Monday, 26 November 2007

Fabric Removal - The Fuselage

Having removed the skylight, I started to tackle the main part of the fuselage by removing the fabric. The hope is that this will be removed in one piece (or as near as) so that I can use the fabric as a template later on when recovering. This may sound unnecessary but I forgot to measure up where the rudder cables exit the fuselage before cutting the fabric off, but I should still be able to get a fairly accurate measurement from the remains.

The tools required were just a Stanley knife, stout gloves and a mask. Razorback, being glass fiber is nasty stuff, and I had already got a rash from cutting small bits of fabric when transporting the aircraft to the workshop (once bitten, twice shy).

I started by cutting down the center of the fuselage top deck and then peeling the fabric off the sides, taking care not to scratch any of the tubes underneath with the knife blade.

An initial inspection of the tubing revealed very little , if any, corrosion on the upper longerons but the lower longerons are covered in dirt and grime accumulated over the years so I won't be able to see the corrosion until this is all removed and the tubes cleaned.

One interesting point I noticed was a kink in the starboard top longeron at one of the weld clusters which isn't mirrored on the port side. I've been told this may be due to weld 'shrinkage' or due to a deliberate outward curve on the tubes which will disappear when the fabric is shrunk on. If anyone else has any thoughts, let me know.

I wasn't surprised to find that spaces between the inner and outer fabric layers above the doors and around the D windows had been filled with an expanding foam; I already knew it was there, but I was keen to remove it and check that it hadn't trapped any moisture, potentially causing corrosion in the tubing.

So far it seems I may have gotten away with no corrosion in these areas.

What was surprising was the condition of the woodwork around the doors and skylight frame. Once it is all cleaned up a lot of it may be re-usable.

The D window frames are substantial and my plan at the moment is to replace them with smaller D windows. The top of the window will be in line with the top of the door, while the bottom edge will follow the line of the diagonal tube which runs from the back of the seat to the roof.

I still have the fabric around the port side door and window to remove and I need to remove the fabric from the bottom of the fuselage. When that is complete I can finish removing the boot cowl, clean up the fuselage tubes, inspect them for obvious corrosion and then look at stripping and inspecting the wings.

Saturday, 24 November 2007

Removing the Skylight

One of the first jobs tackled was the removal of the skylight as this would give me a little more elbow room while removing the interior. This was a fairly easy exercise but helps to illustrate some of the issues that lead me to wanting to undertake the restoration.

Firstly I removed the tapes that surrounded the edges of the skylight. This revealed the first surprise - the skylight was riveted down in places - to what I'm not sure yet.

I could also see that the skylight appeared to be glued down as well.

Next I removed all the screws that held the skylight to the wood formers around the rear of the skylight and at the front where it overlaps the windscreen. The windscreen and skylight also appear to be glued together.

Using a screwdriver I gently part the skylight from the frame. The glue turns out to be silicone sealant. I definitely won't be using silicone when the skylight goes back in as it's not in the spirit of a vintage airplane.

Separating the windscreen and skylight was more difficult and the windscreen unfortunately succumbed in the process. The Plexiglas at the top had become very brittle probably due to the action of UV light over the years and broke while being separated.
Thankfully, I had made the decision to replace the windscreen after a flight into sun one evening. Although the windscreen looked to be in good condition, it was not good enough to last another 20-25 years so I would have to replace it sooner or later.

This is the resulting mess after the skylight was removed.

The new skylight will be smaller, terminating one bay forward of the existing skylight. This is partly because of the saving in weight but mainly because the additional area serves no useful purpose. It doesn't increase the rearward view at all and in summer helps to create an uncomfortable greenhouse for the pilot and passenger.

Tuesday, 20 November 2007

Transporting IH to the workshop

The day after the wings were removed, we tackled the job of transporting the fuselage off to the workshop. Ray Scrobie had made his trailer available for the day which although it was designed to carry a Jabiru, was just big enough to take the Taylorcraft so long as the undercarriage was removed.

Removal of the undercarriage meant disconnecting the brakes (courtesy of a pair if side cutters) and the removal of the bungee cords. We managed to remove the lighter cords with the bungee tool but the heavier cords put up much stiffer (sic) resistance and had to be cut off.

The resulting fuselage is much easier to handle. You don't realize just how heavy the undercarriage is until it is removed especially with the wheels on.

Holes were cut in the fabric and the straps passed through and tied firmly onto the trailer. Don't do this after the aircraft has been recovered though.

Rob and Ray helped manhandle the aircraft into the workshop which turns out to be a snug but manageable size for the project

Monday, 19 November 2007

Dismantling IH - The Wings

A week after IHs last flight I started to dismantle her and get her ready to transport over to my workshop. Like most mechanical things, the taking apart bit is fairly easy if you are prepared, so the first task was to arrange:
  1. A gang of helpers on call to help lift the wings.
  2. A hoist so that we could pull the engine off.
  3. Basic tools (spanners, screwdrivers, hammer etc).
  4. AN3, AN4 & AN5 bolts which are used to drive out the existing wing and strut attachment bolts.
  5. Jerry can for draining fuel out of the wing tanks.
  6. Wing supports.

With this in place, the fuel was drained from the wing tanks so that they could be disconnected. I had to cut the fabric above the doors a dig out a lot of foam from inside the cockpit to expose the fuel lines. At some point in the past, the wing roots and interior around the baggage area had been filled with foam, possibly as sound insulation or to prevent drafts. One thing I will have to inspect for is moisture trapped by the foam causing the tubes underneath to corrode.

The aileron cables were then disconnected inside the cockpit and the static and dynamic pitot tubes cut so that there was nothing connecting the wings to the fuselage.

