Archive for the ‘Exterior’ Category

The Final Painting

Friday, May 9th, 2014

Time for another Friday post to kick off the weekend, and this time the subject is the Debonair’s paint scheme. As most of you already knew, the Debonair sported a decal-festooned exterior treatment for the past 10 months. The decals, some informative, some humorous, some with historical factoids from 1963 (the Debonair Sweepstakes’ production year) were the brainchild of Craig Barnett of Scheme Designers, who also developed the airplane’s final paint scheme. Which is now being applied.

A few days after AOPA’s  San Marcos regional fly-in, Editor-in-Chief Tom Haines and I made our way to KD Aviation’s paint shop just off taxiway Lima at Newburgh, New York’s Stewart International Airport. There, we left the Debonair with KD’s Don Reese. But we began to wonder about those decals. Would they peel right off, or put up a fight, stay stuck and tear into pieces? We picked away at the edges of the decals with our fingernails, and guess what? They peeled right off. Take a look:

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As we speak, the first of the paint scheme’s colors are being applied. Here’s what the process looks like:

KD1

 

Then the blue

First the green, then the blue

Right about now you’re probably wondering what the final paint scheme will look like. Some of you may recall that we had a poll of sorts a few months ago, asking for your opinions about various paint schemes that AOPA Design Director Mike Kline and Craig came up with. Some were way out there. One looked like a bumblebee, with black and yellow stripes. Another was dominated by a fiery red theme. Kline wanted to retain a pastel look reminiscent of the undercurrent of many of the 1960s’ prominent design themes (think “Laugh-In” for those of you old enough to remember that show). So the final paint conveys this, as well as the “arrowhead” angular elements that were used in 1963 Debonair factory paint schemes.

The final scheme

The final scheme. Hope you like it!

And for comparison here is a 1963 Debonair in its factory paint scheme,.

And for comparison here is a  historical photo of a 1963 Debonair in its original factory paint scheme.

Well, that’s it for this week. Next time we’ll see the completed paint job in some air-air photography we’re planning.

Debonair showtime: San Marcos, and the stormy trip home

Wednesday, May 7th, 2014

Its annual and some repairs completed, I picked up the Debonair from Santa Fe Aero Aervices and flew on to the next stop: AOPA’s regional fly-in at the San Marcos, Texas Airport (KHYI). I flew the route at 9,000 feet to stay above the low-level turbulence–and the blowing dust that was plaguing most airports in west Texas. Although skies seemed clear aloft, the ATIS and AWOS reports along the route were advertising surface visibilities hovering around two to three miles in blowing dust and winds up to 30 knots. Here’s a shot of Spur, Texas to give you an idea of the terrain I flew over in west Texas:

Spur, Texas. I can almost hear the theme from the movie "The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly." Sure looks lonely down there, like much of west Texas.

Spur, Texas. I can almost hear the theme from the movie “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.” Sure looks lonely down there, like much of west Texas.

I shot the RNAV (GPS) runway 17 approach into San Marcos, and broke out through a 1,000-foot overcast. Then it was a taxi to the Deb’s tiedown spot, front and center at the fly-in’s static display.

The next day at 6:30 a.m., yours truly was making his way in the pre-dawn darkness to the Deb’s tiedown spot. Less than an hour later, the first fly-in visitors began arriving–even though the show wasn’t due to begin until 10 a.m. Oh well. This gives you an idea of the fly-in’s–and the Debonair’s–popularity. For the next nine hours, a steady stream of AOPA members and other visitors made a stop by the Debonair. Some came back two and three times. It was gratifying to hear that so many had been following the Debonair’s progress, and there were plenty of positive comments all around. It was great day–and even though the overcast posed some challenges, more than 2,500 enthusiasts visited the fly-in. I think we’re on to something.

The Debonair on static display at San Marcos.

The Debonair on static display at San Marcos.

