PFM Logo Fokker Triplane Model T Curtiss Canuck

Volunteer Work Day

September 15, 2012

by Tom Gaylord

Triplane flying low

September had two workdays, one on the 8th and the other on the 15th. Turnout on the 8th seemed small, but a lot of work got done! Turnout on the 15th was greater and while we didn't get to work on some projects we thought we would it was still a day to remember as the Triplane flew again!

Team Airplanes

Fokker Dr.I Triplane

All the Triplane action happened on the 15th, as Mike Craig, the airplane's crew chief was unavailable on the 8th. On the 15th Mike Craig and Don Craig installed stiffer springs in the tail skid steering cables so there would be some shock protection to the system while helping to provide a more responsive control system. They also rigged the tail skid steering cables so there is no tension on the cables when the skid is in a neutral position.

They also got tired of frayed wire ends snagging their clothes and sticking their hands so they proceeded to trim the cable ends on all the tail group control cables, seized the crimping ferrules and wire ends with string and then doped the string to provide some weather protection.

Once Cameron Whitaker's Model T had some wheels on it the vehicle was moved out of the way which allowed the Triplane to be taken from the hanger. Mike ran up the engine and it felt really strong. Despite a bit of a variable cross wind on the runway Steve elected to fly the airplane. The take-off was very quick, as usual, and Steve was correcting like the dickens to keep the airplane pointed down the runway in the crosswind. The airplane seemed to fly fine, but Steve commented that while the engine runs well it is not particularly smooth. Steve made several low level passes and several practice approaches for the landing.

Steve landed the airplane fine, as usual, and kept it pointed down the runway until the tail dropped. With the tail down the Triplane turned into the wind immediately, as usual, and tipped up onto the starboard wing skid. No real damage was done but the trailing edge of the starboard lower wing was slightly scuffed and may require a small patch. Besides the Le Rhone not running as smoothly as expected Steve's only other complaint was that the air lever would vibrate to a closed position if it was halfway open or less. Mike will look into adjustments or devices that will ensure the lever stays where it was put!

The rotary engine not running smoothly is worrisome as a feature of the rotary engine is its smoothness! So a vibration while the engine is running is a sign something is amiss! During the October workday we need to check the engine compartment for things that may be loose, but we'll also check the prop's balance and the crankshaft's nose piece for evidence of cracking or breakage. It will be an interesting investigation but the potential outcomes are certainly worrisome!

Mike Craig also has plans to create and fit new wingtip skids, making them curve down a bit more at the ends and extending a bit further behind the wing’s trailing edge. Ron Marcotte has posted a video of the flight and landing on YouTube. It can be viewed at Fokker flight.

Thomas-Morse S4C Scouts

Steve Richardson working on Thomas-Morse headrest fairing

On the 8th Ron Marcotte and Jerome Matula resumed fabricating the cheek cowls for T-2, adding piano hinges for the port side cowl (measuring, shaping, drilling, clecoing and riveting) and started the same process for the starboard cowl. Steve Richardson continued working on the cockpit coaming - fastening to the frame, final shaping and starting to fabricate the headrest fairing.

When work resumed on the 15th Ron Marcotte and Jerry Stark continued fitting the cheek cowls to T-2. One of their big issues was that the piano hinge fitting for one of the T-1 cheek cowls had holes drilled for fasteners at very odd places so they wanted to understand what was happening there. They decided that the cheek cowl frame on T-1 was left unsupported and the fabric had bowed the frames when the fabric was tightened. That dislocated the cheek cowl hinge pieces somewhat and caused the fasteners to be repositioned with the odd holes. This support discrepancy had already been noted and the replacement cheek cowl frames are slightly sturdier and have appropriate reinforcing braces per the plans.

After lunch Ron and Jerry obtained some metal etching primer so assembly of the cheek cowls and their hinge plates could start. The panel itself is aluminum while the hinge plates are steel, so an anti-corrosion buffer is required.

Tom Miller and Steve Richardson spent their day continuing to fit and trim the T-2 cockpit coaming panel over the wooden support frame. Fastener holes were drilled and screws obtained, though some additional fasteners may need to be ordered. The joint behind the cockpit (and under the headrest fairing) was prepared for riveting. More fitting and trimming of the headrest fairing panel was done.

Curtiss Canuck

Canuck's OX-5 engine with two cylinders off

On the 8th Dave Orloff and Dave Edgerly started overhauling the wheels - hand sanding the rims to strip them down and provide a good surface for new paint. New tires / tubes are being ordered.

Meanwhile, Kevin Monahan, Art Wilson and Tom Gaylord removed the two middle cylinders from the starboard cylinder bank on the OX-5. To get the stuck valves repaired the jugs will be sent to the same shop in Seguin that originally installed the valves and guides in the cylinders. The suspected problem is that the exhaust's valve guide sleeve slid down into the port holding the valve open but that has not been confirmed. Tom Moore showed up just as the disassembly work was completed and thoughtfully brought documentation and disassembly instructions with him! Kevin started cleaning up some of the parts, and returned between the workdays to finish general engine clean up!

