A detailed update on the Reevers warbird collection as it stands in April 2016. Story by Phil Buckley/Reevers. Photos Phil Buckley/ supplied by Reevers.
NAA B-25J MITCHELL 44-31508
In our last update we noted the arrival of the B-25J Mitchell 44-31508 into Australia from the USA. Up until this recent B-25 arrival, Australia has not had a complete B-25 in the country for quite some time sadly. The only other significant publicly displayed B-25 is the Darwin museum machine but as most know that is only considered to be half a B-25, which is seen below.
The last time a complete B-25 was in Australia was when the Australian War Memorial had their example but it was sold overseas to the USA in early 1999.
The Reevers project has progressed after it had landed in country after its long ocean voyage from the USA last year and by early December 2015 it was extensively washed out to remove any dirt and foreign matter while it was stored in quarantine. After this clean up the airframe was noted to be much cleaner and revealed that it is in better shape than expected. Reevers then moved the whole project into a secure location.
Reevers have been very fortunate that Tayper Industries – their freight importing Agents – have allowed them to store the B-25 in a very open and dry warehouse. This will help slow any corrosion caused by its outside storage in the USA. To stop it completely would require a much larger area, and Tayper Industries have been good to Reevers.
With this move to storage, Reevers has achieved the best opportunity to “dry out” this B-25 and secure the remaining structure from further damage. It is noted that aircraft will need a lot of work to get airborne again and work has already commenced on sourcing the necessary parts such as gun turret and internal parts along with both the pilot and co pilot seats but they will need assistance in securing a rebuildable B-25 P&W R-2600.
Further research has also confirmed that the B-25 spent time post war with USAF being used as a trainer. In 1952 she was converted to a TB-25K model which was a radar navigational trainer and this work was carried out by Hughes Aircraft. As a trainer it carried a Hughes E-1 fire control radar in the nose.
Colour images have also been provided to Reevers of the Mitchell as she appeared in the Battle of Britain film as the movies air to air camera ship. Due to publicity of the aircraft reaching around the world, Reevers has also recently been put in touch with various people in the USA who either owned or followed the Mitchell. One of the previous owners has confirmed that famous WW2 USAAF pilot Jimmy Doolittle was taken for a ride in the aircraft during the 1980s.
Reevers is looking to maybe relocate the project by June 2016 if all goes to plan.
NAA NA-64 YALE 40-3383
The NA-64 Yale was derived from the NA-16 design which led to the AT-6 / SNJ / Harvard advanced trainers subtype. With the exception of the squared off rudder and using aluminium fuselage skin instead of fabric, the NA-64 Yale is almost identical to the first RAAF prototype Wirraway trainer used in WW2, over 700+ Wirraways were built during the 1930-40s. This quite rare trainer aircraft project was noted to be up for sale early 2015 and was imported into Australia and stored in NSW by a fellow aviation enthusiast with intention to return the Yale to flight. By October 2015 these desires had changed and the Yale was put it up for sale in Australia. It was at this point that Reevers decided to add this Yale to its collection and announced in November 2015 they were to acquire the aircraft for restoration. In early January 2016 it was transported to Adelaide, South Australia and placed into secure storage.
The history of this Yale aircraft “3833”, indicates that it was used to train fighter pilots under the Empire Air Training Scheme (EATS). Its records indicate that it has been used to train fighter pilots from the USAAF, RCAF, RAF, RAAF, RNZAF, and the SAAF in its lifetime. The training records of the Yale tell of a very hard worked aircraft over the war years. Between April and August 1941 while at the Conversion Training Squadron Picton, Ontario, 3383 suffered three ground loops causing category C damage to the airplane. After serving at the Picton Aerodrome, 3383 moved on to the No. 14 Service Flight Training School at RCAF Station Aylmer, Ontario. Under the controls of J.B. Straile the R-975 engine failed during formation practice on August 6, 1942 causing the aircraft to hit trees on a forced landing 1Ž2 miles north of Calton, Ontario causing significant damage. The Yale was transported to Noorduyn Aviation for repairs. The repairs on 3383 were finished on February 8, 1943 and it was subsequently moved into storage at the No. 3 Training Command. In February 1944 3383 was removed from storage and transported to the No. 9 Repair Depot at St. Jean, Quebec for conversion to Wireless Trainer. Once converted to a Wireless Trainer 3383 was assigned to the No.4 Wireless Training School at St. Catharines, Ontario in April 1944. During a routine wireless training flight in August 1944 the fuel pressure gauge line broke spraying fuel inside the cockpit. The pilot, LAC Ball and wireless operator, WO2 G. Sample were ordered to bail out of 3383 but managed to land the aircraft in a small field causing no other damage to the plane.
