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HARVARD 7573

A preservation project of the Pretoria Friends of the SAAF Museum

This Harvard had been stored at Swartkop AFB since December 1992, and was in a very poor condition. Previously the aircraft had been on display in the Garden of Remembrance at Stilfontein(near Klerksdorp) where, over a period of about 24 years, the wooden rear fuselage and tail assembly gradually deteriorated and finally collapsed.

During all this time, the fuselage carried the SAAF No 7506 in the familiar black numerals on a yellow panel with black border. However the instrument panel (minus most of the instruments) carried the RAF call sign EZ146, which was linked to SAAF No 7573, the complete (metal) airframe which was mounted on a pole at Dunnotar! In spite of all the confusion, I was informed by reliable sources that the Swartkop airframe was that of 7573, at the project proceeded accordingly.

In January 1996, the OC SAAFMuseum, Dave Knoesen, suggested that we tackle the remains– the forward fuselage, cockpit, engine and wing centre section– as a learning project, for those interested, to gain insight into aircraft design and construction methods of the 1940’s, as well as provide a display as part of the proposed Joint Air Scheme exhibit. We started, and the long, but rewarding process began.

The airframe rested on a pile of tyres under the covered parking next to the Clubhouse. The exterior had been painted many times over the years, the canopies were cracked, shattered or missing, and the cockpit interior was highly corroded with most major components missing, including the instruments.

Work parties were organized(those were the days when you asked for assistance from the Friends and everybody volunteered!!) and within a few Saturdays, the entire exterior was stripped to bare metal, amidst much mess, mirth, camaraderie, and toxic burns, plus the airframe was raised onto a wheeled trolley to provide some mobility. Unfortunately, the project then ground to a halt due to suitable working conditions such as protection from the weather, secure storage facilities for detachable components, etc. We were also uncertain as to the future plans for the completed project.  

                                    

About a year later, the rear section of the display hall (where the Impala MkII now stands) was cleared and we were permitted access and 7573 moved indoors. Time to tackle the severely corroded fuselage interior. Due to confined space, I elected to work alone, removing fittings, wire brushing and sanding off rust and peeling paint, priming and repainting, climbing up and down, in and out, countless times(before I discovered how easy it is to remove the cockpit side panels!), all the time marveling at the engineering that went into this machine more than 50 years previously.      

Finally, the time arrived when all that could be done to the parts available, had been done, and we were ready to prepare 7573 for display. The next task was to polish the exterior metal to a bright finish, before adding the final touches. Many of the Friends participated in this arduous task on an occasional basis, but Wally and Wally Moll persisted and became an integral part of taking the project to fruition, applying not only enthusiasm, but also considerable ’boer maak a plan’ skills.

In discussion with authorities on the subject, such as Dave Becker, Alan Taylor and Geoff Timms, the colour scheme was selected as natural metal with dark green anti-glare panel, and brush-painted black serial number outlined with yellow, to provide a rather unique example amongst the many variations seen on current SAAF schemed Harvards.         

 

In late 2002, as we were leaving the Base after a typical Saturday morning work session, we were approached by Col Gordon Lennox, who proposed that we move 7573 into postion in the Display Hall, not sometime , but right now! By roping in various Friends who were just hanging around anyway, demolishing a section of partitioning, and some skillful maneuvering with literally centimeters to spare, the project was placed in its present position. All subsequent work was carried out in this location. 

Many components are still missing (presentable canopy sections, seat belts and other cockpit items), and could be added as they come to hand. Col Lennox provided a complete set of u/s instruments for the panel, and the main landing gear legs were removed, presumably for use on another airframe. It was decided to leave off the starboard fuselage side panels to provide a view of the interior construction detail and cockpit layout, and this proves popular with visitors.  

Museum staff custom-built a steel pylon to support the nose section, and installed a selection of spot lights to highlight various aspects of the display as well as designing information boards to explain the Joint Air Training Scheme.

For the future, it is proposed to move this airframe alongside the superbly restored Anson project, to create a more comprehensive Training Display.  

                                     

A Big Thank-You to all the Friends who participated from time to time in this project, and gave encouragement, and to Alan Taylor of the SAAF Museum, who readily offered very useful advice when necessary.

Also, special thanks to Wally and Wally Moll for their dedicated input, plus their incessant banter and humour, which went a long way to relieve the often tedious and frustrating tasks of loosening corroded parts, and the never ending dusting and polishing. These two individuals show a special affinity for punishment, and have elected to continue with out next project, namely the restoration to static display of Vampire FB-52 No.229.

Bryan Bailey

January 2005    

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