Restoring an Avro Anson – 2016 Update

NAHC
NAHC

In October 2015 I shared the progress of a grass-roots community based Avro Anson restoration project being completed by the Nhill Aviation Heritage Centre (NAHC) in Nhill, a small country town in the Wimmera region of Victoria, Australia. This particular World War Two era, British designed Avro Anson Mk.I (serial number W2364) was a former Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) twin-engined maritime patrol, air crew training and liaison aircraft built in 1941 and operated in these roles and then as an instructional airframe, until sold as surplus in 1953.

The ultimate aim of the NAHC is to fully restore the aircraft with functioning engines to enable it to be taxied but not flown. I have recently revisited the project and I am pleased to say much progress has been made!

Former RAAF Avro Anson Mk.I (serial number W2364) restoration at the Nhill Aviation Heritage Centre - March 2016
Former RAAF Avro Anson Mk.I (serial number W2364) restoration at the Nhill Aviation Heritage Centre – March 2016

Why is an Anson being restored in Nhill? The Nhill Aerodrome was a former RAAF Empire Air Training Scheme (EATS) air base from 1941 to 1946 for training aircrews to serve in World War Two. 10,000 men and women were trained at the base, which was home to RAAF No. 2 Air Navigation School,  No. 1 Operation Training Unit,  No. 97 Squadron Reserve and the Air Armament and Gas School. A number of aircraft types were operated at Nhill but predominately the RAAF flew the Avro Anson from the base (around 30 were based there alongside 10 CAC Wirraway and several de Havilland Tiger Moth trainers), to conduct air navigation and armaments training, including bombing training which was completed over a section of the nearby Little Desert (a National Park since 1968).

RAAF Avro Anson W2586 over Nhill in 1943
RAAF Avro Anson W2586 over Nhill in 1943 (Photo Source: ADF Serials / Kevin O’Reilly)

Originally restoration work on the Anson was being completed in the home workshops of various contributors around the town (one for the airframe, one for the engines and another for the tail plane – I visited these workshops in December 2012 and February 2013 to get a first hand look at the restoration progress). Back then they were making amazing progress on something that had only started a few short years before in 2009 with the recovery of what was virtually an Avro Anson airframe wreck from a Wimmera farm.

Avro Anson wimmera farm 2009
What remained of the Anson in 2009 resembled a crash site! (Photo Source: Nhill Aviation Heritage Centre)
avro anson restoration nhill aviation heritage centre
The Avro Anson restoration project in a Nhill workshop in December 2012

The original Avro Anson Mk.I was constructed with a wooden wing made from plywood and spruce, a fuselage primarily constructed with steel tubing clad in fabric and the nose was clad in magnesium alloy. After almost 60 years of being left out in the open, much of the material in the aircraft was lost from exposure to the elements and from being picked apart for spares, with metal components being used for farming purposes. The wooden wings had long since disappeared and 3.5 metres of the rear of the Anson was actually missing! As such a new rear section of the aircraft had to be rebuilt for the restoration project. The engines had been left out there for all those years too and were also in a bad state.

In September 2015 I went with much anticipation to see the new home of the Anson, the Ahrens Hangar. I was suitably impressed.

The new Ahrens Hangar - Nhill Aviation Heritage Centre at the historic Nhill Aerodrome Victoria Australia
The Ahrens Hangar – Nhill Aviation Heritage Centre at the historic Nhill Aerodrome (September 2015)

This new building which opened at the Nhill Aerodrome in May 2014, has now become a has become a museum and workshop for the Avro Anson restoration (currently the museum is open on weekends and public holidays excluding Christmas Day and Good Friday). In addition to the Anson itself you can see memorabilia, aircraft engines, components, photographs and artefacts associated with the history of the aerodrome and the aircraft itself (there is also now a gift shop selling historical photos from the Nhill aerodrome and NAHC merchandise).

Nhill Aviation Heritage Centre
Avro Anson, Link Trainer, Engines and RAAF Uniforms at the Nhill Aviation Heritage Centre – March 2016

You can see from my photos the progress that has been made on the Anson since September 2015. The second Armstrong-Siddeley Cheetah Mk.IX seven-cylinder radial engine has been fully restored and rebuilt by Wimpey Reichelt and is now fitted to the port inner wing, much work has been completed in fitting fabric to the rear fuselage and tail, along with further finishing touches to interior cabin components and the addition of the starboard cabin door. Restoration Manager Mick Kingwell has been primarily responsible for putting an immense amount of work into the restoration and a lot has happened coming into the seventh year of this project!

