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G OPLC in the wildG-OPLC is a type 8 de Havilland DH.104 Dove one of an incredible 542 made by de Havilland between 1946 and 1967 and sold to over 30 countries. It had many variants and was used in a variety of Military and Civil roles, in the UK for example the RAF used the variant 'Devon' and the RN the 'Sea Devon'. The type is considered to be one of Britain's most successful post-war designs ever produced.

 

The Dove was designed by Ron Bishop, who also designed the Mosquito, an icon of WWII, and the Comet which was the first jet engined commercial aircraft. The aircraft was designed as a short haul airliner to fill a need to deliver passengers to airlines, it certainly looks like a baby version of it's larger unrelated cousins and quite unlike it's peers or any subsequent design.

G-OPLC is a type 8 and was an improved version of the type 2, an Executive transport seating up to six passengers with 2 inverted straight 6 cylinder air cooled 9.2 litre 400 hp (298 kW) Gipsy Queen 70-3 piston engines.

Airtime have been engaged by the owners to carry out 3 major checks - B, C and Check 6 as well as a number of servicing tasks such as cable check which we will document here as they happen. Part of the process is to remove the wings and carry out X-Ray inspections of the wing roots, engine and fuselage.

 

Step 1

We need to remove both of the GIPSY engines for a full strip down, clean and inspection carrying out servicing and repairs as required.

Step 2

The wings have to be removed to expose the wing roots engines for one of the x-ray tasks and to allow for cleaning and inspection. This complex task took a day to complete and involved removing the interior seating and flooring to allow access. 

Step 3

With the wing roots exposed a full inspection, clean and paint with an anti-corrosion treatment will ensure a long lease of life when the aircraft returns to service. As can be seen in the pictures there are many intricate parts that connect or pass through these sections of the wing. Each of these are examined visually but much more detailed tests are due to take place as the process continues in the coming week. Work also progresses on other areas of the aircraft at the same time.

Step 4

Anyone not essential to the x-ray process was sent home, so that was everyone in the building. Indeed the unit next to Airtime was also cleared to ensure 100% safety, not once but 3 times over 3 days! The physical size of the x-ray emitter in no way reflects it's actual power, and it is powerful enough to be able to 'see' right through every component and every part of the superstructure of an aircraft.

An x-ray in hospital will take an image of the outline of your bones, this process takes images not only of the outline of the structure but right through the material the structure is made of. The x-ray images enabling engineers to see any areas of corrosion, weakness or damage to determine if further work will be needed to rectify any problems.  

Step 5

Wings are now being refitted to the aircraft whilst other major components have been removed for cleaning and inspection such as the flaps, Ailerons and wing tips.

The 2 engines are also being worked on with the brackets being replaced after the x-ray process and components being individually inspected and cleaned. The engines are sitting in the 2 bespoke cradles which were made by the engineering team especially for this aircraft.

Step 6

As can be seen from the pictures both engines have now been refitted to the aircraft and the engineers are carefully going through the process of connecting all the external systems such as controls, fuel and monitoring systems. The ailerons are being also being serviced and parts of the surfaces re-covered.

Not many people will be aware of this but the skins of the elevators, ailerons and rudder are specially treated fabric surfaces rather than metal. The lighter weight provides easier use of such large surface areas by the pilot which would be impossible if they were covered in a metal skin. 

Step 7

The team are into the final phase bringing this amazing aircraft back to full readiness. With most of the technical work done it is now time to fit all the panels, wing tips, ailerons and elevators not to mention the plethora of other items which need to be done before we obtain the final sign off and hand the aircraft back to the customer. One of the final tasks will be to wash and polish the whole airframe removing all the grime engineers tend to leave on everything they touch.

In our next and final instalment we hope to upload some video footage of OPLC in action. 

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