Burnelli CBY-3 Restoration Diary

November 2014 update on the restoration of the Burnelli CBY-3 "Loadmaster" from restoration Crew Chief, Harry Newman.


As we reach the end of the second year of the Burnelli CBY-3 restoration we are indebted to the many volunteers and corporate donors who contributed their labor, material and financial support to the restoration of this historic, one-of-a-kind aircraft. We would especially like to thank The Mortensen Foundation, which, through a financial grant in 2014 funded much of our progress during the year. To date, museum volunteers have contributed some 8000 hours to this project.

Significant accomplishments since the restoration began include:

  • Thorough cleaning of the interior
  • Design and construction of the tail assembly jig
  • Completed restoration and assembly of the twin tail boom empennage
  • Structural repairs, media blasting and priming of the flaps, ailerons, rudders and elevators and the commencement of fabric resurfacing
  • Completed restoration of our two Wright R-2600 engines
  • Removal of the wings
  • Movement of the fuselage into our restoration hangar
  • Acquisition of four main gear tires
  • Completed restoration of pilot control console and main instrument panel

September through November Progress

The restoration of our two Wright R-2600 engines has been completed and they have been put in storage for future installation. We are now focused on purchasing a complete matched set of mounts, cowlings, engine flaps, exhausts and all of the mounting hardware. The engines and cowlings were missing from the CBY-3 prior to the aircraft being acquired by the Museum.

After over 500 hours of painstaking work, the restoration of the pilot console has been completed. All of the throttles, levers, chains and sprockets were frozen by rust and corrosion. This meant every part of the console had to be disassembled and treated and many parts had to be fabricated to replace those too far gone. The main instrument panel has been refurbished and repopulated with flight instruments consistent with the CBY-3’s period of operation.

Unrestored pilot console
Completed pilot console

The cockpit team, John Smith and Ralph Redman, are well into the disassembly of the cockpit interior and the restoration of additional components. All of the windshields and side windows have been removed. The cockpit restoration will be a major challenge since many of the components are missing, including the interior panels, seats, vintage radios and navigation gear. All of the windows in the aircraft, including the cockpit, were either missing or damaged beyond repair and will have to be made from scratch.

Cockpit exterior after removal of the windshields and panels
Mickey McKee working on the cockpit components

Pre-existing structural damage was present in the area around the tail landing gear. This will require extensive dismantling of the damaged area and the fabrication of new sheet metal and underlying structure. Volunteers Doug Davis and Tom Palshaw, with the help of others, are well into the disassembly and redesign of this area. As damaged parts are removed they are reassembled outside of the aircraft and decisions are made as to what can be salvaged and repaired and which parts need to be fabricated.

Doug Davis reassembles the damaged lower aft sections after removal from the CBY-3
The right wing in its upright work cradle

After the successful removal of the wings, a stand was designed and built by volunteer John Gavitt to support the leading edge and raise the right wing into position to facilitate the removal of the bottom panels. This stand also facilitates the easy movement and storage of the 33 foot long wing. As working space becomes available the wing will be moved into our restoration hangar and work will commence.

The CBY-3 was equipped with a number of internal hatches and access doors as well as the main entry and retractable cargo doors – 18 hatches and access doors in total. Several were missing and will have to be made from scratch and all of the remaining will require extensive disassembly and restoration. Volunteers John Bednarz, Bill Pack, Ed Grening and Steve Seiser continue to work on these components. As the hatches and doors are completed they will be safely stored in custom built racks for future installation.

The aircraft interior will require a great deal of preparation before repainting to its original colors. Jerry Abbatello has taken the lead on this which includes paint removal, sanding, metal preparation and priming. This process is made much more difficult due to the complex structural design of the CBY-3 in order to support the rectangular fuselage inherent in the lifting body design.

Jerry Abbatello begins the process of restoring the fuselage interior

After two years of preparatory work on the flight control surfaces – ailerons, rudders and elevators – which included extensive structural repairs, media blasting and priming, they are finally ready to receive a new fabric covering. Volunteers Connie Lachendro and Jim Godin have begun this process. Thank you to The Mortensen Foundation for funding the reconstruction, painting and materials for this portion of the project.


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36 Perimeter Rd., Windsor Locks, CT,
860-623-3305