Proctor Rebuild Update

Member for

12 years 6 months

Posts: 305

An update for forum readers with our Proctor Mk 3 rebuild. Its been a busy year as ever and has seen all the woodwork rebuilt in its entirety. Ninety percent of the original spruce has been retained replacing only frames and longerons that were to badly broken. Every joint without exception has been broken apart, the spruce inspected, then re glued and screwed. Internal ply gussets, fuselage and tailplane covering are all new material. Todays plywood (and glue) quality has changed almost beyond recognition to that used over seventy years ago. Focus in the past few months has been on the job of fitting out which is a long, laborious and time consuming process. No longer required to carry her large and heavy wartime radio, we will use discreet up to date avionics, the intention to keep the panel as original looking as possible.

Early on in the project we were fortunate to obtain around 75-80% of the original Proctor 1-3 drawings on CD. These had been located in the antipodes and scanned and saved for all time. These have proved invaluable to John in the workshop
without them we would be quite a way behind where we are now. Original 1943 build quality left quite a bit to be desired. I doubt for a second the cabinet makers turned aircraft builders at Hills in Manchester reckoned on 791 being still around over 70 years on! We know our Proctor was pranged on delivery to Sweden in 1952 suffering the ignominy of a well executed ground loop at Eslov. This necessitated quite major repairs and it was then we reckon she gained an inch and a half in length. Incredibly when checking drawing dimensions against what we had purchased this discrepancy was found and I hasten to add corrected.

Covering started a while ago (Diatex) with great results. We contemplated using grade A Irish linen but have opted for a modern fabric which has far enhanced properties over the original. Yes we know its not original specification but we want to build a Proctor that will last and not require covering again in the future. Once painted you will be hard pressed to see any difference. Wings and fuselage are now the only parts left to be covered as we are waiting on advice from those in the know regarding a pair of our fuel tanks which ideally need to be inserted inside the wing before covering. If the tanks are considered at all suspect, we have a company ready to manufacture replacements. We discussed adding long range tanks and have decided to retain the original forty gallon set up (twenty per wing). This will be more then sufficient for our operating needs as two or three hours aloft in any light aircraft is more then long enough. All covered parts will receive two to three coats of silver paint to protect against UV degradation before top coating. Cabin and door transparencies look superb, each door taking over a week of fettling to ensure a perfect fit to the fuselage. A nice touch will be the inclusion of three unused and boxed wartime recognition lights to the underside behind the centre section. These were purchased at a Shoreham aero jumble some years ago, brand new wrapped in straw and in their original MOD card board box.

Ebay has proved helpful and a number of good finds have been made and purchased. There is something very satisfying greeting the postman who is delivering a box, then carefully unwrapping the prize to find a brand new 70+ year old unused rudder navigation light. MOD boxed imperial brass screws a plenty have been sourced the same way saving a fortune.

The flight panel is complete in the sense of all original instrumentation and in place temporarily while we run connecting pipes and hoses. The padded crash roll has been re made in finest black leather, this is attached to the top of the curved turtle deck ply panel above the flight panel by the simple method of a long shoe type lace. The ply is drilled, the lace passes through brass eyelet's in the leather. All will need to come out again when we install the fire wall and throttle connecting rods etc. A generous benefactor was advertising a P11 Compass for sale, and when we inquired about purchasing he kindly donated it to us on the basis it would be used in the aircraft. The main flight panel is yet to be painted crackle black as per original. All new panel placards are being produced identical to the originals, white text on black back ground. Undercarriage spats were collected some three years after the airframe. I happened to be holidaying in Sweden some years ago and called into the farm from where I had retrieved the airframe. The spats had been dropped off there by the new owners of the farmstead where the Proctor had remained hidden for over 52 years. They were having a major clear out, the spats were found up in the roof beams of the barn and they knew the people at Sorunda had interest in old aeroplanes. Early Proctors 1-3 all had aluminium spats these were changed later to a compressed card as the war progressed and aluminium and metals became scarcer. I delivered the spats to a friend in the Thames valley who builds new and replica vintage car bodies. Rob has every metal working tool known to mankind and has worked his magic transforming them, and now looking for all intents as new.

Undercarriage legs have been refurbished for some time and sport brand new rubber courtesy of the D H Moth club. Proctor main wheels are the same size as the Hornet Moth so spares going forward will be available. Much head scratching took place when setting up the differential brakes which now work nicely. Final and critical adjustment will be made when we carry out taxi trials.

