ZK-AMO Restoration Newsletters

Solent April 2013

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Sunderland Feb-March 2013

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Solent March 2013

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Solent December 2012

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Solent November 2012

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October 2012 

Double Click October 2012 above to open  Newsletter No4.

Newsletter No3

Phase 1

The objective of Phase 1 of the Solent conservation project is to complete the refitting of the lower fuselage skins that have previously been removed and to inspect the structure in the areas of the beaching gear attachments. Once this has been completed the aircraft will be in a condition where it could be moved if necessary. All future skin replacements and structural repairs will be in small enough amounts to allow movement of the aircraft without there being any risk of the fuselage structure being racked out of alignment.

ZK-AMO ready for conservation work to begin again after five years of sitting outside.

July 2012.
During July, preparation for restarting work on the Solent was carried out. A three metre long by three metre deep plywood shelter was built so that work could be done on a section of the hull while being protected from the worst of the weather. The shelter can be moved to various locations on either side of the fuselage.

Work shelter in place on starboard side.

Also during July, the various pieces of skin, intercostals and frames which had been previously manufactured by Dave Ellis and Barry Kraack back in 2009/2010 were sorted and stored in suitable racks and shelves.
New tooling was purchased for the project also. These included two new air powered drills, two new rivet gun sets, a new Cherry-Max blind rivet gun, a heavy duty “pop” riveter, a countersinking drill bit, two LED lead lights, 2.5kg of various size solid rivets and 10 tubes of Duralac anti-corrosive compound.
As MOTAT desired this conservation project to progress in a relatively short time frame, it was considered appropriate to employ contract staff to work on the aircraft for up to three days per week. The skills required were for people with aircraft maintenance engineering and sheet metal repair backgrounds. Initially four people were contracted on a trial basis for 200 hours each to complete Phase 1. These people consisted of two current MOTAT Aviation Section volunteers, Frank Hannay and Rex Stanners and two engineers with known aircraft restoration skills, Don Subritzky and his son Steve.
Rex is the project coordinator under the guidance of MOTAT Conservator Gerry Barton.

August 2012.
Contract work began on Monday, August 6.
Rex, Frank and Don assessed what had been previously removed, remade, and refitted by Dave and Barry in 2010. The work previously done by them concentrated on replacing skins along the planing hull below the chine line. Forward of the hull step, most of the panels

below the chine will require replacing due to corrosion. Aft of the step the corrosion is predominantly from the keel up to about two skin panels above it. The keel and chine caps are also quite badly corroded for the length of the aircraft and will be replaced.
Fortunately, Dave and Barry had clearly identified all the pieces that they had made and also left a drawing, copied from the Solent maintenance manual, identifying the various skins and frames they had worked on. On both sides of the fuselage the skin panels had been removed from the lower side of the chine to the keel and between fuselage frames 14D and 20B (the step). They had made more progress on the starboard side than the port, so the starboard side was where work began. The original skins are a mixture of 16G and 18G aluminium alloy. All new skins will be fabricated from 2024-T3-040 Alclad aircraft grade aluminium sheet. Generally 5/32” solid rivets are to be used where access is available, otherwise a mixture of commercial “pop” rivets and “Cherry Max” blind rivets will be used for inaccessible areas. The solid rivets being used are “American” 100deg countersink or raised head “cold drive” rivets.
Week 1, August 6, 7 and 9.
Rex: Trial fit the step reinforcing stringer and drilled it off to match the holes already drilled in the previously manufactured skin panels R2, R4, R6, R7 and R9.
Don: Trial fit the skins forward of the step and on Tuesday and Thursday, with the aid of Steve, begin riveting the lower panels R8, R11, R13 and R14 in place.
Frank: Began working on the port side and found a number of corroded frames which will require replacing. He began removing some of these and also began the manufacture of wooden moulding blocks for fabricating new frames.

Week 2, August 13, 14 and 16.

Frank removing corroded frames from port side.
Rex: Continue to fit the step reinforcing stringers. By Tuesday the port and starboard stringers are both in place and ready for Don and Steve to carry on attaching the skins. On Thursday, disassemble all the lower deck interior seats and remove them from the aircraft. They have been taken to off-site storage and will be refurbished at a later date. This is under the control of Gerry Barton.
Don and Steve: Continue installing the starboard side lower skin panels.

New skins being fitted to starboard side planing hull.
Frank: Remove numerous intercostals to gain access to five badly corroded frames on the left side of the hull. These were frame numbers 17A, 18, 18A, 20 and 20B.

