Inside the Collection

Conservator’s Corner: Caring for Planes

We recently acquired the famous Genairco Bi-plane. Tthe Genairco was the first of several aircraft to have flown under the Sydney Harbour Bridge which opened in 1932′.
The bi-plane has been stored at Wiseman’s Ferry in a hangar. The plane could not be flown onto our storage site so it had to be transported by trailer and truck. The wings of the plane had to be dissembled in the hangar and were placed in our truck. The fuselage was then attached to the trailer and moved to our storage area at the Powerhouse Discovery Centre, (PDC) Castle Hill. Once new brackets are made, the bi-plane can then be stored with its wings folded back.

Planes on display at the Powerhouse Discovery Centre
Photography by Jean-Francois Lanzarone © Powerhouse Museum all rights reserved.

The PDC has 7 ultra-light planes hanging from the ceiling in the display store. Planes are large objects that take up a lot of space, so hanging them from the roof makes a lot of sense. It saves a lot of valuable space and it allows you to see the planes from different angles. There are arguments in the museum community about strain being placed on components of the aircraft when they are suspended. One alternative is to display planes on stands. However, the stands do not support the wings and the plane still takes up a lot of room in our store. Another alternative is to display the fuselage separately to the wings. We took these points into consideration before deciding to suspend the ultra-lights.

The roof of the display store was built and certified to support the weight of the 7 ultra-light planes. With a new device called a rig-mate girder clamp, the planes could then be suspended from single hanging points anywhere in the ceiling. Six planes were hung in the display store and one was hung upside down in the foyer of the PDC.

The planes were hung with wire cables (to current Australian standards). Specifically designed brackets were made and clamped around structurally strong parts of the plane. The wire cables could then be attached to the brackets. This meant that no holes were drilled into the objects. The planes were then put in place using a block and tackle system.

The twin plank glider only needed one cable. This meant that the wings could be placed at interesting angles using cable attached to the rig-mate girder clamp.

Plane on display at the Powerhouse Discovery Centre
Photography by Jean-Francois Lanzarone © Powerhouse Museum all rights reserved.

The plane in the foyer is suspended upside down. This presented a different challenge as it was too difficult to turn a plane over once it was assembled. To prepare for hanging the fuselage was turned upside down and the wings and wheels were attached in the upside down position.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *