June 18, 2015:
Following the success of phase one of the fundraising campaign, That’s All, Brother was brought into the shop today at Basler Turbo Conversions, in Oshkosh, Wis. The Douglas C-47 and its civilian counterpart DC-3 were produced in large quantities and are still used extensively in military and civilian operations today. Basler Turbo Conversions is the world’s leader in refitting these highly-reliable aircraft.
This first package of work is scheduled to be wrapped up before EAA AirVenture Oshkosh (July 20-26) where the airplane will be on public display for the entire week. The initial task list includes:
- Replacing the radome nose cone with a WWII-style clamshell nose
- Removing the gas heater, air intake scoop and exhaust stack
- Repairing cockpit window frames and overhead compound skins
- Replacing the pilot's side windshield with new old stock (NOS) two-piece glass
- Repairing fuselage stringer six corrosion
- Re-covering fabric control surfaces
June 29, 2015:
The Commemorative Air Force has a team of five people in Oshkosh this week, planning the future path for That’s All, Brother as accurately as possible. At the same time, a remarkable opportunity to purchase a very rare collection of authentic WWII-era C-47 parts has been made available to the CAF. This collection contains items that experts have described as being “unobtainable”, and would provide as much as 90% of what we need to complete an authentic interior restoration.
As sometimes happens in a project like this, opening up new areas of the plane to closer inspection revealed more corrosion than we hoped. The first order of business and focus for the coming months is to find and repair all corrosion issues, and protect against future corrosion. As the plane has been taken apart for inspection, now is the time to ensure that corrosion will not be an issue for decades to come. That process will take us many months and a substantial financial investment to get done, but it will ensure the long-term viability of this national treasure.
July 28, 2015:
More than 10,000 airplanes and 500,000 people descend on Oshkosh, Wis. each July for the world's largest airshow – AirVenture. That’s All, Brother was slated to be one of the cornerstone displays of this year’s show, and fortunately, Basler Turbo Conversions is close enough to the AirVenture venue to make this possible. The aircraft’s engines were actually fired up briefly to allow her to taxi to her display location. Amazingly the engines took little effort to start, after years of sitting idle. Thousands of people came to see That’s All, Brother and another successful fundraising event brought even more people on board with the project.
Now that the Oshkosh airshow is over, the serious work begins. The wings are being removed so that technicians can get a good look inside some of the most critical areas of the airplane.
August 20, 2015:
After the Oshkosh airshow, That’s All, Brother was taken back into the workshop at Basler for a major inspection. The wings were removed and every corner of the airplane looked at - before embarking on the restoration we want to know exactly what we are taking on. This created a rather large work list of 504 items, but the good news is that many of the items are minor and no "showstoppers" were discovered.
There is certainly a long list of items to be addressed, including some large-ticket items like rewiring and fuselage corrosion. The next step is to create a work plan and budget. We have formed an advisory committee to help with this task, drawing in experienced C-47 operators and restorers.
September 18, 2015:
CAF representatives were on site this week to discuss a more precise budget with Basler Turbo Conversions now that we all have a better idea of what the project will entail. We are dedicated to staying on budget, so will be compartmentalizing work packages to allow fundraising to continue in step with the various components of the project. This will provide control measures for containing costs and staying on budget.
The corrosion on the fuselage is likely going to be the most important item to begin addressing, so putting pencil to paper and documenting the scope of this project element will be our primary agenda item in the coming weeks.
October 27, 2015:
Our focus continues to be the long-term vision for restoring and maintaining this national treasure – That’s All, Brother. With that in mind, our technical advisory team is working very hard to balance budget considerations with the priority work that needs to be done while the aircraft is partially disassembled. When discussing a project of this size and complexity, it is vital to take measured steps and adequately consider the cost before starting.
We have authorized Basler to start work November 1 on fuselage corrosion. In order to keep the project manageable and provide a good way for us to track progress, we are capping the monthly work to 350-400 man hours. This also provides us a path to continue fund raising and manage cash flow on the project.
November 24, 2015:
Basler started work on That’s All, Brother November 1 and the work is progressing rapidly. We are very pleased with the craftsmanship. Employees are actually requesting to be assigned to the project, so it is encouraging that we are not only getting good sheet-metal technicians, but people with a passion for the mission and project.
