Last month we looked into the fabrication and assembly of the horizontal and vertical stabilizers. This month the restoration technicians moved on to skinning the tail cone where those stabilizers will eventually mount.
We continue to seek information on 5th Air Force Thunderbolts to try and identify the original squadron in which this one served. The current leading candidate is the 35th Fighter Group, 40th Squadron. I am waiting to get some earlier wreck images from an Australian friend who once had salvage rights to the wreck and took some images that may show some faint markings.
Sections of the fuselage were separated again to examine them carefully as patterns, while the new parts and assemblies are created. Landing gear components were disassembled, which was a real challenge after 75 years in a wet, tropical climate. They were closely checked for condition and serviceability. Any of those landing gear parts that can be restored to service will save a great deal in fabrication costs, so it was time well spent.
Reforging new landing gear parts unique to P-47s would be extremely costly so the initial inspection of the original parts acquired for the restoration was done carefully. Many more inspections and testing procedures will follow before we can determine whether or not the parts can be reused in the restored airframe.
The process of making and fitting skins on a P-47 comes with the challenge of compound curves on nearly every skin piece. A template is made of clear plastic, trimmed and fitted until it lays smoothly on its intended location. Then the plastic template is used to mark a piece of Alclad or PureClad skin for cutting. Holes are drilled, deburred, and the skin is clecoed on to trial fit. Once the guys are happy with the fit, the skin section gets a coat of zinc chromate on what will be the interior surface. Only then can the skin be permanently riveted on.