VA12 A7 Restoration Project



02/21/2012  1000hrs
Arrived at VAC for formal agreement signing. OIC  Capt. Austin (OBie) O'Brien, ATC Bud White, ATN2 Terry Nies.  After getting the familiarization tour of the facility and meeting with the Commander of the VAC we began working on the tail section of the A/C.  Scrounged up and installed approximately 100 missing screws to secure loose panels.  Began scraping and wire brushing the port elevator.

Port Elevator first challange Get rid of that RTC Crap! First day of work
Continued scraping and sanding of the port elevator.  Removed the "APPRENTICE TRAINING" and RTC from both sides of the tail. Next scheduled work days before the air show 2/28 and 3/1.
 Day 2 A7 port side

Continued to scrape and sand on the port elevator and trying to batten down loose panels.  Elevator has some sort of rubberized material under the paint on the forward half of the surface making cleaning to bare metal very slow.  Because of washing and moving of the planes to the flight line, this is the last day to work until after the air show this weekend.  Hope to be back to work on it by Thursday 3/15/12. Stubby
 Port elevator corrosion

3/9/12 - 3/11/12
Aircraft on display at the Valiant Air Command annual air show.
A7 on display at the air show 2012

3/13/12 Day 6
Finished up the port elevator and it is ready to fill and prime.     Having a heck of a time getting Dzus fasteners to secure panels. Corrosion not letting them catch. Soaked them with penetrating oils but no luck. Found Ammo cans with VA72 markings on them in the ammo compartment. Opened the canopy. Very difficult to lift but comes down slowly.  Latch handle broken and needs to be replaced.  Many years of ineffective seal around the canopy has left lots of yuck in the cockpit.  Need some assistance in servicing the main and nose gear struts to get them at the right height and locking the tail hook in the full up position.  Too many hydraulic lines have been disconnected over the years to pressurize the system. Next work day 3/15/12. Stubby
Port Elevator ready to prime VA 72 Ammo cans A7 Cockpit first look

3/15/12 Day 7
Sanded on the port side of the vertical stabilizer and rudder.  Found 5 different colors of paint on top of the corrosion on the rudder.  Next work day 3/20/12. Will be attempting to service the main and nose gear struts. Stubby
 Day 7 Vertical Stabilizer and rudder

