Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Another Airworthy Prowler & Improvements To The FWF Mockup

I passed a friend on a jetway this weekend and he mentioned that he hadn't seen a blog update from me since Dec.  Well, I checked, and..... he was right!  Ugh!  I really wanted to get at least one update done before it is AirVenture time again - so, it's time to get to it.  Ahead in this update are the following:

Prowler Related Items:
1.  Ray's Airworthiness Inspection
2.  Improvements to FWF Mockup
3.  Francis Making Excellent Progress
4.  Francis & Pancho Meet Up in TX
5.  Great Progress from Eric in Montreal

Non-Prowler Items:
1.  EAA B-17 (Aluminum Overcast) Ride
2.  Yale Forklift
3.  Bridgeport Vise Handle

You can see from the list above that so far this year there have been a few Prowler accomplishments to report - although I was not involved in any of them except for one.  For most of the past 3 months I have focused most of my free time on projects that are not directly related to the Prowler.  The biggest one has been overhauling an almost 60 year old forklift that I purchased earlier this year. 

Before I get into the update, I wanted to just say quickly that we will have the normal contingent present at AirVenture this year.  For a while I thought that we might have a Prowler airplane there in 2017 - but after some discussion it looks like that will now wait until 2018.  Instead, this year I will have two of my daughters participating in the 4 day "Women Soar, You Soar" day camps and be spending time with them.  But, plan on having an exciting assortment of Prowler presence at AirVenture 2018!

Now, on with the update.

Prowler Related Items:

1.  Ray's Airworthiness Inspection -  The most exciting Prowler news of the year is that Ray has completed his airworthiness inspection!  Shortly before the inspections, Ray emailed me that he'd finished some final engine work and said:

Hi Todd,
Got the engine started today.  After getting the fuel system primed it wasn’t too hard to get running again, burped and farted a bit at first and then cleaned up pretty well.  I took it out to the run area north of the hangar and ran it out of gas trying to get it to overheat..  73F today, couldn’t get the oil or coolant above 180F.  The gear box is smooth, no leaks , no indications of any problems.

I have the airworthiness inspection scheduled for 05 Apr.  I stayed late today and got it ready and finished up some small detail stuff.  Tomorrow I have to finish re-drawing the electrical diagrams to incorporate the 12V to 24V regulators in the systems.  The extra speed of the motors is nice, they work at about the right speed now.  I ran the engine up to 32” hg by adding some boost and it’s more controllable now.  I also confirmed that above 28” it’s not possible to hold the aircraft with the brakes when loading the prop.

Unfortunately, I couldn't be around the day that Ray had his airworthiness inspection to get some pics.  I would have liked to have been there to get some photos and to meet Dave Prizio.  You might recognize that name.  He is an FAA DAR and writes articles for Kitplanes.  He was the DAR who completed the airworthiness inspection on Ray's Prowler.  Since I couldn't be there, here's a file photo of Ray's plane.
After his inspection, Ray reported via email:

Passed the airworthiness inspection today.  I can fly the airplane anytime I want now.  A few changes to some hardware and a placard for the fuel system.  Next is to apply for the repair man certificate.

That is outstanding!!  Congrats, Ray!  Awesome job!

Of course, this begs the question - "When will we see the 1st flight?"  To that, Ray says:

"I got the El Camino out for the real first time today (May 15th).  (Getting to) that was last week's project.  Mostly good (to report), but a few disappointments to deal with.  Once I get the car close to being done, I will really get into the flying again."

So, no set date yet - but, rest assured that I will be there if at all possible! I will keep you all posted!
2.  Improvements to the Prowler FWF Mockup -  While at AirVenture last year, I was talking with Stuart and Larry from AutoPSRU's and discussing the best process to get them involved to help create a FWF kit for the Prowler.  We agreed that the 1st step would be to get an accurate mock-up of the front end of a Prowler.  You might recall that I already built a mock-up for this several years ago (Paragraph 4 here).  Here's a picture from back then:
The purpose of this FWF mock-up has always been to help me to shift away from the George Morse AutoAviation PSRU FWF system and move toward the AutoPSRU's setup.  I needed to have a way to (inexpensively) build up and put an AutoPSRU's FWF solution into a platform where I could see if it would "fit" into the silhouette of the original production Prowler engine compartment.

