Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Stringing Anti-Drag Wires

Yesterday I decided that the butt ribs can wait for more patience and installed the tip compression strut yesterday. Strangely, despite the last noserib sliding between the compression strut and the spar, there's no shim to adjust for the slight (0.010 inch) difference of one side of the compression strut to the other - It's just bolted down. (This is why to NEVER toss the old anything in restoration - I hauled the old cracked spar out of the attic and stood at the top of the ladder going "Really? Really? I didn't lose a shim, it's just there isn't one?")

Today I strung the drag and anti-drag wires starting at the tip, and stopped to contemplate the first bay. The drag and anti-drag wires go through the wing tank, with a foot of thick clear plastic tube wrapped around each to prevent chafing against the tank. The tubes I currently have were pulled off so I could remove corrosion and zinc chromate all the wires - and I appear to have lost two, while the other two are discolored dark brown where the friction tape secured them. I'll have to figure out where to get more before I put the gas tank in and string those two wires. (Then I'll have to redo the right wing, too, as they're strung sans tube or gas tank install.)

I took time out for a run to Reeve Air Motive to get more AN-3 bolts for the rear spar attach bracket, and a necessary detour to sit in my plane and make airplane noises, promising her she'll soon have wings. Then back to work, only to discover the rear spar actually takes AN-4 bolts; I was looking at the wrong end of a misdrilled hole that needs to be reamed out. I'm going to have extra hardware when this is done - but better to have 5 too many than 1 too few!

Then I got to checking the front spar attach bracket - and that, like the right wing, is just a little off. So tomorrow, sanding the end in hundredths of an inch until it's juuuust right, varnishing, reaming, varnishing bolts as they go in so the fresh wood inside is protected, and attaching those. If I'm wise enough, I'll remember that one end of the butt-end compression strut overlaps with the rear spar attach bracket (That one is shimmed! And I know exactly where that shim is!) so I don't have to try to get the bolt back out after it's varnished in place. Lord, help me look at the checklist I'm writing tonight!

And I shall repeat to myself until I believe it: "Finding new mistakes and errors to correct is progress!"

Monday, June 28, 2010

Craving a warm spring

Sometimes, I just need something green. Soups and creams and roasts are all spiffy, sometimes a stomach just wants something light and lively. Today, though, was cold, grey, and raining - and I wanted something hot, even as I wanted something green.

So, first I checked the fridge, then the pantry, and started a pot of egg noodles. Then, to the backyard - not to the recently planted garden, but to a patch of chickweed which is growing far better than the struggling greenhouse seedlings. Gathering a few handfuls (maybe 3 cups?), I rinsed it off, pulled out the few blades of grass that came with, and chopped it up fine like parsley. I tossed some sliced chunks of chicken leftovers (1 cup?) into a pan with a little olive oil (1 Tbsp?), and once they were warm, added the chopped chickweed with a healthy dose of key lime juice (1 Tbsp?), some salt (1/4 tsp?), and a few grinds of black pepper (1/4 tsp?), then put the lid on for it to steam as much as saute.

The egg noodles were done soon after, so I drained them and dumped them in a bowl, then added the topping, and stirred the chicken chunks and bright green veggies into the noodles. While it wasn't the most photogenic dish in the world and lacked a chef's plating, it was hot, filling, and full of bright-tasting peppery greens, far more vivacious than mere parsley. Brigid could have made it look beautiful and typed a proper recipe; I chowed down instead of trying.

Note for people watching their carbs or glycemic index - increase your greens and chicken to your pasta ratio, and switch to whole wheat pasta. In fact, if I plan ahead next time I want to switch to whole wheat pasta myself and maybe turkey, because the regular pasta and unspiced chicken is a little too mellow to properly anchor the bright combination of key lime juice and chickweed. Have fun with your food!

