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Thu, Sep 10, 2009

Virginia Company Building Antique British Trainers ... From Scratch

Each Part Being Hand Made For The Replica Biplanes

At one time, the Avro 504 could be seen throughout Great Britain. Built between 1914 and 1927, the biplane was used as a primary trainier up to the beginning of WWII, and they gave thousands of pilots their first taste of flight.  Now, Blue Swallow Aircraft in Keswick, Virginia is recreating two Avro 504s, meticulously shaping each of the approximately 10 thousand parts needed by hand, right down to the instruments.

"You can't buy instruments, this is a modern instrument, an inclinometer and it tells the pilot whether he's slipping and sliding in flight. They don't exist anymore, so we made our own patterns and we cast them our self," John Gaertner, owner of Blue Swallow Aviation told Charlottesville television station WVIR.

Avro Elevator Assembly Photo Courtesy John Gaertner

Gaertner told the station it takes about two years to build an airplane like the Avro, because each piece must be hand-crafted. For instance, he said each wing rib has about 30 individual components, and there are 110 ribs in the airplanes two wings.

Avro 504 Photo Courtesy

Blue Swallow Aircraft specializes in building antique aircraft for places like museums, and for individuals who love old airplanes. Johnathan Fallon drives to Keswick once a week from North Carolina to learn the craft. He's an aircraft mechanic for an airline, but told WVIR "I'm learning a bunch of different things that in school, this is stuff they just didn't touched on because most airplanes today aren't made out of wood and fabric anymore so this has really become a specialized area of aviation maintenance."

As you might expect, a handcrafted antique airplane is not inexpensive. The Avro's for instance, will set you back between $225,000 and $250,000.

But what a head-turner it would be.



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