Back when the Debonair project started, we had some baseball hats made up with the Debonair sweepstakes logo. Last year, we gave away 150 hats, which depleted our supply. So I reordered another batch. I brought along 30 hats for the San Marcos fly-in, and by mid-afternoon the supply was down to a mere two hats. That’s when AOPA member Mark Kiedrowski stopped by the airplane. He’d been an enthusiastic follower of the Debonair project, and his Dad–a pilot during the 1948-49 Berlin Airlift–owned a Debonair. So I awarded the last two hats to Mark. After I returned home, there was an email of Mark and his Dad in their Debonair hats. Nice.

Mark (left) and his Dad, wearing their Debonair hats.

Mark (left) and his Dad, wearing their Debonair hats.

After the San Marcos fly-in was over, I launched on the return trip to AOPA’s home field at Frederick, Maryland. It would be a long trip, so I could have theoretically made the 1,000-nm journey non-stop, given the favorable winds. However, nature intervened in the form of widespread areas of thunderstorm complexes. No way could I go direct with any degree of certainty. The gaps between the storms were too narrow, and I could visualize them closing up as the trip progressed. I opted for a route that took me from San Marcos to Lufkin, Texas, then eastward along a route that stretched to north of Baton Rouge, then eastward along a route running through south Alabama. Once past Montgomery, Alabama the ship’s route could turn to the northeast for a fuel stop at the Athens, Georgia airport. Almost five hours after takeoff I was on the ground at Athens, gassing up for the final, 2.7 hour leg to AOPA’s home base at the Frederick, Municipal Airport.

The Debonair has the luxury of having both XM WX and FIS-B datalink sources of radar information, so circumnavigating the massive storm complex to the north was comparatively easy. Here’s a couple shots of the situation that day:

My diversion around what certainly looks like a hook echo. Next stop: Atehns, Georgia.

My diversion around what certainly looks like a hook echo on the XM WX image. And look at all the lightning in the parent storm cell. Next stop: Athens, Georgia.

 

The ADS-B flight information system-broadcast (FIS-B) image of the same storm setup, as shown on the airplane's iPad Mini, running the Garmin Pilot app.

The ADS-B flight information system-broadcast (FIS-B) image of the same storm setup, as shown on the airplane’s iPad Mini, running the Garmin Pilot app.

 

The view outside the cockpit during the storm complex deviation.

The view outside the cockpit during the storm complex deviation.

So after a full, 7.7-hour day of flying, the Debonair was back in its hangar at Frederick, awaiting its next trip: a visit to KD Aviation’s paint shop at the Stewart International Airport in Newburgh, New York. More on that in the next post.

A fresh annual for San Marcos

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2014

Time for a new post, and there’s big news on the Debonair front. First off, yes, the airplane will depart for AOPA’s San Marcos, Texas regional fly-in at the San Marcos Municipal Airport (KHYI). But the late-breaking news from my location now, at Santa Fe Aero Services, is that the airplane’s annual inspection is complete, and many squawks were addressed in the process.

The Debonair at Santa Fe Aero Services, all cleaned up and ready to go.

The Debonair at Santa Fe Aero Services, all cleaned up and ready to go.

Over the past few months, and especially at Sun N’ Fun, many Debonair visitors noticed that the airplane’s alternator–contributed  by NationalAirParts of Deland, Florida–had a drive belt that wasn’t running true between its pulleys. Santa Fe Aero made the fix, and now the belt runs straight as an arrow. The fix was a remachined and shimmed pulley at the alternator. Pat Horgan, vice-president and general manager at Santa Fe Aero, actually watched the original belt setup as the engine ran. It was anything but taut, and the belt was slipping. This no doubt caused the power surges that seem to have plagued the airplane at several times. At times of greatest electrical demand, the alternator simply couldn’t put out enough electricity. Now, the belt drive runs smooth as a sewing machine, and alternator output hovers at a more or less steady 18 amperes.

Check out the alternator's new pulley-and-V-belt drive, running true in its track.

