Three decades outside haven't been easy on WR963 and she shows her age in several areas. Although there have been several repaints, there are areas of corrosion on the lower wing skins, inner landing gear door valences and in the bomb bay floor.
These will be addressed to keep them from getting worse, but a deeper check will be needed at some point in the near future - which will mean a complete paint strip.
Other airframe projects currently being carried out include the replacement of damaged or defective engine cowling panels, work to restore the bomb doors to full length, and continuing efforts battling against seized fasteners to get each and every access panel on the aircraft opened up.
As you would expect, there are quite complex hydraulic and pneumatic systems on the Shackleton, both being revised several times during service to try and improve things, and delete unneccessay equipment. WR963 was no exception and both systems continue to be a weak spot.
The hydraulics run off pumps driven from the accessory gearboxes of No 3 and No 4 engine but there is no system pressure gauge! Unless you have a known problem or a visible leak, the only 'test' of sorts is to try the windscreen wipers - believe it or not!
The pneumatics are spilt into two sides, with compressors driven off each of the inboard engines. Each side feeds into two storage bottles in the nose, which then feed each system as required - with brakes taking the lion's share.
Ongoing projects with systems has been the complete overhaul of both hydraulic pumps and all electro hydraulic selectors, with functional tests being carried out soon. Next up will be the pneumatics, as two brand new compressors have been purchased and the pipework and valves will be leak tested and renewed as required.
Firstly, be sure to enable sound for the adjacent video! (Phil Cain)
Each of the Rolls Royce Griffon 58 engines puts out 2,450hp from its 37 litre capacity, with two 13 foot diameter de Havilland contra-rotating propellers soaking it all up and giving "The Growler" its growl. They took quite a bit of fettling to keep them sweet, with three engined landings a common occurrence towards the end of service.
The engines fitted to WR963 are not those that will be used for flying, they are only suitable for ground use (unless completely rebuilt) and this is the same for the propellers. New items are in store awaiting the time they will be needed for flight.
Ongoing projects with the engines include replacement of the booster coil units which have been prone to failing recently, the cleaning of all the oil filters, chasing a false crankcase pressure warning, and the tracking down of some minor oil leaks on No 1 engine.
The radio equipment carried by Shackleton could easily cover several pages... in fact to make a point better, it covers several books within the manuals that make up the Air Publications to service and maintain Shackletons. Starting out with the T1154 and R1155 sets as found in Lancaster and Halifax, it was continually upgraded and several of the last aircraft in service in 1991 were just starting to get the PTR 1751 V/UHF equipment.
WR963 didn't receive those, being stuck with the earlier and outdated PTR 175, as well as a couple of Collins 618T sets. Add to this some 'borrowing' of items to contunue WL790's flying career, and a couple of bits that helped a poorly Dakota; it was an easy to reach conclusion that a new radio set was going to be needed in the Shackleton if ever we would want to talk to the world outside again.
A complete working PTR 1751 set was obatained, and another built up from parts into a test rig. With a little help from some old friends that used to work on VP293 "Zebedee" at Farnborough, the radio was installed.
Work in this area concentrated on repairing a damaged intercom amplifier, and chasing a false ground on one of the 'Push to Talk' circuits which was triggering a permanent transmit mode. There is a slight irony, in that for 25 years WR963 could listen but not talk, yet for ages she wouldn't shut up...
Ground Support Equipment
Ground Support Equipment, or GSE as it’s referred to is our collection of pretty much everything that is needed to look after our Shackleton, WR963. If something needs replacing, repairing, moving or, if we need to access something, the call goes up for GSE.
The equipment we have around us enables simple things like access into the aircraft, to being able to jack her up to replace wheels or service landing gear – A very tricky operation which involves a lot of synchronised teamwork to prevent damage.
Apart from maintenance and access, we have equipment that helps run her. We have 24v battery accumulator to allow her to start and we have the large nitrogen bottle trolley to allow her suspension to bounce, her tyres to keep inflated and her brakes to stop her!
All our GSE needs some care and attention – From servicing to cleaning and a fresh lick of period correct paint!
The keener eyed, will have seen the arrival of a period “Houchin”. This is a diesel-powered generator which gives a continuous stabilised power supply into the aircraft. It needs some loving attention so she runs and behaves like she should. Again, like our other GSE, it requires repair and paint.
Our latest arrival is the return of our beloved RAF Land Rover 109" from Bruntingthorpe. She also needs the GSE “hug” treatment and a few bits to enable her to pull the Houchin and Gas Bottles.
If anyone does want to get involved in assisting returning GSE to its prime condition, we’d love to hear from you! It’s not all about WR963, you know…
MR.1 Cockpit Section "Zebedee"
Did you know that WR963 has a little brother?
Sporting the shorter, rounder nose of the Shackleton MR.1, "Zebedee" was VP293. Sadly he'll never be airworthy, as most of him is missing - but he can still maintain an impressive collection of flies on his nose travelling behind a 4x4 on the motorway - as long as we keep him roadworthy.
Having no wings and a much lower undercarriage does have an advantage in that its a lot easier for him to get to fundraising events around the country, giving more people the chance to sit in an authentic Shackleton cockpit, whilst promoting SAG and raising vital funds for our cause.
He certainly makes an impression parked next to our stall at an airshow, attracting curious visitors and enthusiasts alike.
if you have any pictures, stories, information or original equipment relating to VP293, please do get in touch. (Boing!)
Thanks to a very generous donor, we recently took delivery of a genuine Saunders-Roe Mk.3 Aluminium Airborne Lifeboat, of the type carried by Avro Shackletons. It is substantially intact but needs a lot of work to restore it to its former glory. According to Wikipedia:
"In early 1953, Saunders-Roe at Anglesey completed the Mark 3 airborne lifeboat to be fitted underneath the Avro Shackleton maritime reconnaissance aircraft. The Mark 3 was made entirely of aluminium unlike the Fox Mark 1 which was made of wood.
Dropped from a height of 700 feet (210 m), the Mark 3 descended under four 42-foot (13 m) parachutes at a rate of 20 feet (6 m) per second into the rescue zone. As the lifeboat dropped, pressurized bottles of carbon dioxide inflated the self-righting chambers at the bow and stern. Upon touching the water, the parachutes were released to blow away, and a drogue opened to slow the boat's drift and aid in the survivors reaching the lifeboat. At the same time, two rockets fired, one to each side, sending out floating lines to provide easier access to the lifeboat for ditched airmen.
Doors that opened from the outside provided access to the interior, and the flat deck was made to be self-draining. The craft was powered by a Vincent Motorcycles HRD T5 15-horsepower (11 kW) engine with enough fuel to give a range of 1,250 miles (2,010 km). Sails and a fishing kit were provided, as well as an awning and screen to protect against sun and sea spray.
The Mark 3 measured 31 feet (9 m) from bow to stern and 7 feet (2 m) across the beam and held enough to supply 10 people with food and water for 14 days. It carried protective suits, inflatable pillows, sleeping bags, and a first-aid kit."
A vital resource in raising funds to restore WR963 is our Cabin Shop. Situated next to WR963 at Coventry Airport, it provides a Reception and Visitor Centre for event days. Once checked in, you can browse our merchandise, purchase tickets for tours or on-board seats - and find out more about the star attraction.
It is the subject of continuous maintenance itself, keeping it secure and watertight on the outside and welcoming on the inside.
Most items on sale can also be purchased via the on-line Shop, see below.