30 March, 2018
The day started exactly where we left the night before. Only one side of #43-48950 windows had been replaced, seven windows on the starboard side. The six windows on the port side and the windows on the top of the fuselage were to be replaced today.
Sam had finished the removal of all the plumbing on the starboard side the day before (with a big assist from Ed) so the port side was tackled today. It was going pretty smoothly until he hit the seven foot, 6 inch wide panel under the fuselage where a hundred screws had to be removed to access the last fittings. Learning how to bust out screws without stripping heads and threads, Sarah pitched in to speed things up. Filming of this process was a challenge with all the “stuff” better known as plane parts hanging here and there.
Work was halted for an early lunch as the son of the pilot who flew #43-48950 as lead plane on Operation Varsity was coming to see his dad’s plane for the first time. Turian Aviation did an amazing job finding him and getting him to the plane for a very emotional introduction to the grand old lady. We cleaned up all the “restoration” tools, parts, and greasy rags from just inside the cargo doors and turned the inside of the fuselage into a “studio” to record the interview with the son. It will be a great piece in the documentary!
By sunset, all the windows had been replaced. All the plumbing removed. At the same time, inspection of the next phases of work double checked, parts needing to be R&R assessed and lists of work accomplished checked off. In the three days a tremendous amount of work and progress had been completed on #43-48950. For our part, nearly 3TB of film had been shot and backed up! Man, what a great project!
29 March, 2018
There is just something about being on an airfield to welcome the sunrise! The main “nose” time lapse camera had to have new batteries every eight hours. It was planned so this would be just after sunrise which meant we were there to see the sun come up over #43-48950. Before the ground crew had arrived, we had all the camera out, in place and ready to turn on once they started work. With all on the field, brief progress and planning meeting for the day’s work, by 09:30 all the cameras were rolling.
There was a lot on the day’s planner. Sam & Ed started to tackle all the hoses, I’d call pipes and plumbing, installed in #43-48950 for mosquito spraying. The installation job of what seemed like miles (only really 150’) the pipes and electrical in the interior of the wings and fuselage was a work of art! It was done with standards far and beyond what was required which in the long run saved #43-48950 because none of it ever leaked! It also meant that the task of removing it wasn’t going to be any walk in the park.
Can you imagine having to stand, your arm shoulder-deep in a hole not much bigger in diameter than your arm, then bend your arm nearly at 90 degrees, worm your hand through smaller holes and having to remove two BOLTS holding a Del clamp that is holding the pipe to a rib? Then having to repeat this over and over again, forty times?! That is just part of the process of getting the piping removed!
Time and man power is maximized and since only one person (Sam) can get his arm in that hole, David and Frankie went to work replacing all the windows on the side and top of the fuselage. The side windows were not factory windows; they had been replaced sometime in the past but because of age and sitting in the Florida sun, had a nice, perfect photographic frosting to them. Good for photography, not for looking out of. But like everything else done on #43-48950, the replacement windows were installed with great professionalism. This made the task of removing and replacing them time consuming.
A large part of our day was spent manning all the camera’s batteries. The cab of our truck had every socket in use with batteries’ chargers which we were constantly feeding. We had started the day before sunrise and just at sunset, stopped the 24 hour time lapse. But we kept working well into the night and by the light of flash lights, finally wrapped up the day’s work and filming. Phew … whata day with one more to go!
28 March, 2018
The Beginning of the 24-hour Time Lapse
We hit the ground for what would be a grueling three-day marathon of work! With #43-48950 finally at its home at Zephyrhills, the team at Turin Aviation started to dive into the now DC-3 to bring it back to its off the factory line C-47 configuration. One of the tedious tasks to be done was an AD (airworthy directives) to replace ALL the wing attach bolts. Each and every one of the 460 bolts had to be removed and new ones inserted, torqued down and then after the first flight, checked and torqued again to meet the AD. For Frankie, David and Sam, it’s just another day at the office. With assembly line precision, they finish going through, getting them all replaced.
Jonathon was like a kid in a candy store as he started the task of removing all wiring from the cockpit that was part of the mosquito spraying operation. He started with the instruments added to #43-48950 not from the factory and then traced those wires back until their terminus. During this process, he checked all the factory wiring, fittings and connections as well. Not sure which task was more tedious, between replacing all the wing bolts and pulling out wiring. The bolts is really repetitive work. The wiring is a lot of walking, tracing, taking photos, labeling and simply thinking.
