Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Douglas Corrigan

Apropos of nothing in particular, I had occasion to look up the details regarding one Mr. Douglas Corrigan today. My memory had it that he was famous for having flown out of New York and ending up in Ireland accidentally, having intended instead to fly to California. To his dying day he maintained that he had simply flown the wrong way, earning him the immortal sobriquet Douglas "Wrong Way" Corrigan. Here's what Wiki has to say in the introductory synopsis:

Douglas Corrigan (January 22, 1907 – December 9, 1995) was an American aviator born in Galveston, Texas. He was nicknamed "Wrong Way" in 1938. After a transcontinental flight from Long Beach, California, to New York, he flew from Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn, New York, to Ireland, though his flight plan was filed to return to Long Beach. He claimed his unauthorized flight was due to a navigational error, caused by heavy cloud cover that obscured landmarks and low-light conditions, causing him to misread his compass. However, he was a skilled aircraft mechanic (he was one of the builders of Charles Lindbergh's Spirit of St. Louis) and had made several modifications to his own plane, preparing it for his transatlantic flight. He had been denied permission to make a nonstop flight from New York to Ireland, and his "navigational error" was seen as deliberate. Nevertheless, he never publicly admitted to having flown to Ireland intentionally.
Reading that, it sounds as if there was no accident involved and the truth of the matter was that Mr. Wrong Way was well aware of his direction. Interesting story, though.

I've been lazing about the house the last few nights and haven't gotten much done on the airplane. I've noticed that my interest in working at the hangar waxes and wains depending on what I've been doing at the paying job. On those days when I have to wear my business-side hat and participate in seemingly interminable meetings during which I participate in scintillating debates such as what something should be named, I can't wait to get out to the shop to do some tangible work. It's not that those meetings aren't important, it's just that my nominations for names are never chosen. I suppose it could have something to do with the uncanny propensity I have for suggesting names that acronymize poorly (Claims Reconciliation Accounting Process and Bidirectional Asynchronous Load Leveling System come to mind), or it could just be bad luck. You be the judge.

In contrast, on the days when I wear my technical genius hat and spend hours that fly by like minutes building new capabilities into my suite of software applications, I come home tired and drained, wanting nothing more than to slouch through the remainder of the day. This week I've been in full-on invent mode, cranking out amazing new features such as the ability to generate a catalog report and automatically fax a copy to 2,724 individual fax numbers at the press of a single button on the screen. Pretty slick, that, and well received by my co-workers, but when all is said and done it leaves me as an empty husk driving home on autopilot in hopes of a relaxing evening spent vegging in a chair.

It wears on me, though, this laying about. I feel guilty about it. I have a lot of things needing done, and one of the biggest is finishing this airplane in less that a decade. I thought that tonight I'd go out and do some simple work in preparation for riveting the side skins on. Each skin has ten nutplates that needed to be dimpled and riveted in. That seemed an easy task and it would be just gratifying enough to alleviate the creeping guilt I've felt washing over me for the last few days.

I had forgotten that the nut plates used the #3 size blind rivets that I hate so much. They seem like they should be incredibly simple to put in, and in most ways they are. It's just that they have a very irritating habit of breaking off in the rivet puller now and again. Tonight it was three out of twenty.

As usual, I cut them off with a pair of wire cutters and ground the remaining stub of mandrel off with the ScotchBrite wheel. With that done, I could hang the longeron and skin back on the fuselage to see how it looked. Having done that, I thought I'd also test the fit of the forward upper firewall section again to see if my adjustments had worked.

It looked good on the left side and I thought I'd go ahead and put the right side on just long enough to see if there would be more longeron work to do before installing its nutplates and clecoing it in position for riveting.

Ah, now you see why I wanted to look up the biography of one Mr. Douglas "Wrong Way" Corrigan.


I blame Rust-Oleum. I remember being pretty torqued off at them at the time. It'll be just my luck that the one thing they got right was to formulate a paint that can't be removed.

Amazing, isn't it? As careful as I was to mark the skins to avoid exactly this kind of mistake, I had gone ahead and done it anyway. I swear, I'd be better off just flipping a coin rather than trying to keep track of things with a Sharpie marker. Still, how could I have messed this up? Well, there's your answer. I marked it wrong, and then trusted myself.

I started the sure-to-be-lengthy-and-infuriating process of stripping off the paint, but I very quickly realized that I must have cut my finger when moving the side skins around. The burn of paint thinner getting in my cut was the last straw. I'm back in vegetative mode for the foreseeable future.

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