This should be an easy post to write, because not much has happened in the past month. But it won't be easy to write because of some of the things that have happened. The first thing I worked on was the second round of engine preservation. I removed the dehydrator plugs from the cylinders and changed out the dessicant. Before fogging the cylinders, I used the borescope to check the cylinder walls, and I didn't like what I saw. There was some rust forming near the tops of all of the cylinders, especially #3 and #4, since the engine was stored with those pistons were at the bottom of their strokes. I took photographs and began the fogging process, but the spray can of LPS 3 Premium Rust Inhibitor wasn't really fogging; it was spraying a stream so I wasn't getting the coverage I was hoping for. Then disaster struck... the damn spray can shot the nozzle straw into the #1 cylinder. My initial reaction was to pretty much lose my mind... and then I began to think about just how I was going to get that straw out. I went out and purchased a small claw grabber that would reach it an using the borescope cam, I was able to grab it a few times but being coated in oil, it kept slipping out. After many more tries, I decided to fabricated a hook-like tool out of coat hanger wire. After rotating the crankshaft with the strap wrench to push the piston up the bore I was able to maneuver the end of the straw close to the spark plug hole and grab the straw with some long needle nose pliers. I put the dehydrator plugs back in, went inside, had a few beers and tried to calm down.
The next day I emailed Barrett photos of the cylinders and asked for advice. Allen called me within the hour and we discussed the rust. He said it looked like it was all above the ring seal area so it shouldn't cause a problem. I modified the straw to be able to shoot sideways and shot rust inhibitor on all the affected areas.
I began to reassemble the main shop paint booth around the inverted fuselage in preparation for painting the belly. I'm not sure why, but assembling the paint booth seems to get a little harder and take a lot longer every time I do it. I didn't feel the need to hurry this time because the typical Michigan fall weather was unsuitable for painting; weeks of very high humidity and rain with wide temperature swings caused another layoff. Eventually I got a break and was able to get back to work, starting with cleaning the preservative oil off the belly and flap fairing rivet holes.
I bought a propane torpedo heater and tested it successfully. It looks like I should be able to use the booth in winter now; I've got adequate ventilation and I can keep the booth temperature above 60 degrees as long as it doesn't get too cold outside.
I started the masking process by wrapping the gear legs in plastic, taping off the brackets and covering various fuselage holes with tape from the inside. Because of the nature of painting a camouflage scheme I didn't need to be precise about masking the fuselage sides; I just needed to cover an area along the bottom skin rivet line that would be overlapped when the sides and top were painted. When masking was done I worked on scuffing the alclad off the aluminum skins. Years ago I had purchased an orbital sander for this task. I thought I had bought one with a cord, but when I finally opened the box, I discovered that it was powered with battery packs that were not included. It was actually cheaper to go buy another sander than to invest in a battery pack and charger for the one I had, which I'll sell on craigslist. I waited for the right day and got the wash primer and primer applied.
I needed to get the flap fairings riveted in place before I could spray the neutral grey color coat on the belly. A few day's wait until I could get help, and Leo Knowlden bucked the rivets for me. Not the best work; it's hard to rivet two thin pieces of aluminum together that don't nest perfectly on a curve without some pillowing and minor dents... but the job got done well enough.
I had to wait a few more days for the right weather for spraying the top coats onto the belly and the landing gear covers. I wiped down the primer on the belly and covers with wiping solvent; wipe on, wipe off, and wait at least fifteen minutes before painting. Then sprayed the two coats of Neutral Grey color and two clear coats. It won't be a perfect job; made a small mistake with the clear coat that was repaired, and there are the usual tiny flecks scattered about the finish. But the coverage is good, and it should buff out well if I choose to do that.
Now that the belly is painted, I can get the axles, wheels and brakes installed on the main gear legs and get the fuselage flipped and on the gear. It will be awhile before I'll get that done because I have one last major distraction coming up next month; more on that later. And I've been having more trouble with this new laptop computer. A USB port failed again, and I had to send it back again under warranty for a second motherboard replacement. They did a great job of keeping my programs and settings intact... but unfortunately this motherboard overheats, locks up and crashes between ten and twenty times a day. Back it goes... still under warranty, but what a pain. I'll be lucky if it doesn't crash again during this sentence.
One thing I haven't discussed in the past few entries is my flight currency. I've been occasionally flying the glass-cockpit-equipped Cessna 172 and Redbird simulator at Crosswinds Aviation, and got checked out in their Diamond Star DA20 which is a fun little plane. Ann Arbor Aviation finally found an instructor for their Citabria and I combined my tailwheel recurrency and Biennial Flight Review in one great flying day. The instructor had me do a simulated engine failure after positioning the aircraft right over a grass strip. I handled the aircraft just right and took it all the way to touchdown, right where I wanted it on the first third of the strip! When he found out it was my first landing on grass, we stayed in the pattern and I got to know the joy of landing a taildragger on grass. The landing back at Ann Arbor wasn't quite as pretty, but I didn't care... I was still one happy pilot at that point. I was so wrapped up in the flying I forgot to take any pictures, hastily taking a selfie before we closed the hangar door. The oral part of the review was probably the most enjoyable I've ever had. It was just a pleasant conversation between the examiner and myself that answered all the relevant questions. A couple weeks later I had the instructor fly the aircraft up to PAO so I could fly it at my home field without having to drive all the way down to ARB. That was the first time I taxiied an aircraft to my hangar, which was pretty cool. The instructor caught it on video with his cell phone; I combined my photos and posted the movie on my YouTube channel. And sharp-eyed blog readers might have noticed the changes in my bio column that reflect some momentous events that occurred over at the Canadian Historical Aircraft Association in Windsor, Ontario. I finally got some opportunities to fly in their de Havilland DHC-1B Chipmunk. The first try was rained out but I got some paperwork and ground study done. The second try was foiled by a mechanical issue as we were preparing for takeoff... but the consolation was a ride in their Harvard! I made a video of that flight as well and posted it on my channel. The third try was successful and I logged 1.2 hrs in the Chipmunk. A delightful airplane to fly, a pain to taxi because of the brake configuration (you need three hands), and I found out the hard way it doesn't land like a Citabria... at all. Rather a reality check from the high of that BFR experience... but educational and still fun. And the most recent flight was the first time I've taken my wife Amy flying in almost twenty years. Waffling over which day might have the best weather, I changed my reservation on short notice, and it worked out very well. I had the plane from 7 to 10 a.m. on a cold, clear and still morning... perfect flying weather. We preflighted in the hangar and took off before sunrise, heading east to Romeo. We landed there and taxiied back just as the sun was rising. We headed north to Marlette and did a touch-and-go there before heading back to Pontiac, enjoying the fall colors and smooth, empty skies. A truly wonderful morning.
That brings us to the present... and the future. The next entry will be full of interesting news; much progress on many fronts... so as always, stay tuned!