New England Air Museum – DC-3 Restoration Update

The New England Air Museum's DC-3 following its paint stripping in 2014. (photo via NEAM)
The New England Air Museum's DC-3 following its paint stripping in 2014. (photo via NEAM)
The New England Air Museum’s DC-3 following its paint stripping in 2014. (photo via NEAM)

WarbirdsNews has been covering the New England Air Museum’s various restoration projects over the past couple of years, and today we have an update to share on their beautiful Douglas DC-3. We covered the beginning of this project HERE, so please do check that article out for the airframe history if you haven’t already read it. NEAM has a lot of progress to report on their DC-3, and have supplied us with text and some photographs to show their efforts over the past few months. The following is an edited version of their report…

The left wing is now inside the restoration building. (photo via NEAM)
The left wing is now inside the restoration building. (photo via NEAM)

During the winter, museum volunteers moved the DC-3’s left wing into the heated restoration building to begin polishing its aluminum skin. They stood the wing in a cradle on its leading edge, and installed scaffolding around the wing to allow their volunteers to safely reach all of the surfaces for polishing. As you will see in the accompanying photographs, the results continue to be encouraging. This season’s winter weather was challenging for all Museum operations as several planned workdays had to be cancelled or shortened due to the harsh conditions. Even so, the underside wing surfaces were completely polished by mid-April. With the advent of warmer weather, the left wing returned to the storage building for the top-side polishing, and to recommence polishing the fuselage forward of the wing box connection point. Moving the wing back to the storage building freed up space in the restoration hangar again for NEAM’s other projects (including the Burnelli CBY-3 and Anson Johnson P-51D Mustang racer).

Members of the restoration team soon got to work polishing the left wing. (photo via NEAM)
Members of the restoration team soon got to work polishing the left wing. (photo via NEAM)
A view of the port wing tip following polishing which shows how well the efforts are progressing. (photo via NEAM)
A view of the port wing tip following polishing which shows how well the efforts are progressing. (photo via NEAM)

The interior seating arrangement will consist of fourteen passenger seats and one for the flight attendant. All of the seating will be situated on the left side of the interior cabin which will allow easy museum guest entry and departure access along an expanded right side aisle way. The seat frames are now stripped, repainted, and have had the bottom seat canvas supports replaced. With the generous assistance of B&M Upholstery Supply in Lebanon, Connecticut, the aircraft seats now have foam padding sectioned to the proper thickness. The flight attendant’s seat is now complete. The restoration team re-covered the structure with new seat and arm rest material, which they are evaluating for durability.

An upholstery expert cutting foam for the new seat padding. (photo via NEAM)
An upholstery expert cutting foam for the new seat padding. (photo via NEAM)
Bob Gagnon, Jr. and Mary Gagnon from B & M Upholstery Supply with Willie Althammer, DC-3 restoration volunteer. (photo via NEAM)
Bob Gagnon, Jr. and Mary Gagnon from B & M Upholstery Supply with Willie Althammer, DC-3 restoration volunteer. (photo via NEAM)
An example of the passenger seat support structure can be seen on the left, with the completed, re-upholstered Flight Attendant seat on the right. (photo via NEAM)
An example of the passenger seat support structure can be seen on the left, with the completed, re-upholstered Flight Attendant seat on the right. (photo via NEAM)

The museum is exploring some options for the DC-3 which could see potential to upgrade and reactivate the interior intercom system and Flight Attendant call station, as well as the introduction of an engine startup, plane taxing, and in-flight cabin sound experience to give visitors some sensation of what the atmosphere felt like on the type while it was in service.

NEAM has also narrowed their final airline livery choices down to either American or Eastern Airlines. The Eastern Airlines colors are a strong candidate as the company actually operated the museum’s DC-3 after WWII, and conducted the very first commercial airline flight service from Bradley Field in Windsor Locks in 1947. However, American Airlines originally ordered museum’s airframe just prior to WWII, which also makes that carrier a good choice even though the Army Air Corps impressed it into service before American could take delivery. NEAM anticipates revealing their final decision by this September.

 

 

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