Photo from http://www.veggiegardeningtips.com/edible-chickweed/ which has a nice overview of the plant, and other edibles from the unmown backyard.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

tripping over a milestone

I pressed the hand-squeezer carefully, aligning the rivet sets, and as soon as I felt the first click of everything locked in place, I stopped and carefully eyeballed the various clamps, the angles, and the pieces of metal coming out. Take a deep breath, let it out slowly, and in that space between heartbeats, squeeze the trigg... the handles, feeling the rivet sets crush the soft aluminum between them. The machined head sat flush against the surface, trapped in the dimple with nowhere to go. The shank crumpled, expanding to fill the drilled hole, then out and down on the far side like a crushed pop can, forming a smooth cylindrical shop head. Carefully, ever so carefully, I look it out of the squeezer (which was stabilized in a vise), and over to the man with the Inspection Authorization.

He was working with a ring gear on an engine, installing a new belt for a starter, so I waited until he was done, then handed the rib to him. "So, tell me what I need to drill out and re-rivet." I said, and he grinned at me before lifting the long main rib to eye level and carefully scrutinizing each rivet in the many repairs.

There are so many ways for rivets to not be airworthy, and so few that are correct, so I waited, not even really expecting this to be the final repair. After four days of working on this rib, surely something else needed doing, or wasn't done to spec. All the same, there was a little knot of tension in my chest, and a small hope saying maybemaybemaybe...

"Looks good." He handed it back with a nod.

"Ah, excuse me." I said, then clasped it to my chest as a full girlish SQEEEEEEEEEEEEE! emerged, before I dashed off to clean it one last time before shooting a coat of zinc chromate on it. Behind me, I heard him chuckling as I managed to skip across the shop.

That's the last of the old ribs to repair - now to modify two butt ribs, then trammel both wings and nail the ribs to the spars!

Sunday, June 20, 2010


Yesterday was a good day. I didn't finish the main rib that has given me so much trouble, but I did figure out a way to fabricate two repairs, so it is both legal and safe. Now, I just need to enough skill to apply these repairs without messing up. I also fabricated the part of the rib that is actually nailed into the spar for three different ribs, got one assembled and primed. This leaves me with two ribs left to repair, and two to modify, and all 30 will be airworthy and ready for the next step!

Friday, I didn't get out of the shop until late, because my favorite gunsmith brought a fellow officer in to see his plane. Turns out that gent is up visiting from Arizona, and has a similar model, different year - so they were gleefully going through the plane and comparing modifications, problems, and repairs. Given they have metal large-engined planes and I have a rag n' tube small-engine plane, I thought I'd slip on out after cleaning up - but instead I got asked for stories and explanations on my own lil' old project.

You see, my grandmother grew up in Alliance, OH. And she told me that right before the War, back in '41, her best girl friend worked at the Taylorcraft factory. After school got out, busses would come from the factory and take the girls over for a night shift. "During the day, the men [and here she would sigh] (what men were left) would put the fuselage together, and at night, the girls would build the wings. We had smaller hands, you see."

So my grandmother is quite pleased that I am rebuilding a plane her friend probably put together - and I have been ordered to fly her through Alliance and give a ride to that fiery little lady who's still thoroughly enjoying life, all these years later. Truthfully, I don't mind the order - I look forward to it! But it is quite amusing to me that being able to talk about the history of my plane and the politics and material and labor rationing of America in the opening days of World War Two makes me feel less like a pilot geeking over her plane, and more like a curator and caretaker of a piece of history.

She's no museum piece - she was born to fly, and will again soon!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Flying in the rain

Today was not a fun day; after several hours working on a rib, I left the shop with the rib in a worse state than when I started. On the other hand, I now know one of those missing basics that will make the rest of my life easier: to remove rivets, drill halfway down, then use a flat-end punch levered around to break the machine head off before tapping the punch to break out the shank and shop head. This will save me a lot of figure-eight drilled holes in the future.

Yesterday, though, yesterday was fun. Well, not the restoration part - this rib is teaching me full well the depths of malice that can be possessed by inanimate objects. But after I got out of the shop at seven, I met up with Flying Buddy, and we went out to Birchwood.

The word flying conjures images of deep blue skies that go on forever, bright sunshine in early afternoon sunlight - ah, but this is Alaska in mid-June. It had been raining off and on all day, but yesterday's clouds had dropped enough moisture to rise above the peaks of the Chugach Mountains, a solid layer of overcast at six thousand feet that was impossible to see for all the swaths of fine virga hanging down like torn insulation combining to seem like fog hiding the distance, sprinkling like a melted snowfall on the ground with fine drops barely heavy enough to fall. This is a normal rain here - the sort that will fall for hours and still you'll leave a dry spot in the outline of your car when you leave work.

