The Society of Aviation History organized a visit to Salinas to the facility of Airmotive Specialties. Owned and run by Dave Teeters, Aviation Specialties provides a number of services but the thing that brings them most attention is the restoration of warbirds with a strong focus on P-51 Mustangs. During our visit, there were seven Mustangs in the hangar in various states of restoration. There were some other types too as well as some more commonplace types undergoing maintenance.
Dave has spent his life in this business having started working for his Dad before setting up on his own. He supplies parts to his Dad’s business and vice versa as they both operate in the same field. Dave has really committed to the processes and capabilities needed to restore these vintage aircraft. His team is one that he has trained and many of his staff have been with him for years. He has also invested in technology. So many parts for these aircraft are hand crafted but Dave has acquired numerically controlled machines to assist in producing a large number of components. These machines are also capable of digitizing the outline of existing components to allow him to reproduce them as needed.
The investment in these machines is substantial but the pay off comes in how quickly he can produce replacement parts once the process is done. Hand crafting these parts is an intensive business and, when sufficient are needed, the business case is straightforward. Even so, there are still many pieces that require the hand skills that are in short supply and are becoming rarer. Dave maintains capabilities with many old tools and techniques in order to make sure that they can always provide what the customers need.
The hangar was full of interesting projects in various states. Some were disassembled completely with rework on fuselages and wings plus various subassemblies. Others were fully complete and were just in for ongoing maintenance. A great looking Beech 18 was at the front of the hangar along with a P-51 due to be picked up by its owner. A couple of Robinson R44s were also parked in with a JetRanger – one of the R44s flew off later in the day.
Dave provided great access to our visit and was exceedingly generous with his time. He explained exactly how they work and answered any questions the group had for him. The hangar has some nice facilities for customers but, while they were very comfortable, the contents of the working area were of most interest to us and Dave gave us freedom to wander as we wished. It was a great time. Many thanks Dave.
The Farnborough Air Show used to be a regular feature for me. I started going when I was studying at university and would go to the trade days each two years as the show came around. When I worked at BAe, they would sometimes make it easy for us to get there. One year I got to ride down on the 146 to RAF Odiham and they took us the rest of the way by bus. Not a bad way to travel for sure.
The Russians started showing up at the shows from, if memory serves, 1988 onwards. They started off with a pair of MiG-29s the first time around and progressively brought more with them each time. 1992 was a particularly good year. Not only were the MiGs there again but Sukhoi SU-29 Flankers were there and, the highlight for me was the Yak-38 Forger and the Yak-141 Freestyle. Sadly, it did not fly the day I was there but those I know who saw it hovering can attest to the noise and spectacle it created. Meanwhile, there were other excellent types there such as the SU-24 Fencer although it was rather brightly painted for an operational type. Support aircraft and airliners were also part of the display as Russia tried to expand its business following the collapse of the Warsaw Pact and the sudden downsizing of their forces.
Times have changed and I doubt we will get Russian attendance like this at a western trade show for a while. However, nothing stays the same forever so there may well come a time again in the future when some variety will be added to a trade show. With the number of types in service in the west reducing, it would be nice to see things like this again and some of their more recent types would be good to see too.
I did get a little side benefit when out shooting the A-4 at Waukegan. I made my way to the other side of the field to be ready to shoot the A-4 when it departed. However, I did give myself a bit of spare time to make sure I didn’t miss it. The result was a couple of extra aircraft.
One was the Yak 52 that Grant owns and flies. He was running it up when I got across the field. I told him where I was going to be so he would know when he departed. Sure enough he came close and he headed out. Hopefully we will be seeing more of Grant’s Yak in the not too distant future.
The second benefit was a corporate jet heading out. Waukegan has a lot of corporate traffic. If I had waited a few more minutes there was a Hawker 800XP heading out but I had to be back at the Hooch. However, I did get this fella as he departed. He used a fair amount of the runway which suited me well.
The last one was a CJ that departed while we were taxiing out in the T-6. Not as great a shot but one to add to the catalog!