Thursday, February 17, 2011


Co-pilot Egg has been helping me now and then with the seemingly interminable task of riveting wing skins onto the skeleton. I was curious at first as to why she was demonstrating this new-found but eminently-welcome interest in the finer points of aircraft building. Well, as it turns out, she seems to feel that she has something to prove.

Having recently (and suddenly) discovered a latent interest in the theater arts, she has volunteered to work as a member of the stage crew for the spring play at her high school. She has been working on a team that is designing and constructing the backgrounds and props for the stage. Apparently there was an incident involving one of the freshmen on the team. You may remember the vast differential in status between a high school junior and a freshman, but if you don't, let's just say that Egg would sooner receive criticism from a village idiot, or her father should no such idiot be available.

The incident involved the drilling of a hole using a power drill. One would think that the act of drilling a hole with a power drill would as uncontroversial as can be, but something in the way young Egg was doing it drew a caustic response from the aforementioned freshman. Cowering in the ensuing angry stare from an enraged Egg, the offending freshman decided that it was in the best interest of his personal safety (survival?) to offer a conciliatory statement:

"Don't worry, you'll learn how to drill someday."

So, yeah, she's suddenly interested in helping build an airplane. As a type of resume material, I suppose, in the event of another pithy observation from a lesser being. "Hey, I'm building an airplane, you know," she'll likely answer.

I'm happy to have the help, though, and no more so than tonight when we would need to flip the wing over after finishing the last of the bottom skins. I had already postponed the job for a night because she wasn't up to it last night after a painful workout in her weight lifting class (I'm not making that up - they disguised it under the benign sounding "Lifetime Fitness" in the course schedule), so I really wanted to get it done tonight. She wasn't in the mood, though, or so it appeared by the mopey way she dragged herself out of the house and into the car. I've seen her go into the dentist's office with more enthusiasm.

I make concessions for this kind of moodiness. She's of the age where much of her day-to-day attitude is driven by the vast flowing river of hormones running through her body. I've often said that I could stick a tap in her forehead like they do with maple trees in Vermont and make Moody Syrup with the sap. In any event, we arrived at the hangar in a bleak and funereal mood.

An hour later the wing was skinned. And, as I have often found out myself, the therapeutic nature of the work had completely shifted her outlook. There's just something about pulling rivets with the pneumatic rivet puller that can improve anyone's mood. Above and beyong that, though, was the satisfaction she found in the act of preventing me from making a horrible mistake.

As she was placing rivets in the row of holes where the edge of the middle skin overlaps the inner edge of the outer skin, she came to a hole that didn't seem to be a hole. She could see the two holes from the skins, but there was nothing but solid aluminum where the rib should be. With her recent focus on drills, her first inclination was to grab a drill and create a hole where none existed, but she thought that it was unlikely that at this stage in building the plane that we had found a hole that Van's had forgotten to drill for us.

I crawled underneath the wing to see what was wrong.

Oh my!! How in the world had I missed that when I was clecoing the skin on! It's not even in the same zip code! Fortunately no rivets had been pulled and no new holes had been drilled so it was an easy fix. We were soon done.


In her recently (and suddenly) discovered latent interest in quality control, she found a rivet that didn't seem to meet her equally new high riveting standards.

I took a look at it. It seemed fine to me.

She disagreed, but reluctantly deferred to my judgement.

As I busied myself with getting the leading edge of the skins clecoed onto the top of the wing to keep them from flopping around, I learned a lesson on the topic of not leaving the Sharpie marker lying around.

(Cabot is a young Boxer/Black Lab mix who, due to a miscommunication with the vet, was being egregiously overfed to the detriment of his boyish figure)

By the time we got home, she was in a great mood, albeit quite hungry. And I was again impressed with the amazing mood enhancement that can result from a good night of airplane building.


Anonymous said...


Hugo said...

Dave, maybe she is thinking that someday she'll be able to say, "Hey! I helped build this thing, so you'd BETTER let me take lessons in it!"...?

Rick Lee said...

A good story. The graffiti made me laugh.

Hendrick Adventures said...

What a great experience, building an airplane with your Dad (Daughter)! Enjoy this time like no other. I may ask my 86 year old Mom to pull some rivits to cheer her up in her senior moments.

Mike Norton said...

Dave, What a great story. I know I smile for a week or two when my 15 year old son wants to actually help me with something airplane related or otherwise. It seem they get to a stage where there are more fun things to do then spend time with Dad. So sad!!!!

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