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:


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:


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.

me and woodstock.jpg

And my victory pie!


Here are some great air to air photos of Woodstock:



DSC_1072 - Copy





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.


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.


IMG_20170319_132644846 (1)

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.


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.

IMG_20170610_115303943 (1)

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.


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.


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.


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

trim cover

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.


  • $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:

thumbnail_Shoulder Harness Attachment


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:


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:


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:


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!


Here is the old hardware we cur out:\

IMG_20170610_150932467 (1)

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

Here are the old belts:


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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Flew the Coupe! – Part 12b – More work to get Woodstock Ready – Fixing things

So the initial part of the annual inspection we complete.  I needed to chase down some parts and begin to do the worked we decided to do before getting the plane signed off.  I also had some things I had decided do to my plane that weren’t part of the annual but it seemed like the right time to do them.  I’m maybe taking some of these out of order from when I got to them but they were part of the work I needed to do.

Strobe lights

The first thing I wanted to do was fix the strobe light on the left wingtip.  When I bought my plane  I was told the strobe on one wing did not work.  I was told it was probably the flash tube went bad.  I could see in the lens that their did look like there may have been  moisture in the light and the tube could be bad.

My tip lights are Grimes navigation lights that have been modified to have a standard Whelen strobe light fitted.  Here is a picture of the tip unit.


See how the bowl seems clouded.  Also see how the unit is held together with rivets.  So I drilled out the rivets and found that there was a Molex connector on the strobe light.  As I looked more I realize that the unit could not be totally removed from the wing as the connector was too large to fit through the hole in the Grimes light.  So I decided to cut off the connector and find a new connector that would fit through the hole.  The original wire had been covered with some sort of rubber material and the old wire did not allow for me to easily strip and then fit a new connector.  Ugh, I was going to have to splice in new wire at the end of the existing wire.  So I ordered some appropriate aircraft approved shielded 4 conductor wire from Aircraft Spruce.  When it arrived I got a friend (thank you Olan!) to help snake out the existing wire through one of the open wing inspection ports.  Then I trimmed back the ends of the existing wire, soldered and used heat shrink tubing to insulate the splice and then pulled the new longer wire back through the Grimes light.  I had removed the entire Grimes assembly to drill and tap the strobe light dome hold down holes.  A 6/32 screw seemed a lot more practical than the rivets used before.  I had also found a new strobe tube.  I found a slightly differently shaped molex connector that would fit through the hole at the base of the Grimes unit.  More soldering and crimping in the connector pins and it was all ready to test!

So I’d love to say it all worked beautifully and I immediately moved on to the next task.  No, we are talking about working on a classic airplane.  Nothing is so simple!  My first guess was somehow or other I had hooked up the strobe tube wrong,  Spent some time verifying the previous connection (making sure I’d properly matched the wire colors).  I could find no problems!  I then tried to trace the wire from the tip light to the strobe light unit.  It was run in the aileron channel and I could trace it all the way to the wing attachment point.   Aha!  A plug!  Surely this newly discovered plug was the problem!  No joy there.  After inspection there was no problem there.  Maybe it was the strobe power unit!  I’ll check that.  Here is a picture of the strobe power unit.


So I reversed the wing plugs and the other strobe worked fine.  So the power supply was correctly firing both wing plugs.  I was at day two of this project and getting frustrated.  I finally decided that I didn’t expect to be flying at night any time soon so not having both strobe lights working was not a problem.

I’d also done some research and I learned that legally my plane did not require strobe lights.  Do to its age all it required was the navigation lights.  OK, I’d verify that the navigation lights worked and I’d find the strobe light problem some time later.  So lets check those navigation lights.  They will work for sure, right?  NOPE, the left tip light was dead!  Arrgh!!  So I looked to see if I understood how the plane was wired.  I looked at the switches to make sure everything was being turned on.  No, I was operating the switches correctly.  What could be wrong.  Again I double checked the wiring.  No problem found.  I decided to go back to the Grimes unit and tie off all the strobe wires and verify the the navigation lights were correctly wired.  I verified that and still no function!  In the meantime I found these two fuses!  They looked important, maybe one of those was the culprit!


