We must be halfway convincing with this aeroplane mending lark because we’ve not only still got the rent coming in from the museum but a few people have also mailed to say how their granddad drove a Baddacooda (that’s how my five-year-old Emily pronounces it) in the war and how we absolutely must keep at the job and see it through in honour of all the boys and girls who flew them. We’ll take that and, besides, it’s good fun and properly challenging so we’ll not be stopping anytime soon.

With this in mind we were feeling all clever at having put our rear spar back together but we then had the front one to do and it’s a different animal altogether. For a start it’s not flat like the other one, it’s bent in two places and that’s before it’s been crashed. Then it had bits missing, we were soon to discover.

There’s two diagonal, oval-section struts that come up from where the tailwheel lives and bolt into the front spar about a third of the way out from the centre on either side using ten times more parts than necessary. It seems that everything inboard of the tops of the struts is fairly rigid but everything outboard isn’t so it just snapped off and fluttered away up the hill.

Now here’s the gotcha – for some reason the front spar wasn’t content to simply snap, oh no, it had to snap in two places very close together on each side then completely lose about four inches of itself per side. We almost didn’t spot that and had we missed it the spar would have been around eight inches short overall and very confusing.

As ever, Aerospace Rob drilled and chiseled it from the wreckage so we could make a start.

The left-hand end of the tailplane front spar with the attachment for the diagonal strut still attached. About four inches of material outboard of that attachment went missing so we had to dig amongst the various bits of other tailplanes to get the material needed to put a fix on it. One came out of a fire-dump at Lossiemouth, another from the sea – we just had to salvage what we could until we had enough stuff. First job was to mend the extrusions and for this we grafted in staggered patches. We went around this learning curve with the rear spar discovering along the way that simply welding both faces of the extrusion was inviting it to crack again. By welding around and along at the same time it held together much better.

The extrusions mended in no time and even on their own they hinted excitingly at what was to come.

Here’s one of them hung across the denuded centre section. Remember the diamond-shaped piece from the centre of the tailplane? Here it is with its clothes off and if you look carefully you can see the shiny stretches of extrusion where the repairs have been inserted. Mending the other one and repairing the flat panel that joins them together was fairly straightforward from there. We stuck a few patches into the flat panel from other bits mined out of the wreckage. It mended a treat.

Then we riveted everything back together.

Fresh, new, 5/32nd rivets and a splash of TLC and the front spar fixed up very well though jigging it so it came out the right shape was something of a challenge.

Above you see it firmly clamped to the tool at its centre so we can get at both sides of the rivets whilst the tension is held just-so by the fully adjustable linear height guide – cunningly disguised as a cardboard box.

Pretty good for a first attempt.

From there we set up one or two of the bits from the middle and the ends to make it look aeroplany as it’s good for the confidence to know that it’s all come out the right size and shape.

The bits in the middle were easy as they were hardly damaged but the ‘wingtipamabobs’ as we called them were another matter – overly complicated conglomerations of tiny tin pieces all stuck together to make a wingtip – or tailplane tip if you prefer.

Of these we had a grand total of four – one half-decent example, one that would have been mint had it not also been rotten with corrosion and two that looked like they’d been reversed over by a bin wagon.

This is one of the better ones – the bin wagon driver realised he was backing over a Baddacooda just in time.

But it cleaned up first with fine ally-oxide grit then isopropanol and Scotchbrite and finally a wet blast with suspended white alumina so that once it had fresh rivets and the shape put back from whence it came it looked perfectly spiffing.

We did another for the other end…


So now we have both ends and a middle. It looks right and the tape measure says it’s on the money so now we have the foundation of our tailplane.

By the way – that flat, vertical strip pinned to the extrusion is what joins the leading edge to the skins aft of it so we sorted those while we were about it.

Very aeroplany - see. We’ve seen it on the drawings and it’s exactly that shape.

Next we must fix all its ribs and the leading edge bits and bobs because it builds from the front towards the back but the hard work is done. Now we have something that the rest of the bits fit onto rather than working to notional points in space from a 70 year-old drawing.