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:

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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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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.

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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.

whelen

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!

fuses

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.

grimes1

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.

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And here is where the filter is supposed to go.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

So:

  • 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:

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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. 🙂

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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.

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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! 🙂

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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.

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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”.

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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.

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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.

IMG_20170625_130631205

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!

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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:

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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,

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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).

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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.

IMG_20170610_114415692

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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Flew the Coupe! – Part 11- A big milestone, a conference and more

Legal to fly again!!

So I finally managed to become a legal pilot again.  After 8-ish hours and many many landings in a Cessna 172 I got a CFI to sign off my BFR.  With that I am a legal pilot in the eyes of the FAA.  That means I shouldn’t have to do that again for another two years.  Probably longer because I expect to add some to my ratings in the form of a tail wheel endorsement or a seaplane rating.  Doing that resets the two year clock.   Here I am with my freshly endorsed log book!

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So a big step completed!  Now I need to do a check out with Woodstock, my Ercoupe and after that my adventure really begins!

The Annual Aviation Conference in the PacNW

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Every year there is a national aviation conference in the greater Seattle area.  Puyallup, WA to be more specific.  So I attended Saturday of the two day event.  I attended a couple of sessions, one on air racing in the 30’s and 40’s in the U.S. sponsored by the Historic Flight Foundation. It was very enjoyable.  Here are a couple  of the racing planes discussed:

Laird Super Solution

full size replica RT-14

I also attended a session on the most common insurance claims in the General Aviation world.  It turns out hangar doors and tow bars are evil!  Also not running out of gas turns out to be a good idea.  The session was informative and even inspired me to go out and make sure there wasn’t anything in my hangar that could injure my Ercoupe Woodstock.

There was a session about a new program the Washington Department of Transportation is putting together to let pilots track all the different Washington airports they have visited and then get rewards when they have visited a specific number of them.  This will be a lot of fun and should be launched in 2018.  If you get the top level you could end up with a free flight jacket! 🙂

The final session I remember was about ice. Airplanes and ice are not a good combination unless its ice in a drink after a great day of flying!  Here is an example of airplane icing:

 

wing-ice-King-Air

So the rest of the time I wondered around the convention floor to see what all the vendors and organizations were promoting.  Here is what that looked like:

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I didn’t find anything to buy.  I had hoped maybe I’d find someone there I’d like to hire to do a new interior in my plane but I didn’t see anyone there I would consider.  I did get a couple of calendars of this years fly ins and other aviation events.  This year should be a great year for me returning to flying.  I now have several “must attend” fly ins in 2017.  This include:

  • Paine Field Aviation Day
  • Arlington Fly In
  • Concrete Washington Fly In
  • Wings over Republic fly in (these guys always handle out awesome apples!)
  • Hood River Fly in (I probably have to miss this one to go to Reno instead)

I also paid to become a “premium” FATPNW group.  This is program that has an annual fee and gives the members a number of discounts for products and services related to aviation.  So with that I have become member number 50.

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After Saturday I went to a party at Spencer aviation and had some wonderful BBQ and an adult beverage or two.

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All in all the convention was as always a great way to get charged up for the upcoming flying season here in the pacific northwest.

Another way to spend money!

So it is time for my plane to get its annual inspection.  I have opted to do an “owner assisted” inspection.  The FAA lets the owner of the airplane do a lot of the basic parts of the yearly inspection.  This can save a lot of money.  So I’ve been asked to remove the interior, the cowling and wing fairings in preparation of the actual mechanic coming out to do all the legally required inspection and any work as a result of what the mechanic finds.  This yearly requirement can be intimidating as the costs can be high.  I know folks that have spent in excess of twenty five thousand dollars to get this yearly mechanic sign off.