So I pulled out the fuses to see if they were good.  Eureka!  One was bad, surely this was the problem!  I had found an old fuse container in the pocket of my plane when I went through it after it arrived.  So I put in a good fuse and turned on the nav lights, Starboard light, good, port light, dark!!  OK, time for a break and a beer.

I sat down with a vold beverage and began to look through the log books,  I was sure somewhere there was a diagram of the update schematic for my plane.  It had been rewired at some point for the radios and other flight instruments.  Hmm, no fuses shown,  Of course it had long back been upgraded with circuit breakers.  I also learned I had a “taxi” light and a “landing” light on separate switches.  I will use that to my advantage in the future.  A planned upgrade is to upgrade to LED landing lights and add a “wig wag” controller to make my plane more visible in the daytime.

So I discovered the mystery fuses no longer had a purpose.  Woodstock continues to be the plane of mystery!  But I still had a dead nav light.  What could it be?

Suddenly a light bulb came on!  The bulb! Could it be as simple as a bulb?  I swapped in the bulb from the working other light and yes, it was a burned out bulb.  Problem solved.  I looked up the bulb number and soon the nav lights were functional!  OK, not both strobes but I decided that could wait.  I put the wing tip assembly back together on the left wing and declared light problems were fixed for now.

So a quick thing about what my 1946 Ercoupe needs to be legal to fly at night.  Notice I said “legal”.  Not ideal.  Since at the time the plane was certified all that was required was navigation lights that is all the plane has to have.  I have had many folks claim to say it needs strobe lights or a beacon of some sort but that just isn’t true.  At least I can find no credible source that says otherwise.  My plan down the road is to change the modified tip lights I have now to the stock Grimes units.


Which are still available and add some sort of “belly” strobe or beacon.  Probably an LED unit.  I am in no rush to do that as I mentioned I don’t expect to fly at night much.

One final note I’ll share is that while hooking up and disconnecting the battery debugging the lights I dropped the wing nut battery connectors into the bottom of the plane nearly loosing them about a dozen times!

Air Filter

So you would think that putting in the new air filter would be simple.  Not a chance!  Not with an Ercoupe anyways.  I got the new filter element and in case I didn’t like it I decided to order the alternative Brackett kit.  So I quickly learned the new original filter was a hard press fit into the Ercoupe air intake tube.  No wonder the old one needed a slide hammer to remove!  Also the more I learned the more I didn’t like it.  I has a paper filter element that you are suppose to clean regularly and other Ercoupe owners said that they could come apart and be sucked up into the carburetor!  Here is the original all taken apart and a new one for comparison.



And here is where the filter is supposed to go.


So the Brackett kit consists of two round screen pieces that hold a foam element in place  The whole unit is held in with three small screws.  That seemed a lot better.  Every year you are supposed to replace the foam element.  They are only $12 so a bargain!  It turned out to be a little harder to fit the kit that I hoped.  The old air tube had a buildup of paint and had become slightly out of round.  So I had to spend some time with a dremel tool to do some clean up and grinding to make it all fit.  The I had to find a way to get a drill in to drill the mounting holes in the air tube and then put it all together.  It all took about half a day but it is now in and I think a superior solution.  Here is the new Brackett filter in place.  You can see the three clips that hold in the whole assembly.  This clips are held in with three short machine screws.  The kit was a bargain and I highly recommend it!

IMG_20170610_114523024_HDR (1)

So modifying Woodstock to use this filter does require filing paperwork with the FAA.  The required form is included int he kit and Stephen said he’d be happy to do that for me. 🙂  The form required is often called a 337.

Form FAA 337 – MAJOR REPAIR & ALTERATION (Airframe, Powerplant, Propeller, or Appliance)

Several would end up being filed for Woodstock during this process.