Check out the alternator’s new pulley-and-V-belt drive, running true in its track.

Another squawk involved a run of dead batteries over this past winter. Yes, the winter was a cold one, but still, if the airplane sat for a week or two, the battery ended up deader’n a doornail. Santa Fe Aero technician Brandon Maestas had a theory. The yoke-mounted Davtron digital clock draws 1/4 amps an hour, and it’s on the airplane’s hot bus. After a few days, much of the battery’s 35 amp capacity has been drawn down to insignificance. So, he installed a circuit breaker to isolate the clock from the hot bus. So, dear winner, if the airplane is to sit for a while, pull the rightmost circuit breaker to spare the battery juice.

Other squawks involved the MVP-50P’s EGT and CHT bars. Key the microphone, and the MVP’s bars would peg at the top, then the display would go back to normal. After much troubleshooting, it turns out that the comm antenna connectors weren’t grounding properly owing to some zinc chromate on the connectors. After the connectors were cleaned, the MVP went back to normal–and so did the quality fo the radio transmissions from the Garmin GTN 750.

The new wing bolts, attached a year ago at Santa Fe Aero, were torqued down to specs during the annual…though only one bolt–the aftmost bolt on the right wing–needed to be tightened. There were oil leaks around the new oil cooler, and the remote oil filter housing, and these too were corrected. And by the way, new, color-coordinated oil hoses were installed to and from the Airwolf remote filter assembly. They’re light blue, a color that will play a big part in the final paint striping. Which will happen right after the San Marcos show.

The chic, light-blue oil hoses that connect to the firewall-mounted Airwolf remote oil filter.

The chic, light-blue oil hoses that connect to the firewall-mounted Airwolf remote oil filter.

And that monster ding in the tailcone? Clearly, someone dropped the airplane on its tail during an engine change. Horgan thinks the plane was dropped on its tail twice in the past. But Santa Fe Aero did a great job in reversing the damage.

There used to be a mighty divot beneath that tiedown ring, but no more!

There used to be a mighty divot beneath that tiedown ring, but no more!

So, with a new Aspen/Garmin/Electronics International/Alpha Systems/PS Engineering/R.C. Allen/CO Guardian panel, a newly overhauled and converted 260-hp Continental IO-470-N engine by Genesis Engines by D’Shannon, a new set of windshields and tips tanks from D’Shannon, a new interior from Air Mod, paint design and application by Scheme Designers and KD Aviation, plus all sqauwks addressed, ladies and gents we have what amounts to a one-of-a-kind, classic, way-better-than-new Debonair that runs smooth and cruises at 170 KTAS.

You’re probably wondering what the annual and all those repairs cost. That would be $5,619.19, $4,608 of that in labor, and $490 in parts. Pricey? Yes, but attention to detail and quality troubleshooting always comes at a price. And it’s always worth it in the end. We’ve seen examples of lousy troubleshooting that cost us days of down time and lots of worry, and you probably have, too.

A bonus photo: Pat Horgan's pristine 1940 Spartan Executive, next to his 1964 Corvette Sting Ray

A bonus photo: Ron Tarrson’s pristine 1940 Spartan Executive, next to his 1964 Corvette Sting Ray. Horgan and Tarrson are partners in Aero Services

 

 

The Deb Revisits Sun N’ Fun

Friday, April 4th, 2014

It’s been an eventful week for our/your sweepstakes Debonair. It’s been on display now for four days, and many, many AOPA members and other visitors have made the pilgrimage to AOPA’s new tentsite to see the airplane. The comments and observations have been uniformly positive, and the usual banter–”watch my plane for me,” “give me the keys now,” and so on are mainstays of planeside conversations.

Many remember the Debonair from last year’s Sun N’ Fun. Back then, the panel was completed, but nothing else. It had its bad old mustard-colored paint job (the one you see at the top of the page), and the seats were pretty beat up. What a change this year! New interior from Air Mod, new basecoat from KD Aviation, decal paint scheme from Scheme Designers, and a replacement engine from Genesis Engines by D’Shannon. The engine has all of six hours–max–on it after the flight to Sun N’ Fun.

