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Avro Shackleton WR963

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Hi all,

I've been asked about the aircraft and our work on her, and to put some of our progress up here. If it proves popular, I'll continue and update it as we go, so even if you can't get to Coventry in person you can follow the story of what is currently the worlds last running Avro Shackleton...

Some background:

WR963 rolled off the production line as a Shackleton MR2, in March 1954. She was allocated to 224 Sqn in Gibraltar and spent the first part of her career in the Med and Far East theaters. In 1971 she was one of a number of MR2 aircraft selected for conversion to AEW2 status, and underwent an extensive rebuild and refit at Hawker Siddeley Aviation's Bitteswell works. She was then allocated to 8 Sqn, as a stopgap until the arrival of the Nimrod AEW.

As you all know, this never happened... so the temporary duty for the Shackleton turned into 20 years of further service. WR963 finally finished her career in late June 1991, making way for the Boeing E3 Sentry. The remaining five Shackletons were disposed of, with four going to auction and one meeting its fate on the fire dump at St Mawgan (lingering there for a decade.)

WR963 was one of the lucky four... she got sold at auction by Sotheby's to the Shackleton Preservation Trust, along with her sister WL790. Later they were acquired by Air Atlantique and in the late 1990's one aircraft was selected for a return to flight. Unfortunately WR963 had the highest flown hours of the pair, so was not chosen. WL790 flew again, crossing the Atlantic to the USA, where she remains.

What of WR963?

By 1997 she had been used as a testbed for rebuilt items being used on WL790 in the US, and had been heavily robbed of anything that was in better condition or had more life remaining. The last pages of her logbook is littered with a phrase I have come to hate - "removed for 790". A renewed Shackleton Preservation Trust set about bringing her back to health, and by 2004 WR963 was repainted as an MR2 and running on all four engines. 2008 was her high point... after 17 years of inactivity, WR963 was ready to try a fast taxi. She did it twice, under the watchful eye of the ex CO of 8 Sqn, Group Captain Dave Hencken.

Then came chaos - with the airport closing, and an engine being out of hours. This is where my association with this aircraft began, in the cold of December 2009, with a box of tools.

The object of that day was to run three engines and wake her from her winter slumber. We met up with the rest of the group at about 1000hrs and very quickly were involved with the tasks such as tailwheel tyres being reinflated, trolley acc charged, and checking all the fuel drains.


My first job was flushing an oil tank, and it was the first time I'd been up on the wing. Despite the size of it, the fact the aircraft sits tail down meant avoiding sliding off the trailing edge was a tricky task, especially when carrying a jerry can and tools. After getting the flushing oil in, it was back down off the wing and under the beast to get it out again! The drain is in a really awkward place and pretty much guarantees the oil to either get on the underside of the aircraft, or the guy undoing the drain.




Thankfully I didn't get too much of it on me but I still stank like a U-boat captain on the way home. Then it was time to pull all the trestles, tools and other paraphenalia out the way, and wake her up. Ground power was added, the crew boarded, and no3 was selected as being the first to start.



1300hrs - Engine no3 coughed into life. It started a little reluctantly on the first attempt but cut out after about 30 seconds. The second attempt got it. You've all seen that scene from the movie "Flight of the Phoenix" where everybody's willing the engine to keep turning? It was like that. Cold aeroplane, having been sat all winter (for four weeks under a good amount of snow), cold trolley acc batteries, and cold us. No4 was started next and surprised everybody by starting first attempt, no fuss, shortly followed by No1. No1 took a few attempts to start but has been diagnosed as having a magneto issue, so it did well.

When the crew throttled her back, I was able to board and sat happily in the Navigators position listening to the three big Rolls Royce Griffons, and all the squeaks and creaks of an old aeroplane coming alive.

None of us knew that the run we had just witnessed would be the last for 13 months, as poor lubrication had just wrecked four camshafts in total out of the six on the engines ran that day.

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Thanks for this Rich. :thumbsup:

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I remember working up at Lossie and occasionally we were treated to three of them in formation coming in over the beach. A trully wonderous spectacle.

I wish you every success in bringing her back to like.


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The run showed up some rough running amongst other issues, so that menat pulling the rocker covers off the engines. Initially it was to set clearances, check the plugs and harnesses and try and eradicate the misfores and magneto issues. Inspection then found the severe wear on the camshafts. The oil had become contaminated and attacked the chrome plating, which coupled with poor lubrication in the vital first few minutes of running made the rockers act like cutting tools in a lathe.