It was a full day starting all these projects with activity really kind of stationary, not a whole lot of moving parts. We knew the next day activity would explode around the plane, so we started placing remote cameras. The most important was the 24-hour time lapse camera. It required us to be on site the entire time but we have done many and will do many more. With the elevated stand placed at the nose of #43-48950, the tripod was attached to the stand and the time lapse started just before sunset.
In addition, time lapse cameras were placed inside the fuselage to capture all daylight hour work inside the fuselage. In total, five remote cameras would be capturing the next day’s work with two bodies as floats picking up very specific tasks being performed. Tomorrow will be a big day!
02 December, 2017
The plan was simple, fly over to Keystone, participate in the pancake breakfast, Ed would speak then by 10:00 we’d be in the air flying 43-48950 on its ferry flight direct back to Tampa Executive Airport. Everything was done, paperwork, fueling, repairs, inspection, she was ready to make her flight and into full restoration. So, when we landed at Keystone at 08:00 we were excited as we got to work.
Brent & I had been to 43-48950 a week prior and planned out all the remote camera locations. With all that prepositioning done, we just had to mount that cameras, connect the cables and we’d be ready to film. While that was being done, last minutes checks were being done by the ferrying pilots. Specialists in the DC-3 and ferrying, they were pros as they went through their own checklists, poking and probing the plane. At 10:00 they made their first engine check.
When the systems came to life, a small, flow of fuel was seen coming from under the fuselage. The panel was pulled off and the leak was checked. At first the drip was enough to slow things down but not enough to call off the flight. As they dug into it more and more, it was obvious the ferry flight might be called off. Within a heartbeat, the filter was off and the cause of the leak being tracked down.
I lost count how many times the filter which seemed to be the cause of the leak, was pulled off and worked on. It was Sunday and there just isn’t a DC-3 parts store around the corner in the middle of Florida. The hours went by as field repair after field repair was attempted but failed to fix the slow, drippy leak. It was 12:30 when a run was made to a distant auto parts store to see if they could find a gasket that would work. The clock was ticking, sunset not far off.
The car came back with three different options. In the meantime, the filter housing and connector were given great TLC, cleaned to brilliance like from the factory. All connecting lines were rechecked to make sure they had the actual leak in hand. With great care, they were tried the best gasket, pressurized the system and the leak was gone. With that, they turned over the engine as a final test. It was dry! At 15:30 43-48950 was in the air on its way to Tampa Executive.
Almost two hours later, 43-48950 smoothly landed at Tampa Exec! The flight went without a hitch, just slow. Other than the typical warbird issue of bad radios, no new squawks appeared and there were no scary moments. 2017 closed with the first big hurdle in the rear view mirror with the real work beginning in 2018 getting ready for the flight in June, 2019!
November 20, 2017
Time Marches On
If you’ve never been involved with an aircraft restoration, it’s hard to conceive of all the time that passes by with what appears little progress. Progress at times can be measured by one screw or rivet at a time. At the same time, other factors of life come into play that seem to bring progress to a halt. This what’s been happening over the last couple of months with 43-48950.
It was determined the carburetors needed to be rebuilt and that required them being shipped to a specialist. A week prior to Hurricane Harvey hitting Houston, the carbs arrived in Houston for rebuilt. As you might imagine, that slowed their progress a bit. And just weeks later, Hurricane Irma made a direct hit on Florida and while it turned 43-48950 sister ship into a pretzel, 43-48950 sustained no damage from the hurricane. Dodged a huge bullet there!
At the same time, parts that on inspection were determined to need replacing were searched for, acquired and slowly installed. A plane that was built in 1943 can be a challenge in finding parts. And restoring it like it came from the factory further complicates things. While it seems like a little thing, but the location and acquisition of an authentic ladder for 43-48950 was a big deal (it was missing)! There is nothing that goes quickly especially when meticulous attention is given to an entire aircraft. So, when we flew over to 43-48950 on 20 November, it was because that next big phase was scheduled to occur.
The “boss” flew over with us today which is always fun. In fact, even though the temps are hot, humidity is cranking, the one thing this project is it’s always fun! We land and instantly go to work and the work went really well. Lots of items on the check list were checked off as completed. In fact, it went so well the call was made to turn the engines over and make a taxi run to check engines and brakes.
