Spork and I have officially finished painting the fuselage. Not all the airplane, mind you. But at least the fuselage. That is a big deal because everything at this point attaches to the fuselage so by getting it out of the paint booth, we are able to paint a piece, then bring it out and install it. Or if we are waiting on something to finish drying, we can work on other things like avionics, windshield, engine install, whatever.
Step one was to get the airplane sitting on the gear. With it on the gear, we could more easily move it around the shop and more importantly, we could crawl inside and sit and make airplane noises!
Once we have all the gear installed, I stood there and tried to remember why I thought an airplane that was so blasted tall was a good idea. Was it really this far up in the air when I first looked at these things? You sit basically at the elbow of his left arm. You have to climb into the airplane using the gear as a ladder, back yourself in butt first, and swing your legs over. Grandma isn’t going to be flying a SuperSTOL anytime soon.
With the gear on, it was time to temporarily install the Rotax 912 ULS we are using for this airplane. I bought it shiny new and it has been sitting in its shipping box the last several months. But now it was time to break everything out, figure out how to lift it, and install it on the motor mount.
The firewall needs to come back off, and the engine along with it. But now the airplane is stable enough we can work on it without worry of it tipping over. I did a few pull ups on the motor mount testing its strength and the airplane doesn’t even budge.
Now that we’ve made it this far, the next step is to install the windshield so we can fit the boot cowl to it. Once the boot cowl is fitted, we fit the firewall to the boot cowl and reinstall the engine, for the last time. Then it is time for avionics, throttle, battery hookups, fuel lines. All that stuff. Actual assembly.
On days when Spork is still busy with school, I’ll work on painting the remaining bits. If we knew what we were doing, we could be done in a few weeks. As it is, we are hoping to make Oshkosh in July.
I was introduced to flying by my father, who was a ball/tail gunner on B-17s during World War II.
I grew up building models and listening to the few stories that he told of his time in the 15th Air Force of the USAAF. Like any kid, the fighters of WWII held my fascination, especially the P-51 and P-38, which flew escort for my father on many of his 52 missions.
And the F4U Corsair, because it was the most fun to build as a model and was the star of my favorite show growing up, Black Sheep Squadron.
But the B-17 was my absolute favorite because it was my dad’s plane. We lost my father to cancer in 2003, just before my son was born. He has grown up with stories of Granddad but never had the chance to meet him or hear his stories for himself.
My son and I attended Sun N Fun for the first time in 2017 via car as we were without a plane. While we enjoyed ourselves, I learned that to truly enjoy the airshow, we needed to return by airplane and camp under the wing. The following year, with our new (to us) airplane under our bottoms, we headed Southbound to KLAL for opening day of Sun N Fun 2018. This was my first major airshow fly in, and I had a co-pilot with pretty limited experience flying, having only flown with me a few times before and at 13 years old certainly no formal pilot training.
Headed Southbound, we began descending into KLAL, talking to approach on the way in who informed us that the airport opening was delayed, and that we could expect a longer than anticipated hold. This wasn’t great news, as I didn’t purchase an airplane with a relief tube. But luckily I was nervous enough about flying into an airshow that I didn’t have time to worry about needing to use the facility.
About 20 minutes later, approach called to let us know that the airport had opened a bit earlier than expected, and departures were starting to leave.
“N12345, traffic at 1 o’clock, heading Eastbound, climbing”
“N12345, traffic 11 o’clock, heading Northeast bound, level, same altitude”
“N12345, traffic, uhhmmm. 345, there is traffic pouring off of KLAL, I can’t advise you. Keep your head on a swivel. Good luck and squawk VFR.”
I’ve never heard anything like that before from ATC. He sounded like he was wishing me luck on my climb up the stairs to the gallows.
I had the boy’s head swiveling, while I flew the airplane, looked at ADS-B, looked at traffic coming off KLAL, and followed the NOTAM to hold over lake Parker. I flew past the lake at well above holding altitude and circled back to enter just as you would on a 45 degree entry to downwind. There was a bit of jockeying between aircraft but we quickly established ourselves in the visual hold, on speed and on altitude. As we passed over the power plant and over ATC for the first lap, I heard the call I’d been hoping for.
“T tail over the plant, turn left and keep holding. Follow the edge of the lake.”
