Burnelli CBY-3 Restoration Diary

September 2017 update on the restoration of the Burnelli CBY-3 "Loadmaster" from restoration Crew Chief, Harry Newman.


The restoration of the CBY-3 wings was a major challenge due to preexisting damage and corrosion. After several years of restoration work by many volunteers we are nearing the completion of these components. To recap the restoration process covered in many of the previous diary updates listed below are the steps that were taken to complete the process:

  • Removing the wings from the aircraft proved a very difficult process since the mounting pins were corroded and rusted in place. This necessitated drilling out some of the pins, the location of which made the task much more difficult. Additionally the lifting points on the wings had been compromised by corrosion so lifting cradles had to be fabricated to support the wings from their lower surfaces during removal.
  • In order to safely move and store the wings after removal, two moveable cradles were designed and built to support the wings on their leading edges.
  • Numerous major repairs were made to damaged areas of the leading and trailing edges, wingtips and ailerons.
  • New lifting point hardware was designed and installed in the top surfaces
  • All of the aileron and flap hinge points had to be reconstructed and all bearings repaired or replaced.
  • Several sheet metal surfaces required replacement and all other surfaces of the wings and flaps required repairs, sanding and priming.
  • Due to space limitations in our restoration hangar all of this work had to be completed in stages which required moving the wings in and out as space became available

We are currently in the final stages of wing restoration with the completion of the preparation and priming of the left wing. The wing has now been returned to its moveable storage cradle and the right wing, with structural repairs having been completed, has been placed on workbenches where its top surface will be prepared for priming. Both wings will then be put in storage to await final painting and attachment of the flaps and ailerons.

The right wing after top surface priming.
The left wing top surface undergoing preparation for priming.

Landing Gear and Wheel Wells

The restoration of the left main gear area is nearing completion. All of the internal components have been restored and are now being reinstalled. Final painting of the wheel well interior and gear has been completed. Once this stage is finished and the tires are installed we will then remove the main landing gear from their jack stands resulting in "weight on wheels" for the first time in over three years. Although the rear gear and wheel well has been fully restored the tail gear will not be installed until all repairs to the aft under-belly sheet metal have been completed.

Heater Bay and Dome Cover

The heater bay dome cover, located on the top fuselage behind the cockpit was removed, prepped and primed. As detailed in the June 2017 update, areas of severe corrosion to the heater bay floor deck and heater exhaust areas presented some of the most challenging of the corrosion issues on the aircraft. After extensive work involving the design and replacement of these areas the work has been completed and we have begun the reinstallation of the restored combustion heater components.

Volunteer Silas Smith restores the access panels on the combustion heater dome cover.
The heater dome cover after restoration and initial priming.
Extreme exfoliation corrosion in the heater bay deck.
The same area after heater removal and the completion of extensive reconstruction.

Lower Fuselage Sheet Metal Replacement

Also detailed in the June 2017 update was the ongoing work on the under-belly fuselage surfaces. We have identified seven sheet metal panels needing replacement due to extensive corrosion and impact damage. Work continues steadily on this area and four of the replacement panels have been fabricated and riveted in place. We are in the process of fabricating the fifth panel. With the restoration of older aircraft surprises are expected and the CBY-3 has provided our team with many as we continue to discover "field expedient repairs", (FERs) dating back to the CBY-3's operational life. Upon removing a severely damaged under-belly skin panel we found that it was riveted over an original skin panel that had also been severely damaged. This necessitated removing the underlying panel in addition to the top panel so repairs could be made to the supporting structure. After removing two additional damaged panels on the right side of the fuselage we discovered additional FERs where several of the floor "stringers" were repaired using dissimilar metals. Over time this resulted in corrosion causing the stringers to become compromised at the junction of the number four bulkhead resulting in a fuselage structural integrity issue. The compromised stringers were removed and replacements were fabricated and installed using appropriate materials. The replacement sheet metal panels were then fabricated and riveted in place.

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