Battery Box

The next thing I needed to do was remove, clean and paint the battery box.  While a new battery was put into Woodstock as part of the purchase it looked like at some point a battery had leaked.  There was corrosion on the bottom of the battery box,  There was now way I could see to clean it up while it was in the plane.  So it had to come out.  Again I owe my friend OIan a huge thanks for his help.  The screws holding it in had been painted over and were in horrible shape> I was having trouble getting in there to get it out and he pitched in and got the screws out.  So I cleaned up the bottom of the battery box with baking soda then wire brushed it.  Once it was dried off I shot several coats of epoxy black paint on the inside of the box.  I did the same thing to the inside of the top of the battery box.  Additionally I added a layer of black electricians tape on the top of the box over the battery.  I bought all new hardware to remounted the box, well Olan probably did more than I did. 🙂  Before putting the battery box back in I sprayed the area the box mounts to liberally with Corrosion X (ordered from ASS, Aircraft Spruce and I are becoming fast friends!)

Corrosion X

This is supposed to be an excellent anti-corrosion product.  It seems like a more persistent machine oil but folks say its good!

With that the battery box portion of the work I had to do was finished.

Trim Cable

I still needed to replace the solid wire center of the trim able.  The outer portion looked fine.  But the inner had become corroded.  I got the new wire and got some spray can light oil and sprayed a large amount of oil into the outer housing from both ends before putting in the new center wire.  I had Olan continue to spay oil on the center wire while I inserted it.  Now I had a nice new wire that moved easily in the outer housing.  Also well lubricated one to prevent future corrosion!  All I would have to do is reattach the ends and trim the excess length.

I did not finish the trim cable till a while later but I’ll share this part here.  The end cable clamps were probably original.  The one outside the plane was looking like replacing it would be a good idea.  So I decided to replace both ends.  Here are the old ones.  It turns out only one company makes the FAA approved part for the Ercoupe.  They stopped making them for a while!  But then someone started making them again.  All the new ones all are fitted with a castellated nut and a small cotter pin.


Time for an airplane owner moment.  I ordered two new ones and learned they retail for nearly $100 ea!!  I got them for the bargain discount price of $48 ea.

Now all that remained was to get Stephen back to reassemble the fuel pump.  Put the prop back on.  Replace the spark plugs.  Inspect the trim cable and then I could finishing putting the plane back together.  The all the remained was to fly fly fly!!

Stephen Returns

I was able to get him scheduled to come back.  On April 19 he flew out in his very nice Navion and finished the last of the work he had to do.  We looked at the logs and he decided he’d take them with him, review them and verify all my AD were complied with.  He took the paperwork for the Brackett air filter and said he’d get the completed logs sent back to me but the plane was legal to fly once I had it back together!  Woot!  So total cost of the annual after paying him and all the stuff I needed to order was well under $800.

So I finished up a few things quickly, again thanks Olan!  The wing inspection port covers went back on quickly.  I used a little contact cement on the base rings in the cases where they were lose.  The wing attachment fairings went on easily,  I did replace one metal screw with one of a larger diameter in one case as the hole was too worn to allow it to be tightened.  The tail fairing also was quick to replace.

Putting the cowling back on the plane was a bit of work and I replaced all the hardware.  I can’t say I like how it fits back on but I don’t think it was any worse that it was before I took it off,  I put in the new header tank float.  A simple operation after lubing up the gasket with a special lubricant.


That only left on major task.  I had decided I would fit shoulder harnesses and had purchased a kit from Alpha Aviation.  There was enough work there to be the next installment and I’d like to cover it in its owner blog post as a reference for other Ercoupe owners that want to use that kit.

So that’s it for this installment.  Next time we drill holes, cut ourselves, make sparks, learn new original swear words and move a step closer to flying!



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Flew the Coupe! – Part 12a – A lot of work to get Woodstock Ready – Prepping

I haven’t been blogging as I’ve spent all my free time getting Woodstock through the first annual inspection since I got it up here in Seattle.  Once a year every plane has to be inspected by a qualified mechanic to make sure it is in airworthy condition.  I wanted to get my inspection done early in the year so I’d have my plane flying when the weather got good for flying.  As with everything related to owning an airplane things did not got as planned.  I have just completed the work on Woodstock to get checked out in my Ercoupe and finally really restart my pilot life.  This post will be about what I’ve done and how it took so long.

