DC-3

August/September 1994

 

DELVING IN "DOUG'S DOUG"

or

"NOT A DRAMA"

 

by: Cliff Robinson

 

Dramatis Personae:

Bob Bean
David Bussey
Alan Graham
Mick Hinsbey
Cliff Robinson
Peter Thistleton
Gary Volkers
Austral the Truck
Bean the Bedford
The Beast of Camden

 

 

DAY 1 - Saturday 27 August 94:
Bob and Mick depart Nambour in the Bedford, reaching Scone at 2130.

DAY 2 - Sunday 28 August 94:
Cliff, David and Peter depart Brisbane at 0900 in Austral refuelling at Wallangarra and then from drum, reaching Tamworth at 1730. Bob and Mick visited Col Pay, leaving Scone at 1045 and arriving at Camden at 1700.

DAY 3 - Monday 29 August 94:
Bob and Mick spent the day spraying screws with Inox and removing seats and floor panels. The Austral lot departed Tamworth at 0800, stopping at Windsor - the Pig fuselage we previously inspected has gone. Arrived Camden Airport at 1600. Bob is camping with the aircraft. Nobody at Pacific Air today. The DC-3 is still to be moved with the Piper Apache still in the way. First Impression - They don't get any smaller for being left for a while do they!

DAY 4 - Tuesday 30 August 94:
Underway at 0800. Is this the first time we have had 4 in the cab of Austral? At the drome, Bob has been up since 0500. No sign of Pacific Air so we hook into CAA power to inflate the tyres. This happens quite ok with only a loose valve in one wheel to fix and the need to tow the DC-3 forward to find the valve stem on the tailwheel. Now to move the beast! We hook the Bedford to the tail towbar and Austral to the main undercarriage legs with lifting straps. Thus the beast should not get away from us as it is sitting on a downhill slope. After moving the clutter from around the Apache, we roll it forward out of the way. Then the Bedford pulls the beast around through 180 degrees with several bouts of backing and filling. We then tow the aeroplane to a flat area behind the submarine variant of DC-3. This is done by 1000 and we can unload Austral and set equipment out under the wing and leave it as Bob is nightwatchman on site. Bob has had the floor up and all seats out. Great joy! No significant corrosion over the centre section. Pacific Air's Nick Leach arrived at 1130 and we took opportunity to discuss tactics with him, reorganise power and after lunch tackle THE BOLTS & SCREWS! Gary Volkers visited and brought the half Ventura tailplane and collected the Piaggio parts we had for him. By 1700 Mick and Bob had all the tailplane bolts out. David was underway with fairing screws (354 to go) and we had found that the dreaded fin screws (220) could be started with a cold chisel and then were feasible with an air ratchet wrench or by hand. Port engine cowls were off and some disconnecting completed. We will borrow prop tools tomorrow but the differences between Wright and Pratt & Whitney engines means that nothing available is suitable for the engine mounts. Our accommodation is nothing luxurious - four in a caravan and no TV but after the slave driver has kept us at it all day, we are too tired for much but a shower, laundry and the obligatory bedtime story from the DC-3 manual. We are attracting tourists - not the Nipponese variety. Today's classic: Q. "Are you needing a propellor?" A. "No we are taking the whole aeroplane!" Q. "Oh! I see."

DAY 5 - Wednesday 31 August 94:
Weather - cold but not excessive. Warming during the morning but cold wind starts in the afternoon. Some shopping first this morning then a photo call in our Ansett overalls (donated by Ansett) before the dirt gets too bad. Props attacked first and by lunchtime both are off but not without a lot of sledgehammer swinging on the removal tools. The tray of Austral is an ideal height for this and of course the crane a high priority. After lunch a trip to town to purchase the 9/16" allen key for the engine mount bolts, but the rattle gun makes no impression on the problem. Mick spent the day on the fin and succeeds in getting all screws out of one side - all 110 of them. Only 4 or 5 break off. The original litharge and glycerine treatment certainly glued them in and only the cold chisel could break the grip. At least 95% are out and even if we replace the screws we won't have the job of drilling out hundreds of broken screws. David has succeeded in getting out the screws on the port wing fairing and removing it. Only one spot of corrosion found underneath. The condition looks better every day. Our ratchet driver broke down twice today - annoying! Another on-site guard is a Magpie who inspects progress every lunchtime and is partial to Anzac biscuits. These were specially provided by Mrs Draper and greatly appreciated by us too. Those who recall the Northern Territory recovery will remember that palm trees in Mt Isa tended to erupt in flames after Bob passed on a nocturnal ramble with pipe alight. Now we see burnt poplar trees around Camden. Significant?

