Two years ago we published a fascinating report HERE from our good friend John Parker at Warbirds Online detailing progress on not one, but three Lockheed P-38 Lightnings currently under restoration at Historical Aircraft Restorations Ltd., in Albion Park, New South Wales, Australia. The workshop sits inside one of the Historical Aircraft Restoration Society’s hangars and run by world renowned warbird recovery expert, Rob Grienert. John Parker recently revisited the Lightnings to see how things are shaping up, and we thought our readers would be interested to see his report…
by John Parker
Since our last visit, work has focused on the daunting task of rebuilding and, where necessary, remanufacturing everything required to assemble a P-38’s wing. This process began by dismantling a wing center section from a wrecked P-38 and reverse-engineering it all from the ground up. The first stage involved removing the wing’s core, its main spar. A P-38 Lightning has a 52 foot wingspan, so the main spar is huge! Once they separated the main spar from the wing itself, Greinert’s team built a fixture to build up a new unit, using the original as a template. This phase alone took considerable time and resources to complete.
Once the main spar was complete, Greinert’s team removed it from its fixture, and began the herculean task of designing, then building a full wing jig. A full P-38 wing jig is a significant undertaking, given the sheer size of a Lightning, however, as with all aspects of this project, it has been accomplished with excellent attention to detail, accuracy and professionalism. Last winter (summertime in the USA), the freshly-completed main spar was installed in the new full-wing jig, and work commenced on building the first of the three new P-38 wing assemblies, using an original Lightning’s wing as a pattern. This first wing will take some time to complete, but the two subsequent examples should move forwards at greater pace once the team builds familiarity with the intricacies of the process. As previously reported, the first two wings will be for static aircraft only. By the time the third (airworthy) wing is constructed, the team will be old hands at P-38 wing building!
The Albion Park team has also accelerated progress on other parts of the P-38 rebuilds such as the ailerons, elevators, horizontal stabilizers, tail booms and cockpits. Work on these components was also much in evidence as we toured the workshop. There is, as always, no completion date yet for this first P-38, however the pace of work is such that it shouldn’t be too long before some of the major sub-assemblies are complete and mated together again, ready to be hung on the core wing assembly when it too is ready. The next two machines will follow in due time.
In addition, a pleasant surprise for the team was a recent visit from Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to inspect the P-38 restoration projects – certainly a great honor for the Lightning restoration team and HARS.
Warbirds Online will continue to follow the story of these “Fork Tailed Devils” over the next few years, including the first Lockheed P-38 Lightning to fly in Australia since 1945 as part of the great HARS collection.
WarbirdsNews wishes to express our gratitude to John Parker and, by extension, to Rob Greinert, for the article and images published here. We expect to hear from them again before too long!