Sunday, October 14, 2012

Getting Caught Up - The Omnibus Edition

So, yeah, I haven't written for awhile. I'm chock full of excuses for it, though.

Starting at the beginning, I would have to say that it took nearly a full week to recover from the Germany trip.  Partially it was simply a matter of catching up on sleep. I did a little napkin arithmetic (which means I made a wild guess) and figure that I slept a total of no more than 12 hours in a 120 hour period, and followed that up by getting up in the morning and going to work at the data ranch after getting home and to bed well after midnight. Work, of course, had piled up to an astonishing degree in my absence - catching up on email alone took most of the first day back.

But oh, was it ever worth it!

When I wasn't working for money, I was working on my writing responsibilities. I had to write the trip report for you guys, then had to write the "official" version. Six hours to write here, another two for the game site. While I was gone, yet another game came in for review so I've spent a good three or four hours playing with it and will soon have to write another article.  It never ends.

Halfway though all of that, I also had some family obligations to take care of. Back before I left I went through one of my brief episodes wherein I feel like I really ought to make some effort at being a better person. Those events are thankfully rare, but when I get deeply into one of them there's no telling what I'll do. This time around I agreed to take my nephew, who seems to have become interested in aviation in a big way, to the Air Force Museum over at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. Truth be told, I really like going there and thought it would be nice to visit a couple of my old flames from my Air Force years. There was that, but it's also the case that I'm always ready to spend time with someone that has no choice to endure my constant prattle about this or that particular airplane. This is quite a bit at odds with the theory the nephew came up with to explain my sudden burst of interest in doing nice things: he thought that I must be missing Co-pilot Egg and that I was simply pining for spending time with a teenager. Imagine that!

I think his favorite part of the outing was riding in the Mercedes SLK (it actually got warm enough to drive with the top down!), but a close second had to be the time that he got to sit in the F-16 cockpit:

His folks are either bringing him up right, or my carefully crafted image as the least avuncular uncle in the world is still well and truly in place: he asked my permission to push buttons in the cockpit! Keep in mind that this is a stand-alone display - it's not actually attached to an airplane so there is no possibility that any of those switches are functional in any way. I was even more impressed when we were eating lunch and he asked me if I minded if he took a minute to text his mom. And here I was thinking that no one taught their kids manners anymore!  

And what about my old flames? Doing well, thanks for asking. Here is one of the first airplanes that I ever worked on. I know for a fact that I worked on this specific airplane, but I don't know if it was truly The First.

It even had a CAPRE radar nose on it; that's what my specialty was. The other two choices would have been an OBC camera nose or a ballast nose. 

I worked on the RCD as well, and I'm here to tell you, the 60 second display lag was the least of the problems, It really had one and only one problem: we could never get them to work.

As you would expect, it was a fascinating plane to work on, but I eventually became bored. The problem was that our shop was massively over-staffed to support a two flights per day schedule. And I don't mean each plane flew twice a day, I mean there were only two flights a day!  Boring!!  I volunteered for any assignment in the world, which at the time was the same as tattooing SEND ME TO KOREA on your forehead. The year in Korea gave me the right to choose my own follow-on assignment, which is how I came to spend two years in... 

wait for it.... 


Around and around we go, eh?

In both Korea and Germany I worked on RF-4C tactical reconnaissance jets (as opposed to the strategic reconnaissance SR-71 shown above) which provided the intense, full-immersion work that I was looking for. This is not one of the airplanes that I worked on, or at least I think it wasn't, but it is a representative sample.

Work on the -12 has slowed considerably as I've attempted to get back into my normal routine. There are also the questions surrounding the landing gear to deal with. Van's has been sending a veritable flood of Service Bulletins (well, two or three, but that's a lot relative to normal) because some of the completed planes that have been flying for awhile are exhibiting some issues with the landing gear. The problems are having to do with some of the bolts loosening up over time. Some got loose enough that they moved around and caused wrinkles in the side skin. There's more to it than this brief synopsis, but the upshot is that the most recent communication has put me in wait-and-see mode. It was basically a "there is something coming, so get ready for it" type of communication.

