Saturday, December 18, 2010

Calmer Half

This man is my rock. Sometimes this means he's as stubborn as a rock, immovable object to my unstoppable force. Always, this means he's my shelter against the storm, against the world. When I'm about ready to metaphorically tear my hair out and set the plane on fire after yet another setback, he calmly reminds me that he loves me, and that it's all okay. And then, it is.

When others wonder how he can let me go to be thousands of miles away for months, he calmly reminds them that he does not own his wife. (It's true! He didn't pay my father a bride price for me! [Though he did offer.]) Whether I'm having a good day or a bad one, when we're apart, I can count on at least one phone call a day, regularly and faithfully. He has mastered the art of holding so tightly I shall never feel unsupported, yet so loosely that I shall never feel like my wings have been clipped, or that I cannot fly.

Sometimes he frustrates me, because he does not try to limit me. I tried to tease him by threatening to cut my hair short, and he was fine with it. In fact, he appeared mildly baffled that I expected him to object. "It's your hair, love." Sometimes he is so laid back I almost wonder if I am walking all over him - and then I hit a point he cares about, and I am reassured that he has a spine like a mountain and a will as inexorable.

He never yells, and rarely curses. (Except at "bloody idiots" on the road, for which I tease him.) When I am moved to yell at him, he doesn't yell back - he listens. Sometimes he changes, and sometimes he points out that I have no right or reason to talk to him like that. I have no choice, then, but to listen back. Which is why our arguments usually are short, and end in thoughtful conversation, or sincere apologies.

It's not a smooth road by any means. When we walk down the street, I want to put my good shoulder toward him so it won't hurt when he tugs my arm or bumps into me, but he wants me to walk on the side that leaves his gun hand free. He doesn't put the toilet seat down. I steal covers and grumble at him if he moves in the night. He always wants and expects to drive. I use all the hot water when I shower. He gets cranky and refuses to take help when he's tired. I get petty and snarl when I have low blood sugar.

But all those things are immaterial, and easily dismissed by the steadfast love in his eyes as he smiles and says, "Calm down, love. It's all right; no one's shooting at you."

Friday, December 17, 2010


When I was younger, I moved a lot. Sometimes by my own choice, sometimes not. One particularly crazy year included a lot of couch-surfing, and I started using the word "home" to mean "wherever I am currently plugging in my computer." It was in jest: that's not what home is.

Home is where the heart is, and for the last months I've been split between the north and the south, between the home for years where my plane is, my friends are, the mountains and sky are etched in memories and heart... and my husband, who is out of state, and the small number of friends near him.

I left my plane in the competent and wise hands of my IA, and left state quietly, dozing and limping through fourteen hours of flights and layovers, only to hobble slowly enough up a terminal that a nice security officer wanted to know if I was going to be all right. I was, I assured him - and when I came around the corner, I was more than fine.

Calmer Half was waiting for me, standing patiently there, and I was home.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Modifications vs. stock

Once upon a time in a land far, far away called Alaska, the agency who thinks they are in charge of flying held a "supercub seminar." Their bright idea was to have a social gathering right before the pilots switched from skis back to wheels or floats, and as the winter hibernators were coming back up from sunnier climes, or starting to drive to the airport again and check in their plane in anticipation of the coming summer flying. They would gather some locals who were well-respected to talk about various safety and sanity-inducing aspects of flying, refresh those who didn't fly all winter on awareness of weather and airspace, and let everyone know what the latest regulation and rule changes were. Free coffee and cookies, Saturday morning, some elementary school.

A few local organizations and businesses decided this was an awesome chance to remind pilots about their goods for sale, or their organization, and set up booths and displays along with the tables full of friendly agency's pamphlets and paperwork. (In the case of Atlee Dodge, an entire brand-newly welded extended baggage extra-wide reinforced lightweight fuselage sat in a hallway for pilots drool and start asking their wives about next Christmas.) The idea took hold, and people came.