3/20/12 Day 8
Finished sanding the port side of rudder and started on the starboard side. Used a floor jack and got the tail hook latched up into the up and locked position. Filled approximately 50 more missing screws.  Cam-Lock fasteners will not go back in once opened. Too much corrosion in the latch portion.
Day 8 Bud working starboard rudder
3/22/12 Day 9
We were able to get the tail hook latched up and the release lever is now safety wired in the up position. Laid two coats of filler primer on the port elevator and sanded. Finished sanding the corrosion on the port rudder and sprayed first coat of primer. Continued working on Cam-Lock fasteners. Next work day 3/27. Stubby
3/27/12  Day 10
Finished sanding the corrosion on the starboard side of rudder.  Worked on panel that was loose port side of wing root.  Needs to be reinstalled with new rivets.  Sanded and laid two more coats of filler primer on port elevator attempting to fill the etchings.  Removed the panels covering the starboard flap actuators. ( screws stored under inboard panel) for now.  Next work day 3/29/12. Stubby
3/29/12 Day 11  Reinstalled support brace with rivets and secured the loose panel with the cam -locks.
continued sanding and filling on the tail section and continued scrounging screws and replacing missing ones.  No work days next week due to film crew using the hanger for the full week.
4/10/12  Day 12
The hanger got rearranged for the movie filming and it took us a bit to get reorganized. Replaced all the missing screws in the tip of the rudder and filled the holes that had screws broken off with a little bondo.  Spread bondo over the large rivet seams on the port elevator. Staff tried to inflate the port main gear without success over the weekend without success.  The gear needs to to be extended but the tall jacks are currently in use by the TBM team.  When they have their landing gear back on we can use the jacks to raise ours up and get the three landing gears serviced correctly.  We learn new tricks every day we work.
|Next work day is 1/2 day on 4/12 and full days on 4/17 and 4/19. Stubby
4/12/12  Day 13
Bud Worked on securing more of the cam-locks.  Locks that can not be secured after soaking in penetrating oil and a little fine adjustment tool ( hammer) use, are removed pop rivited as needed and the holes filled with Bondo.  Bondo is becoming almost as good a friend as my "Red Solo Cup". Next working days 4/17 & 4/19 Stubby
4/17/12 Day 14
Finished sanding and primer on the UHT down to the "belly pan".  Need to do some cleaning  of the underside due to all the leaking hydraulic fluid over the years before it can be sanded and filled as needed. Started sanding rusty screws on the topside of the starboard wing. Continued working on cam-locks on top starboard side compartments. Stubby
4/19/12 Day 15
Continued sanding on the top starboard side wing. Will be coating with OSPHO to stop the rusting.  Finished securing panels on starboard top fuselage. Pop riveted a few panels down that could not get the cam-locks to secure.  Opened the canopy again and tried to track down the service ports for the canopy to open correctly. Need an AME's  input. Took more pictures for posting on VA12 FB site.  Tried an initial cleaning of the canopy.  Lots of scratches that will need to be sanded and polished out later. Canopy takes two to lift and place safety bar in place but closes slowly going down.  Input / suggestions are welcomed and appreciated. Stubby
 Next working days 4/24 and 4/26
.Canopy actuatorcanopy actuatoractuator
4/24/12 Day 16
Finished sanding both wing topsides and coating rusted screws with Ospho. Worked on securing all the loose panels on the fuselage top side.  Started sanding on the bottom of port aileron. VAC commander has asked that we place an emphasis on the cockpit clean up.
4/26/12 Day 17
Wings top side
Sprayed primer on top wings  and spot sanded missed areas.  Built panel to cover badly corroded  area of starboard wing root.  Found piece of Aluminum stock to try to fabricate a new cockpit release handle. Contact with Davis Montham AFB had negative results.  They already have 3 requests for the same part they can't fill.  Contacting a machine shop to have one fabricated. Opened cockpit and started cleaning.  Only one gage missing but lots of knobs rotted and broken.  Searched the area around the actuator  for any indication of a service bottle to raise the canopy still no luck.  Really need an AME with knowledge of the A model ( which appears to be much different then the E) Escape-Pac system to assist.   Reprimed all new bare spots from sanding.  Beer Time!   Next work day 5/1/12
5/1/12  Day 18
Tried to find a working jack to use to service the main gear.  Pumped a lot of hydraulic fluid but none of the jacks we found were tall enough or hold fluid.  Removed panels for access to flap actuators and disconnected the lines in an attempt to raise the flaps manually.  No luck.  Continued  with corrosion control sanding and priming the top of wings and fuselage.  Hope to finish the top side Thursday and move on to the underside. Really need help with the AMH and AME areas.  Also need to find maintenance manuals for the A model.  Have not had any search luck so far.
Next work day 5/3/12.
5/3/12 Day 19
Started on underside of port wing.  Tried to manually raise the trailing flaps by removing hydraulic lines but they would not budge.
5/8/12 Day 20
Sprayed first layer of primer on underside of port wing. Raised canopy and attempted to pressurize the actuator to get the canopy to stay up without a pole supporting it and to be able to open it with one person. No luck. Canopy is kicking our butts. Started wire brushing the corrosion in the cockpit. What a mess!  Ubangi  former AO Greg Merritt stopped by and was excited to see what we were doing. Wants to join the team.
Canopy actuator Fitting on end of actuatorend cap
Anyone know what this is down at the right of the right rudder pedal?
Unknown item
Next work day Thursday 5/10.  Come join us!!!
5/10/12 Day 21
Sanded and sprayed another coat of primer on underside of port wing. Continued to fill areas that were corroded through and some more missing cam-loc that we were unable to reattach. Tried to use nitrogen to blow the flaps up but still no luck.  Also tried to pressurize the canopy actuator but could not pass air through the fitting that we thought was the correct fitting.  Found out later that the fitting was the canopy blow trigger that had been made inert.  Next work day 5/15/12
5/15/12 day 22
Sanded and sprayed 2 coats of primer on paint cracks. Cracks are so deep that they need up to 5 coasts of filler primer to get level with the current paint. High humidity today kept the primer from drying as quickly as other times. Started working on the underside of the Starboard wing and fuselage.  Top side, empennage, Rudder and vertical stabilizer done. One last light sanding on the port wing tip underside needed to complete that. Next work day 5/17/12
5/17/12 Day 23
Terry unable to work this day.  Bud disconnected the starboard flap actuators which freed up the flap.
Next work day 5/22/12
5/22/12  Day 24
Disconnected hydraulic lines from the starboard outside flap actuator and applied nitrogen with increasing pressure.  Actuator broke free at 300PSI with a large bang! Tried to apply same pressure to the inboard actuator (while still connected to the flap and hydraulic lines removed .  Flap would not move using up to our max available pressure of 600 psi.  Disconnect the inboard actuator and successfully retracted the actuatorStarboard Flap now up piston just like the  outboard did suddenly at 200 PSI and loud bang.  Connected the outboard actuator again to the nitrogen and applied pressure to the retract side and at 200 PSI the flap retracted to the full up position. They are up and locked without pressure being applied.  Reinstalled the panels on the inboard and out board actuators underside of starboard wing.  Began removing the port underside panels but had 4 screws that needed to be drilled out. Needed to get new drill bit or sharpen the ones we have.   First project Thursday morning.  Next work day 5/24/12.

