Thursday, July 4, 2013

WWII Aircraft Parts: The Mother Load is Coming!

By now most people know that I offer my original artwork in wall hanging displays with authentic fragments of historic WWII aircraft.  That has become 'my thing' and sets me apart from other aviation artists.  No one else is doing this.  I'm often asked where I obtain these parts, since it's not everyday someone comes across a Messerschmitt Me 262 crash site, or wrecked P-51 Mustang in a field somewhere.

There is no one answer, of course.  In some cases I've worked with museums.  The Wings Museum of Surrey, England, for example, sent me parts of several Japanese aircraft that they had recovered from the Kurile Islands in 2006 - in exchange for commissioned artwork.  Tom Reilly sent me pieces of a B-17 G Flying Fortress and XP-82 Twin Mustang in exchange for other artwork.  I even buy parts off of eBay Germany, which is a completely separate auction site from eBay USA.  These various contacts have led to other contacts, many of whom reside in places like Poland and the Ukraine, where people spend their weekends out in the bush with metal detectors and email me within hours of their finds.

But lately I have one man in particular to thank for keeping me supplied and able to offer my displays now and well into the future, and his name is Christiaan Vanhee.  I've known Chris for several years now.  He's a retired Belgian Air Force officer, author of books on the Luftwaffe and air war in Europe, is presently restoring a Junkers Ju 88, and above all has led aircraft excavations all over Europe for more than 30 years. His personal collection of aircraft parts and artifacts literally defies description.

Almost two years ago, Chris began sending me boxes of parts.  He would go through his hanger and storage sheds periodically, usually when the weather started to warm up each Spring, and I'd get deluged with pictures of the items he'd uncover.  We'd agree on a price, and he'd drive to Germany to ship them off to me (shipping from Belgium is twice as expensive).  Sometime a box would be a centimeter too long and DHL would refuse it, or his car would break down . . . but upon eventual reception I always enjoyed my own little airplane Christmas!

This time around Chris outdid himself (see photo, top).  He shipped two "banana boxes" on June 25th and another on July 3rd (Another case of the Germans hassling him over weight and size - he had to break up two huge boxes into three).  Each box weighs over 50 pounds!

What's fantastic about the parts that I get from Chris is that they are usually from older excavations - from 30 years ago or even older than that.  What's sinister about the corrosion of aluminum is that, depending upon conditions, a piece of metal might survive intact for decades, but once it begins to exfoliate it degrades rapidly to the point of destruction in only a short time.  Looking at the aircraft parts unearthed from recent excavations, often being sold on eBay and elsewhere, anyone can see this.  But I've received parts from Chris that are perfectly preserved, with paint that's literally 100% intact and with no corrosion on the metal.  Wonderful stuff!

So it is with great excitement that I impatiently await the arrival of my banana boxes from Germany.  They contain amazing parts from a huge array of famous WWII aircraft: P-47, B-17, Fw 190, Me 109, Do 217 - the list is glorious.

Look out for new offerings from me - both new artwork in support of the parts, and new displays - in the very near future.

- Ron Cole  

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