Our local friendly agency agents are, for the most part, a practical sort who recognize that innovation is better than stagnation, and people who want to modify their aircraft are usually doing it because they want a better plane for their purpose. While there are certainly pilots who put big tires on aircraft that rarely leave asphalt (akin to the lifted pickups around town that have never been offroad), tundra tires make landing on gravel and soft surfaces safer (in many cases, replace safer with possible at all). They sign off on replacing stiff, fracture-prone metal hydraulic lines with flexible hoses familiar to every car and dune buggy, replacing solid copper wiring wrapped in varnished silk with modern wiring, old 25-hour-life landing lights with thousands-of-hours life LED landing lights, installing inertial reel harnesses where there were no seat belts before... our airplanes are practical working vehicles, and we make them better, stronger, and safer. But outside, in the blasted aviation ruins of the Lower 48, the agency is not so friendly and resents the changes and challenges of innovation to their domineering static statism.

Worst of all are the agents of Mordor, also called Oklahoma City. I don't know why the unfriendly agency chose to base there and not the pit of DC, but I know from whence the squamous and rugose shadows with their lashing tentacles of strangling red tape come. And I could tell that this one that stepped upon the stage had a fresh whiff of that foul place man should not mention about him. His suit stood as a shout against the creeping informality of the friendly agents' polar fleece vests and polo shirts over jeans, in polar opposition to the battered carhartts, beards, and baseball caps eying him with distrust and disfavor. He glared at us with the self-righteous disdain and fury of a Brady Campaigner at Knob Creek (an apt simile, as most of the people in the room were armed), and imperiously clicked his powerpoint remote to batter us all with the overwhelming power of fine print.

Taking a deep breath, he stared us all down and said to the Alaskan pilots, "There is no reason any airplane should be anything other than stock!"

A humming silence met his remark, as pilots stopped chatting about the wife and kids, and turned to stare at him. Half-awake pilots woke up, looked at him, and looked at each other to confirm they heard correctly. Next to me, a gentleman who stopped logging hours years ago, as he figured there was no point past 40,000 hours in the bush, snorted and leaned back to watch the fireworks. I took another drink of bad coffee, trying to wake up and wondering what he was going to come up with for a speech after that lead-in.

He was serious. He continued haranguing us with powerpoint slide after slide, stating that we were deviants and degenerates tampering with designs created by our betters, and should not presume to try to improve upon what the unfriendly agency had decreed the airplane should be, coming off the production line. I looked at his superiors from our friendly agency, and saw the highest one there leaning back, arms folded, letting the unfriendly agent from Mordor dig his own grave.

Finally, with the spit-flecked fervor of PETA members assaulting a little old lady in a fur coat, he clicked to his penultimate example of everything that is bad and wrong with Alaskan aviation. "This! This! Can anyone even tell me what kind of airplane this is?"

I didn't recognize it. It had nice big tundra tires, long high wings, kinda like a...but nah, the fuselage wasn't right... the room was silent as he glared at us, looking enraged at our temerity and satisfied that he had browbeaten us into submission.

Then a voice spoke, from the audience. "Well, actually, that's my plane." Heads whipped around to the source, and the unfriendly agent's jaw dropped open, eyes bulging in disbelief.

"Really? What'd you do?" Someone asked, and the owner stood up, coffee cup in one hand, other one tucked into a pocket in a defensive slouch.

"Well, I was going into..." And he named a rather treacherous area well-known down on the peninsula. "And I ground-looped her. The only wings available were off a... so I flew her out, but really she performs better with them, so I left those on, and I got an Atlee Dodge landing gear and bigger tires to help with the potholes on this strip, and..." And he was off, standing up straight with pride as he told the story of how much work, effort, and thought he'd put into his baby. Questions flew fast and furious, opinions and debates sprung up about the effects of various modifications upon other modifications, the usefulness and relative merit of variations given the wildly different terrains these pilots operated on, and the room was alive, awake, and trading information.

I looked up at the stage, where the head of the friendly agency had a hand on the unfriendly agent, and was quietly leading him back to their chairs on the side, talking too quietly to be heard over the debate on 31" vs. 26" vs. 8:50 tires, powerflow exhausts, and so on.

What is the moral of this fairy tale?

For me, it's "Don't post identifying information about your airplane or yourself on the internet when doing modifications, for the agents of Mordor desire to crush and drown all beneath their sea of writhing red tape."

I hope there are better agents, even perhaps some last holdouts of sanity, in the blasted wastelands of the Lower 48, but the news we get here is not encouraging. I hear all the other FSDOs have been corrupted within, forsaking field approvals and one-time STCs for the ichorous hisses of "suspected unapproved parts are our highest priority!"

Monday, December 6, 2010

Wings & ankles

Over two years ago, I started pulling parts out of twelve totes and two bundles, and sorting them out into what I roughly knew went where on a wing.