5/24/12 Day 25
Open the access to the port flap actuators and disconnected the hydraulic lines.  Connected Nitrogen tank to the inboard actuator.   Flaps raised but fell back down when we removed the pressure since they did not go all the way up to the latched position.  Connected the nitro to the outboard actuator and the flaps slammed up and locked.  Tried again to raise the strut on the port side. not enough pressure on the tank that we were using. Started sanding on the starboard and port  forward fuselage.  Started sanding (with 800 grit)  on the canopy exterior.  This is going to be a lot of elbow grease expended on this task.  We are still stumped  by the Canopy lift assist.    Next work day is Tuesday 5/29/12.
5/29/12 Day 26
Started the day working on the canopy strut.  After struggling  with what was assumed to be a "Schrader valve" we removed it and found a jury rigged device.  After obtaining some o-rings and rearranging a little, Eureka the canopy is up!we applied pressure slowly to the strut.  At about 320 lbs the canopy appeared to be balanced properly to stay up on its own.  Sealed it up and removed the nitrogen tank.  Eureka ! Very productive morning.  Afternoon was spent polishing the canopy and cleaning the instruments, control panels, and other items in the cockpit.  Not done yet but made a big difference.  Bud worked on trying to remove panels to raise the leading edge flaps. Next work day is Thursday 5/31.

