Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Progress Post - wings are ready to paint!

After the initial fabric is put on and attached with super-seam on the front & rear, then doped and ironed, it's time to cut lengths of 2 inch wide tape to use, and protect every edge that can chafe or wear through.

Once the rings and seaplane grommets for the drain holes are laid out (and two more acquired), and their fabric covers nearby, I know I have enough.

My IA checks my work, and leaves notes or flags problems:

Underside finished, ready for a last inspection of both sides (which will reveal two missing tapes).

For more room to work on the other planes, they have been moved to a side room.

I'm not completely done - I'm still eyeing them and adding a little dope here, a little ironing there, trying to get all the pinked edges to lay flat and stay that way. And now we need to focus on putting the engine back together,

and on finding somewhere in this panel to put a transponder and a radio.

That said, I'm still thinking about adding another couple inspection rings to the right wing, for ease of maintenance down the road. Just 'cause.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Watch This

MattG brought a most excellent video spoof on old media flaunting the excesses of new media. It's hilarious and I highly recommend watching it, but that's not the video I say you must watch.

No, the videos below are an interview, split into two parts, with one of the rarest and most highly respected of people - a living Medal of Honor recipient. In this age we live in, from the comfort of your home or office, you can share a moment of time with a man who humbles me in every way: Staff Sgt. Salvatore Giunta. If you do not know of this man, you should - because this is a man who is the best of America.

hattip to Blackfive

Sunday, October 24, 2010

On the naming of things

Tam and Brigid have weighed in on opposite sides of why they will or won't name things.

For me, I take a third road. While Brigid is very right that to name something is to claim something, to make it theirs, to name something is also to give it an existence separate from the mere fact of itself, to give it a story.

There are many cats, but there will always and only be one Mouse Patrol for me, with his raging defiance at the redtail hawks that would steal his prey, his bloody smug pride at defeating river rats, and his utter contentment in sleeping on top of the air compressor or the welding bench, startling the hapless welder who didn't realize the utter feline indifference to noise and sparks less than two feet away. He passed away quietly in his sleep almost two decades ago, but still he lives on in stories.

Stories are powerful things, breathing life into the inanimate, bringing meaning and pride and love and luck to memories, hopes, and dreams. The best stories outlast both their makers and the things which they relate - to name something, therefore, is to give it an immortality that the unnamed tool next to it will never have. And once so named, a thing often takes on the personality and gender seen in the owner's relation with it - for it becomes a character all its own, and english has no respect for a neutral gender.

I did not name my plane; she came to me already named, with a tale of the trials of her engine and the places she would go, the mishaps she has been through, the triumph achieved in her. Her prior owner, as he was telling me the story of their time together, was deep in technical details when he paused, and in a soft voice, told me her name. My IA has worked on her for two owners before me, and one day a man came in to see who owned her now. He was a little uncertain on my name, but he asked for the plane's owner by her name, and told me that if I could get her back in the air, it just might make him cry.

To name a plane is to love it.

There is this, as well: An owner of a P51 Mustang once noted that after a certain point, you are no longer the owner of a plane - you are the caretaker of an irreplaceable piece of history. While he was speaking of a beautiful fighter that makes young boys excited by the very sound of her engines, and old men who once flew her smile very quietly as they are helped into the cockpit and realize that they still can find every control, and their hands and bodies remember all the flows - mine is a much more humble machine, pressed into service after Pearl Harbor to train young soldiers who might have then gone on to fly fighters like his. Still, he has a valid point, and all the hopes, dreams, fears, and joys of the men and women who have encountered her have left her with a story as complex as the inner structure of her wings.

Progress Post

Thursday, doping the tapes gave the boys bad enough headaches (hint: wear your darned respirator! Even if the girl is, too!) that they decided to not come in Friday while I continued doping. My IA was unaffected, and it was a strangely quiet day at the shop. Productive, but very quiet. Around 5, I was completely exhausted - dope doesn't give me a headache, but it wears me out worse than biking up hills in twenty-first gear, and breathing through a respirator is sneakily tiring with every extra effort for every breath. By 5:30, I was ready to pack it in for the day. My IA noted he couldn't afford another day with all of the mechanics gone, so would I please come in after the boys knocked off for the day?

