Screenshot 2023 10 24 At 7.04.36 pm Edited
An interior view of the SBD's "anti-drag cowling" assembly as depicted in Section 15, page 6 of the U.S. Army Air Corps Airplane Parts Catalog for the A-24 Banshee (a U.S. Army Air Forces variant of the Dauntless dive bomber).

Fitting the Fittings:

Following on from February's article regarding progress with the SBD's anti-drag/engine cowlings, we can report that the primary components are now fully restored. Pioneer Aero Ltd. began by fabricating and installing each of the replacement stainless steel anti-abrasion strips (the originals being too worn for reuse). They also refurbished and installed each of the adjustable, steel latches which cinch the cowlings firmly in place.

Cadmium Plating:

Restoring these latches began with their complete disassembly and media-blasting (to free each piece of any lingering paint, dirt or surface corrosion). Pioneer then sent the parts out for cadmium plating, making sure that the period-correct, silver-hued 'Cad I' finish was applied instead of the gold-tinted, 'Cad II' coating more commonly used today. Cadmium plating is an electro-chemical process which 'passivates' the steel's surface layer, inhibiting corrosion. Cadmium plating also reduces the potential for galvanic corrosion between dissimilar metals, a problem which often occurs in WWII vintage aircraft when bare steel comes into contact with aluminum.

Part of the aft-most latching mechanism on the lower right engine cowl following its overhaul and installation. The latching hook's threaded base screws into the square mounting block visible between the two attach angles. The threading allows a certain amount of travel in the latching hook, which can be adjusted prior to flight to ensure the cowls fit together with the appropriate tension level. The inset in this article's leading image depicts how the latch actually goes together. (photo via Pioneer Aero Ltd.)

Latch Reassembly:

Following the cad-plating process, Pioneer's Stephen Fox reassembled the latches and riveted them back in place on the cowling panels. These type-specific fasteners provide adjustable tension (via the threaded base of the mechanism's latching hook) to ensure the cowlings fit together snugly. The more each hook is recessed into the mounting block threads, the tighter the cowlings fit together and vice versa.

What's Next?

Each of the main anti-drag cowling panels is now structurally complete and will enter storage until the time comes for final painting. The two cooling gills (which mount either side of the engine) are now the only exterior firewall-forward components awaiting overhaul, a process which will begin in due course.

The SBD's now fully-refurbished anti-drag cowling trial-fitted on the A-24B Banshee forward fuselage. Note the gap near the gun troughs - this is where the gill flap will go once it too is restored. (photo via Pioneer Aero Ltd.)