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  Second test flight of Noorduyn built Harvard IIB G-CTKL - Rochester Airport, Kent 2nd September 2005

- On Tuesday 30 August Noorduyn-built AT-16 Harvard IIB G-CTKL made its first flight since entering the workshop of the Medway Aircraft Preservation Society at Rochester Airport for restoration in November 2003. 

The machine is being restored as near as possible to stock 1941 condition by MAPS.  One highlight of the restoration is the aircraft’s immaculate, authentic colour scheme.  G-CTKL has been painted in the dark earth and green camouflage colours, with trainer yellow undersides, as worn by Mk.IIB FE788 based at Boscombe Down in 1941.

With the flight-test schedule well underway (the second flight, pictured here, was made Thursday 1 September with Dan Griffith at the controls) the machine was able to star in the static at the Biggin Hill International Air Fair over the weekend of 3 and 4 September.

It is planned to base the Harvard at Rochester and, with winter approaching, the opportunity will be taken to fine tune the aircraft in preparation for the 2006 display season.

A Harvard returns to the skies - the story of the restoration of G-CTKL

The Medway Aircraft Preservation Society (MAPS) is based at Rochester Airport, in North Kent, England, and has been involved with aircraft and aero engine restoration since its predecessor, the Medway Branch of the Royal Aeronautical Society was reformed at Rochester in 1974. MAPS has an enviable reputation for the high standard of its work. Both Supermarine Spitfire XVI TB752 and Hawker Hurricane Iic LF751 displayed at Manston, Kent, were MAPS projects. They are also currently working on their seventh airframe for the Royal Air Force Museum (Fairy Battle MKI L5343) while other airframes restored for the museum include Spitfire I K9942, the oldest complete Spitfire in the world. All these are testament to the high level of workmanship, dedication and skill of the Society’s volunteers, many of whom are former service personnel.

Delivered to the MAPS workshop in November 2003 was airworthy Noorduyn Aviation AT-16 Harvard IIB G-CTKL which MAPS have restored as near as possible to stock 1941 condition for new owner Mike Simpson. The work has been extensive, as alongside the restoration work, the opportunity was also been taken to give the machine a thorough check up. The overall project therefore involved a multitude of ‘small’ tasks which, when added together, formed a far-reaching and comprehensive piece of work.

G-CTKL is one of 2,610 Harvards (out of a grand total of 17,096) built under license by Noorduyn Aviation in Canada during World War Two, leaving the factory as an AT-16 Harvard IIB variant on 23 June 1941 with constructors number 07-30. The aircraft, which is powered by a 600 hp Pratt & Whitney R-1340 radial engine, served with the Royal Canadian Air Force as ‘3064’ before finding its way to Italy and service with the Aeronautica Militare Italiana. The aircraft flew with the AMI with the serial MM54137, making its last flight with that Air Force on 14th June 1974, it’s Italian lineage being confirmed by the discovery of Italian stencilling on the fire extinguisher handles during the restoration process.

The Harvard first appeared on the United Kingdom register on 10th June 1987 with 9,539 airframe hours recorded in the logbook. After spending time in the south west of the country, including starring as a mount for the famed Harvard Formation Team, whose Harvards and twin-engined Beech 18 support ship were once a familiar sight to airshow goers across the UK, the aircraft was acquired by current owner Mike Simpson in early 2003. With G-CTKL’s Permit to Fly renewed by the Aircraft Restoration Company at Duxford in May 2003, it was time to think about bringing the aircraft back to its wartime configuration, hence the trip to Rochester in Autumn 2003 where work began.

One vital task was to check for and rectify any corrosion found, the undercarriage requiring some work in this area. However, Lewis Deal, MAPS Managing Director, said that ‘the aircraft was in surprisingly good condition for the time that it had spent outside and was remarkably corrosion free.’

With panels stripped from the airframe the time was also taken to renew all of the control cables where it was discovered that G-CTKL’s existing cabling had been upgraded to Harvard IV specification, a level of improvement that has been maintained by MAPS. The smoke tank pumps and fittings from the aircraft’s Harvard Formation Team days have also been removed along with the large radio fairing on the rear fuselage. Other rectification jobs included checking and replacing as necessary all cowling and other airframe fasteners, and remarking the ‘lock’ positions. All fabric was also carefully checked while function checks included the fire prevention system and the cockpit gyros. Canopy glazing was also replaced as necessary.

A further task involved the fitting of a toolbox and first aid kit in the luggage bin in the aircraft’s rear fuselage, a prime requirement for the return to stock 1941 condition. The instrument panel was another area where the only concession to flying in the 21st century has been the fitting of modern radio equipment. The engine and propeller were also been given a thorough check over by CFS Engineering of Coventry, the propeller being overhauled and the engine, which had only completed 370 hours since its last overhaul, passing all tests such as the cylinder compression with flying colours. The Magneto’s were also reworked by CFS.

The list of jobs that were undertaken is in fact extensive, while most of the work will go unnoticed by the casual observer. A visit to Rochester certainly underlines how much work is involved in restoring an aircraft, and that it is not simply a task of a quick clean and a new paint job!

The attention to detail found throughout the aircraft, a MAPS hallmark, is best exemplified by the work that was undertaken on the Harvard’s airframe stencilling. It was found that these were not correct for the period. Researching and resourcing the correct stencilling for the aircraft and period involved an extensive trawl through USAAF and RAF manuals. While many if the stencils were reproduced on computer, they were painted onto the aircraft by hand. The whole stencilling task was described by MAPS as ‘a job in itself!

Another challenging aspect of the restoration was the research involved in deciding G-CTKL’s new colour scheme. Mike Simpson’s prime wish was that this should reflect an authentic 1941 RAF Harvard, with trainer yellow undersides and dark earth and green camouflage upper surfaces. A choice of three possible ‘identities’ were found, incorporating a wish that only the undersides of the aircraft are trainer yellow, rather than the more common scheme which has the yellow continued half way up the fuselage. After consideration of the three choices by Mike a scheme was chosen as worn by RAF Harvard IIB FE788 based at Boscombe Down in 1941.

By the early summer of 2005 all the hard work came to fruition with engine runs completed successfully. On Tuesday 30th August 2005 the Harvard flew for the first time since entering the workshop 19 months earlier. The test flight schedule was soon successfully completed and, as winter approached, the Harvard was bedded down in the Rochester hangers.  In the words of Lewis Deal the project has been ‘a challenge of small rectifications, almost back to “reverse engineering” again – it seems to be our hallmark these days!’

Images from the restoration

back to airshow photographs from 2005