Phew! We were in the hold and established. Now to settle down for our 45 minute hold till the airport opens. We had the NOTAM on our laps, and we basically had to just keep an eye out for someone dropping in on us. Then once the airport opened, we could just follow someone in like one of the lemmings we were, land without crashing (and being on YouTube) and then decompress. We weren’t there, but we were close.
As I made the circle around, I kept talking to my son, calling traffic to each other, and wondering how long it would actually be. We had enough fuel for an hour of circling, with reserves. Maybe a bit more at this reduced speed. There is the power plant, here comes the call to keep circling. it is only lap #2 and I’m starting to get the hang of this.
T tail at the power plant. Rock your wings!”
Huh? What did I do? I gave the wings a good rock.
“T tail, you are number 1 for the arrival. The airport just opened. Proceed Westbound and follow the procedure.” Then the controller started machine gunning instructions off to aircraft following us, making us the leader of a gaggle of inbound aircraft.
What?! I’m not prepared for this. And I don’t want to be number 1. I want to follow someone. Preferably someone who will bounce the landing and keep all the eyes on them and off of me.
We continued straight ahead following the procedure in the NOTAM, made our turn to head to the tower, and switched over frequency to be able to talk to them. Tower frequency was dead silent. No calls, no traffic. And nobody to follow.
Finally as I was about 1/2 mile from the field, I got the call.
“T tail, turn downwind!”
What? I didn’t get the winds. When I checked ATIS earlier, all it said was that the airport was closed. There was no weather info. The airport opened so quickly, I didn’t have time to check it once we entered the hold. Oh no!
I’m not supposed to talk to the controllers, the radio is for one way conversation only in this instance, but what else can you do in this situation?
“T tail doesn’t have the winds. Right or left?”
“Right turn T tail. Right turn. Enter the downwind.”
I snapped the plane over to a 30 degree descending right turn, which elicited a positive response from ATC. Since you are not talking back to them to acknowledge their instructions, the only way they can tell if you are going to do what they want is to see the reaction from your plane. A positive and clear move seemed like the appropriate response and after feeling like an idiot for not knowing the winds, it was nice to hear ATC’s response.
“Good turn T tail, keep it coming.”
I continued the downwind, which was closer in, and lower than I’d ever done before, when ATC said,
“T tail, left turn back to the runway. Overfly the green dot, land on the orange dot. Overfly the green dot, put it on the orange.”
I snapped the plane around to the left in a curving approach, kind of like Corsairs did in WWII landing on carriers, sailed over the green dot and miracle of miracles, plopped it down just past the orange dot.
“Good job T tail. Welcome to Sun N Fun.”
ATC was instantly busy handling the flood of aircraft behind me as we taxied down the runway/taxiway and followed marshaling to our parking spot.
I felt greatly relieved and very excited. We’d been the first ones into the airport (that time), we’d flown into our first major airshow, we’d gotten to fly like a fighter for just a bit, and we hadn’t crashed or really done anything wrong. We were now safely on the ground, successful and ready to enjoy the airshow with thousands of our new closest friends for the week.
I owe my aviation career to my father, who’d not only kindled the interest with his stories of missions during WWII, but had supported me through all of my training and experience. Now here I was with his grandson he never met, giving the gift of aviation to another generation. A gift that he gave to me so many years before. As I was having these thoughts, I was busy setting up our tent, air mattress, cook stove, freezer, generator, after dinner libations, and all the other requirements of a proper glamping site.
I missed him, as I always do, as I looked at my boy helping right along set things up. Lost in my thoughts, I suddenly heard an unmistakable sound coming from behind me. Radial engines.
I looked up, really for the first time since arriving, and realized our parking spot was almost on the centerline of the runway. I spun around to see what warbird was approaching and saw a majestic sight.
A single B-17, my father’s airplane, was on short final. The sun was setting and at that point was a red ball in the sky, taking the sky itself to that perfect red and pink hue with it. The left wing, just outboard of the #1 engine, was splitting the sunset in half. I stood there, slack jawed, for several seconds before I thought to grab my phone and take a picture. But realizing by the time I’d get my phone, unlock it, and frame the shot, the image would be gone. Instead I simply stood and watched as the B-17 sailed majestically overhead and touched down just past us on the centerline.