As always, while camera was in hand, getting our hands dirty is just part of the whole experience. Ed, “The Boss” wanted to make another inspection on cables and fitting inside the wing. It can be really hard to get head, hand and light into those inspection panels to look around. Brent turned the Osmo video camera into a very effective inspection tool for Ed. He could not only see what he wanted to see but take photos of parts for later work.
After a briefing in the radio compartment, Ed (left seat) and Jonathan (right seat) got the checklist in hand and went over the procedure to turn over the engines. With that, they went through it all again but this time actually flipping the switches and turning over the fans. The engines roared to life the first time and for minutes turned as they warmed as Ed and Jonathan looked over all the gauges and numbers.
When it all looked good, Ed took his foot off the pedal. The tail lifted off the ground and 43-48950 rolled forward off the grass that’s been its home for so long. It rolled to the tarmac, made a right-hand turn and rolled down the taxi way. You could tell the tires had not rolled for some time as there was a bit of a flat spot. That was gone quickly though. With a successful role down the taxi way, 43-48950 turned around and went through a series of brake test, all successfully. She rolled back down to the grass, turned and was parked in her new, temporary pad waiting for the next big moment, ferry flight back to Tampa Executive.
27 July 2017
And the Inspection Revealed?
It was starting to become a routine. We showed up at Turin Aviation and loaded up our gear in the Cessna 310 for the hour flight up to 43-48950. We couldn’t wait to get up in the air where we could get cool only to heat up again as we land at Keystone. The days goals were to finish up the inspection on the power plants from the day before and put into action what those inspections found.
One of the challenges of working on 43-48950 at its remote location is that tools and materials have to be hauled in. That includes even electricity! So, this trip the Cessna is loaded with a generator, tools, lubricants, towels, water, camera gear and 6 workers. Getting everything into the Cessna required careful packing not just because not just of space but weight. Distribution of the weight is an important aspect of flying, simple CG. I’m here writing so we must have gotten it all right.
While it might seem hard to believe but fuel lines and tanks are checked for these little devils. Great care is to check for this and other issues with the fuel. Another culprit causing problems is water. Water in the fuel system is part of every aircraft’s preflight, it’s that important. Imagine the need in an aircraft that has sat out in the Florida environment for decades?! With great diligence, it was all scrutinized.
On the ground, the work quickly begins back on those R-1830s. They soon got down to the carburetors. They were scrutinized carefully and left in place for the moment. One of the dangerous scenarios they are on the guard for comes from a bug, what they normally call a mud dobber. The Paper Wasp like to crawl into very small spaces which aircraft engines provide lots of making the perfect home for a nest. Those nests quickly fall apart with an operating engine and that material can instantly plug a vital supply line causing major problems.
This process took the better part of the morning and bleed into the afternoon. It was then decided that an engine test was ready to occur. The inspection found that basically was in good condition. The one unknown was would the engines even turn over let alone run. The batteries were dead so moving past that obstacle, the right and then the left right turned over and ran. That was a great feeling, literally, as those R-1830s came to life vibrating the air as the props turned.
It was determined from the run ups that items like oil pressure looked really great. But the fuel was having an issue reaching the cylinders. With some more inspection and testing, it was decided to pull off the carburetors and get them rebuilt which was done. They arrived at a shop in Houston a week before Hurricane Harvey hit. It would be a while before they made it back.
26 July, 2017
The Turin Team Turns to Power Plants
While Brent & I were getting to know 43-48950, the Turin Team was busy at work in the blistering Florida sun on the its power plants. One of the big assets of the DC-3 is its two Pratt & Whitney R-1830 Twin Wasp 14-cylinder radial engines (that produce 1200 hp each, providing thrust enough to lift 20-plus passengers and baggage or a 6,000-plus pound cargo load cruising at 160 to 180 mph). Fortunately, 43-48950 engines stopped with only 240 hours on them. In other words, they haven’t really even broken in yet, still on the new side of life!
The team started with the simple task of removing the cowlings. I say simple because we weren’t on the ladder working in the sun fighting years of age to loosen the Camlocs that might not have turned for a decade. With the help of the crew and many bottles of cold water, the cowlings on both R-1830s were off and inspection of the engines could begin.
