Flew the Coupe! – Part 18 – Back at it

So it has been some time since my last blog.  Sadly the less fun things in life have kept me away from flying.  A couple of job related things and just the world.  Of course my last blog left poor Woodstock with a motor back to sound but a nasty radio gremlin.  So what has happened since then.

Copper State Fly In and a Visit to my Hangar at FFZ

So I went to the Copper State Fly in at FFZ in late October.  I had hoped that would be like I remembered it.  At one time it was one of the best fly ins in the country for home built aircraft.  My how times have changed.  It has become a very nice “open house” for FFZ but no home built aircraft to be found.  Also very few warbirds or classics.  So sorry to disappoint, no pictures or anything fun to report.  But I remain a huge fan of FFZ.  I still think it is one of the best airports in the country.  Sadly I learned the was an Ercoupe gathering nearby I should have gone to instead.  Still I got to see some old friends and family so the trip was definitely worth it.  I bet I go back again this year (for the friends and family and those elusive Ercoupes!)

Flying Defeated by a Battery!

So then it was winter in the Seattle area, I had a flaky radio and combined with weather I had no desire to fly.  One day in January was better than most and when I did go to spend some time in the pattern I found the battery dead.  Ugh, so I put it on a charger and decided I would try again next time the weather was good.  The next time the weather was good the battery was not.

Spacegrrrl gets a check up – Basic Med

I realized I needed to do something about my medical.  After thinking about it I realized I had a regular Dr.s appoint scheduled anyways so I sent my Dr. the “Basic Med” forms and asked her to do that examine as part of my check up.  Of course that was a breeze.  I took the online test and now I am covered under “basic med”.  They say to maintain my “basic med” I have to see my Dr. every 48 months.  Since I do at least an yearly check up of course that isn’t an issue.  Right now I am covered in the U.S. but things are in motion to make “basic med” legal outside of the U.S.  For now I am definitely able to fly Woodstock anyplace I expect to any time soon.

Aviation Trade Show 2018!

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So February happened and that meant the annual aviation convention nearby.  I always attend.  There were a few fun things.  Besides the normal safety talks we have a fantastic speaker.  A famous SR-71 pilot “Brian Shul” .  A very inspirational speaker.  He overcame an amazing accident which left him badly burned to become one of the very few people ever to fly an SR-71.  He also became and amazing photographer.  This year there was not a dinner at the convention and even though there may have been a part Saturday night I didn’t look into it.  Here is a picture of Mr. Shul:

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So with the convention behind me and a fresh dose of enthusiasm it was time to think about Woodstock,  I decided to try and get Woodstock’s annual inspection done while the weather here in Seattle isn’t so good so I got an owner assisted annual scheduled with the mechanic that did the inspection last year.  In the mean time I started to prep Woodstock for his check up.  I didn’t have nearly as many things to want to do to Woodstock as I did last year.

Woodstock’s Yearly Check Up

I knew of four things I needed to do:

  1. Replace my ELT battery
  2. Add some sealing to my engine baffling
  3. Get a better battery
  4. Solve my radio problem

One the first thing.  I took apart my ELT and removed the battery.  Once I knew what I needed I ordered a new one from Aircraft Spruce.  Problem solved.

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Item 2.  My Ercoupe had a big gap between the engine baffling and the cowl nose bowl.  At one time it looked like there was some foam rubber attached to the nose bowl intended to seal this gap.  You want to seal gaps because you want to make sure the air is going where it needs to go to cool the engine.  So along with the battery order I added some strip rubber and the rivet kit to install better seals.  Here is the baffling before the rubber and the new rubber seals:

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Now what to do about the battery.  I could just by yet another Gill battery or look into new technology batteries.  I had hear good things about batteries from Odyssey.  They make a “dry cell” battery that is much lighter.  I had heard of another coupe owner in the area that had put in one of those.  So I ordered one of those too.  This battery is much smaller so I would have to find some foam to secure the smaller battery in the original location.  Here is the new battery next to the old one:

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So after I got the new battery I went on the hunt for the ideal foam rubber to pad the battery box.  That was more complicated that I thought but after store visit #4 I did find some material that looked right for the job.

