Wednesday, October 22, 2008
On April 9, 2008 a tornado struck the Stephens County Airport near Breckenridge, Texas and left a trail of mangled hangers and airplanes. Unfortunately Piper Tri-Pacer N5852D was one of the victims. We were asked by the insurance company to recover the airplane and store it until the salvage could be put up for auction. The hanger was lifted up using a forklift and the wings were removed. A left landing gear leg was installed and the aircraft was loaded on a trailer and transported to our storage hanger in Graham, TX 30 miles away.
Examining the engine, prop and cowling it was determined that there was no damage firewall forward and the decision was made to bid on the salvage. Upon learning that we were the high bidder it became apparent that we now owned an airplane project and a decision had to be made whether to part it out or rebuild it. Having a Piper Clipper and Super Cub project already, it didn't make much sense to take on another project but that is how the kids got involved.
When Tabitha and Taylor saw the airplane their first question was "Could we learn to fly in it?" I said sure if you rebuild it. They said "we want to rebuild it but we don't just want to clean parts." So I pointed out what needed to be done. The top longeron on the fuselage was bent. We can replace it in our fuselage jig. Several bent ribs in each wing but we have some extra ribs and a repair fixture. The landing gear, left elevator, stabilizer and rudder are bent but I have spares. The whole airplane has to be recovered. There reply, "We can do it." Ok, what have I got to lose.
We figured this was going to be a long term project and we needed to be sure and preserve the engine. Some AeroShell Fluid 2F preservative oil was ordered from Sky Geek www.skygeek.com. to keep our mid time engine rust free for the duration of our rebuild. Now we had an airplane which holds it's fuel in the wings but no wings on the airplane. Now we use a little ingenuity and we come up with what Tabitha calls the"RedneckAirplane".
Now that we have a fuel source we can start the engine and circulate the preservative oil. That little project takes most all of a Sunday afternoon so it is back in the storage hanger until our next free Sunday.
After taking the next Sunday off to take a friend to Dallas to catch a flight we are back to our project two weeks after the engine was pickled. The kids have acquired some help from their cousin Wade to help them get the fuselage from the storage hanger at the airport to the shop behind the house. Luckily we have a fancy tilting airplane hauling trailer with a winch on the front on loan from a friend that makes this a very easy task.
Once the fuselage is at the house shop the fun begins as the inspection plates are removed along with the elevators, stabilizers and the rudder.
Next Sunday the fabric comes off.