In 2015 Warbirds Online visited the Historical Aircraft Restorations Limited, located within the Historical Aircraft Restoration Society’s (HARS) modern complex at Albion Park, NSW to view work on the restoration of 3 Lockheed Lightning P-38 aircraft, including 2 static restorations and a third for the HARS collection which will be a flying aircraft.
Recently we returned to Albion Park to view the progress on these projects, which is very impressive, given the other recent work undertaken by Robert Grienert and the team, including the completion and delivery of Curtiss Kittyhawk P40E 41-25163 to the Arizona USA based Pima Air and Space Museum, as reported in our recent Warbird News update.
Since our last visit the P-38 work has centered on the huge task of rebuilding and remanufacturing everything required to construct the large wings of the P-38s. This process has required the dismantling of a wing center section of a wrecked P-38 and reverse engineering the whole assembly from the ground up. The first stage was to remove the core of the wing – the main spar on a P-38 is huge! A jig was then constructed and a new spar is manufactured utilizing the original component as a pattern. This phase in itself took considerable time and resources to complete.
Once the main spar was complete, the newly manufactured spar was removed from the jig and the herculean task of designing and construction a full wing jig was undertaken. A full P-38 wing jig is a very large undertaking indeed given the sheer size of the Lightning; however as with all aspects of this project it has been undertaken with excellent attention to detail, accuracy and professionalism. The main spar was then installed in the wing jig and work has commenced on building the first of the 3 wing assemblies again utilizing an existing P-38 wing as a pattern. This first wing will take some time to complete as it will require a lot of research and complex measurement to achieve the required accuracy. As previously reported the first two wings will be for static aircraft and by the time the third (airworthy) wing is constructed the team will be old hands and P-38 wing building!
The Albion Park team have also accelerated progress on other parts of the P-38 rebuilds such as the ailerons, elevators, horizontal stabilizers, tail booms and cockpits and work on these components was also much in evidence as we toured the workshop. There is, as always, no completion date yet for this first P-38, however the pace of work is such that it shouldn’t be too long before some of the major assemblies are able to be completed and mated together again ready to be hung on the core wing assembly when it is completed and then fitted out as a finished aircraft with the next two machines following in due time.
In addition, a pleasant surprise for the team was a recent visit from Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to inspect the P-38 restoration projects – certainly a great honor for the Lightning restoration team and HARS.
Warbirds Online will continue to follow the story of these “Fork Tailed Devils” over the next few years, including the first Lockheed P-38 Lightning to fly in Australia since 1945 as part of the great HARS collection.
© John Parker 2017