Saturday, June 11, 2016

Restoring a Hangar Queen - Day One: The Teardown Begins

So, as a bit of background it will help you to know that I had a strong interest in R/C airplanes years ago.

 Yeah, I know: me and 98% of the EAA's membership. 

R/C flying was something I gave up in my mid-20's pretty much without even a backward glance over my shoulder. 

Not too long ago, I was visiting a hangar neighbor and noticed that he had a couple of old R/C planes hanging on the wall as decorations. Taking a closer look at it, I noticed that it still had the servos in it, and the engine didn't look too bad.

Long story short (surprise!), I brought it home as a restoration project.

Before going out and buying any of the plethora items that will be required to get it in the air, I started looking at prices. The engine and servos would account for $300+ of stuff I wouldn't need to buy, but there are supplies and tools and such to be gathered up.

The first thing to look into was radio gear. Back in my day, a four-channel Futaba with three servos ran around $200.  That's $761.75 in today's economy. I could (and will, if I can sneak it by as my 2nd birthday present this year, which might be tricky since my birthday isn't until August) buy a droid with a GoPro carrying, 3D stabilized gimbal for the camera, ready-to-fly for $400.

I would opt for the droid, with that math.

That pushed the whole thing onto the back burner (aka the back corner of my hangar) for while, but it was still in the back of my mind. Then one fateful day.... YouTube tries to guess what might interest me. Having done some searches on R/C airplane related topics, the algorithms selected a video about an R/C airplane simulator named RealFlight 7.5.  I've known of these simulators for awhile, but had never paid much attention to them. This time, though....

Well, I bought one.

See here:


Now the neat thing about that simulator, which set me back $160, is that it comes with a real R/C transmitter that will be usable with the actual plane I want to restore.  That seemed like a good deal and a good idea - if you watched the video, you will know that the practice will have been valuable.

Oh, before buying the transmitter, I looked up the price of the receiver.

$15.00.

That's $3.93 in 1978 dollars.

That was the last of the showstoppers, so I started on the restoration today.


By going to Harbor Freight. I had already ordered and received some stuff from Tower Hobbies (what a painful process - I've had fewer questions asked at a mortgage closing that their high-friction eCommerce site), so all I needed from Harbor "The Home of Cashiers with Ear Gauges Through Which You Could Push a Golf Ball" Freight was some simple modelling tools.

The measuring tape was free. It was all I could do to not use it to measure the diameter of the holes in that guy's ears!


The hacksaw was specifically selected as "close enough" to the saw I actually needed but they didn't have. The ball end allen wrenches are an absolute requirement for R/C airplanes.


With the de rigueur 20% coupon (5.25% in 1978 percentages*), the knife set was less than $15.  That sounds like a pretty good bargain, but keep in mind that I will lose or break all but the #11 with ten days**.

* No, not really.
** Hyperbole. I give it three weeks.


I bought the C-Cell plug power thingy at Hobbytown. I forgot to mention that I made sure that the engine would run before ordering any more stuff. I had to buy the battery thing to see if the glo-plug was any good. Testing indicated that it wasn't. I went to buy a new one. Testing indicated that the new glo-plug was also dead.

I began to suspect the veracity of the testing.

Why I continue to select the used batteries of questionable provenance that someone in this house insists on throwing in with the new ones is beyond me.

Later examination of the know "good" batteries, which had met their expiration date in early 2008, proved that it wouldn't have mattered anyway.

With a new battery, I tried to start the engine the old-fashioned way.

I never had a .91 engine back then. Fortunately I had thought that it might be prudent to use a chicken stick. The handle of the nut driver took one for the team.


The engine ran, but only for so long as it took to finish the fuel that I had sprayed down into the air inlet - the engine was not drawing fuel from the tank. But, it ran, and that's good enough for now.

I also bought a new fuel pump and a starter.  I need these fingers to type with.


This is the heat gun I use on things for the airplane - it is wildly inappropriate for applying MonoKote.

It's great for removing it, though.


Taking a tour around the subject, the engine is dirty. That's nothing - as long as it's not corroded, it's fine.


The builder was not sure of the quality of the vertical stab to fuselage joint and beefed it up with extra balsa. It's ugly, but I get "better safe than sorry."


Quite a bit more anxiety on display here. Again, functional but could be prettier.  I haven't yet decided whether or not to remove the feathers - I'd like to, but I'm not sure how to do it without breakage.



Being as cheap as they are, you don't get nearly as much receiver as you used to.


There's a potential reason for the tank not drawing fuel: the tank should be set to a height where it is at the same level as the carb on the engine. This tank is positioned quite a bit lower than that.  There could be other reasons for the lack of fuel flow, but this is definitely a contributor.