That said, there are always little jobs to do. For example, I thought I'd go ahead and put in the back window. But before I could do that, I had to finish installing the fuel tank. More specifically, I had to fit the filling tube. But before I could do that, I had to drill a vent hole in the gas cap. And before I could do that, I had to take the cap apart.

Then I could drill the vent hole in the cap.

And then I could bend the flange of the filler tube to fit the curvature of the skin. Once that was done, I had to create a seal out of Pro-Seal. That seal will act as a kind of gasket between the filler tube flange and the side skin of the plane. Because I will want to be able to remove the filler tube, I first had to smear wax on the skin to ensure that the sealant wouldn't stick.

Then I could lay on the sealant...

... and screw the flange to the side skin.

That took so long that Pete and I never got around to putting in the window. A few days later I tried to do it by myself. As you'd expect, it didn't go all that well. It's actually kind of a trick to get the window to fit into place without an extra set of hands to help hold it in on one side while screws get put in on the other side. I did eventually get it into place, but ham-handedly broke off the head of a screw. Removing the orphaned stub of screw would require removing the window, and I was in no mood to do that and go through the whole process of trying to install it by myself again.

And that brings us to today. Pete was available to help with the window again. But before the window could go in, it had to be removed. As it was being removed, I noticed that some of the paint had flaked off of the roll bar again. So before the window could go back in, the roll bar would have to be painted. Not wanting to get over-spray on the fuel tank, it would have to be removed. It had to come out anyway since I had yet to finish the wiring in the tail cone, so out it came. And that's when I crawled into the hellhole and started cleaning up the wiring.

That's a very sharp edge I'm lying on. In fact, I ended up with so many cut-like impressions on my wrists that I'm going to have to stay out of sight of any psychiatrists for a few days lest they lock me up and put me on suicide watch.

My back is going to ache for days after this.

But it sure looks much nicer!

And then we put the window back in. It was a non-event this time around. I really should have waited for Pete's help from the get-go.

That left the throttle and choke cables to be installed. Or at least more installed. I already had them through the panel, but I had stopped when I found that I was going to have to install cushioned clamps (I hate, hate, HATE cushioned clamps) under the avionics shelf. We decided to forego that pleasure again and work on the front side of the firewall where we would be.... installing cushioned clamps.


And these were to be much worse that the ones under the avionics shelf: these would be the dreaded "install two clamps together" type. I've had to do these a couple of times before and it has always been terribly difficult. Pete and I pulled out all of the magic tricks: one clamp held shut with forceps, the other with a length of safety wire. Pete had to talk me into using the safety wire - I've been reluctant to use it since the time where it ended up being harder to remove the wire than it had been to install the clamp.

Of course, this time the wire came right off and I ended up looking like a big cry baby. Eh, I don't care. It's true often enough that I'm fine with it.

Attaching the end of the throttle cable to the throttle arm brought one of those Van's Mystery Moments that we've grown to know and not-quite-love.  Here's a fancy little fitting on the throttle cable bracket:

Here's the picture from the manual, showing no such fitting, and containing no directions to guide our decision as to what to do with it:

Picture, thousand words, yada yada yada. We removed it and put it away somewhere.

And then, another mystery. Yippee! A twofer!  The little thingy shown on the cable is a stop nut kind of thing called a CT-00101, and it is supposed to keep a panicked pilot from yanking the throttle cable too hard and damaging the throttle arm. The picture in the book says it is "included with the throttle cable." The thing is, it wasn't.

Pete hunted around in the paper bags and found something that looked like it would fit the bill:

Unfortunately, that ended up being a CT-00100, and it is needed to hold the choke cable to the choke control are.  That ended up being somewhat of a pain to install. Getting the cable routed to where it needed to go through the hole in the CT-00100 resulted in a little fraying at the end. The fit of the cable through the hole was too tight to allow for the frayed cable to go through, so I had to cut it off. I put a piece of shrink wrap on the cable to keep it from fraying again when I cut it, but it did anyway. After some time hemming and hawing about some other way of doing it, I decided to just try again.

Second time was the charm. It worked!

I still don't know what I'm going to do about the CT-00101, though.

But things are really starting to look good!

I hope the work that I'm going to have to do on the landing gear doesn't set us too far back.

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