When I traveled recently to rural eastern Kansas to write and shoot a profile for Aviation for Women, the magazine of Women In Aviation International, holding the last surviving part of a Focke-Wulf Fw 190 was the last thing I expected to do. But here it was, the last known snap swivel, a bit of metal that connects the antenna cable to the vertical stabilizer of the vaunted World War II German fighter.
The original (on the left), said Star Novak, the subject of my profile, was on loan from the Royal Norwegian Air Force Museum, so McFarlane Aviation of Baldwin City, Kansas, could duplicate it for the White 1 Foundation Inc. of Kissimmee, Florida, which is restoring Weisse Eins (White 1), an Fw-190 F8–and its BMW 801 radial engine–to flying condition. McFarlane makes PMA parts for most GA aircraft, but it also does custom work.
In the world of warbird restoration, details count. Just ask Kermit Weeks, of Fantasy of Flight fame, who’s won numerous top EAA AirVenture awards for his restorations that aren’t far from what the airplane was like when it flew away from the factory. And when you’re restoring what will be the world’s only flying Fw-190, details count even more. Hence the order for the lowly snap swivel, and McFarlane is making four of them.
Being the sole surviving original part made this project especially challenging because McFarlane could not take it apart to see how the German engineers installed the spring that keeps the swivel’s jaws closed. McFarlane’s engineers devised a solution. It may not match the original, but on the outside everything is the same. All that’s left is the aging process that will add six decades to new chromemolly steel.
For a history geek like me, such surprise discoveries–and actually being able to touch history–is part of aviation’s excitement. This small but essential part ranks up with my other historical surprise, finding the last Butler Blackhawk biplane under a tarp in the back corner of an FBO’s hangar at the Kansas City Downtown Airport in the early 1990s, while I was killing time before checking out in a rental. — Scott Spangler