Thursday, April 30, 2009

April 2009

“XP-82 Restoration Project”
#44  83887 Progress Report

Work Progress - Parts Manufacture
April has been a very productive month even though Jason and Chuck had to take off last week to go home to NC for a short stay.  

Parts in the dry ice
I was able to carry one truck load of new manufactured parts to Braddock Heat Treating in Daytona Beach.  Braddock bought out most of the metal processing companies throughout the area including Sun State, located in Orlando, whom I have used for 35 years.  I recognized many of the employees as many had moved to Daytona.

Dry ice box
The heat treating of aluminum and steel parts is a very exacting process because one mistake during the heating or quenching (cooling) process destroys the part(s).  This is why I chose not to have amateurs process these parts since we are dealing with four months of work that must come back perfect with certification papers.  

The parts came back in a 3’ x 3’ x 4’ insulated box with dry ice.  The dry ice keeps the parts in the annealed (soft) condition until we hand work each part again to straighten out any warpage caused by the heat.  Within 72 hours out of the ice, the parts harden up to the desired T-4 hardness.

After all of the hand straightening, we glass beaded and painted every part, about 420 individual pieces in all that fit the horizontal, elevator, LH & RH fuselages and center section flap.   The next steps are very critical during assembly of our project.  The left-hand (original) fuselage framework without skins is now completely put together with temporary fasteners called clecos (no relation to Kleko, the shop cat).

Reskinning lefhand fuselage
With the fixture holding the fuselage completely leveled to one tenth of one degree, the original skins will be temporarily reinstalled to prove alignment and parts placement.  Then one skin at a time will be removed and the new manufactured ribs with no holes will be put in place -- about 15 to 20 at a time.

A blue line will be drawn down the center of each rib flange and the old original skins will be reinstalled over the new ribs.  Dimpled skins (countersunk bumps) will not allow proper alignment  if used, so the new flat skins must be used.  Through the drilled holes in the skin, one can see the blue line for centering alignment to drill the new holes through the new rib.  This process will have to be done about 200 times with an average of 20 holes in each rib location.  Then the new ribs and skins will be removed, dimpled or countersunk (which ever is required) in each hole.   Follow all of this closely as there will be a test at the end!
Original skins are back on LH fuselage

Next all of the LH fuselage will be reassembled with clecos and then shooting a bizillion rivets will commence, using the new ribs with the original old longerons.  The LH original fuselage will now have half new parts and half old.  The RH fuselage will have new longerons with all of the old original ribs.  This process of switching ribs and parts assures that everything goes together with perfect alignment.  This trick works so well it makes your stomach tickle.

Assembly Schedule
420 painted parts
The next large part to reassemble will be the horizontal stabilizer.  Peter Lesche is in the process of milling the acute and obtuse spar caps.  There will not be an original structural part left in the horizontal stabilizer.    Next we will assemble the flaps, vertical stabilizers and ailerons.   We are shooting to have both fuselages, the horizontal stabilizer and both vertical stabilizers, plus one flap completed by this time next year.  We will then move on to the center section.

Priceless data from four spars
Some of the returning machine work is costing somewhat more than expected, but not that bad.  I have contacted another machinist in the Atlanta area that has a laser scanner to cut down on the required hand plotting on some of the multi-facetted parts.  The laser will record and write a program for a computer mill to cut the parts, saving a tremendous amount of expensive plotting time.  The heavy structure parts that we are sending to Tom Wilson in Atlanta are coming back extremely nice.  We are having Tom make them because they are too thick for us to press.

We ended up with three canopies, one from the Alaska wreck, one from a parts seller in Florida for $950 and an overhauled one from Don Wittington.  After the fact I started regretting paying the $950 for the Florida canopy not realizing I would come across a salvageable one out of the Alaska wreck.  How wrong I was!  The P-82 parts book calls for all of the model canopies to be the same part number.  The P-82 one I purchased out of Florida is 5” longer than the other two.  The two that we need are the one overhauled one from Colorado and the Alaska salvaged one.  But as our luck goes, every part we needed to repair on the damaged Alaska canopy is good in the purchased Florida canopy.  We must be living right.

Engines and Propellers
We are working a deal with MT Prop on composite blades in MT hubs, including spinners and feather systems at $150K per complete propeller.  If this works out, we will save $200K on our projected budget.   I will keep everyone informed.

Nixon’s Vintage V12s Engines should be completing our first engine sometime this summer for delivery.

Bumps in the Road
None!  I love telling you this.

Employee of the Month
Who else.
Kleko and the Clecos

Thank you everyone for your trust in all of us on this unique project. 

As always, please come to Douglas to see your XP-82 project and the remarkable progress our team is making to bring this ultra rare fighter back to flying status.  



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