It was well past 8:30 when we got to Birchwood, but this close to Solstice we had plenty of time to go fly - it was no darker than most cloudy days, and even tonight I could easily read a book outside under overcast skies at midnight. The rain had let off where we were long enough for the asphalt to be dry, though the mountain valleys alternated down the chain between clear and piled in fine rain like fog thick as forest fire smoke. Flying Buddy popped the cowling so I could point out the answer to his curious question: I learned how to hotwire an airplane this week (in the context of learning the electrical system and safety), and he was mighty curious in case he ever loses his keys while out somewhere.

Then he fueled and did a thorough preflight, while I called my Calmer Half. (I miss you, love!) In the trade of favor for favor, I got the front of the PA-12 for the second time ever - Flying Buddy squeezed into the back, and the stubborn dog went into the baggage. It's amazing, with so much view in front of me - and I'm still short in a seat set up for a man a foot taller than me, so I couldn't see over the nose without grabbing a V-brace and doing a one-armed chinup. The panel in a no-vacuum tandem VFR plane is so clean that instruments and switches can be arranged as suits the owner best, instead of crammed into a six-pack with radios and other overflowing to the right. I had to spend time fumbling to find everything. Master on, compass on, inch of throttle, three shots of prime, left mag, and hit the starter - she turned and rumbled to with a sleepy grumble of a cold engine at low idle.

I taxied out, stepping hard on the right heel brake to counteract the cockeyed angle the tailwheel was left in, and turned on the radio. The ASOS was reporting dead calm air, six mile visibility, Altimeter 30.02, so I did a mag check parallel to the runway, cleared my throat, and found the push-to-talk velcroed halfway down the stick. It's been five months since I last really handled radios, and I worked out what I wanted to say aloud before keying the mic. Flying Buddy corrected me with a note of laughter in his voice, and I mangled it anyway on the radio like a student pilot. We taxied out, stopped, and I put in two notches of flap, then repositioned my feet so they wouldn't touch the heel brakes, smoothly added full throttle and right rudder, and pushed the stick full forward.

The last still feels strange to me - all the nosewheel training of yoke coming aft for soft field takeoff makes pushing the stick forward couterintuitive. But it is correct for a tailwheel, and as we gathered speed, the tail came up. I pulled back gently, then, and the ground fell away, trees sinking below us as I climbed out at sixty. When we were clear of trees, I eased a notch out, gathered speed, and let the last of the flaps retract as we climbed up into the virga. Rain spattered lightly and streamed away on the windshield, making forward visibility a little blurry - but I could easily see down and around. Cautiously looking for traffic that hadn't called, I called on our departure on downwind, raised a wing to look, then rolled right and made a climbing turn across the Knik Arm of the sea. Grey water and grey glacial silt mixed with volcanic ash into a fine clay mud flowed beneath us as we rose into a rain so fine that, though it seemed we would be lost in the clouds at any moment, never actually dropped our visibility beyond speckled and streaming windscreen.

Turning left, we followed the shore south until the tall antennas by Goose Bay were clearly visible and avoidable, switched over to the area frequency, and cut inland to enter the downwind on a 45. With the trees in full summer foliage, it was hard to spot the right runway, for all we could easily see several smaller backyard strips cut into the trees with one or two planes parked in back yards. We discussed finer point of flying, leaning the engine and applying carb heat for the moisture - and then applying cabin heat, for it was definitely in the cooler 40's at altitude. Finally, I saw the long straight disturbance in the treeline, and a glimpse of gravel where a pullout had been logged into existence confirmed it. Time to put the mixture in, throttle back, and wait for airspeed to fall enough for flaps to slide down.

