Tender Loving Care
The Old Crow was begging for a major overhaul after many years of hard work..
While earlier that year the engine was replaced, in September 2006 a start was made to disassemble the plane at Raymond’s Aircraft Restoration at Antwerp Airport (Belgium) (www.rar.be).
Every part was carefully checked, if needed replaced or otherwise brought back to like-new standard.
At the same time, some modifications and updates were carried out, like installing modern radios and a pre-oiler system. The plane got a customizing treatment as well and now features, for example, a more ergonomic cockpit layout.
On February 10, 2008 the Old Crow was airborne again.
The test flight was successful and was finished by uncorking a bottle of Champagne!
Driven by a new and more powerful Jacobs R755 radial engine, she is ready to go for decades to come.
The two wings contain five subassemblies. The centre section was in very good condition and a simple revision was sufficient. The other parts were beyond repair and needed a complete rebuilt. The new wood for the wings came from John Pike (www.bigskystearman.com) and the work was done by wood expert Roger Burrows (Watton, Norfolk, UK). During disassembly we found old animal nests and even the original type plates from 1942!
The ailerons needed replacement as well and came (like new!) from America.
All bearings and bolts plus nuts were replaced. Flying wires were partly replaced and the struts got a new paint job.
Final assembly, including covering and spraying, took place in Antwerp.
The fuselage contains a frame of welded chrome-molybdenum tubing, basically the strength giving bones of the structures. Around it is wrapped a light weight aluminium carcass that gives shape to the covering material (Ceconite cloth). The steel frame was repaired and powder coated. The aluminium material was completely repaired, the covering material totally replaced. The landing gear was revised and modified. Seats were revised, instruments overhauled, electrical system totally renewed including battery and radio panels, new steering cables, pulleys and bearings, everything painted in two-tone (black/gold) with red highlights. Magnificent seat cushions “in style”, new baggage compartment, tow hook, smoke system, antennas, etc, etc.
After masking with tape (140 hours of labour) and spraying, the fuselage was a reborn and ready for final assembly.
The tailplane is made up of thin steel tubing and aluminium trailing and leading edges.
Totally covered in special cloth material (Ceconite). All control cables (corrosion resistant steel), bearings, bolts, washers and nuts replaced.
Before covering it all got a powder coating.
The original Continental W670 radial engine with fixed wooden propeller was replaced by a more powerful Jacobs R755 engine with variable pitch metal propeller, delivered by Pete Jones (www.airrepairinc.com) . Featuring 55 horsepower more and all kind of improvements, it is one of the best engines on the market.
The engine is bolted onto a special frame via rubber blocks. Immediately behind the power plant you find the oil tank (dry sump system), the pre-oiler, the voltage regulator, air filter, fuel filter, etc.
All nuts, bolts, wiring and hoses are new.
The final assembly started at the end of 2007. It included mounting and fine tuning the wings, installing the tail (exactly perpendicular and under exact angles), bolting on of the landing gear (weighing about 200 lbs), the engine and propeller, etc.
In the end everything needed to be fine tuned and adjusted. Final assembly was concluded with installing the wingtip lights and the flight control surfaces.
When the aircraft was ready for her first flight in February 2008, dozens of people had invested at least 3500 man hours.
After another thorough check and given the final approval and signatures by the officials, it was sure that this biplane would fly the skies again.
On February 10, 2008 at 4:30 in the afternoon it was point Omega. Runway 11 at Antwerp Aiport (Belgium). Engine check OK, all systems GO. Full power and moments later she climbed away into the partly cloudy sky.
A quick check of the flight controls confirmed that it all worked. Above the airfield the reaction of the plane was further tested. Turns, straight ahead, fast and slow flight. Everything worked fine and 20 minutes later an uneventful landing followed.
The Old Crow is back in the air.
Some months later all the people that were so helpful during “The Big Work” were invited to come.
With a ritual the airplane was baptized and she was wished many safe flights.
Here you find all the intermediate reports that were made during the rebuilt (some in Dutch language only). Click here