I bought G-AZBA from Laurie Brown, and flew her out of a very muddy and wet field on the 4th Dec' 2005.
The aircraft had had little or no maintenance during its life with Laurie, and my hope was that although the airframe was tatty and oil was dripping off everything under the cowling, including the pilots seat I hoped to make it safe enough to fly for this season, have some fun, see how other Nippers had been modified, and restore it this winter. However, once back at base and having the opportunity to delve deeper decided that is was not safe to do so. After 5 hours of flying I was down to 2 1/2 compressions, and could barely get the engine to start. Removing the plugs caused the first major problem....all the plug inserts came out!! So began the restoration.
The aircraft was dismantled and moved to Richard Kimberleys workshops, where it was completely stripped to a bare fuselage, all stressed areas of the fuselage crack tested. (I thought this was a good opportunity for first taxi trials!!)
The most disturbing fault was in the undercarriage leg that was cracked through by 50%.
A bare metal strip and repaint, followed by new turtle deck, fabric and complete rebuild.
Mods I have included are the Leburg ignition system, backup electric fuel pump, Fin/Rudder and seat reclining. The Fin/rudder mod' was done on the suggestion of Barry Smith, who has been vigorously campaigning his Nipper for years. I felt the original fragile looking rudder hinges could lead to problems, so, as the fuselage was totally stripped it was a good opportunity install it.
The seat mod' I installed because I could not operate the controls comfortably, so needed more room, again a good opportunity.
The wing was in good condition, needing little work other than a new top root skin on the port side, repair patch to the starboard lower root skin and recovering.
The engine was dismantled back to the core, the heads fitted with new valves and guides, combustion chambers balanced, cylinders honed and new rings fitted. Rebuilt with all new studs, gaskets and one new rocker cover....one of the old ones was rusted all the way through, one of the many sources of oil leaks.
All engine runs have been completed, the Leburg ignition system is excellent, giving reliable starting hot and cold and no chance of kickback.
I mated the wing to the fuselage for final checking, and have removed it again ready for transportation to the strip, final assembly and test flight.....watch this space!
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