My first landing was roughly ten seconds ahead of me, coming in high and wobbling all over - I could feel Flying Buddy shadowing me and correcting as I struggled to get the plane down. When I got to a stop, he patiently just reminded me to get carb heat in, two notches of flaps down, and waited. The takeoff went fine, and on downwind, I finally spotted a friend's plane parked just over the rise at the far end of the strip, and one of the old bunkers as I turned base. I was still behind, juggling energy and airspeed and trying to get flaps down, but better than the first time until I got to ground effect. In a Cessna, you have to thumb the release to lower the Johnson Bar for every notch of flaps, so I was holding onto the bar and twisting as I lowered it to the floor when dumping the flaps - but that twisting was moving the stick, and the airplane, off straight centerline and toward the trees.

The third time round, I found 1650 rpm, and the approach became smooth as glass, soaring like an eagle on the wing instead of beating hard like a raven playing in the tumbling drafts off a skyscraper. I stooped upon the runway coming in smoothly... and right through ground effect, flaring too late, for a landing that proved just how well the stiff new bungees on the gear could bounce. Flying buddy was also on the rudders and brakes, heavily, and we staggered around the runway a bit before stopping. He apologized, then, for overriding and adding extra input without warning, but I'd take a staggering unplanned waltz down the gravel over a ground loop any day - and trust he knows his airplane far better than I do. After we both caught our breath, we were off again. I'd hit my stride on the approach, handling it smoothly, and now focused on the last few seconds of landing. As I passed the threshold panels and the grass gave way to gravel, Flying Buddy said, "Flare!" so I did.

...it would have helped if we'd been lower. At least the airplane is very forgiving. Sigh. So up again, stretching and working my jaw to uncramp tensed muscles, and trying that one again. This time I added a little power back in at the end, to arrest our descent and level out, and it helped immensely, but it still wasn't pretty. I pulled off the runway, shutting down the plane and getting out for a stretch. If you are getting frustrated, it's time to stop - each landing needs our full attention, as it happens, not what can be spared from thinking of how the last landings went wrong. We talked of throttle and flaps, brakes and movements by space and time, moving our hands around in gestures familiar to pilots everywhere. Our friend touched down in the Citabria, took off for a low pass, then landed short enough to pull in and join us without back-taxiing. Being smart, he stayed in his plane and stayed dry, as I stood under the wing to be out of the rain. Flying Buddy chose to stand out in the rain instead of duck under the wing, and really didn't seem to care. Inbetween talking about a gun that was finally sighted in and calling the dog over before she got too far away, our friend tried to be supportive. "Your landings are getting better!"

He took off, then, to head back to Birchwood. We loaded the dog, got back in the plane, and started up again. As I rose to downwind, we got a call from traffic crossing the airport headed to Elmendorf AFB, and I immediately started scanning instead of paying strict attention to where I was in the traffic pattern. Goose Bay is in the way of a route the air force likes to use for training, so traffic calls could be a flight of F-22's or C-17s just as easily as an Aero Club 172, so I was more concerned about staying out of the way and wake turbulence. I never saw whoever it was, but they saw me - they were low, camouflaged, and moving fast. So I turned late, but salvaged a decent landing.

The seventh landing I turned short, and came in too high, flaring a little too late and dropping in. As I sucked irritated and embarrassed air in past my teeth, Flying Buddy responded with a voice brimming with laughter. "Oh, now we have to do another one!" So we did, and it wasn't great, but it wasn't bad. Practice had worn enough rust off true metal was showing through, skills were meshing again, and I could feel the airplane talking to me, even if I was slow and clumsy in my response.

We departed back north toward Birchwood, trying to see it through hanging veils of rain, and trying to figure where the ASOS was looking as it reported 10 miles visibility - I'd have put it at three. Crossing the Knik Arm, we were too high as we came into the base leg, so we stayed high, crossed midfield, and entered the pattern for the gravel, 19L. It wasn't a great landing, but serviceable, and I taxied to the tiedown knowing that while I hadn't done great, I had gone from rusty to competant. Sometimes, that's all I need.

As I tied down the plane and left a message for my Calmer Half that I was safe on the ground, I realized that all of the frustrations of working on the plane were gone, as if soaked in gentle rain and scoured away by attention to the immediate, important, vivid and real demands of flying to the best of my abilities, and all the tragedies and triumphs it contains.

