Aaaand ... we're back.
The regular maintenance reports have been on hiatus for a while, as you will have noticed if you're used to following the doin's of the Hot Stuff crew. Holidays and bitter cold pretty much shut down activities out there on the ramp lately. But the holidays are all over, and the usual Indiana January Thaw is in progress, and certain logistical developments have given the maintenance force a much-needed impetus as well.
It was a dreary, foggy, no-flying day Saturday, but then, flying wasn't what we had in mind in any case. Above is a view of the Harpoon ramp from our storage t-hangar across the way. PJ and I were hauling materials over there, getting it out of the way. We're clearing the decks for our upcoming MX push: yet another engine change--this time, it's No. 2 (the right-hand engine) that's being swapped.
There you see WIXer Johnny Gearpin--better known on our ramp as "John FedEx", mugging for the camera in front of No. 1, which we were hanging this time last year. Unlike our upcoming job, that engine was being resurrected from a locked-up, dead, failed hunka junk. The shop who did the overhaul was Anderson Airmotive of Idaho. They are good people, and do good work.
Ol' Johnny Gearpin is a flight-line mechanic at FedEx's Indianapolis hub in real life, and he conspired with his bosses and his bosses' bosses last year to get that engine shipped to us from Idaho. And now he's done it again: our newest engine is on another FedEx truck, on its way, thanks to the same folks again.
If you've followed our saga in the past, you know that the AMHF is very much a shoestring operation. We've barely hung on financially for the past several years, and our small membership have been financing our operations mostly out of pocket during this time, often spending money we don't really have just to make ends (barely) meet. And we had been stymied in recent weeks, trying to figure out how in heck we were going to come up with the funds to ship a whole ton of R-2800 clear across the continent. But then, just this past Friday, out of the blue comes the ecstatic phone-calls of Johnny Gearpin, informing us that his emloyer is coming through for us again!
So when I say, about this generous donation of shipping, that we are sooo very extremely grateful, the words do not even scratch the surface of the square root of the vast leviathan of gratitude they are trying to describe. Once again, just when you've run out of options, and don't know what you're gonna do, up steps an unexpected benefactor, just in the nick of time, and you're in business. It's happened that way repeatedly for us in recent years. It's almost as though somebody up there likes us.
Anyhow, more on the engine change shortly. First, let's turn to the report of the day's activities, and the usual pictures of the goings-on.
Since the flight insurance is expiring, and we still have not succeeded in getting an indoor home for the winter, we kicked off the annual/240-hour inspection right where we're at, outdoors. Not for the first time nor the last time, the Hot Stuff crew is feeling great sympathy for those mechs of Fleet Air Wing Four, who maintained these birds outdoors in like conditions up there in the Aleutians back in the day.
Item Number One on the list, then, was to run both engines and warm up the oil, preparatory to draining it. It's been a while since we've flown, and our rule of thumb is, if you haven't run within the last two weeks, you've got to pre-oil. So pre-oil we did.
There's a view of the operation in progress. We have an old hydraulic pump, driven by an electric drill, pumping oil to the pre-oil connection in the nacelle. While the oil's going in, several people pull the prop through. Among other benefits, this drives the scavenge pump, which keeps the engine case from just filling up with oil.
There's another view of the business, on the other side. While the engines are being prepped, the crew is taking care of preparations in the rest of the plane, too--covers have to be pulled, and cockpit made habitable, control locks removed, and systems checked.
There's Machine Shop Gaylon, servicing the brake accumulator. Even though we're not even going to pull chocks, the plane is basically completely preflighted by the time we start the first engine. The brakes are serviced by pumping the pedals repeatedly, to bleed down the accumulator all the way. Then the system pressure is read. The required pre-charge is 400 psi. If it's lower than that, we bring out the nitrogen and pump up the accumulator as necessary.
And there goes co-pilot Scotty with a set of cowl plugs. We had enough people out there--half a dozen--to get things done in good order.
Finally, everything's in readiness, so the inside-the-plane crew climbed inside and started the checklist while fire guards PJ and President Rich took up their stations in front. There, through the windscreen, we see Long Tall Glen, Scotty, and Gaylon, setting up for the start.
There's President Rich, stationed where he can keep an eye on No. 2. PJ was similarly placed in front of No. 1. The proper position for a fire guard is the spot where the whole nacelle is visible, but also the pilot on that side. If something's going south, the ground crew can signal the cockpit crew to knock it off and shut down, but only if everyone can see each other!
There she is, both fans turning, with PJ in her fire-guard position. This was probably the last time we'll see and hear that starboard engine running for a long time to come. It's a good engine, but it's going to be pickled and put into storage as a spare in favor of the zero-time engine that's on its way.
After they've run for a while, and props and systems were exercised, and the oil thoroughly heated up, then it's time to shut 'em down and open the drains.
The Y-drain for the tank is at the low point of the system in each nacelle. We had about 12 gallons per side to drain. Once the main oil tank is empty, then we pull the drain plug in the oil cooler, and then in the rocker-box sump at the bottom of the cylinders. We'll pull the screens and check them later.
A couple trips back to the storage T-hangar and oil dump gets rid of the waste. There go PJ and Johnny Gearpin with the tug/trailer.
The rest of the day was taken up with business meeting, in which priorities/schedule for the upcoming effort were set and some necessary business was taken care of. One of the main items involved promoting ol' FedEx to Maintenance Team Leader. Although he is a qualified A&P and well respected in the group, he has resisted this for some time, but finally relented. Subject to approval of our Inspector, George Miller, which is expected, FedEx will be a much-valued addition to the leadership out there on the ramp. You see him there, in the middle, going "No! No! No! Oh, well, okay." Congratulations, FedEx!
The new engine I've been talking about is the first major benefit that has arisen from Hot Stuff being named an official Historic Location by the US Department of the Interior last season. That was the result of considerable effort by former President Penny, who also started the grant-writing effort that led to the donation of the engine. President Rich, Electrical Guru Roy, and Gaylon brought the grant home. One stipulation of the grant is that the new engine must be installed and running no later than the end of May.
So, this will be the fourth engine change I've been involved with on this plane, and I expect this one will be easier than most, since it's the first one that hasn't involved replacing a failed powerplant. We expect to have the new engine arriving in about a week. We'll be pulling that right-hand engine next Saturday, weather permitting, and there'll be plenty of photogenic goings-on for me to post up. And of course, plenty of doin's that bear describing.
We're back on our two-a-day-at-minimum maintenance schedule for the foreseeable future, and I expect we'll be splitting up into project teams except for all-hands evolutions. In addition to the engine swap and annual inspection, we have some restoration projects looming--especially the radio operator's compartment and work back in the turret and tunnel positions, and there will be some highly interesting disassembly/reassembly going on in the cockpit, too.
So stay tuned!
Till next time,