You're opening the lid of a box marked 'Pandora'!
Is there any mileage for creating categories for aircraft projects?
Category A: An aircraft that has been preserved - as found - and displayed in that condition.
Category B: An aircraft that has been preserved – as found – but faithfully repaired as a static to look complete.
Category C: An aircraft that has been salvaged – following recovery – and restored to fly using as many original components as possible.
Category D: An aircraft made up of as many original components as possible to represent the type.
Category E: A faithful replica that represents the type.
This is not exhaustive but - perhaps - a catalyst for ideas to consider?
This might offset criticism/misunderstandings (personal and corporate) - bringing clarity from the wider community and observers who might question the authenticity of restoration claims.
Would this not also strengthen integrity in the movement - thus honouring the designers, operators, restorers/builders, owners and more importantly – the Pilots who sacrificed everything by using them as a tool in all theatres of War and Peace?
Is this a non-starter or could it work?
You're opening the lid of a box marked 'Pandora'!
There seems to be one very important category missing.
An aircraft that has been salvaged and restored to fly using little or no original components.
Work! You don't know what work is. When I was a boy...
Seriously though I think the idea would be of worth - like the FIA passports used in historic motorsports, where it is far easier to spot the recreation from the genuine. It would affect the resale prices of replicas, but would at least record the provenance of historic machines.
I know this is a Pandora's Box, but for many years I have been dumbfounded that supposedly "respectable" aircraft restorers are able to recover historic artefacts for the sole purpose of making a replica of the same and then pass it off as some sort of 'restoration'.
We've already been educated in better ways regarding our historic buildings but seem to be a long way off protecting our aviation heritage in the same way. It's the elephant in the room: we all know it goes on, but the mainstream aviation press seems unprepared to mention it and genuine aviation historians seem powerless to stop it.
So yes, I really do hope it has mileage because it would be lovely to go to a historic aircraft display, knowing whether I'm looking at Category A, or (more likely) Category E. Both have their place, but recognition of Category E might just avoid this continued plundering of our shared heritage.
Aviation seems to be the only field in restoration that has little issue about originality in regards to components used in either a flying or static restoration. Automotive restorers will loose points in a judging if the wrong style hose clamp is used. You can take a data plate reproduction aircraft to Oshkosh and win grand champion as was done a few years back with a P-40.
Certainly with flying aircraft safety must be the primary concern and modern components a must in many circumstances. However, I think it only fair that they not be touted as being faithful restorations.
The new build Spitfires, Hurricanes, P-51's, P-40's, etc I do not think should in any way qualify as restorations. They are masterworks in craftsmanship, but are non the less reproductions.
The category system as laid out I think is a common sense way of rating these projects.
It is a real can of worms but worthwhile. Trouble is ,unlike the classic car world, enthuiasts never get to see these aircraft close up with panels off to really see what is underneath. If this did happen most of us wouldn't have a clue anyway. Thing is pretty much every flying warbird is not original. The problem with such a system would be for aircraft that have been flying for a long time, and changed hands many times, know how much original is left.
I have always wondered if you purchased a Spitfire, or P-51 etc, that has been preserved from end of service and was 100% complete, how much would be discarded to bring it to flying condition? What would the warbird world be like if the CAA/FAA dealt with the reality and allowed short run production to order by approved organisations with the need for a data plate? That is 100% as the originals were not like the FW190/Me262 production.
Last edited by farnboroughrob; 12th March 2017 at 17:05.
The subject comes up regularly.
For a flying aircraft, there is only one important thing; the certificate of airworthiness.
If you are fortunate enough two be able to own one, it is relatively easy to determine which have a clear provenance back to the factory, and which are a little less clear. The price is usually much the same. Think about why it matters to you, and moreover, whether it should.
I admit, I used to get carried away with it, but not any more. Life is too short...
The aircraft sitting next to it has had the wings, stabilizer, front fuselage and tail section replaced in the 1950s and 1970s. Yet this is considered original.
The aircraft next to that is rebuilt with 40% new structure, yet is registered as an original aircraft.
There's a lot of grey in the field of aircraft restoration, use and rebuild, no black and white. Even no black cat 1 or 5, and white cat 1 or 5.