It was a Good Day.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Polly Creek Alaska Tides

You want to know when to go clamming?

Go here: http://co-ops.nos.noaa.gov/gmap3/ Scroll the map up to Alaska. Zoom in on the Kenai Peninsula.
Or here: http://alaskatides.com/

Either way, check the tide for Nikiski and Seldovia. Split the difference, as Tuxedni Bay, and Polly Creek that runs into it, is roughly halfway between them on the Alaska Peninsula.

Or take the shortcut and look up the tides for clam gulch, because it's roughly across the inlet.

Like here: http://alaskaoutdoorjournal.com/References/Tides/clamtides10.html

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Live Your Life

Absolutely riveting

AC 43.13 Is a book written to cover a great many subjects - and most every subject in it has plenty of complications and nuances, from riveting to welding to wood repairs. Unfortunately, when writing the book, all the subjects therein got simplified by committee, which makes it full of not-quite-wrong but certainly not really right information.

This is why it's stated as "one way, but not the only way to do repairs." For more in-depth information, like riveting distances on capstrips (built-up ribs), there are more obscure sources like Piper Service Memo #10. (Why it was a Service Memo instead of a Piper Service Bulletin, I'm not sure.)

A few notes before I dive in: always wear gloves (thin leather ones recommended by my IA for safety & minimal tactile loss), safety glasses (a broken drill bit in the eye is NOT something to risk), and make sure your pieces are securely clamped when drilling. Cap strip material is light enough to hold by hand, but if it starts to helicopter, let it go and stop the drill. Don't try to catch it! Like any other tool including guns, finger off the trigger until you're ready to use it. If you are drilling multiple pieces at the same time and they aren't cleco'ed or clamped tight, a chip chaser is your friend. And don't forget to dress the faces of the holes with a larger bit so your rivet isn't cocked on a burr!

Rivets must be at least 1/8in from the edge of the rib and (if used) from the edge of the reinforcement / overlay. If you are riveting in the same holes that the factory did, just use those holes.

When splicing, you need two rivets, with at least 3/8in distance from the end of the overlap, and 1in distance from each other. Cap strip may be spliced anywhere except at a cluster or forward of the front spar.

When reinforcing with an overlapping piece of material, you need at least four rivets, cut the edges of the patch on an angle to be wider toward the base and narrower toward the edges of the stamped capstrip. All distances are measured in a stright line from the narrow edge in, ignoring the angled bits.

When reinforcing a fracture or crumple on a section without a connecting web, the patch needs to be at least 1.75in, as you need 3/8in distance from the outside of the patch to the rivets, 1/2in distance between rivets (two rivets per side of the patch), and 3/8 distance from rivets to the point of fracture or crumple.

When reinforcing a fracture or crumple at a section with connecting web, it's basically the same with 6 rivets - 3/8in distance from outside edge, 1/2in between two rivets on each side, 3/8in distance between rivet and web, and two rivets in the connecting web itself.

If you get your hands on the actual service memo, this is all in illustrations and numbers to make life simple.

For the record, 43.13's advice for single-row rivets was that rivet edge distance must be at least twice the diameter of the rivet shank, and spacing must be at least three times the diameter of rivet shank. But it has a nifty chart showing all the ways that rivets can be bucked wrong...

fortunately, you buy rivets by the ounce, and which means I have a lot of solid brass 3/32 SO rivets. I also saved the too-corroded, crumpled, and fractured sections that were cut out and repaired with splices, so I have plenty of beyond-repair rib material to practice on.

Oh, and when it comes time to be hand-squeezing your rivets in tight spaces - find a friend with a lathe and have them turn down the surfaces that that actually squeeze your rivet head and shank until they are small enough to easily fit against the capstrip, instead of crushing down against it or squeezing off-center. When tackling the inside of the reinforcing web, I cut the head off a bolt, wrapped a lot of duck tape around one end so it won't shift and threaded the other with a castle nut so it sticks out at the right length to be a very surface to buck the rivet in the hand-squeezer.