Avro Anson Nhill Aviation Heritage Centre - March 2016
The second Armstrong-Siddeley Cheetah Mk.IX seven-cylinder radial engine has been recently fitted to the port side of the Avro Anson – Nhill Aviation Heritage Centre – March 2016
Avro Anson Restoration Nhill NAHC
Restoring RAAF and Nhill history
Avro Anson Restoration Nhill NAHC
A lot of work has been completed on the fitting of fabric to the Anson fuselage
Avro Anson Restoration Nhill NAHC
The Avro Anson now has both Armstrong-Siddeley Cheetah Mk.IX seven-cylinder radial engines fitted after extensive restoration
Armstrong-Siddeley Cheetah Mk.IX seven-cylinder radial engine Avro Anson Nhill
The port side Armstrong-Siddeley Cheetah Mk.IX seven-cylinder radial engine – March 2016
Avro Anson Armstrong-Siddeley Cheetah Mk.IX engine
The state of the Armstrong-Siddeley Cheetah Mk.IX engines in 2009 (Photo Source: Nhill Aviation Heritage Centre)
Avro Anson Restoration Nhill NAHC
A lot of work has been completed on the fitting of fabric to the Anson fuselage
Nhill Aviation Heritage Centre
Step by step to completion
Cabin Interior Avro Anson Restoration Nhill NAHC
The cabin interior has progressed further
Avro Anson Restoration Nhill NAHC
The starboard side of the Avro Anson

In addition, the restoration primarily by Neil Thomas of two Link Trainers (A13-54 and A13-60 – one is for the owner of the Link Trainers and the other he has donated to the museum in lieu of the restoration work) and their associated instructor tables and equipment has progressed well. The restoration of A13-60 is basically complete and restoration of A13-54 is well under way. Link Trainers were an early flight instrument and flight dynamics training simulator produced from the 1930’s to 1950’s by Link Aviation Devices Inc. in New York (the Link Trainer was first developed in 1929) and they were a key pilot training component for most Allied nations during World War Two.

Link Trainer A13-60 Nhill NAHC
Link Trainer A13-60
Restored Link Trainer A13-60 Nhill NAHC
Restored Link Trainer A13-60 – March 2016

The Link Trainer restoration project has been a big job, as time and weather exposure had taken its toll on both examples (internal corrosion from moisture ingress was particularly an issue). Some of the associated equipment and components have proven to be unrepairable or beyond restoration and needed to be replaced, including the fabric covering the trainer.

Link Trainer A13-54 under restoration Nhill NAHC
Link Trainer A13-54 under restoration

Along with continuing work on the Anson fuselage, interior cabin and engine cowlings, the main future project at the NAHC will be the construction from scratch of the aircrafts wooden wings (no surviving parts were available to be recovered with the original airframe). This will take a lot of painstaking work  but this nothing new for the restoration team, who started this project from so little! I look forward to seeing the future progress of the Anson restoration and I will continue to share updates as the Nhill Aviation Heritage Centre project steps closer to completion.

No.67 Squadron Anson RAAF Laverton 1945
No.67 Squadron Anson’s at RAAF Laverton 1945 – The NAHC Anson W2364 operated with this squadron in camouflage livery in 1943
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6 thoughts on “Restoring an Avro Anson – 2016 Update

  1. Gentlemen, please excuse the interruption, however, I have searched far & wide for many years for anyone with access to an AVRO Anson Mid-Upper (Armstrong Whitworth AW-77) Manually Operated Gun Turret which I discovered at the back of the original shed photo painted yellow which appeared to be hanging from the ceiling. I am in receipt of written confirmation from the RAF which includes historical maintenance procedures and a brief description of said turret and the RAF Marine Services Modification to AW-11 configuration for use on High Speed Launches as utilized by Air Sea Rescue. My reason for contact being a request for anyone with, or who could take time to complete, a Detailed Assembly Drawing with Dimensions to permit creation of a 3D (CAD) Model for Printing of a pair of AW-11 turrets. I can provide photos of my father’s hand built double diagonal planked (1/2 inch to the foot) scale model of the ‘Hants and Dorset’ ASR HSL, built to MM1358 John Pritchard Nexus plans, which I have been charged to complete the detailing of as Dad’s eyesight at 95 is not what it used to be. If anyone could either provide such a ‘Technical Drawing’ complete with ‘Full Size Dimensions, or put me in touch with someone who can, we would be most appreciative. Thank You in advance for your consideration and cooperation, Kind Regards, Alan Thomas Weaving, for my Dad Tom, (Thomas Walter Weaving) … 3719 Glenway Road, West Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada, V4T 1E2.

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