Tuesday, September 28, 2010


Once upon a time, I was eighteen and bulletproof. Well, not really - but I never let anything stop me. I learned to be timid since then, to be cautious and skittish of new things, to decline the chance to try something new for fear of pain or reinjury. When I was twenty, I moved to Alaska on a whim. When I was twenty-nine, I had learned to turn down the chance to try rare, expensive, and fun weaponry for fear of the pain involved in shooting them.

I remember shooting an Uzi while I was still relearning to walk. I could only do three shots at a time, and had to stop and cry from the pain in shattered shoulder and leg, but I leapt (metaphorically; jumping would take another year) at the chance to try it. When did I become so timid? When did acceptance of being broken and semi-crippled become so routine that I don't try new things no matter the cost?

Saturday, I climbed Mt. Flattop. It's a short mountain, as it looks like the thumb of God smooshed the top compared to the mountains around it, but it's still a good hike with serious scramble at the end. I have have not just relearned how to walk, but to run, to fly, and to climb mountains. I only think I'm broken - I've been in and out of physical therapy long enough that I can now, if not match my 18
-year-old self, be a normal person. I don't know how to be normal - I only know, after all this time, how to be broken and pushing fiercely against the limitations of my injuries.

What will it be like, to be just a normal pilot, rebuilding my old plane and flying it down to Tennessee? To be a normal person, biking across town? To be a normal gal on the range? ...Ok, I'm not there yet. Still can't take recoil over 9mm.

Or could I, if I tried? Have I been flinching from pain so long I've forgotten I can get better? What limitations are real, and what are only habit?

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Dog Blogging

This is Cody, a Shetland Sheepdog - or sheltie, as you will. He belongs to my hosts. A very handsome young teenager, he has enough energy to herd sheep all day or keep running long after I'm tired from a walk, a propensity to stress when his flock of humans are not all in the same room, and an absolute dedication to being the most polite and pretty beggar for table scraps you've ever met.

He also has a tendency to herd his people back to bed when they are sick, attempt to herd us toward the food bowl if he hears "dinner" or "breakfast" discussed, attempt to herd me toward my shoes if I say "walk", and guard while herding us all back inside if the loud under-socialized dobermans next door come out and start barking and growling at us.

He's a Good Dog.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Aileron Cove Finished

Since last post - several twelve-hour days. Last trailing edge brace fabricated & installed. Wheels removed from plane, bearings checked, replaced, mostly back together. And the aileron cove, including all the false rib supports, installed as of yesterday. (This took six days last time - I cut it down to two this time.) Have to rework the leading edge tip metal again, carrying the first two bays back to the spar, but that's all right. Really.

So exhausted. Should get to work. Coffee not fixing this. Urrgh.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Back at Work - Tip Bow install

Today was a very long day - not by the clock, but by the "I am so very exhausted I can't think straight." It was the first day back from sick, and I may have pushed the timetable a little too much. Airplanes are not good to be working on when tired - few of the mistakes you can make are trivial, and many result in injury. So until the caffeine kicked in, I cleaned the dirty engine.

Under all that glacial silt is a beautiful engine, lovingly preserved - the borescope inspection yesterday proved that the work put into pickling her and regularly baking the desiccant plugs has paid off with shiny clean cylinders inside, ready to fire and fly. I took the four spark plugs out of careful storage, and laid them next to the tools for the last person working on the engine - they shall be ready to exchange places with the desiccants when we put her back together.

Then I started carefully filing the notch in the front spar for the tip bow, and marking the places to drill on my spar for the tip bow attachment bolts. When the bow fit as perfectly as I could make it, I drilled both spars, varnished the notch and all four holes, attached the hardware, and added a drop of varnish to each washer and nut to help secure and seal them. Then, I screwed the top and bottom of the tip rib to the back of the bow, and cut the rib so it wraps neatly around the tube. (The repair was a little too long - when it was taken off the tip rib, the rib ends were not unscrewed and were torn away.)

When I drilled the new anchor on the tip noserib, I discovered to my dismay that I should have drilled that before installation - there wasn't enough room to get a good angle with the lengths of bits I had. Enter a new tool that's just neater than kitten toes - a right angle drill!

With that, I got the tip bow completely secured. Still feeling tired, I decided to start modifying the crude rough-approximations of leading edge tip pieces to fit. It was a better idea than trying to work with the hole cutter and my hard-to-replace scarce amounts of aileron cove. Sheet metal work, at worst, can be redone from scratch. I got four out of 5 pieces done well - the rootmost piece was a failure, as it I shaped it, fit it, marked it, cut and bent it, fit it, did the final trim - and suddenly it didn't fit.

