Work on the Grande Dame, the DC-6B

She is the crown jewel of the Flying Bulls’ fleet. This airplane captivates not just with its size, sound, and luxurious interior, but most of all with its unique history. Heads of government, presidents, and celebrities have flown on her. The former president of Yugoslavia, Josip Broz Tito, used her as his presidential plane and then sold her to a company in Africa, before she became a part of the Flying Bulls fleet. Working on a plane like this is certainly something very special. The 18 technicians, who over the past several months have been working to get her in shape again for the summer, most definitely feel this way.

During the winter months, things were quiet for the Flying Bulls’ DC-6B. Or so it seemed, since from January to early March, 18 technicians invested an astonishing 3,000 man hours in to maintenance on the plane. “She needed some work. And we’re glad that we were able to finish everything so quickly,” says Warren Varney, airplane technician for the Flying Bulls. He coordinated the other technicians, always staying on top of things. “But it wasn’t all that easy to do. We had hundreds of pages of checklists, which we had to go through point by point,” says Varney. Each year, the plane is subjected to basic maintenance, at which time all of its areas are checked out. The DC-6B is divided into 12 zones, and each year, four of them are subjected to a more detailed inspection. The plane is thus completely inspected from top to bottom over a three-year cycle.

This year, the hydraulic system, the entire structure around the nose landing gear, the underside of the plane where baggage storage is located, and the entire interior were the focus of the detail inspection.     

In the area underneath the cockpit, parts of the hydraulic system and components to which the nose landing gear is attached were switched out or repaired in some cases. On the inside, some window parts were replaced, and the interior was polished to a shine. Varney is pleased with the results. “She looks just like new.” In addition, on the inside a thick carpet muffles the noise of the four Pratt & Whitney R 2800 CB-3 engines. Varney: “I don’t know any other DC-6B whose cabin is as quiet as the one that the Flying Bulls have.”

All four engines with 18 cylinders each were inspected, as well as the propellers and electronics. Tens of kilometres of cable were installed in the Flying Bulls’ DC-6B, and much of it was inspected as to its functioning. The maintenance was completed by early March.  Thanks to outstanding teamwork, the Flying Bulls’ crown jewel will rise again in freshly serviced condition, and the history of the DC-6B continues.

Impressions

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