The Science of Conservation

Dr. Mary Ryan at Imperial College London and her team have been central to the development of the conservation process. After the lift the fuselage and the wings will be coated with a special gel that will prevent most of the oxygen from getting to the planes surface. Then the whole plane will be wrapped in tarpaulins to protect the gel on the trip to Cosford. Here it will be placed in specially constructed hydration tunnels. This process is anticipated to take between 2-3 years.

Once at Cosford, cleaning is a 2 stage process: –

1.Distilled water scrubbing
2.Citric acid cleaning

The initial scrubbing with gentle agitation or surface rubbing with distilled water removes a significant fraction of surface layer and the sea salt
The alloy is then cleaned in citric acid to remove the hydroxide layer and allow passivation of the alloy

The Dornier has many cracks and crevices due to the stresses of impact. These would normally be areas of major corrosion, however the corrosion damage was minimal. The molluscs and sea life appear to have developed in any crevices or pits caused by the initial impact. This probably helped protect the aircraft because it prevented crevice corrosion and provided a physical barrier between the metal and the sea water once the plane was fully exposed.




To find out more on Dr. Mary Ryan and Imperial College London’s work with this project:


Image credits: RAF Museum