This isn't the beginning - the ribs here are mostly cleaned of corrosion, repaired, and some are already primed. But it's close enough.

Turns out that the shop with the wings has great customer service on everything except their deadlines, and came in under budget while making my wings look as beautiful on the outside as they are inside.

I still need to put the gas tanks back in and get them on, but the end is in sight.

On the other hand, yesterday I only made it successfully down five out of six stairs to the laundry, and my left ankle was stressed past specs. Unlike the plane, I won't have to put a lot of effort and research into figuring out how to repair it - rest, ice, compression, and elevation are pretty straightforward, if annoying and providing very few external indications of healing progress.

I hope I can get back to the plane soon - I'd far rather be twisted in some uncomfortable position while scrapes on my arms weep blood and itch around splinters, muttering words my father wouldn't approve of me saying while trying to hold a flashlight, a mirror, and use a tool than be tucked on this comfy couch with tea, sandwiches, internet, and comfy blankets.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Progress Post - Odds and Brakes

One of my biggest frustrations lately has been the parking brake - the housing for the old cable was a solid metal tube that fractured and splintered at a bend. It's a very simple system - the locking handle connects to the cable, which loops around a cable that attaches to both brakes. Thus, pulling on the handle simply engages both brakes fully. After removing the petrified friction tape and housing, I got the old cable out, and got a new one with a Bowden cable instead of a solid tube. (The old style hasn't been available for decades, and this is better anyway.)

The handle locks by engaging a sort of set screw in the handle. Which I lost when installing. After cleaning, and cleaning, and muttering unkind words, I found that the replacement set screw is not sold singly - I had to buy the whole parking brake assembly. So I did, uninstalled the old new one, and installed the new new one. See the brass thing in the center of the tube the handle goes in? Yeah, you don't want to know how much that little bit of brass cost me in time, money, and aggravation.

Along the way, dealing with the brakes and dealing with firewall cover patch, I finally got to the point that it was just easier to remove the floor to continue work.

These are the old MicroVG's, on top of the repaint kit to replace the entire plane's VG's. The pink stuff on the bottom is dope that came off when I popped them off with a putty knife - they're bonded on well! I may fly the airplane without VG's first, to get a good feel for her original handling characteristics.

While working around the tail feathers, I noted that the last person put flat drain grommets on the tail instead of seaplane scoops, and didn't put a cloth patch on top. That's perfectly fine from an airworthiness standpoint. From a practical one, all but two had since been knocked off by dirt, rocks, weeds, sand, or something. So, I put seaplane grommets on to promote pulling moisture out of the area, and covered them with dollar patches to keep them there. My IA, believing that overkill is always better than barely enough, took the time to point out that I should really put some on the bottom of the rudder to pull moisture out of that as well.

When I bought the plane, the end of one of the placards in the cockpit was held on with duct tape as it had curled away from the instrument panel. As I worked around the cockpit, I bumped into it several times after removing the ossified duct tape, and it finished coming off. Here, it's being properly glued down.

Going over my inspection covers, roughly half of them had been painted without primer, and the paint was peeling off in large flakes or almost entirely gone (Like my fairings). The human eye can see thousands of shades of yellow - matching would be time-consuming and likely fruitless. The only easy-to-get yellow in the shop is a rather awful shade (at least, to my eyes), so I went with the other color on the airplane - flat black.

For another small but good step, the nicely repainted steps are now being wrapped with no-slip tread. Wet paint is slick, and I am sometimes clumsy - this should help prevent bruises and leaking blood. The tape is to keep the tread on securely until the glue cures tightly to the peg.

While none of the projects above move directly toward getting the engine run or wings on, they're things that were very good to get done. I'm not spinning my wheels, no matter what it feel like, and the punch list of things left to do on the plane is growing smaller and smaller.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Patching the Firewall & Custom Tools

As noted in the prior post, the new lower fuel valve needed a new lower fuel fitting. Unfortunately, the spot picked to drill a hole in the firewall proved to be a little too off, and a little too awkward to make the right bend in the fuel line. Solution: move the hole in the firewall.

This left two holes in the firewall to cover instead of one.

So, I made a rather thick steel plate to fit over both, with the holes pre-drilled, and set about installing it.

