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Fairchild F-46 Restoration

Picture of the derelict F46

Restoration by aircraft section:

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After David G Lewis acquired the F46 he proceeded to dismantled it for possible restoration. It was a discouraging discovery to realize how far the wooden aircraft had rotted. Termites were alive and well in the structure. Many years of sun, elements and neglect had taken their toll. The first challenge to tackle was the large wooden bulkhead which was the heart of the airplane. The forward tubular structure bolted to it. The rear plywood cone is glued and screwed to it and the fully cantilevered wings are bolted to it. [-Pictures-]

David contacted Big Sky Stearman (, an antique aircraft restoration facility specializing in wood work in Oregon City, OR, to tackle the bulkhead.

It soon became evident that it would take a major effort and funding to save the very significant aircraft. An angel came on the scene in the form of Hap Clarke, a local aviation enthusiast, who elected to acquire the aircraft and see the project through. A team was formed of talented woodworkers and technicians who began the repairs. The first order of business was to build a new bulkhead, [-Pictures-] when that was ready to install in the fuselage cone a strategy of repair was developed. To build a mold and autoclave to form the two veneer halves would be out of reach budget wise so it was elected to replace the rotted Duramold ply with numerous small plywood repairs. This was necessary so as not to disrupt the marginal condition of the structure. Using 12:1 scarves and plywood doublers, a patchwork of 1/8 mahogany plywood replaced 60% of the original wood. [-Pictures-]

The forward tubular section if the aircraft was stripped down, media blasted, repaired, x-rayed and epoxy painted ready for reassembly. [-Pictures-] A complex control column assembly was completely overhauled and reinstalled. [-Pictures-]

The P&W R985 was beautifully overhauled by Aero Engines of Los Angeles, CA. The engine was mounted on the forward structure, supported by a “rotisserie.”

A multitude of small projects were tackled to bring the aircraft components to overhauled condition: the landing gear, sheet metal repairs and fabrication, wooden internal structures, engine compartment, etc. As of 12/03/03 the fuselage cone is being given a final smoothing and preparation for fabric covering. A light Dacron cloth covers the wooden structure.

The wings also have shown the ravages of time. [-Pictures-] Although much of the old wood was still sound, all of the glue joints would have to be inspected and reglued. The major effort was to save the large box spars which attach the wing to the fuselage and support the landing gear. Master woodworker Kevin Pearson spliced new sections onto the spar and fabricated 70% of the wing structure with new materials. [-Pictures-] The wing is of conventional construction with plywood skins over ribs.

At this time, the left wing is nearing completion ready for its mahogany plywood skins. Please follow the progress of the restoration as we continue this interesting adventure. At this point in time we are a year and 5,000 hours into the project.

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