I specifically bought the plane I did as it is a type of plane that is known for having lower cost annual inspections.  So I am crossing my fingers that nothing expensive is found.  I am hoping that I spend less than one thousand dollars.  I expect my next blog will be about that annual inspection experience.  I pulled out Woodstock to organize the hangar.  Here it was out in front of my hangar last Sunday:

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Last Sunday I started the process by buying some tools,  organizing the hangar to make some more room around the plane and then removing the cowling.  I wanted to remove the wing fairings but they are held on by a type of flat head screw that no screwdriver I have ever seen would fit.  Here is the mysterious screw, it seems have a very narrow straight slot:

IMG_20170308_124326767

So I need to find a specialty screw driver of modify one to be able to remove those panels.

In organizing the hangar I may have also run across mouse droppings!  Rodents can get into a plane and their waste can cause enough corrosion to make a plane damaged beyond repair.   So I have to learn if I really have a rodent problem.

ucak_fare

Another curiosity.  I need a special tool to be able to service my plane’s spark plugs.  It is some sort of “pin wrench”.  The folks that helped sell me the plane sent me home with what we thought was the right tool but it turns out to be for something else.  So my friend Olan made something in the mean time that should work while I go on a quest for the correct tool.  Here is the spark plug can and the wrong wrench:

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One other thing I did last Sunday was learn more about polishing aluminum.  My friend Olan owns a wonderful polished Cessna 170 and he gave me some pointers.  Olan’s Cessna 170:

c170

We did a small section of the horizontal stabilizer.  We found what looked to be a bird dropping and I was surprise out how much corrosion it caused!  But once we got that cleaned off I found my plane is going to polish up like a jewel!  The previous owner did a fantastic job re-skinning most of my plane and the keeping the metal in awesome shape.  I can’t wait to polish the whole thing up and share some pictures!  Here is the small section after just a little polishing:

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Finally a decision or two but a few remain!

So I will be going with Airtex for the new interior for my plane.  I will order it once I am sure there is no giant expense in my future as a result of the annual inspection.

I am still wanting to add shoulder harnesses to my plane but another thing I didn’t find was a company that offered those for the Ercoupe.  So I will see of the fellow doing my annual inspection has any ideas.  Same goes for a couple of minor things I’d like to do electrically to my plane.

So that it for now, I’m a legally a pilot again!  My plane is getting its annual loving from a mechanic.  I’m hoping I won’t end up broke when that’s over.  I have some great plans for enjoying being a pilot again in 2017!

The future is heading this way and I can’t wait for it be get here!

 

 

 

 

Posted in Aviation, Creativity, Entertainment, flying, Musings | Leave a comment

Flew the Coupe! – Part 10- More Misc. in the middle of the weather standown

So I felt it was time for an update on my journey to return to flight.  No major announcements in this post but I thought I’d catch you up on the backlog of little things.

Secondary Costs of Buying a Plane

Let’s start with some details about the some of the secondary costs of buying an airplane.  So some background:

For folks that have been following the blog you may remember that n October I purchased a 1946 Ercoupe.  It was ferried up to Seattle from Compton, CA.  Yes my Coupe is “Straight out of Compton”!  So just know when you see me roll up that taxiway I will represent.  The Ercoupe is a very gangster ride! 😉  Enough of the humor.  The plane was “delivered” to Auburn, WA (S50).  It was purchased using an escrow company who completed the FAA paperwork to transfer the registration.  So I learned there seems to be two steps for folks bringing in an airplane from out of state into Washington state.

  1. Pay the WA. state use tax.

You are expected to pay a onetime use tax fee when the plane comes into Washington.   The rate is based on where the plane is “first used”.  So in my case I went to the state revenue office in downtown Seattle.  Well 4th ave anyways.  The office was mostly empty when I went and the folks were friendly.  They wanted to verify my paperwork using the FAA database.  They want to determine the age of the airplane to figure out what it was worth using some sort of “blue book” reference they use.  What I learned:

My FAA registration does not indicate the year my plane was manufactured.  Even after I told them the year my plane could not be found in their “blue book”.  So I did have paperwork from the Escrow company that showed the purchase price.  They accepted that but let me know that I would have to prove that if later on the state agency wanted to challenge the valuation.  That seemed pretty unlikely.

