Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Independence Day break

The Production Floor at Schmetterling Aviation was open today for the first time since the traditional July 4th break.

Tradition since 2011, anyway.

Being the eco-friendly, free range, family-oriented type of corporation that we are, the entire production staff took the holiday upon which we collectively celebrate the freedoms that were won for us when our courageous ancestors fought with their very lives to break the shackles forced upon us by an over-bearing government by exercising our inalienable right to bear arms. And to light off fireworks, too, even though that is a (somewhat ironically) illegal way to celebrate freedom from an over-powerful government, when you think about it.

Being as we're all family-friendly and all, the Schmetterling executive leadership invited one of the organization's most valued employees to come along, and to bring along his lovely wife as well. And so it was that Cadillac Pete, Senior Manager of Jobs that I Don't Want to Do, and his wife Красивая женщина (everyone gets a blog name...) joined me in a ride over the hills and through the woods to do some shooting at The Farm.

Now it would seem that the courteous thing to do would be a "Ladies First" ordering of things, but one has to consider the extreme effort that goes into warming up the shotgun. Also, as the most experienced shooter, it was incumbent upon myself to provide an adequate demonstration on how it's done. And so it was that I went first. Makes sense, right?


Well, it worked out pretty well. For you long-time readers that still remember how bad I was when I first started trying to hit those elusive little clay birds with a piddling 24" spread of speeding lead pellets (It sounds easy when I say it that way, I suppose), you'll be thrilled to learn that I've improved. In fact, I think it hit 85-90% of the ones I shot at. That was fun! And it was instructive, too. Having never fired a shotgun at all, much less at a moving target, how else would you explain the fact that Красивая женщина hit the very first clay she shot at!

We can shoot trap down in the lower field near our campground, but when we decided to put away the shotgun and do some pistol shooting we had to move up to the rifle range adjacent to our sister business, 8150 Automotive Repair and Race Team. My brother is the sole proprietor and mechanic of both the auto repair and racing divisions, and the driver for the race team. One of his main sponsors is, of course, Schmetterling Aviation. It's always fun to visit the shop to see how things are going during the heat of the racing season.

Things are going well this year, but it has not always been thus. Each significant incident with The Wall at KilKare Raceway is commemorated with a new entry on the Wall of Pain.

This is all that's left of last year's car:

The shooting trip was great fun and a good time was had by all.

The following day presented perfect weather for another company event: the Schmetterling Senior Management Retreat. This year the CEO and I would take the company plane on a day trip to Put-in-Bay (3W2) on South Bass Island, Ohio. Now, I wouldn't like to see a fine corporation like Schmetterling Aviation get unfairly included in the latest group of capitalistic villains to be targeted for vilification, so I want to stress that Schmetterling's corporate airplane is bought and paid for, and thus has no need for a depreciation schedule, accelerated or not, that could possibly result in Tiny Tim losing his crutches or The Little Old Lady being evicted from her shoe. Why, the very last thing we would want would be for the good, solid name "Schmetterling" to be in any way associated with the deplorable act of pushing Granny and her wheelchair over a cliff.


Oh, well.... yes. We do burn leaded fuel. Thanks for asking.

Oh look! A Squirrel!

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As long as I was dead-heading the plane out to corporate HQ, I didn't see any harm in having my younger sister tag along. She could help with the piloting duties (by which I mean polishing the pure teak interior and the 24k flush handles in the loo) in order to offset the incremental cost of carrying another passenger. Us not wanting to get in dutch (can you still say that? Or is it not PC anymore?) with the SEC and all.

She's a good sport; she didn't get upset when, right after I had taxied up to the airport terminal to drop her off and pick up the CEO, I quipped, "Out with the old, in with the older!" (See also: insensitivity.) She also showed immense patience with me later in the day when she found out that she was still uncomfortably hot while driving home from Bolton Field after our half hour flight in the bumpy, 91 degree air because I had turned her seat warmer on HIGH as a joke.

Hey, it seemed funny at the time!

The flight up north to the island was glass smooth and very scenic under cloudless skies. It took roughly an hour due to the decreased cruising speed I'm using in light of $5.80/gallon gas. There was a light breeze out of the south which necessitated a left downwind to runway 21. That's nice because it offers a point & shoot photo opportunity while on downwind. Because I am busy setting up for a landing on the short-ish runway, I can't do any more with the camera than turn it on and hold down the button, hoping that at least one shot will turn out okay.

