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Fasteners for the Flying Fortress

28 June 2010

For over 35 years, an extraordinary piece of living historic World War II hardware, in the shape of a Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress heavy bomber, has operated from the Imperial War Museum at Duxford in Cambridgeshire. Flight engineer and deputy engineering supervisor, Steve Carter offers this personal account about the part that Southco played in helping to keep ‘Sally B’ in the air

Sally B is recognised as the flagship of the Imperial War Museum where she has been based since 1975. This aircraft is operated under the watchful eyes of Elly Sallingboe who has worked tirelessly to ensure that this iconic piece of WWII hardware remains where she looks at her best - in the air. Operated under the name of ‘B-17 Preservation’, Sally B also has a registered charity to support her future. Steve Carter takes up the story.

As members of her dedicated team of volunteer engineers and crew, headed by chief engineer, Peter Brown, we strive in every way we can to keep this fantastic aeroplane in the best possible condition. Sometimes this throws up some seemingly simple problems that, in reality, prove to be quite testing to solve. Fasteners have, until now, proved to be one of these 'difficulties'.

Desire for Dzus
For years, we had desired to fit new Dzus fasteners to replace many of the existing fasteners on this aircraft, but with only a very few new units in useful sizes available, we were only really able to replace those considered absolutely necessary to change. I decided it was a good time to try and 'seek out a fresh supply' of fasteners and so my quest began.

Eventually, I found myself looking at the Southco web site where I obtained contact numbers and started making some phone calls. My unusual requests not only included obtaining the necessary replacement fasteners, but also help in sizing up those fasteners that were still installed in the aircraft.

A couple of days later, Alex Wakeley of Southco telephoned me and I explained my quest which was greeted with great enthusiasm. From then on, regular contact was made to the point that, during the winter months, Alex and his colleague Dave Kelly attended site a couple of times, sized up our existing fasteners and then advised on the appropriate materials and quantities required for the future.

In the end, Southco supplied us with well over a thousand of its Dzus quarter-turn fasteners, together with retainers and tooling, sufficient to see us through many future years of the conservation project - and all this was supplied completely free of charge!

Standing the test of time
Alex Wakeley told me that Dzus fasteners were first developed in bulk for use during the War, with the original units being installed into Boeing aircraft. He explained that today, some 60 years on, these products have stood the test of time and are still being designed into the very latest aircraft as well as playing a significant role in high-spec aircraft avionics.

We are extremely grateful for Southco’s help and generosity which goes a long way towards what we all hope will be a long, active and successful future in the air for Sally B.


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