The next thing they needed to know was where is the plane kept.  The rate you are charged varies by where the “first use” occurs.  I know there are some folks that have got a tie down for an initial period of time somewhere is a lower rate.  I looked at that and decided I’d just go with S50.  I soon discovered they could not locate using whatever software they use the Auburn airport using the airport identifier.  So they ended up basically figuring it out using something like Google maps.  So we had a rate.  For folks wondering about what this will cost here are my numbers.  I paid $20,500 for my plane.  I ended up paying them $1945.  The do not take credit cards.  You must pay via check or cash.  Also be aware if you are a cash sort of person they will only take case for a subset of their hours.

So I got two copies of my receipt and I was told I would need to submit one of those when I went to register the airplane.  So on to the next and I believe final step.

2. Register your airplane with the State of Wa.

So I believed you needed to mail in some sort of application to do this but I saw someone I work with mentioned they had done it using the phone and then online.  That was an excellent hint!  So I called them up and they had my account set up in minutes.  They could verify that I had paid the use tax previously using whatever system they use.  So twenty minutes later I’d logged onto my new account and paid $65 via credit card.  I am told I will get some sort of registration card in the mail.  Washington no longer uses stickers.  Just some paperwork I think you keep in the plane.

So there it is.  Total cost:

$1945 + $65

As I understand it I will be billed annually to renew the state registration much like my car.

So I will also share an alternative I considered.  I also have a hangar in Mesa, AZ.  FFZ – X5.  I considered registering it in AZ as that would have reduced this to a $45 a year expense with no use tax.  But if you look at the rules I would have been “cheating” and who knows what would happen if I was caught.  So I decided it wasn’t worth it.  I am however trying to figure out a work situation that would let me spend my winters down there and my summers up here.   But all that would mean is I think my annual registration is pro-rated for however much time the plane spends in each state.

So there it is for folks that have either just bought a plane from out of state or folks considering it.  As with everything that flies all it takes is time and money!

Progress on Flying Woodstock

So I have not yet flown my plane myself.  I am still working on my BFR and the weather and other factors have not been my friends.  The FBO and instructor I’ve selected here in the Seattle area seem to require several weeks at a minimum to schedule a plane and the instructor.  There is no way to know that far ahead of time what the weather will be.  For example while I’m writing this I have things lined up for some flying this Saturday but the forecast are predicting rain.  So it is likely I won’t be flying.  So the progress I’m making is slow at best.  I am seriously looking at alternatives.  Maybe an out of state trip to someplace with better weather.  So I am still not sure.

I did learn of some local resources that might help.  There is a flying club with a couple of Ercoupes  about 90 minutes from where I live.  They have a CFI that I could not only finish up my BFR with but also get an Ercoupe check out.  Still I am at the mercy of the weather.  On the good side I have no deadline so even if its frustrating I don’t have to be flying by any certain date.

More I’ve learned about My Airplane

So there is a lot of controversy within the Ercoupe community about some aspects of the planes.  One of things folks disagree about is the nose gear.  When the plane was originally designed the nose gear was designed to fully extend and a small faring would move up in place to make the nose gear more streamline.  When the Ercoupe design was acquired by Mooney there was a change made.  Mooney wanted a simple trainer to get pilots to transition to the other Mooney planes.  So they changed the tail to a single rudder.  Added full rudder pedals and added a cable called a “snubber cable” to limit the travel of the nose gear downward.  This makes sense.  Students needed to learn to hold the nose off and use the rudder for directional control when landing.  So the nose gear needed to be held up.  So the cable held it off during the flair.

For some reason owners of the older Ercoupes thought this cable thing must be a good thing and so many added this to their older planes.  This also means they needed to remove the faring.  So this is a strange decision since the only real way an Ercoupe with no rudder pedals has directional control is to have the nose gear in contact with the ground.  That long nose gear extension is to make sure that the nose gear is on the runway when or shortly after the plane touches down.  The original designer of the Ercoupe said they should not have the cable added to the nose gear,  In fact it sort of appears that it might not even be legal to add the cable to an older plane.

