Thursday, 29 October 2009

The Airmen and the Headhunters - on TV, Veterans Day, 11th November.

When I'm not being idle with all things aluminium, my day job is as a cameraman, shooting documentaries for TV.  We shot the true story of The Airmen and the Headhunters earlier this year in Borneo, Australia, the UK and Texas - where Dan Illerich, the only surviving airman lives.  

A WW2, US Liberator crew, shot up over Brunei Bay, eventually crashes in the wild central highlands of Borneo. Captured by the local tribesmen the airmen fear for their lives. But since the local tribe, the Lun Dayeh, had suffered torture & killings at the hands of the occupying Japanese, they decide to side with the Allies and surprisingly enough, prove kind, welcoming and very generous with what provisions they have; meanwhile, the Japanese plunder the island's oil resources and subject any opposition to torture and worse, proving the terms "savage" and "civilized" to be quite subjective. 

With the help of a local District Official and Lun Dayeh tribesmen, the airmen survived for over 6 months in uncharted interior jungles, avoiding capture by occupying Japanese forces. With the help of a maverick British anthropologist, Major Tom Harrisson, who was parrachuted in,  with a small team of Australian commandos, to find them, they ran a very successful campaign of terror against the Japanese, which allowed the Lun Dayeh to return to their old headhunting ways, taking Japanese trophies back to their longhouses.

Its a great story of the meeting of two worlds, bravery, the resulting bonds of friendship and eventual escape thanks to an ingenious airstrip made of bamboo...

Hope you enjoy it.


Friday, 23 October 2009

I do like to be beside the C...

Finally, I've got my arse in gear and blown the summer dust off the Flying Cloud. Time to fabricate & fit the all-important C channel.

I'm sure some of you have folding presses & guillotines but we went low-tech and got out the tin-snips.

Slightly thicker aluminium than the original - a 5" strip will give us a 2 1/2 x 1" channel with the all important inch and a half base.

Snip, snip, snip...

Now to bend...

Some plywood off-cuts from the floor with clamps at either end and a central bolt grip the strip along its length.

Then start bending. By hand to begin with...

... then with a little more force to tighten the corners.

Start with the inch...

... and finish with the two and a half.

Wally would be proud ! One down, ten to go.

Don't think my precision was completely spot on but then as we all know, nor was Airstream's !

More snipping on the corner sections. I was going to cut out triangles but overlapping the snipped sections worked perfectly well and saved more snipping & cut hands.

After a bit of trial and error - I ended up snipping about every 3/4 inch and putting in a bend on each.

This makes too tight a bend initially but it'll open out evenly to fit the corner line.

We used stainless steel coach bolts which pull in tight to the underside of the floor and make it easier to bend or lock the nuts on the topside.

And a dab of the dreaded silicone to seal the hole.

Starting to look the part again.

The shell slipped over fine, with enough breathing space for the belly-wrap between the channel and the outer sheets.

As we'll be flipping the chassis and fitting the bellywrap first we marked the position of each of the frames to bolt through the short sections of 1/4" right-angle alloy which Airstream used on key frames to anchor them to the floor or chassis members.

The beauty of having the shell on a chain hoist means its a doddle to lift it up and down to check the fit - thanks to Pete Ritchie @ VATCO - Vintage American Trailer Co, for that luxury. Can't recommend his company highly enough and I'm pleased to see that he may well be working on a newly imported 54 Flying Cloud too... Clouds rule !
Check the link to his site -

I also got the chance to blow the dust off my second-hand Ingersol Rand rivet gun and bucked my first rivet. Hurrah !

... worked beautifully, even if I'd overcooked the first couple.