Having survived a simply atrocious landing whose only salutary feature was making the turn off at the first taxiway, we walked down south to a part of the island most people don't go to. Part of the fun of the trip was presenting an opportunity for the land-locked Ohio horseman to get a look at a large body of water and to enjoy the relaxing sounds of water diligently at work eating away at an island lakefront.

Oh, and there's a light house too.

It's about a half mile walk past an incongruous mix of a crowded and hectic ferry port, small businesses renting the ubiquitous island golf carts and bicycles, and rustic scenery.

The lighthouse is like a breath of fresh air after the walk.

Well, drop the 'like.' It is literally a breath of fresh air.

If I didn't have an airplane, I would want a boat like this one.

Eh, who am I kidding?? Even with an airplane I'd like to have a boat like that one.

Rather than walk all the way from the southern ferry port to the town of Put-in-Bay on the northern end of the island, we took the bus. Capt. Buck was in fine fettle, positively jolly that he could speed north unencumbered by any worries of being pulled over by the police; they were all busy escorting a funeral. I commended him on his ability to see the silver lining in just about any cloud.

We were just going up to town to have lunch, but it doesn't take long to realize why people spend hours driving to the mainland ports, and then wait hours longer for a ferry rather than do what I do and fly in. It's so they can spend the night. Why do they want to spend the night? Well, because the town of Put-in-Bay is just one big collection of bars.

Some have been there for ages and define the former appeal of the island.

Some of the newer establishments look as if they were brought in on the winds of a tropical storm.

Others wanted a more traditional look, but simply selected the wrong tradition.

Fortunately the large public square is still in place right on the waterfront. Our lunch destination was close by.

The walleye sandwich was great!

The summer break had to come to and end, though, and this morning found Your's Truly and Cadillac Pete right back at work. Today we split up and worked on separate projects. Pete, as his official title would suggest, got the job that I didn't want to do. He would be installing the candle sticks. I've had enough experience with trying to get those nuts, bolts, and washers fit into very tight quarters to know that I wanted the other job: assembling the little pushrod that will fit down inside the flap handle.

Building up the pushrod required match drilling a tube to mate with an aluminum bracket that supports the little tabs that will press against the return spring in the tube. That was a matter of drawing a center line and measuring the depth that the tube needed to go into the bracket. Well, that and clamping and drilling and riveting...

The flap handle will have a curved, notched plate thrust through a slot carved into its back. This plate will provide the "stops" for the three available flap positions. That plate needed to be mounted onto a bigger, stronger plate that would in turn be mounted in the fuselage.

I could have squeezed the rivets, but it has been a long time since I have used my "real" rivet gun. I thought it would be fun to get it out and drive a few rivets for a change.

Meanwhile, Pete had to take a break from cursing the miner that had pulled the Bauxite out of the earth to create the aluminum that was eventually formed into a tubular shape with the sole purpose of giving him a part that would be just shy of impossible to install in an airplane to put the thumb knob on the flap rod that I had set aside as soon as it became difficult. He seems to have regained his composure quite quickly after being presented by a slightly less almost impossible job.

I went ahead with the fun and interesting (no, seriously! This is a super important part!) job of cutting a teflon-ish block into four equal lengths. These little blocks will sandwich the metal tabs protruding out of the root ends of the flaperons. The candle sticks that Pete had installed will push against a horn on the other end of the tubes that host these little blocks.  All of this combines to provide the ability to control the airplane about its longitudinal axis, which is to say "make it turn."

The first step is to match drill the blocks while they are clamped in place on the rod.

The next step is to drill out the holes in the blocks with a #12 bit, mix up a batch of epoxy and glue the blocks into place, and then rivet the blocks while a 1/8" piece of scrap is used to preserve the proper gap between the blocks.

I read that as "match drill, rivet in place."

I amended that to "match drill, rivet in place, drill rivets back out, drill out the holes with a #12 bit, etc..."

Meanwhile, Pete had read ahead into section 44 in preparation of installing the autopilot servos. It didn't take him long to be right back to cursing out that poor Bauxite miner: installing the roll-axis autopilot pushrod requires the removal of two of the bolts that he had just spent an hour installing. This as known as the "What goes on, must come off" syndrome. It is a malady well-known to aircraft builders throughout history. A little known fact is that Wilbur Wright was once mistakenly diagnosed with Tourette's Syndrome after having been overheard installing a control rod in the Wright Flyer*.

While that mighty struggle was going on, I busied myself by watching the paint dry on the flap position latching thingy.

Hey, someone had to do it!

* This might not be true. But you did read it on the internet, so feel free to use it as a rock solid fact anyway.

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