That was a good time to stop, call it a day, and watch the A&Ps work on installing a windshield.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Picture Progress Post - Right Wing

Theraflu nighttime is supposed to help you sleep. It's not - I'm actually feeling more awake. Must check that I didn't pick up the wrong packet. Anyway, as long as I have time on my hands (I'd call my Calmer Half, but he's sensibly asleep, and my voice keeps going away), here's what I've been up to in the past week - working on the right wing.

This is the wing right after we puled it down from the ceiling storage, for the starting point.

First, knowing what I now know, I went over every piece of hardware on the wing. I double-checked all bolts with three or more threads past the nut, as that is an indicator that it's likely too long, and may only seem tight because the nut is cranked down on the shaft. The easy way to check - move the head with a wrench. If the whole bolt spins freely in the hole, nut and all, it's too long. Replace with a smaller bolt.

By comparison, these are correct thread (and shank) length. 43.13 states that there must be at least one thread showing. Do not skimp on that - if you are having trouble getting a full thread without crushing the wood, go up a size.

Hauled the old spars out to check where the ribs actually were on the old wing vs. where the marks are, as the marks were different on the front and back sides of the spars. All ribs, even the ones under hardware (or that should be under hardware and weren't), were moved to precisely where they were on the old spar. This will turn out to only be a rough guess after you square the wing when trammeling, but it's faster and easier to move the ones under hardware and get it as near-right as possible while it's still easy than make gross adjustments later.

Trammeling gear: a rod with two protractor points is incredibly helpful for quickly measuring diagonal distances precisely, and a spoke wrench (the round tool) is incredibly helpful for quickly, easily, and safely adjusting wire tension.

Trammeling requires more than just making each bay square; if you pull too much on one bay or not enough on another, you can actually force the spar to bend in and out. So I clamped two paint sticks to the outer edge of each end of the spars, and ran a string to check for spar alignment. Some adjusting was required - and yes, this means you have to go back and recheck your bay lengths, too, once you have your spar straight. If you swapped the compression struts and didn't get the right length in the right station on the wing, you will not be able to get the spar straight.

This string setup, by contrast, is to check the height of the ribs and make them uniform. It's attached to the second main rib (Since my butt rib is not yet on) out to the second to last main rib (as the tip noserib & tip rib are both smaller and lower than the rest). Make sure you do not tie this with knots on top of the ribs, or it will not be properly aligned.

Ribs cannot be blindly adjusted to string height; some ribs themselves are over height, and lift the string up like the second rib visible here (a noserib). These must be corrected before lifting the ribs nearby to string height, or you get a rippling effect on the leading edge.

Next, nailing the ribs. I got this done over two days before I had to take two days off for sickness. Steps after this should have progressed faster, but I am still too sick to work full days - or to work as fast as I could when healthy. My wonderful hosts are still fighting the lingering dregs, two weeks after they first showed symptoms, so I'm gritting my teeth and trying to balance rest against impatience and time constraints.

After the ribs were nailed, I installed the aileron in order to make sure that there was enough clearance in all dimensions between aileron and ribs. Unfortunately, the line marking where the tip rib should go left negative clearance - this is why we check!

So, carefully prying up the nails, the rib is moved outboard until it fits with adequate clearance even after the thicknesses of fabric, dope, and paint will be applied.

Butt rib installed. Trailing edge filed and cut to fit. Note: you only see two steel channel braces (one to the butt rib and one to the corner) because I had all six for the wing together earlier today... and now I can only find five. So I installed all five, and if I can't find the sixth tomorrow, I'll fabricate a new one Monday.

Now to try to get some sleep, and see if I have a voice tomorrow. If not, I may make it a very light day and bundle up with a book, in order to try to kick this sickness. My darling Calmer Half is coming up in two weeks - I want to be both healthy and flying by then!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

sick day

Been sick the last few days - work (and blogging) will resume as soon as I can handle it.

The first rule zombieland forgot - wash you hands! Cardio is all fine and well, but you can't outrun 'em if you're a sniffling sneezing ball of misery!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Bacon Feta Crostini

If you ever need to come up with fancy party food quickly, this works well. Measurements extremely rough approximations of "looks like enough" amounts.

1 loaf french bread, preferably day-old
1-1/4 cup feta
1/4 cup bacon crumbles
4 mushrooms, diced fine
3 tablespoons olive oil (or 2 tablespoons & cooking spray)
cookie sheet
aluminum foil
oven mitt

Preheat oven to 400, just because things cook faster in a hot oven.

Cover cookie sheet with aluminum foil to cut down on mess. Cut french bread into thin slices, arrange on sheet. Drizzle with just a little olive oil or spray with cooking spray so it toasts faster. Dice mushrooms fine. In a bowl, mix feta, bacon crumbles, and mushroom bits together, then mix in olive oil until it's all sticky. Spoon sticky mixture onto top of each slice. Turn oven to broil, slide tray in. Wait three to four minutes, or if you have a working oven light, until it looks right. Pull out, let cool for a couple minutes before serving to the hungry hordes. Set one aside for yourself; they go quickly.