The engine has drawn the most curiosity. Some have noticed that the alternator belt is slightly misaligned in its pulley run. This will be addressed at the annual inspection, which comes right after the show when I fly the plane back to Santa Fe Aero Services, who installed the spiffed-up Aspen-, Garmin-, and Electronics International-laden instrument panel one short year ago.

Visitors also like the new battery box, and have plenty of questions about the engine’s new power rating (260-hp).

For the many out there who can’t make it to Sun N’ Fun I thought I’d give you an idea of what it’s like to have Debonair display duty at the show. First off, AOPA Pilot staffers do three-hour shifts standing with the plane, answering questions, and in general hosting AOPA’s showpiece in front of the tent. The shifts go from 9 a.m-12 p.m., 12-3 p.m., and 3-5 p.m. There’s a shade structure over the right wing, so there’s some sun protection. But don’t forget the hat and sunscreen!

The day starts around 7:30 a.m. when I show up to clean the airplane. Temperatures are in the mid-60s, and there’s a layer of ground fog as you make the way from the parking lot. Central Florida is a humid place, so what do you expect? You expect a low of dew on the airplane, that’s what.

This makes for a wet, grimy mess on the airplane, which is white of course. I’ve been using microfiber towels to wipe the plane down. It takes two passes to get the water and dirt off. A squeegee helps to clean the wings, but mainly it’s a towel job.

Here are some shots of the display environment to give you the feel of the place.

Wide shot of display and shade structure to the left

Wide shot of display and shade structure to the left

The funky cleaning towel. The soil here is a mixture of dirt and sand, and it gets into everything.

The funky cleaning towel. The soil here is a mixture of dirt and sand, and it gets into everything.

We use a plastic chain to make sure the avionics aren't tampered with during the show. Also, I've been updating the Aspen data cards and need quick access.

We use a plastic chain to make sure the avionics aren’t tampered with during the show. Also, I’ve been updating the Aspen data cards and need quick access.

Podium signs like this one describe the Debonair's features and contributors to the project. There are three signs in all.

Podium signs like this one describe the Debonair’s features and contributors to the project. There are three signs in all.

ECi's sign describes the Debonair's new cylinders.

ECi’s sign describes the Debonair’s new cylinders.

Air Mod's sign showing the old and new interiors.

Air Mod’s sign showing the old and new interiors.

Checking out the STC'd engine. A lot of people like the D'Shannon baffling and baffling seals, which are colored to match the upcoming final paint scheme. Blue baffle seals? Yep.

Checking out the STC’d engine. A lot of people like the D’Shannon baffling and baffling seals, which are colored to match the upcoming final paint scheme. Blue baffle seals? Yep.

Are those Aspen displays? Yes they are!

Are those Aspen displays? Yes they are!

Your typical scene. High temps have been in the 86-89-degree range, with no wind. Great airshow weather!

Your typical scene. High temps have been in the 86-89-degree range, with no wind. Great airshow weather!

We call these "tunnels." They both draw attention to the airplane and keep golf carts and  motorized scooters from the wingtips. They have a collapsible, spring-type tube inside, and are hollow. The joke is that staffers pop the ends off and sleep in them.

We call these “tunnels.” They both draw attention to the airplane and keep golf carts and motorized scooters from the wingtips. They have a collapsible, spring-type tube inside, and are hollow. The joke is that staffers pop the ends off and sleep in them.

 

Hope you enjoyed the little tour. See you again soon ….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Slidedown tiedowns

Tuesday, September 17th, 2013

While we wait for another report from Air Mod, I thought I’d mention Sal Corio’s “Slidedown” tiedown system. Corio came up to the Debonair display at Oshkosh–er, EAA AirVenture–and wondered if we wanted to try out his knot-free tiedowns. Of course, we said.