5/31/12  Day 27
Terry OGO ( camping)  Bud attempted to jury rig a canopy latch handle without success. He spent the rest of the day assisting the museum staff on the scale P51. Next work day 6/5/12.
6/5/12 Day 28
Starboard wing tipVery productive.   Completed sanding and first primer of bare metal on the bottom of the starboard wing tip. Removed panels covering the canopy latches and connecting rods. Had to drill out several screws that were too tight and could not be removed otherwise. Sprayed all the latch joints with Super Lubricant Teflon and exercised the latch mechanism to loosen it up. Letting it soak in for a couple of days. Next work day is 6/7/12.
6/7/12 Day 29
Even more productive day today.  Bud built a canopy latch handle out of a block of solid aluminum. This will allow us to latch the canopy down tight when the plane is out in the elements. Removed port and starboard side panels to gain access to the forward rudder pedal area to clean and wire brush the corrosion and vacuum the pedal area. Lubricated the rudder pedal adjust mechanism. Now moves freely.  Removed the port and starboard side panels to gain access to the underside of the control boxes.  Disconnected all the cables and connections for all the starboard control boxes so they can be removed to clean and refurbish as best we can for appearance. Wire brushed and vacuumed the area glare screen inside the forward wind screen area.  Sanded and primed the port side forward fuselage.
New volunteer to the museum has asked to work on our plane.  He will start on Tuesday. Welcome Bill!  Next work day is Tuesday 6/12/12.
6/12/12 Day 30
Continued sanding on wings.  Worked in the cockpit to clean control boxes.  Bill will be building the simulated 20mm out of PVC.  Next work day 6/14/12
6/14/12  Day 31
Painter pointed out the deficiencies in our sanding so we are continuing sanding and cleaning up the cockpit. Next work day 6/19/12.
6/19/12 Day 32
Terry brought a bunch of his grandkids in for a special tour before heading out to sea on the Disney Dream for 4 nights.  Bud and Bill continued sanding.  Next work day 6/21/12
6/21/12 Day 33
Bud and Bill had to support VAC efforts on some other aircraft. Buds last work day until October.  Terry at sea. Next work day 6/26/12.
6/26/12 Day 34
 Removed and repainted and replaced the mirrors around the canopy.  Removed the bomb/gun sight for cleaning. Wire brushed and vacuumed the ejection seat frame and surrounding area.  Replaced all the control boxes back into their original locations. Aren't digital cameras nice?  Next work day 6/28/12
6/28/12 Day 35
Had to add nitrogen from the BNOB to  the canopy strut. Painted the cockpit bulkheads and seat frames. Scrubbed and cleaned the glare shield in prep for painting. Closed canopy and sanded the scratches in the canopy with 800 grit.  These scratches are so deep I am going to have to try some 600 grit. Next work day 7/3/12.
7/3/12  Day 36
Finished cleaning and painting the cockpit. Replaced gun/bomb site/HIUD.  All that is missing is a seat pack/ chute pack and the clock.  Used some 600 grit on the canopy with little progress. dropped down to 240. Man these are deep scratches. closed and cleaned up work area for 1 month stand down.
Please note: The VA 12 VAC Detachment will be on stand down until August 7, 2012.
8/7/12  Day 37  VA12 DET VAC is back in operation.
Plane was in the same location as when I left it. Canopy pressure is down and I will have to get some help opening the canopy again to recharge it. Went back to work on the canopy.  Dropped down to 120 grit paper. Starting to make progress on the scratches. Picked up new canopy handle from the machine shop for final fit testing and adjustment Thursday. Next work day 8/9/12.
8/9/12  Day 38
Measured and marked adjustments for the canopy lock handle. Continued to sand canopy scratches using 100 grit paper and an electric sander.  Deep scratches are starting to disappear. After gouges are smoothed out we will move up the ladder in grit to bring back the clarity of the canopy.  TBM still not off the jacks so we can't work on the gear yet.  We will probably be on the canopy for the next 2 to 3 weeks. Bill built two awesome 20 cal.  barrels to install in the gun ports. Next work day will be 8/14/12.
8/14/12 Day 39
Continued to work on clearing up the canopy. Used some 800 and then 1000 paper.  tried polishing with lens polish.  Starboard side looking remarkably better than we started. Started sanding on the port side. Next work day 8/16/12
8/16/12 Day 40
Continued on the port side of the canopy. No as many deep gouges on this side. Focused on the individual scratches. VAC pushed our A/C further back into the hanger to make room for the T-33 prep for painting.  Too tight to work on anything but the canopy at this point. May have found a retired AMSC to paint the plane.  The hanger is very hot with not much air moving.  Next work day 8/21/12.
8/21/12 Day 41
Focusing on just  the scratches showed a flaw in the plan.  After polishing with 2000 grit and buffing with polish, it was evident that the optics and clear vision were significantly effected by the grooves created by the focused sanding.  Will need to go back  with a block sander with 800 paper and smooth out the waves in the plastic.  We continue to learn something every day.  We could sure use an AMS on the job for guidance. Thought we may have a painter lined up. Worked one day and did not come back. Next work day  8/23/12.
8/23/12 Day 42
Used a block sander and a polishing wheel to try and get the waviness out of the plastic. Got most of it out but will wait until we can get the canopy open again to work on the scratches on the inside from the helmets and heat then go back to the outside some more.  Next work day 8/28/12
8/23/12 Day 43
Started fine sanding primer spots. Got about 1/3 around the plane sanded.  Another new volunteer showed up claimed to be a painter. He was real excited about working on the planes. Hope he comes back.  Next work day 8/30/12
8/30/12 Day 44
Sanded and primed, sanded and primed.  Completed the fine sanding of the tail section vertical and horizontal stabs. Tail is ready for power wash,  paint prep, and taping. New volunteer did not come back today.  This is hot and hard work. You have to be dedicated to the task to keep at it. Next work day 9/4/12.