Corroded frames – removed.

Week 3, August 20, 21 and 23.
Frank: Remove the last of the corroded frames on Monday. Then proceed to assess and clean the corroded intercostals. Some just required a clean and light sand blast before being made ready for refitting. Others were more seriously corroded and require remaking. He spent the rest of this week repairing and making intercostals.

Rex: Make wooden formers which will be used to fabricate replacement frames. A total of five new frames are required. By Thursday, all five frames had been fabricated and painted.

Replacement frames and intercostals  and skins, ready to install.
Don and Steve: Soldiered on with the lower starboard skins. Some previous installations of intercostals and frames have caused concern due to the very amateur riveting – culprits unknown, but it is to be noted that this was not done by Dave Ellis or Barry Kraack. Don and Steve are removing any poorly installed rivets and refitting them as required. About 75% of the right side panels are installed at week’s end.

Above and below: Examples of shoddy riveting from unknown previous repairs. All of this type of workmanship is replaced as and when it is found.

Week 4: August 27, 28 and 30.
Frank: Removed corrosion from port side frames, treated and primed the bare metal areas. Also continued to repair or remake corroded intercostals.
Don and Steve. Continued with the starboard side skin installations. Progress is a little slower than previous weeks due to the awkward access now being encountered.
Rex: On holiday for this week.

September 2012:
Week 5: September 3, 4 and 6.
Rex: Due to heavy rain on Monday, work outside was not possible, so gained access to the interior side of the beaching gear fittings. Initial inspections would indicate that there is no corrosion on the fittings themselves and very little on the surrounding structures. Tuesday and Wednesday was back outside on the port side frames and intercostals again.
Frank: Continued with the making or repair of port side intercostals. These are now treated and primed and ready for installation by Don and Steve when they fit the skins to the port side.
Don and Steve: No work on Monday due to heavy rain. Continued with the starboard skins on Tuesday and Thursday. Reached a point where the shelter needs to be removed to gain access to the last of the fasteners. Frank will have the shelter moved to the port side during the weekend by volunteers, weather permitting.

Condition Report – Beaching gear interior fittings:
Access to the four lower fittings was straight forward via access panels at floor level of the lower deck, mid fuselage area. The two upper deck fittings were more difficult to view and could only be fully seen via a boroscope probe with camera attached.
The fittings are all in excellent condition and had been protected with a wax-like grease. Other than re-protection, no further maintenance or re-work is anticipated.

Typical condition of internal lower beaching fittings and surrounding structure.
Port forward fitting above and starboard forward fitting below.

Shelter now moved to port side.
Week 6, September 10, 11 and 13.
The shelter had been disassembled and moved to the port side during the weekend, but it took all of Monday for Rex and Frank to re-assemble and weather proof it.
Don and Steve: Sort parts required for fitting the new skins to the lower port side. Drill off the new sections of previously fabricated frames and fit to existing structure. Clean up existing intercostals. Begin fitting new skins to port side.

New skins installed on starboard side.

New frames in place on port side.

Frank: Tuesday – re-wire the supplementary interior lighting system to allow lights to be operated in the cabin. Thursday, re-secure and replace tarps which had been tied to the fuselage top. These had become loose and torn due to the high winds experienced during the previous week.
Rex: Tuesday – extend trailing edge flaps for access to wing under surfaces. Drill drain holes in lower surfaces at strategic positions to allow accumulated water to drain away. Thursday, work with Frank securing new tarps on the fuselage top.
The trailing edge flaps will be left 50% extended, as this allows water to drain from them more readily than when they are fully retracted.

Condition Report – Wing interiors:
While searching for the beaching gear upper fittings, access to the interior of the wings revealed a large accumulation of water at the lower aft corners. This has resulted in a moderate amount of corrosion beginning to affect the lower wing skins from the interior side. As mentioned above, ¼” holes have been strategically drilled in locations where the water was trapped to allow it to drain away and the area to dry out. An inspection and analysis of the extent of the corrosion will need to be carried out later.

Above: Typical condition of wing interiors. Moderate surface corrosion can be seen on the surfaces of the lower skins, components and fittings within the wing cavity.

Two large birds’ nests were also discovered – one inside the aircraft behind the flight engineer’s panel, this was easily cleaned up, and one inside the starboard wing which cannot be reached at this time.

Bird’s nest (now in plastic bag) removed from behind F/E panel.

