Archive for the ‘Paint Job’ Category

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 ….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Stripped!

Wednesday, June 5th, 2013

To many–yours truly included–the Debonair’s trip to the paint shop couldn’t come soon enough. That old, funky, faded paint job had to go! I mean, you could see where previous owners tried to “rescue” it by actually spray-painting some touch-ups. Guess they went to Home Depot or Lowe’s and got some cans of spray paint. Looks good….Not!

Anyway, I flew the Deb to KD Aviation at the Stewart International Airport (KSWF) a week ago on a blustery day. Surface winds were gusting to 35 knots out of the west, so Stewart’s super-long runway 27 was a welcome sight. By the way, KD is located off taxiway L in case you want to fly in for a visit. It’s over in the cargo area where they store the snowplows.

KD stripped off the old paint in a jiffy. The stripper reeks of ammonia but the shop uses eco-friendly materials and procedures. That was hard to believe when I stepped into the shop–it took my breath away. After the stripper is applied, the old paint sort of shrivels up and then dries. The next day, the dried-out flakes of paint are brushed off (if they haven’t fallen off already) and swept off the floor into bags for disposal.

What’s left is what you see in the accompanying photo. Notice that the control surfaces have been removed during the pre-paint process.

So long, old paint. Note that the new engine access door is being tried on for size in this photo, and that the control surfaces are currently removed.

So long, old paint. Note that the new engine access door is being tried on for size in this photo, and that the control surfaces are currently removed.

And, as always it seems, a new issue emerged. The right flap actuator had damaged the nose ribs of the flap. This was damage that couldn’t be seen during a preflight inspection. Soooo, we shipped the flap to trusted airframe components supplier Aircraft Components by Williams Inc. (formerly known as Williams Airmotive).

Roy Williams heads up Aircraft Components, and he has helped us in the past with difficult-to-find airframe parts. In 2004, he stepped forward with a new stabilator for the AOPA sweepstakes plane that year–a 1965 Piper Twin Comanche. We called that project the “Win-A-Twin.” Remember? Williams’ stabilator was a beauty, and it saved our skin because the original stab was patched. Patching control surfaces is a no-no, especially in the Comanche and Twin Comanche, which have had issues (now resolved!) with tail flutter.

“Send both flaps,” Williams said of the Debonair. “And send the rudder too.” Thanks a million Roy. Williams is double-checking to make sure that any and all rudder Airworthiness Directives and Service Bulletins are complied with.

Anyone out there need control surfaces or other airframe parts for old airplanes? Then call Roy at 260-347-0807, or visit his website at www.airframecomponents.com/. And tell him I sent you.

As always, watch for more updates coming soon. And remember folks, this is a two-year project. The winner won’t be flying the Debonair away until the AOPA Summit in Palm Springs in 2014.

On to paint

Monday, April 22nd, 2013

Last Saturday, April 20, I flew the Debonair to KD Aviation, the paint shop that will soon give it a much-needed beauty treatment. It was an hour-and-a-half flight from AOPA’s home base at the Frederick, Maryland Municipal Airport (FDK) to KD’s location at the Stewart International Airport (SWF) in Newburgh, New York.

Much of the flight was taken up with photographing the panel. We wanted to show the Aspen and Garmin units at work–along with the iPad Mini. But the weather and light conditions were not cooperating. AOPA Pilot’s Al Marsh was in the right seat, trying to capture the displays. And not capture the reflections.

The climbout from FDK gave a hint of what was to come. Turbulence, light at first, built to a crescendo of continuous moderate turbulence at our cruising altitude of 7,500 feet. At that altitude we were above a broken layer, with clear skies above. That meant plenty of sun. Sun that put a lot of reflections on the display screens.

We anticipated this, so Marsh brought along about a half-dozen black cardboard squares of varying sizes, and a roll of gaffer tape to hold them in place. I wore a black jacket in hopes of keeping reflections down. That was a partial success in suppressing reflections. In perfect 20-20 hindsight, we should have borrowed a trick from staff senior photographer Mike Fizer and brought along a black cloth to quash reflections. Ah, well–next time.

