PFM Logo Fokker Triplane Model T Curtiss Canuck

Volunteer Work Day

June 16, 2012

by Tom Gaylord

Turnout for this workday was somewhat low - school was out for the summer so there were graduation ceremonies and vacations to occupy the time of many of our volunteers, plus the weather was pretty hot! It didn't help that the USAA event was on the same day, so several members were absent working that event!

Aircraft Activities

Thomas Morse Scouts

Cutting sheet metal for Thomas-Morse belly cowl

Steve Richardson, Jerry Stark and Ron Marcotte got to work on the fuselage aluminum panels for Tommy #2, starting with the belly pan. They spent a lot of time trying to find the sheet metal tools, especially the roller tool to produce the nice rounded shapes. They never could find it anywhere (it was broken several years ago) and ended up using Steve Freeman's suggestion - a pipe to press the aluminum down between two parallel boards. Not very elegant but it actually worked!

Steve Richardson later went back to Tommy #1 and continued the reassembly of the fuselage’s components, focusing in the engine mount area.

Piper Cub

Working on the Piper Cub's side windows

Steve Freeman had purchased Plexiglas sheet to be used to make replacement side windows for the Cub. However, the windows could not be cut because a suitable saw blade couldn't be found in the shop. Steve took the materials back to Memphis to cut the windows there. Ian and a couple of other volunteers worked on the Cub’s brake system a bit, and later in the day the Cub was flown.

Tool Sorting

Terry Bledsoe, Dave Edgerly and Dave Orloff got on a clean-up kick per Steve Freeman's request and started gathering all the tools laying about the shop as well as removing everything from the tool chests in order to sort them out and store them in an orderly fashion.

Aero Engine Display

Tom Moore worked on his Aero Engine Display, spending part of the afternoon measuring the engines and drawing up proposed display stands that will better cradle the engines and allow for easier movement of the displays in and out of the hangars.

Team Vehicles

Workday Activities

French Ambulance loaded for USAA trip

The first order of business for Team Vehicles was to load up the vehicles going to the USAA event, as they had been instructed by the event organizers to show up between 11 - 11:30 AM!

All hands turned to and got everything loaded and secured for the trip to San Antonio. The sole SNAFU was that Al was offsite and had called and instructed us to load up the "US Ambulance" for the USAA event, but upon his return to Kingsbury he mentioned that the "French Ambulance" was what we had actually loaded up!

So what makes this the "French Ambulance"? Well, you'll note that the side of the ambulance says "American Ambulance Field Service". Prior to America's entry into WWI in the spring of 1917 many American citizens volunteered to be ambulance drivers in the battle zones. There were several separate entities engaged in providing this service but virtually all operated under affiliation with the American Red Cross. The largest of these independent organizations was the American Field Service which was organized in 1915 by the American colony living in Paris.

All volunteer drivers typically wore uniforms similar to U.S. Army uniforms and between them served all allied forces on the Western and Italian Fronts. Ernest Hemingway was one such volunteer ambulance driver and he was the first American wounded in the war when he was hit by shrapnel from an artillery barrage while serving on the Italian Front. Many of these volunteers subsequently joined the U.S. Army Medical Corps after the U.S. entered the war, as the medical corps underwent a huge expansion to meet the needs of the service. Like everything else about the U.S. military in WWI the medical corps was severely understaffed and unprepared for the conflict. The U.S. Medical Corps started with about 1,200 personnel when America declared war and stood about 350,000 strong at the Armistice a year and a half later!

What makes this a "French Ambulance" in Al's parlance is that the American Field Service, having been organized by Americans living in Paris, served only French combat units. The design or modifications to the basic Model T may also have some unique characteristics found only on American Field Service ambulances, but that will need to be a story for another day!

So maybe this Model T should be called the "Field Service" ambulance rather than the "French Ambulance"? At least Field Service is written on the side, but at least now maybe we'll all understand what Al is talking about in the future!

After the USAA vehicles had been loaded and were on their way into San Antonio, Cameron and Aaron mainly worked on Cameron's Touring Car with Ian giving Model T driving lessons in the afternoon to Aaron and Doug.

Steven and Doug worked on the Model T wrecker for a while trying to get it started. The vehicle refused to start up so they began troubleshooting the systems. They first suspected a fuel problem so they removed the fuel cock and cleaned it out, as well as the connecting lines but that failed to resolve the starting problem. But they took solace in the fact the fact the fuel lines are clear and clean now! Cameron checked on their progress and looked the infernal contraption over and declared there was no spark. As the day was wrapping up no further progress was made.

USAA Event (June 16th)

French Ambulance at USAA picnic

Al Sumrall, Tom Miller, Kevin Monahan, Tom Gaylord and Gus Martinez took two Model Ts and the two motorcycles to USAA's corporate picnic/90th birthday party in San Antonio. Al, Tom Miller and Gus went in period costume to add to the effect.

PFM's vehicles were split into two groups to fit into the theme of the event; both groups were located in the same small parking lot/display area. All the various display areas (whether parking lots or roadways) had food and beverage stations for the crowd and each separate display area had themes for both time period as well as food. Each display area presented a time frame (typically a decade) during which USAA had provided member services, starting with the 1920s, which was the display area PFM's vehicles fit into. The Blue Racer and the 1921 Triumph were placed in an area dedicated to 1920s civilian vehicles while the French Ambulance and the military Indian went into a general military display area. There were two other military displays; a contingent from The Nimitz Museum (located in Fredericksberg, Texas) as well as a retired military man who specialized in collecting/displaying Springfield rifles. The Nimitz Museum brought WWII weapons - both Japanese and U.S. and a Jeep with a .50 cal M/G.

The USAA event was a success. Al, Gus and Tom G. stayed with the Ambulance and the Indian, Tom M. and Kevin stayed with the Blue Racer and the Triumph. The crowd was generally very polite, interested, and the guys handed out flyers about PFM and our upcoming Fly-In event on November 10th.

The guys got the vehicles safely back to Kingsbury and stowed in the hangar about half past midnight!

Luling Watermelon Thump Parade (June 23rd)

Cameron and Model T at Luling parade

Al Sumrall hoped to be able to drive the Blue Racer in the Luling Watermelon Thump Parade, but the car was down for a blown head gasket. On June 21st, Al and Lynn Howell (Lynn was fresh from a 10-day vacation in England) installed a new head gasket. The guys found that the blown head gasket appeared damaged, with a chunk missing back by cylinder 4 that locally reduced its sealing area by about 50%. In addition they removed a large amount of silicone sealant, including large chunks that had squeezed into the cooling passages of the head and cylinders. Lynn commented that some passages were compromised by more than 50%!

Despite the effort the Blue Racer was still not drivable (Al has made an issues list and started sourcing parts and believes that everything is "easy" to fix!) so Cameron Whitaker brought over his Model T Touring Car for the parade. Participants included Cameron and Ian Whitaker, Al Sumrall and Billy Cheshire. Billy brought his trailer and tow truck in case the Touring Car had a mechanical problem during the outing, but Cameron’s car soldiered through the entire event without complaint or issue. Al reported blazing speeds of 32 mph on the open roads between Luling and Kingsbury!

A PFM sign was hung on the back of Cameron's Model T and with flags flying and horn blaring they drove the parade route with Ian and Billy in the back seat waving like royalty to the crowds lining the parade route!

The guys had fun and with the signs and the parade announcer's mention of Pioneer Flight Museum we succeeded in getting the museum's name out there to the public.