Using the dimensions and measurements from Ray's Prowler build (Thank you, Ray, for letting me help you   install your engine and get the info I needed) I was able to build up the cart, firewall and the center point of the prop hub front flange.  Then, I collected LS engine parts and built an engine stand.  Back then, I did not have the cash to lay out for a Geared Drives PSRU - so I used dimensions available on the internet to build my own mock-up of the PSRU (in yellow above).

In my discussions with Stuart and Larry, we agreed that the next step would be to commission them to build me a motor mount that would fit the Prowler firewall mounting holes.  Once I had that, I would mount it in my mock-up and then re-install the motor and my PSRU mock-up.  At that point, Stuart offered to ship me a run-out (damaged) PSRU case that I could use with my mock-up.  Awesome!  That would give me the ability to get really accurate measurements for my engine compartment components.

In early January, Stuart shipped me the damaged PSRU.  Here's what it looked like when I got the box off of the outside:
This is going to work great!  I went right to work installing the real PSRU case on my mockup.  Here is the mock-up with the AutoPSRU's case installed:
Stuart has assured me that he is going to have a modification ready that will incorporate a prop shaft that is extended 3 inches forward.  I am really going to need that to keep the sleek shape of the Prowler.  To give me the same dimensions right now, I had to make a 3" extension for the PSRU hub.  I happened to have an old prop flange and another circular aluminum flange laying around. I figured I could fabricate and extension from those.  I had to turn down one end of the old prop flange a little in the lathe.  Here is the circular flange in the mill when I'm opening the center hole and later boring the 6 bolt hole pattern:
Here is the extension, mounted on the PSRU after I had a buddy (aluminum) weld the two pieces together:
Then, I put the spinner back on and.....it was back together again:
With this extension on, the shape of the engine compartment flows very well off of the spinner and follows nicely down onto both the upper and lower longerons.

It turns out that my home-brew mock-up PSRU was really pretty close in dimensions to the real thing.  Using both the real and the mocked up PSRU case, the "pinch point" is along the forward, lower edge of the PSRU where the engine compartment skins smoothly slope upward toward the bottom of the prop spinner. You can compare this area in these two pics:
It would appear that I will, indeed, be able to install this PSRU into the Prowler engine compartment and not have to appreciably change the silhouette and/or shape of it.  Perfect!

So, at this point Larry is building me a motor mount. Once I get that from him, I'll install it into my mock-up. (That'll be great, because I will be able to get rid of the engine stand which will allow me access to the entire surface around the engine.)  Later, Larry will make me a set of exhaust manifolds that they use with their FWF system and I will install them.  When I get to that point, I will do a precise placement of the center of the prop hub and one final alignment of the thrust centerline. From there on, I will finally have the true dimensions I need to finalize the "new" Prowler engine compartment. I will be able to place the engine compartment longerons in the most appropriate places and then design the skin panels that will fit on the longerons. There will be more to report on this once I get the motor mount from Larry. Stay tuned.

3.  Francis Is Making Excellent Progress -  Currently, Francis is my "Rock Star" builder. He is at the point in his build where everything you do adds significantly to the project as a whole. At some point, he will also get to the "75% complete, 75% to go" point. But for now he making consistent, steady, visible progress and he sends me an email every couple of weeks with pictures to share this with you. [Thank you for sharing your progress, Francis.] So far this year, in no particular order, Francis has accomplished the following items.
A. Finished installing his torque boxes and aligned his gear torque tubes:

 B.  Finished modifying, finishing and installing the main flight control torque tube assembly:

C.  Designed and fabricated a new bellcrank:

D.  Worked through and fitted up his aileron control linkages:

E.  Modified and upgraded his flap actuating torque tube to include segments to make it removable and boxing in the actuator arms to add rigidity:

F.  Modified the main flight control torque tube to add his own design for an aileron stop (I may "borrow" this design and incorporate this into the base Prowler kits):

This is all very outstanding work, Francis!  I have no doubt that you will soon end up with an outstanding aircraft.  Keep up the great work - you'll have built another beautiful Prowler in the end!

