Burnelli CBY-3 Restoration Diary

June 2015 update on the restoration of the Burnelli CBY-3 "Loadmaster" from restoration Crew Chief, Harry Newman.


Steady progress continues in a number of areas including the reconstruction of the damaged area around the rear landing gear, interior painting, the wheel wells and main gear, the cockpit, and many of the components of the recently purchased engine cowls, mounts and exhaust stacks. Much of this critical work is incremental over time but is not readily visible at the current stage of restoration. This update will cover a few of the highlights, but this is a good opportunity to acknowledge the contributions of organizations and individuals who have provided both financial and material support, as well as those who have researched files and photos which will greatly assist us in accurately reproducing the details for our aircraft.

First and foremost, our restoration volunteers not only dedicate their time and talent to the project, but also pay annual membership dues which helps fund much of our ongoing work. In addition, they often supply their own tools and supplies. To date about 30 restoration volunteers have participated in one way or another on the CBY-3 project.

When large expenditures are incurred The William and Alice Mortensen Foundation has provided generous grants to defray these costs, which allowed us to purchase high quality materials and vintage parts consistent with the CBY-3's period of operation. To date the Foundation has funded the purchase of the engine cowls, mounts, exhausts, cowl flaps, sheet metal for repairs, and fabric materials and paint for restoring the rudders, ailerons and elevators. It has also funded a number of outside services that we could not perform in-house.

Ed Das of Kitchener, Ontario managed to find four serviceable main gear tires through the Canadian Ministry of Natural Resources, which uses the same size tires on their Canadair firefighting aircraft. Ed not only worked to arrange acquiring the tires but also worked with trucking companies to handle the customs paperwork and shipping of the tires to our museum at no cost. The tires satisfied a major item on our restoration "wish list."

Very early in our restoration we were in contact with The Friends of Beacon Field Airport, an organization dedicated to preserving the history of Beacon Field - an airport that once existed in Fairfax County, VA. In 1957 the Burnelli CBY-3 was overhauled there by Mr. "Junie" Marshall and Mr. Paul Zimmer before returning to service. Harry Lehman and Anna Marie Hicks had a number of photographs of the aircraft which they shared with us including a very rare photo of the cockpit interior. You can visit The Friends of Beacon Field Airport website at http://www.beaconfieldairport.com .

1957 photo of the CBY-3 while undergoing an overhaul at Beacon Field Airport. Courtesy of The Friends of Beacon Field Airport.
Rare photo of the CBY-3 cockpit from 1959. Courtesy of The Friends of Beacon Field Airport. We are missing the seats and control wheels shown in this photo and would appreciate any leads on acquiring these items.
1959 photo of the CBY-3 at Beacon Field shortly before departing. It was one of the last planes to depart the closed airport. Retail stores now occupy the site. Courtesy of The Friends of Beacon Field Airport.
A newspaper clipping from the Alexandria Gazette, November 28, 1959 entitled "Ghost Planes in the Sky." In the caption the CBY-3 is referred to as the "flying dance hall," a reference to its spacious wide-body interior. Courtesy of The Friends of Beacon Field Airport.

Larry Pope of Austin, Texas has had a long interest in Burnelli's blended wing designs and contacted us shortly after our restoration began. Larry has compiled an impressive collection of print material and photographs pertaining to the CBY-3 and has provided us with several rare high quality color photographs and supporting material. We are using these color photos to guide us in reproducing the color scheme for our finished display. He has worked on static and RC models, given lectures as well as presentations at air shows and has been encouraged by professionals at Northrop Grumman, NASA and universities. You can see Burnelli's planes and designs along with some of what Larry is doing at www.burnelliaircraft.com. He has also been in contact with the University of Texas, to review their files on Vincent Burnelli (who was born in Temple, Texas) and has discovered a comprehensive flight evaluation dating from 1953 which he has forwarded to us.

A rare full color photo of the CBY-3. This will be the paint scheme we will employ in our finished display. Courtesy of Larry Pope.

Restoration Update

The last replacement structural parts for the rear landing gear area have been made and are being installed by Tom Palshaw , Al Pereira and Doug Davis. Due to the extent of the pre-existing impact damage this was an intensive effort which involved removing the aluminum skin from the area and cutting out all of the damaged sections. Few of the removed parts could be salvaged so molds were constructed to form new parts that are now being riveted in place. Replacement aluminum sheet metal has been purchased and once the underlying structure has been completed we can begin to reskin the area and install the rear gear, which has already been restored and is in storage.

Shown above is a view from the interior looking toward the rear of the cargo bay prior to disassembly of the area. Pre-existing impact damage is evident where the rear bulkhead meets the floor. The floor area was distorted upward and the structural beams and floor bracings were broken and cracked in several areas.
A closer look at some of the structural damage in the same area after partial disassembly.
The same area again after the aluminum skin had been removed and replacement structures installed. The open area behind the bulkhead is the rear landing gear wheel well.
The rear landing gear strut after removal from the aircraft.
The same strut after restoration.
One of four sections of engine cowl flaps that are to be refurbished.
An identical section after repairs and priming.

John Bednarz (left) and Doug Davis assemble our "new" engine cowls. The originals were missing from the CBY-3 when it was acquired. The cowls still need to be stripped of paint and require quite a few repairs before they are repainted and mounted on our Wright R-2600 engines.


CBY-3 Restoration Wish List

Some of the components we are looking to acquire include:

  • Two same or similar pilot seats as shown in the photo earlier in this narrative
  • Two propellers - Hamilton Standard Hydromatic three blade, 12 foot 7 inch diameter - blade designation 6359A-18.
  • Circa 1945 to 1959 radios, headsets and navigation sets

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