I’ve had lots of beautiful aviation experiences, but at that moment, with my son on the ground, and my dad sailing overhead, I think I hit aviation nirvana.
When I last posted our progress, I said that painting had started. Moving from building, to covering, and then to painting was a series of major milestones. As usual, I was nervous to start a new process but the primer proved to be a very forgiving process. In fact I discovered on just about the last day of primer that I was using the wrong ratio to catalize the primer, using 3:1:1 instead of 4:1:1. Despite the fact that primer shows EVERY mistake that you made, and even the ones that you didn’t, I found it to be pretty easy.
Because Spork is eternally working on school and has barely been available to help, the schedule has been to wake, kiss the wife good bye, trudge to the shop, turn on the kerosene heater, build a fire in the wood stove, nurse the fire in the wood stove, turn off the kerosene heater, turn on the fans that move the warm air into the airplane shop, and then finally go to work. Sanding, cleaning, washing, wiping, cleaning, then finally move the pieces back into the paint booth and spray some primer. Once that is complete, walk away and have the rest of my day. All in, I was probably spending about 2 hours on each day that I worked, with only 2-3 days per week spent on the airplane. It has been a slow process.
But on March 6th, a magical thing happened.
The paint starts to go bad after it is opened, so I didn’t open any of the paint cans till it was time to start painting. That means they’ve been sitting on my shelf for six months, unopened and unseen. I didn’t realize how white everything in the shop was with all the primer everywhere. It is like I’d gotten used to living in Minnesota in winter. Then suddenly this orange appeared and was blinding.
But before we could do much painting, I had to get the fuselage prepped for paint. That meant taping and papering everything that wasn’t going to be orange.
The orange paint was, um, blinding. I couldn’t decide if it was because everything else was stark white, or because it was really that bright. Fortunately I’d done a test panel prior so Spork and I took it outside on a sunny day. The color definitely toned down in the sun. We are good to go!
With the paint on we pulled off the bottom paper and tape. This was our first opportunity to see the two color fuselage. It was, um, stark. In fact, it was more like this than I’d care to admit.
But we only had 1/2 of the paint on the plane. The bottom isn’t actually white like the primer because we picked our colors from here.
By “from here, we mean Hobbes himself.
So with more color to add, we taped up the orange part of the fuselage and exposed the white underbelly. Then it was time for paint.
When I first started painting, I scared myself because I just misted the paint onto the piece. A thousand little dots of paint appeared, all independent and all definitely not smooth. I thought maybe my gun was not going to work. Wrong tip? Wrong pressure? Then I sprayed some more and found that the paint, once there is enough, blends together into one smooth surface. Ahh, relief.
So with the orange behind me, and white the only thing between me and beginning some assembly, I decided that I had this painting thing down pat. Just put plenty on so it blends and runs aren’t really that big of a deal, and lets hurry up and get this done. That is when I decided that I didn’t want to move my lights and I’d paint by using the Force, in the dark. I shot the bottom color as a final coat, nice and thick so it would all blend well. When I looked the next morning, I had runs. Not just a couple. I had runs EVERYWHERE!
I’m now on version 5.0 of painting the final coat of white paint. Each version consists of sanding out runs till they are gone. Then cleaning up all the sanding dust. Then wiping down the fuselage multiple times to get every last spec. Then inspecting again to make sure I didn’t miss anything. The finally applying that last coat of paint. Then looking in the wet paint and realizing the runs are still there. Then cursing. Wait one day. Wash rinse repeat.
Oh, and I also tried painting in flip flops on one warm winter day. I now have orange feet. Not a good look.
Since I’m at the final coat, again. I figured I’d get to work on assembling the main gear so once the fuselage rolls out of the paint booth, I can install the gear and get this airplane on the ground for the first time in its life.
There was some question as to how to orient the brakes on the wheel hub. You have to drill out the backing plate to align it with the axle flange. The instructions say to “mount the brake caliper at the front of the wheel.” That’s great, but I have two calipers on my setup. And they aren’t 180 degrees apart so I can’t just align one front and one back. So do they cheat towards the top of the axle, or the bottom. After much reading and looking at pictures, I gave up and called Robby. After two hours of not hearing back from him, I lost my patience and decided that I wanted them on the top of the axle. 15 minutes after I drilled the plate, Robby called and verified that I was installing them correctly. Phew!
