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Lanc Appeal - Engine Overhaul Needed

By Ian Brown, Editor - Bits and Pieces, EAA 657159

Canadian aviators can be proud that we have the only flying Lancaster bomber in the Americas. The only other flying example is in the UK operated by the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight. The Mynarski Memorial Lancaster, KB726 VRA, was built in Malton, Ontario, and boasts four Packard Merlin 224 engines. The Packard automotive company was recruited in 1940 to build the Rolls-Royce-designed engines in the Detroit area for the war effort.

In his excellent book, Sigh for a Merlin, Alex Henshaw makes the point very forcefully that without the Merlin engine, and its rapid upgrades throughout the early 1940s, the outcome of the whole contest could have been different. Spitfires, P51s, Hawker Hurricanes, and more than 40 aircraft types benefited from the Rolls-Royce Merlin engine in addition to the Lanc.

Lancaster VRA
VRA in flight

Wind the clock forward to 2013 and this priceless treasure needs major overhauls on all four Merlins, estimated to cost $500,000. There are plans to work on the engines one at a time and keep VRA flying. There are two facilities with the capability of overhauling Merlins, and the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum already has those relationships in place.

The Mynarski Memorial Lancaster was built in 1945. Automaker Packard was licensed to build Merlins to bolster supply of the much sought-after powerplants during World War II. As a production-line machine facility, Packard made modifications to the engine of which Rolls did not approve, but which resulted in faster build and better performance.

Due to the use of Merlins in many racing planes, there are many items available for rebuilds that use recent improvements in metallurgy, airflow, and cooling that can extend the service life or increase power. For example, the engines in VRA have pistons developed by Roush, which are a great advance on the originals for both airflow, cooling, and friction. The two premium engine rebuilders are Vintage V12 and Roush, with Roush prices being significantly higher because of their racing background.

It is possible to get as much as 2,600 hp from the engine and that would be great if they were racing, but they just wouldn't sound right in a Lanc. VRA can perform well with just over 1,500 hp per engine.

If you would like to learn more about the "Lancaster Engine Overhaul Program," contact Pamela Rickards at pam@warplane.com.

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