Viewport: That's a Wrap!
- By J.R. Dailey
- Air & Space magazine, November 2001
Early in May we celebrated the rollouts of three restorations at the National Air and Space Museum’s Paul E. Garber facility. The Aichi M6A1 Seiran, the Hawker Hurricane, and the Pitts Special Little Stinker were the stars of the show, and they are the last projects we’ll do for a while.
“Garber” is what used to be called “Silver Hill,” the name of the Maryland neighborhood where it is located. In June 1980 the facility was renamed after Paul Garber, who joined the Smithsonian as its aviation curator in 1920 and acquired the heart of the aeronautical collection. Whether you call the place Garber or Silver Hill, it is recognized as a world-class center for aircraft restoration and hallowed ground for aviation enthusiasts worldwide.
Inside the shop in Building 10, such historic aircraft as the Boeing B-29 Enola Gay; Jack Northrop’s first flying wing, the N-1M; a Messerschmitt Me 262; and a Nieuport 28 were restored by our specialists. The Enola Gay will be one of the centerpieces at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center at Virginia’s Dulles Airport when it opens in December 2003.
And with the advent of the move into the Udvar-Hazy Center, the Garber staff has turned its attention to preservation and preparation efforts. All the air- and spacecraft are being readied for installation at the new facility, and over 50 have been prepared already. We expect to begin moving the collection in early 2003, when the restoration shop will also move to Dulles. We’ll resume aircraft restoration as soon as the move is complete.
It is particularly appropriate that the Aichi Seiran was one of the final major restoration projects to be completed at Garber. The Seiran is a perfect example of the level of detail and the depth of research that go into one of our restorations. The results are beautiful to behold and as historically accurate as possible.
When we started the Seiran project, we found extensive corrosion that affected even the wing spar. We encountered the same situation when we began work on the floats. The skins had to be removed and the corroded structure repaired—a tremendously tedious process. Inside the wings were many interesting bits of history, several of which are described in “Team Seiran,” a companion piece to “All and Nothing,” a feature story about the Seiran in this issue (see p. 22).
The Seiran’s history has only recently come to light, and most visitors tell us they have never heard of it. Enthusiasts in Japan also expressed intense interest, and several interns from Japan helped to ensure that the markings are accurate. The Tamiya model company donated funds to restore the floats, and we received $1,000 from a group in Japan who had pooled their resources.
The final phase entailed building a beaching dolly for the aircraft. The only information we had was from photos, and our reproduction, while as accurate as we could make it, speaks to the Garber spirit. With its glossy enameled- steel frame and Douglas-fir deck, it’s a beaching dolly fit for the emperor.