The Annual Inspection

To save some money and to know more about my plane I decided to do an owner assisted annual inspection.  Basically if you can find and A&P that will do it, the owner can do a lot of the work.  Since most of the work is labor and a lot of the labor does not require specialized skills I felt I’m handy enough to take on the labor.  First I needed to get time scheduled with the A&P.  I found a fantastic A&P in the Seattle area named Stephen Baldwin.  I found he was already being booked up so I grabbed the first opening he had available.  It was a slot about a month away during the week.  I confirmed and scheduled some time off of work.  So we decided on March 13.  In the mean time I was told to prepare the plane.  I got a lot of conflicting information about what to take apart.

I also learned if the weather allowed Stephen will fly to my airport in his very nice Navion.  His plane was once flown by NASA and was the personal favorite of a famous astronaut!   Here is his beautiful plane:

stephen navion

Prepping Woodstock

So I found out I would need to provide complete access to the engine for inspection and compression test.  I would need to allow inspection of the tail cone so I needed to remove the seats.  Stephen would need to inspect the wings internally as well so I would need to removed all of the wing inspection port covers and the wing junction fairings.


  • Engine Access
  • Wing Access
  • Tail Cone Access

Engine access

Easy Peasy!  Oh my oh my how the simple never is!  Lets start at the front of the airplane.  One engine item was compression test.  This required access to the top and bottom spark plugs,  Woodstock is unusual.  Most Ercoupes have bumps on the top of the cowl to clear the spark plugs. These are easily removable to gain access to the plugs,  Woodstock has rare short plugs in cans to allow the RF interference to be eliminated.  You have to remove the nose bowl to get access to those plugs,  To remove the nose bowl you have to remove the prop.  My spark plug cans:


About those cans, you can see they take a special took to open.  Here is the tool I was given with the plane.  See if you can spot the problem. 🙂


Luckily my friend Olan is learning to weld and used it as an excuse to make a tool!  He made me a very functional tool.

Here is the front of Woodstock with the cowling removed.  Note, I just put the prop back on to allow the engine to be rotated.

IMG_20170319_134942557_HDR (1)

Notice the fuel pump.  We’ll get back to that later.

Wing Access

Then on to the wing.  The FAA required that all early Ercoupes get fitted with under wing inspection ports to allow the spar to be inspected.  At some point a few Ercoupes were found to have wing spar corrosion.  These are round ports with covered with round metal covers held by spring steel clips.  Here is what that looks like.  You don’t think about them till you have to remove them and replace them! 🙂


Here are the access port covers as well as the wing attachment covers.  The green material on the back of the wing root covers probably is the original material from 1946.  There is also an interior cover for the trim lever.  We’ll get to that in a while.


Here are the wing attachments with the covers off.IMG_20170319_132607519 (1)

All this panels were attached with these impossible to remove screws.  The slots were too narrow for normal screwdrivers and full of polish.  I had to take a knife to clean the slots out to remove them.


Please note that that is not corrosion, that is old polish that needs to cleaned off.  So after a weekend I had the prop off, the cowl off and the wing ready for inspection.

Tail cone battery access

I then moved onto the interior.  I removed the seat cushions and seat back.  The Seat back is held in by screws on the top and lacing on the sides.  Here is a photo of the read interior of my plane.  Notice the poor condition of the baggage “sack”.


I think moved back to the tail and removed the top faring to allow inspection of the horizontal stabilizer attachments.   The evil screws were nearly impossible to remove and I nearly decided to cut the heads off to removed the panels.  Here is the horizontal stabilizer with the faring removed.


So with the plane apart I decided to add some additional work.  One wing tip strobe light did not work.  I also wanted to add shoulder harnesses to my plane.  The Ercoupe was not fitted with shoulder harnesses.  A company called Alpha Aviation has a shoulder harness kit.  So I ordered that.  I would soon learn I would be ordering a lot of things!  Here is the kit I ordered:

Alpha Aviation Ercoupe Shoulder Harness

I also found a new flash tube for the wingtip strobe on Ebay.  I place in AZ had one NOS in its original box at the bargain price of $100.  So while I waited for things to show up and the big day that Stephen would look my plane over I started looking over my plane myself to learn more about it.  I decided I should service the main gear.  The Ercoupe has a main gear that uses an oleo strut to dampen bouncing and rubber doughnuts to be the springs.  Over time they compress and need to be replaced.  So I ordered a new set.

