Restoration

Posted on October 19, 2011

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Old cars are always attracting my attention. For some reason, a rusted out lump that used to be a car, well, it sparks my interest. I know what it is. I know what it could be. I desire to make it into something glorious. Clarissa reminds me that my dreams are impractical. And so I am restrained from knocking on people’s doors and offering to take the eyesores out of their yards and put them in mine.

Airplanes don’t generally rust, but they do get old and tired. When I was a student at Moody, six years ago, my class took on a project that very quickly got to be too big to chew: An old Cessna 140, built in 1946. It was to be our job to restore it. At the time I was excited, not knowing how much work it would be. A small class of 3, we made some progress. We left it as a legacy, hanging in space along Moody’s back wall. The subsequent students believed the hanger had been built around the airplane, and the supports we built were necessary to hold up the ceiling.

Over the years, the project moved arduously slowly. It seemed as if no real progress would be made. I went over and worked on it as much as I could, mostly hearing comments of “nothing must be happening in the shop if you are working on that thing.” I bit back harsh words; the airplane had become somehow a part of me. I craved to see it fly again.

I have not gotten to see it fly, but a significant step was taken this year. Five maintenance specialists blasting away with rivet guns were able to finish the work on the fuselage. This week the airplane came out of the jig that had been supporting it for the last six years.

I took pictures like it was my first born’s first day at school. The bolts came out one by one, each one bringing this bird closer to flight. I could see in my mind’s eye how it first looked when it flew in six years ago (before we discovered all the problems which would require us to completely dismantle the whole thing). I remember testing the wings, building the jig, and bolting it in. I have been coaxing the project along for the last few years. Rivet by rivet, slowly making it  into something again. It was sort of like watching a birth(I would imagine), only less blood.

I get a giddy feeling every time I look over in that corner now. There is hope. This airplane will fly again!

On the ground for the first time in 6 years!

With the 140 on the ground I hope that it will receive a bit more respect, and attention. As I transition out of my roll at Moody to head to Kenya, I get to leave it in capable hands, which does my heart good. I think that I will always be a sucker for a fixer upper. Maybe one day I will ressurect an airplane then learn to fly in it. For now, I just hope I get to restore some aircraft in Africa.

One of the students welded the registration number on to some chauks.

                                Out in the hangar like a real airplane!
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