9/4/12 Day 45
Finished the fine sanding on the Starboard fuselage. Terry will not be in 9/6.  Bud will be back on 9/6  Next work day 9/6/12
9/6/12 Day 46
Bud got reoriented in the project after his long trip. Did some sanding.   Next work day 9/11/12
9/11/12 Day 47
Both of us back to work today.  Repressurized the canopy so we could open it again. May have to try and rebuild the canopy actuator.  Started polishing the inside of the canopy. Lots of scratches from too tall pilots helmets :-) This inside polishing helps to show what was missed on the outside. Continued fine sanding of fuselage. Next work day 9/13/12
9/13/12  Day 48
Sanded the intake and the top of the wings and top fuselage.  We still need a painter to shoot the plane.  Getting close to paint time.  Estimating 12 to 15 gallons of paint at about $100.00 a gallon. Next work day 9/18/12
9/18/12 Day 49
Continued sanding
9/20/12 Day 50
Continued sanding
9/25/12 Day 51
Painter , AMHC Marshall, inspected the plane and marked areas still in need of further smoothing. Discussed type of paint and quantity. Next work day 9/27/12.
9/27/12 Day 52
Sanded areas identified as further need. Next work day 10/2/12
10/2/12 Day 53
Pulled plane out of hanger to the wash rack.  Power washed the wheel wells and the fuselage.  Took pictures of the plane with the team and the Ubangi taped  to the Vertical stabilizer.  Next work day 10/9/12 Terry to be TDY to the Ubangi Reunion.
10/9/12 Day 54
Continued sanding. Replenished the nitrogen in the canopy bungee. Due to prior commitments the next work day  will be 10/16/12.
10/16/12 Day 55
We have a new PAINTER!  Previous volunteer has not returned to work.  At the reunion we received welcome appreciation, support, and encouragement.  Frank ( Geno) Giaccone volunteered  to join the team and be the painter. Welcome Aboard Frank! With Frank on board and after initial orientation at the museum, we discussed the types of paint that we should use and went to a local aircraft paint shop to price paint and check on all that would be needed and quantity. Frank showed us areas that still need further preparation and we began sanding and working towards the goal.  The TBM team released the jacks to us for working on the main landing gear and volunteered to assist us on servicing them.  Next work day 1018/12
10/18/12 Day 56
Received the new jack pads the "Grumman Gremlins" machinist made for us. Ready for jacking. Spent several hours removing a panel to get to an area we needed to repair from the inside. Met with the Commander of the VAC and the facilities manager to discus the paint purchase and get approval of the selection as well as the dangerous condition of the tires on the plane. Meanwhile the TBM crew had an accident and the plane slipped off the tail jack damaging the tail section. slight delay for the jacks now.  Inspected various areas of the ramps to put the plane on the jacks.  VAC has agreed to purchase new tires for the plane. We want to wait for the tires to jack the plane to service the mains,  replace the tires, build strut sleeves if needed, and repack  the bearings. Next work day 10/23/12.
10/23/12 Day 57
Terry off , Closing new house. Bud dealing with logistics with the plane. Next work day 10/30/12.
10/30/12 Day 58
Moved plane to the ramp next to the restore hanger to have access to the air compressor.     Off camping Thursday. Next work day 11/6/12
11/6/12 Day 59
New tires have come in.  Got to find a tire shop to change them. Power sanding with Geno's Air sanders. What a difference the right tool makes! Scheduled for the hanger Thursday.
11/8/12 Day 60
Spent the day running in circles.  Hanger was not available. Engine problems with the C47 overrode us. Rescheduled for Monday 11/12/12
11/12/12 Day 61
C47 out of hanger but 3 of the WW 1 planes were in this hanger for the Veterans day festivities the past weekend. Moved them all by hand to the main display hanger.  Moved the A7 into the restore hanger.  Got the plane up on jacks. Serviced the two main struts. Lef them sit over night to test for seals. next work day 11/13/12
11/13/12 Day 62
Struts held!  Jacked plane up again and removed the mains tires. Hauled them to a tire shop and had the new rubber installed.  . Installed the Starboard tire and inflated to 125 lbs. as we held our breathe and stood back.  Everything held.  Installed the Port Tire but on inflation the split rim seal failed and started leaking.  Removed the tire and took it back to the tire shop to repair. Secured the main gear on blocks for the night.  Next work day 11/15/12.
11/15/12 Day 63
Installed the repaired tire and wheel.  Inflated to 125 lbs and all held fine.  Took the plane off the jacks and towed in out and back in to set the struts and correct the wheel geometry.  Deflated the nose strut and serviced it with almost two gallons of hydraulic fluid.  Added the amount of nitrogen as called for on the nose gear and inflated the nose to about 5 inches. Towed the plane out to the ramp.  All wheels and struts working as expected.  Plane is looking good with the new rubber and sitting there correctly.  Put the plane back in the Viet Nam hanger. Next work day 11/20/12.
11/20/12 Day 64
New rubber and serviced struts have allowed us to tow the plane back and forth from the hanger to the restore area with the air supply.  The air tools make a world of difference in productivity sanding! New painter on board providing mentoring for us.  Ordered the paint. 12 gallons of Imeron ( 8 gray, 4 white) plus other painting supplies. Just a little over $1700. Next work day 11/27/12 due to Thanksgiving day.
11/27/12 Day 65
Reserviced the canopy.  Continued sanding. Next work day 12/4/12
12/4/12 Day 66
Paint delivered.  Continued sanding after moving planes around for activities at the Command. Next work day 12/6/12
12/6/12 Day 67
Plane remained outside due to dry weather.  Continued sanding the bottom of the fuselage. Next work day 12/11/12.
1211/12 Day 68
 Little accomplished due to pending storms and stacking the planes in available hanger spaces But did begin masking off for prep to paint. Next work day 12/13/69
masking the plane
12/13/12 Day 69
Continued masking.  Inclement weather prevented any painting to start. Next work day 12/18/12. Terry will be gone on leave until 1/2/13. Bud will hold down the DET.