Mine has the dreaded cable and does not have the proper faring.  So I’ve decided as soon as I can find someone in the general Seattle area to do the work I am having me nose gear put back to original configuration.  Here is my current nose gear, notice the cable:

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Here is an original nose gear with a faring:

aercng

Here is an original nose gear in the air:

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See how the nose gear extends down completely down and the faring has moved into place.  This is how the plane was designed to work.  Here is an Ercoupe in flight with a snubber cable:

ercng

See how the nose gear never really extends.  In fact it looks so short that when flaring on landing it may not be on the runway until the plane has been on the ground for a while.

So the summary is I am going to have my nose gear put back to original.

Progress on Maybe a New Instrument Panel

So my instrument panel is decidedly not original.  And I really like the original panel.  The Ercoupe came with two glove boxes!!  Here is a nice original Ercoupe panel:

panel

I think that looks great!  So I have located and purchased a stock panel with no instruments of course but it did include the glove box doors.  So I am going to have to decide what to do but I think I may strip that panel and make some sort of closer to stock replacement for my plane.  Here is a picture of the panel I currently have.  It is pretty nice in its own way so I can’t say I’m replacing it as a high priority.  Here is my current panel:

img_20170115_150953949

So no firm plan for a panel upgrade yet.

Update on a New Interior

So I decided I really wanted to put a nicer interior in my plane.  I was ready to commit to an interior kit from Airtex. They make a nice interior for the Ercoupe.  I discovered it was not so simple to order.  I tried to order the interior twice with no luck.  I eventually learned there was a months long lead time to get the interior from them.  Ugh.  So I did some more research.  I wanted to know just what the original interior looked like.  I learned that the company that currently owns all the rights to the Ercoupe actually had some of the orginal material in their warehouse and I contacted them.  I was not able to get them to get me a sample or even a picure.  So I set about trying to learn more.

Here is what I found out from the fantastic Ercoupe Tech Yahoo  Group, here was an answer I got to the question about the original interior :

 “But what I have seen in my 20 years of working on Ercoupes I will attempt to describe. Looking at the reprints of the catalogs of both Skyport and Univair, and adding what I have seen/removed from Ercoupes I would describe the interior a little differently than you have indicated.
 
    You are correct in that the floor was made from aircraft grade plywood (5 layers glued up into a 1/4″ piece) Which was cut out to enable removal & replacement fairly easily. The kick board (where you rest your feet in front of the floor board) must be removed before you can remove the floor board. The floor board and kick plate were covered with a carpet fastened down with snaps. I have no idea of the color, but I would guess a medium gray.
 
    The seats were two individual cushions (most likely containing horse hair) also gray in color with maroon piping around the edge. The seat back was sewn on a piece of heavy canvas that had brass grommets placed around the edges so in it could be fastened into the seat frame with a lacing cord to boot lace hooks fastened around the edge of the seat frame. I believe there were pockets in the seat back in which some cushion material was placed, but I have not seen an original. Replacements came with various foam inserts.
 
    There were side panels (called soundproofing) which were made of a lightweight gray vinyl sewn to a thin cotton backing with a material that looks a little like fiberglass (but I think it is something else) in between the two. I have attached pictures of the front and back of the “soundproofing” material and you can see the wavy stitching utilized to hold the materials together. This material was glued to the firewall and fuselage sides with some sort of cement (it takes hours and hours of scrubbing with MEK to remove the cement).
 
    I am not certain how the material, with pockets sewn on them, was fastened to the sides of the fuselage (by the pilots knees), but it had to be removable in order to access the fuel lines  behind them. It may have been some form of fibre board with a few screws.
 
    The instrument panel was quite intricate with chrome strips about 3/16″ apart run vertically down the glove box doors and center of the panel, There was a maroon paint applied between the chrome strips. All the knobs were of a maroon color, and there was a maroon welting placed between the instrument panel and the glare shield. The glove boxes were made of heavy cardboard and fastened to the inside of the instrument panel with small screws.
 
