DAYTON, Ohio --
In the front corner of the restoration hangar at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force sits pieces of wood and metal in various stages of repair. Restoring a World War II aircraft to its former glory takes time and attention to detail.
For restoration specialists Brian Lindamood and Casey Simmons, it's been exciting, yet challenging, to work on the Stearman PT-13D Kaydet, a standard primary trainer flown by the U.S. and several Allied nations during the late 1930s and Second World War.
"We're trained to do these sorts of restorations, but they don't come along very often," Simmons said about working with the fabric-covered aircraft.
The PT-13D has been completely disassembled, and the two men have just begun using a dry ice machine to blast off old paint from the aircraft. Unlike using sand or glass to remove the paint, the dry ice evaporates, leaving only the paint shavings for clean-up.
During the paint removal process, Lindamood uncovered something interesting.
"When I blasted the paint off the access doors, we noticed hand-painted words that said this was the last Kaydet off the production line," he said.
After the aircraft is cleaned, Lindamood and Simmons will re-varnish the wood wing ribs, especially where the fabric touches the structure. Then, grade-A cotton will be sewn into blankets, wrapped and used to recover the aircraft.
The doping process is next. Aircraft dope is a lacquer applied to fabric-covered aircraft, which shrinks fabric stretched over the airframe, and it's a time-consuming process. The first two coats must be hand-painted, and then several more coats are applied, including the final color.
Despite the challenges of restoring the aircraft without damaging the fragile wood ribs, as well as trying to stretch the fabric as tight as possible, Lindamood and Simmons said that the restoration has gone smoothly so far.
"The aircraft is in nice shape, considering it was last restored 50 years ago in April of 1963," Lindamood said.
Plans call for the PT-13D to be part of an expanded Tuskegee Airman exhibit in the World War II Gallery. It will be used to represent flight training during the war.
For more information on current restoration projects, visit www.nationalmuseum.af.mil/exhibits/restoration/index.asp
Note: This article originally appeared in the Fall 2013 issue of
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