Archive for the ‘Exterior’ Category

Sun N’ Fun Countdown: New wing bolts!

Saturday, March 30th, 2013
One of the Debonair's ugly old corroded wing bolts

One of the Debonair’s ugly old corroded wing bolts

New wing bolts from Beechcraft to the rescue!

New wing bolts from Beechcraft to the rescue!

New wing bolt, installed in its fitting

New wing bolt, installed in its fitting

Most owners of Beech Bonanzas and Debonairs know that their wing attach bolts have been singled out for special scrutiny over the years. As part of the Sweepstakes Debonair’s annual inspection, these bolts were checked for corrosion. There’s a lot of lore and yarns about the wing-bolt issue. However, an Airworthiness Directive has never been issued to replace them periodically. The only service recommendation, according to the American Bonanza Society, is to inspect them every 15 years. Personally, that seems mild to me. I mean, these bolts hold the wings on the airplane, no?

So to be on the conservative side, we pulled the bolt covers (they’re at the wing root, on the upper surface of the wing) and saw–light surface corrosion. Well, what did you expect after 50 years? Then came a debate. Do we pull the bolts and take a close look at them? I think you know the answer to that one. We pulled the bolts and they did, indeed, have corrosion. The fittings were OK, and the drain holes in the “bathtubs” that surround the bolts were open, which meant that any water had been draining through the critical area–and not pooling inside it and creating serious corrosion. (Does anyone else think that a wing-attachment design that tends to trap water is somehow ill-conceived?)

When I got word of this, paranoia struck. Where in the world would we find replacement wing bolts for a 50-year old airplane? Turns out, Beechcraft still makes them, and they’re still in stock. Santa Fe Aero Services ordered up a set, had them overnighted, and they were at the shop the next day. What price peace of mind? For the entire set of eight wing bolts, a total just shy of $1,000.

Thanks Tom Schoder!

Saturday, March 16th, 2013

A while ago I wrote about the Debonair’s sketchy baggage door. You see, after 50 years of people pushing on the door latch, cracks often occur on the sheet metal surrounding the latch handle. And that’s exactly what happened with the Debonair.

There are two cracks, one on the top side of the latch, the other on the bottom. Each about an inch long. Someone had stop-drilled the cracks at some point in the airplane’s history, but that only prevented the cracks from propagating further. The cracks themselves, of course, still remain. And for a sweepstakes airplane that just won’t do.

What makes it worse is that there’s no way to easily make those cracks go away. No amount of Bond-O or other spackling efforts would make them disappear permanently. So I began a search for a “new” 1963 Debonair baggage door. Wentworth Aircraft, my traditonal go-to salvage yard, didn’t have any in stock. Well-known Bonanza-Debonair-Baron parts source Dave Monti of Minden, Nevada had one he’d sell for $250. I’ll keep Dave in mind from now on.

I was just about to call Dave and place the order when I got an email from AOPA member Tom Schoder of northwest Oregon. Seems he’d read my story about the bollixed-up door. He had one in pretty good shape, he wrote, and did I want him to send it along?

You bet I did. Soon thereafter, Tom shipped his door to Santa Fe Aero Services (where the airplane and yours truly are right now) and I laid eyes on it for the first time yesterday. It does look good! And the price was right! This kind of member participation is inspiring, to say the least. I know that members/readers follow our AOPA sweepstakes restorations with a passion, but in this case Tom took his enthusiasm a few steps–no, leaps–forward.

So thanks so much Tom Schoder, for your generosity and welcome to the Debonair Sweepstakes restoration team. You’re in good company.


Debonair Sweeps: It’s Official:New N-number!

Tuesday, January 15th, 2013

So far, the sweepstakes Debonair goes by N232L. That’s OK, but we needed to put a little more spark in the registration number. Something that would resonate with the notion of a sweepstakes. AOPA has done this with each of its past sweepstakes airplanes, so last December yours truly searched for a catchy N-number.

This entails going on the FAA’s registry website and plugging in the N-number(s) you wish you could have. And I tried a bunch. In all, I spent perhaps two hours thinking up cool N-numbers, submitting the requests, then almost immediately receiving the bad news: “N-number already in use.” When I reached burnout on this seemingly dead-end task, I asked the rest of the staff to take a whack at it.

Al Marsh rolled the dice and came up a winner. He picked a great N-number, and it wasn’t taken!

So I applied, paid the $10 registration fee, and the deed was done. When the airplane reaches the paint-job stage, it will have its paperwork changed and the new N-number will grace the fuselage. It will be N232L no more.

It will be N75YR

What’s the significance? Well, the Debonair will be given away at AOPA Summit in Palm Springs in 2014. That year happens to be AOPA’s 75th anniversary, hence “75YR.” Pretty cool, no?