N79FT A Skybolt Story
|On:||Aug 18, 2014|
|Tags:||9891U, flying, stories|
After I posted my story on removing the footstep to Grumman Gang mailing list, Ken Blackman of AirMods NW fame wrote me an email.. He recognized the plane, and apparently he flew it back in the 70s and had a great story to share... Here it is, below.
Ken Blackman's Story
...we were so desperate for airplanes we were picking up "drop-outs" from other dealers canceling orders when they came available and this plane was one (sans the little tanks) we bought while at the 1977 Dealer Convention. We has also agreed to purchase a '75 Traveler "Repo" from Grumman Credit that a dealer had faulted on. It was in Oklahoma City. Maynard took airlines to OKC to get the Traveler and I was going to fly the Cheetah to San Jose, drop it there, and fly the AA-5 on up to our facility at Everett, WA for needed mechanical work and sale prep. (We had a much better maintenance facility at my end of the operation) I was within a half hour of leaving when the delivery center paged me to the phone. It was Maynard and he was asking me to come to OKC and pick him up at the Traveler was a total piece of crap.
I flew there and we stayed overnight to get a got early take-off the next day. This was in January and there had just been a minor snow fall all through our intended route through Albuquerque and on west to California. The weather was clear the next day and winds were forecast to be light & variable. There was a big high pressure coming into the NM area so we figured we would make ABQ the first leg, refuel, and on to Prescott. The 37 gal. usable put us on a thin edge for the first leg but we figured we had close to VFR reserves. Tracking the VORs, measuring the distances and doing the math I was maintaining a steady 145 to 147 MPH and flying at the higher altitudes we were getting real good economy. From Tucumcari to the next VORTAC I calculated 146 MPH and the previous leg was 147. Marking the time from that one to the next one would require a certain number of minutes enroute so we continued along in smooth air. Maynard was sound asleep in the right seat. When the stopwatch showed we should be arriving at the next fix the "TO/FROM" didn't flip. I waited another couple of minutes, then started looking at my chart and the ground for references. (Lots of luck over the desert.) I woke Maynard up wrestling the chart and he asked what was going on. I explained we should have been at the check point 10 minutes ago but weren't. We both started looking for ground references and finally found two roads that intersected along our route line and identified we were still a good 25 miles from the VOR.
I called Flight Service and was connected to a briefer in ABQ. I explained our situation and he said there as a weather phenomenon occurring called a "Venturi Effect" I had never heard of. The high pressure area coming into the ABQ area was causing wind to flow into the lower pressure area we were in and, coming through the Sandia Gap east of ABQ, set up a headwind that dissipated just east of our position. We had a head wind of nearly 50 MPH! This definitely put Albuquerque out of range but retreating to Tucumcari would not work because we would lose the wind very soon and not have the push needed to get there. Santa Fe was possible as we would be flying about 80 degrees to the wind direction and it would dissipate before we were half way there but it was a stretch and they were having snow pellets and possible freezing rain in the forecast. Looking at the chart I found a dirt strip at Kline's Corners right along a freeway and cross road intersection. It was within our range so we headed for it. Arriving at the intersection and identifying it we could only find a ragged old windsock on top of a collapsing building in the middle of a lot of snow. "NFY"
We flew low over the cross road but there were power and phone lines that would prevent landing on it. There was the freeway and an underpass where that cross road went over it. There was a Chevron gas station there with the on-ramp to the interstate and traffic was light. We made a low pass to check for obstacles and it was good for about a half mile past the on-ramp. We made a left hand downwind and tried to set up a landing but there were a couple of cars we were concerned about followed by a couple more that we didn't trust to not panic and run into us if we landed in front of them. We went around again and had a similar problem plus two cars were coming down the on-ramp. We were flying on the tank that read the most fuel and, about the time we turned downwind, the engine quit! Switched tanks and decided we were committed this time. There was a Semi just going under the overpass and another one a mile or so behind it. Trusting that the driver of the 2nd one would not run is over, we settled down to land about where the on ramp joined the freeway.
We taxied off the main lanes to the shoulder and turned 45 degrees to the left and shut down. The Trucker pulled his rig up to block anyone from hitting our plane and got out his flairs. "What'd ya do, run out of gas?" he asked. "Nope, but close. If you think you are going to run dry, for God's sake, land before you do!" I replied. About that time a state trooper came flying off the opposite set of freeway lanes, bounding across the dirt, snow covered median and blocked the right lane of the highway. He had picked up the CB call from the trucker. After explain our situation to him he asked if he should call a tow truck... "NO!!!" I asked if he could just block traffic back of the in-ramp and we would taxi it up to the gas station. He did and we did. (I had to zig-zag through the edge of road snow markers but made it fine.)