2/21/13 One year anniversary of the start of this project.
Despite countless challenges over the past year, we are approaching the point where we can see the light at the end of the tunnel. After many months flailing at trying to progress we finally got a mentor / painter that has gotten us on track to reach our goal of having the plane ready for the annual Valiant Air Command Warbird Air Show in March.  The sanding has been completed (correctly) the surfaces have been prepared, scrubbed and power washed. We will begin painting the fuselage and wings this morning and through the weekend. The "Bird" looks great!   Right now it looks like we will finish close to budget thanks to the generous shipmates that have contributed so far. There is still work to do. Lots of stencils and decals to replace and the coup de grace the 36" flying Ubangi on the tail. Those close to Florida come out to see it.  Relive the Ubangi  years.
Terry and Bud VA12 Det VAC Titusville, Fl.

3/18/2013 1830 hrs
Lost count of the work days. The plane is ready for the air show. It goes on first public display Friday March 22, 2013.
The last decal to be put on was the starboard UBANGI. We made our goal of ready for the air show painted and with the squadron markings on it. We finished with 12 hours to go before tow day to the other side of the airfield.  A few minor details to do but the plane is ready and looks beautiful ( if you can call an A7 beautiful). Thanks to all that contributed. To Bud  White for his Hammer and Screwdriver fixes and to the painter #4, John McCoy (non Ubangi), that got us on track and pushed us to meet our goal.  It wasn't pretty at times but his push for excellence got us there.




The Valiant Air Command open house was well attended by about 2500 people.  Several former sailors stopped by to talk about their experiences and familiarity with the Flying Ubangis.  It was great visiting with them.