During 1945, 3383 was transferred to the No.1 Air Command, then to the No.4 Reserve Equipment Maintenance Unit for storage at Brantford, Ontario. She was Struck Off, to War Assets for sale in September 25 1945, with only 2333:20 total time on airframe. After being struck off Amsco Ltd. of Hamilton, Ontario purchased 3383 and re-offered 3383 for sale. The Yale was than purchased by the late Ernie Simmons and became part of his collection that was parked on his farm for decades in Cortland, Ontario.
In 1970 after Ernie’s passing Dan Murray auctioned off the aircraft on his farm. On September 3, 1970 3383 was sold to Jack N. Taft. NA-64 3383 made its way to yet again another home in May 2009 when it was purchased by Patrick J Mihalek of Legend of Aces Aviation from the Jack N. Taft Trust. With this move, Legend of Aces commenced some preliminary restoration work on the airframe mainly consisting of internal components before the aircraft was again sold. It was then sold to a new owner in Australia and prepared for export. During the importation process in Australia, four left hand wing trailing edge ribs underneath the flap were damaged by Quarantine inspectors. These four ribs will need to be replaced but can be remade by a qualified engineer.
Considering the age of the aircraft and the fact that it has not flown in 70 years, it is still in very good shape with very minimal corrosion. Some wing skins have been removed for inspection and most of the structure is still in exceptional condition and covered in factory primer. Reevers is lucky to have acquired quite a rare aircraft, as only a couple have ever been restored to fly around the world, alongside a few projects which are undergoing active restoration and what is believed to be about 10 static projects at various museums or private collections.
ACQUISITION OF P-40 WING JIGS
Reevers has also acquired an old set of P-40 wing jigs from the former Murray Griffiths Wangaratta operations. These will be moved to Adelaide in the near future and plans are have them tested for accuracy. It is then expect that Reevers can use these jigs to produce new build P-40 wing sets for A29-99 and made available to other P-40 builders for their wing reconstructions.
B-17 FLYING FORTRESS UPDATE
Research by Reevers has identified a suitable candidate for recovery and field work to confirm condition, completeness and recovery in 2016 with a once negotiations with the various stakeholders has been completed. This particular B-17 operated from Townsville in Far North Queensland during the Pacific War and so it is believed to be an excellent candidate for recovery.
While this B-17 is “Jungle Junk” Reevers does not have the opportunity to be so selective on this particular aircraft type. As posted previously, Reevers has and continues to collect many spares, parts and drawings for the B-17. So far subsections, seats, windows, cockpit fittings and assorted airframe components have been secured and are awaiting overhaul, repair and then fitting.
More parts have arrived in mid 2016 and will go into storage.
REPUBLIC P-43 LANCER UPDATE
The P-43 project acquired by Reevers continues to move forward albeit slowly as it takes a back seat to the other more demanding projects. Research currently being undertaken has unravelled the history of the eight RAAF Lancers. It is known that one crashed in Victoria and was later found in 1958, Reevers have theirs which was recovered only recently (several years ago now) but official RAAF records confirm that the remaining seven aircraft were returned to the USAAC in 1943. As Reevers suggests, always double check official records. Some preliminary restoration and or conservation work has commenced on radio equipment, instruments, cockpit controls and other smaller pieces such as inspection panels. More is yet to be done but it is hoped that a cockpit display using the above components will be ready for the public by late 2016 – depending on the progress and commitments to the other projects. Reevers has also done some extensive research in early 2016 regarding the P-43 Lancers beyond their operational use by the RAAF in the wartime years. They have been also advised of another potential P-43 project and the owner will update Reevers of their intentions in the near future.
Below are some of the documents and wreck components Reevers has obtained/put together to assist in the research and understanding of what happened to these aircraft. No doubt more information will come to light in the future to help close off this interesting chapter in Australian wartime aviation history.
Reevers has traded off one of their WW2 ex RAAF Spitfire Mk V projects to a Adelaide based warbird restorer.
Reevers is getting quotes on the repairs needed to the airframe – spar, control surfaces and corrosion in the tail section. Reevers has also acquired technical drawings for its return to flight. Below is one of the spar sections needing work. Photo of aircraft courtesy of Christian Donnington Smith.
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