All that said, My left tip rib is now repaired. Next rib, I slipped when drilling out the bad rivets, made the holes too big, and am going to splice a new section and start over tomorrow. When working with soft rivets - use a punch and make a dimple in the top before you start, so your drill doesn't wander off the curved surface!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

As hidden as the nose on my face

Yesterday was an inventory of what ribs are missing, still need to be repaired, what hardware hadn't been put on (because it was waiting for missing ribs), and where to start. About those missing ribs - when I moved my wings home from the hangar to save on rent while racking up medical bills and relearning how to walk, I had not finished all the rivets and repairs. In fact, the more I worked with ribs and learned, the more rivets and repairs I wanted to do again to better standards. Since the wings are mirror-images, I swapped ribs from the left to the right to build one complete wing, and leave on wing that needed a lot of work. Guess which one we're starting with?

When I put a protective layer of zinc chromate on the ribs, I decided I'd get every rib I was going to use - but I'd leave the sections still needing repair shiny silver, so I could instantly identify them and not put them in place until they were repaired to higher standards. This is great... except I couldn't find them. And I couldn't find the parts manual, the service manual, or other paperwork. So, I headed to J's place to see if they were stored there. Nope, though I did get a few things of mine of of her way. Back to the shop to admit defeat - and the paperwork was right by my transponder, sitting in a pile I've walked past for months. Still couldn't find the ribs.

Took some beyond-repair ribs and a complete set of aileron cove to Atlee Dodge to make sure the guys there have the shape that the cove is supposed to fit. Came back, looked for the half-fixed ribs. High, low, attic to under benches. Went to the other end of the city to see if I'd left 'em in a buddy's shed when I thought I got everything out. His shed key wasn't stashed in the usual place, so I greeted his cats, left a message on his fiance's cell phone in case he was out of town, and resisted the urge to mow his lawn.

Back to the shop, where I was trying to find a few other things when I paused, and looked at the pile of things associated with my wings. And I looked at a six-foot-tall cardboard box as though I was seeing it for the first time, tipped it gently toward me in case it had something really heavy inside - and there were my missing ribs, right where they should be.

Making frustrated noises, I then went to help clean off a work table and have a calming cup of tea until I could laugh at myself.

Today should be better!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Almost begun

Today, I got a last bulkhead in the PA-31, and unscrewed an inspection panel in order to let someone check a transponder, and the A&Ps finished buttoning up the engines. (Anything worth screwing in is worth unscrewing and checking again, eh?) Then we put towels on the horizontal stabilizer and carefully, gently loaded lead weights on top to push the tail down until it would safely clear the hangar door on its way out. We got the Navajo out of the hangar, tied down, and ran each engine (and both at the same time) to check them out. I pulled a few handfuls of weeds trying to grow in the low spots of sealed cracks and the winter sand that drifted into them.

Inside, I quickly swept and tossed a last few crumpled towels away to leave a clean hangar floor for the next plane coming in for engine change. No matter that dust carries in on every breath of wind, and an amphib turning nearby with sandblast us and pepper us with every pebble its prop wash can pick up - I'm still determined to try to keep that floor clean as I can, keep my hands busy when I have nothing else to do, and avoid having to kneel in metal shaving,

The difference in size left quite a gap between the ring of tools and boxes and stands for the last plane and the perimeter for this one. I moved weights back to their proper stacks, lugged the jacks used to hold it up for gear inspection away, and cleared a spot for one of my wings. Then, I moved all the boxes of parts and pieces and tools away from my wings, making a clear path to move them. Once I was done, I sat and gulped down water, and reasonably decided that I was exhausted enough that I was sloppy, and moving the wing will wait until I am fresh and precise. No matter that it was right there, ready and waiting - this will be better done when there's lower potential for tragedy. But... I'm... Almost... There!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Sick Day

Nothing new for you today. I'm curled up with a stack of novels, warm fuzzy blankets, Throat Soother tea, and a dog who is worried about me because I keep making coughing noises.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Small steps

Today I swept a little, and started putting the interior back into the Navajo. It's amazing how little interior decoration there actually is, and how much it transforms the plane from looking rough and utilitarian into looking sleek and executive. A new interior snapped and screwed into the metal and a paint job is like a new outfit and a haircut - showbiz magic to make something suddenly look new and shiny, fresh and fashionable.

