Sunday, May 27, 2012

Getting older, maybe smarter

I was putting a small fabric patch on the plane this weekend, and touching up the silver on some other patches. When I went through Home & Aircraft Depot to pick up a few things (masking tape, brushes, nitrile gloves, etc), I stopped at the aisle with the good masks. I frowned at the price tag - over thirty bucks - and shook my head. "I'll find my mask, and come back for the right set of filters."

Halfway down the aisle, I stopped, called myself a fool, and went back to get a new mask. I know all too well that I'll get everything else set up, and want to forge right on ahead instead of wasting precious weekend hours looking for the darned mask. I've already had enough exposure to MEK to never want another molecule of it in my lungs or absorbed through my skin; there's no sense in wasting more time looking for the mask and coming back for the filters, or endangering my health by thinking I'll just do this little bit, and the ventilation ought to be good enough... (never is.)

Upon laying out all the tools and supplies for the job, I realized I have no idea where my calibrated iron is. It's probably still in Alaska. I'll miss that iron - it was a good one, held heat well, and was easy to use. I don't know how many airplanes it's helped repair or recover, but it's a few. (Yes, it's an iron just like many used on clothes. However, once you start using an iron around epoxies and aircraft dopes, it is no longer fit to be used on clothes. The instructions for covering an aircraft mention in no less than fifteen places "Do NOT use your wife's iron!". So a good iron that holds heat well, is calibrated, and is availabe for aircraft... gets passed around.)

Since I'm only doing small patches instead of whole huge wings, I only need a hobby iron. So I look in Home & Aircraft Depot - no luck. The hobby store is closed for memorial day weekend. The next hobby store doesn't have one. Hobby Lobby and Jo-Anne's fabrics don't have the kind I need - they have hobby irons, but they're tiny, with little shiny steel flat wedges barely a tenth the size and almost none of the mass of what I need, for $39.. with no ability to calibrate, so it's just as likely to make things worse as to work. My other option in the store is to break down and spend $89 for a new full-scale clothes iron.

After having put an hour and a fair bit of driving into this, I realize the answer is at my fingertips - or, literally, in my pocket. The little computer that masquerades as a cell phone listens to my frustrated search term, and pulls up an listing of exactly what I want, for seventeen bucks, with two-day shipping available. I buy an aircraft tool on my phone, shaking my head at this future I'm living in, and buy a soda on the way out the door to go back to the airport and buckle down to work.

There's a fly-in next weekend, in Savannah, TN - Ladies Love Taildraggers is hosting it. I probably won't get the paint on over the silver by then, which is kind of like going to the car show in a three-color (rust, paint, & primer) car when you know other people are going to show up in washed & waxed beauties. On the other hand, I'll get her up, get reacquainted with her after our mutual grounding, get the oil hot & change it, and show up in an airplane that flies better than her pilot, like she has for over seventy years. And if she doesn't look so wonderful next to the other planes there, well, her pilot is smart enough to realize that looks aren't everything, and even A-10's have people who think they're beautiful.

I'm getting a little smarter as I get older - someday I aim to be both smart and wise.


  1. I've flown aircraft with scary amounts of duct tape, a second coat of paint made up of dead bugs and dried oil, and no door on one side. (Banner towers, I tell ya.) I had more damn fun in those ugly old things than I currently do in the fancy Baron and Citation I fly at my corporate job. Beauty is in the eye of the flier, far as I'm concerned.


  2. Wonderful story,thank's for sharing it with us.

  3. Sorry to hear about the iron that was left behind. Didn't find anything like that in the little car, or you'd have heard from me before now. :)

    "We get too soon old and too late wise." ~ old German proverb

  4. Like the man said: Live and learn, or don't live long.

    And my favorite car was made out of compressed rust and primer, and was a blast to drive.

  5. LOL, just get there, you'll be appreciated for that, in and of itself! :-)