A plan was formed to fit an onboard pre-oiling system to make sure the engine had lubrication before it even started to turn on the starter. Firts off we have to do an oil change to get rid of the contaminated oil. There is 32.5 gallons in each engine. Also as a result we have a lot of repairs to do! There's two camshaft and set of rocker gear on each engine, and timing it all up if you replace it is a pain.

By the time this work started to progress we were in May..









Circumstances had now changed at the airport, with a new owner on the horizon. We took a gamble and decided to use the down time while the engines were being repaired to weather seal the aircraft and begin the monumental task of repainting her.

After many arguments, a decision was reached. WR963 would revert to her delivery colours, and fly the flag once more for Coastal Command.

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this is FAB a saw her at a distance in the summer while visiting a friend, i will have to arrange to come and get closer, having been in the Shak at NAM several times she is a wonderful but complex bird, i look forward to your progress

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Keep the updates coming, I'll be following! Have many a fond memory of seeing these at Airshows throughout my youth, so I'll also be keeping my fingers crossed you guys can get her up and running again.


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Visitors to Coventry in late May noticed by then the scafffolding that had gone up around the starboard wing.. the rumours around the internet and in the aviation press were quite interesting to hear! (we've been breaking her up, we've taken the undercarraige off..) The truth was far more mundane. Work had begun on the much needed repaint. The scaffolding was there to help us work on the wing in safety.

The old paint was taken back on the top surfaces, areas of corrosion addressed, and several hundred yards (that is NOT a typo!) of ceconite sealing tapes and dope applied to make it all weatherproof, all done as per the original AP's. One of our group is a carpenter, and he set to attacking all the areas of woodwork on the aircraft (balance tab horns, de-icing strips to name but a few). The paint scheme decided on was her old 224sqn colours from back in 1954, so she will be white overall when finished. She will be carrying her own former code letters of "B" on the fuselage, and "M" on the nose.

The work on the engines continued, the engineers pushing on with fitting an onboard pre-oiling system. It's something that had never been done before on the Shackleton, and advice was sought from Rolls Royce, engine specialists in the USA, and several rebuilders in the UK. For someone like me, who delights in oily greasy bits, it's a joy to watch things like this come together. From idea, to design, to realisation.

Other stuff going on that no-one sees is internal, such as the lubrication of all the flying controls (I'm still having nightmares regarding chains and sprockets and seized cables..) and the testing of various pressure vessels that are normally housed in the nose. All these are items that continually needs attention as even a ground running aircraft has to be maintained to a standard if you want it to last. As our team grew, so did the scope of work, and the standard we felt we could achieve. While she isn't going flying any time soon, we still work to airworthy standards if we can.

Remember the wings looked like this?


After a lot of hard work it now looked like this. The dope you use to seal it is a disgusting green colour, and you can smell it from quite a way away! Good job we're working in the fresh air.


The scaffolding allows us to work without falling off the wing. Even so, with all the stuff we're doing on there it does become difficult at times.


It took a long time to get the wing like that.... but hopefully it will last for a good many years. We've had to go round all the drain holes (hundreds of 1/8" holes) and found some were quite blocked despite looking clear. The spar to trailing edge joints had to have anti corrosion treatment, then a mastic sealer, then the ceconite applied. On taking advice on whether to do the tapes on the wing underside we chose not to re-apply them. WR963 sits on grass and there is an awful lot of condensation. This is the biggest killer of an airframe if the water can't get out.

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nice report and good to see some care and attention being lavished on one of my favourite types...but i thought that WR982 'J' at Gatwick Aviation Museum was also 'live'?



EDIT..linky found

Edited by kspriss

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Brief interlude before I carry on with the tale!

So far these are historical updates. At the moment WR963 still runs, and runs well - by the end of the night you'll know just how well, and there'll be plenty to look at and discuss.

Anybody that wants to come see WR963, please do. Our group works on her every Saturday and we take pride in the fact there are no barriers either inside or outside of her. All we ask of any visitor is that they remember to treat her wit respect as she is 'live'.

On with the show....