So now to find the radio gremlin.  My radio has an integrated intercom.  It has an optional switch to turn the radio into an intercom.  I suspected it was this switch that was causing the radio not to transmit.  Here is the schematic:

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Pin 6 is the push to talk switch.  So the “intercom” switch disconnected the “push to task” switch and connects the mic output to the internal intercom circuit.  My solution was simple.  Remove the switch from the circuit.  This took a little challenging gymnastics of my friend Olan and a soldering iron.  But soon the switch was no longer hooked up and the radio was back acting like a champ.

Nothing was left but to fly.  A nice day finally came around and I agreed to meet up with a friend back at Tacoma Narrows where I had last flown Woodstock.  Well the little bird flew great!  Well almost.  Here Woodstock is on the ramp in front of the Restaurant:

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So what went wrong?  Engine ran fine, radio worked great but the tower reported that my transponder was not functioning.  Well, another squawk to sort out.  So I set about biting the bullet and trying to find out what a new ADS-B transponder will cost me.

Sadly a combination of other factors kept me from making the fly ins I so hoped to attend.  I was not able to confirm the transponder issue before Arlington (bad weather made me less sad about that) and I did not get Woodstock to the Concrete fly in either.

A job change forced me to miss flying with friends to Oshkosh as well.The it was the summer of fires!  Here in the PacNW we had a terrible summer with much of the time in smoke so bad as to close airports.  This was not the summer of flying.  But things are looking up for the fall.  I have gotten a bid on an ADS-B solution that I will have installed as soon as the shop cans schedule me in.  The new job will not allow me the time to fly Woodstock to the national Ercoupe convention in New Mexico this year but I will attend by flying there on a commercial flight.  It will be fun to meet more coupe owners and see how Woodstock compares to the other coupes around.

So stay tuned, coming up:

  • Some fun things to Woodstock.
  • Things to look forward to in the near-ish future.
  • A report of a quick trip to the national air races.
  • A post will be about blinging up Woodstock.
  • My ADS-B adventure.  The Ercoupe convention.
  • Some new gizmos I bought for my flying.
  • Some actual flying. Woodstock’s next annual.
  • The next aviation convention.
  • And finally a plan for a much more aviation focused 2019.

More soon!

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Flew the Coupe! – Part 17 – back in the air and drama!

So I had Woodstock back together with a healthy engine.  But the distraction of the Reno Air races meant I wasn’t going to be able to fly Woodstock for some time.  It turned out nearly a month.  Once back from Reno I needed to find a good weather day for a test flight and make sure the valve issue was resolved.  I wanted a short flight to check out the engine.  The first nice weekend was just after my birthday I made plans to meet my friend Olan at the great restaurant at the Tacoma Narrows airport.  This is about a 20 minute flight for me and I still probably had my tanks 1/3 full.  Maybe 2 hours of fuel.  But as I taxied past the gas pumps I remembered that old saying “nothing is worth less than fuel on the ground”.  So I topped of the tanks and headed out.

Spacegrrrl – the test pilot

If anything my engine was stronger than before (but maybe a little rougher?)  Soon I was tied up out front of the restaurant waiting for Olan.  Woodstock, as usual was getting admirers.   Here is a photo:

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So we found the service at “The Hub” on the slower side but the food was great.  Olan agreed to follow me back to Auburn airport (S50) and we headed back.  Once again Woodstock was flying and the motor running great!  However as I switched from the Tacoma narrows tower frequency and back to Auburn I quickly learned there had been a gear collapse and the runway was closed until they could get the plane off the runway.  This was Sunday afternoon, so not a lot of folks around.  As Olan radioed me asking my intentions I discovered my radio would not transmit!!  I could received but the push to talk was not functioning.  Ugh, what to do!  I quickly tried to remember my “no radio” procedures and started to ponder what heading to either Renton or Pulayllup airports might look like.  Renton was very busy as this was a beautiful day and I did not like the idea of slipping into a busy pattern in Renton and staring at the tower for light signals.  Pulayllup would be better for sure.  But that would leave me hours from home and no good place to leave my plane.  What to do, what to do??

The Plan!

Well, good news, I had close to 5 hours of fuel!  So it seemed from the radio traffic at Auburn I should be able to wait for the runway to open.  In the mean time I stayed out of the traffic areas of the airport and tried to debug the radio.  I remembered I had a second push to talk switch so I unplugged everything and tried that.  No Joy! 😦  Then I plugged everything into the passenger side headphone jacks.  Again, no luck.  OK, all the time reminding myself to fly the plane.  So I put the original push to talk switch back into the pilot headphone jacks and turned my attention to the intercom switch.  One feature of the King radio I have (KX-155 which seems like a very nice radio) is an integrated intercom.  This feature is not that useful to my mind.   A switch puts the radio in intercom mode where the headsets are connected together to talk but neither can transmit or “”Xmit” mode where either headset can have a push to talk and can transmit.   Dennie had felt this switch had been an issue when he checked me out in Woodstock but it had never been a problem since.  So I kept flipping the switch back and forth.  After a frustrating amount of toggles I again could transmit!! The Evil switch!:

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Communication restored!

