Archive for the ‘Interior’ Category

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 ….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One First-Rate Interior

Thursday, November 14th, 2013

What a pleasure it was to pick up the Debonair from Air Mod and fly it–with its new interior–to AOPA Summit’s static display at the Fort Worth-Meacham airport (FTW). The trip took five hours , 11 minutes, made possible by the airplane’s massive, 120-gallon fuel capacity and its wonderfully comfortable seats. That large Gatorade container also came in handy, if you know what I mean.

Air Mod’s Dennis Wolter is a fanatic about ergonomic design, and it shows with the seats. He’s fond of opining about the design merits of the concept of “the measure of man.” This term refers to the dimensions of a “standard” human, and it’s updated every ten years. Turns out, a standard human of the 1940s is much smaller than the overfed, overweight, beamier version of today. So it makes sense that design convention calls for re-evaluating average human heights, weights, and waistlines every few years.

Think this is baloney? Then you haven’t tried to move around inside a B-17 or other World War II-era airplane. People were comparatively tiny back then! In Rick Atkinson’s excellent three-volume series about World War II’s European theater (An Army at Dawn, The Day of Battle, and The Guns at Last Light), he notes that the average American recruit was five feet, seven inches tall and weighed 150 pounds! (130 pounds was the minimum weight).

How about today? Well, look around….

Me, I’m five feet 10 inches tall and weigh 205 pounds. The last time I was in a B-17 I gouged a pretty good, bloody ding in my skull trying to scramble around in there. But I fit today’s measure of man, which is a sad commentary I suppose.

Anyway, Wolter starts with the measure of man and then custom-tailors the seats of each airplane he overhauls to conform to the customer’s actual dimensions. So when it comes to comfort–and fatigue reduction at the end of those long flight–it’s quite like having your shoes custom-made, rather than buying them off the shelf and hoping they stand the test of time.

For those of you who couldn’t make it to Summit, here’s what you missed:

New front seats and sidewalls now join the Debonair's Aspen/Garmin-dominant panel

New front seats and sidewalls now join the Debonair’s Aspen/Garmin-dominant panel

In keeping with the sixties motif, the rear seats were kept in a bench configuration.

In keeping with the sixties motif, the rear seats were kept in a bench configuration.

 

Original Beech medallions adorn the front sidewalls, as well as gooseneck lamps.

Original Beech medallions adorn the front sidewalls, as well as gooseneck lamps.

Wolter took advantage of some unused space in the spar covers to make a huge cubby hole for storing charts, flashlights, and other pilot gear.

Wolter took advantage of some unused space in the spar covers to make a huge cubby hole for storing charts, flashlights, and other pilot gear.

 

The overhead panel was completely repaired. "Everything was broken," Wolter said. The fresh-air valve (silver handle at rear of panel) had to be completely rebuilt. It opens a cabin air intake door on the upper fuselage.

The overhead panel was completely repaired. “Everything was broken,” Wolter said. The fresh-air valve (silver handle at rear of panel) had to be completely rebuilt. It opens a cabin air intake door on the upper fuselage.

The front-seat headrests got "The Debonair Sweepstakes" logo embroidered on them. You like?

The front-seat headrests got “The Debonair Sweepstakes” logo embroidered on them. You like?

That’s it for today. Watch for another post later this week…..

Coming together at Air Mod

Wednesday, October 2nd, 2013

The pressure is definitely on. Air Mod is still working, hammer and tongs, on the Debonair. The airplane has to make it to Fort Worth well before AOPA Summit’s doors open on October 10. In fact, setup day is Wednesday October 9th. So I better have 75YR in place by Tuesday.

Now it’s time for more photos of just some of the home-stretch work at Air Mod. Here we go:

 

Gray sound-dampening material noew replaces the bad old sticky-tar job of 1963

Gray sound-dampening material now replaces the bad old sticky-tar job of 1963

 

Refitting and installing metal window trim moldings

Refitting and installing metal window trim moldings

 

BAS' intertial-reel four-point shoulder harness installation. Now the airplane will have a proper restraint system

BAS’ intertial-reel four-point shoulder harness installation. Now the airplane will have a proper restraint system

 

Stripping the control yoke T-bar. It was covered by the usual chips and sctratches that affect older Bonanzas, Debonairs, and Barons

Stripping the control yoke T-bar. It was covered by the usual chips and sctratches that affect older Bonanzas, Debonairs, and Barons

 

The control yokes, now reconditioned and repainted

The control yokes, now reconditioned and repainted

 

The Debonair Sweepstakes logo, embroidered into the newly-fabricated headrests for teh pilot and co-pilot seats

The Debonair Sweepstakes logo, embroidered into the newly-fabricated headrests for teh pilot and co-pilot seats

 

Air Mod Refurbs

Monday, September 23rd, 2013

Air Mod is still on the job, and the past week was one devoted to even more interior fixups. A picture’s worth a thousand words, they say, so here are a few that illustrate the nature of the work. It’s all part of a wide-ranging series of incremental improvements. Take a look:

The old, rotten plywood floorboards are gone! Long live the new, much stronger and better looking aluminum-reinforced floorboards--both front and rear. Here you see the front floorboard.

