Now owned by MAPS Air Museum on the west side of Akron-Canton Airport in Green, Ohio, F-86L s/n 53-658 is just starting on the road to static display standard.
There's just no stopping those folks at MAPS: see below for further significant milestones. This really will be one fine-looking airplane when it's finished. In fact I have to say it looks pretty fine already!
The two major items to report this month are that the rocket tray has been completed by Dan Willamen and has been installed too. This really will make '658 look the part and it's an item that's missing from many restored F-86D/Ls. Since the rocket pod was often in the 'down' position on the ground, it's also a realistic way to pose the aircraft. Any chance of a small production run to help out other museums fellas?
The second area that's received welcome attention is the speed brake areas. These have been stripped and repainted and look so much better for it. MAPS' intention is to display the aircraft with flaps, slats doors and speed brakes open, so this was a vital part of achieving that. It will also make '658 a lot more interesting to look at.
Above left: Polishing and painting of the RH side continues and (right) - the completed rocket pod installed on '658. Below left: The LH speed brake area before restoration and (right) after. (Kent Kleinknecht).
This update will serve to cover the multiple achievements of MAPS regarding 53-658 over the last few months. Progress has been tremendous and any indications otherwise are purely because of my inability to update the website (apologies Kent!).
The team has been busy with events in the hangar, so restoration has come to a standstill. However small sheet metal projects have been moving forward:
1) Access panels for the underside of the wing have been made as well as the beginnings of the rocket tray.
2) Main gear doors have been repaired, painted and polished.
3) Nose gear actuator reattached along with access panels
4) Work to lower the starboard flap has begun. Hopes are to display the plane with both flaps down in typical pre-flight mode.
A major piece of news is that Harry Rose (former F-86D crew chief and member of the 496th FIS and new MAPS member) has gotn the museum a complete cockpit section of a Sabredog. This will make a fantastic display for the museum and is pretty much 100% complete in terms of instruments. The cockpit is down in Texas and will need funds to recover it.
Restoration-wise these items were tackled during the month:
1) Main gear doors removed for repair. It appears that the main gear struts lost pressure and the doors dug into the earth.
2) Port side flap installed and polished.
3) New Oleo clamp on nose strut, Canopy and new wind screen installed.
Work will continue on the starboard side, polishing during nice weather and then switching to sheet metal as the weather turns cold again.
Above: Main gear doors as-removed. They'll be restored with new skins. Below left: The right side of the aircraft will be next to receive attention and (below right): the new flap skin on the LH side gleaming after a polish. (Kent Kleinknecht).
With Spring arriving and much warmer temperatures, the team was able to ramp-up again on the project. Most of the major markings were done on the port side, and will be progressing onto the small stencils over the summer. A number of other items were also done, including:
1) Front wind screen, plexi has been rough fitted. new frame is being fabricated for the front glass.
2) Wing patch, port side. The large patch was being riveted today. Access door will come this week.
3) Starboard Flap. Frank has got most of the rivets in , will need trailing edge made to finish the project.
4) Port Flap. New top skin has been installed. Bottom patch skin was dimpled and will be riveted next week.
5) Main gear doors where removed, repairs will take place in the coming months.
6) New oleo clamp for front nose gear. Will be fabbed and installed in coming weeks.
7) Several small repairs on both wings have been made to repair punctures.
Below: The stencils for the main markings being applied. The bright yellow of the 496th FIS nose flash has already been applied. (Kent Kleinknecht).
Above: This area of damaged skin near to the LH wing root (it's above the main landing gear trunnion) had borne a lot of damage. The MAPS team decided to repair by replacement. Below: The skin removed at left and (right) the new skin awaiting rivetting. (Kent Kleinknecht).
Below: The stencils for the main markings being applied. The bright yellow of the 496th FIS nose flash has already been applied. (Kent Kleinknecht).
The project continues to move forward. Work moved under plastic in order to try and keep the dust off the rest of the aircraft in the hanger. The goal for the is to get one side of the plane looking sharp for the summer events season. Kevin McDonald's skill in painting and detail work are really showing as the team have reached a point where the 496th FIS colours could start to be put on the plane. Thanks to Dave, Jerry and Frank for their continued efforts in fixing the flaps: hopefully those projects will be done in the coming month.
Above: Polishing work in progress on the forward fuselage. The 496th FIS scallop has also been roughly masked on the nose to indicate what needs polishing!
Kevin and Kent have been working diligently on the skin, enabling the left side to be almost ready for graphics. The right wing flap is still being worked on as well as progress on the repair patch on the left flap.
