It’s been a busy summer with a number of miscellaneous trips. To keep with the recent aviation theme, I’ll share the photo below that I took on a recent commercial flight of an Antonov 124 – a large russian transport plane that you definitely don’t see everyday. It’s the smaller version of the world’s largest airplane, the AN-225 Mriya.
This weekend we headed south to a small airport with an on-field BBQ restaurant. It’s an hour and a half drive, but only 20min by air.
The pictures of the light sport plane landing give a good representation of the between-the-trees approach. This is not uncommon at small airports; it’s a bit intimidating at first but is not a problem if you stay on center-line and are ready to make a go-around if something doesn’t look right.
After another flight I was signed off to fly the Archer and we took it out this weekend for a scenic/practice flight. It was a nice, relatively clear, day and Christina got lots of pictures.
(and for anyone that notices – I’m not flying a plane with no tail number, that would be very bad. I just edit it out of the photos the same as I do with license plates or any other identifying info)
We drove down to the coast this weekend for an aviation conference. It was very rainy but the worst of it passed by mid-morning. We went to a number of great classes and learned a lot. There were several military helicopters and an Osprey that were there and open to free tours. Christina got a lot of pictures.
Today I started making a speedometer calibrator to compensate for the somewhat smaller tires on the bus vs original. I’ll use parts from an old speedometer cable to attach the calibrator to the speedometer, so I ‘only’ need to make two pulleys that differ in diameter by a percentage to the current speedometer error (Reads ~6-7MPH faster than actual) and a base plate with bushings for the pulleys to mount to. There’s very little load, so I’ll just use a big o-ring as the drive belt.
After a busy winter and uncooperative weather I’m finally back to doing some flying; first the usual Cessna 172 a few weeks ago and then this weekend a new type: Piper Archer. The Archer is roughly the same size but ‘low wing’ rather than ‘high wing’ like the 172; other than that and cruising a bit faster (~145mph vs ~135mph) it basically works the same way. After another hour or so of adjusting to the differences I should be cleared to go solo with it.
This weekend during a test drive of added soundproofing, the front left started getting noisy and shortly later there was a pop and a slight swerve. I safely got it to a parking lot, but the front wheel bearings were metal-on-metal at that point, and the wheel had shifted outwards so it wasn’t possible to drive any further.
With the wheel shifted out I didn’t want to risk further damage when loading on a tow truck, so Christina came to pick me up and we returned with a trunk full of tools and spare bearing from home to replace the bearing on-the-spot. This would have been a ~30min job except that the spindle nut and inner race of the outer bearing had lightly welded themselves to the spindle. I returned with a dremel (and inverter to power it) – the spindle nut was removed, but removing the bearing race was not possible. I found a big metal spacer that served the purpose of keeping the wheel retained on the spindle, though it did not work as a bearing and wasn’t driveable more than a few hundred feet.
With the spacer in place it was safely towed back. The next morning with better light and bigger tools I was able to get the bearing race off of the spindle. The bearing was even available locally and I got it all back together quickly. Special attention was paid to the bearing end-play, this was set to the correct spec with a dial indicator and the bearing thoroughly greased. This was then repeated on the other side.
The front wheel bearings were perhaps the only area that I had not yet gone through since getting the bus; so the failure isn’t necessarily surprising. Both sides had minimal grease and light rust pitting which, along with the bus’s new faster speeds, contributed to the overheating and failure.
On the last few test drives the blinkers had begun blinking very fast. On many cars, even today, which use a thermal timer relay this would mean a bulb was burned out. The bus, however, uses a resistive/capactive timer circuit that’s relatively immune to such load changes. I opened up the ‘black box’ hazard/blinker control module and even though it only consists of a few relays, a pair of germanium transistors*, and a handful of discrete parts it’s by far the most sophisticated electronic part in the bus; actually it’s the only electronic part if no radio was installed.
*This was roughly the time frame when people discovered that silicon was nearly as good of a semiconductor but far cheaper and easier to work with.
Troubleshooting “Space Age” electronics like this is basically the same as troubleshooting modern electronics:
#1 – Replace any/all electrolytic capacitors.
#2 – If it doesn’t’ work, throw it away unless it’s really valuable and further in-depth analysis can be justified.
This repair was no different, though I had to guess at the values since the capacitor code/markings were non-standard and only decipherable to electrical engineers of 1960’s Germany. With new capacitors its back to blinking at a good rate for both blinkers and the hazard signal.
The clock also needed attention as it stopped a while back. Once I opened it up I found that everything appeared to be OK. I poked the rewind contacts with a pin while the clock was powered on and there was a small spark followed by a successful rewind; meaning the contacts were just dirty. After cleaning the contacts it successfully went through it’s usual automatic cycling. It’s a ‘normal’ old-fashioned wind-up clock in every way except that there’s a solenoid on a crank to rewind it and when the spring unwinds electrical contacts come together to energize the solenoid and rewind itself. Because it always has battery power available, the spring only lasts a minute or so before it cycles again.
Also, not pictured, I finished fabricating the passenger seat frame and added tabs to the seat mount. The seat pads arrived for both front seats; all seats are now complete and ready for covering in the spare vinyl that I have set aside.
This weekend I finished rebuilding the reduction boxes. Luckily I was able to do this with engine/transmission still installed. It’s a relatively simple process overall, but because most of the parts involved are press fit I had to get creative and make/modify various pulling/holding tools. The old bearings didn’t have any signs of complete failure (yet) but most did have rust pitting and a few had a fair amount of excess play. Driving the bus after the swap is a night/day difference in noise. Its still loud, but now that a major noise source has been eliminated it’s just a matter of tracking down all the miscellaneous body air leaks and other minor noise sources.
Also, I finally found a passenger front lower seat section – these are hard to find since they’re specific to the ‘walk-through’ option, especially since I already had the top part and didn’t want to buy the whole thing. The one I found only included the springs without the seat frame itself, but the frame seems easy enough to fabricate and I’ve started on this using scrap metal from the incorrect (vanagon?) seats that came with the bus when I got it.