The old, rotten plywood floorboards are gone! Long live the new, much stronger, lighter, and better looking aluminum-reinforced floorboards–both front and rear. Here you see the front floorboard.

This is the center console, reworked to include an access panel so that repairs and inspections of the mechanical landing gear position linkage can be easily made in the future.

Air Mod's Dennis Wolter, cutting the "waterfall Bubinga" hardwood veneer for the interior side panels.

Air Mod’s Dennis Wolter, cutting the “waterfall Bubinga” hardwood veneer for the interior side panels.

Final fit and check of the new side panels, armrests, and seats. Also, a look at the pilot's new seat, showing off the Garrett leather covering.

Final fit and check of the new side panels, armrests, and seats. Also, a look at the pilot’s new seat, showing off the Garrett leather covering.

Air Mod made a storage box in the forward spar cover. This takes advantage of previously-unused space.

Air Mod made a storage box in the forward spar cover. This takes advantage of previously-unused space.

More to come, so stay tuned! Soon we’ll be able to show off  the finished job……

Close-up: Air Mod’s work in progress

Wednesday, September 11th, 2013

Thought I’d share some photos that Air Mod sent along. They document the steps Air Mod takes in its corrosion-control initiatives. It’s labor-intensive work that’s essential to keeping airplanes alive–especially older ones such as our/your 1963 Debonair. Air Mod president Dennis Wolter told me, “Sure, the interior will look great, but if you had to show people the single most important thing we do around here, it’s this attention we pay to dealing with corrosion. When we’re done with an airplane, it’s good against corrosion for another 20 to 30 years.”

There are also some good shots of the seat buildup and reconditioned interior parts.

Air Mod is also installing an Airwolf Filter Company spin-on filter assembly. This will help keep the engine oil cleaner (the original engine has a screen, not a paper filter), and let us examine the filter element for any particulates at oil-change time.

So here’s a look at the work in progress:

De-gunking the belly, with lacquer thinner, Scotchbrite pads, and a respirator

De-gunking the belly, with lacquer thinner, Scotchbrite pads, and a respirator

Belly clean. Note Reynolds Aluminum name on corrosion-free skins.

Belly getting cleaner. Can you imagine 80 hours of this?

One clean, corrosion-free belly

One clean, corrosion-free belly

 

Inner sides of fusalge show the end product of a thorough cleaning

Inner sides of fuselage show the end product of a thorough cleaning

Belly, finally cleaned up and finished with a coat of zinc chromate

Belly, finally cleaned up and finished with a coat of zinc chromate

Cutting the patterns for the seats. Air Mod has used Garrett Leather for past AOPA sweepstakes airplanes

Cutting the patterns for the seats. Air Mod has used Garrett Leather for past AOPA sweepstakes airplanes

Making the template for the rear seats

Making the template for the rear seats

New, aluminum-reinforced floorboards (foreground) replace the beat-up old plywood ones behind them

New, aluminum-reinforced floorboards (foreground) replace the beat-up old plywood ones behind them

Reconditioned, ergonomically correct seat, waiting for back and headrest covers to be installed

Reconditioned, ergonomically correct seat, waiting for back and headrest covers to be installed

 

Inspected, reconditioned, and painted seat frame, new reinforced seat sling, new foam, and new rollers

Inspected, reconditioned, and painted seat frame, new reinforced seat sling, new foam, and new rollers

 

Airwolf remote-mounted spin-on oil filter, awaiting fire-sleeved oil lines.

Airwolf remote-mounted spin-on oil filter, awaiting fire-sleeved oil lines.

That’s it for now. More to come!

OK, who made the tail strike?

Tuesday, August 27th, 2013

As Air Mod continued its extensive belly-cleaning, work progressed toward the tailcone. Under all the gunk and dirt of the ages a surprise was uncovered. At some point in the airplane’s history there was a tail strike. The impact occured right on the tail’s tiedown ring, but left no sign of damage there. During the prebuy inspection a slight indentation was noted near the tiedown ring, so there was some suspicion of a tail strike. (But no evidence of any structural damage to the aft bulkhead supporting the tail structure. Good thing, that. Damage in this area would have been a very big deal indeed.)

Once the tailcone was made shiny-clean, the situation was plain. There had indeed been a tail strike, and of such force that it cracked a support bracket. Wow. Air Mod called some purveyors of vintage aircraft parts (a/k/a junkyards, er, salvage yards) and these brackets are apparently as scarce as hen’s teeth. Even so, hopes are high that we’ll eventually find one.