So at this point the pattern was clear as everyone knew the runway was closed.  So I joined the pattern and stayed at pattern altitude for the whole circuit.  I continued my position reports and monitored the progress as they cleared the plane form the runway.  After a little more than an hour the plane was off the runway, but not so fast.  The airport personnel needed to sweep the obvious FOD from the runway and then walk the complete runway to make sure no parts were on the runway that could affect runway traffic.  Another 30 minutes and the awesome announcement went out.  Runway is open for operation!  Of course I was the first in the pattern and soon I was announcing “Ercoupe 2756H is clear the active.  I taxied Woodstock back to my hangar started to put the plane “back in the barn”.  Soon several folks showed up to talk about the incident and help me push Woodstock back into his next.  Of course 90 minutes of Ercoupe chat (Woodstock makes friends everywhere he goes!) and a beer for several of the airport friends I was closing the hangar doors and contemplating my next steps.

This was October 15, 2017  Two days after my birthday and as it turns out the last day I would fly Woodstock that year.  I would have a number of distractions, finding a new job, going to the Copperstate Fly-in and having my hangar at FFZ inspected.  Also a mandatory visit of my AZ family.  Soon I would be focused on the new job, the holidays and the mostly horrible weather.  I also needed to renew my medical so I completed the requirements for “basic med” and attended the regional aviation conference at Pulayllup in February of this year (2018).  I’ll be posting more blogs on Reno, the Copperstate fly-in, basic med, and the aviation conference.  I also hope to share some other random experiences with Woodstock (ID plate for example) and some musings on my plan for ADS-B compliance.  Not to mention my plan to deal with the radio issues, a better battery, some bling,   Finally a look so far on what owning Woodstock is costing me.  I am slamming this blog out as I know I have a lot of catching up to do so please know it hasn’t been proofread much! 🙂

As I’m writing this Woodstock is nearly back together after its annual and I’ll be sharing how that went.  All is shaping up to be an wonderful year of flying!

I’ll share one last photo of Woodstock at Tacoma Narrows airport:

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Flew the Coupe! – Part 16 – A stuck valve and the rope trick!

Woodstock misbehaves!

Woodstock was now a three cylinder airplane.  This was the third time Woodstock had a stuck valve that I know of.  Just before I was heading down to inspect the plane the fellows selling it let me know it had a stuck valve and they were fixing it.  Here is a photo they sent me:

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After the first leg of the ferry flight from Compton to Seattle Dennie found that Woodstock had a stuck valve again.  That was in Bishop California.  Dennie found a local mechanic that unstuck the valve for $100.

Now I had a stuck valve again!  So I needed to find a mechanic.  There is a place at Auburn airport that called Cornerstone Aviation.  Greg is the mechanic there and I set up an appointment for him to sort it out.

So the day of the appointment arrived.  Greg quickly confirmed that it seemed to be a stuck valve.  I helped him take part of the cowling off to get access to the engine.  He figured out what cylinder it seemed to be.  And preceded to removed the spark plugs,  the valve covers of both cylinders on the passenger side of the engine and some baffling.  This seemed to be the same valve all three times it stuck.

Here is Woodstock stripped of those parts:

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Greg removed the valve spring and retainer of the valve that was stuck open.  He then removed the rocker arm pin.  Now it was time for the “rope trick”!

The Rope Trick

Greg pushed in some rope into the cylinder and using the prop to move the piston up pushed the valve closed.  This valve was very stuck!  He used some emery cloth to clean up the exposed part of the valve stem.  He then tried a small piece of cotton thread to the valve stem and tried to push the valve back into the cylinder.  It was really stuck!!  He had to tap it into the cylinder with a small mallet and a punch!  He then used a reamer attachment on an electric drill to try and clean up the guide.  He used that for some time and then went to pull the valve back into the guide. The he used the rope again to push it back closed.  It was still very stuck!

