With a second partial airframe made available through the parts we shipped to New Zealand, the team at Pioneer Aero has been able to start working on the “Dish Pan” for the Dauntless. The dish pan is a heat shield that attaches to the engine mounts that attach at the firewall which separates the engine bay from the cockpit. Several of the pieces being used are originals, with the team having to fabricate a center seal section.

Although many of the components in this area were significantly damaged during the crash of 36175, the original pieces we received from a donor airframe are in very good condition. The engine mount that was provided from this donor airframe was treated with anti-corrosives and was ready to go right on the mock-up fuselage.

On the dish pan, the anchor nuts and Dzus springs will be replaced, minor surface corrosion treated, and minor dents addressed. The center seal was not among the available parts so a new one has been fabricated at Pioneer Aero. The team fabricated a form block to make the center seal sections. This was made out of MDF. The size and shape were determined using a combination of the original sections and scaling up the original drawings.

The blank piece of 2024-O state aluminum is ready for shaping by hand using a variety of hammers and the shrinker. The backing block of MDF is in the upper right corner. This clamps the blank material in place during shaping operations. Once all three sections were shaped, they were trimmed and positioned to interlock with one another.

The original dish pan sections were then placed onto the new center seal. There were only minor adjustments needed to get them to match each other. Holes were then drilled into the new center seal, with the MDF piece used to keep everything straight. With everything being checked for fit, the rear cowls were fitted. These are all original Douglas built parts, and it is so exciting to see everything line up perfectly! Note the unusually shaped upper cowlings that create the gun housing for the SBD nose guns.

Because of the force of the crash that sent our Dauntless to the bottom of Lake Michigan, these cowling pieces are from a donor aircraft. None of these cowlings were recovered with BuNo 36175. Interestingly, the donor fuselage in these pictures is from an aircraft that was used post-war in Hollywood as a wind machine! More on that later…