End of Newsletter No3


If you have any important comments to make on these newsletters, please email Gerry Barton directly at barton_nz the at thing yahoo dot com

Newsletter No2

Establishing the original appearance of the cabins of Aranui continues to drive research on the history of the vessel.
In December 1948 Whites Aviation Monthly published five pages about the Tasman class Solent flying boats under construction at Short and Harland in Belfast. The extract below is the benchmark description I have been looking for as it answers a number of questions, and also provides some hitherto unknown detail which is allowing me to look at photographs of the vessels’ interiors in a new light.
Considerable thought had been given to the interior decoration of the new flyingboats by New Zealand designers who have been working on the subject for some time. The basic colour scheme will be a deep lake blue, and British designers who specialize in aircraft decoration have laid it down as a rule that dark colours must not extend above eye level. The reasons behind the rule are not merely artistic but also psychological. As a consequence the blue in the Tasman Solents will be limited to the floor and lower wall areas. The upper wall and ceiling will be a warm biscuit tone. The head rests of the seats will be pure white with a light turquoise piping.
Gay murals will be a special feature of interior decoration. Their use to enhance the decorative effect in airliners can be described as novel so far as British aircraft are concerned. As far as is known, the only other airline to use murals is Air France. More recently it was announced that some American operators were going to adopt the idea. The murals in the Tasman Solents will feature views of Sydney and Auckland, one will depict Lord Howe Island in map form and others will deal with the birds and animals of New Zealand and Australia.
No scheme of interior decoration would be complete without due regard being paid to curtaining. The pattern for those to be used in the Solents will consist of dark blue maroros on a light blue ground. The carpet of the cabin floors will, as already indicated, incorporate the colour of deep blue lake.

First off, the article settles a couple of elusive issues about the colours of passenger cabins, and, most usefully, says that the lower wall colour matched the carpet colour (both lake blue). It mentions some furnishings such as the curtains and the covers on the headrests. And it mentions a new element – murals, no evidence of which has ever turned up in photographs of Solent interiors, although there is a fleeting shot of one in an undated movie about the TEAL Solents, held in the Walsh Brothers Memorial Library (more later).

Details of two of the Solent IV murals – the only evidence that they existed at all:

The article keeps the cabin seating configuration a mystery. A cutaway drawing of the Short Solent shows all cabins as having seats facing each other and separated by tables, but Aranui only has cabin A, C & D so organized, the remainder having forward facing seating and no tables.

This suggests that each of the Solent IVs had a different interior layout. Certainly Ararangi conformed to the above drawing for, as luck would have it, a number of Whites Aviation photographs are in the Walsh Brothers Library archives. These were taken on the outward flight from Sydney to Auckland of Ararangi on 28 October 1949 and illustrate some of the features referred to in the 1948 the journal article. Compiling information from these new sources with what has already accumulated, I now have a clear idea of the wall panels of the passenger cabins, the colour of the carpet – identical to the blue lake of the walls, the heights of the dados, and a better idea of how the original tables were constructed and looked.

October 1949 The maroro patterned curtains, the turquoise piping on the white headrests and the wall colours divided by a trim of aluminium.

The upper deck of Ararangi showing the seat and table floor plan, and the seat headrest covers:

Here they are. Did anybody rescue them before the vessel was scrapped?

On the rear bulkhead, right of the Powder Room door: what can be discerned left to right, chef under a striped awning, French sailor playing an accordion above his head, dancing girl, second islander in background, banana tree leaves. The flower at right is puzzling as it is in front of the mural frame, even though it seems part of the picture.

Newsletter No1

We are delighted to advise that MoTaT have allocated funds for the ZK-AMO Restoration and work has commenced under the guidance of Conservator Gerry Barton. This is the first Newsletter on the Project and we will regularly update on progress

Information Newsletter Number One on progress and developments with the TEAL Aranui Solent flying boat conservation project.


During the past month or so I have been reading correspondence relating to the care of Aranui at MOTAT, and looking at the photograph albums about the Solent Society’s 1986-91 restoration work held in the Walsh Brothers Library. The correspondence dates from March 1966 to November 2004 and not only allowed me learn of the MOTAT history of the vessel, but also gave me greater understanding of the concerns, the investment both in time and money, and the work achieved by the individuals who undertook to save Aranui from the wrecker’s yard. At the same time I have been investigating the actual fabric of the vessel – how it was constructed, what materials used, who manufactured fittings, equipment installed, etc. These are small but accumulative milestones towards the goal of stabilizing the condition of the vessel and to returning it as closely as possible to its original appearance. As many interested people are not all that familiar with contemporary museum conservation practices I have decided that an informal newsletter regularly posted might reassure everybody that all is progressing as it should. This is the first of them.

