The Comet and the Space Hoppers: A leaky solution

Mike is responsible for conserving aircraft and other technology objects ranging from complete aircraft to small objects like medals from the collection at National Museums Scotland. Here he describes an unusual conservation solution for the Comet 4C airliner using a retro activity toy! See it on display at the National Museum of Flight, East Fortune.

In the conservation of large engineering objects we use many processes and materials, many of which remain invisible to the viewer. Some of these processes and materials are vigorously tested in the field of conservation to ensure suitability, durability and reversibility and some will come from industry as engineering standards with decades of case studies and data outlining their suitability for application to objects.

de Havilland Comet 4c, National Museum of Flight, East Fortune
Boy jumping from blast shelter in front of de Havilland Comet 4C, National Museum of Flight, East Fortune.

One such project that requires the application of conservation and industrial processes is the Comet 4C commercial airliner at National Museum of Flight, East Fortune. The main scope of the current work is the prevention of water ingress.

Windows on the Comet 4c at National Museum of Flight, East Fortune
Windows on the Comet 4C at National Museum of Flight, East Fortune.

To facilitate this we are reconditioning the window seals, which requires the windows to be removed from the aircraft. This leaves us with the problem of how to block the holes to prevent the weather getting in whilst the windows are in the workshop.

Inserting Space Hoppers to the windows on the Comet 4c at National Museum of Flight, East Fortune
Inserting Space Hoppers to the windows on the Comet 4C at National Museum of Flight, East Fortune.

Fortunately one of our volunteers, John Thomson, who is a former employee at Torness Power Station, had faced similar problems during his career in nuclear power generation. During the first major power shut down at the power plant in 1989 they had to devise a way of blocking pipe ends whilst work was carried out.

A tight squeeze - Space Hoppers in the Comet, National Museum of Flight, East Fortune
A tight squeeze – Space Hoppers in the Comet, National Museum of Flight, East Fortune

One of the engineers present suggested using one of his grandchildren’s Space Hoppers to plug the hole, denying the child leisure time fun but providing a perfect solution to the engineering problem. As you can see the solution is far from invisible but it is a most effective temporary solution.

Emergency exit window from the Comet undergoing conservation at National Museum of Flight, East Fortune
Emergency exit window from the Comet undergoing conservation at National Museum of Flight, East Fortune

I will miss the pleasant orange glow mood lighting when they are eventually removed but I’m sure our conservation grade space hoppers will come in handy for future projects.

Space Hoppers on view outside the Comet 4c at National Museum of Flight, East Fortune
Space Hoppers on view outside the Comet 4C at National Museum of Flight, East Fortune.

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