Friday, January 27, 2012

Treasure is in the Eye of the Beholder

When diving in strange Troves, you occasionally find yourself in the domain of The Creature From the Black Lagoon, but more often than not there’s treasure waiting to be discovered. All it takes is a bit of patience, an appreciation for good conversation, and these things just surface.

January 2012 - window-door 001January 2012 - window-door 002

First on the wish list that just happened to be available, although it had to be brought in from the Trove in Canada (2 Troves! What good fortune!). It’s a 3 1/2 inch, bubble-faced, Airpath compass, probably made in the 1930s. What a beauty! After speaking with the Airpath guru at Keystone Instruments in Lock Haven PA (home of the Cub), I sent it off for a complete refurbishment.

The next step was to tackle the layers of rust, corrosion and paint on the Cub window and door frames. I did some homework (always a pleasure these days with the internet at my fingertips). There are a number of ways one can remove the crust of ages, from wire brushing to medieval sand blasting (Jeff’s term – hang on, you’ll meet him in a minute). I chose soda blasting and am glad I did. The medium, to paraphrase one of the videos from an Aussie bloke, doesn’t “hammer” the crud off, it cuts it off. The edges of the soda are softer than sand or glass beads or pecan shells but those edges are somewhat sharp so you get very effective cutting with little to no damage to the surface of the piece you’re working. There were videos of soda blasting the printing off flimsy aluminum soft drink cans without damaging the cans, so I decided that was for me.

January 2012 - window-door 003Bender Av

Enter Jeff Bender of Bender Aviation Services. Now Jeff is a friend of mine and all that, but he also happens to be a very fine airplane mechanic and enjoys the thrill of business ownership, the plusses and the minuses. No matter what day it is or how it happens to be going, Jeff is the same guy every day, super helpful and a great guy to have on your A-list.

Ok, enough of the commercial. Jeff happened to have access to a soda blasting tank (boy, is this a simple setup), so a trip to pick up some soda, protective gloves, eye protection, and so on and we’re off to the races. One note, first: *they* say you can just go to the store and buy boxes of Arm and Hammer or whatever and go to town … I learned there is soda and there is soda. The stuff just soaks up water all by itself. Soda blasting tanks should have a water separator attached or you use nitrogen to keep the compressed stuff dry. The soda that is meant for blasting isn’t quite so hygroscopic (here, from Wikipedia, is what that means: soda is … “so hygroscopic that [it] readily dissolves in the water [it] absorbs: This property is called deliquescence. [beer question – pilots love beer questions]. A hygroscopic material will tend to become damp and "cake" when exposed to moist air (such as salt in salt shakers during humid weather).”) … or soda in soda blasters.

January 2012 - window-door 007January 2012 - window-door 008

Herewith, a before and after. The excitement of the moment plus foggy goggles, sweat filling my rubber gloves and a general enthusiasm for getting on with the project produced only one B&A picture. The difference, though should give you an idea of how effective the soda blaster was in removing 40+ years’ accumulation of grunge. This isn’t a final product – oh no – but it gives a hint as to how the frame projects will move along.


    January 2012 - window-door 004 January 2012 - window-door 005 January 2012 - window-door 006 

A few more quickie pictures and I have to retreat from the computer to do meaningful work around the hacienda and replace the deficit in my “going to the airport” jar.

Cub 38439 006a

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Trove

The best way to begin is, I suppose, at the beginning.

My best old friend, David, once took the vow of poverty and taught school for a living (or almost a living) where he ran into a fellow who could draw pretty well and they hit it off. As things happen the other fellow caught the eye of a fairly good sized company who liked the way he drew space shuttles and hired him away from teaching to do just that. Years went by and they ran into each other again after David managed to convince Uncle Sam’s Army that he was a valuable resource or, at least, wouldn’t be in the way. It came to pass that this other guy, whose name is Rick, met up with David and me at an air show/fly in and I came away with a poster/print of one of his paintings. Let a few more years pass and word comes that Rick has been restoring a 1934 Fairchild so David and I went to visit.  Now you’re up to date … for more on the Fairchild, take a look at my post from June 2010 entitled “Alex in Wonderland”.  I’ll update that post eventually.

OK. So last week I took another trip over to see Rick and the Fairchild and lo and behold the lads from Canada were there … they occupy a fair chunk of the warehouse where Rick soldiers away on his project. It’s time to let the cat out of the bag.

Rick Thompson 018aRick Thompson 012aRick Thompson 013a

Just like your friendly Home Depot or Lowe’s … only for antique airplane nuts like me.

The first thing that struck me was “how in the world did all this stuff get here?” Turns out it took 6 tractor-trailer loads to clean out an old hanger that was full of airframes, engines, parts, bits, pieces and some reasonably complete projects. In addition, there were frequent trips when the lads’ van was piled high with smaller parts. All of it made its way to this one place where it is still in the process of being separated, cataloged and evaluated. A lot of the airframe parts are probably good for patterns, but a fair amount is restorable and reusable.

Rick Thompson 011a   Rick Thompson 015a  Rick Thompson 023a

I managed to find some parts for my Piper Cub that are good for restoration and will go a long way toward making my 1941 airplane more original. There is probably a Gormley-Bulsch in there, too.

Rick Thompson 025a Rick Thompson 026a Rick Thompson 027a

Unusual hardware like the silver cadmium plated pieces that were used on military airplanes before and during World War II – a favorite with the warbird crowd and hard to find today.

Rick Thompson 028a Rick Thompson 029a Rick Thompson 51

The lists go on and on and can only be appreciated by those who love and restore old airplanes.