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nice report and good to see some care and attention being lavished on one of my favourite types...but i thought that WR982 'J' at Gatwick Aviation Museum was also 'live?


WR982 'Juliet' last ran in 2008. My good friends at Gatwick tell me she is not dead by any means, she is just resting due to rising fuel costs. She has had her priming pumps removed (as they suffer if left to stand) and the engines were being inhibited. They estimate 4 weeks work to make her run again should they wish to.

The other contenders are 1722 in South Africa, which last ran in 2009 and has been suffering a massive hydraulic issue. This made them suspend running and as yet they have not resumed.

WL790 in the USA flew into retirement at Pima in 2008, and has been drained of all fluids and had her batteries removed.



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You saw the outboard section, now here's the inboard! Now you might think the rain would have annoyed us... and in fairness it did a bit. However, we were really pleased in that the new ceconite did its job - as during the rain there was no water leaking through the spar/trailing edge joint undeneath as there was before; so this annoyingly messy job was already paying off.

Here's the weather from the pilots seat. I was chasing water leaks from the ditching hatches at the time, which took forever to stop.


Here's a shot we took in a brief bit of sunlight. There's a little mound in the foreground... that is the last resting place of a Lockheed Constellation. :(


What's that? You saw a white bit? Ohh yes...


The first few of many cowling panels were being painted off site and fitted. Our chairman, John Cubberley had been taking away various engine cowling panels to spray, and bringing them back, so slowly the new colour started to make an appearance. Some new panels were found; and apparently a couple of them were already white!

Here's number four a little later, almost fully dressed in its new colour. We just have to do the shutter doors, and the rear spinner.


You can also see the new wood deicing strips in progress, thanks to our carpenter, Vic Marriot. He was showing me how they taper in three different dimensions, making them a bit of a pain to do... but he seems to make it look really easy.

This shot:


...is one for the anoraks. It's not just a gratuitous shot of the serial number. any guesses what we're looking at?

The little hard points are for the fitment of rocket rails. Have a close look at any Shackleton kits you have, as I bet they're not there, but all MR2 and MR3 still have the mounts... ;)

I've had a few questions before when working on the aircraft about the sealing strips so here's a bit further explanation and pictures.


The green colour is a 3" wide ceconite (man made fibre) tape. It has pinked edges to stop it fraying and is sealed using thinned nitrate dope... that is what gives it the green colour. A layer of dope is painted onto the aircarft, a length of tape is then placed on top. More dope is then painted onto the tape using a stiff brush, soaking it through.

As it dries, it shrinks slightly, tightening up over slight imperfections, and becoming watertight. The grey colour is a coat of primer we put over the lot to help the paint stick.

We know where to put the tapes, by using this:



Its more or less the equivalent of a Haynes manual for a Shackleton... all the information you could ever want and more. It makes excellent bedtime reading too... trying to work out the CofG tables will make you sleep even if you dan't want to! There's not much out in the big wide world about the Shackleton, and its kind of our fault. All this stuff, and all the drawings were purchased from British Aerospace back in 1997.... so we have some 16 tons of drawings, manuals and other materials fpr all mark of the Shackleton which we're steadily working through. One day it will all be available for modellers and enthusiasts alike.


The current paint was steadily getting worse, so we definitely did the right thing starting a repaint.

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Excellent piece Rich - very interesting and informative.

A group of us visited Airbase last June - and had a good tour of WR963 - thanks to the gentleman who showed us around.

I took a few photos inside - and this couple of the exterior.....



She is looking gorgeous - thanks to all who work on her - your hard work is really appreciated, if not voiced often enough.

The rest of the Airbase - and Midland Air Museum - pics are here.


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Sat 21st August... today saw the start of the top suface paint going on!

Rounding up our little team (six people in total) we headed for Coventry with rollers brushes, gloves and other implements. First thing to do was get those annoying fuselage ditching hatches sealed! New seconite was put on those by two Air Cadets we had helping out (Cadet Cpl Matt Weston, and Cadet Sgt Sam Rouse). These two lads decided to come to work out of their own valuable spare time whenever they can. They have a real love for WR963 now.

The forward ditching hatch is just above the galley and was put in where the old mid upper turret used to go. If you look carefully at the rivet pattern around there, you can see a fueslage half frame and some heavy skinning, but not much more.