On the 15th Dave Orloff spent a portion of his day finishing the painting of the Canuck's wheels. He first masked off the spokes and sprayed the wheels with black paint. After waiting for the paint to dry he removed the masking tape.

We were unable to start reassembling the OX-5 on the 15th as the cylinders had not been returned from the shop. No word yet on why the valves are stuck either! Kevin Monahan spent some time cleaning up the remainder of the engine so the two repaired cylinders wouldn't shame the remaining jugs and the engine is looking really excellent! Kevin also squeezed grease into the valve train components and he and Terry Bledsoe resoldered all the ignition wire ends to ensure excellent connectivity at the spark plugs.

Piper J-3 Cub

No real work was done on the Cub on the 8th, but it was obvious Steve had been working on the airplane's side windows as there was new Plexiglas and framing strips added to the Cub's starboard side window. Weather on the 8th was too gusty for flying!

By the 15th Steve had flown the Cub during the week and noted the weather had cooled off enough that he needed a jacket. So the windows were finished to help make the airplane more comfortable to fly! The starboard side window was reinstalled along with the retaining clip that fastens the window up against the bottom of the lower wing.

Mike Craig and Steve flew the Cub later in the day. Mike reported it was his first grass field experience as well as his first tail wheel experience. Later in the day Ian took the Cub around for some touch & go landings then flew the aircraft to a nearby airport to refuel the airplane.

Team Vehicles


By the 8th Kevin Monahan had finished getting the fuel tanks soldered up and had cleaned & resealed the interior surfaces. He has documented the striping and Indian script on the tanks for reproduction. Terry Bledsoe began power sanding and blasting the old paint off the tanks in preparation for repainting. It appeared Terry completed one tank. Kevin reports he is still chasing parts to finish off the Indian properly.

There wasn't much Indian work done on the 15th as Kevin spent most of his day working on the Canuck's OX-5 engine, however, later in the day Kevin, with advice from Terry Bledsoe, continued prepping the Indian's fuel tanks for repainting. Small amounts of bondo have been required to smooth the surface.


Triumph motorcycle re-assembled

The Triumph took up shop space on the 8th as the seat was still out for recovering. However, on the 15th Mike Hallmark showed up with the Triumph's seat. He did a beautiful job as usual!! The seat was remounted on the Triumph and almost everyone with a camera stopped to take a photo of the completed motorcycle!

Blue Racer

Lynn Howell, Killer, and Al Sumrall continued working on the Blue Racer on the 8th. The new baby blue cylinder head has been reattached and the engine was brought back together, though some controls were only temporarily completed. The engine was started and seemed to run fine.

Model Ts

Steve Freeman bought 8 new T tires, tubes, and rim bands to replace dry rotting tires on two of the Model Ts, so on the 8th the guys started removing wheels / tires in the main shop to begin the replacement process. After looking closely at the wheels Steve decided to get the wheels powder coated to refinish them. Olive Drab was the color selected. So wheels had to go back onto the vehicles so they could be moved back out to the hangars so the vehicles wouldn't be in the way of Vintage Manufacturing during the week! Also the search was on to rustle up enough jack stands to support the vehicles while they were without wheels! Olive drab restricted the candidates to the Signal Corps Truck and the US Ambulance. It took an army of guys to separate the tires from the wheels, with Ian Whitaker finally devising a process and leading the way on getting that task done. Steve will take the rims to the powder coaters during the week.

Ian Whitaker working on a Model T tire

Unfortunately, the wheels did not come back from the powder coater shop in time for the workday on the 15th so lots of Model Ts were stuck up on jacks. Cameron Whitaker showed up with one of his Model T Touring car's wheels refurbished, and it looked bright and fresh. One down, three more to go! Cameron spent his day working on his Touring Car.

Many of the Team Vehicles volunteers were stuck doing one of two tasks, either tending to batteries or wrestling with replacing a tire on one of the TT's split rim wheels! If you were lucky you were tending batteries. Model T split rims look like the pinnacle of simplicity but apparently are the devil's invention - an infernal device known to make strong men weep from frustration. The PFM crew didn't quite sink that low, but man it was close!

Generally the plan was to use a vintage hand cranked jack to push the sections of the rim apart so the rim could be popped into place. It didn't take long before the hunt was on for a suitable cheater bar for the hand jack! Eventually Mike McCormick applied his industrial shop skills to cut two half moon pieces from some 2 x 6 planks to give the jack a more sound footing and additional leverage. The split rim was so stiff that the wood half-moons were being crushed by the jack. But finally the rim opened enough to allow the rim to hold itself open somewhat and the jack was moved to work across the rim's bolt lugs. That led to the rim finally being spread apart sufficiently to complete the job! That delicate balancing act of moving the jack's location without the rim collapsing back on itself took several tries! The search is on for a tool that will make this process easier and safer!