VENTURAED, NOTHING GAINED
it would be convenient if museum exhibits arrived in pristine
condition, able to go straight on display, it is a sad truth
that the older or more historic items are likely to be less
complete or more damaged than "younger" finds. When it comes
to wartime examples, we have to be thankful for anything
we can get. This leads to some heroic restoration projects.
David Bussey's work on interior rebuilding of an Avro Anson
over some seven years is setting the scene for an impressive
fuselage display in the next couple of years, and some hard
decisions about wings. Our Lockheed Ventura is another case
in point. Of the 75 Venturas which came on charge with the
RAAF, only two substantial "remains" exist - the fuselage
and centre section of A59-73 now being restored in Darwin
for eventual return to display in Gove and our own fuselage
A59-96. Our limited history of A59-96 shows that it was
received at No 2 Aircraft Depot on 1st June 1944. Apparently
it did not see active service and was declared surplus on
6th February 1948. Subsequently, the fuselage with wings
cut off flush, turned up on a property at Brunswick Heads,
NSW where it was used as a farm shed. In 1979, the fuselage
was acquired by private collector, John Hill who later displayed
it at the Chewing Gum Field Museum at Tallebudgera. On 31st
March 1991, the fuselage was acquired by QAM through the
generosity of the Bussey Foundation and trucked to Caloundra
on 16th May 1991. During its time at Chewing Gum, some well-meaning
person daubed green house paint on one side of the fuselage,
no doubt to protect it from the elements. Fortunately, he
either lost interest or ran out of paint, because the unpainted
side still clearly shows the remnants of its military markings
including the serial number. (This will pose a conservation
dilemma when it comes time to paint the aeroplane.) Along
with the bare fuselage, QAM also acquired 2 engines, a tailplane
centre section, turret top frame, a pair of Hudson undercarriage
legs and a Hudson fin and rudder. Working on the basis that
you can't restore what you haven't got, we accepted this
deal as a starter kit and began the search for more parts
that would give us the basis for a viable project. Of course,
we could have displayed just the fuselage, but time does
give the chance for archaeological discoveries. One thing
in our favour is a degree of commonality or similarity with
the Hudson. The score so far:
Four years ago, a Hudson port tailplane, fin and rudder
in remarkable condition donated.
Ventral gun mounting donated.
Two years ago a pair of Hudson wing centre sections
(cut off outside the fuselage similar to ours), a pair
of wheels and tyres, engine mount extensions and two
throttle consoles acquired.
of navigator seat and oxygen bottle rack and more undercarriage
Random acquisition of wheel hub and axle at a swap meet.
Turned out to be a Ventura tail wheel.
Donation of a badly damaged tailwheel tyre to fit above
of a Hudson tailplane from a salt marsh where it had
lain for 50 years. One half in relatively good condition
- inevitably another port side!
Acquisition by David Bussey of a 75% complete Ventura
turret ex N.Z. and addition of stock/acquired parts
and restoration to 90% status.
Sourcing outer wing panels overseas.
then to make a start. Currently, preparations are being
made to move the fuselage to new stands. The good port tailplane
has been fitted to the Ventura centre section and is being
painted. The leading edge and elevator will be addressed
later. The tailwheel has been filled and the case is under
repair. The turret is proceeding well. The gunner's seat
is moulded 5/8th ply. As the back and sides did not exist,
David has manufactured a replacement by forming it one ply
at a time. A monumental undertaking. To make a starboard
tailplane, take one port tailplane, turn it over (symmetrical
section) and change an access hatch. I noted previously
it was in relatively good condition, but everything is relative
- relative to corroded away to nothing! There is some corrosion
on the skin and some wrinkling due to impact. It will be
necessary to reskin the leading edge. Now, the leading edge
is held on by piano hinge top and bottom - 8 feet of it
in each case. To take it off you pull the hinge pin! This
consists of 8 feet of 3/32 stainless hardened rod in an
aluminium hinge, all of which has spent 50 years in a salty
atmosphere. After much time wasted with vice grips and hammers,
then a special fitting for a sliding hammer made by Ken
Woodrow, it came down to drilling out the countersunk rivets
that hold the hinge in place - 145 rivets per row by 4 rows.
Then reskin, then refit - 4x145 rivets, replace fin attach
angles, panel beat skin, replace torn skin, repair tip etc
etc etc. I guess it will keep me off the streets. The elevators
have to be modified to Ventura style and a centre flap built.
The tail cone requires major panel work prior to fitting
the tailwheel leg and wheel. A long project - at least another
10 years, but long vision is what is most required in all
of the projects we have, in fact in the whole museum concept.
We do not build just for ourselves, but for the future.