So I did, today. The upside: I got to sleep from 10pm to 12:30pm without feeling guilty. (Dope really wears me out.) I got to spend time with my hosts, and do the dishes and laundry. Time, precious time to do errands. (Though I found out that the bookstore doesn't have a US road atlas. I'll have to find it elsewhere.) Went into a wonderful military thrift store called The Dropzone - you could call it army surplus, but unlike the tourist-friendly, high-priced, neatly organized "army surplus" with barely any military gear downtown, this one had a staff full of nice, well-muscled young men with millimeter-long haircuts who addressed me as "ma'am" by reflex and were very friendly, if opinionated, about the best thermal underwear for flying down the alcan, and I will be bringing a gun if I'm doing this alone, right, ma'am? Well, they had a very small section of non-military clothes, tucked right by the socks and the hemocrit bandages - 5.11 gear.

Then back to the hangar for doping edge tapes,

cutting out the strut attach brackets, ironing the fabric down, and doping patches on.

Then, I laid out inspection rings and seaplane grommets for tomorrow - aside from one small tape I overlooked putting on earlier, I only have the tip bow, leading edge, top of the aileron cove edge, and three tapes on the top to do. I think I can get almost all, if not all of the inspection rings and seaplane grommets on after I get the tip bow taped tomorrow.

As a side note, I have a new tailwheel tire, and half the tailwheel replaced. See why?

Friday, October 22, 2010

Things I've learned from liberals, and from life

(Title (though not content) from ).

"Everything I need to know I learned in kindergarten" is a popular poster, catchy phrase, and full of wonderful platitudes about playing nice and sharing, not stressing out and enjoying life. I realized that it perfectly sums up the worldview of my liberal friends, on an utterly fundamental level. That is the touchstone of their identity - their ten commandments.

The problem is not that the things they believe are untrue, and when dealing with civilized, polite, productive working society, they are not necessarily wrong. It's that this is not all you need to know, even if it is all you want to know.

Life is not kindergarten, and there are fundamentally destructive, selfish, immoral, and evil people out there. There are fundamentally morally corrupt, sick, and evil cultures out there in the wider world, and here at home. People without integrity respond to incentives regardless of their destructiveness to self or society. The world itself is not a nice place, and nature is harsh from microbiology to hurricanes. If you think that the world plays by the same rules you want to, and fundamentally believe that everyone wants to be nice and decent... you have yet to graduate from kindergarten.

Which explains why my friend is still chafing at the unfairness of the world, and wanting someone, somewhere, to enforce fairness - for "the government" to step into the role of the kindergarten teacher. It's why some people are trapped into wanting, not the freedom to be themselves, but wanting to be the teacher's pet with their freedom praised and celebrated at the expense of others. Why some are working so hard to declare themselves as the cool kids, the elite, at the expense of everyone else.

Life isn't fair. It isn't safe. It's full of ugly parts, and stinky messes, and hurt, death, anger, pain, and tragedy. It's full of joy, wonder, beauty, unlooked-for blessings and unhoped-for miracles. If you accept the painful, thorny gift that is adulthood, and bear the responsibilities and burdens of maturity, then you will find a life full of laughter, friendship, exploration, joy, thrill, and love that you could not even dream of from the small self-centered coddling of childhood.

