At the start of the year Warbirds Online visited the Historical Aircraft Restorations Limited, located within the Historical Aircraft Restoration Society’s (HARS) modern complex at Albion Park, NSW.
We were very pleased to see the work being undertaken on three Lockheed P-38 Lightning fighters in the workshop. In the past month, we again visited the workshop and to view the progress being made on these “Fork Tailed Devils”. Great strides have been made in the interim on the aircraft and it was exciting to see the work progressing so well.
Readers will remember from our previous article that the three P-38 s are being rebuilt, two as static examples, and one airworthy example. At the time of our latest visit the first aircraft was in the process of disassembly of the wing and center section. This work was being undertaken by Arthur Griffiths and Jason Cockayne and the task is huge. The centre section and wing assembly is a very large structure in its own right and although the donor example is in relatively sound condition, much of it will serve as patterns for new build components.
This particular P-38 is not identified, but is thought to have come from Keema Misson in the Gulf Province of Papua New Guinea (PNG), according to a notation scratched into the spar. Once completed, this particular static example will be making its way to the PNG National Museum and the other static aircraft will be going to a well-known American Museum. The aircraft will be completely detailed inside and out and make an exceptional museum exhibit.
Also in evidence at the time of our visit, was the work progressing on other components for the P-38 projects, including the start of a cockpit assembly and substantial horizontal stabilizer work, as well as the rebuilding of the tail boom assemblies. The booms are a real work of art in themselves and the workmanship is very impressive.
The concept of building the two static P-38 Lightning’s first and then the flying examples makes perfect sense, as the static aircraft, although built to the highest standards will allow Robert Grienert and his team to learn from the experience and develop methods and tools to make the airworthy examples easier to complete.
The airworthy P-38 will be constructed and remain at Albion Park as part of the HARS flying collection.
As discussed previously, parts for P-38 rebuilds are becoming extremely hard to come by and Robert Grienert has amassed the largest remaining collection of components. However, even this will be exhausted once the 3 aircraft are completed and he believes there won’t be many more P-38s rebuilt in the future as a result of these parts shortages. Where do you find a good set of P-38 landing gear legs for instance?
One little known fact is that Australia operated P-38 Lightning’s in the F4 version as photo reconnaissance aircraft out of the Northern Territory, however the availability of the DH Mosquito hindered widespread use by Australia.
It will be great to follow the story of these “Fork Tailed Devils” over the next few years and even greater to see the first Lockheed P-38 Lightning fly in Australia since 1945 as part of the great HARS collection. Warbirds Online will certainly be there throughout the process to report on their progress.
Warbirds Online extends our thanks Robert Grienert and the team at Albion Park for their help and assistance for this visit.
© John Parker 2015