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This image shows the SBD's tail fin part way through the skin-removal process. The underlying structure shows signs of significant corrosion. (photo via Pioneer Aero Ltd.)

Salvageable Fin Parts:

Back in November, Pioneer Aero’s William Lowen began the process of disassembling the SBD’s tail fin so he could assess its condition and begin the restoration process. While the skins appeared to be in excellent condition, externally at least, Will found that much of the fin’s internal structure had significant corrosion issues - as is evident in the image above. Unfortunately this means that a number of these components will need replacing - either with new-build material or parts salvaged from another airframe.

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These are some of the rib sections from our SBD which were indeed salvageable. They are seen here following bead-blasting and inspection. They now await reinstallation. (photo via Pioneer Aero Ltd.)
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These are some of the reusable leading edge skins from SBD-5 BuNo. 36175. They are now ready for primer-painting and installing back onto the fin. (photo via Pioneer Aero Ltd.)

Donor Fin Supplies Parts:

While a number of parts from our SBD's fin will need replacing with new-build material, thankfully, the project does have a couple of spare SBD rear fuselages available from the large Dauntless cache which the Military Aviation Museum acquired from Kevin Smith two years ago. William has begun disassembling one of these ‘donor’ airframes, and recovered numerous restorable components which supplement the salvageable parts from SBD-5 BuNo.36175 and a few new-build items.

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The donor SBD rear fuselage prior to disassembly commencement. This rear fuselage was amongst the large cache of SBD parts which the Military Aviation Museum purchased from Kevin Smith back in 2021. (photo via Pioneer Aero Ltd.)

Parts Stripping:

Several ribs, pulley mounts, and even the trim box were amongst the items salvaged from the spare tail section. Will has stripped these parts, reshaped them where necessary and they are now ready for primer painting. He has also begun making new spars and the rear closing panel. Furthermore, despite the corrosion issues with some of the fin parts from BuNo.36175, there were still a good number of items which were indeed salvageable for airworthy use.

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The donor SBD tail section part way through its disassembly. Will Lowen was able to source numerous restorable parts from this airframe. (photo via Pioneer Aero Ltd.)