by Cliff Robinson
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.
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
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.