The brace that's holding the tank in place will have to be removed. There's no access hatch on the front top of the fuselage - that's a serious annoyance. I don't know if the kit was designed that way or not, but I always put an access hatch on top.


The cowl is pretty blocky.  Looking inside, though, there's not a lot of wood in there - I won't be able to narrow it down enough to make it look any better.




The engine is now identified as an ASP .91 I was always an OS Engines guy, but beggars/choosers, right?

You can see that it's going to be a tight fit with a saw to get that brace out.

That's what the little hacksaw was 'good enough' for.


The windscreen is in bad shape, but it came off in one piece. That will allow me to use it as a pattern for a new one.




The ball end wrenches help with things like this. I didn't have one to fit the muffler bolts (should have bought the metric set too) - the bolts were fairly easy to get out, but there was one that was too easy to get out. I'm worried about that one.


I really hate this. A clevis is a much better solution than this, and they're dirt cheap.


I tried cutting the wire in the throttle pushrod with the little hacksaw, but it apparently can't cut anything harder than balsa wood. Lucky for me that that's what I bought it for!


Harbor "The Home of Balsa Wood Hacksaws" Freight:


The fuel tank looks fine, absent the staining. I might keep it.

Well, maybe not. If I can't figure out a way to make an access hatch, it would be stupid to lock an x number of years old fuel tank in there again.



Removing the nose wheel:



The engine mount bolts were all finger tight.  The bolt looks undersized to the mount hole.


I ended up bending the throttle control arm getting it off of the old throttle cable. I'll use a better one when I reinstall the engine.


The landing gear was held on with lock washers that performed the exact opposite function due to their mis-sizing.


The hinges looked like they had little pins holding them together, leading me to believe that I could just remove the pins.


Such was not the case. I had to cut through the hinges. One was installed so crookedly that the knife couldn't get through it. There's one in every crowd.


I like this little fuel port - I never had one of these. Nice to know how the other half lives.


It's in pretty bad condition and was being held in place by a single bolt through a cracked mount hole. I'll have to try to find a new one.


As I started taking the MonoKote off, well.... I don't know what to say.


This is the landing gear mount. I'm thinking of converting it into a GoPro mount, and adding another double further forward to make the plane into a taildragger.



That's the end of the first day.  Next I will remove the MonoKote from the wing and the tail feathers, then start figuring out what to do next.


Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Blog or vBlog?

I haven't been writing much. Part of the reason for that is that I haven't been flying much. Odd spring weather has prevailed, and accidents of timing that find me with other obligations on the relatively few good weather days have had a lot to do with it.

But....

I've been trying to get better at recording the few flights that I've had. The GoPro in particular has been a tough nut to crack. It starts in the wrong mode (time lapse?? Why would I want time lapse??), it routinely shuts itself down in flight, and my practice of simply turning off the master switch while it's still recording seems to damage the recording. Even on the rare occasions where it behaves flawlessly, I find that I've forgotten something like plugging in the sound cable.
A video blog or video log, usually shortened to vlog*, is a form of blog for which the medium is video, and is a form of web television. Vlog entries often combine embedded video (or a video link) with supporting text, images, and other metadata. Entries can be recorded in one take or cut into multiple parts. The vlog category is popular on YouTube.
I usually do get at least some useful video, though, but I can't imagine anyone being interested enough (frankly, the interest in the videos themselves baffles me, but YouTube folk seem to like them) to sit through half an hour of cruise flight. That, and the editing out of indecorous words and sentiments (in the most recent video, I correctly identified a Unicom abuser as an "idiot") takes a lot of time. This is time that had formerly been devoted to writing.

* vBlog is far more commonly used than 'vlog' in my experience

 --- [End Of Supporting Text and Metadata]


I hope to arrive at a more equitable balance between the two at some point, but for now you will have to be (well, you don't really have to be - it's just a forceful suggestion) satisfied with the videos.





And a little off topic:

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Traveling as a Group

There are a lot of benefits accrued through the building of an airplane, and one of the longer lasting is the friendships built in concert with the plane itself. In the case of any airplane in the Van's Aircraft fleet, this is even more common due to the popularity of the designs. In my case, I was building an RV-12, which is probably the fastest selling model in the fleet.

The first co-builder to emerge was Kyle; he and his father had been considering building a twelve and asked if they could stop by one evening to see if it appeared to be something achievable for them. I was always willing to have people stop by, although a cold winter night with temperatures in the twenties wasn't the most conducive environment. It turned out well - I was at a stage that was going to require a few hundred rivets to be pulled, and that is a very easy thing to teach. I showed them how to use the pneumatic puller, then I mostly just sat in front of the propane heater (which I had taken to calling "The Cone of Comfort") while they riveted the skins onto the entire tail cone. 

Tom Sawyer has nothing on me when it comes to getting other people to do my  work.