He needed to repeat this process several times.  Several times the thread broke and he needed to manipulate the valve through the spark plug holes to get the valve back in the guide.  After three more times repeating this process the valve finally moved freely in the guide.  Then it was time to put it all back together.

Well, not so easy!  We needed to get the rocker valve pin back but the valve lifters wouldn’t collapse.  So the pin was in tension and would not freely move!  Greg and I ended up having to lever and us a mallet and small punch to tap the pin back in place.  But we got it back.  Then Greg screwed the valve covers back and replaced the baffling.  He put the spark plugs back in and we lifted the rest of the cowling back in place.  A few more screws and Woodstock was back together!  Greg made an entry in my engine logbook and let me know he’d bill me.  A couple of weeks later I got a bill for $280.

I was heading off to the Reno Air Races so I didn’t have time to run the plane or test fly it.  I got back from the air races but I had some things related to finding a new job to do.  I did finally get out to the airport and ran Woodstock.  The engine ran on all cylinders but I thought there was a  new rattle.  So I didn’t fly it. I will go back out there soon and check everything around the engine to make sure everything is properly attached.

Questions remain!

So I am faced with some serious questions.  Are there other valve close to sticking?  Should I be doing something to prevent this from happening again.  Some folks swear you should add Marvel Mystery Oil to your oil, or gas, or both!  Other folks say that won’t help.  I am wondering if I should just have the same process done to the other exhaust valves?  If I was working I’d just pay to have the other valve guides cleaned up too.  But should I just worry about the exhaust valves?  I did dodge a bullet.  It happened to me on the ground at my home airport.  And the valve stuck open so it should not have damaged any other parts of the valve train.  But but could have been much worse!

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Flew the Coupe! – Part 15 – I Do some flying and a set back!

The Flying!

I have finally been able to fly my Ercoupe.  In fact I’ve made a $100 pie flight and a few days later the $100 breakfast!.  I friend even managed to take some great air to air photos of me in my plane.  Here I am after my first landing at Pt. Townsend airport.

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And my victory pie!

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Here are some great air to air photos of Woodstock:

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And the Setback!

After landing from the photo shoot flight Woodstock started running roughly.  Only three cylinders were firing!  I had the dreaded stuck valve!  I will talk about this in the next entry as WordPress screwed up my first attempt!

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Flew the Coupe! – Part 14 – I finally flew the Coupe!

I finally fly Woodstock!

This will be a short post but one I have waited a long time to share!  I finally got checked out and flew my Ercoupe.  I met up with the CFI that ferried Woodstock to Seattle from Compton to get him to fly it after the annual and then to check me out in the plane.  He said Woodstock flew great and there was no reason not to fly it myself.  With myself and him with like 3/4 fuel we were near gross weight.  So here is what I found.

Woodstock is easily off the ground in less than 1000 feet.  You can rotate most any speed after 60 MPH and by 70 it wants to fly!  With a full load it easily climbed out at 80 MPH and 5oo foot a minute climb.  In level flight it scoots right alone at well over 100 MPH.  Then it comes to landing.  Everything in Woodstock seems to like 80 MPH best.  Landing is simple.  Fly it down the runway and it will settle right in.  No problem  at all.  Crosswinds also not a problem.  Set down in a crab and you won’t even notice it straighten right out!

So it finally can fly my plane! Woot.

So I found a couple of things I need to sort out.  The trim lever kept creeping to nose down and if I were to fly often with a passenger I need to get a proper intercom.  But that’s about it. 🙂

Soon I hope to shift this blog to share the aerial adventures I soon will be having!  Here is a picture of me after my first flight in Woodstock.

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Flew the Coupe! – Part 12D – Putting it all back together!

Still more to do

So I’d completed the shoulder harness installation.  I only had one more item I wanted to complete and then my airplane would be ready to fly!  I wanted to put in a new baggage compartment.

The baggage compartment in the original Ercoupe is a canvas bag with a snap cover and a zipper in the bottom to allow access to the battery box.  Mine was so old it was fragile and ripped.   I thought about doing the expanded baggage compartment modification that many Ercoupe owners have done.  This basically modifies the older Ercoupe to have a baggage compartment similar to the larger one introduced in later planes.  There is a legal modification you can purchase an STC for to let you make that modification.  You could also probably engineer and file your own 337 (through an A&P of course!).  Here is what a larger baggage compartment looks like.