Today we’ll do another round of sanding and painting. Hopefully this time those darn runs will disappear. If that is the case, there is one more main gear to assemble with Spork, then we’ll install the gear and the tail wheel and the fuselage will come of the stands for the last time!
“Make sure that you glue this down or it will not look right when you paint.”
“Cut that straight, or it won’t look right when you paint.”
“Don’t spill glue or you’ll see it when you paint.”
Yeah, yeah. I could hear Robby’s voice in my head these past months. I tried to make sure that I followed his example and his instructions. And I got pretty good at it. The tapes were all attached properly. I ironed down the edges to make sure they were flat. Well, lots of times I did. And overall the covering job looked pretty good. I’d even had some much more experienced builders look over my work and they said that it did indeed look pretty good.
Then I grabbed the paint gun that is apparently a mystical device of unspeakable power. It can reveal, with merely the faintest wisp of paint, every…single…mistake…you ever made.
The first pass, on the first tail feather, in the first two seconds, revealed mistakes from stem to stern. I know that tape was attached. Why is it sticking up. Didn’t I seal that edge? When did that thread stick up? I know I trimmed it clean.
After applying primer to two pieces, I went back and prepped all the other pieces with a newly calibrated eye. It took at least a full day to go over everything again, with lots of regluing, ironing, and fussy micro work. But the results were much better when the next application of primer was laid down.
As of today, we are several days into painting. We’ve been heating the barn as much as we can, bringing it up to about 70 degrees, which allows us to cure the paint properly and use the reducer that we have on hand. Most pieces have about 4 coats of primer, and all but the flaps have been sanded.
At this point, the idea is to give a light sanding to all the finished pieces and then set them aside. The flaps and the few remaining pieces that need another coat will get some sanding and another two coats of primer. Once those are done, the fuselage and the wings will be moved into the paint booth, one at a time. Those will take a good bit of time because they are so much bigger, and require taping off of protected areas. But once they are done, we’ll start spraying color onto the plane and finally reveal what this plane is going to look like.
So far, I’ve enjoyed painting the plane. The work had been enjoyable and the paint booth and paint gun are working as advertised. I hope the rest of the painting process is as enjoyable.
When I was growing up, we used to get tractor trailer loads on square bale hay in each summer. Unloading hay out of a pig trailer (they hauled the hay down in pig trailers, and carried pigs back) and then into a barn loft, during the heat of the summer, was a decidedly unpleasant task. But one of the things that kept us going through the process was the eternal search for that one bale of hay.
Pouring sweat, “Have you seen it yet?”
Sticking your face out the small hole in the trailer for a quick breath of clean air, “Is this the bale we’re looking for that I’m standing on?”
“Nah, it is still under here somewhere.”
The bale, the one we always looked for, was the LAST bale. I don’t know why it was funny, but it kept us going during the process. And we always celebrated whoever was the person who grabbed the last bale and unloaded it off the trailer. We’d be drenched in sweat, coughing and hacking from breathing all the hay in a confined space, and covered in hay, but it would be all smiles when that bale came out.
Well, I found the piece of the airplane we’ve been looking for.
We finally started working on the last wing flap. By this point, I should know what I’m doing. Covering an entire airplane gives you an opportunity to learn all the skills needed, except rib stitching, which I’m happy to forgo with this project. Unfortunately we had a few issues holding us back.
First, we ran out of material. Now I don’t mean we came up slightly short. I mean we didn’t have close to enough material to cover these flaps. Did we do something wrong in the build? Did we get shorted on the original material? I don’t know. Probably the former. So I reached out to Billy Payne to order more material, which he promptly sent over to me.
When the material arrived, Spork and I got right to work on it, only to discover we weren’t smart enough to figure out how to use it. The material was 15′ long, and 6′ wide. Our flaps are 8′ 3″ long and they require about 3′ 3″ of width. I have to be missing something.
After talking to Billy (it will fit, you are just looking at it wrong) and then talking to Robby (you aren’t crazy, he probably thinks you have a Highlander which has a smaller flap) and then talking to Billy, (you aren’t crazy, I thought you had a Highlander), we figured out what to do. Billy said to just lay a 2″ strip of finish tape down on the top leading edge. Then pull the fabric to butt up to the tape, filling the gap. Once everything is taped, finished, and painted, it won’t be visible. And with a large leading edge finish tape providing the needed overlap for safety, it will never come off or fail so a good result.
