The BBMF Senior Engineering Officer, Squadron Leader Dave Phillips, has provided an overview of the plan for the scheduled maintenance of the BBMF aircraft this winter, which has already begun.
Lancaster PA474 requires an ‘Annual’ servicing and two of its Rolls-Royce Merlin engines will be changed. The tail wheel support structure will also be removed and sent to ARCo at Duxford for repair. Some extraordinary additional work will also be carried out on the big bomber this winter, with the replacement of its tail planes with brand-new, specially-manufactured tail planes. The Lancaster’s fins and existing tail planes (the latter having reached the end of their life) will be removed from the aircraft, with that work commencing on 9th October, and they will be sent to Duxford. There the internal components from the old tail planes will be re-fitted to the new-build structures. Anyone who visits the BBMF hangar this winter will see a tailless Lancaster! The completed new tail planes will be fitted to the aircraft next year. This is the first time that a set of Lancaster tail planes has been produced for almost 80 years.
Spitfire IIa P7350 requires a ‘Minor Star’ servicing this winter (the deepest level of maintenance conducted by the BBMF on the fighters); the Spitfire will also get a replacement oil tank, which on the IIa Spitfire is integral with the lower engine cowling. In addition, a new engine cowling mounting bracket for P7350 is to be made in the RAF Coningsby Station Workshops and fitted to the aircraft this winter.
Spitfire Mk Vb AB910 will be flown to Biggin Hill during the first week of October for its scheduled and delayed ‘Major’ maintenance programme, which is expected to take until at least July 2024.
Spitfire Mk IX MK356 requires a ‘Minor’ servicing, which tends to be a misnomer as the amount of work involved is not minor. The aircraft is expected to be available to fly in March 2024.
Spitfire Mk XVI TE311 is still undergoing its extended ‘Major’ servicing at Biggin Hill and is not now expected back at Coningsby until the end of this year. However, it will be available for the start of the 2024 display season.
Spitfire PR Mk XIX PM631, now painted into its new colour scheme, is being rebuilt from its ‘Major’ servicing, which has been carried out by BBMF technicians in the Flight’s hangar at Coningsby. As reported to Club members in the September 2023 newsletter, PM631 will be flown to Biggin Hill for a repair to its ‘Frame 5’, which will be completed under contract by the Spitfire Company (Biggin Hill) Ltd. PM631 is expected to be available to fly to Biggin Hill in about February 2024, but is then unlikely to be available to take part in next year’s display season.
Spitfire PR Mk XIX PS915. The complicated repair to PS915’s ‘Frame 5’ is now complete and the bulkhead is with Airframe Assemblies for cadmium plating and painting. On its return to Coningsby, it will be fitted to the aircraft for the final time. PS915 will then be rebuilt by the BBMF engineers who will also carry out a ‘Penalty Minor’ maintenance programme on the Spitfire.
Hurricane Mk II LF363. The ‘Minor’ maintenance programme required on Hurricane LF363 began early, in September. The Hurricane requires a new replacement propeller, its current prop being lifex, and it will also get a new replacement radiator. In addition, its Rolls-Royce Merlin engine will be replaced. LF363 should be available to fly in April 2024.
Hurricane Mk IIC PZ865 requires a ‘Primary Star’ servicing, the lowest level of maintenance programme, and it should be available to fly again in March 2024.
C-47 Dakota ZA947. The BBMF Dakota continues on its ‘Major’ maintenance programme with ARCo at Duxford, which now includes a repair to an area of cracking in a critical location on the inner to outer wing joints. The ‘Dak’ is not expected back at Coningsby until at least February 2024.