Auster Mk1 Rebuild

Gerald Maddams's picture

- Gerald Maddams, Chapter 1502 South Coast

Back in December 2000 I collected the remnants of an aeroplane from Centenary, 120 km north of Harare in Zimbabwe. That began an incredible life journey during which I met many, many wonderful people and continually learned new things and developed new skills.

The aeroplane turned out to be a 1942 Auster Mark1, which was built for the Royal Air Force and joined 655 squadron as an Aerial Observation Post in 1943. 655 Squadron went to North Africa that year, and although the squadron record books have been lost, it is not impossible that my aircraft took part in those North African operations. By 1944 the aircraft was back in England with 657 Squadron. It was exhibited in an Army Equipment display in Birmingham that year, and I have been fortunate to obtain 5 black and white pictures from the Imperial War Museum that feature my aircraft.

After the war the aircraft was 'de-mobbed' and became G-AHHY on the civilian scene. It joined the Lancashire Aero Club, later Sievewright Airways, and went through various private owners before being purchased by David Johnson who flew it out from England to Southern Rhodesia in July 1958. It is at this point that I should say that the aeroplane had only a 10 gallon fuel tank! I would love to hear that story.

The aeroplane suffered a ground-loop and the wing and propeller were damaged. It then languished at Mount Hampden airfield until it was dismantled for future repair. That's where I come in.

I have worked on the aeroplane for a total of 11 years, as I lived in England for nearly 4 years from 2003 to 2006. I have done virtually all of the work myself, with only the upholstery, the new fuel tank, the engine rebuild and the propeller going to folk experienced in those crafts.

CAA have given me the almost expected 'hard-time', but a week ago I was granted the registration ZU-MGM and those marks will be carried alongside the RAF livery into which I have restored her.

I have re-used all original parts wherever safety has allowed. The cowls look old - because they are!
The wingtips are battered, but are a lot better than they were on collection. I have subsequently learned a lot more about aluminium fabrication and would have improved them even more if I were to do them again, but the wings were rebuilt early on in the process. I had to make an entirely new nose bowl. as the original vanished sometime around 1997. The English wheel is a fabulous tool.

The engine has been run, and it sounds really lovely. A new prop will arrive soon from Pieter De Necker. I still intend to make new exhausts as the ones I got with the engine are all of different lengths.

I hope to have the aircraft at the EAA National Convention this year, and that you will be able to see the aircraft for yourself. Auster owners, bring your aeroplanes down to KZN and let's show GA pilots what they are missing!