It took some extra time to lay down the tapes and then match up the material so it butted up, but didn’t overlap. But with that done, the flaps could be covered and looked good.
I’m at the point of covering where it is fun to cover. I’m comfortable with the process, and more importantly comfortable covering up my mistakes.
As I said, no rib stitching on this project. The fabric rivets were a bit intimidating at first. Now I’m thankful for how easy they are to put in vs. stitching. Score one for the SuperSTOL.
Here I am pulling the last rivets. I’m sure we’ll have to put another rivet somewhere on the plane, but I don’t know where it is at this point. All the interior pieces have been test fitted and everything else is paint, assembly, fiberglass, or rigging at this point. Thank you Spork for getting a pic for the last official rivet pulls on this airplane.
With progress on the last flap, I took a day that Spork was in school and took a ride to Grantsboro. When I talked to Robby, he told me that he was selling his place in Grantsboro because he and Jenny were building a house at the Outer Banks. I knew this because when I took my demo ride (way back in the beginning of this) with Robby in his SuperSTOL, we flew over a piece of land that was to be his new home some day. Seems some day had arrived.
But with Grantsboro on the chopping block, I had a problem. In my never ending quest to stupidly always leave something at Robby’s place, I’d left all the seat cushions behind in his hanger. So with a relatively free day, I took the ride to Robby’s, 2 hours away, to pick up my cushions.
With my (hopefully) last parts retrieved from Robby’s we finally have everything we need to complete the build.
I was really happy that Myla decided to stop in the shop and help with the build at this moment. She’d helped a little bit in the past, but with this final part being worked on, I was thankful for her company and assistance as I wrapped this last piece.
The flap, as it sits right now, needs the leading and trailing edge tapes applied. That shouldn’t take long. An hour or so.
Then I have to finish two custom inspection rings and attach them to the fuselage. They are already cut out. They just need some TLC to dress up the rough edges. Then a quick scuff and some glue and tape and they are good to go.
Then it is time to paint! I’m terrified and excited all at the same time. I hope it is something I can do a good job on. Paint is what everyone sees, and it covers up, but also reveals, your mistakes. I won’t know which one will be more prevalent until I start laying it down. Hopefully it hides more than it reveals. I think we did a good job on the covering work we did, but you never know what it will look like till you see the final product. I’m looking forward to getting started.
I keep walking into the shop and looking at the fuselage thinking, “What do I need to do to this today?”
The answer keeps surprising me.
We’ve spent the last few work days working on control surfaces and tail feathers. Spork has started, and finished, the left horizontal stabilizer. He tells me it is either good enough to last forever, or it will work for less than 40 hours, he’s not sure. So either it will fail on my during Phase 1 testing (when I’m the only one flying) or it will never fail (when he’s flying.)
One of the first things that I worked on, after finishing the fuselage, was redoing the rudder. We’d originally covered the rudder at Robby’s but once I hung it this time, I noted that the anti-chafe tapes on the plane were 1″, and the rudder was 2″. Of course, we’d covered it on its own back in March, and we’d then followed someone else’s instruction working on the fuselage meaning we’d used different tapes on different places.
It looked weird.
Spork had the idea to just strip off the tapes and redo them. That took about 2 minutes. I’d already spent 15 minutes puzzling over what to do so it was a very good solution.
With the tapes stripped off, I was able to retape them with 1″ in short order and then do the 2″ edge tapes and finish the rudder. It was put aside in the growing pile of completed parts.
Another off plan fix we needed to do was to cover the holes for the rudder cables on the back of the fuselage. I’d stupidly opened up holes for the cables in the wrong places when I was covering the fuselage so patches needed to be added. Then I decided that I’d dress up the patches a bit with a Cub style opening and cover. I could have used leather, but I had another material in mind.
I had a role of firehose from the fire department in the shop. A bit of hacking and arts and crafts, and I had a nice little piece made for each side. I used a torch to sear the edges and lock the threads together just like when you cut a rope.
