John's Plane Week 2
Sails, axles and ailerons

July 13, Monday

I am eager to get back to work after two days off. Mark and I continued work on the sails. Getting close to completing the wings, the only sails yet to do.

The sail is voluminous. We must roll it into two tight rolls so Mark can run it through the sewing machine. We must roll it from front to back for the long seams and roll it end to end to sew on battens for the ribs; So, much of our time is devoted to getting the sail ready to sew. We tape each seam with double-stick tape to facilitate the sewing. I can't imagine the trouble sewing would be without this sticky stuff. Mark joked he could make a sail using the tape alone, without sewing, and as if to demonstrate his point, he found tape on a three year old sail he was repairing for a customer still strong after he removed the thread from the seam.Obviously, the tape would not make a sail but it is a great aid toward accuracy and ease.

We put the sail aside to manufacture down tubes and axles. Out to Mark's hangar/storage buildings to collect aluminum stock. We find a white puppy chewing a couch cushion in marks building. Mark immediately adopts her and she has been with us since. We cut tubing to lengths for axles and for down tubes and haul it back to the machine shop. To supper about six. Worked some on this web page after supper.

Tuesday, July 14

Breakfast at the Dairy Queen about 7 am. By 7:45 we are back in the machine shop. All morning we work on the axle and down tube stock we cut yesterday. We sand the ends, ream out the inner wall at each end and drill most of the bolt holes before bending the axle in the familiar QS type axle shape. The down tubes are doubled and also get a slight bend. Bolt holes in the vicinity of the bend are drilled after bending to avoid distorting the holes.

Mark teaches me a step such as very precise locating and drilling or bending of the axle by demonstrating one time: "Got it?" he asks. "Do it," he says and turns to another task, leaving me to drill or bend. I am nervous drilling the first hole or bending the first tube; This is expensive stuff and we have invest time and labor in it already. Hate to screw it up But soon I am comfortable with the work and I am a confident machinist by the time we are finished with each step. Not really, but talk about learning the basics. I already look at my Sprint back in Terre Haute with a newly informed eye.

After lunch at Lucky Linda's (Don't miss it if you get to Mt. Vernon: five bucks for all you can eat and all the tea or lemonade you can drink plus dessert) we return to work on the sails. Summing up today, we are close to completing the sails and we close to completing 28 axles.

July 15, Wednesday

Today we finished the sails. Mark sewed the pockets for trailing and leading edge tubes and we installed a pair of brass grommets at both ends. The last item was sewing the buckles with Velcro adjustments on the inner ends. We folded the sails neatly and stowed them where we can see them any time we like. I feel pretty proud of the red, white and blue sails, though I was chiefly an apprentice in their manufacture. Mark's pride in his work is evident, though he says little along those lines. My plane will by these "signature" colors be Mark Smith's "Captain America III." I like it.

Again this work is woven into Mark's regular business day. He talks on the phone 10 or 15 minutes to a customer, takes orders, dispenses information, delivers cautionary tales from his experience. On this, my sixth day working with Mark, I am still entertained and informed by this, amazed by Mark's ability to instantly switch mental gears, in fact his preference for it. My own reaction to a phone call in the middle of a job would be irritation, maybe I'd ask the caller to call at a more convenient time. Fortunately for me, Mark is who he is. I am learning about Ultralights as Mark deals with his customers on the phone or as they drop by.

Two students come by and we spend the rest of the day at the strip flying and hangar flying. Great Fun.

July 16, Thursday

We finished the axles today, all drilled bent and loaded in the truck. We start making two sets of ailerons today. We drill rivet holes in the tubing of the leading edge and half inch holes in the back of this tube to receive the 5 to 7 inch compression struts. These drills we deburr and I insert the struts and rivet them in place.

We have one set of ailerons well done when Bob Pierpoint and his buddy Stovepipe show up for a visit and some pedal time, as MX flyer Bob calls it. Both these guys fly around Orange County, Paoli and French Lick. Hills and large woods makes flying there a bit different from flying in the flatlands around Mt. Vernon. Finding an emergency field is not so easy and running into winds rising off hills is common for them. We enjoy flying and hangar flying with them for a couple of hours.

That evening, I stop by the Dairy Queen and pick up two Blizzards: one for me and one for Tom Smith, Mark's nephew. I stop by Tom's fiberglass factory, Smitty's, where at 9 pm he is closing down. He shows me his day's work of building fairings for ultralights mostly as we dig into the ice cream. Then to my home away from home--I am staying with Tom and his roomie Chuck in Chuck's 3 bedroom house. Good company all day long.

July 17, Friday

Back to working on the ailerons, and Mark's friend, Justin Speer pulls up in his mobile camper, pulling a trailer advertising his dealer/instructor business in Woodbine, New Jersey. He has driven to Bloomfield, Indiana, to pick up a trike from Rob Rollison and travels the extra hundred miles for the visit. We drive to the airstrip, unload our newly manufactured parts and Mark takes Justin for a short demonstration flight of his trainer.

Justin has a water pump bearing going out and Mark and he must drive to Evansville to get one. It's about 3 pm so I return to Terre Haute for the week end. A good feeling goes with me. The plane is moving toward completion, though it is still mainly parts and I have met a number of interesting people. Most of them are flyers with a passion about airplanes and life in general. This project is turning out to be a lot more than building an airplane.


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