So busy:


The guy with the roller on the wing is Dave Woods. There is quite a bit of BS637 Medium Sea Grey going on. About 700 square foot worth by our reckoning...


We all had a go at some point, even me:


Resulting in happy faces!


See the difference between old and new? Very nice. Other things happening around the aeroplane are more white cowling panels appearing. Finding the right ones for the right places is quite fun. Despite them all being supposedly the same shape on each engine, the years have made them not... so each piece has to be individually marked so if removed it can go back in the same place. The anti glare panel got some attention too. Theres always a puddle of water just in front of the windscreen which makes it a pain to clean and paint, also it leaks in slightly This is another of the things that nneed tracing. We're slowing the water ingress bit by bit.



I like the last shot as you can really see the Lancaster lineage! If you look closely under the front windscreens, you can just see the remnants of her 8 Sqn "Magic Roundabout"name.... WR963 was Ermintrude.

Our carpenter, Vic, has nearly finished the de-icers, and he's done it in record quick time. Work on the tailplane continues, we're hoping to get some white on the fins and rudders in the next few weeks. Rob Rouse was the man doing the work down here, doing a cracking job, and it gives you an idea of just how big the aircraft is.



This is the progress on the starboard wing. After all the taping sealing and prep, it looks rather good don't you think? There's a few of us that are going to be watching for anybody scuffing the paint by walking about on there!


We had the rear of the engine nacelle off for painting. It's not often you see it "in the nude" so we just had to get a picture! The large dark green tank is the oil tank, and the lighter one behind it the water methanol. The frame is grey, same as the aircraft, with all solid fluid lines in white. It's amazing to think in the MR3 they managed to stuff a Rolls Royce Viper in there too..


This was the fin after taking the sanding pads to it. As well as the 63, various other slinging marks were also found and assembly stencils from her 8 Sqn AEW days.


The next two shots are of the white going on the fins. We were all holding our breath as it was the first large area done, and by roller rather than spray, but it went on great.




And the proof... WR963 in 1957, featured in the excellent book "Avro Shackleton: Avros Maritime Heavyweight by Chris Ashworth". This is the scheme we're going for. From the bits we've done, and the few good colour photos, she'll look stunning.


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Excellent piece Rich - very interesting and informative.

A group of us visited Airbase last June - and had a good tour of WR963 - thanks to the gentleman who showed us around.

I took a few photos inside - and this couple of the exterior.....

She is looking gorgeous - thanks to all who work on her - your hard work is really appreciated, if not voiced often enough.

The rest of the Airbase - and Midland Air Museum - pics are here.



Thank you for your compliments and for visiting. I'm not sure who will have given you your tour, but all the volunteers are proud of what we do at AIRBASE. At the end of the day - if no-one comes to see her (and the others - DC3, DC6 , Nimrod) then the revenue to keep them alive disappears.



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one of my favourite aircraft and great to see/hear about a couple that could be up and running again

Might even give the UK an ASR capability again - you should get a Government grant for that work :D

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More.... I'm going to try and drop in a few detail shots.

Update from WR963 as at 09 Oct.

One of the major jobs we needed to do by now was move the scaffolding from around the starboard wing. It was great for doing the de-icers and for the top of the wing to start with, but now it was getting in the way. The fact that we couldn't anchor it, or put a canopy over it meant the benefits we had hoped it would bring weren't as great as we'd hoped. We got it all down and packed away, and 963 looks a lot happier for it.


Vic has finished installing the new wood into the port wing de-icers, so we now have a brand new full set. They really stand out, I've never really noticed them before.


Things are coming on in leaps and bounds with the pre-oilers. No 1 and 2 have their pumps fitted, and 3 and 4 will have them on within a week or so. Our electrician was quite perplexed to find that they didn't work first time, but it turned out to be nothing more than a really thorough job done by the RAF when they removed the oil dilution system. Every junction, fuse and connection was disconnected and capped. When the last ones were found the pump on No 1 buzzed away sounding really healthy. The good to come from all this is it looks as if we'll be running again before Christmas, which keeps us on schedule.

The scaffolding had prevented us from opening the bomb doors all the way. They need to be exercised on a regular basis to keep the hydraulic rams happy. Seeing as we haven't moved them since January, now was as good as ever... so with the power on, and bomb doors "open" selected, we just need hydraulic pressure.