This was before EAA was working with MO-GAS and we didn't know how it would react to it. We decided to use the higher octane unleaded so stuffed a hose in each tank and filled it up. The cop blocked off the freeway again and one of the guys from the station drove his pickup to park under the power lines and turned on his flashers. We taxied back to the underpass to give us a little more runway I did a run-up only to have the engine run very rough. We thought the car gas might be causing this then realized we were about 7,000 ft, MSL, and full rich was not the correct procedure. Leaned it out half way and run-up was fine. Take off was long but we were well above the power lines and on our way to ABQ. The damned thing ran better, and burned a little less per hour with the car gas. We decided to park it in ABQ and get a good dinner and night's sleep before flying on the next day to San Jose.
We decided to leave the plane at RHV and I flew a used trade in 2 place on home. The owners of Bede Micro (Keith Henshaw and Rod (his partner)) were close friends of Maynard and had become so with me. They developed the Honda Turbo conversion for the BD-5 and stretched the fuselage. They had a facility to help people build their BD-5 kits with their tooling and fixtures and assistance. They were talking about getting a Grumman for their running around and bought '91U soon after it arrived.
There was a good article about Keith in Sport Aviation, I think the January or Feb. issue this year, about his achievements in supporting the BD aircraft and development of the Honda powered version. (He passed away last winter in his late '80s.)
Well, now you know the bit of history of your airplane that is not in the log books.
|On:||Aug 18, 2014|
|Tags:||9891U, flying, mechanicing|
Weekends are plane days now. I fly to my friend's hangar and mess with 91U, the Cheetah (I still need a name for her :) ).
This past few weeks Ive been doing little stuff here and there...
Cleaned up the nav lights lenses.
... they still look like crap, so I'll probably bite the bullet and buy a set of new ones.
Oh, and I need to make those vertical "shields" that cover the strobes away from the pilot's view.. Ill probably get the new lenses after I make those shields.
Started getting under the panel and cleaning things up, preparing for the CGR-30 Engine Monitor installation (I got one for a really good price at Oshkosh).
Taking the glareshield off, found this:
All dead defroster SCAT tubing
I'll need to replace all that...
Started taking the old gages off and thinking about where Im gonna put what.
I'll need to make some plugs for the holes emptied.
Right now, I have analog and half-broken EGT (the selector switch is dead), analog CHT that's not hooked up to anything (wires are butted, and there are no probes installed). Those are going away. HOBBS is also going away. This is all being replaced with CGR-30, so I get a few empty holes and options to move gauges around. I'll probably move the clock and the vac suction gauge so that they're better visible.
Pictures will come later when the work is actually done :)
This last weekend started quite jolly with me putting in the engine grounding straps (didn't have them when I bought the plane).
Grounding Strap 1
Grounding Strap 2
And then, I decided to deal with something special; the Foot Step. You see, I don't like them. I think they're ugly. So, I decided to remove them, and make a couple of fairings to cover the holes up and to replace the original plastic fairings.
Beej helped me (that means, "did it himself" rather ;) ) whip out the first test fairing.
And then, we needed to take off the steps.
The steps are bolted thru the fuse honeycomb with a couple of backing plates. There are two bolts, top is aluminum one (the thought is that it will shear before the bottom one and therefore prevent leverage and damage to sensitive fuse sidewall honeycomb). I believe AG-5s (later Grummans) replaced them with steel bolts; and people had some serious honeycomb crushing issues because of that.
Aaanyway. The bolts come from the inboard side, thru the streamlined tubing of the footstep and a couple bushings, and fasten themselves to the nutplates riveted to the other side of the footstep. Here's the schematic from the Parts Manual.
There are a couple more bushings inside the streamlined tubing that aren't shown...
Also, the footstep sits in the wing root. You can kinda get access to the bottom nutplate if you take the fairing off. The top is right in the center of the wing root. And wing roots on Grummans are not fairings. I don't know how to remove one without pulling the whole wing (and Im not quite ready to do that yet...).
So anyway, happy me, I undo the rear seats and the cover that covers all the business under them, take the wrench, "assume the position" and start undoing the bolts. The first thing that happens is the rivets holding nutplates snap off.
