This weeks progress on the airplane

I haven’t had time to do any daily updates on the airplane this week. Mainly for two reasons.

One – We’ve only worked in small 2-3 hour blocks of time each day.
Two – We’ve been so busy day and night that I haven’t been able to do any blog posts.

So here is our progress from Thursday of last week through Thursday of this week, with some personal stuff (Carter made Chief in the Civil Air Patrol!) thrown in.

This week marked the first real week of work on the airplane since we returned from Robby’s place in Grantsboro. Oh we’ve worked a few hours here or there, but this was a week of wake up, do whatever HAD to be done, wake Spork up, then go work on the airplane. Even though we’ve only averaged 3-4 hours per day of actual hands on work, we’ve had a lot of other time spent on other airplane tasks such as deciding which avionics to install and even determining our paint scheme. We’ve also been picking up needed supplies and tools that we’ll need shortly.

Fuel line routing on Robby's plane
Fuel line routing on Robby’s plane. Robby recommended both lines be routed down the passengers side for better in flight visibility.

We started off our week with a trip (finally!) to Manteo to see Robby, Jenny, and their SuperSTOL. We also found that a Just Aircraft Highlander was also still there in the back of the hanger so we crawled all over it as well. We spent most of the day there and took nearly 400 pictures of the two airplanes. These are pictures that we’ll use to supplement the build manual. There is nothing quite as good as having a good picture of the thing you are trying to do.

Measurement of drill location in firewall
How far over do I drill the hole in the firewall?

As they say, one pic is worth a thousand “place AN5-27 bolts into 5/16″ holes as per diagram A…”

Armed with our new pics, we came home in time to get Spork ready for the 2018 Freedom Balloon Festival in Fuquay-Varina starting Friday. Spork had finally landed his first Civil Air Patrol event staff position, Admin. None of us knew what Admin was but it was staff so we didn’t really care. We’d learned that when CAP is interviewing for staff positions they look first and foremost at your experience. Much like in the real world, it is hard to get experience when you can’t land that first job.

I dropped Spork off with camping gear and money around 11am on Friday after some last minute supply runs and bid him farewell. Sunday morning we popped in to attend ourselves (a first for us), and to of course see how he was doing.

Tired, blistered (feet), unbathed, overworked, and happy. That is how we found him.

He really liked staff and had lots of funny stories to tell, including how he convinced a cadet that he had a prosthetic leg. Like I said, funny.

SWMBO and Myla going for a balloon ride
SWMBO and Myla going for a balloon ride

Since we were there so early we were able to get in the front part of the line for balloon rides. We were maybe 15-20 people back from first. SWMBO was excited to ride a balloon. I signed the forms and paid the money. It is a tethered balloon ride, yawn, whatever. At least I can check it off my bucket list.

After the girls got out, The Princess and I climbed in. The pilot started his ascent and I started asking a few questions to make conversation. As we got up about 50-75 feet I noticed a bit of a breeze picking up. The balloon started heading back down and I heard the pilot say “Flex you knees, flex your knees.” I looked at our descent rate which was slightly above “sedate”, checked The Princess to make sure she’d flexed her knees, and in just 30 seconds total flight time from takeoff to landing we were back on the ground having crash landed.

Crashed hot air balloon. Check.

Drip guard on baggage door
Drip guard on baggage door

Once we retrieved Spork from the Balloon Festival at the end of it on Saturday night, we went to work on the airplane on Sunday. There was some adjusting and fitting to be done on the drip guard for the door.

Spork drilling out for the drip guard
Spork drilling out for the drip guard

Just getting the height correct and drilling the holes and it was in place. At least temporarily. It has to come back off for covering of the airplane.

Fuselage on new saw horses
Fuselage on new saw horses

The guys have a multi-week project ongoing in the shop that requires, apparently, every flat surface in the shop plus all of the saw horses. So a trip to Lowes was in order to acquire new saw horses. Spork and I spent a good bit of time getting these saw horses setup, lined up, etc so that we could remove the front stand and cut and install the firewall. With the saw horses in place we had full access and I made it as far as drilling the first hole when I realized there were six holes in the frame, and I only need four. Which four? After some queries (Hello, Robby?) it was determined that I needed the engine in hand to assure I was drilling the correct holes. Sigh. So we took the saw horses back out and reinstalled the stand.