The first hole went rather well, if time-consuming. The second hole took hours to drill, and I got it done by drilling two pilot holes in succession. The third hole took even longer, and I finally broke down and went to my IA, saying "I think it might not be me - it might be the drill bit."

He looked at it with a jeweler's loupe, and said "This bit isn't dull... it's rounded!"

Now I know a lot more about drills, bits, and how to sharpen them. The third hole then took a couple minutes to finish. The fourth hole, however, was in an awkward position between the valve from the tank, the fitting already clamped down in the center to hold it tights, and various cables, wiring, and structure in the way. (Not that the others were a breeze.)
Enter the "aircraft drill bits" - perfect for reaching those awkward spots!

With the holes drilled, it was time to put one person on the engine side of the firewall with a screwdriver to hold the screws in place, and one person on the inside to tighten the locking nuts. Unfortunately, the alternator is so close to the firewall that even my stubbiest screwdriver was still too long by several inches.

Enter custom "nubby" screwdrivers, made by my IA from broken vacuum pump flanges.

As the shaft usually breaks first (broken yellow piece, top left), the rest can be put in the lathe, and the flanges trimmed off (see the various amounts of trimming between the three screwdrivers). Then the small hole in the center is enlarged, and a screwdriver bit pressed into the handle.

Best of all - the handle fits perfectly into that racheting wrench at the bottom, making it easy to turn in spaces so tight a hand can't hold and grip it easily!

Friday, November 26, 2010

On things I shouldn't wear

Working on airplanes isn't an activity that encourages concealed carry - between trying to fit into very small, crowded spaces and lying on your back and side to upside down, anything that adds bulk and presses crushingly against soft squishy organs and hard bruisable bone is highly uncomfortable. So I don't.

Working on installing the new parking brake cable (which is not done yet; I'm taking a break and nursing my scrapes and fresh bruises), I'm about ready to ditch all hard objects. I have key-shaped bruises on my right hip, scrapes on my arms from retrieving the 3/8th socket that slipped out of a pocket, and brand new bruises on two fingers due to the incompressibility of my wedding ring.

There may be a reason my Calmer Half's wedding ring still looks shiny and new, and mine looks like it's been through the wars, and is about to get stashed in the tool drawer right next to the sockets and wrenches. File that under things to keep in mind when looking for a holster - will it protect the gun, and will it protect me from my gun?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Progress Post - Fuel & Fabric

Working on the engine side is a little tight on space. Here, I'm removing the hose that leads from gascolator to the fitting through the firewall. Let's step back to the shutoff valves - after finding replacement O-rings, I cleaned them up, polished the valve cores and bodies, greased things well with fuel lube, and... found they stuck when I tried to turn the valves. So, more polishing, followed by careful checking with a sharpie (coating the core, and seeing where it rubbed off the core and on the body to catch the burrs and high points on both), followed by careful work with jeweler's files, lather rinse repeat. This worked for two out of three fuel valves.

Two out of three ain't bad for Meatloaf, but it's a show-stopper for fuel shutoff in a plane. Would you believe that Imperial valves stopped making the replacement valve I need for my main fuel tank shutoff... 40 years ago? There is a PMA replacement on the market, so after two days of working with the main tank valve only declare that it was not ressurectable, I got the replacement. Unfortunately, it's not a one-to-one replacement, and there are no unimportant details. A new shape - straight down instead of bent over 90 degrees - means the fuel shutoff control arm is now too long, the valve is now in greater danger of being kicked by wayward [trainee] feet, and the output is now too low for the old firewall fitting and hose.

The new valve also came with a fuel filter that stuck far up into the tank. This is great for most fuel tanks, but has a severe clearance problem with the odd float contraption that measures my fuel quantity and its supports. So, my IA did some math on the maximum flow through the valve, the area of each hole in the filter, and came up with the number of filter holes needed. The small nub of fuel filter sticking out of the section that's about to be put on is still serious overkill. That's fine by me. It's more than three times the hole area needed, which means a lot of paint chips, dirt, or other debris could get in and I'd still be safe to fly.

By the way, if you're looking at the old valve and wondering why it has no filter... yeah, I'd like to ask the guy who put that in, lo those many decades ago, about that too. Unfortunately, he's probably no longer alive even if I could find him - and he'd probably tartly point out that it's run fine all these years without it, so what's my problem?

