Monday, June 18, 2012

The Consultant

I've heard consultants described as "people that can tell you eighty-five ways to make love to a women, but don't actually know any women to make love to." That's as may be, but there is something to be said for a person that not only has the the experience and knowledge to get things done but is unburdened by the various restrictions, concerns, or respect for "sacred cows" that plague the internal worker.

And thus it is that Kyle, Business Manager and Album Cover Artist for The Jackson Two, came to spend a morning working at Schmetterling Aviation.

The canopy has been sitting down in the basement gathering dust, along with seven or eight generations of small spiders, for the winter and most of the spring. I figured it was about time that it got re-attached to the airplane, but that would require some trimming of the forward fiberglass areas, a job that sounded somewhat complex given the pains that others had gone to to describe the process. I figured reading was harder work than standing around watching Kyle to it, so I put him to work.

What can I say? I just have a natural talent for management.

That said, I do like working with the Dremel when it comes to making small adjustments to the shape of things, so I deigned to perform a little hands-on work myself.

I also took the easy side when it came time to put the canopy on the plane. Kyle got stuck with the side that has the reluctant washers.

When I got inside to test the operation of the latch, I ended up getting stuck again. The latch wouldn't come back over the little ledge of the Teflon piece designed to hold it in place, but I have been reluctant to keep filing more and more of it away for fear of ruining it and having to buy a new one. Consultants, on the other hand, have no such fear at all.

They do, however, get stuck inside too. But I'm nothing if not considerate of the comfort of my workers; I set up a fan for him. Not that a whole lot of air gets through those tiny vents, but believe me, it was better than nothing.

In much the same way it is for many of the wondrous things I do, I make management look easy. Kyle soon decided that he too would make a good manager. That left just Pete to do the work. He's still plugging away at the tail cone, but it's looking very, very good.

I eventually got bored with watching Kyle watch Pete work, so I started on another job that I've been putting off. Van's sent out a service bulletin on the fuel tank after someone managed to land an RV-12 so hard that the fuel tank ruptured. That's most decidedly not a good thing when you are sharing the cockpit with said fuel tank. If nothing else, all that gas sloshing around is bound to stain something, thus incurring the wrath of the Domestic Goddess at home.

To alleviate the problem, Van's redesigned the way that the tank gets clamped into the airplane, basically by weakening the bolts. Essentially, they replaced fungible bolts with frangible bolts. I didn't have the installation instructions handy, but the modern shop manager doesn't let trivialities like that stop him. Modern technology was brought to bear.

I was reluctant to drill into the fuel tank that I paid someone a whole bunch of money to put together for me, but it seems to have turned out alright.

I haven't leak tested it, but it looks like it should hold okay.

There doesn't seem to be a lot of science that goes into creating frangibility. A drill seems to do the trick.

That job finished, I decided to accomplish a "stretch goal," which is management-speak for "a pain in the ass job that neither of us believe you will actually do." I have a ton of those lying fallow at the remunerative job, so I know of what I speak.

I have been putting off the trimming of the cabin heat cable because step 1 is to remove the cable entirely from its sheath. I knew intuitively that the removal aspect of that task was going to be easy; it was the replacing it that would surely be the problem. There was no way that wire was going to want to go back in. Having no choice, I dutifully removed most, but not all, of the wire. After all, the only point of removing it at all was just to avoid cutting it too short accidentally when cutting the excess length from the sheath, so there was no reason to take it all the way out.

As predicted, pushing the wire back in very quickly ran into insurmountable resistance. The only way to get the wire back in was to straighten the sheath, which meant removing it from the cushion clamps that hold it in place. The installation of those clamps was a bitterly irritating job stretch goal that still lives fresh in my memory, so I was more than a little reluctant to do it, but there was no choice.

The cut was made easily enough and the wire went right back in once the sheath was released from bondage, but getting it back through the cushion clamps?

I'd rather not talk about that.

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