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Basically you remove the rear shelf (remember, I had just bought a new one of those!).  Put in a few aluminum brackets to support a new wooden floor, then create some side panels to finish the enclosure.  When you are done you have a much larger volume for sure!  The downsides are however:

  • STC/kit costs $700
  • You have to fabricate most of the parts
  • Now you can put enough in the compartment to have to worry about your CG (center of gravity)
  • Its not original

I also learned that the company that was supplying the STC was in the process of changing hands and while the STC was being sold to another company it could not be purchased at the time I would have needed it.  So I have learned a number of Ercoupes have all sorts of upgraded baggage compartments and many of them were probably not strictly done in a “legal” fashion.  I am not sure there is even a legal reason you have to have any sort of baggage compartment so I expect in theory you could just take out the shelf and existing sack and leave it open.  That would be a terrible idea as you don’t want something looks and flopping around the tail cone or jamming in the control mixer.  Here is mechanical control mixer that connects thee rudders to the ailerons.

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Also I just don’t think I am going to need to carry much.  Even when I do I expect I will still be flying by myself so there is room in the cockpit beside me.  In the end replacing the rotten sack seemed like the way to go.  Here is what that back looks like out of the plane.

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You can see the zipper and the snap tabs that attach the bottom of the bag to lower side of the plane.  When you order a new one here is what it looks like when you get it.

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So seems pretty simple, right?  Remember, before you answer this is an airplane!  So the cloth bag is suspended between 4 flat aluminum strips.  There are small sewn channels along the top of the sack.  The strips pass  through the channels and then the whole thing is attached to the plane with crews.  First challenge, there are no holes in the bag so you need to figure out how to make them.  I tried a couple of different things but ended up using a small “excacto” knife to slit the bag in place in the back of the plane.  I took me a while to understand how it all went together as there are some holes in the bag that are also shared by the rear seat back.  So I ended up putting it partly together, seeing I was getting it wrong and starting over.  Here are some of the parts.

So now I had the baggage sack back in and the snap top installed.

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All I needed to do was lace up the back of the seat and the interior was complete!  Here is what the seat lacing looks like.  There are fixed tabs on the airplane and matching tabs on the seat back.

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A word about my interior.  When I first got Woodstock I thought the interior was one of the first things I needed to change out.   But the more I look at it I am not changing it.  The material is very much what Woodstock must have had new.  And it is in good shape.  Some folks have complained that the seat is uncomfortable but I don’t mind it.  So some money and time I don’t have to spend!

There was really only one small job.  Finish up the trim system.  As I previously mentioned I had replaced the inner cable and ordered new end fittings.  So I needed to finish putting it all back together and cut the excess cable off.  Here is what the inner trim handle looks like.

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So I fitted the new cable clamps and replaced the cover panel.

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So the front of the trim system was back together.  All I needed was to hook up the trim tab in the rear of the plane using the new cable clamps.  Did I mention the new clamps retail for $100 ea! Yikes!

So here is the rear of the cable.

Trim cable end

So I was done!  Woodstock was ready to fly!  The summary of the experience.

Costs:

  • $600- Fee for the annual inspection
  • $800 – Shoulder Harness kit
  • $125 – New baggage sack
  • $75 – New rear shelf
  • $125 – New trim cable parts and cable
  • $50 – Misc. screws and fasteners
  • $125 – Unused original air filter element
  • $65 – Brackett air filter kit
  • $50 – Paint and strippers for battery box and new rear shelf
  • $25 – CorrosionX Spray
  • $100 – Aircraft quality multi conductor wire fore strobe light repair (attempt)
  • $20 – Molex connectors for wing tip light repair attempt
  • $Bazzillion + one Kidney – To Olan for all the help!

So what did this first round of maintenance end up costing?  $2,160.  To be fair only $850 or so was actually the cost of the annual inspection and I now know Woodstock in excellent shape!  I got an excellent plane when I bought him.  So I wish I could say I started flying my Ercoupe the minute I finished all the work.  Sadly that has not been the case.  As I write this (8/8/2017) I have not yet flown Woodstock.  I have had several months of trying to schedule time with the CFI chose to test fly my plane and then check me out in it.  Crossing my fingers that this weekend will get me finally flying my plane.

So what have I done in the mean time?  Well there is only one thing to do!  Polish the plane!  I expect the next blog entry will be about what it takes but here are a few pictures of the early process of shining up Woodstock!

