficulty of working above with arms extended for hours at a time. The fuselage and centre wing spar had quite severe corrosion and over the past four years, the majority has been replaced with new material and once complete, structurally the aircraft will be as strong as it was when manufactured.
The restoration is a slow and methodical process which is patiently being executed by dedicated and talented volunteers to whom we are appreciative of and indebted to, for the work done week after week and in all types of weather.
Paint preparation has also started on the exterior of the fuselage tail section, carefully cleaning around each rivet head and join to ensure the paint finish is as good as possible. The camouflage paint consists of Insignia Blue and Extra Deep-Sea Grey on the top and sides of the aircraft and Black on the undersides, which was one of the many combinations painted by the RAAF at Rathmines during WWII.
The front of “Our Girl” was modified during it’s civilian life into a more conventional streamlined profile however, we are in the process of procuring an original Bow Turret from the US, which will require complete removal of the nose sheeting, the stringer framework re-worked and then the replacement of new aluminium sheeting. The Bow Turret will then be fitted and along with the manufacture and installation of the waist blisters, will complete the WWII profile of a PBY-5A Catalina.
Earlier this year a couple of our members flew to WA to strip some original WWII internal components from a PBY-5 that is being restored as an external exhibit and consequently had no requirement for the many and varied internal brackets and components. The aircraft still had the original stenciled signage inside the aircraft, which we photographed and logged so that we can complete the authenticity of signs within the fuselage.
The parts have largely been sorted, cleaned, painted and logged in the parts register, awaiting installation once the inside of the aircraft receives the finished coat of paint.
We were extremely lucky to be gifted these parts from a generous couple that share the passion for this iconic aircraft.
The Covid 19 restrictions have affected the restoration again, this time for three weeks and the loss of approximately 200 person hours, we resumed on Monday 19th July mindful of the NSW State Government Covid 19 requirements, only to be restricted once again with the current lockdown regulations.
Overall, the restoration is progressing very well and towards the end of this year we will commence painting the finished colours to the exterior and interior of the fuselage and the volunteers will then have the pleasurable task of replacing the internal components which were painstakingly removed, logged, re-conditioned, painted, wrapped and stored over the past seven years.