Instead, why not appreciate the aircraft kept in flyable condition? Doesn't matter hwo much if it is original, as long as it feels original and has a provenance one can count on...
The Murphy's Broom phenomenon is well understood in historic motorsport, where provenance is the key. If it works there, I see no reason why it should not work in historic avaition.
I think there is merit at looking what the classic cars do in that if the "recreation" uses original materials and plans, then they call them "continuation" editions which does sound a bit better than "replica". However it doesn't always work as at a meeting to which all the remaining genuine Maserati 250Fs were invited (a late 50s GP car), 32 put in entries. Problem was only 28 were built in period. I believe the wealthier owners store the original cars (Jaguar D-types and the like) and race their "continuation" models which can achieve the correct papers from the FIA. It's a minefield and I agree with "ericmunk" that we should all be grateful that the owners continue to fly their aircraft for our and their enjoyment.
Again: there's no such thing as balck & white in aircraft restoration, use and rebuild. Classification is useless, the aircraft's paperwork will state to what extent it has been repaired or rebuilt.
Just enjoy the aircraft being flown for all to see...
Nobody is being fooled. Our heritage is not diminished; quite the opposite. In the last 20 years, we have seen examples of 109E, early Spitfire, P51 A,B and C, as well as Mig 3, Il2, and many others. All are built to exacting standards, and in many cases they resurrect types lost to posterity.
Presumably those who need to know an airframe's provenance will know it or will find it out and for the rest of us it doesn't really matter. It's not as if we can't make up our own mind from the information readily available to us
Thank you for the maturity that your comments bring to this question.
From a personal perspective, I am profoundly grateful to those who restore aircraft or salvage enough items to bring an example back from extinction.
The original designers would have been proud of those people and organisations that preserve representative of their types, or create a master copy of something that once came off their production line.
I wonder whether the historical claims that go with these masterpieces, make the preservation movement vulnerable under scrutiny? That was behind a part of the question as to whether a category would provide historians, observers and enthusiasts with a firm and transparent reference point.
Personally, I get as much out of seeing the wrecked Hurricane at Hendon, as I do seeing a new build Hurricane masterpiece flying at an Air show. Both convey a sense of the sacrifice for our freedom.
Does it really matter if the authorities who issue airworthyness certificates are satisfied?
The restorers/builders/owners (i.e. the guys that spend the money and who trust their lives in them) don't seem to be bothered by minutiae, so why should ground-bound "enthusiasts" care except to give them something to nit-pick about?
Yes, having a 100% correct and authentic aircraft is important to a national collection as an artifact but in most of those instances those aircraft are never going to fly again. Even the most correct flying example a type in the world is going to have substantial differences to when it was new...either for safety, performance, maintainability, or legal issues.
New avionics, better wiring, upgraded hydraulic or brake systems, better tyres, deactivated machine guns, canopies made with modern plastic, engines with modern metallurgy....all are common sense items for a flying aircraft, but mean any regularly flying warbird will likely never be as it was in WWII.
In short, if many operational parts if the aircraft have been rebuilt or modernised for very understandable reasons, how important is it that (for example) that piece of skin was put on by a female worker at some shadow factory during the war, as opposed to a trained engineer doing it in 1988-98 or 2018?
So anoraks dissecting aircraft to show how smart they think they are is rather meaningless. At best, it's splitting hairs, at worst...completely irrelevant if want to see the aircraft fly. You can't have it both ways.
About the proposed category scheme...what might he more useful on discussions is a category for projects.
Recently on this forum, someone excitedly announced a new "project" of a rare and popular type. When pressed, it came out that the "project" was nothing more than a collection of parts that could fit in the boot of a car.
Not quite a project in my book. A category to properly ID those finds might be useful to differentiate possible practical efforts from pipe dreams and the shilling from someone trying to hype a "collection"
Last edited by J Boyle; 13th March 2017 at 05:32.
There are two sides to every story. The truth is usually somewhere between the two.
I suggest a Google of 'DVLA' and 'Bugatti 35' just in case anyone is naïve enough to think there is no difference between a replica Spitfire and one with genuine provenance.
It matters not what we the enthusiasts think (whether poacher or gamekeeper): if government organizations get involved then there won't be recourse for discussion. I would suggest that it's only a matter of time before someone raises the question.
