Aircraft

Piper PA 18 Supercub clone build

Ever dream of doing something really different – daring even? Here is a prime example of such a dream…

Build a real aeroplane that really flies!

The aircraft of my choice is the Piper PA-18, better known as the Supercub. Well, pretty darned close anyway, as I have ordered complete plans and construction manual for a ‘Light Miniature Aircraft’ clone of the original Piper (one of many clones that exist) on the internet and hope to receive them soon 🙂

I am 65 now and can expect around 2500 hrs of building-time spread over probably at least five years (finances notwithstanding), so whether I ever get to fly the bird is another, unimportant, question. By that time 70 years old, maybe one of my children will finish the project and learn to fly in the cub if I go soft in the head in the meantime; maybe it will be sold on unfinished (I really would expect to finish it, though, as far as finances allow).

Of course, in order to build something like this, there are a few things to consider.

First off on the practical side is the problem of space and the equipment to do it, neither of which I have – yet! On the equipment side, I need a drop-saw, bandsaw, a drill-stand, face-sander and a TIG-welding setup. I have most of the hand-tools, drills, measuring tools and such like already 🙂

The necessary manual skills I believe to have acquired over the years – ‘advanced’ woodworking as a qualified industrial patternmaker to the foundry industry and a few of years of very exacting  TIG-welding for a living (still). I spent years in Australia working in an aircraft museum restoring warbirds, a bit on a P-38, quite a lot on a P-39 and some more on an F4U Corsair. Electrics and avionics shouldn’t be a problem, covering the frame will probably be a challenge.

I also flew everything I had a chance to, as well, while I was there; training mostly in a Cessna 152 Aerobat, but also in a C172 and a “gutless Cutlass”.

Chances to fly taken up notably in a Harvard, PT 17, Tiger Moth, AN-2 and a Trojan, taildragger endorsement in a Supercub. There’s the link!

A lovely little aircraft for low and slow and with excellent manners and short-field capability built in 🙂

So here, as time goes by, I will note my progress, failures and successes. The Start will be SLOW, as there are things at home that have to be addressed as well – particularly Armstrong, who is completely aircraft crazy at the tender age of 14 months and is actually the one who planted the seed in my brain 🙂

 

P-39 Airacobra Restoration

For those interested in Aviation, warbirds and the modelling of the aforementioned, here are a few pictures I took while working on the Airacobra in Australia at the ‘Classic Jets’ Museum at Parafield Airport in South Australia. Actually the busiest airport in the whole of Australia, mainly due to it’s being the home of a number of flying schools, including one used for flight training of quite a few large airlines, Parafield is also home to a number of classic ‘fly-ins’ and the Museum, of course, where almost all the work is done by volunteers. I worked on a few aircraft, but this is the one I spent most time working on.

Here a couple of views inside the workshop hangar.

Gives a general idea of things. The RAAF Airacobra in question in the background. Here are a few pics of the instruments and cockpit as it goes together:

And here a closer view of few of some of the individual instruments:

 

Lots of engine-details for the modelling enthusiast. These pictures are big, just click on them for larger, click again for super-size! Not much chance to see one of these up close, though used for many aircraft. Carburettor at the top and induction charger below it, the (shiny!) induction manifold on the top of the engine between the ‘V’. The pic on the top left shows it in the initial stages of build. As we progress it gets ‘smarter’ 🙂

  

The pictures below are of the other, running, engine in the public hangar which was originally out of a P40, which is why it has the reduction gear on the front, unlike the P39, which had it installed just behing the propeller and spinner, of course, fed by the propshaft which ran between the pilot;s legs… Makes quite a racket in the hangar and we converted it to run on Gas, as when on Avgas, the open carburettor spat flames to the roof on a cold start… 🙂

Here a few official pictures of the engine from Allinson themselves:

   

 

Here some detail pictures of the armament and ammo-boxes being built for up front. Ours didn’t have guns in the wings. Two machine-guns synchronised through the prop and a cannon shooting through the centre of the spinner. Convenient that the reduction gearbox, mounted on the front-most bulkhead had a hollow spindle! Drive from the prop-shaft enters at the bottom of the reduction-gear casting and the actual drive to the prop is a larger gear above it, allowing plenty of space for the ‘shooter’.

The rearmost, larger but narrower, munitions-boxes are for the machine-guns, the wider curved rails are for the larger (and fewer) cannon-shells:

Here how it is set up in the ‘plane still in primer:

 

Not in primer anymore and fitted up in TG*R !

And finally finished and mounted : (this one in Victoria, another A/C, another museum) The red box is a battery! More weight up front, critical for the distribution of weight and balance necessary to fly the aircraft. The mid-engine made it more maneuverable, but more sensitive to weight distribution. Cannon-shells fitted, MC Ammo-boxes not yet.

Here a few pics of some work I did on a pair of rearmost wing-fillets. We had one original on loan to copy and I had to make up left and right copies, hence the reversible template. The finished items were made slightly large all round for final ‘fitting’:

 

Here the aircraft ready and finished for the Parafield Airport Vintage Fly-In in 2009

Polikarpov I-16 (Halinski) 1:33 cardmodel

I have a special interest in these, as back in the 90s I spent some time in Russia with a team looking for and collecting bits of these aircraft to make replicas of for a New Zealand buyer. We collected eventually enough from 17 wrecks (with different teams spread out all over the place!) to have enough parts to replicate a complete aircraft.

I did some pattern-work, too and I believe they constructed five in total, three of them are still flying in New Zealand as far as I know. With vintage aircraft, it is enough to have a very small proportion of the actual construction to be really ‘original’ for it to be able to be registered as an original aircraft – as opposed to a ‘replica’. This saves a whole lot of paperwork and problems with certification permissions. Unfortunately I never had the possibility to actually sit in (let alone fly!) a completed one myself. One for the bucket list!

This is a nice paper and card model marketed in magazine form by the publisher ‘Halinski’. This model’s progress was halted when it was stolen – unfinished – with all the rest of my professional Restoration/Patternmaking workshop back in 2014. Here are the few pictures that I still have of it. I’ll definitely buy another one sometime and build it again! The first three pics show it before the skin went on the one side – about three weeks work alone in the instrument-panel and cockpit ‘knobs and levers’.

After putting the skin on. What you see here is about six inches long in total at this stage.

 

The instruments had their own lighting (which never was actually built to the end), the faces were made of positives of litho-film from my camera taken of drawings that I had done in Illustrator from the original instruments. For the true-scale effect, the dials and their markings had to be thickened up, or they would just have disappeared and would have ‘looked wrong’.