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MikQuattro

Maintenance hatches/doors/panels on WWI era aircraft

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I'm extremely new to WWI era aircraft, and of course it's a bit more difficult to source photos to help answer this question than it is with modern aircraft, so thought I'd ask it here.  I would like to do what I can to reveal the work I do on my models' engines and cockpits/interiors, whether posing the various hatches and doors and access panels open or removed.  So a few questions have emerged as I think about this...

 

-- I'm guessing that there weren't a lot of hatches/doors simply because things were kept very basic back then.  So I'm guessing that if mechanics needed to work on the various parts of the engine, they would have to remove the cowling as opposed to opening hinged cowling as on WWII aircraft.  But looking at the Armstrong Whitworth F.K.8, which has what looks to be a hinged seam on the leading edge of the engine cowling, notably seen on the 10th photo of Xmald's most amazing version here: 

Can anyone verify that that is indeed a hinge and in that case it would be okay to pose that panel open on that hinge?

 

-- Regarding the cockpit, I'm assuming that (like most aircraft) the skin is a structural part of the aircraft and because of the nature of the interior frame, there aren't any hatches/panels that could be removed.  Not to mention that a lot of the skin on these type of aircraft were fabric, I believe?  But that raises a question for me of how the heck would maintenance crews work on the interior when the only access are the tiny openings where the pilot climbs in?  I know I could just remove part of the side so display the interior (assuming I crafted an interior that would be worth looking at haha), but I would rather not do that.

 

Anyway, sorry for the odd questions, still trying to get used to how these older aircraft work :)

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9 hours ago, MikQuattro said:

But that raises a question for me of how the heck would maintenance crews work on the interior when the only access are the tiny openings where the pilot climbs in? 

Without a specific question an answer can only be generic and vague, but in general -

- lots of early fabric-covered aircraft have significant-sized fabric panels which can easily be removed and replaced, via lace fastening. These are very prominent on the SE5a fuselage, for example, but you will see them on many types. They tend to be the baggy, wrinkly areas. 

- more recently since the widespread availability of zip fasteners you tend to find those used instead for access to things like control pulleys which may occasionally need inspection and lubrication

- removing the seat and crawling down inside the fuselage continues to this day

- given that most of these heaps in WW1 were only lasting a few weeks anyway, in the reality of WW1 service you would mostly cannibalise or replace components, or just replace the whole aircraft, rather than get into any particularly intrusive airframe work

- but if you need to completely remove the covering of a component, and re-cover it properly for periodic inspection and repair, then that's just what you do. Labour intensive, but so is everything about aeroplanes. And much more a peace-time phenomenon where you have a nice tidy well-equipped hangar at a proper base, rather than a ratty shed in a field in France. And, for a sense of how often that happens, with Irish linen it's neeed about every three to ten years depending on the environment, so not really relevant on an actual wartime aircraft.

Edited by Work In Progress

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Thanks very much for the info!  It all makes much more sense now.  I now see what looks like stitching on the airplane I've been studying (F.K.8).  I can't imagine as a mechanic having to remove the seat and fix stuff that way haha.  And honestly I had no idea about the life expectancy of these planes, that's crazy.

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Please be aware that it is yet another longstanding myth that most WWI aircraft only lasted a few weeks. Most lasted many many months. Some lasted for a year or so but usually by that time they were worn out and/or obsolete and returned to the rear for training etc.

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As someone just starting out there are lots of period photos to look at here http://www.wingnutwings.com/ww/photogallery?cat=1 and on the specific aircraft type pages (and in the instructions). Access to most internal areas needing work was usually via small hatches or inspection panels, but for more extensive work the fuselage fabric was opened up.spacer.png

 

 

Edited by wmcgill
Typo

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Wow what a great shot! I totally see it now.  Do a lot of modelers present their models with the fabric removed? Seems a shame to put all that work into an interior that you can't really see :)

 

Thanks wmcgill

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