Category Archives: GCC

Safety Washer Tab Tool

The whos-a-whats-a? I started a new project yesterday in class, the overhaul of an Marvel-Schebler MA 4-SPA carburetor. The overhaul isn’t too big a deal even though there were spider webs in the barrel of the carb and a bunch of crud came out of the float bowl when I split the halves.

There wasn’t much of a problem disassembling the carburetor down to a few piles of small parts and the two halves of the body. Today I was ready to strip it down to the bare castings when I came upon a bit of a problem. There are two safety washers with tabs that are bent up along the flats of the nuts to keep them from turning while the engine is in operation. One is on the Pump Discharge Nozzle Valve and the other Nozzle Assembly in the barrel.

The problem is that the tabs were bent up very well and getting them back down so I can remove the assemblies was proving to be a challenge. I didn’t want to gouge the assembly to the casting and I couldn’t find anything thin enough that I could tap in between the tab and the nut faces. I mangled one on the main Nozzle Assembly and decided that this was going to get messy very quickly if I didn’t come up with another option. Everyone else was saying to just use a screw driver… ah… no.

Enter, the solution. I had a small piece of soft steel and took it over to the grinder to put a rough bevel edge on the end following up with a file and sandpaper to clean up the edge. I wanted to keep the rounded edge so I could get it into some tight places. The plan is for this to slide in between the nut and the tab with the bevel pushing the tab out away from the nut. To make sure that the edge of the tool doesn’t cut into the nut I put a slight back bevel on the flat side.

The edge fit up to the nut perfectly flat and the bevel edge is just thin enough to wedge the back side of the tab and bend it outward. All it needs is a slight tap with my 8 oz. ball peen hammer and voilà, the tab tips down very neatly without gouging the nut and doing minimal damage to the tab. I was very happy with the results.


And there was much oooing and awwwing about the shop. Well, okay, maybe not. But there was a few “that’s cool”  vocalizations. I think so at least. Anyway, it worked and I was happy with the results as were the parts and the instructor; and that’s what really counts.

That’s all for now.

Blue skies and tail winds,

A&P School: Almost Done

It’s been three and a half semesters since A&P school started on August 10th, 2011. Here I am getting ready for my last mid-term in the program. It feels really good to be so far along but there is still a ton to get done in a short time. There is a mid term, several quizzes and tests, and a final. After that there are still the FAA tests, the written, and the oral/practical that need to be passed to add the Powerplant rating to my mechanic certificate.

After finishing my mechanic ratings there is still the matter of finishing my AS in Aviation Maintenance Technology. The good news on this front is it looks like I will be able to finish my AS over the summer with three classes, one of which is a single unit in kinesiology (P.E. for those over 30.)  Then I can transfer to San Jose State to finish my undergrad work with a BS in Aviation Maintenance Management.

Ever since I embarked on this journey making plans has required factoring in lots flexibility and not making any plans too dependent on outside influences. In short, not making plans so much as having general ideas and making sure I can easily divert from one to an alternate without too much upheaval in the universe. Building all of this flexibility into the planning process has made it very difficult to do any advance work down one path or another. In one sense this has been beneficial because it has kept me on a fairly narrow focus towards completion and has been an education in and of itself. I have been keeping projects at arms length because I know I don’t have enough time to complete them and along the way I have also learned the importance of the word “no” and how to use it.

Another important skill set I have been honing is applying value to my time going beyond coming up with an hourly rate by encompassing the value of learning from projects. Deciding if a project is worth taking on or is the time better served by farming it out. Sometimes when I know I can do something, it’s not the can I that is the important part, it is the should I part that needs the thinking. This is where the time and resource Black Hole can rear its ugly head and make a fun project suck, or a profitable project turn into a money pit.

With all of this learning and self realization going on you might think I would awaken from this aviation dream and realize that it is a bitch to make any money in this industry. Nope, no such luck. I’m hooked. I do think I have learned a few “secrets” to aviation/business success though. Keep it simple, keep the scope narrow, get and stay known in your niche, and never compromise on the quality of your work. An aviation business can always fail, but these are the key things that seem to cause a business to fail, aviation or otherwise.