On a personal note, life has brought crippling injuries, and chances to climb mountains. It's brought bad love affairs brought to messy ends, and bittersweet partings that led to good friendships. It's brought chances to fire submachine guns, and cross-country road trips to friends I'd never met but already knew. It's brought the opportunity to move to Alaska, and the motivation to leave. It's brought a man from the other side of the world who loves me til death do us part, and being parted for more than half of our first year of marriage. (Words cannot express how deeply I appreciate and rely upon his love and support while we are apart.) It's brought friends who are amazing and beautiful souls, wonderful, creative, interesting people. It's brought chance encounters with the most fascinating people, and kindnesses from strangers. It's brought a plane whose wings were built by one of my grandmother's schoolmates as Europe went down in flames and the Japanese plotted to attack Pearl Harbor. It's brought malnutrition, and it's brought fresh-baked bread by my own hands. It's brought the aurora dancing across the sky all around my plane, and it's brought being stuck with good friends in ren faire garb by a broken down van on the inside lane of heavy highway traffic. It's brought a bone-deep pain that will never go away, guaranteed to get worse as I get older, and friends who welcome me into their home as a several-month-long guest.

But most of all, it's brought opportunity - and life is what you make of it. All I'm guaranteed is a birth and a death; the rest is a gift in all its pain and beauty for me to explore to its limits and relish. I wouldn't trade it back for a childhood for anything - there are so many more things to do, to see, to try! So many places to go! So many memories to make with my Calmer Half!

I'll never get a single second back, and while it hasn't been fair, it's amazing. I can only hope that when I go, I leave this world a better place than I found it, and that when God brings me to that final accounting for all the rights and wrongs I have said, thought, and done, he has mercy upon my soul.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Rib Lacing Finished

What took seven days last time took three this time. My fingers and wrists are sore, so a night of sausages, chocolate ice cream, and very sporadic chatting on #gbc it is.

Tomorrow, cleaning up the balled wax from the ribstitching cord, wiping down the wing, doping and applying tapes.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


Using multiple needles means I only have to walk around the wing once for every seven stitches.

On the other hand, it means I have lots, and lots, and lots of waxed cord to deal with before I get up and stretch.

I'm getting there.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Off Day

Way off. Went to bed at 9pm, got up at 3... pm. Apparently I got up at 7 as normal, took a shower, and went back to bed. Supposedly, and hazy memory backs this up, I got up a few times to get water, but I'm still feeling massively dehydrated.

I think I may give doping the other side of the plane a miss today. I'm moving slowly enough I'm not sure where the last half hour went, why my tea mug is empty, and what I'm going to do about breakfast. Well, besides more tea.

I'll get out. Got to go buy more filters for the respirator - because the effect of MEK is cumulative, and I don't want to risk much more in my system.

Come to think of it, that may explain today. Wait... yeah, my common sense is tingling, because I set the alarm to vibrate again. It says drink lots of fluids and don't do any more doping until I've had more of a chance to recover.

The next plane is so going to have a metal skin. Or a better-ventilated hangar.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

On to doping

Got top and bottom fabric on, ironed taut, and top is doped with first layer of dope. Touch-up on fuselage with dope and silver accomplished.

Utterly, totally exhausted. Nitrate thinner dissolves nitrile gloves in under five seconds, burns like hell when it gets in cuts on hand not adequately protected by barrier cream. Breaking mask seal by turning head and walking into hangar after other plane had fabric work done, sans respirator, left me feeling like I was running, missed the corner, hit the wall. Well, except my nose isn't feeling crunchy and bloody, but otherwise good analogy.

Yay for cottage cheese - dinner without thought or prep. Yay for bed. G'night.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Covering the top

First thing of the day; attach the bottom fabric at the wing root to the butt rib. Then, trim excess fabric, clean up excess dope, add more dope where there wasn't enough before and rework the fabric til it becomes flexible and lays down.

Then, we flipped the wing over once the dope was all dry. Checking the aileron clearance again, as there's one more layer of fabric, then the paint still to go. Found one problem issue by outer hinge bracket, fixed it.

Once that was done, I snapped a chalk line and rolled out the fabric. Manipulating a 17-1/2 foot by 5 foot peice of fabric to be exactly right was hard enough I settled for being within 1/4inch of aligned all the way down the wing. By the end of the day, the leading edge & trailing edge were done. The aileron cove, bow, and butt rib are still to go, with the aileron cove fabric cut and trimmed for doping tomorrow.