Which was when I found people looking my way! So, up in the starboard undercarraige bay, and started yanking on the handpump.


That's it, top just right of centre of the pic. The spar raps your knuckles as you pump, the handle's not quite big enough to get a big swing on, and high enough up to make you teeter on the undercarraige footpegs. The pressure on the handle is akin to trying to jack up a very heavy car. After a reasonable amount of time,the doors were fully open and I was free to collapse out of sight. (I work behind a desk. I'm not into this fitness lark)

Last but by no means least we've progressed some more with the paint. The port wing is nearly completely re-sealed


We've done some more painting along the fuselage, and around the tail



You can see we have the first coat of white on, but we still need to do up the port side, and underneath. Under the tail particularly, as the camera bay doors don't look great and may need some attention before we paint them. We also need to do a bit of cleaning under there too, which is made more difficult when the ground is wet. Working one day per week, this is only the SEVENTH day of actually putting paint on the aircraft.

It wasn't enough. The weather had turned, and the paint wasn't drying fast enough. Reluctantly we turned our efforts to getting the engines back running, and started negotiating for something that WR963 hadn't seen since 1994... the inside of a hangar.

While negotiations continued, winter moved in. Work carries on though, in rain snow sleet or shine.



WR963 wasn't too happy with the overnight low temperatures. Our first job was relearning how to do breaking and entering on a Shackleton so our visitors could have a tour. The lock barrel on the crew door was well and truly frozen, so the 'alternative' method of entry was used. This involved a less than amusing Bambi impression done by yours truly on the starboard wing. Happily, with a little persuasion from inside, the door behaved and the tours could be done.

By lunchtime most people had left to get home before any more snow arrived, so we took the opportunity to open up no4 engine cowling and have another crack at the pre-oilers. We've bled and rebled the system, the oil is quite viscous even in low temperatures, we've tried pulling the prop through with the pre-oiling pump going but still nothing seems to make its way up to the cams. There are some things you just don't want to have to write, and one of them was the message I had to write on various forums telling them that we couldn't run the Shackleton at the Night Run in 2010. More so when you realise how hard people have worked to try and make something good happen.

It didn't really take a genius to figure out that our target date of "just before Christmas" for running was decided on for a reason. We gave it our best shot, and ran out of time. We left that day feeling disappointed, and that we'd let down the staff and supporters at Classic Flight. Severakl of us were that peeved, we went down there during the week and set about the engines with a vengeance. Two days work later and we had the engine pre-oiling on the switch.

5th February 2011


My diary reads "2 done, 2 to go."


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one of my favourite aircraft and great to see/hear about a couple that could be up and running again

Might even give the UK an ASR capability again - you should get a Government grant for that work :D

If we could get a grant for a new set of wing spars, that would be worth a go!

Old aircraft are still useful... The DC3's at AIRBASE don't carry passengers currently, but they still work for a living. One does radar trials, one does pollution control work, and the other was down at Farnborough for a while.

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That's inspirational. Well done to all concerned and keep up the excellent work.


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In early March we finally got word that the AIRBASE hangar would be made available for four days. We would haveto get the aircraft in, sheet up, paint and get her back out again. Most of the prep work was done outdoors, and we met the target by working late evenings.

Finally on the 23rd, we recieved word that the guys on the ramp had hitched her up to the towbar and taken her indoors.

I loaded my car with as much painting materials as I could and set off for Coventry, eager to see what was going on there. I couldn't believe how busy the place was... it seemed as if everything was being worked on at once. Asking around the place and a figure of 17 years was arrived at since she last saw the inside of a hangar.



Two of our guys were already hard at work starting to mask up the windows and cover the floor, as was requested of us. The team are all in good spirits, even when asked to unroll the plastic floor covering again (and again) for the camera.. :D

Airbase have been kind enough to kick a lot of other stuff outside for this one weekend, so we are NOT going to make a mess.

I have to compliment the ground handlers though, they put 963 in the hangar bang on the centre line with barely feet to spare on the wingtips. This is how close it was:


As you can see it's a snug fit.

Helping out with the masking, I had to take this shot, as it was too good to miss:


The DC3 was started up later in the afternoon outside, and made a really very pleasing amount of noise. Being at the west end of the hangar meant we got the sunshine for longer, which was rather nice. 963 looked that happy in there it was rather tempting to let the tires down so we don't have to move out, squat in the aircraft, or just paint a line on the floor that's Shackleton shaped with a "reserved" sign on it...