What is the take-away from all of this? Work with what you have. Take on only the work you can do now. Grow slowly with well planned steps. Never stop learning. Keep an eye to the sky, an ear to the ground, and your nose to the grind stone, then you just might make it.

Blue skies and tail winds,

Fall 2012 Almost A Memory

This semester has just flown by at mach speed! It seems like just yesterday we were out at the airport picking our engines for the overhaul project and now we are a week from finals and the last day of class and only 175 days until the last day of next semester and completion of  the two year AMT program.

Since my last post I have had some fun working on a couple of other projects at school. We removed the engine, a Continental O-470, from our Cessna 182. I had the opportunity to work on the Pratt & Whiteny PT-6 removing the fuel controller and finding a low pressure fuel leak. And I had the chance to finish replacing the ignition switch on our Cessna 172 and run it up. It felt good to be sitting in an airplane doing a run up, although it did make me a little homesick for flying. I need to get back in the air.

There are several possibilities floating around for after graduation, but nothing even remotely solid. There are a couple of FBO jobs that may or may not be open, there is the possibility of teaching, and of course there is the need to finish my degree. For now, I’m keeping my ear to the ground of job stuff but focusing on head-down-full-speed-ahead on school and studying.

Blue skies and tailwinds,


Again with the long time between posts…

Stearman wing rib jigSchool has been quite the load this year. 21 units a semester is keeping me very busy. On May 25 I finished my second semester of A&P school which means I can take my FAA tests for my Airframe Mechanic Certificate. I am scheduled to take my first two knowledge tests on June 4th and my two practical tests on June 12th. I will post more about them after I take the tests.

My finals went very well. I got 99% in General and 98% in Airframe. Results that I am not at all unhappy with. I have been busting ass studying for exams; school really has taken over my life, in a good way.

Plans for the summer break are to build a wing rib jig for a Stearman. I borrowed a repaired rib from one of my instructors and started work on the jig Tuesday (Stearman Photo Album on Google+). I picked up some nails for the jig and for making a rib on Wednesday. I should have the jig finished in the next few days but it will be a while before I can do the ribs.

I need to source some 1/16″ mahogany plywood for the rib gussets; this stuff is a bugger to find locally and I don’t want to have to get it from Aircraft Spruce. The shipping costs are really high and it would almost be cheaper to organize a will-call run down to Corona and split the fuel costs with some fellow pilots, mechanics, & builders. I need to get some Alodine and Alumiprep anyway and I could save about $40 in shipping and hazmat costs on those alone.

Building a rib jig and wing ribs are fun distractions to relax with when I need a break from studying. Another allowed distraction is catching up on my aviation magazines, with lots of maintenance and restoration articles. Less the two distractions above, the blinders stay on and my focus is on finishing my Airframe Mechanic Certificate before next term starts. I don’t want to have anything hanging over my head when I start Powerplant.

Time to get back to the studying and practice tests…

☮ ♥ ✈

Enter December

Here we are, it’s already December. It seems like just yesterday I was all jazzed about starting a build project, a new weight loss program, and going back to school.

Let’s get the ugly out of the way first. The build project was basically abandoned. I had only built two bulkheads and had not spent that much money, so it wasn’t a painful decision just a pragmatic one. The airplane would not really meat my needs in the long run, so it wasn’t a good choice in the first place.

Going back to school was a bit more interesting. My initial plan was to work towards an aeronautical engineering degree. After some thought and talking with some other people it seemed wiser to work on a more practical program like getting my FAA Airframe & Powerplant certificates.

I signed up for the Spring semester at San Jose City College and began working on my general education requirements. In the Fall I signed up at Gavilan College in the AMT (Aviation Maintenance Technology) program and work on my A&P.

One of my instructors and a fellow student are electrical engineers and they both confirmed that going after the engineering degree, while interesting, wouldn’t really help me with my plans.

My first term is just about over now and things are going well and I’m looking forward to next term. Admittedly, at the moment I am looking forward to winter break a little more.

Till next time,

A quarter of the way… almost

School is going well. As you can imagine taking 21.5 semester units, I have been very busy with my classes.

In General we have covered the basics like mathematics, physics, and tools. We have also covered fluid lines, fittings, and most recently under the heading of Materials & Processes lots and lots of hardware. We still have Cleaning & Corrosion Control and Weight & Balance to geth through before semesters end.