The inspection was more than just a visual one. The Turin Team are all highly experienced mechanics who thoroughly and methodically dig down part by part into the engines. There is the obvious reason of inspection for operational and safety, but in a restoration with the goal of flying to France and back, time and budget is just as much a part of the inspection process. The short-term list is the safe ferry flight getting 43-48950 back to Turin Aviation, the long term is that Atlantic flight.
Some were on ladders at the nacelles wrenching (a simple aviation terms that encompasses every sort of mechanical work on an aircraft) on the R-1830s, others were doing what might seem the mundane, spraying the cowlings getting years of dust, sand, bugs and swamp cleaned off just so an inspection can be made. And while the mundane job might seem like a great way to beat the heat, that’s an environmentally safe degreaser that really stings the eye! That spray is not a way to beat the heat, you stay out of its way!
Though Brent and I are there to document all the work being put into 43-48950, we can’t help but get our hands into the work. For that reason, we carry wipes in our pockets to clean the grease and oil off so we can get right back to shooting when we’re not hands on working on 43-48950. It might be just our first day, but we have already fallen in love with the old lady, 43-48950 and can’t wait for tomorrow. As the sun falls behind the trees, we wrap up the day’s project, jump back into the Cessna and head back to Tampa Executive. And back in the coolness of our room, we were hot to trot as the excitement of the day, the project and of the progress kept us up all night!
26 July, 2017
The inland Florida July weather is stifling! With temps hovering above 100 with humidity to match, we started the tour of 43-48950. The mosquito district painted the exterior as you can see in the photographs. The interior though, they did not paint per say. They installed their spraying equipment on top of the “C-47” WWII configuration from Europe and in doing so, preserved it! The missions 43-48950 flew as a transport, paratroopers and wounded, whether by design or good fortune, saved for future generations. Through the sweat pouring from us we, started to examine the history before our eyes.
The anchor points for the paratroopers are still there in place, exactly where they were in WWII, that those boys hooked up to prior to making their jumps, such as in Operation Market Garden. You can still see where the cable vibrated and rubbed the paint off those anchor points, from when the rip cord was connected to the cable.
It’s a steep incline as you walk up toward the cockpit. Nearer the front in the main cabin but close to the radio station you start seeing the Red Crosses, painted on at the factory back in 1943. Then you see the messages for the stretcher stations, places where wounded young men were placed for flights back to safety. The sad and haunting thing is we know now all those young men made it back to safety, alive, thanks to the gallant effort.
Inside the fuselage, Florida’s constant reminder it was summer soaked our shirts with sweat as we moved up into the radio station. The mosquito district removed all the radio equipment and table, a weight saving measure. That will be restored back to its original factory equipment with some of that equipment already acquired. That is one of the challenges of 43-48950, determining all that this individual aircraft had and then finding the original parts, which in some case, can’t be found.
We are here to document it all, but it was very hard to when faced with all this history staring you in the face.
26 July, 2017
The start of the new project, one the word excitement doesn’t begin to cover! We arrived at Tampa Executive Airport, Turin Aviation to brief the short and very long-term goal of the documentary. In a nutshell, a WWII vet, a C-47 came back from the war like so may vets and went into civilian service. The goal of the project is to bring the now DC-3 back to its factory C-47 configuration and fly it to France in 2019. With that, we jump into our ride to the DC-3 located at Keystone Airpark in Turin Aviation Cessna 310Q (what will become the norm for the next 6 months).
C47B 43-48950, civilian N834M came back from the war and served for the next thirty years spraying mosquitoes in the neighborhoods of Florida’s west coast. As Tom Feminella, former pilot for the mosquisto district say, “I was really surprised to see the history attached to this particular airplane in as much as I have a lot of hours flying it and had no idea of its background. The sad part was when we would show up at 4:30 in the morning and see the assignments I would not be happy when I got 34 Mike as it was doggy (always needed a couple of extra inches of manifold pressure to stay in formation) and it generally was the least reliable of the 6 foggers. We called it the lead sled. Might have felt differently had I known of its historical significance.”
Keystone Airpark is a former WWII training base for fighter pilots, primarily the P-47 Thunderbolt. It’s the home of Wing of Dreams Museum, the current caretaker for N834M / C47B 43-48950 (that won’t change until N834M touches down at Tampa Exec). On the edge of the tangle of Florida swap forest, sunk in the sands of time surrounded by fire ants is where N834M has been for the past five years. It’s from here the team goes to work to bring N834M back to life for its ferry flight and its return in the restoration shop to 43-48950.