Art of Restoration

There are several different ‘schools of thought’ regarding how to properly restore vintage aircraft, especially when it comes to War-Birds.


One type restoration is found in those restorations driven by unlimited financial resources.
In this type restoration, the owner generally is NOT the person performing the actual restoration. Oftentimes the owner is unaware of what is even REQUIRED in order to restore the aircraft.  Therefore, it is left up to the discretion of the restorer to make all determinations on whether or not a part is airworthy in it’s current condition, or if it can be repaired to airworthy condition.


In most cases, the restorer will have liability issues related to the restoration, and then often leans toward replacing the part with a new one, rather than salvaging an old part and taking a chance on how that part will perform.


This leaves one with a very low percentage ‘original aircraft’ restoration.  That is NOT to say that these restorations are not totally authentic, airworthy and beautiful to behold!


I tip my hat to the people who have the resources to be able to perform this type restoration.


A second type restoration is found in those restorations performed by inexperienced restorers.  They usually have not had enough opportunities to make accurate determinations on whether or not a part is airworthy.


The same liability issues are present for this type restorer as well. These restorers lean toward replacing everything with new ~ in order to be assured the parts will perform as required.


Often it seems, these are the restorers who are unable to complete their projects, and we sometimes see the unfinished projects advertised for sale.


What the economy is doing has a lot to do with whether people are able to complete their projects or not.  When one chooses to replace everything with new, the budget can be depleted much faster than one anticipates.


Finally ~ the theory we subscribe to ~ is one driven by the desire to maintain the accuracy of the original artifact, and maintain that little bit of history the artifact holds.


Once again, the liability issue is the same for me as it is for the other type restorers.  However, I have been in the aircraft restoration business long enough to be able to determine whether or not a part is airworthy, and whether or not it can be restored to airworthy condition.  I also have an advantage over many other restorers because of the training I have received through the years.  I am able to perform almost all the work required to get the aircraft back in the air, by myself.


In my opinion, I would rather have a patched bullet hole in the aircraft skin, than a whole new skin.  That bullet hole is a part of the aircraft’s history, and adds character to the final product.


At this point in my restoration of AM 274, we have an aircraft that is approximately 65% original Hawker Hurricane.  In other words, it has been restored using original parts off several Hawker Hurricanes that are no longer flying for one reason or another.


There is virtually no way to restore an airworthy Hawker Hurricane to more than about 70% original due to the amount of wood and fabric on the aircraft.  To be airworthy today, requires all the wood be replaced with new.  In addition to the wood, the original fabric that would be found on a World War II aircraft would no longer be airworthy, and it would need to be replaced.


I have made every effort to utilize every part of AM 274 possible, before moving on to other ‘donor’ Hawker Hurricanes for the parts needed.  Prior to actually building a new part, I get in touch with my many contacts throughout England, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Russia in an effort to find an original replacement part.


The end result may not be an “Oshkosh” (or any other air-show exhibition) award winning aircraft; but it will be an authentic, airworthy, Hawker Hurricane restored to as original a condition as could possibly be accomplished … down to the last nut and bolt.


I am not in the habit of wasting money on my restorations, but I don’t hold back on the expense where it is necessary either.  For example; I go the extra mile by treating the fuselage tubes on the inside as well as the outside, even though that is not how they were originally built.


My thought is:


     “If I am going to the trouble and expense to restore an artifact in the first place,
I want the restoration to last longer than the original product did!”

John Norman

( December 2006)


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