Sunday, July 8, 2012

Flight Test Follies: Days of waste

I had big plans yesterday to knock off some more air time with N614EF. Carolie was working a 3-11 shift (She spends every other weekend working at a transition home for people with mental illnesses; if you've never met my wife, you've really missed out. She'll be at Oshkosh, by the way) and that freed up some non-guilt time to spend with the mistress.

The "heavy wing" is pretty much fixed now so I'm moving on to installing the wheel pants to cut down the drag the exposed wheels and gear legs present, and I'd intended to go out and see if they'd impact the flying qualities of the plane (which would mean, of course, I fitted them incorrectly), and then do some speed runs to establish Vx (best angle of climb) and Vy (best rate of climb).

Total number of hours flying yesterday: 0.

I needed to pump up the tires but my attachment for an air compressor was back at the hangar in South Saint Paul. I started to install the nosewheel fairing, but the hex wrench I needed for the job was also back at the hangar in South Saint Paul.

So I dropped what I was doing, closed the hangar, and drove into Lakeville to find the Ace Hardware. It's on Main Street, which -- I found -- was closed to traffic because of Pan-O-Prog days, which celebrates the opening of the city's industrial park (and airport) many years ago. I parked about a half-mile away and hoofed it into town.

I found a bike pump ($9) and a hex wrench set ($21), which -- coincidentally -- is the same hex wrench I bought three months ago when I didn't have one that fit out at the hangar in Saint Paul.

Back to the hangar and I found the bicycle pump is a poor -- that is to say, fruitless -- way to pump up airplane tires, but I made it a little better and put the wheel pants on. Then I moved over to the left side.

As I was putting the wheel pant on and bolting it to the axle nut, I noticed the axle nut was turning. I originally installed these back before the gear legs weren't even on the plane.

And while fitting the fairing, I moved the brake line slightly, which unleashed brake fluid. The flare must've cracked. I'd need to make a new brake line, but all of the tools and aluminum tubing was back in South Saint Paul. So I put a rag around the fitting to absorb all of the brake fluid that would soon be leaking out, closed up the hangar and drove back to South Saint Paul.

I picked everything up, and drove back the 30 miles to Lakeville when I realized I'd neglected to bring the spring benders you need to bend aluminum tubing by hand. I would have no choice but to do it by hand. As it turned out, that wasn't too bad and I installed the new brake line.

Time to put brake fluid in. Whoops. The can of brake fluid -- in a Post Office crate that had everything else I hauled down to the new hangar with -- had tipped over. Time to clean that mess up.

I eventually got everything straightened out, attached the plastic line to the brake bleed connection, one end to a little hand pump, and the other hose to a jar of brake fluid. Crank. Crank. Crank. Crack. For some reason the fluid wasn't going in so I cranked harder and that was the end of the little pump I bought a few weeks ago for $20.

I now had no way to bleed the brakes, which didn't keep me from trying, even though it's a two-man job. After an hour, I gave up and decided to move on to tightening the axle nuts on both sides.

Once that was done, of course, I needed to drill new holes for the cotter pins that secure them. I had a six inch drill bit for this purpose and after I got one hole drilled through on one side of the nut, I moved to the other. Just as it was about to break through the steel, the flexing of the drill bit was too much, and it snapped. It was the only drill bit I had.

If you're keeping score, that's one plan to finish the nose gear, two plans to install the wheel pants, one plan to fix thebrakes, and two plans to fix the axle nut "play" that now lay on the floor, dreams shattered.

It was now 8:30, I'd been "working" for 10 hours and had accomplished exactly nothing. A weekend day wasted.

I'll go back at it today and see if we have better results.

And then tomorrow, I'll go back to work, and spend five days waiting for the chance to do it all again.

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