    You are also correct that the baggage compartment was made from canvass. I had a zipper in the bottom to facilitate inspections without removal, and it also had a gray vinyl cover that snapped over the top (to the seat back) that had the same maroon piping trim as the instrument panel.
I had another person describing it as much like a Model T interior.  Here is a photo of the original interior:
erint.jpg
So I may be rethinking some things.  I may not add carpet and settle for refinishing my existing floorboards.  I am also thinking something simple grey with red stripe for the seat material.  Not as sure now as I think I was before.  Ah the joy of owning an airplane!

More thoughts on the Paint Scheme

I wish I could say I’ve settle on how I want to improve the trim on my plane.  I have settle on a name.  From here on out I will think of my coupe as “Woodstock”.

woodstock

I want to put the Woodstock image on the plane but I’m still trying decide on the nose like typical military nose art or maybe back on the vertical fins.  That will depend a lot on how I decide to embellish my plane.  If I go the military trainer look then on the nose.  If I go with an upgraded civilian look then maybe the vertical fins?  I have learned a bit more about original paint and the side logo vs. the brass side badges.  I have confirmed that my plane likely came with the side badges.  Most of the time there was no side stripe with those.  I also learned that most of the planes came with silver wings and sometimes had red trim on the leading edges of the vertical fins and on the wingtips.  This is very close to what I think mine looked like new:

scampy

Primary differences would have been the “N” numbers would have been black and my plane has the center sun shade.  Also my plane came with a wood propeller.   At some point my planes wings were painted yellow.  I don’t know if that was before the previous owner replaced the fabric.   Notice the nose gear  That is what I hope to get back to.

Here is an example of a side stripe with the nose badges:

estripe

Anyways, still pondering trim.

Shoulder Harnesses

So I want to add shoulder harnesses to my plane.  There are a lot of options but I haven’t found one yet that seems to suit my plan for my plane.  Most seem to assume you’ve removed the original hat shelf in the back and maybe done the bigger baggage compartment mod.  I’ve decided I may have to cook up a system of my own.

Other Misc. Stuff

So I did my first oil change.  I went down the rabbit hole that is Marvel Mystery Oil.  Many folks swear by it.  The either add it to their oil or put it in their gas!  It is sort of a mystery,  For example it turns out one of the ingredients is lard!  It was used extensively my the US military in large round engines during WWII where it was purchased by the barrel full.  Many owners of classic planes swear by it and even add it to their fuel today but it is technically illegal as the FAA does not approve its use.  So went with W100 aviation oil and I am adding Camguard which not only improves lubrication but really reduces corrosion.
I also bought and started fresh log books from both my planes air frame and engine.  Airplanes maintain separate log books for the engine and the air frame.  I have to admit I still have more to learn about how to log stuff for my plane.
I’ve also bought a few more things.  I have a fuel check cup for the plane.  I also bought new center tank cap and float assembly.  Mine was showing signs of wear.  Finally after talking to someone at my airport about polishing planes I bought some of the more coarse polishing compound.  I also picked up a few more Ercoupe related manuals.

For now:

Well I hope these are more regular and more interesting once I really start flying but I’ll try and share things as I encounter them.  Once it warms up a bit I will spend more time at the hangar with the plane, take some more pictures and share some other projects.  For example I still need to fix my nose bowl, my wing tip strobe light and I will be having my plane’s first annual inspection soon.
Till then happy skies!
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Flew the Coupe! – Part 9- Not much happening but the waiting

So I thought I’d share an update.  Things here in Seattle have ground to a halt when it comes the Ercoupe adventure.  Weather is not my friend this time of year.  So I am still needing some time with an instructor to get my BFR behind me and that just isn’t happening.  The FBO I have chosen never seems to have a plane available and the instructor I’ve chosen is even harder to book.  Since very few days here this time of year would be days I’d want to fly in I have settled down into a holding pattern.  I’ve looked for things I can do while I wait.  So there have been a few things I’ve either done or tried to do.

So I have named my little bird.  I’d like you all to meet “Woodstock”!