The Slidedowns are meant to work with The Claw and other stationary ground tiedown rings. Slidedowns, as the name implies, use small sliding cylindrical tubes to exert a locking force on tiedown ropes. No more elaborate knot-tying here. Just slide down the tubes until the ropes are taut, and you’re done. They come in various colors, and are cut to fit both low-wing and high-wing airplanes. Retail price for a set: $69.85 through Slidedown, Aircraft Spruce, or Banyan.

They make for fast tiedown jobs! Here’s a look:

The Slidedown's tubes hold tension on the tiedown ropes. No more knot-tying drills!

The Slidedown’s tubes hold tension on the tiedown ropes. No more knot-tying drills!

Contents of the Slidedown package

Contents of the Slidedown package

A Debonair Oshkosh

Wednesday, July 31st, 2013

Engine start to engine stop, it was a four-hour, 28 minute flight from the Debonair Sweepstakes airplane’s home base at the Frederick, Maryland Minicipal Airport to Wittman Field in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. A flawless flight, I might add. VFR direct nearly all the way, except for a few vectors around traffic in the Detroit area. Not that we didn’t see the traffic coming! We’ve got ADS-B and TIS traffic information aboard, so any nearby traffic was no surprise.

Now the airplane is proudly on display at EAA AirVenture. Flocks of people have come by to gawk and comment on the Debonair, which has made quite a bit of progress since its last public appearance at Sun N’ Fun in Lakeland, Florida back in April. Namely, that funky old paint job is a thing of the past. It’s been replaced by a Matterhorn white base coat, adorned with decals that describe the airplane’s improvements–and some facts about 1963, the year our/your Debonair rolled off the assembly line.

Craig Barnett of Scheme Designers came up with the decal idea after seeing an airliner done up with amusing decals. The idea caught on and now hordes of visitors stand, read, and remember that the Twin Comanche, Lear Jet 23, MU-2, Boeing 727, and Jet Commander were all born in 1963, that “Surfin’ USA” was a big hit, and that the average home price was a mere $12,800.

If you’re coming to AirVenture–or are already here–come by the west side of Hangar C and take a look. For those who can’t make the trip, here’s a glimpse of the action.

A good view of the decal work and logo. The new N-number--N75YR--is also a new addition to the exterior

A good view of the decal work and logo. The new N-number–N75YR–is also a new addition to the exterior

 

Front view, complete with passer-by. To the right is a structure that provides shade for visitors

Front view, complete with passer-by. To the right is a structure that provides shade for visitors

 

Paint shop home stretch

Wednesday, July 17th, 2013

Time for a few more shots of the Debonair’s paint shop adventures. Like I said in previous posts, this paint job will come in two stages: and all-white stage, and a later stage when the stripes are applied. We wanted to have the airplane completely painted for display at EAA AirVenture. But there wasn’t enough time, so it’s going to be all white for a time.

As you can see, the transormation is remarkable, especially when you compare this paint with the original scheme:

An in-progress shots shows the engine compartment, minus the new cowl access door from Select Airparts. The newly overhauled and painted propeller, from American Propeller, is soon to be added.

This in-progress shot shows the engine compartment, minus the new cowl access door from Select Airparts. The newly overhauled and painted propeller, from American Propeller, is soon to be added.

How white can white be? KD Aviation replaced that tired old mustard-colored paint scheme with this billiant Matterhorn white treatment

How white can white be? KD Aviation replaced that tired old mustard-colored paint scheme with this billiant Matterhorn white treatment

Even the cowling access doors have been painted--on the inside! New baffling will be installed at a later date.

Even the cowling access doors have been painted–on the inside! New baffling will be installed at a later date.

Paint sneak-peek

Tuesday, July 9th, 2013

Here’s a quick look at the latest goings-on at the paint shop, KD Aviation at Newburgh, New York’s Stewart International Airport. As you can see, the first coat of the airplane’s Matterhorn White paint has begun. Looks good, no?