DAY 6 - THURSDAY 1 SEPTEMBER 94:
Last night was crystal clear and consequently sub-arctic in the morning. Took a little more to get going today. Oil tanks and fuel tanks drained first. Slung port engine and cracked bolts with aid of 6' pipe. Disassembly went well and engine carried away by lunchtime. Work began on modifying the engine carry frames to suit Wright type and engine laid on ground during afternoon. In the course of this, the traverse on the crane failed. This must be repaired in the morning as it is fairly useless without it. In the meantime, Mick had removed the 110 screws from the other side of the fin by 1400. As a safety measure we roped the fin to the tailplane tips thus producing the only braced tailplane DC-3 so far known. Some strategically inserted screwdrivers and a heave ho from three of us and the fin joins the boneyard at the rear of the beast together with the tailplane. Starboard cowls off and connections largely ready by the end of the day. In the course of the day, Mick was trampled by Bob and his glasses broken (super glue to the rescue) but something else must have snapped because tonight Mick disappeared without explanation. A search party subsequently located him slinking home with a sheepish grin and a new model (plastic). We should have known that Toyworld would prove irresistible. As if working on 1:1 scale is not enough, he brings back a 1:48 P-51. Harold Thomas turned up today, just out of hospital, we'll visit him on Sunday. Gary visits us every day to undo a few bolts and act as gopher - very handy. Today's tourist classic: Q. "Are you taking it back to Queensland?" A. "Should we take it apart and leave it here?"

DAY 7 - FRIDAY 2 SEPTEMBER 94:
"Joy cometh in the morning". Well at least as Ken predicted on the phone last night, the crane problem amounted to the worm drive assembly slipping out of mesh. Simple enough in the daylight when you are not tired. This morning saw the starboard engine removed and laid to rest in the boneyard, though once again the crane has frightened us, this time by going up in smoke. The wiring shorted out and as the old rubber insulation is rotten we will have to add another layer of tape. David completed removal of the starboard wing fillet and we are now concentrating on the underwing fuel tanks. We had hoped to avoid taking these out but it is necessary for access to the control runs and fuselage bolts. Another 320 bolts and 400 screws we didn't want. Readers of the N.T. chronicle will recall our problem with the diminishing stature of Mick. Well it is happening again. Every night he complains that the first step into the caravan is higher, even to the extent of accusing the park manager of raising the van a brick at a time while we are away. Of course the DC-3 is getting taller - as weight comes off, the oleos extend and the tray of Austral is always too high. To compensate, today we modified the tailgate for the greater convenience of geriatrics (Cliff & Bob) and midgets (Mick & David). Too much air traffic today - hard not to stop and watch Laurie Ogle's immaculate Lockheed Electra doing circuits and bumps in company with DC-3s, Chipmunks, Pitts and spam cans. Nightwatchman Bob complained of a dog barking all night (French Poodle) - easily fixed in daylight with some insulation tape on swinging flap. Today's visitor - the Unterseeboot Commander of Botany Bay looking at his handiwork. It's just as well we are moving the beast as prefabricated hangars are mushrooming on the patch we are using. If we can find the right fertiliser and spread some at Caloundra we may solve our housing problem there.

