Dirt under the fingernails (at last)
Right, out with the spanners. Pausing to take pictures with my little digital camera and make sketches of the detail of the Romain mods before dismantling. Now the real work starts. The piles of dismantled bits grows on the shelves sporting their little labels. One to show where it belongs and its source and hopefully a green one showing work done and tests passed and more rarely a red marker showing rejected. I hope that there won’t be many of these.
With the front fuselage section dismantled and stacked on shelves an unexpected problem rears it’s head. Both the tubes supporting the nosewheel are bent and I have growing doubts about the ability of the mod to withstand use on farm strips. I’m beginning to think that I may revert to a tailwheel. With the Romain fin and rudder this brings it’s own problems. Still I never expected things to be straight forward. Wait a minute though, Jerry’s little beauty GMWFT had been built like that, time to get in touch again.
It is now time to take a look at the flying surfaces. So I lay out a wing on a covered table to start the glueing and filling work. As this wing has been left uncovered some of the foam to ply rib joints have been stressed and show signs of cracks to the glued ply/foam joints and the blue foam has damage to it’s surface and corners. Heeding the good advice from my trusty inspector I open a V cut to the top of the cracks and pour in the heated epoxy mix until it is topped up.
After cutting out and replacing the worst damaged blue foam I set about mixing up my filler. Making sure I add plenty of microballoons to make it as soft as the foam for sanding I fill all the smaller damage. This feels good, adding something at last after all the dismantling.
The other handy tip from Gary was to save a sample of all my epoxy mixes, labelled and dated so any problems will show and be traceable. As it is my own personal bottom that this aircraft will bear off the ground this seems a good idea.
We decide to head off to Devon for a bit of a break over a long weekend. While down that way we visit Didie a fellow TST pilot. She, of course, would like show us her pride and joy , Poppy, who as the name suggests is a bright red TST and very nice too. This involves a trip to the airstrip and Halwell where due to the horrid weather there is no activity, but we are shown another Tiger Cub. It sits there on it’s trailer almost complete requiring little work to finish and fly, but sad and neglected and untouched for a couple of years, due we are told to her owner’s life falling apart. She is, we are told , free to anybody who would give her a good home. Reluctantly I tear myself away, No way could I take on another project and I don’t want to cannibalise her for parts she is so complete and I still feel guilty about the bits that I had from Bob’s GMJSU. She wasn’t anything like as complete but would still have been a good rebuild project for anyone prepared to put in the time.
On returning home I receive an e-mail from Brian who has a rebuild of a crashed Cub. Due to family commitments he is reluctantly giving up and offers me the remains including it seems most of the bits that have so far eluded me. The only trouble is he is in Penrith. that is a hell of a long way from Essex, still, as I have been told, I am daft enough for almost anything I get in touch with our local van hire firm again.
When we arrived after a long but pleasant drive Brian introduced us to his wife and his three very small very active children. No wonder he has no time for a project. We are then shown the remains of GMNKM. It seemed the owner before Brian with no training or licence after a couple of drinks decided to fly like a bird. Not surprisingly both he and his aircraft ended up badly bent.
We loaded up wended our long way home to try and find somewhere to store all my new treasure. Just as we entered Chelmsford, nearly home, we were cheered by the wonderful sight of the B17 shining in the evening sun as it flew straight towards us at not much over 1000′. That is a pretty fair greeting by any bodies standard.
The next job was to label up all the pieces and add them to the inventory to ensure that everything remains traceable. Then to separate all the bits to be incorporated in this rebuild ready for cleaning, checking and testing., Once again I was darn grateful for electronic workbook. As I have to date gathered major parts from Lincolnshire, Norfolk, Dorset and Cumbria and everything from a wing spar to a rivet must be fully traceable, a paperwork book would have been huge and very complex. As I have also been to several other places for information I feel as though I have combed the country to rebuild this aeroplane and in doing so I have met some terrific people and some of the wonderful characters that microlighting is so rich with.
As I dismantled the damaged front fuselage section I discarded the obviously damaged pieces into one pile and made stack of the others. When every part had been removed I then went though the damaged heap and removed all parts that would serve as a pattern. These pattern parts were given a red label and another plain label to say what they were and where they came from and put on the shelf reserved for that use, the remainder went into the scrap bin. I then moved to the other stack and degreased everything and cleaned all paint and varnish. Then all the right angle brackets, and there were many, were checked with a set square. This weeded out one or two more. All that was now left was checked with a magnifying glass under a strong light then tested with my crack detecting dye kit. A messy business that but it does wonders for the confidence
I was really pleased that the engine mounting plate, a large thick piece of alloy that passed all the tests. That was the largest, most important component that I had been short of. Satisfyingly I now had an imposing collection of gleaming, useful pieces. As I sat back to admire my collection I realised that I now owned almost two Tiger Cubs.
Apart from the wing ribs and foam wing panels the engine mounting plate and some simple brackets it was all there. My latest acquisition had been deregistered as the plonker that had bent it had never bothered to register it in his name. So I started the paperchase to prove that I was now the legal owner. The CAA responded with commendable speed and no hassle, there are some things that they are really good at.
So GMNKM was now back on the register and is officially in long term storage pending rebuild and is also officially mine. On paper I now have at least a share in four different aircraft. OK, GMJSP & GMNKM, my Tiger Cubs are in pieces (plural of Lions is a pride, what is the plural of Tigers? maybe as they are cubs it is just a litter).
I own a small share of the Grasshopper GCCXW, Saxon Microlights gleaming new Thruster T600N mostly so that I legitimately do the servicing. I also scrounge her for the odd flight, and my favourite, in which I have a quarter share, Thruster TST GMVDF. The difference between the Grasshoppers big Jab engine and DFs little 503 is amazing, they are both terrific aircraft, but I do enjoy the wonderful open cockpit of the TST. They both also look like microlights and don’t hide their light under a bushel trying to look like the ageing designs from messrs Piper and Cessna .I know that it sounds a lot but contrary to what they say as far as flying and aircraft are concerned it is difficult to have too much of a good thing.
Getting back to where I had been before I was interrupted I pressed on with work to the wing. At last I feel content with what I have achieved and can hang that one back up to await Garys verdict. The remaining three wings have been restored by the previous owner and his work has been approved by Gary so the ailerons come next. As all glueing and filling work needs cure time I need another job to run in parallel.
So I turn my attention to the control column and torque tube assembly. With the control column removed this proves to be so stiff as to be almost immovable. I don’t have to look far for the reason. All the moving parts are heavily smeared with grease, as everything slides or rotates in nylon bearings this is hardly a good idea. Just to prove the text books right the bearings now hold the torque tube in a vice like grip..
Fortunately the aileron control moves sweetly . So I ease it apart as gently as I can and set about removing the horrible mess. Then I know that I’ll spend many hours lapping in bearings with fine emery paper fitted to a piece of doweling of the correct size. There is also some scratching to the tube itself caused by grit in that damn grease. That will also need tidying up