Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Taking the "ail" out of "aileron" and other good stuff

First, let's take a look at a little airport that can, and does.

Williston, Florida, is a little town located southwest of Gainesville and northwest of Ocala. They have lots of nice, rolling land there which is great for growing crops, cattle, horses and families. They also have an airport, left over from World War II when the government paved a lot of Florida for training bases and antisubmarine patrols. X60 is the identifier.

The city fathers and mothers decided that the airport would be great for growing pine trees and today the renewable pine tree stands pay a handsome dividend for the city. Fortunately, the city Fs and Ms also decided to keep the runways and have improved upon the airport mightily over the past year. New hangars, a new FBO building with all the bells and whistles, a good maintenance shop and a terrific interior shop are all located on the property. I had the interior of my Bonanza done there last year and also had new windows installed by the maintenance shop.

All the improvements will be showcased on March 27, 2010, at the Williston Airport Fly Festival. Click on the picture to get a larger, more readable copy.

I had an opportunity to stop in on my way from home base to North Carolina last week and lo and behold the new airport restaurant is open! While the city owned FBO pumped some fairly priced fuel (3.89 on March 19th), I had some breakfast ....

Carol Bibby (picture below) has a real gem of a place ... they're open for breakfast and lunch every day from 6am-4pm and Friday night they stay open for dinner until 9pm. It's about 200 feet from the FBO, so it's an easy stroll and if the weather is right and you're so inclined you can eat under the outside cover and watch airplanes or spin yarns or whatever.

Here's that picture of Carol. I told her my vast readership would make her famous.


When I bought the Bonanza, the right aileron was warped. I knew it at the time ... the airplane flew well enough with it like that but it was a condition I wanted to fix down the road. I began looking around for a replacement last year and finally settled on a rebuilt part through a company I had done business with in the past - Select Airparts of Weyers Cave VA. Select is proof positive of the notion that if you do good work and treat people fairly you can succeed in business even from the boondocks. Long story short, Jay shipped my replacement and Jeff painted and installed it and now I have an airplane that is more stable and a tick or three faster due to drag elimination.

One thing fixed, a few more to go ...

I'm finally in a hangar at my home base of Clearwater Airpark (FL). The hangar is one of the "old ones" that the city relocated from the other side of the field when they found out that golf courses are more popular with politicians than airports. We have golf balls bouncing on the runway all the time (grrrr), but God bless rust - that's the glue that binds these tin boxes together. Long story short - the maintenance on these hangers is nonexistent so the hangar tenants do what we can to try to keep all the parts in alignment. Any attempt to refurbish is promptly rebuffed but we soldier on, fixing here, patching there. On the plus side, it's a great place for hanging out with other dispossessed souls, tinkering with flying machines, etc, and as a side benefit it keeps the airplane out of the Florida sun and wind, which we get a lot of here by the Gulf coast.

One bugaboo I have is that the interior walls of these "T" hangars don't go all the way to the roof, leaving quite a space at the top open for carrying paint overspray, dust, motes of rust, etc from one neighbor to another. A lot of the tenants have closed off these openings in years gone by - mine hasn't been updated, so I'm in the process of doing that, painting the metal walls and eventually will seal the old asphalt floor. The city actually gave me 10 gallons of sealer but a neighbor who has refurbed three of these hangars says that won't go far. (So that's my first rant in a long time and I feel better now.)


The apron to my new/old hangar slopes a little so that I have to enlist help when pushing the airplane in by hand. There had to be a better way, so I channeled my farmer friend Leland from North Carolina and began cogitating upon the problem and possible solutions thereto. I knew I wanted a towmotor of some kind but the pretty ones cost about 1500 smackers by the time they arrive in Florida with shipping and all. One of the fellows at the Table of Knowledge in Clearwater suggested a riding lawnmower for propulsion and a listing on Craigslist filled that bill ... then I began looking around at towbars. The kind I decided on goes for about $260 from two companies so another suggestion took me over to a steel fabrication shop a couple of blocks from my hangar and I had them weld up my towbar for me. My neighbor, Ron, precision-drilled for the adjusting pins and retaining bolts and we hooked everything up last week -- worked like a charm. My total investment is about a third the cost of the high-priced rig. Pictures may follow.

So that's the story of a great little airport, ailing ailerons, hungover hangars and airplane pushers and pullers so I'm signing off for this month. It's time to dust off the airplane and do a little FLYING!!!