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Seems to fit.  I’m still trying to decide where I’ll be putting the image on the plane.  There is certainly the traditional nose art location but I am also considering the vertical fin.  That may end up depending on how I decide to enhance my airplanes markings.  While my plane really does lend itself to the pseudo military trainer scheme many Ercoupes seem to sport I am also considering staying with a civilian scheme.  The good news is I don’t have to rush to decide.  I am slowly learning more about how the Ercoupe came from the factory.  They really weren’t particularly fancy.  Basically no paint on the fuselage, silver wings.  Some had the Erco logo painted on the cowl, some came with the brass badges.  A wonderful fellow name Andy Pomeroy gave me a pair of those badges and I have already put them on the plane.

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Looks pretty nice if you ask me!

So lets talk more about what I learned about civilian paint schemes for the Ercoupe.  So at first they came with a painted on logo, then they got the badges.  Its still a bit fuzzy as to when the swap happened.  Here is the panted on logo:

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There are even factory drawings that show that as part of the original paint.  So looking at old photos and posters here is what you find.

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So the brass logo but no stripe.  A little red trim in this case.

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So painted on logo, side stripe. paint on both the wing and vertical fin leading edges.  Silver wings?  It also has the center sun screen.

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So here are two Ercoupes in front of the factory.  One definitely has the brass logo plate.  No stripes on the fuselage and no leading edge trim.  Both look to have the center sun screen.

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Nose brass plate logo, no stripe but a little trim on the wingtips.  No center sun screen.  Note the wire antenna from the canopy back to the top of the fin.

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So bare, no logos, no stripes.

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So here is a Macy’s ad.  Hard to tell if there is a cowl badge and I really don’t see a stripe on the fuselage but there is clearly trim on the wing and vertical fin leading edges.  Here is another Macy’s promotional photo:

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What a happy family picnic!  Not sure how they all got there in that plane but sure!  So painted on logo on the cowl, side fuselage stripe.  No sign of trim on the leading edges.

Here is a picture from the Smithsonian:

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No cowl logo, no fuselage stripes.  This plane also has a nose gear faring.  More about that later.

How about a promotional photo with Jane Russel!

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Cowl brass plate logo.  No fuselage stripes.  No sign of leading edge trim.  Cool circular period directional antenna!

So summary is there really seemed to be a lot of randomness in the way the planes were painted new.  So I think I can take some liberties if I decided to stay “civilian”.

So if I decide to keep it “civy” I have to device a coupe of things.  For example do I add a fuselage side stripe?  If I do what color?  Do I use vinyl or paint it on?  Do I add leading edge trim?  How about the “N” numbers in the vertical fins?  Do I move them somewhere else like the fuselage or maybe incorporate them into some trim on the vertical fins?  How about some other vertical fin ideas?  Here are some photos of “coupes” with a “swoop”.

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So I am pondering how to make my new to me plane “my own”.  So while I wait for the weather to improve I can plan out my mods.

I’ll share at least one silly airplane related thing I did.  I made a Christmas ornament match my plane:

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Another thing I’ve been actively looking into is a new interior for my plane.  I set out to just order one from Airtex and have gotten no response.  They seem to have a huge lead time so I’ll start after the holidays and try again.  In the mean time I may have changed my mind about a few things.  The Ercoupe did not come with carpet.  Just a wood floor board and I am tempted to leave mine like that.  Here is my floorboard:

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Nothing special, just wood. I’ll decide what to do about that after I’ve flown the plan a bit.  Maybe OK that way but carpet is easy to do.

I am still trying to decide what to do about the instrument panel.  Mine is far from original and I think something closer to original would be nice but again, I’m putting that off for when I’ve flown the plane more.

Now one thing I can get to almost immediately.  Polishing!  I can see I have a lot of that in my future!  I bought one of these:

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And I’ve talked to some folks that know more about polishing than I do so I think I need to buy at least another one.  Parts of my plane are going to require more than this polisher can manage to bring them back to where I’d like them.  Some places on my plane are going to need to need some attention it seems.  For example:

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We’ll see if I run out of energy once I get into it as the plane looks pretty decent to me.  Who knows?  I do know at least at this point I would like to have a nicely polished plane!