To learn more about the lads, go to – there’s a link to their email address on the website.

I think I might have picked up a bonus gift from my trip in the form of a really nasty bug – obviously Canadian – so my initial work on the parts has been delayed until my lungs are up to another dose of rusty dust and toxic chemicals.


Sunday, January 01, 2012

The last flight of 2011 – with Stan and Kathy

After a couple of false starts, the great quest for the $100 hamburger brought Stan (the Grizzly Bear) and Kathy (patient chronicler of flights and motorcycle trips) to Rutherford County Airport NC … we had tried a couple of times to meet up there but for various reasons couldn’t make it happen until nearly the last moment of 2011 …

Thanks to Kathy for all the nifty pictures … Griz and I were kept busy navigating and aviating.

Looking east for the first timeThe Blue Ridge Parkway with snow in NC Houses on mountains east of Asheville, NC

Looking east for the first time, the Blue Ridge Parkway with some snow in NC, Houses east of Asheville NC

Griz said the flight down from Tennessee was really nice. They had time to do a little sightseeing on the way, enjoying December scenery that is usually of the white-ish variety, but very little snow so far this year … only a dusting here and there.

Hickory Nut Gorge 3 Here's taking a picture of you Lake Lure 2

Getting down toward the flatlands, that’s Hickory Nut Gorge on the left, Kathy’s reflection on the side window taking a picture of Chimney Rock and Lake Lure. My Dad said he grew up in the bottom of what is now Lake Lure. Directly below the airplane is Lake Lure Inn where a lot of the movie “Dirty Dancing” was made.

So anyway, here are Griz and Kathy just cruising along enjoying the countryside and I’m pulling the Cub out of my hangar to join them. They had further to go, across the Blue Ridge Mountains … I just had to hop over a ridge at World’s Edge and set up a gradual descent to Rutherford County, which is 1,000 feet below my home field.

On final for Runway 19 at KFQDMiss Daisy sporting her John Deere hat Griz enjoying the morning Sun in NC

Final approach for Rutherford County, Kathy in her John Deere hat and Grizzly Stan posing with their Cub.

S&K arrived early - I managed to drag in at about 11:30. The 57A Cafe was just a short walk from the ramp.

Alex enjoying the morning Sun 2 Cubs on the ramp at Rutherford Co., NC 57 Alpha Cafe

I got my picher took, there are the 2 Cubs side by side on the ramp and the 57A Cafe through the Jeep frame.

The burgers and Stan’s taco salad went down just fine but we were mindful that the weather was due to change later in the day so we decided to skedaddle while the skedaddling was good. Outside, the windsock began doing a dance and the winds were already picking up in advance of the weather front. We went through our preflight inspections and performed “armstrong” starts and were off in pretty short order.

Alex running his predeparture checklistThe direction Alex had to fly towards We've got a slightly better escape

I’m first out of the chocks … the weather toward my route looked ok-ish, S&K’s outlook is to the right. What the picture of my route doesn’t show is the rush of southerly wind accelerating on the south face of the mountains.

By the time I taxiied into position on the runway, the windsock was pretty much straight out from the pole. The Cub and I were off the ground before I had pushed the power all the way up. I was hoping the wind would hold because if I had been riding a gust and the wind had gone away, I’d run out of airspeed, altitude and imagination at about the same time. As it was, we kept flying (thank goodness for 85 horsepower)and I set course to cross the ridge at World’s Edge again – you definitely do NOT want to fly Hickory Nut Gorge in windy conditions.

Meanwhile, Stan and Kathy were enjoying a leisurely ride up the long, delirious, burning blue … topping the windswept heights with easy grace … but I’ll let Griz tell his tale:

Oh yeah! once we got past I-40 things started to settle down and even more so once we got across that ridge west of Mt Mitchell where the Blue Ridge Parkway goes along. We had just scattered clouds, tops around 7,000 (LOL) and we actually got to an altitude of 8,500 (it was cold up there), didn't really want to but with those high winds I just felt safer the higher up we were able to go since every now and then we were getting an elevator ride. We almost kept going as I have always been curious if both Kathy and I could get to 10,000' with the 65hp engine, but the numbness in my toes got in the way of holding the stick back. After the last ridge, the NC/TN border, we descended back to 2600' for pattern altitude and it got choppy again. Winds on the runway were only about 5 knots though pretty much in line with the runway. Flight time was 1.5 going down and 1.4 coming back.

Notice the cool, detached “it got choppy” comment? Pilots do that. A pilot can go through the seven tortures of hell and if someone on the ground asks he might say “yeah, it was a little bumpy”.

Climbing through 8,000'Crossing over the NC mountains Last ridge insight, I-26 below us

Climbing through 8,000 feet, Crossing the NC mountains, Last ridge in sight I-26 below. (Whenever I think of “the last ridge” I think of an old movie “The Bridges of Toko-Ri” … the last ridge proved to be too much in that movie but the Gallavanting Grizzly and his Kathy-belle made it just fine).

I’ll spare you the details, but it got “a little bumpy” on the way to World’s Edge. Once over the ridge, though, we are in a little piece of heaven where winds are civilized for the most part and my ride was pretty good for the last few miles to Runway 15 at Johnson Field.

Camera download 10-12-08a 012a Cub in hangar

Johnson Field (the grass runway to the right) on a summer day, and the Cub back at home in its hangar.

It just doesn’t get any better than meeting up with friends with Piper Cubs. Maybe the weather could be better next time, maybe a little warmer, maybe we could talk some other Cub people into joining us. So long, 2011. Hello, 2012.