This recipe brought to you courtesy of the night before a group birthday party, when I looked up from my email toward my friends and said, "So, we're supposed to bring food. Should I cut up some french bread into slices and toast it with, um, bacon and feta on top?"

The response from the living room came back after a second. "What is it with you and these trick questions?"

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Left Wing Finished!

Courtesy of EAA Chapter 673's now-online archive of historical pictures from their airport, I found this old photograph of a Taylorcraft. I like it - it'll let me paint my wings yellow to match the fuselage now, and still work with a new design when I redo the fuselage in a few years (It's not dead yet, but I expect the Lower 48 weather and sun to make it ready to go in three to five years.)

Things the IA's inspection caught: Because the surface of the fabric balloons slightly in flight, other than where it's glued down or rib-stitched to the shape of the airfoil on the ribs, it can flutter and flex to rub against structures that are not currently touching the surface. Also, in preparing tis fabric to last thirty to forty years, I need to account for the polyester fabric sagging over time and becoming able to chafe against these structures in a few decades.

If you don't put tapes at every edge and surface, there's only one thin flexible surface to chafe at and get chewed away by the structure beneath. See the sharp break on this Citabria's top of the leading edge - they'll get a crack along that untaped ridge long before the rest of the fabric starts to go bad.

Unfortunately, the ceconite process calls for thicker dope application than the Stits process I learned, so some of my inspection rings and tapes didn't have enough dope. I had to wipe some not up to spec with MEK, pull them up (a tongue depressor with one end shaved was the perfect spatula), and dope them down again.

Last, and with great relief, we snapped chalk lines for the leading edge seam and the line two inches above to define the edge of the tape. Then, with quite a lot of hurry, since it's a 6 inch wide piece of cloth and the dope dries quickly, we put the leading edge tape on. The four-inch overlap went on the bottom of the seam to cover the mess of seams and tapes at the wingtip, making top and bottom beautiful and functional.

The leading edge actually went on in two pieces, wrapped, tucked, and pinned under the leading edge at the lighting bracket.

The only shot I took of the full finished wing:

Next up: pulling down the right wing and finishing it - if the shop with the paint booth doesn't have an opening soon, I just might have two wings ready to go at once!

Is anyone surprised that I woke up from dreams last night at three am, saying "I need to put more inspection rings on!"? Yeah, me neither, but I am amused.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

more tapes and doping

Biked to work again today - I'm starting to get the hang of this, but it's still exhausting. Biked down to Stoddard's, swapped 4" leading edge tape for 6" leading edge tape, and picked up more inspection rings (including a larger square one for the bellcrank).

That "almost done" I thought I was? Yeah, well, I need a few more inspection panels and rings - including above the aileron bellcrank, for the only one on the top of the wing. Today I measured, cut, and doped on tapes for the edges of the gas tank cover, the false ribs and trailing edge rib attaching the aileron cove, the edge of the butt rib, the trailing edge (sans aileron cove), the transition break between top of the leading edge and wing, the lighting bracket top, and the wingtip bow, as well as putting in a second layer of support fabric panel for the seams at the leading edge wingtip.

After all that, I was exhausted, to the point that I was making stupid sloppy little errors with not getting enough dope under the pinked edges of the fabric so they curled up in spots. My IA, acting as the voice of wisdom, pointed out that I really don't want to put the leading edge on when I'm sloppy tired, and in his role as an angel of mercy, offered a lift home. It was, of course, a beautiful evening full of sunshine, perfect for biking - but I am tired enough I am most grateful for the ride.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Tapes and Dope

The stitches passed inspection, but more inspection holes were required. Given the Ceconite STC, AC 43.13, and my IA all say "You can never have too many inspection holes", I think there may be something to this...

So the bottom is finished, except I may put one more tape as an anti-chafe behind the lighting bracket. Turned the wing over, and started on the top.

The trailing edge tapes are not down - I ran out of energy, and my lower back decided 8 hours of bending over the wing and brushing was too much. I'll get those done today, and only the leading edge tape and drain holes will be left. For the leading edge tape, I was going to use 4" tapes, but my IA wants 6" tape. No shops open onLabor day, so this step should be done tomorrow...

Friday, September 3, 2010

Almost there

All ribs are now stitched, and the inspection rings are doped on with their fabric patches. Tomorrow, my IA can inspect the stitches and clear me to put the tapes on.

After that, there's only putting in the drain holes and the seaplane scoops over them, and the left wing is ready to paint.