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.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Airbox and Awesome Food

The first problem with removing the gascolator (after getting the safety wire out of the way) is finding a place that a tool can grip it without harming it. Fortunately, with all the years in service, I only had to look for the part scarred by all the tool marks. This told me that something like vise grips had been used - but very, very narrow vise grips with a deep throat.

For every really frustrating problem, there is a nifty tool. In this case, needlenose vise grips!

Which led to this:

And then, back to the adjustable wrench to get the fuel filter out from the boost pump, too.

On to the airbox again! First, I found the right filter. The new filter is damp with "wettant", an oily substance that makes the foam perfect for trapping dust and dirt. This means everything gets both oily and sticky after handling or being near the filter. I found replacement hardware to hold a grate to the bracket - this is obviously for filter retention. The other bolts appeared to hold the bracket to the airbox.

The bolts to attach the filter bracket to the airbox are shorter than the airbox filter bracket is deep. Yes, this confused me, too.

As my IA was out of the shop, I biked over to Reeve Air Motive where the owner pulled out a brand new filter bracket, showed the hardware to me, and demonstrated how to install it. He rocks! I then bought brand new bolts for the bracket, and a new gasket for the gascolator, and we compared our trick or treater quantities and costumes.

This took an hour, because as I biked to Reeve's through three inches of slush past Captain Chuck's, I smelled the delicious food wafting from the restaurant. As I biked back, I saw a friend's vehicle in the parking lot, and my stomach urged me to go say hi. Right Now.

The cook and owner was making a spicy chicken soup that nearly gave me a foodgasm - it's awesome, possibly only bested by her incredible biscuits and gravy. Not your mother's chicken soup, this started with a jambalaya base, then had heavy cream added, and a fiery smoky kick with generous amounts of chipotle. Seriously, if you're in or coming through Anchorage, go to Captain Chucks. It's where the chef goes to play in the kitchen, and serves food that bests fifty-buck-a-plate places - at diner prices! (Caveat: if the chef's husband has left to pick up the kids or pick up supplies, you can darn well flag down the chef politely and ask her to ring you out, or give her your order yourself. Being a restaurant run by two people, the service is great for two people. It's not a hovering-waiter-per-table kind of place.)

Anyway, after finding her to pay and ending up in a wonderful conversation about the similarities in spice mixes of Italian and Cajun cooking, it was back through the slush to the salt mines... or at least, airbox assembly.

Those bolts are shorter than the length of the bracket because they go underneath the filter, and the holes on the outside are for putting the screwdriver into the bracket to hold the screws.

Cleaned up the valve cores & disassembled two of them. This involved a bath and scrubbing in the acid tank, as the "valve lube" had more in common with chewing gum, molasses, and tar than lubricant. Once disassembled, I scrubbed each part with brakekleen. Handy stuff!

The third valve core, upon refusing to come apart at my full strength after being cleaned as well as I could, is being given an overnight bath in Mouse Milk, a very effective penetrating oil. The tub with the oil is isolated on an absorbent paper towel inside an oil pan, because this stuff creeps and wicks like it's trying to take over the world.

Unfortunately, what I thought was just my lungs rebelling from avgas, brakekleen, and acid tank fumes turned out to be a harbinger of my host's sickness infesting my lungs. Fortunately, people are wonderful and kindhearted, and I neither had to bike through the slush home, nor bike to work in the morning. Overall, people are awesome and kind, and I am very grateful for that.