Tuesday, June 21, 2016

MIAO: Diversions

Ah, the diversion.  Pilots everywhere know the concept--things didn't work out exactly as planned, so you had to divert to an airport other than the intended destination.  Depending on the flight and circumstances, this might be a simple selection of predetermined options or it might mean some serious thinking on your feet. 

As it turns out, aircraft maintenance projects operate in a fairly similar manner.  You start down one path, figure out that you can't complete the task, and then try to find something to do.  Your diversion might be caused by a lack of parts, a lack of documentation, changing schedules or priorities, or who-knows-what.  It's part of the process, albeit an occasionally frustrating one. 

Making "friends" with new and exciting chemicals is part of the process
A few weeks ago, I thought I would be covering the rudder the next weekend.  This was alternately exciting and terrifying, as it was the final control surface to be covered, but I was supposed to do it with minimal to no supervision.  Well, life happened and a repair to the lower trailing edge didn’t get made by the weekend.  That was disappointing but, it turns out, there is no shortage of work to be done when recovering the fuselage of a 70-year-old airplane.  Alternate plans were formulated and the weekend was spent prepping and priming both aluminum and steel parts.  All of the aluminum parts, save for the cowls, that could be primed at this point were, along with a majority of the steel parts. 

Rough baggage panels were cut (they’ll need to be custom-fitted to my quirky little Cub), parts were organized, more Scotch-Brite consumed, more MEK accidentally and regrettably inhaled.  All these things are important and better done now than when the excitement of getting ready to reassemble the airplane arrives, but you still miss visible and tangible progress.  Nevertheless, you keep plugging along and finding another project to divert your attention to, because any progress is better than no progress.

Some day this is going to pretty awesome.
The whole approach reminds me of one of the most frustrating trips I ever took by airplane.  It was March 2011 and I was taking a Super 18 down to Sun ‘n’ Fun, or, rather, I was trying mightily to.  Weather confounded us at every turn, with a massive tornado-producing system in front of us and a spring snow storm chasing us.  It was during this trip I learned the art of “airport appreciation time,” as we sat for full days at a time watching radar in FBO lobbies, napping on couches, and borrowing courtesy cars.  Every opportunity to move was taken, though we really only ended up where we planned about 20% of the time.  Every mile in the general direction of Florida and/or better weather was progress, however frustrating and slow it was.  And, just like poking along at minor airplane projects, there were bright spots to be found when you looked for them.  In the case of the ill-fated Sun ‘n’ Fun trip, it was finding great people, good food, and story-telling material.  In the case of the Oklahoma Kid’s ongoing fuselage recover, it’s sometimes being able to put away a primed part, knowing it will be ready to go when the time finally comes to make things yellow.  

As Tim Gunn would say, "Make it work!"  Or, in aircraft projects, "Make something--ANYTHING--happen!"
In sum, there’s a lot you can do and a lot you can learn when you’re forced to make a choice.  In flying slow, VFR-only airplanes, that can mean figuring out how to make 30 miles of progress at a time.  Suddenly you’ll arrive at your destination, and only because you were willing to figure out a plan of attack when Plan A didn’t pan out.  In aircraft restoration, it may mean finding some seemingly stupid little task to do just for the sake of putting some time into the airplane and getting something done. 

This approach has served me well so far, though it is definitely not always easy.  There is, however, a tremendous power in realizing you can figure some things out as you go, that when life doesn’t go according to plan, you can make a new plan.  There’s nothing in your today that dictates your tomorrow.  With that in mind, I launched off on another venture.  I’ve wanted to get some advanced spin training and learn basic aerobatics since I first started flying, but I always found something else to focus on.  First, there was getting my pilot’s license to start with, then there was college, and then there was work and trying to figure out adult life (full disclosure: I still haven’t figured that out yet).  Now I’m elbow-deep in an airplane project, and I realized there is no good time for just about anything.  Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans, so you might as well dive in and make it happen.  With that said, I’ve been busy seeking out emergency maneuver training/aerobatic scholarships and crafting applications.  I’ve been researching ways to learn more and how to volunteer so I can see a new side of aviation and all of that determination is due to life taking its own winding course.  

Waiting to go yellow some day . . .
Necessity is the mother of invention, they say.  In my case, a fork in the road is the mother of decisions.  The choices are to not fly at all during the Cub rebuild process, or to find another way.  I don’t know what the outcome of the scholarship application process will be, but I’m a pretty persistent person.  I’ll find a way to fly one way or another, whether through scholarships or indentured servitude or possibly the sale of a kidney.  It may or may not be upside-down right away, but someday I’ll get to do that just like someday I’ll get to open the hangar door to see my yellow magic carpet again. 

P.S.  If you have any good aviation reading suggestions, I’m all ears, especially if it is something pertaining to learning aerobatics or Cub restoration.  I have spare time in the evenings now that I used to spend flying . . .