Some warbird restorers will tell you that this is all you need to rebuild and fly an old aeroplane. It is commonly known as a Data Plate. One of these is attached to every airframe when it is built, thereby conferring an identity on that airframe in the form of a Manufacturer's Serial Number.

When the Qantas Foundation Memorial team of engineers set out to restore the former VH-EBA to airworthiness, they were fortunate - the aeroplane was complete in every respect - except for the data plate!

When it was decided by her former owners that her flying days were over, the data plate was removed from the airframe and returned to Boeing who safely filed it away in their archives.

Not many aeroplanes survive the removal of their data plate, for it is the aviation equivalent of removing life support. When it emerged that a dedicated group of retired Qantas engineers were determined to restore life support along with unlimited doses of tender loving care, Boeing conferred their blessing by returning the data plate.

It was a close run thing.

Not only are the QFM engineers skilled 707 Whisperers, but they also have a well developed sense of occasion and of putting things right. On 26 November 2006, VH-EBA was made complete again. The original stainless steel manufacturer's data plate was ceremoniously attached to the aeroplane's primary structure, with Denis Martin, Paul Wilkinson, Bob Horn and finally, Peter Elliott in turn riveting one corner each. Just one week later, VH-EBA flew again for the first time in six years, albeit under the nom de plume of VH-XBA, but everyone, including the aeroplane herself, knew exactly who she really was.


Peter Elliott fixing the last rivet to secure the data plate to the frame of the aft left main entry door. The plate is original but the location is not. When VH-EBA was built in 1959, the traditional location for the data plate was on the lower rear fuselage near the horizontal stabiliser compartment access panel on the right hand side. Modern airworthiness requirements stipulate that the plate should be fixed to structure in a doorway and easily visible. To achieve this, a hole was cut in the trim of the aft left main entry doorway, a perspex window added to the trim and the data plate firmly attached to the structure. The team was not too disappointed at this departure from tradition, figuring that this crucial part of the aeroplane's identity had been out in the cold for long enough and deserved preservation in its own right! Photo: Norman King

Satisfied that things have been put right, some of the engineers pause for a photo after reuniting the aeroplane with her data plate on 26 November 2006. Photo: Norman King


Back Row Left to Right
Norman King
Roy Finney
Middle Row Left to Right
Robert Phillips
Bob Horn
Paul Wilkinson
Peter Elliott
Front Row Left to Right
Ben Hunter
Denis Martin
Present but out of Frame
Norm Mackay


Added Norm Mackay to the list of engineers present on the day. Sorry Norm! Also updated the location of the data plate with a more historically correct description.
Original issue