So now, I am having Beej, not a small guy at all, under the plane on a creeper, holding the nutplates. We did the bottom one fast, the top one is a pain in the ass because it's, like I said, in the wing root. Had to take the flaps torque tube inspection plate off to get to it, and even then only could hold it with fingers.. the torque tube is getting in the way, you can't get any tools in there.
I should also mention that the bolts sit right under the back seat framing that holds the seat, and I can't even see the bolts I'm undoing without an inspection mirror. Gladly, not much there, so I've found them easily.
So, we undid the bolts.
Hehe. Now, to getting them out...
We were able to tap the bottom bolt out fairly easily. Well, it's right there under the footstep fairing, so that wasn't a problem.
The top bolt is the whole other story...
You see, the bushing inside the streamlined tube is steel. And the bolt is aluminum. The Mother Nature decided to give me a practical lesson on dissimilar metal corrosion.
So Saturday, as this was progressing and it was getting late (and time for Beej to go home), we tried pulling it, rotating it with a ratchet while pushing on the side. No joy.
Beej had to go. We had to disband.
I parked the plane in transient on Beej's field (I couldn't fly back with the footstep dangling like that on one bolt:)); and went home, determined to fix it. Had to have Dash pick me up...
Talked with Ben for over an hour.. Got a lot of good advice. "Heat it up". "Liquid Wrench". "Die Grinder".
Furnished a whole bunch of various tools. Some of them will probably scare some aircraft mechanics :)
The Tools To Pull That Bolt
Note the pry-bar notch enlarged to take an AN5 bolt. I also custom-beveled the cold chisel to give it a sharper angle (hoping I'll be able to get it under the bolt head).
Put a bunch of Liquid Wrench on that bolt. Tried the chisel - nothing.
Did I mention that I couldn't see the bolt, only feel it? :)
Tried pulling, rotating with Vise Grips - nothing.
Soaked in more Liquid Wrench. Nothing.
Looking at it from the inspection mirror, it was clear that I could cut the head off if I could see it (I would never try that blind. Ever).
So, the mission became the "See The Bolt Head" one.
Bottom interior side panel, if came off, would reveal the bolt from the top and give me access.
Top interior side panel was blocking the bottom interior side panel.
Also, seatbelts and a little latch for the rear seat.
So, off went all of that.
Finally, I saw the sucker!
Tried pulling it out a bit more, now when I had a better access point.. no luck.
Oh well. To The Dremel!
The rest is...
Holes after the bolts were out
Patched with aluminum tape
The footstand, with headless bolt shank and the bushing
The nasty, nasty bolt shank with the bushing "welded" onto it by corrosion
But the Mother Nature wasn't done with me yet.
Buttoned the plane back up; pulled it in front of the hangar, and took Beej to lunch.
Realized that I left the keys to my car in my wife's car parked at a terminal.
Had to walk there and back. A good mile.
Oh, did I mention the 100 degree Texas summer? :)
Coming back, needed to push the plane back. But no - the parking brake on one of the wheels was completely and utterly stuck.
My Cheetah is a 77, and uses mechanical parking brake. Ive heard before that they get stuck; but I always was able to get them unstuck by taking the brake off and tapping on the pedals with my feet.
The way they work is there is a metal plate that has a hole thru which the brake cylinder's piston's shaft goes thru. There's a chain that pulls it up, making it eccentric with the shaft, which locks the shaft in place.
Well; apparently it got a little more hot while we ate, and that plate just didn't want to go down. Tapping the pedals while putting the brakes on and off didn't do anything.
Oh, did I mention that I would have fiddle with it, get out, try to push the plane back, fail, get back in, all in a 100 degree weather? Not fun.
Finally, gave up and "assumed the position" again. That's when you dive backwards under the panel with feet hanging out of the airplane.
Wiggling it for a minute or so finally yielded a loud snap, and it was unstuck.
Flight back home was uneventful :).
In flight, looking back over Downtown Austin (I risked my phone taking that!)
Skybolt: "Are you talking to me!?" Cheetah: "No, are you talking to me?!!!"
|On:||Jul 07, 2014|
Heh. Multi-week moments of silence seem to start taking hold here. I haven't got much time to work on anything lately.
You see, I have finally decided that I am going to get myself something to fly while I work on the Bolt. I haven't flown for some months, and the withdrawal was settling in pretty badly.
