In our last restoration update, the team at Pioneer Aero Ltd. had just separated the upper fuselage subassembly from the airframe. In the intervening weeks, they have further disassembled the fuselage into its major component parts and begun mounting them in purpose-built jigs for their rebuild. The lower image is reproduced here as a reference.

Sbd Diagram Delineating Fuselage Frame And Station Numbers P39 E&m Manual Small
A side view diagram delineating the location for each of the SBD's fuselage frames numbered 1 through 17. Note that each of these frames has an associated "Station Number" which represents the physical distance (in inches) of its forward surface from the front of Frame #1. (image from page 39 of the SBD-6 Erection & Maintenance Manual)

Separating the lower aft fuselage:

With the upper half of the fuselage removed, it was now time to separate the lower aft section from its forward counterpart. To complete this task, it was necessary to remove several skin panels and the underlying stringers and joiners overlapping Frames 8 and 9. The image immediately below captures this effort part way through the process, engineers having already de-riveted most of the skin sections falling between Frames 8 and 9 on the right side of the fuselage. Longeron 6, which straddled the join between the upper and lower fuselage subassemblies, has already been detached from the right side. All that remained to permit the aft fuselage's separation at this point was for the team to drill out the remaining rivets linking the stringers together.

(Note the Cleco fasteners holding the stringer joiners together along the bottom of the fuselage. This was a temporary measure, to keep everything in alignment whilst the team drilled off the final rivets holding the fuselage subassemblies together.)

Separating the lower aft fuselage subassembly from the remaining structure. (photo Via Pioneer Aero Ltd.)
Separating the lower aft fuselage subassembly from the remaining structure. (photo Via Pioneer Aero Ltd.)

Wing Center Section: Fuselage Remnant Removal

The remaining lower fuselage pieces mounted to the wing center section had to be de-riveted, piece-by-piece, since they are integral to the latter subassembly.

. (photo Via Pioneer Aero Ltd.)

Fuselage and wing jigs:

Pioneer Aero has built jigs to hold the fuselage and wing center sections secure during the restoration process. The jig for the upper half of the fuselage holds it perfectly level, with the fin remaining vertical. The jig's numerous attachment points to the various fuselage frame ends and empenage structure will allow sections of the fuselage to be removed, restored and refitted in the correct position. The jig will also hold the upper engine mounts in the correct location.

Meanwhile, the team has constructed an elaborate new jig for the wing center section, which will be held vertically with the leading edge facing down. This will allow Pioneer's engineer's to dismantle and restore the major subassembly in the most practical way possible, since they will have easy and equal access to either side of the wing. The jig will also hold the lower engine mounts in the correct location.

. (photo Via Pioneer Aero Ltd.)
The jig for the upper fuselage subassembly. The lasers levels are being used to ensure the jig is level and to mark an accurate center down the length of the jig. (photo Via Pioneer Aero Ltd.)
. (photo Via Pioneer Aero Ltd.)
The jig for holding the SBD’s wing center section in the process of being fabricated. The wing will hang vertically, with the leading edge facing down, with its upper skins facing towards the camera. The elliptical steel plates visible at the lower edge of the image will be mounted on each side of the jig to correctly locate the wing attach angles which the outer wing panels bolt to. Further structure will be added to the jig which will locate the lower engine mounts and fuselage frame ends which are built integrally with the wing. (photo Via Pioneer Aero Ltd.)