Where we are as of July 1st, 2012

MOTAT has contracted a team of aviation experts, Messrs Frank Hannay, Rex Stanners, Don Subritzky, and Stephen Subritzky, to identify corrosion problems and repair the framework from keel to engine mounts. Inside the vessel I am carrying out practical investigations to identify materials and construction methods making up the interior design, working with colleagues in the wider museum world and with industrial designers with an interest in design history. Rather remarkably, the father of one of my colleagues created the original TEAL image and branding back in the late 1940s and throughout the 1950s; the Haythorn-Thwaite Design Agency in Queen Street, Auckland.

I mention the Haythorn-Thwaite connection; if anybody reading this thinks, “What has this got to do with preserving/restoring Aranui?” my answer is that when a significant piece of history is reduced down to literally a single object – Aranui – then everything and everybody associated with it during its decade in service is part of a vanishing story, though hopefully not vanishing any further. To my mind the Aranui conservation project is an opportunity, actually not often given to museums, of setting a new benchmark for New Zealand museum practices and standards. We can not only restore the vessel again to its original glory days, but also to place this unique survivor of the big piston-engine airliner era in its aviation context, its technological context, its Pacific history context, Auckland Harbour context, Air New Zealand history, and, and, and…

Exterior/structural work

The repair team has been drawn up, the shelter against the planning hull in which they will work has been constructed, tools purchased, and a start date of the third week in July established. In fact work may start earlier as it is partially dependent on the presence of Mr Rex Stanners, who for some of the month of July is contracted to work overseas. Nevertheless, the preparations are completed and stage one will be finished by the end of September.

Regarding the TEAL livery, I have identified 4 different liveries applied to Aranui in its 11 years’ service. These are being drawn up so that a decision can be made as to which MOTAT might adopt for the repainting.

Interior work

The interior is being systematically inspected cabin by cabin, deck section by section to gain an understanding as to how the interior was lined, fitted out, and altered over time.

It was originally lined with pigmented vinyl fabric which, fire-resistant and hard-wearing, made it the ideal lightweight wall covering which required no painting upon installation. The flight deck was lined with beige leather cloth (as the vinyl fabric in the 1930-40s seems to have been known as, regardless of brand origin), the buffet with grey leather cloth, and the passenger cabins with blue, grey and buff, and the stairs blue, grey and white. The entire interior has been painted since 1949, some areas such as the flight deck perhaps twice, the buffet once, and parts of the upper passenger cabin 6 times. For example, in 1988 the passenger area interior was predominantly cream and blue (as it remains so at time of writing); in 1949 it was predominantly grey and blue with a band of buff between the windows.

As very few airliners of the period are being restored (a Lufthansa Constellation in Berlin seems to be one of the few) or have been restored (2-3 in the USA – for example a DC 3 and DC 7), the Aranui project will be an internationally important one in helping to establish materials and manufacturing histories of the period.

The upper deck forward bulkhead, showing 6 applications of differing blue paints on top of the original leather cloth wall covering of 1949. The cream layer dates from 1988.

The project at present is systematically going through all fittings in the passenger cabins and a few words on some of the elements will tell you the kinds of changes identified:

flooring; the carpet dados have been altered, the linoleum in the buffet has been replaced with carpet;

curtain pelmets, some have been lost and replaced;

seats, manufactured by Vickers-Armstrong Ltd and based on BOAC designs, two missing;

ventilation controls and nozzles, Vickers-Armstrong Ltd design new for 1949;

trim: both aluminium and vinyl fabric covered have been identified.

The same process is underway in the buffet, and will be extended to the lavatories. The time-consuming and often puzzling work focussing on the design, fittings selection and assembly of the Solent IV is close to completion. Once it is and I have a clear idea about it all, the restoration work on the interior can start secure in the fact that we have done the groundwork.

The progress so far has been such that I can envisage complete restoration of the interior back to its original appearance in the year 2013, barring unexpected hiccups or budget restraints. I especially want to assure the Friends of the Solent Society that no conservation decisions are made without research directing me to particular conclusions, or without consultation with experts in conservation, aviation and transport history, engineering and technology, and, this in short, includes The Friends of the Solent Society.


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