Over the weekend of 26th / 27th August, R4118 suffered a cracked cylinder block which has brought our flying season to a premature end this year. Although disappointing for the whole team here at Hurricane Heritage, we’ve begun work on repairs and will take this opportunity to conduct other essential maintenance tasks before next season.
R4118 is a highly original aircraft and around 70% of the aeroplane you see today actually fought in the Battle of Britain, including her rare Merlin III. These engines were distinct from later models in that their cylinder blocks (which incorporate a cooling water jacket) were engineered from a single piece of aluminium alloy. This made them particularly susceptible to cracking and – excluding those engines damaged by enemy action – around 60% of all Merlin III blocks cracked during operational service, meaning that most engines didn’t meet their design life before requiring overhaul.
R4118 suffered exactly this problem after a short practice display on the 27th August, unfortunately grounding her just prior to her departure to Little Gransden Airshow.
The engineering team here at Hurricane Heritage is now very focussed on using the current period on the ground to address a number of maintenance jobs to ensure that, when R4118 takes to the skies again next year, she’s in the best-possible condition. With this in mind, we’re now working on a couple of key areas:
- Firstly, and most pressingly, we’re working on getting R4118’s Merlin III operational again. This will either mean returning the welded block to the engine if the can achieve a sufficiently-high quality of repair that both we and the CAA are satisfied with; or sourcing new blocks to fit to the engine.
- We’re going to take this opportunity to re-fabric all of R4118’s flying controls. This will include the ailerons, fin, rudder, tailplane and elevators. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be removing all of these components from the aircraft and sending them for recovering.
- We’ll also use this opportunity to conduct a full annual inspection on the aeroplane and rectify any other small issues we find along the way.
Once all of this work is done, we aim to rebuild R4118 around February 2018, ready for next year’s airshow season.
It goes without saying that, whilst disappointing to lose the engine mid-season, the most important thing for the team here at Hurricane Heritage is to ensure R4118’s safety and long-term viability as a unique airworthy survivor of the Battle of Britain.
If you’d like to support us in our efforts to continue the legacy of this wonderful aeroplane, please become a “Friend of R4118“. A £25 annual contribution goes a long way to help us keen this unique Battle of Britain veteran airworthy.
Heartfelt thanks in advance from everyone here at Hurricane Heritage for your generosity!