Aircraft Restoration and Maintenance for the USS Midway Museum

 

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USS Midway Museum currently displays 31 aircraft on her flight and hangar decks.  When viewing these magnificent examples of aircraft that played such important role in the history of carrier aviation and the country, it is important to reflect on the efforts of the dedicated volunteers who restored them and continue to maintain them in superb exhibit condition.

Many Midway guests tell us that the aircraft are among their favorite exhibits on the ship.  Without the great work of our volunteers, there probably wouldn't be 31 aircraft on the ship, and the ones there wouldn't be nearly as impressive.  In other words, Midway's Air Wing volunteers go a long way to creating the Midway Magic.

WHO ARE THESE VOLUNTEERS?

The aircraft restoration volunteers have a varied background and experience.  The majority of them are former military people who maintained aircraft when they were on active duty.  A good number of them are retired Navy aircraft maintainers, and a few of those saw duty in squadrons that were on the Midway when it was an active aircraft carrier.  A few others were in the Marines, Air Force or other services, and some were civilian employees of the Naval Air Depot (NADEP) for many years.  There are volunteers who are now active NADEP employees.  We are also fortunate to have the services of volunteers who have many years of aircraft restoration experience with other aviation museums.  Additionally, we have at least one volunteer who is a retired Naval Aviator, another a retired airline captain, and we occasionally get some help from active duty Navy people when their training and deployment schedules allows.  We've enjoyed the help of both active duty pilots and maintenance people at the hangar.  Also, we have a few volunteers who have had no hands-on aircraft maintenance experience at all, but who are learning fast, eager to help and are valuable members of our team.  Local volunteer groups also pitch in at the hangar and on the ship occasionally on a temporary basis.

WHAT DO THE VOLUNTEERS DO TO RESTORE AN AIRCRAFT?

Viewing a restored aircraft on the Midway can inspire the imagination with thoughts of the excitement and romance of carrier air operations and living and working on a deployed aircraft carrier.  That is as it should be, but preparing an aircraft for exhibit on the Midway is usually anything but exciting and romantic.  Typically, it is often hard, slow and tedious work.  At least most people would consider that to be so, but our volunteers love the work, and they take great pride in what they do.  That pride, along with their skill and perseverance, is evident in the 31 aircraft on the ship.

For one to have a greater appreciation of what this kind of work is all about, it would be helpful to learn about some typical tasks that a visitor would see at the restoration hangar and on the ship on any given volunteer work day.  Here are a very few of many examples:

  • Removing sub-assemblies from an aircraft without further damage to the airframe or part so they can be repaired.  This is often as much art as it is skill.  Some old aircraft have suffered years of neglect so corrosion and other factors often prevent easy dismantling.

  • Removing debris, corrosion, and old coatings from the airframe, control surfaces and sub-assemblies.  Some examples of debris are bird and animal nests, trash and accumulated dirt.  A couple hundred pounds of Lake Michigan's bottom had to be removed from one of the SBD Dauntless aircraft.

  • Repairing damaged skin sections and panels.  Often, this requires the manufacture of new sections and panels when damage is extensive.  This often requires precision cutting and the formation of compound curves to duplicate the original panel.  This is not a task for every volunteer.

  • Repairing or remanufacturing removed components and missing parts.  Examples: control rods, armament system parts, instrument panels, pilot controls, equipment mounting brackets, etc.

  • Manufacturing Plexiglas aircraft windows and canopies.

  • Performing final assembly of the airframe in preparation for final paint.

  • Replacing engines and propellers.

  • Sorting and cataloging parts and tools.

  • Inventorying and acquiring supplies.

  • Hangar housekeeping.

  • Washing airplanes.

  • Repositioning aircraft.

After aircraft are loaded on the ship, our volunteer's work is never complete.  Midway's Air Wing has a small group of highly skilled and dedicated volunteers on the Midway to make sure the aircraft remain in exhibit quality condition.  Their work consists of upgrading the aircraft configuration and markings, repairing damage, cleaning, corrosion control and generally making sure the aircraft present the best possible appearance.

LET US KNOW WHAT YOU THINK?

Our volunteers derive lots of satisfaction from the high quality work they perform for USS Midway Museum.  They can also see the looks of enjoyment and admiration on the faces of guests on the Midway as they view the displayed aircraft.  Nevertheless, they would enjoy being told that you appreciate and admire their work.  Click here to send a message.

SHARE IN THE MIDWAY MAGIC.

For more information on how volunteer e-mail Laurie Switzer or call her at (619) 398-8222.  We are located within easy walking distance from the San Diego Trolley System and Coaster along San Diego's Embarcadero.  Our current volunteers know the Midway is a great way to meet new people while contributing to this important historic site.

To learn about all of Midway's volunteer opportunities, click here.

 

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