Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Bringing Whiskey 7 into the 21st century

When the NWM first started exploring the possibility of taking Whiskey 7 back to Europe, one of the first issues that needed to be tackled was her aging radio and navigation equipment ("avionics"). While the equipment had been upgraded in the 1990s and worked well for our operations in the US, advances in technology meant that W7 was well behind the times. More critically for our Return to Normandy, European airspace requires a newer kind of transponder, a device that identifies an aircraft to air traffic control radar, as well as communications radios that can tune more frequencies.

W7's cockpit in 2012

The new Garmin equipment ready to be installed
We approached Garmin at EAA Airventure Oshkosh in July and they generously helped us to acquire new GTN650 navigators, a GTX-33ES transponder, and GMA-340 audio panel. The GTN's combine GPS, radio navigation, and communication in a single box, controlled through a touch-screen interface. The new transponder will keep W7 in compliance with current European regulations as well as new FAA requirements scheduled to go into effect in 2020. The new equipment will also allow W7 to take advantage of GPS-based instrument approaches, allowing the flight crew more flexibility when landing at smaller airports in poor visibility. Having two independent GPS systems installed in the aircraft as well as a mobile Garmin Aera 796 will provide redundancy in case of a problem during the trip.

W7 with her new Garmin avionics
We were also introduced to Fred Katterman, owner of Islip Avionics, at Oshkosh. Fred generously agreed to donate his services to install the new equipment. Installing new electronics in a 70-year old aircraft is no small feat, but Fred and his team were able to get the job done in less than a month and a half. In addition to installing the new avionics, Islip installed a power jack, external GPS antenna, and an external communications antenna for handheld units and put in a new door curtain (made by Global Aircraft Interiors) to help keep the cockpit warm during the cold trip across the North Atlantic. Fred's son Rick was kind enough to fly back to Geneseo with the aircraft to flight check the new equipment and train pilots Chris Polhemus and Naomi Wadsworth on their use. Both pilots were amazed at the capabilities and features of the GTN650's. We truly cannot say enough nice things or thank Fred and his team enough for the work they did on W7.

Rick Katterman of Islip Avionics showing pilots Naomi Wadsworth and Chris
Polhemus the ins and outs of the GTN650s

 We would also like to thank Sandia Aerospace for their donation of our new altitude encoder and Jeppesen for providing database updates and aeronautical charts for the trip.

Fred Katterman and his amazing team from Islip Avionics

Monday, November 18, 2013

Whiskey 7 coverage from News 12 Long Island

Christina Regnault from News 12 did a great piece on Whiskey 7 and Return to Normandy while the plane was on Long Island for its avionics upgrade. Check it out here:
WWII plane The Whiskey 7 overhauled on LI ahead of Atlantic flight

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Starting the Journey: Getting Whiskey 7 ready for Normandy

John Wadsworth, Loren Hoskyns, and Taro Pritchard working on W7's rudder

As venerable and durable as the Douglas C-47 design is, keeping a 70 year old war veteran flying takes a lot of work. Every winter, the dedicated volunteer mechanics at the NWM take on the the major task of annual maintenance on our flagship, Whiskey 7. This year they will have the added challenge of getting her ready for her trip across the North Atlantic. Work planned for this year includes:

  • A thorough inspection of every major part, assembly, and component of the aircraft
  • Oil changes for both engines and servicing of the hydraulic system
  • Replacement of all engine accessories with new or factory overhauled components
  • Repair and restoration of the main cabin cargo floor
  • Fabrication and installation of pan-style "paratrooper" seats which were standard equipment for C-47's during the war

Charlie Preston and Dave Andruczyk working on the landing gear last winter
Work will begin as soon as Whiskey 7 gets back from having new Garmin avionics installed at Islip Avionics. The aircraft will be moved into the hangar and placed on jacks. This allows the mechanics to inspect and test the function of her landing gear. Every door, hatch, and cover on the airplane will be removed to allow inspection. Over the course of the next few months, the airplane will be methodically inspected to make sure she's ready for the trip to Europe. At the same time, another team will be fabricating and installing the hardware for the new seats, restoring the cabin to its wartime configuration.

If you're in the Geneseo area, stop down on a Saturday morning and give the guys a hand, help is always welcome, no experience required. Stay tuned for more updates on our progress.