Another thing that was pointed out to me is that my cowl could fit better.  The top piece seems to be a little too wide to fit right.  Someone said I need to possible “shrink” it.  I have no idea whats involved in that.  Maybe I’ll figure that out once I get this fixed.  My nosebowl has a crack.  I have several folks that say they can weld it but I need to take the prop off to get the nosebowl off.  Well the plane is not being flown so now if the time to do it!  Here is the crack:

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I also still need to fix my wingtip strobe light.  Now I know what I have and what I need to do.  So the previous owner took standard Grimes wingtip lights and welded on a mount for a standard Whelan strobe assembly.  My strobe tube seems to be blown so I can buy a replacement from places like Aircraft Spruce Specialist. Here is a standard grimes light and mine:

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And here is what I think I need to fix it:

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The only complication is my light is riveted together so I have to drill the rivets and then replace them with a screw and nut of some sort.  First step is to figure out where my drill is!  Actually my entire hangar needs to be reorganized but the cold is very demotivating!

So other things I’ve found out.  I have Cleveland brakes!  This is a very good thing as I understand it.  Parts for the original brakes are hard to come by and the original brakes don’t work as well.  I do need to clean my calipers but just another project!

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Another thing I’ve learned is my nose gear has something called a “snubber” cable and has had the original faring removed.  I need to fly the plane some to decide what I really want to do but I think at this time I will restore the nose gear to its original configuration. Originally it came with a small metal faring that would move to streamline the nose gear as the weight of plane came off the gear and it extended.  Some planes still have them, many do not.  I think I want to put mine back.  To do that I need to remove the “snubber” cable.  These cables were fitted to newer coupes and many owners added them to their older coupes.

Another thing related to the landing gear.  My airplane may be sitting too tail high.  There are rubber components on the main gear that can flatten over time and make the tail sit too low.  This becomes a problem because the Ercoupe needs the nose wheel on the ground to steer.  So if the tail stays low the airplane can be uncontrollable in a cross wind.  Something I need to check out.

So I can say I’ve made progress on other less interesting things that are part of buying an airplane.  I paid the state of Washington my “use tax”.  That was $1950-ish dollars I would have liked to spent on something more useful for the airplane.  Now I need to send the proof of that to the WA aviation folks to get my WA state registration.  Paying the use tax was pretty straight forward although I discovered that my FAA registration does not list the aircraft manufacturer year so I had to swear to that verbally.  Also whatever blue book they use to verify the airplane’s value seems to not include the Ercoupe!

So that’s about all I have to report as “I fly the Coupe”.  Sadly no real flying to share.  But soon I hope.  I am looking into putting a “Go Pro” in the plane to share more of my adventures with videos.  Not sure about that yet.

So if you have any ideas about how to add some paint/vinyl trim to Woodstock let me feel free to leave your ideas in the comments!  Also if you run across any interesting Ercoupe photos please let me know!  Here is one I ran across I really like!

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Note, painted on cowl logo, fuselage stripes and no leading edge trim.  Very few people know that the Ercoupe was the preferred airplane for bears to fly! 🙂

Here is another, this is the Ercoupe that was the first airplane to ever fly with a JATO.

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So painted on cowl logo, side fuselage stripes, red leading edge trim.

So this really it for this installment.  I’ll leave with a suggested site.  If you are familiar with the show Top Gear you certainly know Jeremy Clarkson, James May and Richard Hammond.   They started a social sites for fans of motorsports mostly call Drive Tribe.  I add an aviation tribe there call “Oh To Fly”.  Please give it a visit and consider joining!

 

 

 

 

 

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Flew the Coupe! – Part 8- It’s all the little stuff!

