April 2003



(not PARIS)

(not MOSCOW)



by Cliff Robinson

The last newsletter gave the news that we had acquired a Fairchild Swearingen Metro airliner in the disposal sale of the assets of Airworld.   The inevitable consequence was the requirement to bring it home to Caloundra.

So as a minor (!) add on to a holiday wandering around the Murray River, Yvonne and I rolled up to Wangaratta to meet Alan Graham and make the acquaintance of the Metro.   For those who have not had the pleasure of being in intimate contact with a Metro, it is a very sleek looking turboprop commuterliner ideally suited to passengers no taller than 5 feet, or shaped like the Hunchback of Notre Dame, and mostly used in a mixed cargo/passenger or all cargo configuration. Investigation of the construction before we left indicated that the wing was one piece and built integral with the fuselage.   Being consistent, the same arrangement was used for the tailplane and fin. Information was also that to move the aircraft, the wing had been cut and subsequently welded on arrival.   Consequently it was planned that the welds would be ground off and the wings and fuselage carried on one trailer. However, the removal of the wing fillets on the morning of Day 1 revealed that this was not the case.   The real truth was that the bottom of the fuselage had been cut, leaving us with two long or wide lumps to transport, and no advantage would be gained by cutting the wing.    Further, it was evident that the tailplane and fin had not been removed in previous transport, so presumably it must have done a midnight flit down country back roads as it would have been overlength, overwidth, and overheight!

At this point we were joined by volunteer local (Jindera is a mere 100K away!)  Fred Witney.   Fred has wide experience in the aircraft industry (he has dismantled, moved, and reassembled the DC-3 now in the Central Australian Aviation Museum  in Alice Springs) and was an invaluable worker for two days with us. Fairings and nacelles were removed and stacked into the fuselage and we investigated the underfloor area of the cut to remove the joint plates we could find. Outside, the aircraft was lifted by air bags and sat on the ubiquitous 44gall drums with tyres so that the undercarriage could be folded.   The latter involved the usual problems of burred over replacement joint pins, or completely foreign, fabricated stays, and the lack of space in the nacelles to lock up the legs once they had been folded.  

This brought us to lunch time on Day 2, and was followed by the arrival of the crane to separate the fuselage from the wings and place them in the car park for further attention. This seemingly simple operation was the cause of some frustration, as it is not until we tried to lift the fuselage that a myriad little joiner plates that were cunningly hidden in out of the way places were encountered, and had to be dealt with in summary fashion.   After four attempts the last 3/16" rivet and 1/16" aluminium plate gave up the fight and two large lumps separated. It was necessary to be careful in lifting the fuselage as it was conceivable that with a big hole in the bottom, we could have ended up with an oversize banana.

Morning of Day 3 saw us address the problem of the fin and tailplane… more accessible since the tip was now only 10ft. off the ground. In between radio and paper  interviews, the rudder was  detached and then there was nothing for it but to perform surgery on the fin to remove it above the tailplane. This done, we had to get at the pivot axle for the tailplane.  Of course it turned out to be high tensile steel and our saw would not look at it. Various other means were required to get an 8" angle grinder in and finish the job. With the aid of a fork lift we lowered it to the ground. In this we had the enthusiastic assistance of the owner of the trucking company, Jim Campbell, who also had quoted a very competitive price for the transport. All that remained then was to bring the crane in again and load the various pieces on to the trucks together with parts of a Parnall Penguin which we brought home for Graham Orphan.

With the restriction on travel of the trucks on public holidays and weekends they were not free to leave for three days, so Alan was able to head off to Brisbane, while Yvonne and I went to Sydney to collect the trailer we had dragged south, which was now loaded with an engine for the Wessex helicopter and also a magnificent ¼ scale model of a BE2e which had been donated to us by Ian Norgrove.   This gave us time to wend our way back to Brisbane, and to Caloundra on Tuesday for the arrival of the trucks and the unloading of the components.