4.  Francis & Pancho Meet Up in TX -  I got an email from Francis earlier this month saying that he was going to be vacationing with his family in TX.  He was wondering if he might be able to visit any of our Prowler builders there.

Hello, Todd

For the (my) vacation, I am going with my little family to Texas and New Mexico, from 08 till 20 April.

Perhaps, if my girl friend accept and prowler builder accept, I can visit Pancho (Franck Kinkaid) and some other guys if they have their birds in Texas or New Mexico (and if possibility of their time and mine match)?

Frog Prowler kit 11

Later, I got this from Francis:

Hello Todd,
Finally I can (got to) meet a very good guy "Pancho" I spent a small (short) 2 hour with him!
Pancho's Prowler is stored in two containers! (under lot of parts helicopter  and other airplane parts!!)
Miraculously, I found the part that I think I need !! (It's) the part between the two hand (joy) sticks!
So, I take some dimensions ,with a paper band graduated (paper ruler).  I send to you an approximate drawing when I can do it!
I think that not by hazard (chance)! I think you have prepared my landing at the Pancho Prowler place!  Like a donk, I forgot to take some pictures!!
thank you Todd and Pancho
That's re-boost me! (Gets me re-motivated).

How cool is that!?!?  I sent back an email to both Francis and Pancho thanking them for the update and thanking Pancho for his hospitality!  It's incredible to see Prowler guys from two different countries getting together to talk Prowlers.  Excellent!  Afterward, Pancho sent me this:

Hey Todd,

Yes it was great to meet Francis . . . It was a kinda last minute deal as he emailed me only the day before saying he was in San Antonio and could we meet the next day . . . . well I was due to have a 180'x90' metal building delivered the next day and told Francis I could not meet, unless something changed.

Well things did change (the trucks got rescheduled elsewhere) so with about an hour or two's notice
Francis decided to stop by on his way through to Houston  . . ..so it was a short visit , lol    The part in question that Francis took measurements of, I can take a picture and send it to you if that will help, (was thinking there might be a part number marked on it with indelible marker  . . . I will check. . . . . . ahhh no part number ! )

I know all to well of the feeling you speak . . ..lol, it frustrates me so much to see my Prowler parts and not be in a position to get started on it . . . . life gets in the way . . . .  :)

Regards, Pancho.

I am really glad that it worked out and they were able to get together - even if it was just a short visit.  Again, Pancho, thank you for your hospitality without a lot of notice.  And, Francis, thank you for taking the initiative to meet with us Prowler guys.  I also enjoyed our meeting a few years ago.  Unfortunately, it was also short.  Maybe, we can all get together at AirVenture 2018 when we will have a Prowler (or Prowlers) on the field!!

5.  Great Progress from Eric -  In March, Eric sent me a photo of his Prowler project.  You might recall that he purchased Kit #6 from Bryan and I about 15 months ago.  Turns out, Eric has been really going gang-busters and has made outstanding progress on his Prowler too!  Take a look:
This picture indicates that Eric is doing a fantastic job assembling his Prowler.  The workmanship looks to me to be stellar!  Thank you so much for sharing your progress, Eric!  I'm sure the other owners and builders will join me in welcoming you to the group.  Please let us know if there is anything we can do to help you with your build.

As a side note: Recently, Bryce contacted me about the crankshaft that I'd gotten from George.  He stated that Eric was interested the engine parts that he had for sale.  In April, I delivered the crankshaft to Bryce.  Bryce completed the sale and Eric now has almost everything he needs to put the George Morse Rodeck FWF system in his airplane.  I'm glad that Bryce's engine items found a great home with Eric.