As I mentioned the old slotted screws were proving to be difficult so I ordered a new set of stainless screws with Philips heads!  Everything I would reassemble I would replaced the straight slot screws with new Philips head screws.

The big day arrives!

So the magical day arrived.  Stephen didn’t fly in that day.  The weather was ugly.  So we set about the business of checking out Woodstock.  I showed him around the plane and we started on the engine.  First we did the compression test.  Stephen set up a compressor and one by one used a special fitting and pressure gauge to check the compression,  All cylinders were were in the low 70’s and within 2 pounds of each other.  This is great for a C-85 like I have cold.  Stephen then removed the plugs and had be start on cleaning them.  He then went on to look at the fuel pump.  The FAA requires that every annual inspection that the fuel pump is inspected and the top bowl gasket replaced.  OOPS, I did not know I needed to order a new gasket!  He took the top of the pump off and it was very clean inside but it was clear the gasket had not been replaced for some time.  Also the top spark plug washers needed to be replaced as well.  Here are the old ones withe old fuel pump gasket.


The fuel pump gasket was particularly worrisome,  Dennie the fellow that ferried Woodstock home from Compton said at one point the header tank seemed to not be refilling.  Maybe this was why.  The fuel pump may not have been working 100%.  So a word about the original Ercoupe fuel system.  The Ercoupe has a header tank in front of the instrument panel that gravity feeds the engine.  The original Ercoupe had a single wing tank.  A second wing tank was an option,  Later on the second wing tank became standard,  The  fuel pump constantly feeds fuel from the wing tanks to the header tank.  The header tank holds nearly 5 gallons so in theory when that the wing tanks run dry you  have a an hour of fuel.  There is a float to tell you how much fuel is in the header tank.  Mine was worn out so I had decided to replace that as well.  Here is the old float,  Notice how worn the hole in  the cap is.  70 years isn’t a bad service life!


A little more about the fuel pump.  The pump is a variation of a pump first made for tractors!  They are $1K new these days to you want to treat them carefully!  Some folks have been known to but a pump that fits some common truck and then swap out parts as an alternative.  Rebuilt ones can be had for around $500.

Stephen then moved onto the mags to inspect them and time them.  They were perfectly timed and it turns out both of my mags have impulse couplers which is unusually.  Most of the time only one mag has an impulse coupler,  Impulse couplers allow the magneto to create a strong spark when they are rotating slowly.  So mags were good.  Stephen asked me  to get a new fuel pump gasket and new spark plug washers.  Those went onto my list to purchase.  He looked over the plugs I cleaned and said they looked good,  So we put them loosely back in the engine until it was all ready to put back together.

The last thing to look at was the air cleaner.  Mine was filthy and looked like it hadn’t been serviced in years.  The original filter is a round assembly that is supposed to be a snug fit into the air horn on the front of the plane and held in with a safety wire.  Hmm, mine had no safety wire and was more than snug!  We basically took it apart in place and Stephen suggested I could find the foam element from a Cessna to replace the paper element the old filter had.  So some sort of air filter went on the list.  The old air filter:



Then it was on to the wings.  He got out a flashlight and a mirror and crawled around looking in all the inspection ports.  He notice a few of the inspection ports had become loose and told me to get some contact cement to refashion the fixed rings that attached to the cloth covering before I closed the wing back up.  He declared the wing good and did a walk around and focused on the tail of the plane.  All looked good.  He suggested I keep an eye on the bolt that attaches the control bell crank to the elevator horn as they can groove and fail.  I made a note of that.