The first days work was 11 hours all in. Saturday and Sunday we didn't plan on going home until most things (apart from markings) were done.

We worked long into the night, pausing only briefly for food and once in shock, when one of the female members of our painting team dropped into conversation that she was a pole dancing instructor! We slept in a room just ff the hangar, then as soon as it was light got up and carried on. We had around 20 people working on the Shackleton this weekend, which is kind of a record for us. Even the elder members of the group can't remember seeing that many people working on her in the 12 years that she has been in their care.

While for the most part 963 has been well behaved during her hangar time, she tried marking her spot when one of the bomb bay hydraulic rams started leaking. Even so, the hydraulics have held pressure for just over a week with the doors only just starting to creep open. This and various other small leaks caused problems with contaminating paint. Then the paint we had for the roundels/fin flashes started reacting, so they'll get redone next weekend. Luckily we noticed it after the first fin flash, so we didn't have to worry about any large areas. We overestimated the need for some colours, and underestimated others, but on the whole by the end of the four days she was about 90% done.







These last two were taken right before we left.



WR963 was pushed outside the following night. This is the first time a Shackleton has worn these colours since 1957.


A few weeks later and we were met by our old bomber looking splendid complete with all markings. She had a job to do... she was going to be the star of AIRBASE re-opening.



She stayed there for a while while there was the roll out ceremony with the Mayor of Coventry, and various news crews, before they were invited for lunch in the DC6 diner (G-SIXC, nicely converted.) While they were getting some food inside them, the other DC6 (G-APSA) was pushed back to make room for 963 to take up her own spot beside the Nimrod. We than started the necessary checks, and erected a small fence to stop the public getting too close to 18 fast moving prop blades.

Engine start time drew closer, and I was getting more nervous by the second. I had the task of waking WR963, being the engineer for the run, overseen by our regular engineer and excellent teacher, Gerry Broad. With the Mayor and several others on board I was praying for her not to throw a tantrum as she had on the practice run a week beforehand. WR963 must have been listening as she performed flawlessly, with no intercom problems, and no misfiring or shenanigans from No 3 engine. It caught and ran well from the moment the switches were pushed, as did the others.


We all took a deep sigh of relief after the shutdown, and the silence was broken by applause... so I guess the crowd liked it. We've brought her back to life, brought her into the publics eye, and given her new paint. Now the hard work starts again.

The next level is getting out on the runway..

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Working on an ageing aircraft isn't just about putting it back togather and shiny paint. The many systes might not have been touched in years so every little sign that something is wrong needs careful investigation.

On one run during the summer this year, when we shut down we found the priming overflow pipe on the No 3 engine was still chucking raw fuel out - but with the pump off. Initial thoughts were that I had overprimed during the start, but not so.

The supply line into the fuel priming pump was weeping fuel. We got it off the aircraft and this was the state of it:



This caused a few sharp intakes of breath when we took it off. It must have cracked to the point of failing on this last run. 963 was being a sneaky old cow, as the leak chose to follow the overflow from the priming pump, so it didn't come out anywhere suspicious. Typically this pipe is hard to see hidden behind the air intake and outlets for the generator, so you could only feel it rather than see it until it was off. I'm still not convinced its the original pipe, I think its a legacy from 10 - 15 years ago when Air Atlantique were using her as a test bed for 790's upcoming transatlantic trip. There's a lot of replumbing and tidying to do behind the inboard engines, so a trip to see WR960 at Manchester or WL795 at St Mawgan is on the cards to see how it fits properly.

By now we had also started looking at other parts such as brakes, and trying to find the skills in the UK to have our No 2 propeller checked out and built.

The air bottles came back from testing, with all the NDT, x-ray, ultrasound, and boroscope testing done. Four bottles passed, one bottle failed with the wall thickness down to less than 1.6mm and metal flakes seen on the x-ray! Luckily for us we only need four, but a good job we sent the spare too. This work was prompted after the lack of working air systems on the Shackleton, and the date of the last inspection on the bottles, which was July 1971...

