Preservation plan Blackburn Skua L2896.
Curator Birger Larsen, NLM.
Since the recovery of this Skua, a lot of work has already been done in regards of preservation of parts.
Our collection of Skua parts for a possible project has already been going on for 15 years. Klas Gjølmesli has made a great effort in collecting parts as well as the Bodø Aviation Historical Society. Already a lot of details are in storage in a restored state and we have parts like nearly all the details for the forward cockpit, complete set of fuel tanks, engine, propeller, cowlings, landing gears, actuators, wheels, oil tank, elevators, flaps, ailerons, guns, gun mountings and so on.. Most of these parts are collected from various wreck sites on land. This means that the quality of the parts is very good and for some parts we even have enough for several Skuas.
What has to be concentrated on from now on will be the structure of the Skua. 1995 we recovered L2910 from the Narvik area. This recovery gave us the first parts of some size for the structure. However, because this Skua was dragged along the bottom before recovered, most of the parts were from the centre section, inner parts of the outer wings and the cockpit area.
In order to create some interest for the Skua project we built a display cockpit from the collected parts. This cockpit has already been on display at the FAA museum at Yeovilton, Narvik and several places in the Trondheim area. This cockpit is now displayed at the museum in Bodø together with the restored engine from L2903 from Roan, Trøndelag.
The wreckage of the L2896 will add a great number of new parts to the want list. Already found are lots of structure for the aft cockpit as well as the tail section of the airplane. Together with the parts already collected this brings us a lot closer to the goal of having a Skua on display sometimes in the future.
The loss of important details for the aft cockpit area does not mean that the recovery was a failure as some thinks. Because of the sophisticated navigation equipment on board the Gunnerus, we will be able to retrace the positions of the lost parts and hopefully recover them.
Already the week after the main recovery, Gunnerus found several missing parts including the radio rack, a new, important item for us. Comes this autumn, Gunnerus will be out there again to try to find more of the missing parts.
The wreckage of L2896 was taken by rail to Bodø two days after the recovery and for a month now we have been busy with the preservation of parts and structure. The priority is to first sort out what we do not have already and preserve them as soon as we can.
The process of preservation is a rather slow process. The parts are in a varying state of deterioration. Parts that are made of steel are normally in a good condition because the aluminium around the steel parts has been acting as an anode and thus prevented corrosion. The thin plated aluminium structure is another story. Most of this structure is corroded in some places and the parts can only be used as patterns for new ones. However, they are important to preserve because there are no drawings for the Skua anywhere and only very few photographs to guide the rebuild. Because the Skua have been immersed in salt water for nearly seventy years the main goal will be to stop or slow down the process of corrosion on the recovered parts.
Most of the aluminium rivets are gone but stainless steel bolts as well as aluminium bolts were used were extra strength were needed. These bolts have to be disconnected without damaging the parts. A lot of care has to go into this process.
Because the condition of the structure for the most part can only be used as a pattern, the process of cleaning the parts will be first to immerse the part in fresh water with some detergent (soap) added. This will over some time remove the calcium on the parts and also to some degree neutralise the salt residue. Where extra cleaning is necessary, we sandblast the parts using low pressure and fine sand. We do not have to take into the consideration the surface of the blasted parts because they are not to go into the restored airplane.
After cleaning we cover the parts wit a coating of a special Tectyl that dries to a rather dry outer surface enabling us to handle the parts without having our hands too dirty!
The colour of this Tectyl is transparent green which gives a good control of the coating.
This is not a process that will be a permanent preservation but will give us enough time for copying the parts. The structural parts from 1995 were preserved in this way. I checked them today and they are still like the day they were preserved.
Other parts like steel tubing and structure will be handled differently.
We are now (middle of May) into the process of preserving the structural details as well as components for the fuselage/tail section. This process will last (I think) to the end of this month. Next will be the preservation of the centre section which will go on for maybe two months.
Last will be the wings. They have to be done from the month of September/October because of other projects and summer holidays. (The wings as well as parts of the centre section can still be viewed this summer.)
When all the structure is preserved as well as the components, we will start a process of copying the most corroded of the parts. This is because they will deteriorate faster.
The internal structure of the fin was very much deteriorated and because of this we already have started to copy this structure.
The rebuild of the airplane will be a different story. The project will be costly and require a lot of money. A close cooperation with other museums/institutions will cut the cost (for some instances) greatly and bring the possibility of having one or several Skuas displayed closer to a reality. What is important at this date is to salvage as much as possible without thinking so much on a future rebuild.
Speaking about the Norwegian Aviation Museum, we are already well into several projects like the Norseman, Junkers Ju88, Fokker F-28 and others. Those projects we have to finish before we have economy, staff and working space for more projects. Of course a rebuild can be done elsewhere but I think this have to be sorted out in due time!