BUILDERS CORNER

 

 

Builder #2: Bruce West - email for more information

 

Location: Auckland, New Zealand

 

Start date: January 1999

 

First flight

Goal date: When the test pilot is happy

 

The Project

It all started when I was given a book to read "Birth of a Spitfire" written by an Englishman Clive Du Cros. I was absolutely inspired, I phoned Clive at his Taxi Company in Swindon and YES! he was willing to provide any plans he had for his aeroplane.

 

I arranged for my daughter who was in London on her OE at the time to bring the plans back with her when she came home for Christmas. She and the plans finally arrived and after studying them for some time to get to grips with the designer's construction thinking I started, as Clive did, with the tail feathers.

 

I also made the decision to build two MK IX TR's, (two seat trainers) one for me and one for sale, after all, from a production point of view I could cut, glue and clamp two identical pieces almost as quickly as one.

 

My aeroplanes grew quite quickly and my thirst for knowledge about Spitfires and wooden aeroplane construction was never sated, I spent quite some time on the web asking questions and looking for answers, I bought the EAA's book AIRCRAFT BUILDING TECHNIQUES WOOD, I bought lots of books on Spitfires so I could get to know every inch of what I was getting into.

 

I flew to the UK and went to airshows at Old Warden and Duxford, I saw Caroline Grace's MK IX TR and concluded that the hood arrangement is not as attractive as it could be so I have come up with a single hood design that is eminently more attractive.

 

Casting around the net one day in late 1999 a builder in the States posted a call on a site for all Du Cros Spitfire builders to contact him, I immediately emailed Russ Harmuth and quickly learned of his decision to use an Allison power plant. He already had the airframe re-engineered to cope with the upgrade, I had bought a pair of Rodec aluminium V8s for my aeroplanes but the decision to convert was an easy one, the V8s were sold and I was on the look out for an Allison. A second Allison would have to wait. Russ also said he was replicating the prototype MKIII and suggested I do the other MK III, my MK IX TR became a MK III TR, very little difference really, remove one radiator and add a retract tail wheel.

 

In the meantime people around you get to hear what you are up to. During a conversation with Garth Hogan of Pioneer Aircraft Restorations he mentioned that he had struck a deal that would see the National New Zealand Airforce Museum receive a restored Allison 1710 for static display in their foyer. I volunteered to do the restoration and, providing that Garth was happy with the result I would get a core 1710 engine for my efforts.

 

I got my Allison, and my first sponsorship, clearly the core engine was worth considerably more than the cost of my work on the static restoration. That dealt with, onward with the airframe.

 

The progress to date includes: (another page of pictures)

And more progress pictures: (another page of pictures)

And even more progress pictures: (another page of pictures)

Chassis and Rudder progress -  posted 7/08
Identification Unit Bracket and Water Trap - posted 9/08
Fitting the Spar's and Rudder outside my workshop - posted 10/08

 

 

Tail plane

Elevators, rudder and trim tab, fin, all fitted with the hardware and ready for the balsa core and final skins.

Elevator  Elevator  fin ribs  tail plane ribs

Fuselage

 

fuselage  fuselage  fuselage  workshop Feb 2000

All framing complete including the tricky cockpit coming frames in T3 aluminium, some hardware and cables to fit to the bell cranks and it is ready for the rest of the skins.

 

framing  framing  framing  firewall 

Wings

Main spars missing some of the doubler ply otherwise ready to go. Wing ribs next on the list.

Under carriage

I sourced a pair of MK V legs from the UK and wheels in Australia, they require overhaul and are in good nick considering their age.

Cockpit

WW2 instruments sourced and some overhauled. Cockpit items specific to Spitfires are either unobtainable or frightfully expensive because of the collectable value so I have re-manufactured several items to certifiable standard including anti vibration mounts and brackets for the blind flying panel, compass bracket, elevator trim unit, rudder bias unit, chassis selector and throttle quad. Two gauges on the main panel are specific, the trim up/down indicator and the chassis up/down light complete with a roller blind for night flying. I have neither in hand but something will turn up.

 

I have periods of intense production and progress is very measurable, I have periods when my career gets priority and I yearn for time in my shed, I am getting my aeroplane built ( I have sold the parts for the second aeroplane to one of our builders in the UK) and I am enjoying every moment of it.

 

on the bench, November 1999  on the bench, November 1999  more framing 

Accolades

Other Spitfire people continue to help me along the way, they include Don, Steve and Mike Subritsky who can be best described as aircraft rescuers collectors gatherers restorers unit manufactures procurers and avid Spitfire guys. They have partially restored a MK V now flying in the UK and are nearly there with their low back MK XIV. They are currently finishing off a Curtis P40 and have a Hawker Hind in their production line too. All of their work is extraordinary anal, their attention to detail is Standard setting.

Andy from Avspecs ( an aircraft restoration facility owned by Warren Denholm) who oversaw the brilliant restoration of "Marion", a MK V that last month flew off the required 10 hours before hand over. Andy invented the meaning of perfectionist, his current project is a DH Mosquito, a massive undertaking in anyone's language.

MK and Aircraft facts and interesting information details

Type 330 MK IIIc, serial number W3237 was one of only two MK III's built that were intended to be a far superior successor to the MK II. The prototype MK III, N3297,was scratch built in 1940 and featured innovations like the high performance Merlin XX engine with its two speed/stage supercharger, a Rotol CS propeller, an internally mounted bullet proof windscreen glass, extra armour plate, a retractable tail wheel, clipped wings, a larger radiator, fully covered main wheels when retracted and a universal wing designed to accommodate any of the A, B and C gun configurations. They considered a D wing that had 12 Browning machine guns but didnít build it. Air Marshall Dowding disliked the look of the clipped wings (a 7ft reduction in span) and the flight tests showed the landing run was increased significantly so Supermarine retro fitted the normal tips.

Wartime pressures saw the MK III programme scrapped in favour of the easier to produce MK V because of the unacceptable delays that would occur in setting up MK III production lines. Prototype N3297 was sent to Hucknall to become the prototype MK IX.

W3237was a converted MK V built in 1941, the airframe strengthened to handle the extra power of the Merlin XX and, after it returned from the initial flight trials it was used as an experimental test bed for such things as extended wing tips for use on PRX Spitfires and diving tests etc.

The new design TR canopy

 
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