I removed the ailerons to make the wing lighter and to prevent them from being damaged during wing removal and transport. and the jury struts, which is required before the lift struts are removed.

The wing bands and fairings around the top of the undercarriage were then removed to expose the wing and strut attachment bolts. These bolts were then replaced with quick release pins which would make the job of removing the wings quick and easy. The pins are just mild steel rod, bent through 90 degrees at one end making them easy to pull out when required.

Actually removing the wings requires 5 people (4 at a push). A good trick is to remember to keep the engine on the airframe while removing the wings. It looks odd, but you can take a wing off leaving the other wing unsupported AS LONG AS THE ENGINE IS ON.

Removing the Wings
One person should support the wing at the tip while two people remove and support the lift struts at the wing attachment points. A forth person can then remove the pin at the fuselage/strut attachment point and the struts can be put to one side.

Two people can now take the weight of the wing near it's root on the front and trailing edge while the two quick release pins that hold the wing to the fuselage are pulled. The wing can now be laid on the ground. This is then repeated on the other wing.

The removal of the two wings took less than 10 minutes with minimum fuss and effort.

The wings were then placed in a cradle ready for transport and I continued the dismantling process with the engine and tail feathers.

Thanks to the team, John (my Dad), Rob (Mr Taylorcraft UK) Lees, Mick Medland and Martin Hickin.

Thursday, 15 November 2007

October 2007 - IHs Last Flight

Sunday 28th October at 16:10, having waited all day for the stormy weather to pass through, the wind suddenly dropped, the rain moved away to the north east of the airfield and I was able to push IH out of the hangar for her 'official' last flight before rebuild.

A number of people had gathered to witness the flight and take photographs and video of the occasion so I obliged with a couple of passes by the tower. The weather was perfectly still and IH flew hands off around the circuit controlled by rudder and trim alone. The last landing on runway 33 was thankfully one of my better ones.

The only time it actually hit me that this was THE last flight was when shutting down at the end of the flight and I'll admit to having a lump in my throat jut this once.

Following the flight, we gathered to conduct the time honored ceremony of cutting the fabric to mark the official start of the project followed by a few drinks.

The next steps would be stripping the aircraft down ready for transport to the workshop and sending the engine off for long term inhibiting.

Tuesday, 13 November 2007

2006 - Searching for premesis

Back in 2006 it was obvious that the main stumbling block was going to be finding somewhere to use as a workshop. There was no space at home and I didn't fancy using space at the local airfield as there would be too many distractions especially during the summer on a nice flying day. I tried advertising in the local Post Office's with no luck, then by chance I noticed that one of our local farmers was advertising a small workshop for rent.

It turned out that the workshop was unsuitable, being too small for my needs, but he did know of another farmer who had a barn converted into workshop space, and he was looking for tenants. A visit quickly followed and a gentleman's agreement struck. The barn would need some attention before it was ready to take IH so I set myself a budget and a timescale of 1 year to equip and setup the workshop.

The barn/workshop had been used as a dumping ground by a previous tenant so my first job was to clear the area an assess what I had.

Having cleared the space, I sealed and painted the floor white using a proprietary floor paint. This would give a better reflective surface making the workshop brighter as well as easier to clean.

It also keeps the concrete dust down.

The shelving was surplus to requirements at work so I acquired it free of charge. Once assembled, I screwed it to the wall for safety.

I gradually added a workbench, extra lighting, compressor and other tooling that would be required.

The compressor is a 3hp electrically driven (single phase) compressor with a 150 ltr receiver. This will be used to power a small bead blasting cabinet and my spaying equipment.

Each bay in the workshop is lit by two double fluorescent lighting units and I have additional free standing units which can be arranged around any work.

The workbench is 8' x 3' and stand elbow high for ease of work.

During October 2007 I started to put a frame around the workshop to keep the dust out and so that I could spay without affecting the rest of the work place. This is a simple 2"x1" frame with plastic sheeting stapled to it. Each frame is 2.4m long and can be removed in seconds to open up the area.

So by the end of October 2007, I was ready to move IH into the workshop.

Monday, 12 November 2007

2005 - A Germ of an Idea

I have owned and operated G-BRIH since August 1998 having persuaded her (I maintain that all aircraft are feminine) previous owner that he needed to sell her, and I was the person he was going to sell to. His subsequent pleadings for me to sell her back fell on deaf ears.

Since 1998, I have modified IH by swapping the Continental A65-8 engine for a C85-8 engine, a fairly painless process except for a sharp pain in the wallet every now and again. This completely changed the aircraft from a slightly overweight, underpowered but adequate machine into one that just leapt into the skies and said let's go have fun.

To help save weight I also removed an extended baggage compartment and after re-weighing had managed to lose 30 lbs in weight. This still meant that IH's empty weight was around 865 lbs which is heavy for this type of aircraft, some examples being between 800 - 820 lbs.

Looking back in the aircraft log books also reveals that the fabric (Razorback; fibreglass) has been on the aircraft for over 35 years and although it is in good condition (well it's almost indestructible) I think it's time that I checked out what is going on underneath.

Soooo.. back in 1987 or there abouts the decision was made to restore IH. The timing was based on finances and when Rob Lees (Mr Taylorcraft UK) finished restoring his aircraft G-BREY. Then I could nick all his expertise and jigs. What I didn't have was anywhere to carry out a restoration. Rob has used his house as a workshop but I didn't have that option, nor did I have a garden big enough to plant an oversize garden shed and call it a workshop.

Having got the germ of an idea - the hunt was on for a premesis.