Burnelli CBY-3 Restoration Diary

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

This update marks the completion of the fifth year of restoration work on the CBY-3 and as we look back on 2017 we see that we have reached a turning point in the project where we are now reinstalling many of the restored parts and assemblies that had been removed many months or even years earlier. Additionally, the last remaining major reconstruction items were completed which means that all of the most serious issues noted during our initial assessment of the aircraft have been addressed. Those items completed in 2017 include:

Left and right wings

The reconstruction of the wings was a huge undertaking due to extensive corrosion and preexisting damage, as well as their size - each 33 feet in length. Work began on the wings in February 2016 and after a nearly two year effort they were completed in December 2017. This was well ahead of our estimated time for these components. They have now been put into storage to await final painting.

Left, right and tail landing gear and wheel wells

Work was completed on the left main gear and wheel well in December. This marks the completion of all of the landing gear and wheel wells. The main gear tires have all been mounted and the forward fuselage has been taken off the jack stands that were installed in August 2014 when work began on the landing gear areas. (The tail gear has been restored but will not be installed until we have completed sanding and prepping the lower aft fuselage for painting.)
The left main gear prior to restoration.
Volunteers Don Durner (left) and Jim Bennett, shown mounting the tires on the completed left main.

Left and right accessory bays

These bays are located between the cockpit and engine cowlings on either side of the aircraft and significantly contribute to the structural integrity of the forward fuselage. This is where some of the most significant corrosion damage was evident and presented one of the biggest challenges to the restoration team, requiring the complete disassembly of all of the internal components and structures, then fabricating and installing new structures. Work began in these areas in January 2016 and the structural repairs were completed in September 2017. We are now in the process of reinstalling all of the internal components.

Cargo bays and interior

The condition of the interior of the aircraft - the two large cargo bays and two small storage areas - presented another huge challenge due to rust, corrosion, and peeling paint in the walls and ceilings, as well as an accumulation of debris in the subfloor. Work began to clean, strip, prep and prime all of these surfaces very early in the restoration and was made much more difficult by the complex grid structure of the rectangular lifting body of the CBY-3. This work was completed in early 2017. We are about to begin the finish painting of the interior.

Heater bay compartment

Another major challenge due to extensive corrosion was the combustion heater bay located in a compartment on top of the fuselage behind the cockpit. This required the removal of the heater bay dome cover and the large combustion heater in order to gain access to the corroded areas. These areas were excised and a replacement structure was fabricated and installed. Work in this area began in June 2016 and was completed in September 2017 with the reinstallation of the heater components.
The heater bay prior to restoration…
…and after restoration and reinstallation of the heater.

Main cabin windows

None of the four main cabin windows and two cabin entry door windows were with the CBY-3 when acquired by the museum. All of them had to be fabricated and all of the mounting hardware and frames required extensive restoration. Work on these components was completed in November 2017 and put in storage for future installation. Work is currently underway to design and fabricate the cockpit windscreens, side windows, mounts and latches.

Sheet metal replacement - fuselage underbelly

Seven large sheet metal panels in the bottom fuselage required replacement due to severe damage and corrosion. This involved removing thousands of rivets and repairing the supporting under-structure. New panels were fabricated and riveted in place. Work began on this in April 2015 concurrent with the major reconstruction of severe preexisting damage to the lower aft fuselage. The final sheet metal panel installation was completed this December. We will now begin the process of sanding the bottom of the fuselage in preparation for painting.
Doug Davis (left) and John Bednarz prepare a new sheet metal panel for installation.

Focus for 2018

While much work still lies ahead, 2017 saw the completion of the most significant and difficult challenges involved in the 5 years of restoration. In 2018 we will now direct our focus to preparing the exterior of the fuselage for priming and painting, beginning with the bottom of the aircraft, along with the final painting of the interior and the completion of the cockpit restoration.


Due to the cramped quarters in the cockpit only one or two of our crew could work there at any time. This required us to prioritize the order of the multitude of items that needed to be addressed. Currently we are reinstalling many of the components removed earlier. We are also designing the cockpit windows and hardware and restoring two large electrical junction boxes. Work also continues on the restoration of the instrument panels which includes determining the details of the decals and indicia. Fortunately we have several photographs of the panels from the CBY-3's period of operation which gives us clues as to the position of the instruments and decals.


Work is continuing on fabricating new plywood floor panels. All of the 20 original large plywood floor panels and a number of smaller trim sections were in an advanced state of deterioration and several were missing. Using the remaining original panels as patterns we are now fitting new panels. After priming and painting the new panels are put into storage and will be among the last components to be reinstalled near the project's completion.
One of the 20 large floor panels and several small trim sections undergoing fabrication.

Starboard side forward jack point

Corrosion was discovered beneath the number 1 (forward) bulkhead at a jack point. Since this is a critical point we decided to excise the area and redesign the supporting structure to spread the load in the event it becomes necessary to jack the aircraft in the future. Two of the four supporting brackets were compromised and have been removed. They will be replaced by the newly designed and fabricated brackets.

Heater dome cover

As mentioned earlier, the large heater dome cover had been removed and primed. Since this constitutes part of the upper fuselage exterior it presented us with the opportunity to test the silver finish paint that we plan to use for CBY-3 body. Volunteers Pete McConnell and Steve Seiser applied the paint and we were very pleased with the results. Pete and Steve had earlier taken on the task of priming the left and right wings, a job that was completed this December.
Volunteer Pete McConnell who has been instrumental in painting the CBY-3's wings. Here he is shown with the freshly painted heater dome cover.

Some of our restoration volunteers and staff shown here at the aft end of the Burnelli CBY-3 fuselage. We wish to express out thanks and best wishes for the Holiday Season to all of our volunteers, staff, private and corporate contributors and supporters.

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