Unlike the leather pieces usually used, I used a piece of fabric to cover the firehose. The firehose gives wear abrasion and rigidity, the fabric gives better adhesion to the base fabric and will take paint much better. I think these will look good and wear very well. They maybe added an ounce to the airplane so maybe Robby won’t give me too hard of a time.
This was a fun little project. It isn’t in the build spec or probably even a great idea, but it was a nice little customization that I added because I wanted to.
Spork covered 100% of this stabilizer with zero assistance. It looks perfect!
We’ve moved onto covering the elevator with the trim tab (the most complicated control surface) and the other horizontal stabilizer. When those are done, we have some ailerons to finish tape, and two flaps that are being covered from scratch. Once those are done, the paint booth is the next stop!
I’ve been nervous to start the painting as everything you do there is visible and I’m not really a painter, but now as we get closer I’m getting excited to start. Because once pieces are painted, they are assembled and rigged. Basically, we are getting close to attaching pieces (wings, firewall, landing gear) for the last time. That will be a big deal. I’m ready to have the fuselage on its own wheels and off the stand and sawhorse.
When people ask me what I think of the King Air that I used to fly, what was my favorite thing about the airplane, I have an immediate and firm answer.
It has a pilot’s relief tube.
I was taking customers to KMLI in a Cessna 340.
This was back in the 1990s so we are talking steam gauges and Jeppesen binders. Cell phones were still a novelty. I had a co-pilot with me who’s day job was first officer for a major airline. Great guy. As I’m getting the plane ready, making sure snacks are on board, herding the cats which our customers generally were, I made a quick mental run through of all the items that I’d need to do before I left. This is something they don’t teach you in pilot training.
Track a VOR, yep.
Power off stalls? Right there on the syllabus.
Did you arrange the rental car at the destination? Uh yeah.
What about the customer who only drinks that one brand of bourbon. Did you get some mini bottles of that? Of course.
AND remember to bring them with you to the airport? Um..
And two carafes of coffee, right? Because that one guy last time wouldn’t drink caffeinated coffee.
Everything was ready to go, except I really should go pee before we hop in the airplane….
Nah, I’ll just go when we get to our fuel stop in KY. Loaded as heavy as we were, and with the head winds we were expecting, we had to stop for fuel and Bowling Green, KY looked about right and wasn’t so far away that I couldn’t make it.
So I closed the air stair door, sidled up front, and off we went.
Despite this being back in the stone age, we did have a GPS in the plane, state of the art with its green 2″ monochrome screen. It was really neat to be able to twist knobs and push buttons and calculate the actual winds aloft and our expected arrival time. Unfortunately I must not be very adept at using it, because instead of the 20 knot quartering headwind that was forecast, this stupid thing keeps saying I’ve got 45 knots on the nose. That can’t…be..right…
Ugh. This is going to be a long trip.
As we toodled along at our greatly diminished ground speed, my lack of hitting the facility before we left is becoming a problem. I try to think happy thoughts, talk to my co-pilot to keep my mind off of things, and generally be a professional and pretend there isn’t a problem. Instead I’m watching everyone guzzle coffee and I’m getting unwelcome mental images of Niagara Falls.
I’m furiously calculating and recalculating the winds aloft, trying to figure out a way to make our ground speed better. Maybe a bit higher? A bit lower? But hemmed in between the fuel range with NBAA reserves, the steady headwinds, and our planned fuel stop, I don’t have a lot of choices.
As we get closer to our fuel stop, I progress from uncomfortable annoyance to horrible pressure to I’m going to need a doctor if this goes on much longer. Finally we begin our descent into KBWG. I’d mentioned to my co-pilot, during our cruise portion, that I really needed to go to the bathroom. He acknowledged and dismissed this bit of information with an easy indifference. Not my bladder, not my problem. But as we started down, I told him I may need his help on landing.
“Because the pain is so bad, I’m not sure I can use the rudder pedals.”
Now he looked invested in the conversation.
At this point, I know what you are saying to yourself. “Self, what kind of idiot gets himself into a situation like this? Why didn’t he just stop short and go to the bathroom?”
First, all options were considered and discarded. If we stopped short, with these headwinds, that would turn this flight into a two fuel stop trip instead of one. Something I’d have to explain to the boss, and to the customers. It would add time that we didn’t have, and cost that wasn’t needed for my personal comfort.