But you should have seen it. Between the turbulence and all that cardboard taped here, there, and everywhere it was quite a scene. Many shots were compromised by reflections, but I’m told there are several good ones among the bunch. Here are a couple:

Aspen MFD (lft) shows winds aloft. PFD shows synthetic vision view with flight path marker. Right MFD shows radar view (bottom view)  and traffic (upper half of screen view)

Aspen MFD (left) shows winds aloft and mini-synthetic vision views. PFD shows synthetic vision view with flight path marker. Check out that crab angle! Right MFD shows radar (bottom view) and terrain (upper half of screen view)

Garmin GTN 750 showing TIS-B traffic

Garmin GTN 750 showing TIS-B traffic

By the way, the paint job will be done in two stages. The first step is to give it an all-Matterhorn white coat of paint. The second step will come later in the year, when we apply stripes.

Debbie does Sun N’ Fun

Saturday, April 13th, 2013

After a three-ship, nine-hour flight from Santa Fe–home of the Debonair’s avionics installer, Santa Fe Aero Services–the Debonair Sweepstakes airplane made its way to Sun N’ Fun. The other airplanes in our loose formation were a Diamond DA40, flown (and owned) by Aspen Avionics president John Uczekaj, with Aspen sales director Rob Blaha in the right seat; a Navion flown by Santa Fe Aero CEO/GM Pat Horgan, who brought his wife Emily and kids along; and moi, in the Debonair, of course.

The first leg was from Santa Fe to Wichita Falls Texas’ Shepherd Air Force Base, home of what must be one of the longest and widest runways in the U.S. Since it was the weekend, there was no tower in operation. It somehow felt unusual to self-announce on CTAF when entering the pattern at a runway complex that huge.

The next leg: Wichita Falls to Alexandria, Louisiana, where we overnighted. Then it was on to Lakeland for the Lake Parker VFR arrival. The Garmin GTN 750 showed the way to the Lake Parker entry waypoint, and it was a fairly smooth procedure. Sure, it was a challenge following an antique biplane, but soon enough I was tugged through the entry gate to the display area.

The next challenge was towing the airplane past all the exhibitors’ cars and trucks on set-up day. But the crowning event of the arrival involved jockeying the airplane into its display site in front of the AOPA tent. A forklift held up one of the roof beams while workers removed the vertical post that ordinarily would support the roof. With great care, the Debonair was coaxed into position, the post re-installed, and the forklift backed away, leaving the Debonair at center stage under a huge sunscreen.

The Debonair, on display duty at Sun N' Fun 2013

The Debonair, on display duty at Sun N’ Fun 2013

It’s now Saturday, and the show ends tomorrow. Hundreds and hundreds of visitors to AOPA’s site have come by the Debonair to look at the new panel and offer their comments. The airplane has proven to be quite a draw, and often there are large crowds around it.

Visitor comments touch on similar themes. Here are the most common, in order of frequency:

1) “Are you going to paint it?” or “I guess it’s going to the paint shop next?” These questions reveal just how polite people can be. Subliminally, what these people are really saying is this: “That’s an awful paint job, and I sure hope you change it very, very quickly.” Yes, we are! That’s the next step in the restoration.

2) “What year is it?” This is a variation of question 1), only the context being in terms of appearance as a function of age.

3) “I’m going to win it,” or “this will look good in my hangar,” or “you can give me the keys now,” and other equally confident predictions.We hear this all the time, with any sweepstakes airplane, so this statement comes as no surprise.

4) “I used to own a Debonair.” Many owners apparently found Debonairs to be great step-up airplanes when moving to complex, high-performance flying–and a better option than buying a Piper Comanche, the Debonair’s main competitor back in the day.

5) “What’s that? An iPad?” Yes it is! For all the wonderful Aspen and Garmin gear dominating the panel, the Ipad Mini grabbed many eyeballs. The Mini uses Garmin’s Pilot app to display moving maps with own-ship georeferencing, ADS-B traffic, and much much more.

That’s it for now. The Deb flies north next–to KD Aviation’s paint shop at the Trenton-Robbinsville airport in New Jersey. Keep checking this space for more reports and news, and fly safely.

 

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?