While you do not need a respirator in a well-ventilated hangar to trace edges, mark allowances, cut and trim fabric, position clothespins, and inspect prior doping, this doesn't mean that the residual fumes don't get to you. Or maybe they won't to you, Dear Reader, but they do to me. It was a short day, all told, and I still feel utterly exhausted.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Covering the Bottom

Step one: Get a quart of MEK. Start up big ventilation fan and heater. Attach the fabric at the leading edge sufficient for a 4 inch seam overlap.
Step two: Trim the fabric to length. Wait for apprentice A&P to get a respirator. Attach sufficient for a 3 inch seam overlap.

Step three: Cut fabric for aileron cove, attach. Run to get another quart of super-seam when you run out a foot from the end.

Step four: Pull tight, trim and attach fabric to tip bow.
Step five: Trim fabric for butt rib. Decide you are exhausted, and high from fumes every time you turned your head too much and the seal on the respirator broke, or you took it off because you thought the hangar was ventilated enough and you were taking a break.
Step six: Happily let your IA take the can of super-seam and use on another plane, with the brush you were using. Decide that with it being used by someone else, you can't get further on the plane, and it's time to go find dinner.

Summers never last too long

October 10, 9:01, 31 degrees. I'm driving back from the airport, from putting my husband on a plane.

Still remembering the five swans flying overhead in the late evening sun, with a duck trying to ride their slipstream. The flew over the marsh, heading toward a resting spot as they gather for going south.

Got to leave, got to go, got to fly...

I love Alaska, but half my heart just left, and I'm following him - because curled up into his side, muttering snarky remarks as he smiles calmly, is home no matter where the terrain.

One wing left, a few engine issues, and I'm gone.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Let The Taping Begin!

I came in to find strips of tape marking things my IA wanted me to fix - filing edges, securing screws down more tightly (or in the case of a stripped screw, putting in the next size up), and putting a reinforcement for the front spar of the butt rib like the rear spar got yesterday. So, I flipped the wing and fabricated another reinforcement.

With the wing flipped right side up, I started on the rest of the minor mechanical odds and ends. Installing the bellcrank involves putting a sleeve over the bottom of the bellcrank's shaft, with the holes lined up, putting the bolt through, and adding a missile nut. The bolt was a little long, which one washer solved. I did not prime the sleeve before I got it on, and then it was very solidly on - no trial fittings here! So a little masking tape and a paper towel backdrop ensured it was primed before secured with a bolt.

Installing a phenolic cable guide to keep the cable from dragging on the rib.

With all the minor mechanical issues out of the way, it was time to tape the drag wires, string the inter-rib lacing and tape all edges that will be touched by cloth. This is only the first pass for the top of the wing - more tape tomorrow!

Before I can cover, I'll have to check the fit of the ailerons one more time. Can you spot the ailerons in this picture? Can you tell why they're awkward to cart around the shop?

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Progress Post - Finishing rivets

Monday, I lost my patience. The rivets in the middle of the stiffener are too far back for me to reach with the hand-squeezer, and with spraining a knuckle (don't ask), even the ones that I could reach with a hand squeezer were a little too painful to rivet. So, I waited three days for someone else to rivet them with the impact riveter and a bucking bar, along with the last nutplates on the tank cover. Okay, Sunday and two working days. They got the nutplates, but did not get the stiffener - and I, wanting to cover last weekend, finally grabbed the impact riveter and said "this can't be too hard!"

If I had been wise, I would have tried it on a test piece first. If I had been wiser, I would have set it up, pulled an A&P off another plane, and had him shoot eleven rivets. I was not wise. I got the six that could be gotten with a handsqueezer fine, and then proceeded to make a mess of the others. Well, of the five, three went in fine, and two were such a pain that after damaging the rib, I gave up and asked for help. Then, I went home, because I was mad, frustrated, tired, and in no good shape to work on my airplane any further.

My IA fixed it so you can barely even tell I messed up and dented the rib - this would be an excellent example of the difference between my apprentice A&P self, and decades of experience. May I grow to be wise as I gain experience!

