FOCKE WULF FW-190 A8/N
This magnificent aeroplane, S/No 990001 ex D-FWWC was the first of the Flugwerk reproductions to be completed back in 2004. Initial test flying and proving of the design saw test flying partially completed in 2007 before '01 was set aside while Flugwerk concentrated on getting the remaining airframe/engine kits out to their customers.
In 2009 the aircraft was sold to a New Zealand owner and Flugwerk commenced returning the aircraft to an airworthy state, '01 having been somewhat cannibalised in order to meet customer deadlines. This time was also used to upgrade some of the systems that had been found deficient during test flying such as the wheel brakes and oil cooler efficiency.
By mid 2010 '01 was ready to fly again but an unfortunate incident with a sister ship saw the Flugwerk fleet grounded while propeller defects were investigated. By the time this was sorted out a particularly vicious European winter had set in and with no hope of any meaningful test flying being completed the decision to ship the aircraft to its new home at Omaka was undertaken.
At the end of January 2011 the aircraft, christened "Storm of Steel" by her owner, was finally bound for New Zealand. A period of trying patience followed as all involved hoped the aircraft would arrive with enough time to allow for assembly, certification and test flying in the hope that she could be displayed at the forthcoming Easter 2011 "Classic Fighters Airshow".
After some frustrating delays the aircraft was delivered to JEM aviation's premises on a cold rainy morning, approximately 2 weeks behind schedule. Things were going to be tight, but in what seems to be the tradition of Kiwi airshows, we were not about to let that stop us!Two hours after arrival the entire aircraft had been disgorged from the container and work was underway on a thorough inspection of all components prior to assembly. This process highlighted a number of minor items needing rectification and greatly speeded up the 100-hour/annual-inspection part of certification. Unfortunately the aircraft had suffered some transit damage during its 8 weeks at sea. Luckily it all proved relatively minor, although it did slow things down another few days.A few days later with the help of 'Dean's Lifting Services' we successfully mated the fuselage to the wing in a process that was completed in time for lunch. One could really see the menacing lines of the 190 starting to appear! Five days and 60 litres of oil later, we carried out the initial engine runs. That was awesome moment as the aircraft is a typical noisy, smoky World War II aeroplane. With 2000hp up front, the feeling of power was just amazing!
Two days later (including some long nights), the paperwork and aeroplane were all ready. David Gill from the NZ CAA spent all Friday with us (one week before the airshow) and by days end we had our Certificate of Airworthiness allowing us to carry out the test flying. I cannot speak highly enough of David Gill's flexibility and understanding in making this happen on time! Unfortunately Frank Parker, our test pilot, was unavailable until the following Wednesday so the opportunity was taken to begin work on fitting the new upper undercarriage doors which were some of the afore mentioned cannibalised items.
Finally, the big day came and on the 20th of April Frank took ZK-RFR for what is probably the first flight of a FW190 in the Southern Hemisphere. After some 20 minutes overhead the airfield, some circuits were undertaken at nearby Woodbourne with its longer runways. All having gone well, Frank returned Omaka where to everyone's dismay, the right hand gear leg failed to extend. After circling overhead the leg was eventually extended and a successful landing made. With the exception of that, Frank was very happy with the aircraft, the only other problems being aileron and rudder trims needing adjustment and a 'noisy' radio.
After a long evening of troubleshooting, Chris finally pinned the problem with the undercarriage down to an intermittently broken wire in the gear uplock circuit. With that fixed another two test flights were undertaken with Frank continuing to expand the envelope. Spectators were even treated to some gentle aerobatics high above Omaka on the day before Good Friday.
Good Friday turned out to be not so good. Frank had departed on another flight and about 40 minutes into it noted a new vibration from 'up front'. Whilst returning to the airfield he heard 2 loud reports and requested a priority landing. Upon shut down we noted that the aircraft was 'mortally wounded' with large chunks missing from two of the propeller blades. These were quickly traced to two missing cooling fan blades behind the prop that had, for some reason, rubbed on the inside of the cowling nose ring and sheared off, the back of the propeller blades being their final destination.
With that, the aircraft was relegated to static display only at Classic Fighters 2011. However, the few flights that were made certainly have everyone keen to see more!
Since Easter the propeller blades have been returned to the manufacturer for repair. While this is underway, the time will be taken to manufacture and fit the lower gear doors, fit the tailwheel retraction mechanism, fit and plumb the centreline fuel tank and tend to a myriad of small tidying up jobs.
October 2011 Update
"Storm of Steel" is finally coming back together!
In preparation for the prop's return the cooling fan blades have been removed from the spinner back-plate and the cowling nose ring has been repaired and strengthened. It has been found that the cowling nose ring is being distorted at the lower quarter as it over pressurises at higher speeds. This is being caused by the extremely close cowled engine and a lack of stiffness in the cowling nose ring. This was not a problem on the original 190's as its nose cowl was armoured and contained the engine oil tank and oil cooler.
With regard to the cooling fan we, along with other Flugwerk 190 operators, believe that the cooling fan is not really required on these birds as it only spins at prop' RPM, unlike the original which was geared to rotate at many times prop RPM. One could also say it is a case of being a bit gun shy as it was the cooling fan blades that damaged the prop blades in the first instance! However, provision has been made to refit them in the future if necessary.
While all this has been going on the lower MLG doors have been manufactured. This has been a simple enough, but time consuming job as formers had to be made first and then soft aluminium formed around them as can be seen from the photos. As we write, the inner doors are being heat treated after forming . Once this is done it is a simple matter of riveting them up and chucking some paint at them. The result should be quite stunning.
At the same time, the simple cable operated tailwheel retraction mechanism has been installed and tested. Once the gear doors have been installed a few final gear retractions will see her back on her feet and ready to run. Once this is completed all we have to do is some engine runs, a dynamic prop balance and we will be ready to recommence the test flying programme.
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