Sunday, September 08, 2013

Back in the saddle

I have not written any blog posts about flying for quite a while. Two reasons: I've been really busy with other responsibilities, and I have not been flying because both of our club gliders have been out of service. Our PW5 single-place glider is now fixed, so it's time to get "back in the saddle again".

In August of 2012, one of our club members landed out in a field, and the main landing gear was badly damaged. Major fiberglass work was required. We tried to work with a pair of local people who said they could do the job, but it turned out to be beyond their ability to plan and execute. They were not able to engineer the repair themselves, and needed guidance from the factory - in Poland. Getting the list of parts, and figuring out how to order them, and getting the repair guidance just did not progress. In December we pulled the plug with those guys.

There are a couple of very good composite repair shops in California, neither of which is close to us. The one we worked with was over 500 miles away. One of our club members towed the ship up there as part of a vacation trip. The shop produced an estimate pretty quickly, our insurance company approved it quickly, checks were sent and received, and the work was begun. They were qualified to design the repair, and they didn't need to order parts from Poland after all. The work was done by some time in May. My wife and I drove up there to retrieve the ship. Fortunately our insurance settlement paid mileage for both round trips!

In May or June our Grob 103 became unavailable (another long story), so we've been completely grounded.

We assembled the PW5 back at Crystal in June and were eager to fly it, but it would not power up. I traced many wires, fuses and circuit breakers, and narrowed the problem down to the positive wiring, but could not find the problem. To make things worse, some screws I needed to remove for further troubleshooting were hopelessly stuck. Trying to work on problems like this, kneeling in the dirt, in the desert sun, far from tools and materials, is not easy and not fun!

I was given a contact for an A&P who does avionics part-time at Crystal, and he agreed to take a look,  and work on it at his hangar. Week after week I called him back to see if he had checked into it, but he never returned my calls. Another disappointingly unprofessional local repair person - and most of another month wasted.

So we towed the glider down to Orange County and a couple of our experienced club members worked on it. The electrical problem turned out to be fairly easy to fix - a second set of eyes and a decent working environment certainly helped! They also did some other maintenance on the glider and made many improvements to our clunky old trailer.

Today I towed it back to Crystal, Greg and Mike and I assembled it, and Greg and I each got a flight. The composite repair looks beautiful, and the ship is flying fine (except for one pesky instrument problem).

We're back!