IMG_20170806_143519 Getting shiny but still a long ways to go!

So hopefully the next installment will be about actually flying my plane!

In the mean time BLUE SKIES!!

 

 

 

 

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Flew the Coupe! – Part 12C – Belt yourself in, this could get rough!

One of the things Woodstock lacked was shoulder harnesses.  Since the plane was apart I know this was a great opportunity to add in a new belt system.  Several of my friends have added great shoulder harness systems to their planes.  Surely adding belts to an Ercoupe should be simple.  No, it turns out not so much.  There are some options but the original Ercoupe was not designed to include mounting points for shoulder harnesses.  After a lot of using the google I found there were two possibilities.  One solution was to use the design and paperwork other coupe owners had provided to the coupe community via the owners club.  This solution looked great.  It added some brackets to the rear fuselage tail cone bulkheads.  The use some steal threaded rod to tie the structures together and finish the end of the rod to attach an inertia reel shoulder harness system.  I liked a lot about this solution.  It also allowed the use of a “Y” harness that held both shoulders.  This I believe to be a lot better than the single cross over shoulder belt we have in most cars.  I was sent some pictures by a few folks that had this belt system.  It looked good but the down side was:

  • I would have to collect all the parts
  • I would have to fabricate a number of brackets
  • I believe riveting would be required
  • I’d have more work to create the paperwork for the FAA
  • The  cost of the recommended belts alone was nearly $700

Here is what that system looks like:

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There was another system some folks had used that consisted of some other fabricated brackets that involved riveting a major new doubler to the skins internal to the tail cone.  This system would require a lot of riveting that would all be visible from outside of the airplane.  Since I am very proud of Woodstocks unblemished polished skins I did not want to a lot of drilling and riveting through them!

Here is what that system looks like:

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So what other options where there?  Well a company called Alpha aviation offers a kit with everything you need!  They were very friendly when I called them up to ask about it and that seemed like the quick path to shoulder harness safety and nirvana!  Regular readers of my blog will already be able to detect the I am clearly showing the signs of early onset airplane ownership dementia!   NOTHING with an airplane is quick except for the reduction of your bank balance!

So I ordered the Alpha kit.  What I go was some pre-cut and bent aluminum to fabricate some brackets.  New belts.  A bunch of fasteners.  Instructions and the paperwork to file with the FAA to make this an approved field modification. Excellent!  How hard could this be!  This blog entry will be sharing the experience and the results.  So I spent a number of evenings studying the instructions and the parts.  I made an immediate decision.  The kit included rivets for part of the installation of the bracket into the plane.  I don’t rivet or do I own any of the tools to do that.  Also that looked like a two person job.  I’ve got friends that have built metal airplanes and I have watched them rivet things together.  You can learn to do it for sure, but I wasn’t interested at thus point to add that skill to my talents.  Also I believe to do it right you need a good compressed air source and a rivet gun.  That wasn’t practical.  I looked at alternatives.  I could consider a blind or pulled rivet.  Those are regularly used in aircraft construction.  They aren’t particularly attractive.   Wait, what about screws and locking nuts?  So I went to research the relative strength of fasteners to see what would be the result of that substitution.  A little research showed there could be concerns related to shear as the threads of a bolt make them more subject to failures in shear.  Hmm.  Well I would going to be using 6/32 stainless steel screws and in fact the brackets were already going to be constructed using that very same bolt.  Examination of the calculations for the force the system is designed to withstand showed the fuselage skins and bulkeads would fail far earlier than the fasteners.  Screws it is!  In fact the Ercoupe has lots of 6/32 screws in its assembly.  Here is a picture of some of those fasteners on my Ercoupe:

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So two things about that picture.  That is NOT corrosion.  That is old polish and grime around the screws.  Also those are the original flat screws.  They are EVIL.  They have a very narrow slot that normal screw drivers do not seem to fit.  I have replaced all of these with new Phillips head screws!  Much nicer to work with. 🙂

Step one of the installation is to fabricate the brackets.  You are given two preformed pieces per side.  You must drill them out to then bolt them together.  One of the pieces is a re-enforcement and the other serves as the actual harness attachment point,  I decided to ask a friend to let me use his workshop.  He had a drill press I thought would make this go easier.  It did help although you could do this step with a hand drill and a good vice.  Extra care should be taken when drilling the holes in the bracket to be used to attach the bracket to the skin as the hole spacing will be visible from outside of the plane.  Note to future self, when you crack time travel, go back and make yourself pay more attention to drilling those holes!