DAY 8 - SATURDAY 3 SEPTEMBER 94:
We stopped on the way this morning and gathered a bag of wood shavings to mop up the oil on the tray of Austral - it shouldn't rust for a while. Today was totally boring. Removing aerials, DF loops etc under fuselage and then attacking the hundreds of bolts and screws. It took all day to get off cover plates and remove two fuel tanks. Why aren't DC-3s made at a comfortable height above ground? We are all suffering permanent cases of stoop and cramp tonight and there are just as many screws to go! Don't imagine that screws are removed by approaching with a screwdriver and a hopeful look. After 20 years, those that do come out are started with a cold chisel and then a screwdriver turned with a spanner. Those that resist this treatment are introduced to the angle grinder. Twenty years of guano on the threads can be difficult. So far we have removed some dozen or so bird nests (including one egg) and innumerable mud wasp nests. As yet no snakes! Today's quote: Q. "Can I climb inside for a look?" (Cliff is flat on the floor with his head in the tunnel). A. "No, he objects to being walked on." Tomorrow Peter returns home and Alan arrives. It has also been declared a day of rest to visit the Camden Museum of Aviation and regain some sanity and strength.

DAY 9 - SUNDAY 4 SEPTEMBER 94:
Peter departed this morning for home and work (for a rest) and Alan arrived at 1100 to take up the task. As advised, we went to Camden Museum for a break and a little horse trading of parts. Mick, who had stood on a nail and punctured his ego, was jabbed for a second time with an anti-tetanus needle and the day finished with a BBQ at the airport. Today's quote: Q. (Escorting a junior air wing group) "Do they still fly these sorts of aircraft nowadays?" A. "Yes, but not this one." Q. "Do the engines go on those big round flat things on the front of the wings?" A. (speechless)

DAY 10 - MONDAY 5 SEPTEMBER 94:
Well the change in personnel has had a noticeable effect. We started the morning with fog and Alan's pager going off. Alan had a gentle introduction to the job - 100 well frozen screws. With the two rear tank covers, about 40% of the screws had to be ground to get the heads off, but after 6 hours he and David had them off and the tank out. Meanwhile, Bob and Mick worked inside dismantling linings, control cables and floor beams. Outside, preparations were underway for outer wing removal. Austral's crane can reach the slinging points and it might be possible to lower the wing on the tray and move it round to the boneyard. This will be about 20' overhang each side - interesting if it works. Tomorrow will see much more disconnecting to do first. A long slogging day without a lot to show for it but very necessary. So back to our luxurious accommodation for the usual mundane occupations of eating, washing and sleeping while the gentle rain droppeth from above.

DAY 11 - TUESDAY 6 SEPTEMBER 94:
The evening was warm, the morning was clear, the westerly was strong and we froze. In fact the wind was so strong that we abandoned any ideas of slinging a wing and we went on with dismantling control wires, flap rods and thousands of bolts. So the day ends with no apparent change but nevertheless necessary progress towards the end. Gary Volkers visited again today with a welcome supply of cakes. His whole family has had the lurgi for three weeks so we keep a respectful distance. FAC staff here have been extremely helpful as has Nick Leach of Pacific Air to whom we continually refer. Of course the differences between our ancient beast and P&W DC-3s sometimes causes him to scratch his head too. Alan has demonstrated remarkable scrounging capacity. All aircraft recoveries are predicated on copious quantities of old tyres for packing and these are invariably sourced locally. Not only does Alan get tyres, he gets them delivered!

DAY 12 - WEDNESDAY 7 SEPTEMBER 94:
Today it all came together, or if you prefer - apart. Low wind, so safety bolts were quickly removed and by 1030 port wing was off. Straight on to Austral and then a short drive with the mother of all wide loads and an addition to the boneyard. No fuss, no messing or trouble. Of course today had to be the day for concrete floor pouring on the new hangar so we worked in a swirling cloud of dust from the procession of concrete trucks racing around our site. Bob continued disconnecting inside the fuselage while all other hands transfered to the starboard wing and by 1700 it was ready to move. The lift will be first job for the morning. Today's quote (from our friendly helper nearby): Q. "Tell me again the name of the tall bloke in the big hat who does all the worrying." A. "Oh, you mean Cliff." Alan is developing strange habits. He has taken to ramming the gate with his car rather than get out and open it. Just as well it is unlocked. Current progress is good, probably a day ahead of schedule so we may load early. One of the noticeable differences is in the state of the bolts and screws on the two sides of the aircraft. The prevailing windward side saw far more corrosion than the lee. All in all the beast is in remarkably good condition. The panel corrosion - nose cone, cockpit roof, fin and wing fillets is quite repairable and the limited exfoliation corrosion on wing joint angles again can be repaired. More wildlife appeared today - two basset hounds, apparently belonging to the airport, came to inspect, then went to sleep for the day while we worked. Now who is the dumb animal? Tourist quote (as Austral carries off the wing): "You won't fly it without that." Today's subtle hint. Navy DC-3 from Nowra flies over for a look then does circuits and bumps to show us how it's done.