 

Wings and empennage get the first coat of Matterhorn white at KD Aviation

Wings and empennage get the first coat of Matterhorn white at KD Aviation

 

As mentioned earlier, this will be an all-white paint scheme at first, with decals explaining the upgrades. Later, the stripes will be added. But for those of you going to EAA’s AirVenture, this will give you an idea of what to expect. Note: the control surfaces will be painted separately, then balanced before they are added to the airframe.

Gear door rescue

Friday, June 21st, 2013

A new nosegear door–the left one, to be precise–was yet another of the many replacement parts we needed for the Debonair. As you can see in the photo, the Deb’s original gear door had a nice notch in its leading edge.

A close-up of the LH nose gear door damage

A close-up of the LH nose gear door damage

How did this come about? Probably from a stone or stray chunk of asphalt. Now you know why it’s not a good idea to do your runups on rough surfaces, or take off from runways strewn with gravel. At some point in its past, an owner probably did just that. When I first saw it my thought was, “oh, no, now where do we find yet another ancient part?”

Granted, it’s a small dent. But go to an airshow and listen and watch as visitors invariably focus on it. Could we simply leave it be, and trust that no one would notice? Not gonna happen.

And didn’t happen, thanks to Select Airparts of Weyer’s Cave, Virginia. Select’s Michelle Souder was manning her booth at Sun N’ Fun when I asked her to take a look at the door. After scoping it out, she checked her inventory and lo and behold, there it was: a 50-year-old nose gear door, left hand side. In short order, the door was shipped to KD Aviation, our paint shop at Stewart International Airport in Newburgh, New York.

Now I know why Select calls itself “the Beechcraft Specialists. Nobody else I hunted down had such a rare part. So, Beechcraft restorers, add Select to to your Rolodex (does anyone have one of these any more?) or contacts list should you need airframe and/or other parts. They’re at www.selectairparts.com .

And thanks to Michelle for her diligence!

Flap attack!

Thursday, June 6th, 2013

Well, we had an alternator bracket crack earlier in the restoration process, and I blogged about that under the title “Bracket Attack.” So now, the latest unanticipated surprise–yes, another “attack”–is the right flap.

Folks, sometimes, I think that we’re conducting an aging-aircraft study.

As I mentioned in the previous post, Roy Williams of Airframe Components by Williams Inc. reported that the right flap had issues. As in, the Debonair’s right flap’s being cracked, and failing at the actuator attach point. Beechcraft Service Communique SC 313 addresses the problem, which affects the right flap more than the left for the simple reason that people step on that flap’s wingwalk. After 50 years’ worth of entering and exiting the airplane. cracks happen. Moreover, this sort of crack can’t be observed during a preflight; you have to remove the flap to see the extent of the damage.

Same thing with cracks and wear on the flap nose ribs. Here, have a look at the damage:

Wear and cracking at the actuator attach point at the flap leading edge

Wear and cracking at the actuator attach point at the flap leading edge

Cracks at the flap nose rib area

Cracks at the flap nose rib area

Bottom line, Williams came through with the fix, repaired the cracks, and re-skinned both flaps for good measure. Bravo!

Now for the “after” photos:

Repaired nose ribs got doublers to strengthen the trouble spots

Repaired nose ribs got doublers to strengthen the trouble spots (left). The right nose rib shows the cracked and missing aluminum of the original flaps

And voila--the final products--repaired, reskinned flaps on their way out the door. Looks better, no? flapsreskinned,

And voila–the final products–repaired, reskinned flaps on their way out the door. Looks better, no?

As for the rudder, some of you out there have taken us to task for its so-called non-compliance with an Airworthiness Directive (AD). Well, Roy checked the rudder, too. It’s had AD 93-2403 complied with, all right, and Aircraft Components even issued a yellow tag to the rudder, stating that compliance has been previously accomplished.

Again, thanks to Roy Williams and Aircraft Components. Their repair work is immaculate.