When it comes to aircraft restoration projects, never answer the question ‘When will it be finished.’ You will always be wrong.
Two years ago a story about the start of our Bell 206A Jet Ranger rebuild boldly predicted it would be done in a year or so. There is no doubt much progress has been made, but the finish date is now ‘when it’s done.”
“We’ve come along way,” says Harry Nagel, the lead volunteer on the project and a veteran of 408 Squadron, where he worked on similar helicopters as a technician at Canadian Forces Base Edmonton.
The helicopter’s tail boom has been completed, a new port upper door frame has been installed along with repairs to the interior, instrument panel and other parts. The landing gear has also been rebuilt, which required its removal and re-installation. But Nagel says every single repair is a major project.
“My former trade was aviation technician so you never got involved in doing sheet metal work and other repairs. Sheet metal work is something I have picked up here. It’s easy to learn but it is very time consuming doing it.”
“The elevators, one was pretty well in good shape, and just needed a bit of scuffing for paint. The other one needed repair of the internal retainers. The skin had to come off, repairs done and re-skinned. It all takes time.”
Nagel says the helicopter, which is being restored to RCMP colours as part of a display that will pay tribute to the 70 years the Mounties had aircraft based in Edmonton, was in much worse shape than anyone thought.
“This aircraft having crashed there was a lot of damage you did not see externally. But once you pulled the seats out and you saw damage there.”
“I see a lot of progress,” says John Liddle, AAM Librarian and Project Manager for the Bell restoration. It’s been his job to find the parts for the rebuilding process.
“Parts are still the big bugbear. But we are doing very very well.
“Parts have been donated by Avialta, Delta Helicopters, Chinook Aviation and the RCMP Veterans Association. They have all been very supportive,” says Liddle.
He’s also full of praise for Harry Nagel’s work on the project.
“Harry is doing an excellent job. Good attention to detail. He is methodical and thorough.”
Also working on the Bell restoration are volunteers Gunter Hollik, painter Bill Moore, and Dane Patton, a law student in his final year at the University of Alberta.
“I’ve always been interested in aviation since I was a kid,” says Patton. I was in Air Cadets. I got my glider licence and power (private pilot) licence. Now going in to being a lawyer starting off a construction lawyer but want to eventually get involved in aviation law.”
Nagel and Liddle are particularly pleased to have a student working on the Bell. There are also several students involved with the P-39 restoration.
“The knowledge is getting passed on and with the young people.” Nagel says. “If they hang around maybe they will be the instructors teaching other young people. New blood is always something good.”
The following photo gallery shows some of the work that our restoration crew has done to repair components of the aircraft. Compare the before (first) picture with the after (second) photo. You can see just how much painstaking labour is involved in restoring our collection to display condition.