Since the last update a number of key milestones have been achieved, including:
1. New tires and inner tubes installed.
2. Fuselage wet-sanded prior to polishing.
3. First coat of rubbing compound applied to fuselage.
4. Final polishing of fuselage started, prior to painting.
5. Detail sheet metal work - mainly filling pop rivet holes with flush rivets.
6. Reattachment of any missing or loose fasteners.
7. Main nose wheel door reskinned.
8. Work finished on fwd nose gear door.
9. New skin rivetted on port-side flap
10. Start of paint removal from starboard wing.
11. Fuselage/flap fairings manufactured.
During the Christmas holiday, Kent Kleinknecht was able to get the entire surface of both wings cleaned of paint. Main focus is now on the remaining areas of sheet metal repairs and a start has been made on laying out the paint scheme on the fuselage. Kent's son was able to lend a hand and cleaned both landing gear struts and doors.
Above: This close-up view shows the replacement nut plates inside the wingtip (which in turn will hold the wingtip fairing attachment screws) and the work in progress on replacing wingtip extension trailing edges. Resting on top of the wing is the original damaged section (at right) and a further section which had been pop-rivetted over the damage at some point in the past at left. Below: Dave and Jerry working on the new port-side flap skin. Fortunately the right-hand flap will not need a complete re-skin. (Kent Kleinknecht).
During January and despite a cold hangar, the restoration crew pressed on. New member Kevin McDonald (polishing specialist) has committed to help MAPS get the best possible shine on the plane. Kent Kleinknecht spent the month tackling small sheet metal jobs, including:
1. Re-making the trailing edges of both wing extensions (added when the plane was upgraded to an "L" from a "D").
2) Repaired/replaced more than 100 nutplates on the wing tips.
3) Began cleaning up the trailing edges of all the wings. Most of these are still in place but they are corroded and with rough edges.
MAPS is pleased to announce that the Miller Foundation has awarded the musuem a further $1,000 to help with the restoration. The team will use this valuable donation to track down missing parts or use it to help in the cost of fabricating replacements.
Above: Before. Below: Work in progress at left and (right) the finished item. (Kent Kleinknecht).
Most of the MAPS F-86L restoration team are present in the photo above (L-R): Kent Kleinknecht, Frank Wrenick, Paul Gates, Ken Koehn, Carl Koehn, Andy Bear, Ray Scherry. Not pictured here are Dave Sanders and Jim Mosley.
Above left photo gives a good idea of the surface corrosion present in 53-658's intake. At right is Ken's wife hard at work (Ken Koehn).
The Intake Team - Ken's son Michael and wife Tanya suitably framed by the interior and rear intake section of 53-658. (Ken Koehn).
Above: progress on the radome showing the various filled areas at left and (right) the first light coat of primer. (Ken Koehn)
Externally, sanding continues on the fuselage, (this laborious work done by Ken and Carl Koehn) starting with 60-grade and progressing through 100, 220, 400 and 600. Once the skin is wet sanded with 800-grade, you can see your face in the reflection from the bare metal. However to give a realistic in-service finish the team are going to try stopping at 1000 grit and see if the polishing tools will take them the rest of the way.
Above: 'Before' and 'After' shots showing further progress on the repair of numerous holes in the airframe. (Ken Koehn)
On 28th May Ken Koehn made a major breakthrough: "I purchased some rotary palm sanders, and have been using dry 60 grit sandpaper to grind out many imperfections and grafitti. After getting the surface uniform, I then use the same tool with 220 grit to smooth things out. Amazing how well this works. I had been afraid 60 grit would be way too rough for a natural metal finish, but the rotary sander smoothes things out very well, then the 220 really smoothes it out. Looks like we will stop with a wet sanding of 800 in preparation for polishing. This is huge, as the amount of time savings is incredible, plus using 60 grit I can eliminate many of the imperfections and deep engravings. Cool!"
To prepare the anti-dazzle area on the upper nose section, the windscreen frame has been refitted. This will help to identify any problems that need repaired before painting. The aircraft markings have also been temporarily placed on the fuselage to show areas that will not need to be polished so highly.
Dave Sanders has begun the process of fabricating a new wing slat section (left wing) and this is moving along nicely. Access panels are still being made and the team hoped to have them all be done by the end of May. Finally the team welcomed Jim Mosley to the active crew. Jim has been a longtime member at MAPS with loads of experience and will be working on 53-658's wingtips.
At left above is the new inner slat skin awaiting fitting (shown just to the rear of the slat structure) and at right a further view of the dry-fit windshield frame with 'hangar pilot Michael Koehn (Ken Koehn).
The MAPS team are now working on some new leading edge slats, and additional sheet metal work is being done. Progress is also being made on the sanding and blending of fuselage panels. The many dents in the skin of the aircraft are gradually disappearing and though slow, this essential work is gradually transforming the appearance of 53-658. Ken Koehn has now taken over the final finish of the radome, and considering how beat up it was to begin with, Ken thinks he will be able to get a good rendition out of it.
