March 2004 Newsletter
From the Desk of Bob Hood

(After many years of painstaking restoration XA-NAR will have a prominent place in the Museum of Flight’s future air transportation wing. Ralph Bufano, Museum Chief Executive, has called it the most important aircraft in the air transport collection.)

Welcome to the de Havilland Comet Mk 4C restoration update.

We are having excellent progress as we work through the many layers of corrosion and damage caused by almost two decades of neglect. The damage is so extensive that many original components were beyond the reach of the most creative restoration efforts. Therefore, we often have to reconstruct ‘from scratch’ many complex parts of the aircraft.

Work under Project Manager JIM GOODALL is proceeding at an accelerating pace.

This table summarizes the many tasks well underway or already completed:

1 Forward Cockpit Instrument Panels - including Pilot, Copilot, center engine monitor, 8 overhead panels, and many smaller side and knee level panels 99% complete --- only requiring a few missing small parts to finish
2 Center Throttle, etc. Pedestal Completely disassembled, restored, reassembled and installed. Ready for display
3 Eight Cockpit Windshield Panels Acquired substitutes from England, D panels carefully delaminated and reassembled with new laminate material. Installed in aircraft
4 Flight Engineer Station - large frame and 3 instrument / control panels Comprehensive restoration completed. All instruments removed, reconditioned, and reinstalled
5 Cockpit Oxygen Regulators Three completed and installed, one missing
6 Navigator / Radio Operator Station 99% complete --- a few small parts still required
7 Strip out aft cabin, removal of all galley units and toilets Done
8 Forward Galley to Cockpit Bulkhead Removed old unit, fabricated and installed replacement
9 Electrical Distribution system - including Circuit Breaker Panels and Fuse panels More than 10 major assemblies completely restored and reinstalled
10 Radio Racks - 6 complex assemblies Done and reinstalled
11 Radio Rack Radios - Complete repopulation with original radio types All items completely restored and ready for display
12 Radio Rack Blowers and mounts - (2) Restored. Mounts fabricated from modified inventory parts
13 Fuselage support system Supports partial weight of fuselage during structural component removal and replacement. Done
14 Skin removal and replacement-belly under equipment bay Ongoing - project with about 20 running feet replaced, and many more to follow
15 Removal and restoration of forward toilet access pump out assembly Done
16 Nose gear bay restoration-including installation of restored nose gear Done - ready for display
17 Main Cabin Windows All 31 window assemblies ready for re-installation
18 Complete removal of aft cabin interior and partial forward cabin interior Done
19 Installation of new dehumidifier duct and modified belly hatch Done - controlling aft cabin humidity to retard corrosion
20 Remanufacture 'from scratch' copilot seat base Done
21 Strip and repair cockpit seat - preparation for reupholster Done
22 Restore 5 Galley Units Done (One smaller unit remains)
23 Nose radome completed and ready for display Done
24 Completed website - in place and periodically updated Ongoing project
25 Wing Mounted Landing light cover lenses Two units manufactured - including plaster mold to shape new parts.
26 Wingtip Marker Light lenses 50% done - currently fabricating male mold for vacuum drawn replacements.

Most recently, with completion of 99% of the cockpit instrumentation and installation of the radio racks and radios, we have been working our way aft. The aft radio rack covers are being fabricated using as a reference the excellent G-APDB pictures taken by Nigel Cornwell during a recent Duxford trip. (The original panels are missing.)

Another contributor, Bill Catlin and his wife Bette, recently drove their van all of the way to Chicago to bring us a magnificent model Comet built to the 1” = 1’ scale. This huge 9˝-foot wingspan model, which had hung from the ceiling of a model shop near O’Hare since the early 1960’s, has been converted by Jim Goodall from the Mk4 to the Mk4C configuration to match our XA-NAR restoration aircraft. It will be finished in Mexicana livery complete with Golden Aztec / CMA decals to show visitors how our full-scale exhibit will look. The “MEXICANA”, “AZTECA D’ ORO”, “CMA” and “XA-NAR” decals will use Mexicana graphics scanned from the original Comet introduction literature.

Two volunteers are about 80% done in reconstruction of the starboard aft toilet bulkhead. This is a massive job, as advanced rot in the original wooden bulkhead (supporting the sink, mirror, lamps and cabinets) necessitated its complete remanufacture using fresh plywood. An exact reproduction of the original is gradually emerging from the wood chips and many bits and pieces of plumbing.

Corroded and unsound floor beams under the aft 12 feet of the main cabin have been removed and replaced with identical beams taken from XV-814. Thanks to this excellent effort, we now have a stable floor support. For the first time in about 4 years, we are able to walk directly into the aircraft from the main cabin door without leaping a three-foot gap.

Outside the hangar, before cold weather closed our efforts down, work in preparation for wing removal was well along. All of the wing-to-fuselage transition fairings have been removed. On the port side, the engine exhaust ducts and the outboard thrust reverser assembly have been removed. The inboard flaps have also been taken off for restoration.

Lower fuselage interior assemblies have been stripped out in preparation for removing the belly skin and bead blasting the entire area to remove corrosion. Two replacement skins (about 140 square feet) are now in place, but we believe that the entire belly of the aircraft will eventually have to be re-skinned. To this end, we have requested quotes on about 750 feet of longitudinal stringer channels

Ground fuel management instrument panels in both wheel wells have been removed, restored and await restoration of the well bays before installation.

Our cockpit seats have been sent out to an aircraft upholstery supplier. We are now awaiting a position on their production schedule to get them covered.

Custom fabrics, upholstery, and floor coverings are specified, and will be ordered in the near future.

This has been a busy and challenging time. All of the volunteers have been doing fine work with truly professional results.
A partial list of active volunteers:
Tony Anderson
Jerry Bowen
Jose Cervantes
Dave and Dan Foster
Jake Gumz
Russ Hoff
Phil Oppen
Bill Publicover
Phil Sacks
Tony Nice
Russ Garlow
Tony Simon
Jerry Swearingen
Craig Wall
Bill Novick
Matt Doody


Finally, a program note. Capt. Peter Duffey (retired Comet, etc. pilot) and I were interviewed for a History channel program which will include brief segment on the Comet’s history and our restoration. The show will air on June 24th, and should give our project much needed additional exposure.

Also, mark your calendar for Saturday, May 17th. There will be a Restoration Center Open House – Fundraiser for the Comet. The British-American Chamber of Commerce, Rolls-Royce, the Royal Aeronautical Society, and the Museum will sponsor this event. It will include light refreshments, finger food, wine and beer, etc. Hope you can make it!

Best regards to all,
Bob Hood