Pay no attention to the paintjob; it's the health of the engines and the soundness of the airframe you need to know. But you already should know this - from fables about emperors without clothes to Martin Luther King's dream of our entire society judging people by the content of their character, it's what's beneath that matters.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

And then...

A customer in the shop, laughing and joking, excited at flying his plane to the Lower 48. We finished mods to it, and then, being a slow day, I went back and with the guys, watched him take off, pleased at a job well done and happy to have a great customer. His plane flashed by, gathering speed on the runway, and lifted off into the lightly gray cloudy sky. And then, he was gone.

Broke up midair, they say, in a thunderstorm over Indiana. No fault of ours, nothing to do with our work (and Lord knows, the FAA was through our shop for a thorough investigation anyway, to make sure all bases were covered.)

Last summer*, a 206 taking off from Merill Field, and something didn't sound quite right. By the time he passed the old tower, he was spitting flames out the exhaust, and shedding parts. He passed over, and tried to turn back. He didn't have enough lift to turn, and slid right out of the sky, below the rooflines - and then a loud BANG. A cloud of dark dense black smoke roared up, billowed and smeared across the sky, and the silence was filled by the wails of sirens as fire and police and ambulances rushed to the scene - though the pilot and his wife were beyond help.

This afternoon, I was sitting in the break room, putting my twisted ankle up for a break, when I heard a sound that was just wrong. Too low, too loud. As I struggled to get my swollen foot back in the boot, I heard that BANG you never want to hear in your life. By the time I got outside the hangar... the 206 was already gone.

And then... I called my husband, and went home. Because no matter how often I may be exposed to the naked face of how brief and short and precious life truly is, it still hurts. I will not cringe from opportunities in fear of catastrophe, but I cannot callously brush it off as I go on.

People get hurt and die. And then... Then, we must pick up the pieces, and strive to learn from what came before. Do not let arrogance, ignorance, or fear blind you to lessons to be learned, and applied.

I pray to God that there may be survivors, and that they may recover as well as able, and that I may learn from this and not follow that pilot's footsteps.

*Edited to add: Correction, this was October 1. A bright, sunny, blue-sky day, but not summer.

Taproot reconstruction and beer

Sitting still and reflecting has always been hard for me - I'd rather be working. This Memorial Day, the friends I'm staying with dove into yardwork, but there's not much I could do to help. So, after cleaning the kitchen, I went with a couple friends who were headed out to Taproot Cafe. That is, we headed to where they will be - they're moving into the old Fly By Night Club building on Spenard. In a town small enough that "you don't lose your partner, you lose your turn" is a humorous saying, the same can be said of restaurants, theaters, and other businesses. There's not much room for new construction on a peninsula!

I haven't gone to Taproot often - they're on the hippie end of the spectrum, having started as a juice bar and evolved into an organic / local / sustainable restaurant. That said, they have good food, so it's a great place to take picky eaters (the vegetarian / local sourced variety, not the temper-tantrum variety), and they do tons of live music, including under-21 jams that give the younger musicians in town a chance to shine. Good jazz and bluegrass, and local-brewed beer and mead to wash it down, what's not to like?

So they put out a call for help to their community for remodeling and cleaning the new place, and we made a fun afternoon of the work. Only downside - the crew was providing all the beer you could drink, free, and I don't like beer. If the parking stripes are slightly crooked, I was wilting in the heat, not drunk, alright? That came later, when the owner came up and told us we had free open tab that night for helping out so much. So we ended up in the back of the old cafe for closing night. With an open tab, our server decided that my dislike of hops was a challenge, and brought out samples of darned near every blonde or ale on tap, to see if he could find one I like. The Midnight Sun Brewing Co's Panty Peeler Tripel was actually not bad - from someone who doesn't like beer, it wasn't great enough to be chosen over the Celestial Meads Original Sin and the Ring Of Fire Meadery's Raspberry Melomel, but paired with a cheeseburger and sweet potato fries, it went down very nicely.

Now if only I could figure out where in all that happy time with good work, good food, good friends, good music, and lots of water to sober up supplemented with coffee to fight exhaustion I twisted my ankle...