We phoned Pirtek who arrived at the airport within the hour (the guy on the phone asking "Is it the old Shackleton again? No problem!") and when we gave them the old piriming line we had a nice shiny new one produced inside 10 minutes. The old spec of the pipe isn't available any more so an equivalent was used. Thinking about it; there's now enough non original parts on this aircraft to give the CAA and anyone else a field day if it had to be audited for flight. But as it's probably not going to happen we can use slightly better materials without getting it approved. Hopefully the work we're doing will keep the Shackleton 'live' for a good many years. With the new priming line fitted, it was then just a case of switching the internal power on, selecting the fuel tanks and master cocks for that side, and turning the priming switch to No 3 or 4 engine. The pump hummed away with no nasty noises and no leaks... so 963 is good to run again.

Feeling happy with our success we moved on to what would have been last weeks task - the refitting of the air bottles in the pneumatics crate. Myself and Pete Curran took this job on, and braking spiky little bits of safety wire and stiff air hoses, we had the bottles in fairly quickly. The bottles are housed in The port side of the nose, just behind and below the gunners seat in a crate type structure


There was a little bit of head scratching to figure out where all the joints ran to avoid chafing and rubbing.


We than fed the bypass pipes fitted to the oxygen cylinders (as they have been used in the past for extra capacity) back into the crate and gently opened the taps.


Hissing noises were heard and then port and starboard pressure gauges started to climb! There is a small leak off the bottom pair of cylinders, and what little pressure we had bled away fairly quickly, so we'll test the whole system from top to bottom next week.

Volunteers were called for and with one man standing next to each wheel, one down in the nose near the crate, and one in the pilots seat; the brakes were pressed. Port brakes took up and then vented nicely, starboard took a little more persuasion, finally coming on with a drawn out creak and then a puff of years old brake dust out the sides! There didn't seem to be any sudden great loss of air, so it appears the brake bags are still intact.


So... 963 now has her brakes back. We need one more propeller and then a mainwheel tyre change, then... ;)

Next we decided to have a crack at removing some of the stiffness from the throttle linkages. Well, that was the excuse. In reality all of us have been itching to get those front doors open and see what state she is in, in one of the places we haven't been for a while. Well we weren't disappointed.. in there we found graffiti from the radar fit, original 50's paint, a couple of birds nests and a lot of work!




You never realise just how big that bomb bay is until all the doors are open, the AEW uses roughly two thirds of it and it seems cavernous at that. We're still planning around the possibility of re-instating the doors, and reversing the conversion that was doen to make an AEW2.

There is MUCH more left over from the MR2 than anybody would think, and the position of where the doors were cut makes it look to be a job that can be done. Up front there is still all the holes where the various hydraulic brackets and switchgear for the rams would go, and its easy to spot as nothing in there was repainted during its time at Bitteswell. The forward doors still retain their flourescent lights, and also if you look carefully on the close up shot of the fronts of the doors, you can see the forward end still has the mounts for the rams.

One thing that has been spoiling 963 for a while was the smashed nav light lens on the starboard wing. Vic Marriott took the smashed remains of the old one, and set to manufacturing another. Vic being the perfectionist he is, by the time we arrived this Saturday it was fitted, with the seconite sealing and repainted too! He still wasn't satisfied, research having revealed a telltale piece that you can see from the cockpit, so he made and fitted that too. I envy people's skills sometimes but it does look the part:


We've had some other cleaning work going on, and some more niggling maintenance tasks. The priming line we replaced was checked again and while we were in the undercarraige bays the landing gear hydraulic rams were cleaned and greased.


We also found that the external locks were seized (the red struts in the photo) so we set to and persuaded them out. We managed to revive the spring action on three of them, but one of them was too bad to repair. Thankfully we had a spare, so we gave it some lubrication and fitted it.

For those that wonder about other locks.. the Shackleton control locks are all internal. There is one mounted in the tail (elevators), one in the trailing spar (ailerons), and a big red handle over the throttles on the pilot's side (rudders). They are all connected, meaning the rudder cannot be released until elevators and ailerons have been unlocked.

This is the elevator one on the end of the little red tag:


And here's how it normally appears, when I go down there to take it out:


Not my favourite job, but a regular place I end up; as you can guarantee a visitor will try to use force to move the rudder lock so they can play with the throttles. More of the bomb bay. I took these shots of the bay as they're better than the ones I posted before.