The Queen 2 engine has been away with the re builders for a while progress is being made with the actual engine build up due to start in the spring. We have two zero timed D.H. metal propellers carefully stored. Engine bearers have been checked, painted and trial fitted as have engine cowls. All cowls apart from the side panels are in good order and will be re used. We may need to remake the side cowls both are large flat panels which have suffered damage, it will be cheaper to re make then attempt to panel beat out every last ding and dent. Wing root fairings were also pretty beaten up, legacy no doubt of many an RAF, ATA boot kicking them on entry and exit. Both have responded superbly to days of careful panel beating and shaping.

In regards to final colours it won't be long before we need to make a decision. I personally would like to see her finished in her first and original 1949 civil scheme. Colours were a rich cream fuselage with deep burgundy cheat line and registration. Wings were silver with full span registration top and undersides in burgundy outlined in white. Spats were also deep burgundy with the cabin trimmed to match in a burgundy leather with pleated side panels and burgundy carpets. She would look stunning, a classic British light aircraft scheme.

The alternative is to finish her as the Duxford example pictured and as she would have appeared in wartime ATA service at Thame between 1943 - 45. A final option is overall dark blue as she flew in 1946-48 when operated as a squadron hack from RAF West Raynham and then Tangmere with the central fighter establishment. I was able to meet three of her former wartime ATA pilots in June of this year at project propeller. All have LZ791 in their log books, photo shows from left to right John Cochrane, Joy Lofthouse and Martin Nicollson. Martin made his first ever Proctor flight in 791 and went on to log over eight hours in her. In ATA service interior fit was sparce so this is one area we intend to improve on regardless of final colours chosen. Light weight modern sound deadening material will be liberally applied in the cabin behind the leather side wall panels making the interior (we hope) a nice place to while away the hours.

I have included a number of as recovered and current pictures giving a better idea of the transformation that's been made. Although 95% complete on purchase, the aircraft was a total wreck, compare the last two photos. By spring 2015 covering will be completed and ready for top coating. We then move the aircraft from the workshop into a hangar for final assembly, bolting of wings to centre section, fitting the tailplane and rigging her. The overhauled engine will be delivered by the re builders, hung, plumbed in and ground run.

As for her second maiden flight we honestly can't give a date nor have we made a finite decision on who will test fly her. By the end of 2015 she will be getting close to flying, but as the old saying goes when the weight of the papers equals that of the aircraft we will be ready! Once LZ791 aka G-AKEX is airworthy the plan is to progress with Mk 3 G-ANPP which is in much better condition then 791 was when purchased, so in theory should be a quicker project.

One thing is for certain the Proctor will lead a pampered new life compared to her first. Always hangared, she will be flown only on days when conditions are just right. Back in the war and quite likely post war she sat out in all weathers with maybe a tarpaulin covering the cockpit if she was lucky. Any wonder so many of her sisters and other wooden light aircraft just fell to bits! Much time, money and effort has been expended as those who have already done what we are doing will testify. We are now looking forward to getting her aloft and out and about for people to enjoy.

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Profile picture for user Planemike

Member for

12 years 1 month

Posts: 1,813


Looking good, (well, actually VERY VERY good)...........!!!!

HAPPY NEW YEAR to both you and John.....


Member for

7 years 3 months

Posts: 407

Absolutely fascinating read. I'll bet you look forward to going to work. Well done.

Profile picture for user Beermat

Member for

10 years 4 months

Posts: 3,441

Wonderful project superbly described. Thank you, and Happy New Year.

Member for

12 years 6 months

Posts: 305

Absolutely fascinating read. I'll bet you look forward to going to work. Well done.

Thanks Sykskooter. Rather remiss of me to not mention our workshop maestro John Tregilgas.

Its John who really is the leading light in this story, who has completed 90% of what you see and have read about.

I am a Proctor fanatic having spent my formative years being flown around the UK, Europe and north Africa in my late fathers Mk V. It left an imprint in my mind so great that I always said to myself
if finances allowed in later life I would pilot a Proctor for real instead of being just a wide eyed four year old sitting in the back pretending!

When the great day does arrive it will be over fifty years since I last flew in a Proctor. A long long time, re acquaintance could not come soon enough.

Member for

7 years 10 months

Posts: 641

What a wonderful job you are doing with this Proctor, and it really would look stunning in that cream and burgundy scheme.

My very best wishes for 2015 to you all.

Member for

11 years 7 months

Posts: 102

Fabulous - what a wonderful project.

Member for

14 years 3 months

Posts: 2,810

Thanks for sharing the story of the rebuild. I would favour the civil scheme because duplicating a Mil scheme would hide the origin and not be as pleasing to the eye.

Member for

10 years 6 months

Posts: 66

Thanks for the update TC, I look forward to visiting you and John when the weather turns a bit warmer.