The blue out-of-focus thing below the big gaping hole is the new hole I drilled, to accomodate the new fitting. We're switching from soft hose to rigid tubing for several reasons. On the cockpit side of the firewall, the rigid tubing will run from the PMA'd shutoff valve to the firewall fitting that's solidly in there to provide extra support for the surprising yet inevitable day some oaf doesn't watch where he's put his feet - this will make it much less likely said oaf will manage to kick the fuel valve off the bottom of the fuel tank.

We should have that wrapped up in a few days.

On to the fabric - you didn't think I was done with that just because the wings are off at the paint shop, did you? Getting under the tailfeathers to look at the joints and lubricate places back there, I noted that the old leather patches which protect the fabric from being ripped where the rudder cables come out of the fuselage had given up the ghost.

So, time to try to gently remove the last clinging bits of leather without removing too much dope. The rudder cables are loose and sans turnbuckle because the rudder control horn had an unacceptable amount of slop, as the holes had wallowed out. I drilled the holes back to round, and my IA is fabricating spacers to provide support while retaining the original size hardware. That's as good a time as any to clean and examine the turnbuckles - I hope I don't end up running new rudder cables, too. They look good so far!

While under there, and there was no way to take a good picture of this, I noticed that almost every last drain grommet had come off - the last person to cover the tailfeathers had used flat washers, and provided no fabric patch over the drain grommet. Back to the parts store to buy another bag of seaplane grommets, and after cleaning dirt and dust off the tailfeathers, they're super-seamed on. I cut out smaller fabric patches to dope on tomorrow, so these will not get knocked loose by mud, dust, or gravel.

I also have to make up my mind if I'm ordering the replacement MicroVG kit, and putting it on the wings (and fixing a few missing ones on the tailfeathers), or taking them all off and removing the STC. On the one hand, the vortex generators do really nifty things for pushing the edge of the envelope. On the other hand, if I don't have them on, I'll get a true, honest, clean feel for what my airplane can do, and when the design wants to stall and how. On the other hand, she's already so modified... On the gripping hand, it's more money, more time, and I want to get her airworthy and flown, then pickled for winter so I can go home to my husband. The debate will continue until I pick a firm decision or time forces the choice.

While the last owner did not have tapes over the windows, I wanted to put them back on. Tapes over the windows not only protect the screws that hold the windows in place, they also reduce the amount of wind and water that get forced under the plexiglass, keeping the cockpit dryer, calmer, quieter, and warmer. As I'm still learning, and windows are things that get replaced fairly frequently, I tried two separate styles based on what I saw out on the ramp for securing windows. This is the prettier of the two - I'll either do an even better version of this the next time I replace windows, or I'll try something else. Either way, it works. Today, I put the second coat of dope on with a brush, and tomorrow I'll do the silver coat. As I'm brushing it on, it'll look awful compared to a sprayer. On the other hand, I can't spray in here, it's too cold to spray outside, and the windows are now weatherproofed. I do what I can with what I have.

Today, with some downtime, I also cleaned the doors to see how much of the haze was dirt and how much was the many microscratches. A good portion was from years of dust and glacial silt - but a lot of it was from the wind-whipped abrasion. This is a washed, but still scratched-up, door.

This is a door that has been buffed with a coat of Novus 2, not with any great skill, nor rinsed off afterwards. The results are impressive enough I'll pick another slow time (read, another time I really don't want to dope fabric), and do the other door before starting on a second round.

The windshield will wait until spring - I want to flood it with water to softly wash off all abrasive particles. Doors are a pain to replace but not critical to the safety of flight - windshields are a major rebuild, and a major pain to hand-fit.

Not pictured - parts picked up today included two door locks to help hold the doors in, and a new parking brake handle, cable, and housing. The last handle was eagerly identified by an enthusiast of such things as an "Original World War Two Army Jeep Throttle!" ...Well, yeah, they were building Army Jeeps in 1941, too, building up to the inevitable entry to the war raging across Europe. There was no such thing as an "aviation parts industry" back then, and parts were sourced from wherever they could be found.

I'm just lucky my airplane is not the deluxe model, nor am I trying to restore her to original glory - the door handles on those were sourced from the nearby Packard plant. Try finding one of those for a reasonable price today!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Non-Fuel System Repairs

The wings are out to be painted, so more working on the fuselage.

Remember the last stringer repair? Further inspection found that the stringer below it was split, as well. Had been split a long time - there was near-petrified electrical tape holding the wood together.