I've no idea how the Bugatti issue became one for the DVLA, but we are talking about fundamentally similar machines (car vs aircraft), of similar age and of similar monetary value.
EDIT: a look here proved strangely prescient, when compared to George's original post: note the proposed categories:
Option 1 – Rebuilt Vehicles
Rebuilt Vehicles: there’s no mention on line as to whether this applies to classic, vintage or modern cars (although all three definitions can be open to interpretation) it does say however a rebuilt vehicle can keep its original registration number if you can prove you’ve used:
•The original unmodified chassis or body-shell
•A new chassis or monocoque body-shell of the “same specification” as the original
You must also have 2 other major components from the original vehicle on the following list:
•Suspension (front and Back)
Option 2 – Radically altered vehicles
Radically altered vehicles: these are vehicles (once again no classification) that have been altered from their original specification, but aren’t kit conversions.
Keeping the original registration number is based on a point system. The more original the vehicle the higher you score deeming your vehicle acceptable to maintain its age related plate. However you must have the original or new unmodified chassis and monocoque body-shell. 8 points or more allows you to keep your original plate.Take a look at the points system.
•Chassis, monocoque body shell original or new and unmodified – 5 points
•Suspension (front and back) original – 2 points
•Axles (both) original – 2 points
•Transmission original – 2 points
•Steering assembly original – 2 points
•Engine original – 1 point
Option 3- Reconstructed Classic Vehicles
Reconstructed classic vehicles: potentially with the DVLA changes to classic cars they could only allocate an age-related plate if the vehicle meets the criteria below
•Built from genuine period components from more than one vehicle, all over 25 years old and of the same specification as the original vehicle
•A true reflection of the marquee
•Has been inspected by the appropriate vehicle owners’ club for the vehicle type (marque) and confirmed in writing it has been inspected, is a true reflection of the marque and comprises of genuine period components all over 25 years old
•Disclose manufacturer dates for all major components
Last edited by Sabrejet; 13th March 2017 at 06:22.
Why would anyone get involved?
The histories of all of the aircraft concerned are well known, and easily accessible. There are marque experts who can give chapter and verse.
It only becomes an issue if the aircraft is deliberately misrepresented, such as the case with the 'Old number 1' Bentley.
For a museum, it's important to know the provenance of the artefact. For operators, it's important to know that the aircraft is airworthy.
Isn't all this concern about 'originality' rather missing the point? After all, with aircraft, we are mostly talking about a highly manufactured product, often mass-produced in a highly industrialised fashion, and that consists of a huge number of individually manufactured components, often standard components, manufactured by a large number of different companies. Absolute interchangeability of components was essential to the success of most designs and most individual aircraft, those that survived long enough anyway, would have had major sub-assemblies changed as a matter of complete routine during their normal service lives.
For example, Lancaster bombers returned to the factory for a 'major' overhaul would be split into their major airframe sections; as soon as a section was overhauled it was reassembled into whatever Lancaster was next on the line waiting for that airframe section. It is inconceivable that the 'best' Lancaster in the world, S-Sugar at Hendon, has the same wings, tail, centre-section or engines as it did when it left the factory originally!
Perhaps what is more important is that the skills needed to design, manufacture, service and repair these aircraft are preserved rather than worrying about the particular provenance of every single component in every single surviving airframe? For something as highly manufactured as an aircraft, surely any component manufactured to the original specification (or better) that is indistinguishable from an original component, is an 'original' component?
I can understand the argument for 'provenance' when the airframe in question is a particularly unique airframe or has been involved in a particularly significant moment in history but surviving airframes in that category are very few and far between and really should be preserved rather than restored.
Flying aircraft have to be operated as would any modern aircraft, or any period aircraft would have been at the time; what is important is the serviceability of every component; aesthetics should never compromise serviceability but should only be a secondary consideration (no matter how desirable).
Last edited by Creaking Door; 13th March 2017 at 09:37.
The operational life of an aeroplane is not dissimilar to the life cycle of a person in many respects. By the time you're of an age to be able to read and post on a forum such as this you will already contain precious little if any of the material which constituted you at birth. Does that make you, at any stage of your life, anyone other than yourself? Of course not. It is simply a factor (or a cost) of existence.
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