Fabric repairs

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    Apology for showing my ignorance on this.

    Bullet holes would be patch repaired on site at the aerodrome, larger fabric loss presumably sent back to factory, but what about an area, say 500mm squared that needed replacing.

    How and where would that be dealt with , both Axis and Allies .

    Regards, Simon.


    A rigger would have been capable of repairing or replacing wing or fuselage fabric, though the extent to which this was more practical than replacement of the wing panel etc is questionable.

    You have to remember that large scale fabric damage is likley to have damaged the structure also.

    RFC squadrons had Aircraft Repair Sections attached. Larger repairs would be handled by Aircraft Parks.



    There would be rather more than fabric repaired at the squadron level. An example is on 8 Sqn. (FK.8) over 8th and 9th August 1918, when according to the commanding officer (AIR 1/1671//204/109/26, page 8):

    “…no less than ten machines had to be repaired in the Squadron. Of these, 6 machines were in ‘A’ Flight alone. The repairs done altogether entailed the following parts being changed :- 10 main planes, 2 tail planes, 8 ailerons, 2 petrol and oil tanks, and 1 set of radiators. In every case the machines were ready to fly by dawn on the day following the day on which they were damaged.”

    I think any fabric repair was the least of their worries.



    I think this proves that replacing wings etc was the standard practice over and above repairing small scale damage.

    The fabric was stitched to the internal structure and so, as I said, damage to one was likely to damage the other.

    Halton apprentices were taught (on Tiger Moth ailerons) to repair slits, L slits and cross slits until the late 1950s, at least, as part of standard training.


    Okay, thanks.
    So, bullet holes………….patch and go.
    Small rip in fabric………….stitch and go.
    Anything at all more than a small rip…………..replace complete part, even a whole fuselage
    Sounds like a modern day insurance claim.

    Regards, Simon.


    It is expediency in terms of time and getting the aircraft operational as quickly as possible.
    Just because the damaged part was replaced, that doesn’t mean that the part was scrapped.
    Damaged aircraft and parts would be sent to the Aircraft Park for repair work, and the manufacturers and contractors undertook periodic ‘overhauls’.
    Even crashed aircraft were sent to have salvage recovery, and some new aircraft were constructed entirely of salvaged parts.


    Peter Dye’s recently published ‘Bridge to Airpower’ is an excellent source for how the repair and salvage system worked, and its vital role in maintaining the RFC/RAF’s front line strength.


    Many thanks.



    Repairing a simple bullet hole through fabric was a straight forward exercise that every rigger would learn in his training.

    1) clean up edges of the hole ensuring there are no tears or runs. Inspect to ensure there is no internal damage. Lightly sand around the edges of the hole to open the plies of the fabric.
    2) prepare a fabric patch at least 1″ wider all round than the damage.
    3) Tease out the edges of the patch so that they appear frayed. Modern repairs use pinking shears which make a saw toothed edge.
    4) Apply dope around the damage cut out (over the sanded area), apply patch and dope over the patch.
    5) When dry the dope will have tautened the fabric. A second coat is sometimes required.
    6) Apply coloured dope as required.

    Larger patches require the fabric to be sewn as well as doped.


    According to ‘A Bridge to Airpower’, any repair not dealt with on the squadrons was one estimated to take 36+ hours.


    There was an alleged small bullet hole patch repair square on fleebay recently [ that did n’t sell ].


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