While not a critical to airworthiness repair, it needed repair, and I wasn't going to let it pass me by. Replacing the stringer would involve cutting into the fuselage, and having to recover the whole plane - so a temporary sandwich repair it is.

Then on to putting on the bungee cover - first, to shortening the center screws so they neither penetrate the fabric, nor stand the cover off the plane. You can grind screws down easily enough, but getting ground-short screws through the thick material would be a problem. Obvious solution: insert the screws, then grind them down. I almost kept the paint job intact, too.

My IA started inspecting the landing gear and tail, and revealed most everything airworthy, but in dire need of more lubrication. While looking at the gear legs, he noticed a few bumps that were not part of the smooth structure, but didn't quite look like the massive corrosion bubbling the paint they appeared to be. Can you see what's odd about this picture?

Look near the top of each tube of the gear leg. Underneath the paint and primer, undisturbed for years, were two small screws in #40 holes right above reach bolt that needs to be lubricated. Instead of putting high-wicking oil where we could reach and hoping it would get inside, there were actual lubrication ports, kept clean and clear by little screws - very old screws, by the common-head style. So I chipped the paint off, unscrewed them, put LPS3 inside, and screwed them back down. Those will definitely be used from now on!

The fabric near the gear legs had some wrinkles that were then carefully ironed out - when patching a plane, if you do not carefully patch so that the new fabric draws the old fabric tight, you'll never get the old fabric to lay quite right without ironing it again. It's a purely cosmetic thing, but I want her to look pretty, so I did it. Then, for reduced drag and increased beauty, I put the fairings back on over the freshly lubricated bolts on each leg. They'll stay there until next annual - this part of the plane is done!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Drawing The Line

So, the plane is almost done. One fuel valve to put in, a new hose, run the engine, inspect a couple cables, fairings back on, and we're done.

Except the wings. I finished them, and then checked around the field. The restoration shop with a really nice paint booth and a good reputation said it'd take a week before they could take them in, and then it'd take a week to get the second coat of dope, the silver, and the color coats sprayed on. That would be as of last Friday.

So Monday, yesterday, I went in to check how we're moving the wings back over - my IA's trailer or theirs? ...And my wings are still sitting there, no second coat of dope, no silver, no color, looking almost like when I dropped them off. I can tell there's been a little detail work - they do look nicer, the fabric is more taut. But they're not done. And after being handed the rather lame excuse of "Some of my guys were sick, some went on vacation..." despite seeing his guys working on new wings that weren't there a week ago, I was told that they'll get it done "around the first." That's two more weeks. That's four weeks since they were ready to spray.

That's I'm damned well pissed off at the shop.

That's missing Thanksgiving with my husband, and being held up for at least two more weeks.. if they manage to stick to their new timeline... and given the way they're going, getting the conformity inspection and paperwork done may put me into not only missing Thanksgiving, but Christmas with my husband.

No matter how much I want to push it out on the ramp and set it on fire, at worst I'm just going to sell this damned plane as a project and eat the loss in time and money. I can finally go home, get a job, and just save up to buy an actual working flying airplane instead of throwing good money after bad anymore. At best, I'm going to throw my hands in the air, tell my IA I don't give a flying fuck anymore, I'm going home and he can finish it and send me the bill. I am not missing Christmas with my husband. He's more important than this pile of "almost there! another few weeks!" that's going on seven months now.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Door Frames

Sometimes even the little things can take hours to diagnose and fix. For example, one of wooden parts of the door frame was wobbly on both doors. This particular chunk of wood is the most common one to grab when getting in and out, so this isn't surprising. I took the right side's striker plate, and found the bolt beneath that holds the wood to the frame was loose (see cleaned-up hardware below.)

Then, I tackled the left side.

Note the stringer behind the frame is cracked.

After getting the striker plate off, I found a bolt with a broken-off head (at the tip of the scribe.) I also found, though the picture doesn't show it well, that lots of wood had been replaced with wood putty, including the holes for the bottom striker plate screw and the wood attach bolt.

Reaching around to the back, there was no bolt sticking out, and no nut. The picture below shows the top nutplate for the striker plate attach screw,and the metal tab welded on the fuselage where the wood is bolted on.