We then went to a place on Woodstock I knew needed some attention.  The trim mechanism.  The Ercoupe elevator trim is simple.  It is a piece of solid steel music wire in the middle of an outer coiled wire housing,  Someone said exactly like a choke on a lawn mower!  Mine was seized.  We tried to move it an ended up breaking it.  OK, new cable went on the list of things to purchase.  Stephen told me to oil the new one up a lot when I put it back together.  The two ends were these simple specialized wire clamps.  I made it a point to put them back someplace safe.  Here are those clamps.  More about them in the last installment,


Notice one of these has a locking nut and the other as castellated nut that is secured with a pin.  The one with the lock nut was inside the plane in the lever and the pinned one was on the elevator trim tab horn.  Here is the Ercoupe elevator trim tab after being modified to the “D” standard (higher gross weight).



We removed the trim lever cover and tried to free the cable.  It wasn’t going to happen and we broke the end off the cable in the process.  One more thing to buy.  Here is the trim lever.


This is after I put in the new wire.  That is the unattached end.  So the trim tab has a small flat spring the presses it down.  With no cable attached the tab is level with the elevator trailing edge.  The cable pushes against the spring when put in the  nose down position and is pulled by the cable for the nose up position.

Once we’d done all that could be done about the trim cable Stephen began to inspect the back of the plane.  The inside of the tail cone looked great but the battery box could use some clean up.  It was going to be a job to remove it, clean it up then paint it.  So that went my list of things to do.

We spent some time looking at the logs.  We decided Stephen would take them with him to review the FAA mandated AD compliance.   Basically over the life of a plane the FAA learns things that should be checked or modified to make sure the plane is safe.  A 70 year old plane like Woodstock had a number of things to be checked.  Some were obvious like the wing inspection ports and the glass gascolator replacement and then bracing.   Others are harder to detect and would require either documentation in the logs or filed with the FAA (for example there is an AD related to internal components of the engine that can’t be easily inspected).  I was pretty confident as I had all the ADs related to my plane confirmed for compliance prior to the purchase.  When I went to find that documentation I discovered I no longer knew where I put it!  Face palm!  No worries, Stephen said he’d look through the FAA records and I had the complete set of FAA records for the plane on DVD.

So we agreed that once I had the plane ready for the final inspection he’d come back, verify the work and then replace the propeller.  The propeller has to be properly torqued and safety wired.  He said he could get back the hangar easily as he came near the airport regularly after work.  So had the “do it” list and the “get it list”.  We figured a couple of weeks later we’d have the prop back on and I’d be flying!   Well, “airplane weeks” maybe! 🙂

It would be April 19th before Stephen was back to look at my work and put the prop back on.   And that would not be anywhere near when Woodstock would be ready to fly again.

So my lists,

To buy:

  • An Air filter element.
  • New Spark plug washers
  • Fuel pump gasket
  • Trim cable inner wire
  • New stainless screw set
  • Center tank float

Optional purchases:

  • New baggage sack, my current one was ripping and rotten
  • Shoulder harness set
  • New wing tip strobe tube/light
  • New landing gear doughnuts

To do:

  • Remove trim cable
  • Remove old air filter element outer rign
  • Replace all the wing inspection port covers
  • Replace the wing joint fairings
  • Replace the horizontal stabilizer front faring
  • Remove and refurbish battery box

Optional to do list:

  • Install shoulder harnesses
  • Fix wingtip strobe lights

And in summary so far Stephen said he felt Woodstock was an excellent Ercoupe,  So all good news so far!

Before I left the hangar I decided to remove the outer ring of the original air filter.  That ended up requiring a slide hammer, 😦

So I took my list of things to buy and headed to Spencer Aircraft Supply,  I figured they have some of the list.  In the end, not so much,  They had the spark plug washers.  The rest of the stuff they had no idea.  Oh well, off to the interwebs for some online victory.

I got home and ordered the trim tab wire from Univar and the new air cleaner element.

  • Trim Tab Wire – $38.87
  • Air filter – $83.01
  • Center Tank Float – $127.86

The fuel pump gaskets had some trouble finding the right part number but finally took a chance and ordered two of what I believed were the right part.

Fuel Pump Gasket (ea) – $11.65

So parts were on their way.

That will be where I’ll leave you for this installment.  The next post will be about what I learned about the quirks of the Ercoupe and my challenges with the strobe lights!

More coupeness to follow!  Much is learned, blood is spilled and the sparks fly!




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