January 15, 2016:
The restoration of That’s All, Brother is currently in what we are calling the "heavy engineering phase" and is scheduled to last until the end of 2016 or into 2017. This will address the major mechanical and structural issues, providing us with an airplane that is flyable and ready to enter the "completion phase". This will focus on creating an authentic interior and exterior, consistent with her original WWII troop carrier design.
Technicians at Basler Turbo Conversions are rooting out all of the corrosion that happened in the fuselage of the aircraft over the past 75 years. Every effort is being made to retain the original fuselage skin of the aircraft, but when safety and material integrity become an issue, new sheet metal is riveted in place. Stringers, formers, and other structural components are all ‘under the microscope’ and the majority of the outer fuselage rivets will be drilled out and replaced.
We're also actively seeking parts that will help us in the completion phase of the restoration. The goal is to represent That’s All, Brother's wartime appearance and equipment as accurately as possible. Basler Turbo Conversions, who have been accumulating C-47 parts for decades, have kindly opened the doors to their stores of parts and equipment to help in achieving this objective.
March 14, 2016:
The progress we have been making on the restoration of That’s All, Brother is on track. The early budget estimated that the structural sheet metal work for the aircraft was estimated at 3,000 man hours, however we are optimistic that it may come in lower.
Some of the Kickstarter funds have been used to purchase a fully-populated C-47 instrument panel, and a large collection of parts removed from the C-47 aircraft project Round Trip. The plane's new owners decided to move in a different direction, so this collection of rare parts matched our project goals ideally. We were very encouraged with the donation of a rare Rebecca receiver in mint condition from the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) Museum in Oshkosh.
April 10, 2016:
The structural work on That’s All, Brother continues at a very positive pace and progress on acquiring parts has been excellent. The top three items remaining on our "wish list" are:
SCR-717 Radar: This was one of the first airborne radar units of its time and hung below the fuselage of the aircraft.
Radome to house the SCR-717.
Exhaust stack flame arresters: This specialty equipment helped reduce the possibility of visual detection by ground troops for planes flying at night.
We have learned that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) used the SCR-717 set and radome after the war as a very early weather radar unit. This is probably our best avenue of inquiry. A museum in England does possess a period-correct radome and has offered it as a pattern to make a replica. As for the flame arresters, we are still in the process of trying to understand exactly which type were fitted to That’s All, Brother. Study of the available materials shows them to be of a nonstandard variety.
We were contacted by Peter Braun from the Netherlands, who organized the "Daks Over Normandy" event for the 70th anniversary of D-Day in 2014. He has already begun working on the 75th anniversary activities for 2019, which will be the last major anniversary that veterans will be able to attend. We told Peter that we'll move heaven and earth to make sure That’s All, Brother is there!
May 2, 2016:
Last month we passed 1,600 hours for corrosion and structural repair on That’s All, Brother and we are seeing light at the end of the tunnel. It is estimated that by the end of May (and around 2,000 man hours) this portion of the project will be complete.
The aircraft’s rear door frame has been completely replaced. A prior owner had reconfigured this entryway as a baggage door, so a substantial amount of effort has been put into restoring the jump door to its original D-Day configuration. The cockpit has also received a substantial amount of attention with new window casings and structural repairs.
In May/June we also intend to paint the inside of the wings and re-attach them to the fuselage. All of this work has been completed with a cash balance that has been raised throughout the project.
We are now beginning to focus on the next major step in the project – replacing the wiring in the aircraft. We intend to take the airplane to Normandy in 2019 for the 75th anniversary of the D-Day invasion and the integrity of the wiring is going to be critical. Right now, it is brittle and breaks easily when handled. The replacement of wiring, electronics, avionics and breaker box (J-box) are all priority items as we look toward a long and vital future for That’s All, Brother.
Next month will likely show the completion of the structural repairs and the prepping of the aircraft for AirVenture Oshkosh (July 24 to 31). We are planning a large presence for CAF during the convention. That’s All, Brother will be a major center piece to that presence and we will continue fund raising initiatives at Oshkosh and throughout the remainder of the year.