Monday, July 20, 2009

Big toys for little repairs

A couple of weeks ago while training some seaplane students we noticed a squeak while the plane was sitting at the dock. This was odd and we initially decided that the squeak was the dock making noises. We later determined that the noise was coming from the plane since we heard it on the water miles from dock. I went over the plane after each flight, tightening this and that, thinking that I had resolved the issue. Since we had had the floats off during the winter restoration, I believed that some things had just loosened up after the redo.

Finally I found a crack in the forward cross bar that connects the floats to the plane. You could not see the crack unless you looked inside the engine compartment. No more flying would occur until we found a new part and fixed it. The plane would have to be lifted and the engine separately lifted in order to replace this part, since the plane sits on it and the engine connects to the plane through this part. I arranged for my mechanic, Kevin Williams, to come up and look and replace it once I found the part. Buying parts for a rare bird (there are not many Cessna 150 seaplanes) that is 40 years old can sometimes be an adventure. In this case it was fairly easy.

Now I had to find a way to lift the plane. The airplane is built to be lifted by 4 rings located on the tops of the wings. Land planes can generally be jacked up, but this does not work for straight floatplanes which may need to be swapped from land gear to water gear. If we were at an airport with a hangar we could have lifted it with a chain hoist, but here at the lake this is not an option. I investigated a local marina with a huge forklift for boats, but we would not be able to get the plane out of the water safely there. I called the RSC equipment rental people in Alexander City. They hooked me up with a fork lift with an extendable arm capable of lifting 6,000lbs. They were very helpful and delivered the monster as well as demonstrated how to work it.

Everything came together nicely. I had an aircraft mechanic, a huge lifting mechanism, my new part, and good weather. The whole operation took place in a few hours. We only had to remove and replace a few critical and terribly placed bolts. We got big man points and testosterone from operating the large machine and accomplishing our goal. We even got to watch Kevin drive two trucks home. One truck was on the trailer that we used to pull the broken seaplane out of the water, but it was still a sight to see.

I had a excellent flight that afternoon and proclaimed the seaplane to be the best lake toy ever.

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