Last update: March 20, 2009
An inflight photo of the finished aircraft was the featured cover photo of the 3rd December, 2000 issue of Trade-A-Plane!
DeHavilland of Canada
In 1996, Bell Aircraft purchased a DeHavilland DHC2 Beaver still in military colors and equipment. So complete was the military dress the aircraft still retained the original radios and instruments, litter fittings, front door jettison system, and bomb racks on the wings.
The first step in the process was complete disassembly of the aircraft. Surfaces, wings, fuel tanks, even the instrument panel structure was removed. Numerous modifications and upgrades were planned from the beginning. To convert a Beaver from military configuration to civilian, a number of items have to be changed. These items are specifically called out in a DeHavilland Service Bulletin.
The military version has four skylights. The aft two of these are removed and the cabin top reskinned. Though not required, all new tinted windows were installed. Bubble windows were installed in the rear cabin doors and on the right side of the aft fuselage. The front cabin door jettison system was removed in its entirety.
The most extensive of the planned modifications was the installation of the Alaska Cabin Door kit. This modification adds spit double doors to the left side of the fuselage. The rear cabin bulkhead is moved aft approximately two feet. This extra space will actually allow you to drive a small fourwheeler into the aircraft.
After disassembling the aircraft, the modification and restoration process began. Airway Structural Repair was hired to do the sheet metal work. All flight control surfaces were reskinned from locally made corrugated sheet aluminum. (Click here for more information on the corrugated sheet aluminum.) Additional reinforcing of wing structure per DeHavilland service instructions were installed and the tip tanks rebuilt.
Next came the major fuselage work. The aft skins were removed and the door kit installed. The original skins were .016" aluminum, and these were changed to .025" aluminum.
The landing gear had been recently reworked, and no additional restoration was required. However, the original Goodyear wheels and brakes are no longer made. A Cleveland wheel and brake kit was installed per the supplemental type certificate. New brake master cylinders were also installed.
By mid 1998, Bell Aircraft was unable to devote the time necessary to complete the project. Ken Springer Mechanics was asked to complete the assembly of the aircraft. All of the sheet metal work was finished except for minor finish items. All of the major portions of the aircraft had been painted. The offer was accepted. As it turned out, there were still numerous items that had to be looked at, evaluated, and repaired, overhauled, or replaced as necessary.
Dundon Avionics was hired to rewire the aircraft and install the new avionics. This required extensive rework of the instrument panel. The existing instrument panel structure was completely removed. A new instrument and avionics layout was designed. Retaining the original design appearance, new structure was custom built and installed. A modern instrument layout was installed, and the avionics package included a CD Player and GPS data plug. Only the center passenger, when configured as a seven passenger aircraft, is without an intercom.
All the wiring in the aircraft, except for approximately five feet, is new. This required numbering all of the wiring with a custom wiring diagram and numbers. The diagram was transferred from paper to computer using a computer aided drafting program and printed for the aircraft records. An electronic copy was also provided.
Quality of the workmanship was of primary concern. New hoses, bonding jumpers, nuts, bolts, detail items of all types were installed. This level of care was maintained throughout the entire aircraft.
When ready, the wings and tail surfaces were removed from the hangar roof trusses, and the flight control systems checked. The wings had to be installed outside, as the Beaver wingspan is longer than the hangar door is wide. Needless to say, some fancy and careful maneuvering was necessary to get the aircraft back in the hangar! A custom leather interior was installed. A specialist in Beaver interiors from the Seattle, WA area made the interior
The aircraft also received a freshly overhauled Pratt & Whitney R985, with a Hartzell prop conversion. Strobe lights were installed on the wing tips and tail.
After what seemed like an interminable time, the aircraft was ready to run and fly. Although small details such as the landing gear and wing strut fairings were not finished, it flew exceptionally well. We anticipated there would be some wing heavy problems, but it flew almost perfectly. Only a minor rudder position adjustment was necessary. The only major problem to occur was the failure of the oil cooler twice. The first failure was due to mistakes made by the overhaul facility. The second failure was simply failure of the cooler itself.
After all the final assembly finishing touches were accomplished, the aircraft was weighed. Although it was anticipated the aircraft would be heavier than normal, it is approximately 300 lbs. lighter than the average Beaver. Add to that, this aircraft flies faster than the average Beaver.
Click on the next button for more pictures of the rebuilding process.