Firsts and Other
Wonderful Achievements in
Private Pilot Licence
OAS would like to congratulate all of these pilots on their achievements!
What Does Painting an Aircraft Involve?
You may have noticed the snazzy paint job this summer on GJB – the Cherokee at the end of the flight line. Earlier this year we decided to give our plane a spruce-up before our 3-week adventure flying to BC this summer.
Choosing a paint shop is not an easy task. There are about 4 or 5 major ones spread throughout Ontario and they all have roughly the same price. So, that means really deciding on quality and service. After spending several months looking at paint jobs everywhere, we were most impressed by the job Skyservices had done on the COPA plane (which parks right beside us on the flight line!). We talked with Jeff (the manager), Bob (the head mechanic) and Helen (the design lady) at Skyservices and were pleased with the opportunity to work with them. They certainly have experience as they had done small corporate jets and even a whole waterbomber fleet. The only little problem is that they are located in Bar River, a nice little airport just outside of Sault Ste. Marie. It was a great 4.5-hour flight up with about half being a good chance for IFR. But coming back required a 12-hour over-night bus ride!
Once the plane was in Skyservices hands, they immediately started to take off all of the fibreglass parts – wing and stab tips, fin tops, cowling, etc. Some of the non-fibreglass plastic parts were original 30-year old stuff and were going brittle, so we had bought fibreglass replacements as well as some speed-mods including new design wing-tips and wing root fairings. We kept some of the older fibreglass parts that we in really good shape or too expensive to replace. These were expertly fixed and patched to near new condition. Also all the control services – flaps, ailerons and rudder – are taken off as they will be processed separately and then put back on at the end.
Once all the parts are off, all the wheels, windows, engine and prop are covered with protective plastic. Then the stripping of the old paint begins – first with a general chemical-like stripping and then by hand to make sure all the paint around things like the rivets is absolutely gone. What is left is a bare and smooth aluminum airframe that will oxidize very quickly if not properly treated. The aluminum is then etched with an allodyne process that leaves the surface with micro-scratches that allows the paint to solidly adhere to the metal. Then the slow process of adding layers of new stuff begins with a good amount of time between layers to let them adequately dry. First: two layers of primer and then two layers of base white paint. The paint is a new type that is a 2-part epoxy (like the epoxy glue) that is rock hard and very glossy and smooth when done – and doesn’t fade. But, if you don’t mix the two parts just right you end up with a soupy mess that never hardens or a concoction that dries before you get it painted.
Helen loves lots of curves in designs. She was very happy and challenged by our “feather-like” wisps on the wings and fuselage. We had a basic design created by “borrowing” from other planes and pictures we had seen, but Helen helped tailor it for GJB. When the white paint was dry, she began to mask out the green on the aircraft. At each step she was very careful to cover everything not painted so that no overspray damaged the already newly painted parts.
Once the airframe was done, the fibreglass parts (which have also been stripped, primed and painted separately) were put back on. The control surfaces (also processed separately) were meticulously installed and balanced to that no adverse flutter occurs during flight. Skyservices goes through a thorough checklist to ensure that everything was properly done.
The process is not as smooth and as simple as described here. As everyone knows who owns a plane there are always hitches along the way. It was great to work with Jeff and Bob at Skyservices as they called us with problems they found along the way (minor skin cracks and pinholes in hoses) and helped us come to a successful conclusion. When I got the phone call that everything was done, it meant another 12-hour bus ride up…but this time I would get to fly back myself as Lisa was away (…don’t feel to bad for her as she was at the Paris airshow!). When I got there, the transformation was amazing. GJB was parked outside, gleaming in the sunlight, looking like a brand new plane…the paint job made the plane look like it could go another 20 knots faster!
How long does it take you might ask – about 4 weeks, over 200 hours of labour and $15K – certainly not like painting your old Corolla. You can see pictures of the painting process on our website www.bluesideup.ca.
Our “event” for October was a barbeque/fly-in at Lary & Donna’s farm. Thanks to everyone who came out, and special thanks to Donna & Teri for the copious amounts of fabulous food and drink, and to the Grahams for not one, but two famous cheesecakes! Lary took everyone on a tour of Windover Field Airport, which included a homebuilt VolksPlane, the famous Loretto Aeronca Champs, as well as numerous parts and pieces of various interesting aircraft. Also, two lucky people got helicopter flights courtesy Greg Michaud!
Thanks for reading this month, until the next, keep the blue side up!