Looking aft:


Looking forward:


In these shots, the flat portion is the centre section. The middle carrier position is rated at 12,000lbs, a legacy from the Lancaster. The small row of bolts you can see before the 'egg crate' style construction starts again is the transport joint. The unsightly brown tubes either side are remnants of the heater system - this being one of the few areas of 963 that has succumbed to being outdoors. All the hydraulics and pneumatics run down the starboard side, and all the trim control cables and rudder control interlock down the port side

Then there's the maintenance task that come with running. The run on 17th September went really well, with the exception of losing part of the outboard exhaust pipe on No 4 engine. I didn't get any photo's as I was manning the engineers panel. Working on the principle of I broke it, I fix it - a new item was found from the store and cleaned of its protective coating. We've checked the others as this failed along the welded seam, so it was obviously cracked, then the last run finished it off.

It made me wish that the pipes were as easy as the Revell 1:72 kit had me believe all those years ago....

The old pipe.


New replacement, it was still in a sealed bag.


Replacement means getting the exhaust cover off. There's a slip joint for expansion, and a yoke to hold the pipe.




The slip joint is held by two large nuts, and locked with splitpins. The yoke has a similar set up but had to be 'persuaded' to part company with the exhaust.

New one on...


Job done!


Then when the ignition goes faulty, you really have to dig in. Griffons are fun to work on, but there's an awful lot of engine packaged in not a lot of room!


Brand new (back in 1989!) ignition harnesses, ready to go on No 3 engine.


The harnesses are now on, with all the plugs removed for cleaning. On the inlet side, the left harness feeds to the right bank and vice versa. The inlets are a pain to get to as they hide under here:


You can just see the hole in there. Have some more Griffon engine shots....



Testing the ignition system once it was replaced showed up another snag...

At one point during the prestart checks we had to halt proceedings, due to quite a bit of fuel coming down the inlet overflow, a symptom of something that became apparent later. After letting it drain away and evaporate, we carried on. At 1541hrs, No 3 engine was turned over and with a little persuasion brought to life. To all gathered the engine sounded pretty sweet so once there was some temperature in it we opened her up and let her roar. No misfires, popping or other shenanigans were evident, so it was time for the magneto test. The magneto has a two switches (I call them left and and right) and they each control one complete ignition system. One is on the exhaust side, one the inlet as there are two spark plugs per cylinder of the engine - some 24 in all.

To test them, you switch each off in turn and measure the drop in engine RPM. Left, right, then lower the revs to 800rpm and test both to make sure "Off" is indeed "Off". A serviceable engine is allowed 100rpm drop per magneto. 963 got 50rpm drop on each!

The snag was it appears she likes running too much, the slow running cut off didn't operate properly. This was the source of the fuel coming down the drain during prestart checks, and later the engine tried running on. Given the bad weather has just started, its possible that the solenoid in there is unhappy with the damp. It is functioning, but just not 100%. The slow running cutoff is buried deep at the back of the engine so it took some digging to get to. Myself, Gary Thorn, and Ron Thompson got the cowlings off and set about removing it. With little to no wind, you can have the Griffon engine manual on the wing at the side of you which makes life a little easier!


And this is the bit when we finally got it out.


The spare engines we have are on stillages, so getting to a replacement shouldn't be too hard given that there's no engine bulkhead in the way. Lastly, a shot showing the new harnesses in place. The new sheathing looks so much smarter than the old perished items.


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And that gents, brings you just about up to date.

We're still investigating the slow running problem with the No 3 engine, as with one misbehaving we can only run two for the upcoming Night Runs. The propeller for No 2 engine is undergoing NDT work at a propeller specialist, and we just have to wait patiently until it is ready. A failure of a prop doesn't bear thinking about.

So, until Saturday when I'll make an update... have a couple of shots taken last week as we left to go home.



Kind regards,


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As others have said truly brilliant, lets hope you all go from strength to strength and get to your next level, the runway.

Please keep the updates coming.

Once again truly brilliant


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Thanks Jim!

Its achievable, but it will take a bit of work.

Once we get the prop sorted, this is a rough list...

All four engines in good order at reasonable power settings (one quitting during a run would cause problems),

Change the mainwheel tyres and brake units

Air compressors for the brakes need overhauling

Radios need servicing so we can talk to the tower

Undercarraige oleos pumping up

Minor servicing to control surfaces (trims)



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