Problem is, I moved to Texas about 8 months ago. Back where I lived before I used to own a 1/3 of a Grumman "N28797" Tiger; flying her at least once a week. I often would spend weekends bouncing between airports and hangar-flying in between hops, and took her to Oshkosh last year.
After moving, the only airplanes I was able to access were ratty Cherokees and Cessnas in a local flight school; and I could no longer go on my day-long hops just because it was too expensive. Writing $400 checks every time I went flying just... hurt, and I ended up not flying much.
So, a decision was made. I was to buy a plane.
A few strategically placed calls to my friends back in California immediately yielded a very good deal on a Grumman Cheetah (it had to be a Grumman of course) :).
Now, Cheetah is the same airframe as Tiger less 200 pounds of max gross and an O-320 instead of an O-360. Figuring that I now live on the right side of the Rockies and don't need to cross them much, my thinking is that Cheetah will actually suite my mission much better.
So, I hopped on a Winged Tubular Human Transporter, and was in CA a few hours later.
A mandatory airport shot. KAUS tower.
I was out of BFR; so we had to get that squared away first... No problem - AYA's Ben Rolfe, my good friend and Grumman mentor and fellow aficionado, told me that AYA was having a fly-in in Delano, and we went for it.
Oh man, I haven't flown a Grumman for a year! What a feeling it was to fly the airplane you truly know and love to fly, again.
Ben sharing bits of wisdom at Delano airport's restaurant
Grummans (not quite a mile of them :) )
The Bird of the Day: Ben's Tiger
..and finally, I meet the seller of my future plane at Abundant Air in Palo Alto. And the plane. 9891U!
Meet the Cheetah!
LoPresti, Powerflow, and 160HP pistons STC. No wheelpants (will have to put those on, but okay for now). Basic panel. 400 hours on engine. Love it!
LeRoy loved her too. (LeRoy is my plush co-pilot. He likes Grumman Tigers the most, but liked this Cheetah a lot, especially 'cause of the colors. They got along real well!!!)
LeRoy getting acquainted
Over that week I was in CA after buying the plane, I have flew more than I have flew over 8 months in Texas.
I got checked out with Drew Kemp, my CFI and guru, gave some old friends a long-overdue ride over San Francisco, visited some more of the old friends in airports around CA, including the awesome Gary Vogt of AuCountry fame , and read lots of paperwork.
Funny thing: apparently one of the radios was stolen from this plane in 1995..
Stolen radio mentioned on this invoice
And finally, we were off to Texas!
Windmills in CA
Refueling in Apple Valley
CA-AZ border, Colorado River
Buckeye: approaching Phoenix. Lunch time!
After lunch in Phoenix, we took off... My second in command Dash noticed high oil temps -- and I reduced the climb, leveling off finally at 5500. The oil just did not want to cool! Half way between Phoenix and Tuscon, the oil finally got a bit cooler, and I attempted climbing some more, but no joy. The moment I start climbing, the oil would hit redline. After trying that a couple times, we decided to bail in Tuscon, and spend a night there. Plan was to take off at 5:30 in the morning, and get past high terrain that starts after Tuscon early in the morning.
Cooling off in the FBO at Ryan Field near Tuscon, we started looking for options. It was Saturday, so renting a car didn't work out. I found a business card for Jeannie's Taxi in the FBO and called her up.
Jeannie's great! She came out immediately, and took us back over a great little road winding thru the Black Mountain and Old Tuscon; and agreed to pick us up at 4:30 in the morning!! We also had a great conversation pretty much about everything as we drove.
Next came Demming, New Mexico. A sad sight of an Arrow stuck on a runway at a weird angle warned that something was amiss. Luckily, Demming had two runways so I landed on another one. Noticed guys at the FBO already rolling in a golf cart to a now obviously belly-landed retractable Arrow, and decided to just wait.
The FBO guys rolled in a few minutes later. "What happened? Did he forget?" - "He forgot". Oh well. Gas-Undercarriage-Mixture-Prop...
One of the guys started fueling us. They have already lifted the Arrow, extended the landing gear, and rolled her into a spare hangar by the time we were leaving.
Fort Stockton was our last en-route stop; and three hours after that we were approaching San Marcos, my temporary home.
What a trip.
I am no longer planeless.
© Copyright 2014 "N79FT". All rights reserved.
This construction log only shows how I did things during the construction of my Skybolt. These pages are for information and personal entertainment only and not to be construed as the only way, or even the perceived correct way of doing things. You are responsible for your own construction techniques.