Non-Prowler Items:

1.  EAA B-17 (Aluminum Overcast) Ride -    
Recently, the EAA's B-17 "Aluminum Overcast" was in Redding on it's around the country tour.  Our local EAA chapter president, Jim Bremmer, was seeking volunteers to help with handling the event over the 4+ days that it would be at KRDD.  I decided to go to the airport on Thurs to help out, if I could.  Here is a picture of it on the ramp that day:
To make a long story short, there was a few open seats going out on the Media Day flight and Jim asked me if I would like to take a ride!  HECK YA!!  [He offered this to me as a thank you gesture for all the work that I did last year on the mobile flight simulator that I helped to put together for the EAA Chapter.]

Well, what a treat!  It was an awesome experience!  The EAA volunteers that work to keep these aircraft tours going around the country are incredibly, knowledgeable, professional and dedicated individuals. They typically spend two week assignments working on the tour before they are relieved by another group of volunteers.  I am very thankful to the crew that provided our community with the opportunity to enjoy this amazing aircraft.

The flight was a hoot!  I took many pictures and videos that day.  Here are just a few of them:
Aft seating:
I got to sit in the radio operators station:
The view out of the radio operator's window:
Looking forward through the bomb bay toward the engineer's station.  You have to "walk the plank" and squeeze through the V shaped passage to get to the cockpit, forward gunner's station and bombardier's station:
View from the bombardier's station (best seat in the house!!!):
View out the left window of the engineer's station:
Left waist gunner's station view looking forward:
Left waist gunner's station:
Right waist gunner's station:
Split flaps:
 Nose art:
 The following day, our youngest daughter got to take a ground tour of the plane.  Here she is passing through the bomb bay:
 The ball turret - amazing that anyone could curl up into that thing!  Wow.
Here's a video of the takeoff:
Overall, this was an awesome experience.  I am so thankful that Jim invited me to ride the B-17.  The two most impressive things that I learned that day were:
A. In WWII, we sent up 10 men in these aircraft that ranged in age from 18 (at least that is what they claimed - some were younger!) to somewhere in their mid to late 20's.  Typically, the pilots would be the oldest and the remainder of the crew were in their teens or early 20's.  These men took these aircraft into combat in conditions that were very arduous (at best), to fatal (at worst).  Imagine grabbing a cross section of individuals those ages today and placing them in those same positions.  I wonder how that'd go?
B.  The bombardier had the best seat in the house.  The view during flight is like no other!  Also, the story of the Norden bombsight is very interesting.
Overall, this was an incredibly interesting and enjoyable learning experience.  It was equally awesome that I was able to share some of it with one of my daughters.  If you get the opportunity to catch the B-17 tour in your area, I highly recommend to get out, support the EAA and take in this important part of our aviation history.

2.  Yale Forklift -  I've been searching for a forklift for years now.  Occasionally, I have a need for one when I buy a piece of equipment or need to move something.  But, I just couldn't see investing a huge amount of money for something I might use 3-4 times a year.  In Feb, I found a Craigslist ad for a 4,000 lbs forklift that seemed like what I needed at a reasonable cost.  I checked it out.  Sure, it was going to need some work - but, decided to buy it.  Here it is on moving day just off the trailer:
In the shop for an initial assessment, to pull numbers and identification info off of it, and make a list of things that need to be fixed, repair, cleaned and/or tweaked:

I pulled the panels off to have a close look on the inside.  Things were kind of a mess in there:

The list of work that I wanted to do was long.  I knew that I'd have to do most of this stuff before I agreed to buy it.  But, a found also found a few gems along the way that were a bit of a surprise.  Here are a few items off the top of the list that I was able to improve on:

A. Replace & relocate battery.  The battery was mounted in the engine compartment and it was on a hinged platform that it could be "sort of" swung out of the way.  But, it was really in the way and it made it hard to get at the right side of the engine.  So, I made up a new battery holder:

Then, I mounted it in the area behind the engine/radiator and ahead of the counterweight;
And, re-installed the battery:
B.  Battery not charging.  This turned out to be a total "do over."  The short story is - I went down to the local boneyard and pulled an alternator out of an old F100 pickup.  I brought it back and re-installed it in the forklift. 
[The total story is a lot longer and involves internally broken wires, building brackets, belt alignments, fabricating panels to mount regulator, creating new wiring harnesses, etc., etc.]:
But, it's working great now!