DAY 13 - THURSDAY 8 SEPTEMBER 94:
Hi Ho, Hi Ho, it's off with wings we go. Well that was the start of the day and by 0915 the starboard wing was done. From there on it was all downhill. The rest of the day was spent undoing control cables, various mounting bolts, growing frustration and an experiment to see if Austral could lift one side of the beast (which was unsuccessful). There still remain engine controls to do and then several hundred more bolts in the fuselage/wing attachment. Alan departed this evening to slum it in the Menzies Hotel for a work conference tomorrow. The rest of us enjoyed tea with Gary and Reiko followed by an inspection of the Victa Airtourer work and a video of Kittyhawk recovery which put Mick's camera work into the Zefferelli class by comparison.

DAY 14 - FRIDAY 9 SEPTEMBER 94:
Today was the day we made the beast kneel before us. It started quietly enough. We unshipped the engine control cables and withdrew them from the wing together with the last of the control surface cables. A start was made on the wing/fuselage bolts but a thunderstorm arrived at 1200 so we decamped to the FAC office for lunch. By 1300 we were back on the job but at 1500 Nick Leach arrived so various incantations were uttered to cause the monstrous crane to start. Then it was a case of lift one side from the engine nacelle, remove safety bolt, lift latch and hit undercarriage with a strategically aimed sledgehammer. Key presto she kneels and with similar treatment on the starboard side we have a much more manageable object which no longer towers over us. The total weight of fuselage and centre section is approximately 4T. There is no doubt about it, at ground level it looks much more docile, no longer rearing over us, and we feel more kindly towards it. The storms return and we head back to camp well satisfied at 1630 having chained the undercarriage in the up position. It will be good not to have to clamber up the wing on a rope nor risk surfing down the interior floor on one of the loose floorboard panels.

DAY 15 - SATURDAY 10 SEPTEMBER 94:
How many more bolts will be enough? Dave and Mick work their way through the wing/fuselage skin joint, lines of some 60 screws per side, though about 30% had to be ground off. Meanwhile the slave driver had discovered a couple more panels to be removed to provide access to more bolts and an opportunity for Alan to crawl underneath to dirty his overalls washed last night. Austral meanwhile had Doctor Bob give her a muffler tighten and a wheel change. By mid afternoon, anticipation was intense as we did the fifth check of the dismantling instructions in the manual and a physical check of all connections, finding some unreported rivets. Undoing the last bolt and achieving separation with a thump and a sigh then led to finding some extra bolts not accounted for. Fancy a wartime C-47 manual not taking account of civil DC-3 seat rails! Never mind, it is apart and we are trying to bring forward the pickup having about two days work left. Tonight we had another eruption of squeaking from David's corner. This is a consequence of leakage in his air pillow. To pump it up again he produces a superannuated fly spray and commits noise pollution with this implement. It must be cast into outer darkness.

DAY 16 - SUNDAY 11 SEPTEMBER 94:
A mostly rest day today. We started with a visit to a swap meet at Liverpool but nothing of interest. Then to the beast where we took the opportunity to lift the fuselage at the front aiming to set it on the prefabricated stand. However it lifted askew due mainly to a sheared tailwheel lock and would evidently be unsafe on the stand so we moved the centre section out of the way and set the fuselage down on drums. This was followed by a trip to The Oaks to view the HS-125 and enjoy the ultralight flying and lunch. Back to Camden where some tidying up began until time for an early BBQ tea.