Second, as the guy who supposedly knows what he is doing, being the one who didn’t go to the bathroom before we left is not something I wanted to admit. I’m not saying pilots are prideful, but…
Third, we’ll be there shortly. I can make it. (repeat quietly to yourself over and over)
I flex out a few tentative rudder pushes and I can make do. We’ll be on the ground soon so we’re good.
“N12345, turn left 20 degrees, this will be vectors for the localizer approach. Glide slope is out of service. “
What? No ILS? The minimum descent altitude (MDA) for the localizer will get us in, but just barely. Great.
We cruise along on vectors, and then after intercepting the localizer, we wait for clearance to actually start the approach and descend.
“Uh approach, N12345, can we start our descent?”
“Negative 345, traffic below, will be a few miles.”
We are getting closer and closer to the airport. With turbocharged piston engines, I can’t just yank the throttles and push the nose over. I have to worry about shock cooling. Finally when we are about to request we turn around and try again we blessedly get the approach clearance. I pull power as much as I can and nose over to get to MDA, tracking the localizer inbound.
Just as we get to MDA, we pop out of the clouds and there is KBWG bright and clear and beautiful.
And almost directly below us.
My copilot looks at me with pity in his eyes and says, “Sorry, no way you can make it from here. We’ll have to go around.”
My calm and professional response?
Using my recently tested skills of rudder mashing, I put in a heap of right rudder and drop the left wing. The 340 slips beautifully. If you haven’t tried it, have a go. I’m looking at the runway out of the side window, holding my slip to get down to a landing position. I glance over, now up in our slip, to my co-pilot. He’s as white as a sheet and not saying anything. The customers are still chatting away amiably in the back, oblivious.
A slip entry and exit are gentle and everything is shaping up nicely, even though this is the longest and steepest slip I’ve ever done. But all is well, why is he so upset? I query him quickly and he just shakes his head. No time to figure it out now.
I pop out of the slip, drop full flaps, and touch down without a problem, making the last turn off with little braking. Before we are off the taxi way I’m already out of my seat belt, pushing through the customers, and at the air stair door ready to drop it the moment the co-pilot stops at the ramp.
Several minutes later, my co-pilot takes up station at a urinal beside me in the bathroom. I look over and ask him, “Hey, why’d you look so scared on the way in?
“You can’t slip a 340.”
“Yes you can, I just did. You can slip a Boeing, why wouldn’t you be able to slip a 340?”
“It is a prohibited maneuver. It is in the POH.”
“What?! I’ve never seen that. Why is it prohibited. It slips just fine.”
“It unports the fuel pickups. The engines will quit.”
After several seconds of bladder relieving thought, I replied. “We were already too high, I didn’t need engines anyway.” What else can you say at that point, we were down and safe.
After completing our trip and seeing our customers safely delivered to their destination, we pulled out the POH and did a thorough review of any and all limitations. My intrepid co-pilot, unfortunately, spent his time bouncing between airplanes and had mistaken the 400 series Cessna no slips limitation for an all encompassing twin Cessna limitation. 340s are indeed able to slip freely.
Today my daughter, whenever I mention the possibility of buying a new airplane, only asks one question.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Over the past two months, I’ve been working off and on on our avionics panel. I have everything pretty much mocked up and connected with only some config issues, cleaning up wiring, etc left to do. Everything either blinks, bonks, or chimes at this point. I just need to add circuit breakers, cut the actual panel instead of the mockup, etc. But during this time we’ve done exactly diddly to the airplane. We stopped when Hurricane Florence came ashore and just never really recovered. Spork had started school and the airplane fell to the back burner. But that all changed Sunday the 18th. Spork and I got up and fed like normal, but rather than rushing off to game night, chores, etc, we wandered back into the shop and actually went to work. It was kinda weird being back in there after two months. Where are my tools. What were we doing last? What is our next step.
Fortunately I knew our next step. We needed to get the wings back into the airplane shop and out of the car shop because for two months we couldn’t work on any vehicles.
We had to clean out the paint booth, open up all the doors, CAREFULLY carry the wings from this shop over to the airplane shop, and set everything back up. Once the wings were safely tucked away, we went back to the airplane itself.
