[photos] Australia: B-24 Restoration

Shortly after leaving Werribee Open Range Zoo, we drove past a sign advertising a B-24 restoration in progress. yuki_onna was indifferent to a 70-year-old warbird (being sane and all) but jackwilliambell and I were compelled to visit the project.

A team of folks working under a nonprofit umbrella have been working for some years on restoring an RAAF B-24 to flying condition. The airframe had been in someone’s backyard as a shed for many years. Wings were sourced from a wreck site in the jungles of Papua New Guinea. Portions of the tailplane came from an aviation salvage yard in the United States, while other portions were fabricated as part of the project.

We received a tour from a pleasant and garrolous old gentleman who’d served as a gunner on an Australian B-24 during WWII. The hangar included maps and displays of the history of the aircraft type in the RAAF, but mostly it included the B-24 itself.

The welcoming sign.

The old bird her own self.

Starboard wing with engine mount.

Nose assembly.

Peering up at the interior from the port side.

A turbocharger for one of the engines.

Another turbocharger installed in place.

Electrical box (I think) with Pratt & Whitney logo.

Oxygen cylinders.

Cockpit assembly, nearly fully restored.

Turbo boost selector.

jackwilliambell and our guide inspect one of the enormous radial engines.

The same rogues discussing the airframe.

Our guide, his own self.

Model tri-motor created for promotional purposes.

As usual, more at the Flickr set.

© 2010, Joseph E. Lake, Jr.

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6 thoughts on “[photos] Australia: B-24 Restoration

  1. Ray Radlein says:

    When I was down in Orlando helping my wife pack up to move back home last week, I took a day off and headed 30 minutes down I-4 to Kermit Weeks’ Fantasy of Flight museum in Plant City, where they have several dozens of meticulously restored vintage aircraft, and are in the process of restoring hundreds more, ranging from pre-World War I deathtraps to a Korean War MiG-15 jet. Among their planes is the only currently flyable example of my dad’s WWII plane, the B-26 Marauder.

    I was more moved by the mere sight of it than I expected, and was thrilled by the fact that, when I told the museum guy about my father, he let me step inside the ropes and poke my head up inside the fuselage through the nose wheel well and look at and take pictures of the pilot/co-pilot station and bombardier to the front; and, I believe, the radio operator’s station — my dad’s station — right behind me.

    Aside from the scores of aircraft there, and the daily vintage plane flight demonstration (done by M. Weeks himself that day), they offer fascinating tours of the workshops where the restoration work is being done, as well as the warehouse space where future parts and projects wait in fitful slumber like so many Kings Under the Mountain, awaiting the call to return to life.

    It was neat to look up at this hangar wall and see something like twenty Alison V-1710 engines stacked neatly up to the ceiling; and opposite them, a dozen Rolls-Royce engines and as many Pratt & Whitneys, all placidly sharing wall soace with dozens of propellers. Some of their major parts aren’t even refurbished/recovered; they have a good many parts that they bought new from the US Government, which still had unopened factory-original spares which had been warehoused since World War II, waiting to be used in planes which are no longer in service. Parts of their operation look like the Indiana Jones Ark Warehouse, and other parts look like a Land of the Giants version of my computer room (shudder). Amazing stuff.

    Now that I’m home, I’ll be going through the 400+ pictures I took on my main computer and color-balancing and cropping some of the best to put on my Flickr account, right alongside my dad’s old photos.

  2. Drax says:

    Wow… I’d lose my mind if I stumbled across a goddamn B-24 being restored. Holy crap.

  3. Guess I qualify as insane too, because I definitely would have stopped. This post reminds me it’s about time to go to the Tillamook Air Museum again — every time I go out that direction of late I get the hankering.

    1. Jay says:

      Heh. Good for you. Airplane lust leans pretty hard in one gender direction, in my experience. My daughter, however, shares the enthusiasm, so what do I know?

  4. John Gibbons says:

    Fascinating stuff. I got the chance to climb all over some warbirds back in the 70s when my employer was involved with the Confederate Air Force. Hoped I might get to fly in one, but that never worked out.
    These pictures have some SF resonance as well: the section of Psychohistorical Crisis where a team attempts to reuild a WWII bomber (maybe even a B24, I can’t recall) from ancient records. Priceless scene where the engineers rediscover, and are astonished by, passive stability. And the detached cockpit reminded me of the early scene in Charlie Stross’s Fuller Memorandum, with the “cursed” White Elephant.

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