DAY 17 - MONDAY 12 SEPTEMBER 94:
This was preparation day. Contact with Brambles in Brisbane finally gave us a truck arrival time of 1000 Tuesday. Alan and Cliff set off in Austral to collect the control surfaces from Connell Pt. while the others tidied the fuselage and began packing in various parts. The afternoon saw the fitting of feet and lift points to the centre section while Bob made a tailwheel lock. When Mick and Dave had fuel tanks and wing fillets inside (inserted through the floor) extra cross rails were fitted and ailerons, elevators, fuel bay panels etc added to complete the load. Alan having set off to book a crane found (inevitably) that the manager was an old associate so we hope to do alright from the deal. This evening we were visited by George Markey's friend, Robyn, to take photos. George is still in the U.S. but is due to return next week. A whole procession of tourists have visited in the past couple of days to say their farewells.

DAY 18 - TUESDAY 13 SEPTEMBER 94:
The Big Day! In more ways than one. Truck #1 on time. Crane on time. Lift arrangements generally ok though the tail lift provided by Donald Douglas causes some minor panel damage when used this way. We have to sit the fuselage on pallets on the truck to get the height down but largely this is straightforward. Truck left at 1230. Truck #2 however is a different matter. A drop deck has been provided rather than a flat tray. This means an attempt to pallet up to a level deck and the original plan no longer works. However, after some experiment by putting the centre section in the drop deck and the outer wings on top, the ungainly load was done. Fin and rudder were also snuck into the load. Total crane time 4 hours at $100.00 per hour instead of the usual $130.00 for which we thank Camtrac. Truck #2 finally left at 1500 with a little more drama. As the load was lower than anticipated, it couldn't go through the planned gate, though by dismantling a different gate, we managed to pass him through with judicious slackening of the tie down straps. No lunch for us today. Bob and Mick departed with the Bedford loaded with seats etc leaving three musketeers contemplating the loading of Austral and cleaning up. With Gary's help, the props were loaded (engines had been loaded by the large crane) and attempts made to get everything else on. It soon became evident that we cannot cope with the DC-3 tailplane nor the Ventura tailplane. Gary will look after the latter while we will have to ask Pacific Air to mind the former. We gave up in the dark with half a gale blowing, absolutely physically done. Why do we do this? Even the youngest of us is too old for this pace.

DAY 19 - WEDNESDAY 14 SEPTEMBER 94:
A quick trip first thing to the airport to check on the clean up, say our thanks and head off - Alan independently and Austral to Windsor Station to collect Peter who had flown down from Brisbane for the thrill of driving Austral back. The return trip was on the Pacific Highway via a tortuous route best undescribed. A side call to Colin Wear at Bulahdelah provided a welcome break while we swapped Anson information. Aimed to stop at Kempsey but the town was booked out so finished the night at Macksville where the motel manageress claimed to have flown DC-3s in Argentina.

DAY 20 - THURSDAY 15 SEPTEMBER 94:
Pressing northwards at a gallant 80kph Austral got an attack of the wobblies. Guess which tyre had deflated? Yes, the one we had changed as a precaution. An hour's delay. On to Murwillumbah where we delivered a case of parts to the Challinor Bros and home by 1700. Pager message tells us ANR has arrived safely at Caloundra.

DAY 21 - FRIDAY 16 SEPTEMBER 94:
To Caloundra this morning to unload Austral. Ken and Mike drove it up and collected a brick through the windscreen for their trouble. Great to see the whole delivery safely arrived. Over to the reassembly crew: One large Meccano set Quantities of bolts, nuts and screws One instruction manual 2 weeks to complete?

 


DC-3 EXPEDITION:

It is traditional with QAM recovery expeditions that all the lurid details be recorded for posterity by an appointed scribe. This is important, for apart from entertaining the members, it serves the vital purpose of recording our own history. This obligation also serves to determine the simplest and most expedient method of dismantling and transportation, for the appointed scribe has the incentive of less writing. However this is not always valid, as attested to by the preceeding opus from Cliff Robinson. At our latest meeting, a vote of thanks was extended to all those QAM members who participated in the DC-3 recovery. QAM also thanks the following companies and individuals who assisted:

BRAMBLES
CAMTRAC
SOUTH PACIFIC AIRMOTIVE
FAC CAMDEN
INOX
ANSETT
NICK LEACH
GEORGE MARKEY