So I thought I’s share some more details of my plane and talk a little more about things I want to change.  Let’s start with things I don’t plan.  No, even though I live on a lake that is one of the busiest seaplane port in the word  will not be putting my coupe on floats.  Sure seems like it could be cool though! 🙂

One of the first things I am upgrading.  My interior.  Here is my current interior.  I expect it may be very much like it came out of the factory.  I think the seat back may be original.  I think the same might be true of the baggage compartment.  I think the seat cushions are likely recovered but in a material close to original.   I expect the same is true of the side panels.  The plane has a wooden floor and no carpet.  Here are some photos of the seat:

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The baggage compartment:

Side panels:

The floor is just wood:

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So there is nothing horrible about any of that.  In fact it is probably very close to how my plane came off the factory floor.  Much of my plane is how I think it was when it was manufactured.  But, I can do better!

So I am going to add carpets, replace the side panels and seats.  I think dark grays will be the pallet.  I believe I can put in all the new interior kit myself.  I also realize looking at the floor picture there is some sort of bracket there I have to figure out.  For folks that wonder I expect the interior will set me back about $1500.  This should include the baggage compartment.  While I like the large baggage compartment upgrade I am not sure I’m going to do that.  I will definitely share that process when I get to it.

Other things I expect to address.  Here is my “hat shelf”:

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You can get a carpet cover for that so I think I’ll get one of those as well.  I discovered something I need to research.  Here is the dataplate for my plane:

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My plane was upgraded to a “D” and and 85HP.  I wonder if this was supposed to be updated?

Another interior item that will be replaced.  There is a cover over the dash that is made out of the same material as the seats.  I will replace that with some matching material with the new interior.  You can see it here:

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So another small detail that I like I am going to reproduce.  It looks like that gas float assembly on my plane is worn and the float not floating so well.  Good news is that I can buy a new one from Univair.  However mine has a sort of fin at the top.  The come as just a wire.  Someone fit mine with a little folded over piece of brass.  Here it is:

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So lets talk about things my plane has plenty of. Antennas! Here are all the antennas on my plane in no particular order.  Transponder and I’m not sure.  The plane had a Loran once.  If you know what that small “V” shaped antenna is let me know!

This I believe is a VOR antenna and the tail position light:

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And now the Comm and GPS antenna:

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I think I have at least one antenna I don’t need and the GPS/Comm antenna does not feel very “period”.  I understand the radios work well but I am thinking some changes are in order.  For example if the GPS comes out maybe I can go to a simple whip for the comm radio.  Something more like this:

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I can’t say yet I know where my ELT antenna is.  And I have no idea what the “V” shaped one on the bottom is.

Now lets look at my panel.  Here are some pictures:

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So a couple of observations.  The panel is certainly not in any sort of standard layout.  And at least one instrument needs some “luvin”.  The artificial horizon needs to be adjusted/serviced.  But this begs a larger question.  Is this panel not really consistent with my “mission”.  So certainly all legally required instruments stay.  And when it comes to engine instruments more is better I think.  But do I need an artificial horizon? These old sperry instruments date back to WWII.  Another question do I need a VOR?  I am not so sure in the age of GPS.  Anyways, I am seriously thinking of refurbish an original panel.  Moving the avionics to one of the glove box locations and ditching all the not needed for IFR instruments.

Other things I’n noticed on the plane.  I have some polishing challenges.  Here is some corrosion I found on the top of the canopy area:

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If you know anything about polishing let me know what to do!

Another thing I decided not to worry about.  My plane is missing the cabin heat “muff”.  Dennie said be found the plane stayed plenty warm.  I may take advantage of the ducting and move it to just fresh outside air.  Here is where the missing heater part should be:

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A simple thing I need to sort out, what to do about the “head clobbering device”!.  The compass works very well but seems to be perfectly positioned for people to hit their head on!

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I need to pad it or something!

So mostly I thought I’d share some details of my plane.  Here are some other photos:

So if you have any feedback please feel free to share!

There should be a future installment will be about the history of the Ercoupe but the next installment is just about passing some time while I get flying my new bird!

Flew the Coupe! – Part 9- Not much happening but the waiting

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