Having enjoyed the always riveting experience of, well... riveting, they ordered a kit soon after that and were actually done with their build and in the air long before I was.

The second to show was Jan. He was one of those guys that already had a plane at the airport, but was intrigued by the twelve. He wasn't all that interested in building one, but he liked the economics of flying at 115-ish knots with a fuel burn less than six gallons per hour. He eventually came across a partially completed kit which be bought. My plane was done by then, so we paired up for the next 18 months in getting his plane finished, with an occasional assist from Kyle.

Now that we all three have our own airplanes to fly, it's a simple matter to get the group together for day trips. The most recent trip was to a small town on the eastern side of Ohio. Cambridge is near a county airport (KCDI) that has at least one courtesy car, and Kyle knew of a fine diner in town. Knowing my affinity for diners, he thought (correctly) that it would be a nice place to go for lunch.

With Jan and I being co-located, we had the option of pairing up in one or the other of our planes, but that would have defeated the purpose - flying out in loose formation would be a lot more fun. Kyle would just meet us at the airport.

The trip was uneventful and we were soon headed out the door of the FBO in search of the courtesy car. As with many of Ohio's county airports, KCDI has a retired military bird on a pedestal out front.  


Here's the line-up of RV-12s - quite the disparity in paint designs, eh?




If you ever find yourself at KCDI with the keys to a courtesy car in hand, and those keys fit anything other than the black Vibe, and especially if they fit the silver mini-van, go back inside and get the other keys. We were halfway downtown when we got called back to the airport to exchange cars. Apparently the van isn't road worthy; we hadn't noticed anything amiss, but truth be told with your typical airport courtesy car it can be hard to tell the difference. 

The Vibe was pretty nice, though,


The focal point of downtown Cambridge is the clock tower sitting atop what I guessed to be the district courthouse:





Our lunch destination was Theo's Restaurant, which quite gratifyingly had exactly the kind of menu items you hope to see in a family-owned diner.



I opted for the Cabbage Rolls, which I found to be quite satisfying.


Just across the street in an antique shop called The Penny Corner, probably due to to fact that the building began life as a JC Penney store.

I'm always on the hunt for quirky things and this slumbering cat caught my eye; I couldn't figure out it was being marketed as food or as an appliance.


I would have never thought of crafting a fish out of a bull's horn.


Honest truth, I momentarily thought the title of this book was "The Art of the Comb-over," probably because I'm of the age where that kind of scalp coverage strategy is becoming personally pertinent.


Very close by the antique store was a small art gallery, where we found an artist at work. Or evidence thereof, more accurately.



This store front caught my eye as we walked by - they might want to consider either a name change, or a somewhat more cohesive product mix.


Back at the (presumed) courthouse, I took a closer look at the artillery piece located in the front lawn.


Specifically, I couldn't help noticing the tires on the US--made gun: Vorwerk is a German company.

Ironic, that.


Our 2015 winter was relatively benign, but it's still quite refreshing to see the colors coming back into the trees.


This truly was the classic car dealer - the showroom was on the first floor of one of the buildings downtown - no mega lots here!


The next stop was at the local bakery.


The original plan was to fly back home, but KCDI is only 11nm from I10, the county airport for Noble County, Ohio. It's an airport in a beautiful location - the runway sits between the two prongs of a lake. It's just a short walk from the runway down to the lake.  The weather was gorgeous, so... why not?

I've never understood this sign - if this made any sense, we wouldn't fly over an altitude of 10' - if the first 10' doesn't get ya, the other 3,490' won't either.



The departure out of I10 was the opposite of uneventful. Just after rotation, the Rotax 912 that powers my RV-12 started running rough, and the unmistakable smell of gasoline started emanating from the other side of the firewall. I knew a number of things immediately:

  - this was indicative of a carburetor float no longer floating
  - there were no suitable areas in front of me to land on should the engine pack it in for the day
  - even partial power is better than no power, and the roughness had pretty much gone away anyway,
  - so the most expedient thing to do was to fly the pattern back to the departure runway.

Once safely back on the ramp, I got out my emergency tools and Tom Sawyer-ed Kyle into removing the top cowl.

Old habits die hard.


The offending carb was easy to find - it incriminated itself by spraying gas out of its overflow tube.


The carbs are due to be disassembled and inspected at 200 hours and my bird was clocking in at just over 181 hours at this point, so it occurred to us that the problem was likely to be a little bit of stickiness on one of the floats. Removing the floats and cleaning them off a bit was easily accomplished and the ensuing engine run-up indicated that the problem was solved, at least for now.

The return flight was again uneventful, but it looks like that 200 hour inspection is going to happen 18 hours early.


It helped a great deal to have Kyle there with me - had we not been able to diagnose and fix the problem, having a ride home sure would have come in handy!

Also, this served to prove yet again that travelling in groups can have enormous benefits.