But let’s think about this. How could this have happened? The answer is obvious, of course. Either one of 75YR’s previous owners WAY over-rotated on takeoff, or WAY over-flared on a landing. Either way, the conditions must have been desperate for this to cause the damage we see here:

Wham-o! First off, look at how clean the internal skins are, now that Air Mod has cleaned them. But the cleaning revealed a crack in a support bracket. Meanwhile, only slight indentations in the skin tell of the tail strike.

Wham-o! First off, look at how clean the internal skins are, now that Air Mod has cleaned them. But the cleaning revealed a crack in a support bracket’s right side. Meanwhile, indentations in the tailcone skin tell of the tail strike.

The Debonair’s tail rides high as it sits on the ramp, so any rotating or flaring had to be on the violent side. Perhaps the pilot encountered a big downdraft on short final, and made a mighty effort to soften the ensuing landing/arrival? Or maybe a short runway and high density altitude encouraged an over-enthusiastic takeoff?

Whatever the reason, we’ll address the damage as part of the interior work package. Ah, those 50-year-old airplanes….the stories they could tell!

 

Air Mod takes on the interior

Thursday, August 22nd, 2013
AOPA's Sweepstakes Debonair, on Air Mod's ramp

AOPA’s Sweepstakes Debonair, on Air Mod’s ramp

Look for an upcoming article in the October AOPA Pilot, but thought I’d show you some of the work now going on at Air Mod. Air Mod, located at the Clermont (Ohio) County Airport in Batavia, Ohio, does more than simply pull an old interior and replace it with a newer one. The company also puts a lot of effort into dealing with corrosion and hidden problems. “This airplane is pretty typical of the older airplanes we work on,” said Air Mod president Dennis Wolter. “It’s got rotting floorboards and about an inch of dirt all along its belly.”

The interior was an aftermarket replacement for the original. Features include no lumbar support and now-rotting carpet and sidewalls. Take a good look, because it's history--already.

The interior was an aftermarket replacement for the original. Features include no lumbar support and now-rotting carpet and sidewalls. Take a good look, because it’s history–already.

Wolter and his crew will spend about 80 hours just cleaning up this mess, the detritus of 50 years. A tarry substance–an asphalt-based goo that Beech used as a corrosion preventive–has attracted dirt over the years.  It will take days of work to remove it and inspect the bare aluminum below for signs of corrosion. So far, the news is good on this front–no untreatable corrosion. But the dirt is daunting, and hard to reach. Wolter uses lacquer thinner and lots of ScotchBrite pads to make the interior skins shiny again. After that, the skins will be chromated, and ready for years of corrosion-free service.

The belly of the beast. Here you get a good look at the asphalt, plus the static line for the pitot-static system. The tube ends should have been secured with hose clamps. Soon, they will be.

The belly of the beast. Here you get a good look at the asphalt, plus the static line for the pitot-static system. The tube ends should have been secured with hose clamps. Soon, they will be.

Dirt, old springs, washers, and much more fell to the belly of the 50-year-old Debonair

Dirt, old springs, washers, and much more fell to the belly of the 50-year-old Debonair

“I weighed it, just for kicks,” said Wolter of all the dirt. “It’s four pounds.”

Of course, the interior is now completely gutted, and the seats are bare skeletons, awaiting cleaning, corrosion treatment, and new, leather-covered cushions with headrests. The seats will feature a dark-gray leather design, the sidewalls and headliner will be white leather with Bubinga-wood trim, and the carpet will be dark blue.

The old headliner--here secured with duct tape--will soon go. The fresh air scoop is opened and closed using a headliner-mounted control and it will be lubricated for smoother operation.

The old headliner–here secured with duct tape–will soon go. The fresh air scoop is opened and closed using a headliner-mounted control and it will be lubricated for smoother operation.

Best of all: the old seat belts will go. They’ll be replaced with four-point harnesses up front. The shoulder restraints are from BAS Inc. so many thanks to them. I hated flying with just a seat belt.

So adios, old interior! You were lovingly installed by a previous owner, but your glory days are done. And it had that moldy, Florida-damp smell, too. I once took something out of a saggy old pouch that was hung on the door. The pouch came off in my hand. Another time, I was getting a chart out of a side pocket. The chart snagged on a corner of the pocket, and r-r-r-i-i-i-p-p! There went a huge swath of that old brown sidewall. That looked ugly, so I pulled some more, and it was actually kind of fun pulling the sidewall free. It was so effortless! It was so…. rotten!

A glimpse of the near future: Swatches showing elements of Air Mod's interior scheme.

A glimpse of the near future: Swatches showing elements of Air Mod’s interior scheme.

As always, more news to follow, so stay tuned…..