Primarily for general aviation discussion, but other aviation topics are also welcome.
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By Dodo
I've owned or part owned a number of aircraft in the 40-60 year old range, but never anything with a wooden airframe. This may have caused me to miss out on a number of very interesting aircraft.

I thought that I once saw an LAA article on the ageing wooden fleet, but I might have been imagining it and I can't find it now, so if anyone recognises that description can you post a link please?

And also can anyone who has experience of buying and operating old wooden aircraft pass on a few words of wisdom.

And really looking at the sub £20k market.

Thanks very much

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By Astir8
I'm a fan of old wooden gliders. The oldest I've flown was built in 1937, I've a lot of hours in a 1950's glider (the T21) and own one built in the early 60's in which I have about 700 hours. Also I have a BGA inspector and wood repair rating.
The condition of a wood airframe is virtually all about the glue and damp. Postwar British built gliders were mostly put together with Aerolite and Aerodux which are pretty resistant to mild dampness. The pre-war gliders were put together with Casein glues which are very damp susceptible. Many of the post war German gliders have components assembled out of a glue called Kaurit which is damp susceptible.
The advantage of gliders is that they are mainly stored in trailers which are hopefully dry. Leaky trailers have however resulted in some fatal failures.
If a wood aircraft has not continually been stored in dry conditions its condition will be suspect. Many instances of dubious repairs have also been discovered in older wooden aircraft. History is therefore crucial but wood fatigue has yet to be invented!
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By riverrock
If the frame is good, and you keep it well, they can last forever.
Left outside, water damage can quickly destroy. In the wrong conditions, condensation under covers doesn't help either.
As said above, different glues are more susceptible. If you're purchasing, getting an expert to assess and guide.
As said, wood can be repaired, but not every repair is done well. Again - get an expert to assess.

I'm enjoying being in a Jodel group! Means we don't have to worry about the fatigue limits that my group SA Bulldog has.
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By Peter Kelly
I once had the entertainment of watching and old and very experienced LAA inspector sparing with one of his customers. The customer had brought a Stampe in for an annual inspection. The inspector had done a limited initial look-around and had deemed that the tail surfaces were 'past their best'. It needed to have the fabric removed for a proper inspection. The customer was adamant that there was nothing enough amiss to merit such drastic action.

Eventually, they reached a compromise. The inspector would remove the fabric and if nothing of significance was found, he would recover and repaint the tail, at his expense. If defects were found, they would be repaired and charged in the usual way.

Out came the Stanley-knife and with the customer watching, the fabric was removed. The customer's face was a picture as he watched an ever-growing collection of gussets and associated pieces of wood floating to the floor like leaves from the tress in autumn. Unsurprisingly, given that he had flown the thing in, the customer was looking pretty pale by the time the fabric was all off.

Funny stuff that glue. It's sticky until its not...

Needless to say the repairs were paid for without further question.
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By Astir8
As further support for wooden airframes, the ex Air Cadets Sedbergh (T21) with which I have close acquaintance has done a mere 22000 launches. There is a former ATC Cadet Mk 3 ( T31 ) still flying which has 66000 launches in its logbook! That's not a typo, sixty six thousand. And you can bet your life that a lot of the landings wouldn't have been too gentle.
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By Aeronca Alan
For many decades I've been hearing stories about wooden aircraft being held together only the fabric and yet I cannot recall a single actual in-flight failure (and subsequent fatality) due to the glue failing. Can you?
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By golfcharlie
Wood does not fatigue. Metal does. However, if stored regularly outside a wooden airframe rots (even in an enclosed trailer). Modern glues (brown) = good; casein (white, old) = bad. Smell before buy; musty smell (nose inside fuselage) = wood dodgy. Check glued joints at the lowest points in the airframe (stern post, wing drain points). Taken good care of, a wooden aeroplane will live longer than you.

Damaged wood is easily replaced without any weight gain. A Permit DIY job. Metal parts hard to obtain (=$$$$). Bent carbon fibre or GRP requires repair by men in white coats, temperature control etc.

Unapolagetic Jodel fan.
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By Astir8
Aeronca Alan
I know of two in-flight airframe failures in wooden gliders. One was the result of a trailer leaking water onto a mainspar end which was a series of glued aluminium and wood laminates. Surface oxidation of the aluminium degraded the glued joint. The other was a wing failure in a German built glider using Kaurit glue. It may not have been stored too well. Both incidents are now covered by mandatory supplementary inspections. Quite a few potential problems with Kaurit have been identified as a result.
Last edited by Astir8 on Mon Nov 23, 2020 8:54 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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By Mike Charlie
I've spent an hour or so today at the workshop today where the Proctor is on re build. Given that it was built in 1943 we have been able to retain 75% of the original timber. All new ply has been used for gussets, fuselage and wings the quality which is far higher then that available in the war. It helped preservation enormously being kept in a dry well ventilated Swedish barn for over 50 years.

We know our machine was ground looped at Eslov Sweden on its delivery flight from Croydon in 1953. Repairs were well lets say worrying to say the least including the fuselage length being increased by nearly one inch..! In addition John completing the woodwork found part of a wardrobe door used as an internal frame

Every joint in the airframe has been broken, cleaned and re glued using Aerodux, the original casein had let or was beginning to let go in a number of places. This was the reason so many wooden British light aircraft were grounded here and abroad in the early 60's. Costs of re building were prohibitively expensive, most were burnt.... A Proctor broke up in flight in Australia in 1963, cause glue failure with the port wing leading edge ply peeling back thus grounding all other examples on the Oz register. Most were found wanting repairs, many were broken up or just faded away

Absolutely no reason why a wooden airframe shouldn't go on and on with good on going care and being hangared. Damp is the big enemy in our climate, keep it dry,in a ventilated hangar, it will last for decades

Had Aerodux or similar glue been available pre war many more Miles and Percival types would likely still be extant
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