Update on covering

We’ve had about four or five days of work since the last update. Most of them have been with Spork studying for his Billy Mitchell test with Civil Air Patrol or trying to catch up on school work while I work on the plane.

I’m pleased to say that he did in fact pass his very last Mitchell test and Chief Senior Master Sergeant Moore (Super Chief!) is now 2nd. Lieutenant Moore, making him an officer in CAP. For those wondering, I’m 1st Lt. Moore, so he is catching me.

There is 2.5 years of work to get to this point and getting your Mitchell in CAP is the equivalent of an Eagle Scout for those familiar with the Boy Scouts of America. He’ll be getting his official promotion on December 11th during our end of year change of command ceremony so he’ll get it when all the brass is present. Should be fun.

But back to the airplane project.

Everyone asks, how is the project coming? The old quip of 90% complete, 90% to go is making more and more sense. When we started back working, we were “nearly ready for paint”. Only the anti-chafe tapes on the fuselage, one small fuselage panel to add, and then some tail feathers to cover, and then it is time for painting. Maybe a day or two of work?

Four or five days later, I think we still have four or five days to go. The tapes are progressing and Spork has one of the tail feathers nearly covered. But it is slow going.

The fuselage with some of the 1″ tapes installed, showing the overlap of the side panel on the bottom of the fuselage

We had the overall covering done on the fuselage, but we didn’t have any of the anti-chafe tapes installed. These are the ones that cover anywhere that tubing it touching the fabric. They are also wherever there is a seam between two pieces of fabric, reinforcing the seam. On the bottom of the fuselage you can see the fat green stripe running from the front of the plane to the back. This is where the piece of fabric on the side overlaps the piece on the bottom. That overlap is glued well and is very strong, but then adding a tape over it, with it’s pinked edges, makes for an overlap that is stronger than the material itself. 

The last major panel of fabric to be added to the fuselage

Before I could add the tape along the bottom, I had to install the last major panel of fabric. I’d left this panel off until now because it allowed me free access under the rudder panels and the kick pan. This let me continue to run wires, fuel lines, etc until the very last minute without having to remove anything. But with a final tidying up, the panel was glued in place.

Finish tape over the seams of all the panels

Now it was onto taping and patching areas of wear or weakness. Fabric is very forgiving and anything that tears or rips doesn’t really cause much problem in flight. It can be fixed on the ground relatively easily and inexpensively. The problem is, it messes up the paint job you worked so hard on. So great care is taken to keep the fabric whole and protected. It isn’t a safety thing as you’d expect. It is a lazy thing. I don’t want to have to patch it, and I don’t want to have to match the paint a year from now. 

Forward gear attach point patch

With this care in mind, I took some extra time to patch this area around the forward gear attach point. There was a lot going on in this area. Four panels (sides, bottom, and front) were coming together with seams running every which way. Then this big hole is right in a seam so the gear can get bolted on. After studying on it for a bit I went with the bigger is better method and pulled out a paint can for a circle template. With everything glued up I shrunk out the few wrinkles and everything flattened out and pulled taught. This went from a worrisome area to probably the strongest piece of fabric on the airplane. 

Tapes on the rear of the fuselage and the cover panel in place

I’ve had this cover panel on and off so many times at this point I couldn’t even hazard a guess as to how many times. Thank God I decided to drill out the metal tabs and ditch the course thread screws. I replaced them with rivnuts and machine screws which work much nicer. I didn’t realize at the time I’d be reinforcing this panel and mounting the VOR antennae to it but it ended up working nicely and it sure makes taking the panel on and off to fit all these tapes much easier. 

My new favorite glass

I couldn’t post an update without showing off my new favorite glass. I’m not sure if this is referencing this airplane I’m slaving away on or me. Probably both although the SuperSTOL is probably low speed, lots of drag. Of course this is referencing the “High Speed, Low Drag” saying for the fast movers of the world. For the rest of us, it is medium speed, low drag at best. 

This particular glass full was a present from a dear friend, the Goddess of Boo-Boos. I don’t know the test proof of this particular batch of egg nog, but if I filtered it and poured it into the fuel tank on the plane, I’m pretty sure it would fly. 

In case you are wondering, there isn’t any left. So don’t ask. 

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