While we were getting the sawhorses figured out, I started looking for the boot cowl. There are three pieces of fiberglass on the plane. The upper cowling around the engine, the lower cowling which is its mate, and then the boot cowl, which ties the upper cowling into the windshield. I needed the boot cowl to shape the firewall. Except I didn’t see a boot cowl. We looked high. We looked low. We grumbled and cursed, but no boot cowl. Finally I figured I must have never received it from the factory, but let me look through my pics to see if I see it anywhere.

Robby's paint booth, with the boot cowl leaning against the wall
Robby’s paint booth, with the boot cowl leaning against the wall

The grey thing leaning against the wall. Yep, that is it. In a pic taken just before this one, the other two pieces of cowling were sitting just beside the boot cowl. In this pic, the boot cowl is sitting there lonely, like some idiot left it behind. Thankfully Rick is my personal sherpa for getting all the things I left at Robby’s. I think this will be the third or fourth trip to pick up items left behind. Mystery solved, we moved onto our next project.

New stands for holding the wings
New stands for holding the wings

The factory built my wings. They loaded them on mounts made of square tube steel for shipment. The plan was to cut up the mounts and turn them into rotating stands so we could flip and flop the wings around while covering them. We had to run out to the metal store to get a few bits of steel I didn’t have on hand but after a sold hour of cutting and welding we had four stands like you see. But first, while the wings were off the stands we needed to add the doublers. We just needed to find them.

We looked high. We looked low (noting a trend, are we?). We called Robby. They were nowhere to be found! Again! Just as I was trying to figure out how we were going to make them from scratch, I found them taped to one of the wings on the inside. Oh yeah, I remember Robby saying he was taping something to the wing since we’d need them later. Sigh.

The bag of doublers, found at last
The bag of doublers, found at last

With doublers in hand, we started prepping them and the wings. These seemed like a simple project. Eight doublers, etched with scotch brite, drilled and reamed, then bolt in place and rivet with some HySol to make them permanent. No bid deal. Well a couple of hours later we had four of the eight done. Little jobs can certainly take a while. Yikes! Tomorrow we’ll work on the other four.

Spork being promoted to Chief Master Sargeant
Spork being promoted to Chief Master Sergeant

In the middle of all this weeks work, we had a celebration at our CAP squadron because we had some cadets who were getting the Billy Mitchell award. This is the big one, where a cadet passes from commissioned officer to officer, from Chief to Lieutenant. I though at this promotion Spork still had another promotion to go before testing for his Mitchell award. Not so I was informed, the pressure is on to get this next test done. Colleges look very favorably on cadets who achieve at least their Mitchell award. Plus being a Chief is a big deal in its own right. It is the senior NCO position and carries some responsibility of its own. So Spork is a chief, and is now officially studying for his Mitchell award, while building an airplane.

With Chief rank hanging heavy on his collar, airplane parts hither and yon, avionics nearly ordered, paint equipment purchased, stands in place to begin covering the fuselage and the wings, there was only one thing left to do. Pick the colors for the airplane.

I pulled out the color sheet and invited the girls to weigh in on colors. There were a lot of zebra stripe and flames suggestions, all of which were shot down by the boys as not possible. Finally we settled on colors that would match our theme and our mascot (Hobbes from Calvin and Hobbes). Cessna orange and an off white color were chosen.

The colors of our airplane, just not the design
The colors of our airplane, just not the design

When I was in the maintenance hanger this week I noticed this airplane sitting there. The orange stripe looks a lot like the orange we picked. Our plane will be mostly orange with white accents and a white belly. It will also have some decaling that Spork will tell about in his post. I’m pretty happy with what we came up with so far and I’m excited to see it become reality.

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