Late in September, a number of crates were delivered to the Military Aviation Museum’s Fighter Factory from the Aviation Institute of Maintenance – Kansas City campus, where a team of students and instructors have been working on the Museum’s latest aircraft, a World War I vintage Morane-Saulnier AI, building it from the ground up.
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Originally broadcast by KCTV – Faces of Kansas City on August 30, 2012
The student volunteers at Aviation Institute of Maintenance (AIM) in Kansas City were featured on the Faces of Kansas City segment of KCTV channel 5 news. The students at this aviation career school were billed as working on the “Ultimate Student Project”. Of course the Morane-Saultier that they have been building was showcased. There were also some interviews with both students and staff of AIM – Kansas City. James Shumaker, Chris Hendrix, Patrick Nelson, Marvin Story and James Benton all provided their input on the building of the WWI aircraft.
During the segment, the process used to cover the wings for the WWI aircraft was discussed and shown. Chris was quoted as saying, “Just like in World War I everything in this aircraft is completely hand-built. We have designed and hand built every aspect of it. We’ve really been working off of photos rather than blueprints.”
Although it was mentioned that the WWI Morane-Saulnier was to be finished in a couple of months and then flown to the Fighter Factory in Virginia Beach, the aircraft is still currently hangared at AIM Kansas City.
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The Morane war aircraft project at Aviation Institute of Maintenance in Kansas City has gotten down to where the remaining work is related to the finer points of construction. The engine installation needs to be finished and that meant a little rework on the firewall. We will require a larger fuel tank to give the range on the Morane that we wanted. This means lots of replumbing of the fuel and oil lines. And we will still need to construct the exhaust system.
Some of you may remember, way back when, we tried to adapt the Russian built exhaust system that came with the engine. We found problem after problem with the design and welding the alloys used on the original. We solved the problem by finding a company that could roll the exhaust collector to our specifications for the Morane and we would take it from there. The first sections are now being fitted up, and things are going much smoother now.
The first sections of the new exhaust collector are being fitted and installed.
Our student aviation maintenance technicians had constructed and then modified the original fuel tank to fit the space. But after they had fitted it up, they discovered that the capacity was not adequate to provide enough flying time in the Morane to accomplish even the flights needed to move the airplane between airshows. A new, larger capacity tank was designed and built. When the welding was done, all of the tanks we had built needed to be leak tested before we begin installing them.
Team leader Marvin Story leak tests one of the tanks built for the project.
With enough struts to hold up a bridge, the Morane needed a little help in streamlining all of that tubing. The modern streamlined tubing we see used for struts today was not available, so round tube was used for the struts, and wood was shaped for streamling. The aviation career school students have completed building all of the wood pieces and are now installing them. They will be secured with linen thread wrapped around the wood, and then the whole assembly varnished to protect it from the elements.
The wooden streamling has been installed on this strut. In the background you can see the steel tube of the rear strut which has not been covered yet.
Here is a closeup of the linen cord wrapped around the wood pieces to secure them in place. The whole assembly will receive a final coat of varnish to finish it.
While the detail work on the Morane is progressing slowly, it is necessary and a very important part of having a safe and historically accurate final product.
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The Morane project at Kansas City caught the interest of one of the local TV stations. They sent a crew out to the school and spent some time interviewing both students and staff regarding the project.
Patrick Nelson is interviewed for the "Faces of Kansas City" presentation featuring the Morane.
To see the segment as it aired, this link will take you there:
OK here at Kansas we have implemented our final phase of “completion” with a countdown to engine start…more on that later…
Currently we have received the exhaust tubing, engine has been removed for installing the exhaust, which needs fabrication of the headers and ring…
We’ve also placed the last tank expansion for the fuel cell… ready for finish weld.
While it has been many months since a progress report was posted, the Morane project has been moving ahead, albeit slowly. As with most projects like this, some of the most difficult or tedious actions have been put off to the end. There have also been a few last minute changes when we discovered that something wasn’t going to fit exactly as planned.
While enthusiasm was high and a lot of student hours were logged prior to the airshow in Dayton, last fall, the number of hours worked dropped dramatically after the airplane was brought home and work resumed. We have seen a slight increase in student hours recently, and now that the Morane is back from its most recent display trip, it will stay in the shop until it is ready to go back to the airport for a test flight.
A lot of time has been put in on manufacturing the wooden streamlined covers for the struts. These start out as regular wood stock cuts and then have to have a half-round shape cut in them to accomodate the steel tube strut, and then the outside has to be cut to create the streamline shape. That is a lot of fancy saw work, finished with a lot of hand shaping and sanding. Then the ends need to be tapered, and the whole assembly fitted in pairs to each strut. After varnish, the wood is attached to the strut and held in place with lacing cord. A final coat of varnish will secure the cord.
Lots of fancy cutting has gone in to fashioning these streamlined covers for the struts
Some temporary instruments have been installed in the panel to help planning for the pitot-static lines plumbing. These will come out and be replaced with instruments more accurate to the period before the project is complete. The pitot tube will be on the left wing, with the line following the contours of the struts and back to the cockpit. Static air will be supplied from an open line mounted in the fuselage
Temporary instruments have been fitted into the panel to allow us to design the pitot-static system plumbing
As you can see in the photo above, the guns have been completed and mounted. While they are really “dummies” they have been built to make really authentic noice and fire. Connected to a canister of MAP gas, the guns accurately reproduce the sound and muzzle blast of the real thing. They have been test fired, but the avionics techs are busy building circuitry that will fire the guns alternately. This will save on gas, and should make for a more realistic sound pattern.
Stainless tubing for the exhaust system has been ordered, but still must be rolled into the correct size collector and have the stubs welded on. Work also continues on some redesign in the fuel and oil systems to make tanks that will fit better and increase the fuel capacity. Our goal is to have about 26 gallons of fuel. Not enough for a long cross country, but enough to hop scotch airports and get to a fly-in.
Stay tuned for further updates!