Another key piece of the jigsaw - the front nose gear door (previously donated by Walter Soplata) has now been repaired and awaits installation.
Above left - 'before' shot of the nose landing gear door and (right) a shot of the repair done to the lower part (Ken Koehn).
Progress on the nose gear: at left the repainted nose leg and at right the new (red-painted) nose lock installed. The latter prevents the undercarriage from folding (Ken Koehn)
At left above is the internal surface of the starboard panel (shown to display the method of construction). At right the port-side panel re-skinned and installed on the aircraft (Ken Koehn).
During February the museum received a major boost for the project: a $1,000 donation for the restoration of '658 from MAPS member and F-100 crew chief Ken Ramsay. This generous gift has allowed the team to purchase all the fasteners required to finish the restoration. It will also enable new inner tubes to be purchased so that refurbishment of the nose wheel and mainwheels can begin. The donation was a major validation of the considerable work that the MAPS team has done on 53-658, especially regarding the quality of the work done.
One example of the excellent work being accomplished is in the tail section of the aircraft. Previously the team had welded up the torque tube for the all-flying tail (it had been cut at some point in the past), thereby making this item whole again. Once this had been completed, the time-consuming task of renovating and replacing panels in this area could begin, and the recent results can be seen below.
Above - Work continues on the tail section - Jan 09 at left, Feb 09 at right (Ken Koehn).
One major news item is that MAPS have finally located an ejection seat for the aircraft. Negotiations are ongoing. One small milestone was reached in January so that all the major sheet metalwork on the fuselage forward of the wing root is now done. The group has also acquired a damaged front nosegear door and will also be receiving the larger nose gear door in the near future. These doors, plus the aircraft's drop tanks have come from Walter Soplata, and his help in these areas is greatly appreciated.
The nose gear strut is almost ready for paint and a new access panel is being fitted in this area.
Nose gear shining and back to clean metal: I had to tone down the image because of the shine! Note the new panel at left. (Ken Koehn).
Hard to believe this is the same Sabre that began restoration not so long ago: mirror-like finish achieved by Ken Koehn's father. (Ken Koehn).
Since the last instalment a considerable amount of work has been done on 53-658, centering mainly on the repair of the numerous areas of skin damage. It would have been tempting to bondo these areas and paint the aircraft silver. But when finished, 53-658 will be one of a relatively few Sabres restored in the historically-accurate natural metal finish.
By the end of November 2008, paint stripping of the fuselage was just about complete and polishing of the wing leading-edge slats was continuing. In a few places the slats were too badly damaged for just a quick polish, and these areas are being replaced with new metal.
Above left - One of the 'good' slat sections being polished and (right) - Left-hand inboard slat skin section removed, ready for new skinning (Ken Koehn).
Above MAPS volunteer hard at work on the nose gear.(Ken Koehn).
Above - A series of 'before' - 'during' and 'after' shots of just one repair area (Ken Koehn).
Above - Top: 'before' and 'after' shots of one of the patches being removed and (right) the hole it covered. Bottom: another area that was patched in the distant past - the single-point refuel receptacle. (Ken Koehn).
The aircraft's radome - a prominent part of the aircraft - had been badly damaged and repaired in the past. As a result it has already received a great deal of attention to get it looking straight again. Now back to its correct shape, it has been refitted to the aircraft and a preliminary coat of paint applied.
Above - 53-658 with its nose radome back in place after repairs (Ken Koehn).
Earlier this year I was contacted by Kenneth Koehn, a key member of the MAPS F-86L restoration team. To quote Ken,:
"Our intent is to bring this aircraft back to its natural metal shine and yellow/black markings of an F-86D of the 496th FIS out of Hahn AFB, Germany. We are doing this to honor one of our museum and restoration team members, Mac McFarland who worked on the F-86D at Hahn, and also Lt. Lang, who was killed returning from an interceptor mission in Germany while flying with this unit."
Above - How 53-658 should look once restoration is finished - representing
F-86D s/n 52-4123 of 496th FIS.
Above (left) - the 'correct for F-86D' flush NACA side intake featured on 53-658 and (right) - the 'sugar scoop' version seen on most F-86Ls
Since its recovery from Florida in 2007, the MAPS team has reassembled the aircraft and managed to locate a number of missing items. The windshield frame has been removed for restoration and with many of the access panels removed it is possible to see that much of the internal equipment and wiring is intact. Sadly the cockpit has been comprehensively stripped and attention will be focussed on restoring this important area. The museum is committed to restoring this aircraft in natural metal finish (essential for an accurate colour scheme), and this will cause the team extra headaches as the external structure has suffered over the years from poor handling.
Another item in need of attention is the aircraft's nose radome, which has been damaged in the past and badly repaired.
I will end this instalment with an overall shot of 53-658 as she is today (June 2008):
Above - 53-658 in the restoration hangar at Akron-Canton.
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