Archive for April, 2011

Let the painting begin!

Monday, April 25th, 2011

OK, I have been reading all your comments (thanks so much for following along, hope you like it), and while I can’t guarantee that any one of you will win “your” airplane, I can say this: Elvis–er, the Crossover Classic–has left the building. The Air Mod building that is. The interior has been completed, and photos and more coverage of this excellent effort will soon be posted–and published in AOPA Pilot.

A couple of items need to be mentioned. Everyone dwells on the major components of an interior overhaul, but don’t forget the detail items that may not be immediately apparent. For example, beat-up, faded plastic parts. Would yellowed plastic panels on the doors or A-, B-, and C-pillars show up against the backdrop of a brand-new leather interior? You bet they would! Like a sore thumb! That’s why anyone considering an interior renovation should yank out the old plastic (and there are a LOT of interior plastic parts) and replace it with new components.

Stripped and mummified

Stripped and mummified

Once more, we’ve chosen to go with Vantage Plane Plastics’ replacement plastic. Vantage, at, makes interior plastic kits for a wide range of GA airplanes. It’s their specialty. We’ve used Vantage’s plastic parts in our 2004 Twin Comanche “Win-A-Twin” sweepstakes airplane, as well as our 2006 Cherokee Six “Win A Six in ’06” sweeps project airplane.

Another neat detail-that’s-a-big deal is Saircorp’s rudder pedal extensions. These fit over the stock rudder pedals and give you more rudder authority–especially when your legs are on the short side and you’re facing a sporty crosswind landing. You can check them out at

All the hard work is done

All the hard work is done

And now, in breaking news, I can report that the airplane is now at Boss Aircraft Refinishers at Salibury, North Carolina’s Rowan County Airport–and its nasty old paint job has been stripped off! I am personally elated. Any of you who have seen the plane in person can testify to the deteriorated condition of the original paint job. Well, it’s gone.

Bill Lucey, head of Boss Aircraft Refinishers, said that the stripping did pose some challenges. The old lacquer-based paint doesn’t exactly slough off like newer polyurethane paints. “With polyurethane, the day after you hit the plane with the stripping agent you can hear the paint coming off,” he said. “It’s like ‘splat, splat, splat’–you can hear it from the next room.”

Down to the bare frame

Down to the bare frame

But with lacquer, it’s a different story. Lacquer does slide off a little bit, Lucey says. But mainly it turns into a goo that resembles “burnt cheese.”  (I’m still trying to imagine what that looks like). Anyway, the burnt cheese needs to be hit repeatedly with stipper, blown off with a high-pressure sprayer, scrubbed with Scotchbrite, and washed and rewashed in order to coax all that goo off the airplane.

Now, the red goo is no more. In its place is a bare, all-aluminum exterior. And while the ship is far from its final coat of paint, its appearance is greatly improved. It sure looks a whae of a lot better than before!

Next up: Application of the white base coat, the masking of the paint scheme, the application of the paint scheme, and the clearcoat finish. Stay tuned!

Sun ‘N Fun Aftermath – Blown Alternator CB!

Thursday, April 7th, 2011

Thanks for all the notes about the Sweeps 182’s fate during the March 31 tornado event at Sun ‘N Fun. The airplane survived in fine shape–more than you can say about a lot of airplanes on the Lakeland Linder Regional Airport that day.

But there was a catch. On the last day of the show–as with all such large fly-ins–the exhibit airplanes are towed and/or pulled manually out of the exhibit area. The result is a traffic jam because everyone wants to get out of there asap. So there I was waiting for the airshow to finish and the red flag to descend–meaning that the field was now open, and taxiing for takeoff could begin. (All I wanted to do was cross the active, taxi over to the FBO, and get ready for a departure the next morning.)

The plane started fine, but then, uh oh. The 60-ampere Alternator circuit breaker popped! I was on battery, stuck in a conga line that wasn’t budging, and watching my battery indicator dropping through 11 volts. No way was I going to reset the CB and risk further problems.

Long story short: I made it to the other side, had AeroMech’s mechanics look at the charging system, and waited for the verdict.

“The voltage regulator was full of water,” said AeroMech’s Ken Willaford. “I took it out, shook it, and water came out. So I blew it and the rest of the engine compartment out with compressed air, started it up, and everything worked fine.”

The next day I took off–bound for the paint shop. Three hours and change later, I was at Boss Aircraft Refinishers at Salisbury, North Carolina’s Rowan County Airport (KRUQ). Bill Lucey took the keys, and I was outa there.

Anybody else out there been waterlogged like that?

So now, let the painting begin! And brother, does this airplane need a new paint job. Look for more updates on the stripping of the bad old paint and the application of the new paint job over the coming weeks.

Sweeps at Sun ‘N Fun, Cont’d

Friday, April 1st, 2011

The Sweeps plane the day after the supercell—no damage!

The claw held!

My post yesterday was rudely interrupted by the massive supercell thunderstorm complex that rolled through the Sun ‘N Fun grounds. As I was typing, a gust of wind blew open the back of AOPA’s tent–right behind me. Now I had an in-person view of the torrential rain and monumental winds. And a thorough soaking. Then a gust blew down a stack of water bottles, so I was surrounded by oh, maybe four dozen 24-packs of “Silver Springs” water. Then the power went out. So I disconnected and evacuated to the Florida Air Museum with other AOPA staff.

Now, back to the Crossover Classic’s fate. The good news is: NO DAMAGE! (There is no bad news). I watched the airplane from the tent for a while, and it rocked a good bit, but the tiedowns held. Those tiedowns–known as “The Claw”–are held into the ground by three angled pins. And they worked. Many other airplanes on the field didn’t fare as well, as I’m sure you’ve seen in the coverage on AOPA’s website. So bravo for The Claw. And good luck played a big part, too, I’m sure.

The inside of the sweeps plane.

I also credit our good fate to the strength of our new tent, and the blocking effect it–and Pilot Mall store behind us–exerted on the damaging wind flows from the west. All’s well that ends well!

I’m sending along some iPhone snapshots of the 182’s interior–and one of The Claw tiedown points–because several of you asked to get a glimpse. Sorry about the quality. Better photography will follow!
For the record, the Lakeland Linder Airport experienced a confirmed EF-1 tornado. The “EF” stands for “enhanced Fujita,” and the “1” is a damage designator. According to the EF scale, an EF-1 tornado will cause “moderate damage. Rooves can be snapped, mobile homes overturned, exterior doors lost, and windows and other glass broken.” The National Weather Service might also add, “tied-down airplanes flipped, torn loose of their moorings, and light airplanes crushed.” Storm winds in an EF-1 tornado run from 86-110 mph. The NWS recorded a downburst gust yesterday at 75 mph. Well above takeoff speed for most of the airplanes on display here.

Sweep's Seat!