C.  Carb needed rebuild.  The carb was old and leaking and causing the engine to idle roughly.
I searched out a rebuild kit and had a buddy do the rebuild for me.  Working good now.
D.  Several gauges not working.  The ammeter, Hobbs meter and fuel gauge all had issues and needed work.  I ordered replacements and installed them.  The panel looks good and works well now:
E.  Power steering pump leaking. The main shaft seal in the power steering pump was leaking pretty badly.  I searched out the replacement part, took the pump apart and replaced the seal.  Here is the old seal before I yarded it out:
I replaced the seal and put the pump back together.  I did not repaint the pump, but I cleaned and repainted the mounting bracket and the reservoir.  No more leaks:
F.  Replace the seat.  The old seat was weather beaten and in poor condition.  Furthermore, it was mounted too close to the foot controls for me to be able to get my long legs up onto the clutch and brake pedals.  The seat was going to have to be moved backwards some. Here are the mods to the engine compartment cover to move the seat aft some:
Here it is all back together (in primer and before painting):
G.  Replace remote oil filter.  The engine on this machine had a old style remote oil filter system that has a metal screen and nearly a 1 quart bowl.  Changing the oil would be a pain.
I wanted to replace this with a simpler, spin on cartridge type oil filter.  I found a remote mounting system online and bought some 20" brake lines to plumb in the new system:
H.  Painting.  I figured that while I had this machine apart as much as I had it - it wouldn't take much more effort to put some new paint on it to spiff it up a bit.  So, as I was working on each area, I would paint the various parts:
Then, as I put the machine back together, I painted the various panels, etc. before putting parts back on the forklift.

I still have a short list of things I will try to get done on this yet, including improving the brakes, adjusting the float in the carb, and making a new light bar and climb handle to place just behind the mast.  For now, it's running and looking much better.  I still have much of the exterior of the forklift to paint. 
I'm just waiting for consistently warm, dry and rainless weather to pull the forklift out of the shed.  When I can park it up by the shop and leave it outside without rain, I'll get it painted the rest of the way.  Until then, it runs much better and I can use it if I need to.  I'll post a few pictures when I get the rest of it painted.

3.  Bridgeport Vise Handle -  This was a quick project that I wanted to share with everyone.  Maybe you'll have a similar problem to solve someday.  I bought an original Bridgeport vise recently.  I cleaned it up and it works well.
The only problem with it is that it did not come with a handle.  The main screw on the vise has a 3/4" square fitting that the original handles would slip onto.  The problem comes from trying to find a handle to fit this.  Search the internet.....you won't find anything!  Nobody makes them and there really isn't enough market space to make it profitable to do it. 

However, everyone has one of the millions of Chinese these vise handles laying around.  I have two of them.  They have a 3/4" hex hole and look like this:
Now, to find something with a 3/4" square hole.  What to do?  I could have machined a square hole into a round piece of shaft - but it wouldn't be a truly square hole and it would be a lot of machining and putzing around.  After sleeping on it for a few nights, the only thing that came to mind was a socket that would fit onto a 3/4" drive socket wrench . 

So, I went on Amazon and looked for the cheapest, largest 3/4" drive socket I could find.  I found one that was 1-1/8" for $3.50.  Perfect!  Once it arrived, I found out that it was a still a little too small to slip over the Chinese vise handle hex end and would need a little working in the lathe to open it up a bit:
I also found out that when the socket slipped onto the Chinese handle it kinda stuck out too far.  Don't have a picture of it, but I had to cut about 1/2" off the hex end of the Chinese handle.  Then, I slipped the socket onto the handle and added a little 7018 weld.  Here is the result:

After a little grinding and cleaning, I tried it on the vise.  Works GREAT!
Obviously, this is a purely practical and functional solution and won't win any awards for form or authenticity.  But, hopefully, this little project tip might be helpful to someone else some day.

That's all for this update.  Thanks for stopping by.  I'll probably get my next update posted after AirVenture in Aug.  Have a great summer, everyone!