It took about a long hour to get the brackets built to go into the plane.  I spent some time talking over the next step with my friend OIan.  It looked like getting a drill back into position to drill the mounting holes in the airplane was going to be a challenge.  Maybe a 90 degree drill or in this case Olan lent me a flexible drive that could be fit to a normal drill.  So it was off to the hangar to install the brackets!  Wait, I forgot.  The Alpha kit was originally designed to be fitted to an Ercoupe that had the extended baggage compartment and that requires the removal of the stock rear “hat shelf”.    Arg!  How would I route the harnesses?  I would have to cut a pair of holes in my rear shelf.  I called up Alpha and they said that was the correct thing to do but didn’t have any other details.  I spent some time looking my shelf and realized I really didn’t want to cut a piece of the plane that had been put in it back in 1946.  I don’t know why i mattered to meme but I found I’d rather not.  So I called up Univar,  the current owner of the Ercoupe design and they told me they not only had new ones but they were about $70!  A bargain!!  So I got one of those on order right away!

Here are some pictures of the bracket installation:

Note that one of the pictures shows the bolt heads outside the airplane.  You can see the brackets are attached to the major stringer that runs along the fuselage side.  These should be very secure.  I realize I jumped ahead again.  I needed to remove that rear shelf.  I also decided to totally remove the baggage sack and seat rear cushion,  All easy except the shelf.  That is a two person job.  There is an 8/32 screw on each side that needs someone inside the plane with a wrench on the nut and someone outside with a screw driver.  So I had some scheduling set backs to get a time when I could get my friend Olan out to help with that.   But I got it out and got those brackets mounted.  So I attached to shoulder strap to the brackets and sat in the seat to see if I could figure out how the new shelf would need to be trimmed to clear the belts.  Again since I was working alone I tried to snap a picture to get some idea where things needed to be cut.  Here is the fitting the belt picture:

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Using the insanely scientific method of “that looks right” I marked the new rear shelf that had arrived and headed to Olan’s to use his saw to cut the panel.  Here is the panel with the cut outs:

So the panel was cut.  A note about the panel.  It came “painted” but poorly.  I stripped it and then added a couple of coats a epoxy grey.  I also bought some rubber channel to use to prevent the harness chaffing om the metal.  So all I needed to do now was put it all back together.  I decided the next step would be to finish installing the new belts.  The end of the shoulder harness was bolted to the bracket with a shouldered bolt and a bushing.  That went together very easily.  So now all I had to do was swap the belts and I’d soon be flying!  Woot!

Wrong!  The original seat belts used a totally different way to attach.  The used a system called a “three bar slider”.  It turns out that in the late 70’s the FAA increased the failure requirements for aircraft seat belts in new airplanes.  They did not mandate retrofitting early planes but the manufacturers soon learned the the majority of the belts they sold would need a different attach system.  So support for belts using the three bar system dried up.  Alpha had taken the easy route and just designed the kit to use a newer belt.  But for me I would need to cut out my old mounts to use the new belts!  Grrrr!  So I called up Alpha and they apologized and immediately sent me the missing hardware (a couple of more bolts and bushings).  In the mean time I called the actual belt manufacturer to see if they offered a belt system I could use that still had the three bar attachment.  Well, they probably did but they weren’t sure.  So no joy there.  In fact they referred me to their dealer “Alpha”!  I would cut out the old pieces.  Well more correctly again my friend Olan to the rescue.  He had an angle cutter he thought would make short work of the job,  I needed to cut out two steel triangles and two large steel plates.  Here is a picture of Olan cutting out the old pieces!  Needless to day I covered a lot of things with a wet towel and had the fire extinguisher out!

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Here is the old hardware we cur out:\

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And here is the new hardware Alpha sent out.  Note this is now included in the kit:

Here are the old belts:

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and the very nice new belts:

So now the belts could be easily finished.  I needed to slightly ream the hole on the old bracket to accommodate the new bolt and then the other ends of the belts just snapped to the existing center hoop.

So with the whole system in I could refit the rear shelf and replace all the rest of the interior.  But I had shoulder harnesses!  Woodstock was one step closer to flying again!  At this point I owe a thank you to Alpha Aviation and my friend Olan.

In the next blog entry I’ll share the adventure of replacing the baggage sack and wrapping it all up.  Till then fly safe!

 

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