John's Plane Week 1
Decisions, sails and tails

July 7, Tuesday I arrived at Mark's Tuesday afternoon, a bit anxious about this project. I had every confidence in Mark's knowledge and skill but wondered if I'd just be following Mark around while he did all the work. "First things first," said Mark. Lets work out a color design. Mark also told me his intention to build a new plane for himself at the same time we were building mine. I thought that an excellent plan since I would actually be helping him as he supervised and instructed me in airplane construction.

July 8, Wednesday

I knew I wanted red, white and blue sails but no more. Mark instructed me in cutting out a 4 inch wide strip of Dacron in each of the three colors and we taped up a cross section to see if I would like the balance of colors. The blue next to the red did not please my eye as well as separating the blue and red with white. We also discovered we would need to cut at sew the white to get the right balance. "So an extra seam is no problem," said Mark and we had our sail planned. We would fold the blue over the leading edge and Mark pointed out that the red aileron would add just the right amount of red to create a balanced look on the assembled wing

We then launched right into cutting. First the rudder, red, white and blue diagonal stripes as you can see below. Mark cuts all edges which will remain exposed with a hot knife to prevent fraying. Only edges to be turned under can be cut with the shears. Both tools require a sure hand and some skill. The hot knife will burn the Dacron if you don't move it steadily across the material. Move the hot blan\de too fast and the Dacron will not separate easily and you will have to go over your original cut, an act that can make unsightly edges.

Mark has patterns to cut all the control surface shapes such as the rudder and the stabilizer, and where the Dacron will not be sewed to allow for installation around the corners of the frame, he istructed me to cut out small patterns from scrap Dacron which he would later sew onto these single surfaces. One of the tell tale signs of a Mark Smith built plane is this double surface at the corners.

Before sewing the rudder sail, we marked areas that would receive a reinforcing material and taped and sewed a heavy backing there. Wherever the sail would be cut with a hotknife after assembly we sewed this backing: bolts into compression struts, a slot for the wing cables, grommets on the ends of both ends of the trailing and leading edges, etc..

July 9, Thursday

Mark and I assembled an MX Spring II wing for a customer who had bent up his originals. Mark had previously sewed the sails, so we had to collect the tubing and wires and assemble the wing. This is done on the Sprint by first inserting the leading and trailing edges into the sail pockets and mounting the leading and trailing edges on a "root tube" Mark has mounted on a saw horse. Then the compression struts are installed and bolted in. The ribs must be inserted into their battens and the trailing edge of the rib forced ont the trailing edge tube, no easy feat as I found I simply didn't have the thumbs for the job, so I watched as Mark did the honors. We completed the first wing in about 2 and 1/2 hours and stopped to fly awhile. Back at work refreshed, we did the second wing in about 2 hours.

By Thursday night, the 9th, we work most nights after supper till 9:30 or 10:00. We had completed two rudder and elevator frames and fitted the Dacron. We had also sewed, stabilizer, and ailerons right down to the velcro for my plane and the same parts for Mark's plane.

July 10, Friday

Throughout this cutting and sewing of sails, our work was interrupted by phone customers and walk in customers. As Mark talked on the phone, I would pick up information about my own plane, what is the best propeller for a Sprint I, should I convert my MX to a three axis and so on.

During these welcome interruptions I have met a dozen flyers I want to have for my friends because we would put aside building for the fun of flying. We drove out to, Posey Patch, Mark's airfield, almost every flyable day. Only rain and wind kept us from flying. One day two of my club members from Brazil, IN, came down and we spent the whole afternoon with them at the field flying and they even joined us for supper before making the 3 hour drive back home.

Friday afternoon, I returned to Terre Haute for the weekend and flying my Sprint with my Terre Haute and Brazil buddies.


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