Yesterday, when I came back, he wanted me to put two extra stiffeners in, to ensure that the butt rib would not flex against the rear spar. So, I fabricated two 90-degree angles, nailed to the spar and riveted to the rib. Given hardware, attachments, and room to move the tack hammer to nail them in, one fit better with the tab inside the rib, and one outside. The clamp in the background is holding the felt to the spar as a touch-up spot of glue dries - the felt will keep the gas tank cushioned but firmly in place.

After that, major progress was made! Cables are in (Bellcrank needs a final check, a sleeve, and a bolt to be fully installed. Fabric on the back of the aileron cove is in, too - the first step of covering is down!

Meanwhile, my brakes should be well-adjusted tomorrow, and the wheels with their new bearings should be back on soon! I scrubbed the N-number for privacy, then scratched my head and muttered to myself about the rejuv spots being a unique identifier like tiger's stripes. Ah, well, here's my plane.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Butter from cream

1 pint heavy cream, whipped and whipped some more (yay kitchenaid!), makes about 1 cup butter, and a little over 1 cup buttermilk.

With a faint bit of sea salt thrown into the cream before whipping, it makes a very mild, very delightful butter. Now ever so tempted to check the local grocery stores, note the expiration dates on the cream, and check back when they go from $2.57/pint to reduced for quick sale (expires tomorrow) $0.50/pint, and freeze the resulting yummy butter.

Tomorrow - biscuits or pancakes? Or something else with buttermilk? Hmmm...

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Picture Progress - Leading Edge

Quick summary - after the aileron cove, I've been concentrating on the leading edge, then the base for the gas tank cover. A few highlights and lowlights follow:

Here we see a mistake. That panel standing up on the floor? Yeah, that's a 0.020 thick panel while the rest of the leading edge is 0.016 - I intended to put that down by the gas tank. Unfortunately, I did not mark the outside of the panels, and when coming back from very sick, then tired, I never thought to look and differentiate. By this time, the panels have been cut to length (and the place where I put it was the only panel not cut to length, or I would have noticed earlier). I can't swap it now.

The .016 thick panel at the gas tank's leading edge needs to survive years upon years of neglect and abuse in the form of gas tanks, fuel nozzles, hoses, ladders thumping into it, and elbows resting on it. All of these are bad ideas, but nigh-inevitable with new students, or klutzes. So, I put a second layer of 0.020 metal beneath the surface most likely to be whapped or thumped, cleco'ed it in place, and took out a cleco at a time to screw it in. Hopefully, .036 thick will survive and look good for the 30-40 years till I need to recover! As a side note - the original leading edge was .010 thick. The weight penalty is noticeable, but the tradeoff is not denting your leading edge by hitting a large mosquito at speed.

All the panels except last on the tip in:

There's an aesthetic reason that tip panel was left for last - the spar sticks out a little near the tip bow, and the edges if left alone will stick through the fabric. This will rub and chafe the fabric. More importantly, we refer to airplanes as female, like sailing ships, and very few women can pull off looking good with their bones pressing out tight against skin. (Okay, outside of Oleg Volk taking their photos - that man can make even me look beautiful!) A little shaving and applying more varnish does not noticeably detract from strength and flexibility if done correctly, and vastly improves her look.

Once it was all in, I cut the notches so I can get the straps in around the gas tank, and work on both sides of the spar should I ever need to.

In addition to the reinforcement for the first panel, I spent a good chunk of time designing and fabricating other metal parts for the tank cover base, and a stiffener for the bottom of the butt rib. (The original butt rib had a triangular stiffener on top and on bottom, but the tank cover will be a stiffener on top.)

The shorter metal piece is shown here as the crosspiece in the back of the gas tank base. This has since had a lot of markings, fingerprints, a few dings, and nutplates added in - all the ones I could install with the hand-squeezer are in, and I'll use the impact riveter on the others with close supervision and help Monday. My IA made new aileron cables today. Last time I tried, I injured my shoulder - he's satisfied I have the theory, have seen and tried the application, and don't need to risk reinjury. Four more nutplates, installed cables (and supports, if necessary), and I'll be ready to cover!