In Airframe we have covered aerodynamics, metallic aircraft structures, cabin atmosphere control systems, and instruments. We are currently working on comm and nav systems, and fuel systems with only aircraft inspection to do before end of term.

Throughout the program we have been working on shop projects and though I tried to take my time with the last one, an aileron section, but alas, I finished it so I don’t have any more project work to do… well, regular project work anyway. I have been doing a side project on helicopter flight control systems (an RC helicopter) to demonstrate how the swashplate works and the principals of rotor wing aerodynamics. There is also talk about the possibility of another project as the helicopter project comes to an end.

Now with only a few weeks left in the semester I am almost half way to my Airframe rating and almost a quarter of the way to my A&P. As for other stuff, there aint none. Too busy for anything else.

Until next time, blue skies and tailwinds,

three months in

It’s been quite a while since my last post. I know, I know, I swore up and down that I would spend more time on the blog and keep it up to date on everything going on now that I am in a Part 147 AMT program. For those who may not know, a Part 147 AMT program is a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) certificated school teaching people what they need to know to get there Airframe & Powerplant mechanics certificate or A&P. The AMT stands for Aviation Maintenance Technician or Technology depending on usage. I was hoping I could keep the site updated on a frequent basis but I have been much busier than expected.

I love my A&P classes, I just had no idea that the work load would wipe me out to the extent it has. Between the constant cramming, fixing flaws in previous assumptions, and trying to keep up with “day-job” stuff, I am just too tired to do as much as I would like to.

Speaking of the day job, talk about taking a back seat. I have been lucky to get a measelly ten hours or so in each month and that has had a rather negative effect on the old pocketbook. I did manage to get some headway on a long-standing project today, not nearly as much as I would like but something.

Progress on the weight loss project has been in a bit of a stall as well. I haven’t been putting weight back on, but I haven’t been loosing it. I’m not all that worried about this one though, I have plenty of time and I am ahead of schedule in this endeavor.

There has been a bit of a shift with regard to the airplane build project. My mission goals and priorities have shifted making the VP-I/II an insufficient aircraft for my needs. I suppose this is more than a “bit of a shift” but it has come down to two options; build an airplane that won’t really meet my needs, or stop it now before I spend more money on the project. Fortunately I haven’t put much into anything that can’t be used elsewhere. Most of my current investment has been in tools, books, raw materials, and hardware.

The materials I have can be used for a couple of “practice projects” I have in mind to keep the hands busy, as if I didn’t have enough to do. Getting back on track with the build was adding to the stress pile in my mind so off-loading it has helped quite a bit. I have some options as far as getting involved in a couple repair/restoration projects and there is even the possibility of acquiring a restoration project of my own, though for the moment, I think it best not to pile anything else on my plate and focus on the tasks at hand, school and health.

That’s it for this installment, blue skies and tailwinds,

P.S. I am no longer using Facebook, my user account is still there for a while, but I have deleted all content and connections so if you want to connect or keep in touch, find me on Google+ and Twitter.

AMT school and projects

It’s been a few weeks since I posted last. School has bee going well, it’s a lot of hard work but I am having a great time. Lot’s of quizzes and tests and we are covering a lot of material. It’s hard to believe we are already half way through the first semester.

Classes are a combination of lecture and shop time with a variety of shop projects. Projects so far have included steel bar stock forming, riveting, sheet metal layout and bending, stock drilling, taping, broken bolt/stud extraction, Heli-Coils, and safety wire. we have several more projects lined up as well.

Outside of the class room, I got myself hooked up with a repair/restoration project. It’s a late 1950s Cessna 140A. I spent much of Saturday working on airplane. After removing the doors we set to work on removing the wings. After the wings were removed we set to work on the tail section removing the vertical and horizontal stabilizers. After all that and a bit of a bath, we got started on stripping the landing gear down.

With the airplane now on a rotating frame, we need to remove the spring steel gear legs so we can get started on skin section removal here-n-there and a really dig into a thorough structural inspection.

The best part of this project is that I am getting some real-world repair, maintenance, and inspection time in. I am looking forward to our next trip down to work on the plane again.

Until next time, blue skies and tail winds,