The broken-off bolt did not come out gracefully. In fact, it split the wood, and knocked out the prior putty repair on the way out. Why? Turns out, instead of going through the fuselage tab, it had been stuck into the bottom striker plate attach's nutplate, and corroded into a solid lump. There were more holes than there should be, and everything was going the wrong way.

Which holes were original, and where are the screws were supposed to go? Scribes are awfully handy tools for checking this!

Then I spread the wood apart so I could fill the entire thing with glue, then clamped the it back together for a tight repair. When it cures, I'll put in more wood putty and nail another nutplate on the back. This time, the attach points will be correct!

This will be a good, solid, airworthy fix - but it's not going look as good as the original. Next winter, when there's downtime I'm not flying, I'll make a new door post and replace the repaired one with a new piece of wood.

I also added reinforcement pieces to the cracked stringer, to hold it until I reskin the fuselage in a few years.

While waiting for the glue to dry, I finished painting the striker plates.

The left plate is ready to go back on - I'll pick up the hardware and install it today.

Looking Closer

After walking a few miles to work through 6 inches of snow on ice, I started the work day already dog-tired.

Look again at that tire - the dirt on a tire tells you a lot about how the airplane is riding. If the dirt is all at the center,the tire is probably overpressured. If it's way out and wide, the tire has too little air pressure. In this case, the airplane is riding way high and centered because it's missing a significant fraction of usual weight - no wings, no fuel, no passengers or pilot... If you see this on a working plane, you need to fix it.

See how the dark stain starts where the exhaust pipe comes out of the engine, not where the exhaust coming out of the pipe might stream back and hit the skin? That's a good indication that I had an exhaust leak.

Sometimes just looking at the plane for a while without anything in mind lets me see new things. For example, when lying on my back and looking at the bungees, I noticed a few fragments of hide of nauga sticking out from under the metal plate behind the bungees. The mud flap was not supposed to hang down, after all, like a mud flap on a truck - it was once tucked underneath the rear metal plate and screwed down, like a very flexible inspection cover.

When I took it off, three fragments of nauga came with, and a sizeable rock. Clearly, the small potion left wasn't doing its job - I should check inside the belly for any other rocks or dirt I can clean out and lighten my plane. In the meantime,here's a shot of the rear cover in the paint booth.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

No More Pumpkins

They're so lucky that that discharge of firearms, except in defense of life or property, is illegal in the city of Anchorage. Just look at all that nice, wonderful, well-marbled, wild, organic, free-range moose meat begging to be taken out, and save next spring's flowerbeds, saplings, and gardens!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Progress Post, Saturday Edition

Wings are now out to the paint booth. They're not perfect, and I missed spots where I should have noticed pinked edges sticking up, or not enough dope. They will not look nearly as nice as most wings this rebuild/repair shop puts out, but they're my first wings, and hell, they're airworthy.

My IA had thoroughly inspected the work on the engine, and found two errors - one control cable had not been secured with a cotter pin through the bolt, and the engine mount was missing the last bolt to secure it to the rewelded exhaust. Those were promptly accomplished, first thing after moving wings.

The wicking power of Mouse Milk - left alone for a day, the cup soaking the valve emptied itself, as the creeping oil crawled out of the tub and down into the oil pan. Fortunately, the paper towel did a good job of absorbing most before it could get further.

Drilling oversize holes for the window screws.

New windows installed - the different sizes of PK screws are because any loose screws were replaced with the next size up until secure According to my IA, I can pull this trick successfully for a few times, and then it's time to replace the wood. That's a few years off, yet - I have no intention of tearing down the fuselage to replace stringers until I've flown this plane quite heavily.

The paint on the leg fairings were flaking badly - on one fairing, only a few thumbnail-sized patches were left, and on the other, half the paint was gone. So, after pulling them to inspect the gear attach points beneath, I stripped the last bits of paint, cleaned them, primed, and painted. There was no yellow to match either the body or the new wing color, so I went with basic black - it matches everything. As a note, use flat black when you don't want people to look at things, and glossy black when you want people to notice.

As long as I'm painting parts, I'm might as well work on the few places on the plane left bare aluminum by the last owner, like these tail inspection covers and the mud flap.

Cleaned and being primed in the paint booth:

Painted, and ready for installation after inspection.

The old mud flap was pretty beaten up.

Primed and painted, but not yet dry:

The old mud flap appeared to be made from the hide a of Nauga. I used a better material, made for engine baffles, for the new one.