A unique project in the Netherlands is helping to restore and build historic aircraft to enable them to fly once more!
Since it was established in 1975, the Early Birds Foundation in Lelystad has worked on 27 different aircraft, including the famous Gipsy Moth and Mustang, helping to preserve their heritage and flying them in airshows and demonstrations at their working museum.
Arie Bogaerds, from the Early Birds Foundation, said: “The foundation was established when a group of friends restored an historic 1910 rotary engine to running condition. After the success of this first engine, more quickly followed. During the last 40 years the collection has grown to 27 historic aircraft and many more engines. All are historically significant to Dutch aviation heritage and by showing the aircraft in the air allows the public to see the progress aviation has made through the years.”
During the late 1990s, the foundation was donated a reasonable sized lathe and milling machine to support their project. This allowed the team to create their own custom parts for various restoration needs. Over the years, it has collected whatever cutting tools they can get their hands-on, even if this meant some unconventional techniques.
A used indexable milling cutter which had a pocket completely worn away, is one such example. “Despite having only three teeth and cutting irregularly, I loved that cutter,” said Pim Pouw from The Early Birds Foundation. “When we first started machining our own parts for various restorations, the first cutting tools were all HSS. Starting a simple job on the lathe first involved grinding your tool bit with the necessary free run angles. A time-consuming job, especially if you are doing it in your spare time!”
To allow the project to machine custom parts more professionally, Dormer Pramet has donated a wide assortment of round tools to the Early Birds Foundation. This includes a range of milling cutters, taps and drills to support their general machining, maintenance and repair.
Pim added: “Fortunately, we now have some more professional cutting tools to use. Simple things like drilling holes, the difference between a simple HSS drill and a split point drill is huge. The donation from Dormer Pramet of their professional tools has helped us tremendously, saving a lot of time in the fabricating of parts for our experimental airplanes.”
Dormer Pramet’s Gert de Vries said: “We are delighted to make this donation of cutting tools to the Early Birds Foundation. It is astonishing to see so many historic aircraft in one place and to restore them to a condition where they can be flown once more is remarkable. The project provides a long-term location where we can all experience aircraft from the past for many more years to come.”
For more information about the Early Birds Foundation, please visit www.vroegevogels.org or follow the project on Facebook - www.facebook.com/earlybirdsmuseum
Pictured: Dormer Pramet’s Gert de Vries with Jan Willem Vijvers from the Early Birds Foundation.