Spork got started on covering one of the tail feathers while I went about doing a final shrink on the fabric already in place and then installing the anti-chafe tapes. There was a lot of head scratching and trying to remember what we were doing but eventually we got back into the groove and made some progress. We already have more days on the schedule so hopefully we’ll be back moving forward again through the winter.
Since we don’t seem to be building any airplanes lately (that is soon to change) I thought I’d use this space to keep something else of mine I thought I’d lost.
Some years ago, back when I had zero kids and much more free time, I collected all my favorite quotes and put them on Facebook. Then sometime later, Facebook made one of it’s never ending series of changes and my quotes disappeared.
Today, while bumbling through Facebook looking for something completely different, I stumbled upon my list of quotes. I have no idea when or if they will disappear again, but since I HATE Facebook I’d rather have my quotes here anyway.
So without further ado, here are some of my favorite quotes, starting off with my very most favorite one right on top. This was said to me when I was 17 years old. I stood 6’5″ tall and weighed 210 pounds. I was bowing up to my father, who stood 5’7″ tall. In a fit of rage and stupidity, I told him that he couldn’t make me do something he wanted me to do. He, VERY calmly, looked me square in the eye and said:
“You’re right, I can’t ‘make you do it.’ But I can make you wish you had. ”
— My father
I’m still quivering when I think about that day. I’m not sure why he didn’t just go ahead and kill me then. It’s not like he didn’t already have a couple of sons. Fortunately I’m still around.
Now for the rest of my favorite quotes.
A man can get discouraged many times, but he is not a failure until he begins to blame somebody else.” – John Burroughs
If your business depends on you, you don’t have a business. You have a job – and you are working for a lunatic.
– Michael E. Gerber
The final test of a gentleman is his respect for those who can be of no possible service to him.
William Lyon Phelps
Do not hurry, do not rest.
I spent 50% of my money on alcohol, women, and gambling. The rest I just wasted. – W.C. Fields
Talking about our problems is our greatest addiction. Break your habit. Talk about your joys. – Unknown
Life shrinks or expands in proportion to ones courage. – Anais Nin
Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will spend its life thinking it is stupid. – Albert Einstein
Worrying is like paying on a debt that may never come due. – Will Rogers
An ordinary man can surround himself with two thousand books and thenceforward have at least one place in the world in which it is possible to be happy.
The price for being a sheep is boredom, the price for being a wolf is loneliness, choose one or the other with great care.
“What is your host’s purpose for the party? Surely not for you to enjoy yourself; if that were their sole purpose, they’d have sent champagne and women over to your place by taxi.” P.J. O’Rourke
“If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.” Mark Twain
History never looks like history when you are living through it.
John W. Gardner
I have noticed that nothing I never said ever did me any harm.
Most of the things worth doing in the world had been declared impossible before they were done.
Louis D. Brandeis
Posterity: you will never know how much it has cost my generation to preserve your freedom. I hope you will make good use of it.
John Quincy Adams
There are no extraordinary men… just extraordinary circumstances that ordinary men are forced to deal with.
Don’t go around saying the world owes you a living. The world owes you nothing. It was here first.
He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.
Action is the foundational key to all success.
I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody.
“A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan executed at some indefinite time in the future.” General George S. Patton
“Show me a man who cannot bother to do the little things, and I’ll show you a man who cannot be trusted to do the big things.”
— Lawrence Bell, Bell Aircraft
“Be the man they’ll claim you were at your funeral.” me
“Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity.”
— Robert A. Heinlein
“Aviation is not unsafe, but like the sea, it is terribly unforgiving of any carelessness or neglect. C.R. Smith”
“The world is not interested in the storms you encounter but whether you bring in the ship.”
— Raul Armesto
“A positive attitude may not solve all your problems, but it will annoy enough people to make it worth the effort….”
— Herm Albright
“”Hope” is not a strategy.”
— Larry Barbour, President North State Bank
“The most important thing a father can do for his children is to love their mother.”
— Theodore Hesburgh
“Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside of a dog it’s too dark to read.”
— Groucho Marx
“Vegetarians, and their Hezbollah-like splinter faction, the vegans … are the enemy of everything good and decent in the human spirit.”
— Anthony Bourdain (Kitchen Confidential)
“People are just as happy as they make up their minds to be.”
— Abraham Lincoln