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Postby xgary » Tue Dec 21, 2004 6:39 pm


(The Next Olympic Event


Dick Starks

"KERSPLOOSCH!!!" A muddy-brown fountain of foam-streaked water erupted from the surface of the turgid, slow-moving stream. The column of disturbed water seemed to hang in mid-air like the aftermath of an exploding depth charge before quickly subsiding. Jerry's enraged scream was still resonating between the banks.

Calm slowly returned to the bucolic scene on the banks of the Missouri River tributary. An awe-filled silence reigned around the group of watching men (the everyday crew from Liberty Landing International Airport).

Tentatively, birds resumed singing and soon the countryside was once again echoing to a joyful, full volume, celebration of the final coming of spring.

The crowd stayed fairly silent, however. It wasn't quite the correct time to talk or make comments. Jerry was still a little red-faced, and everyone could see it would not be a good decision to goad him at this time.

When a guy finally gets mad enough to rip the engine off his plane and throw it into a river, you know you're in the presence of a man on the edge. It would probably not be a good time to offer advice, comments or criticism if one valued certain significant parts of his anatomy.

As Jerry started to calm down enough so that he could talk to other people, the legend began to grow. I mean, it's not every day that you get to watch a guy run his plane down the runway, lose power, screech to a stop, spin her around, run her tail high back to the hangar, leap out of the plane with a stream of curses that would strip paint, tear the engine off the plane in record time and then, screaming in rage, heave it into the river. Entertainment opportunities like this are rare and need to be savored to their full extent. Common people have to pay darn good money to see stuff like this!

(Note: Some rather uncharitable acquaintances of mine have said that I tend to exaggerate in my tales concerning the exploits of The Kansas City Dawn Patrol and the events that transpire at Liberty Landing International Airport. Well... This time I missed all the excitement and am writing this extremely truthful narrative gleaned from personally interviewing the principal characters in this tale. These individuals have also proofread this narrative and can attest to its factualism, truthfulness, accurate attention to details and its absence of any exaggerations. It's a well-known fact that pilots never lie.)

This latest saga started when Jerry Sharp began experiencing trouble with the engine on his Avid Flyer. In the past, he's had his fair share of engine outs in his assorted ultralight aircraft. Most were due primarily to two-cycle engine problems. Everyone knows that two cycle engines are just a tad more temperamental than the good old, tried and true, takes a licking and keeps on ticking, four cycles. Two cyclers need constant fondling and caressing to keep them running. Also, if you lose one cylinder on a two cylinder, two-cycle... You're coming down! (I think it has something to do with scavenging exhaust pulses pulling in new gas or something of that ilk. Whatever... you're through for the day.)

The first problem on the Avid was a crack in the flywheel which caused the latest forced landing.

Besides being an excellent mechanic, Jerry has his Commercial, Multi-engine and Instrument tickets. After considerable work on the flywheel and fine-tuning the engine the plane was pronounced ready to aviate again. Jerry made a few flights around the airport, staying in the pattern, and everything seemed to be ok. Then, to get a second opinion on the plane's performance, he let one of our more experienced pilots jump in for a trip around the patch.

The plane lifted off and settled into its climb out. The engine chose that time to quit abruptly. The pilot was able to dump the nose and get her back on the runway. That was good, too, since the fields surrounding the airport were muddy swamps and any plane going into them would certainly end up on its back. However, he did have to thump her in pretty good to make the runway, and the subsequent shock to the system broke a small welded part of the landing gear assembly in the belly of the plane. It would have to be fixed.

Dick Lemons and Tom Glaeser are both pretty handy when it comes to welding. In fact, handy doesn't quite cut it. Gas, stick or wire, they can weld anything we need and do a heck of a professional job doing it too.

Dick won the toss on doing the weld, and preparations were extensive: Sopping wet rags and rugs were draped all around the area to be welded. Tom was lying on his back under the plane just to make sure that everything went ok. Dick was standing on one side of the plane looking in the door and welding on the cluster of tubes in the middle of the plane between the two seats. Jerry was standing on the other side of the plane looking in the other door. The stage was set for the birth of another unbelievable Liberty Landing International Airport legend.

* Fire in the Hole, Revisited. * *

Everything was going just great! The metal was flowing just as they wanted it to, and the weld looked super. Then, suddenly, a soul-chilling scream came from Tom where he was crouching under the plane.


Some molten slag had burned its way through a sodden rag and gone through the fabric. Three coats of nitrate dope quickly flashed into flame and Tom was staring with horrified eyes at a one foot diameter hole of fire right in the middle of the belly of the plane. In only three seconds, the fire spread to a diameter of two feet. Tom was screaming. Black smoke and flames were billowing from the sides of the plane and the belly. Excitement began to build.

The Keystone Kops syndrome set in. The first preventive action taken was Jerry handing Tom his (Tom's ) coat to beat out the fire. (Later on, after the excitement had died down, Tom asked Jerry about this, but the answer was kinda vague.)

The coat didn't work very well. Tom was flailing away with the jacket like he was killing snakes but, that only spread the flames to the entire belly of the plane. The level of excitement rose higher. Voices raised in alarm and consternation.

Jerry finally found the fire extinguisher, carefully hiding in its bracket inside the plane, and was wrestling with the pin, trying to pull it out from the wrong side of the extinguisher.

Dick Lemons, ever the calm one in a crisis, was standing behind Jerry saying, "Quickly.... Quickly!... Quickly!!... Quickly!!!" while Jerry was struggling with the pin.

He finally got the pin out and squeezed the trigger like Clint Eastwood shooting the bad guys. A cloud of white powder gushed out of the extinguisher, and Jerry excitedly sprayed the plane, everyone in the vicinity, and a significant part of the hangar. White stuff WENT JUST EVERYWHERE!!!

The fire went out in an instant. That stuff works great!

Meanwhile... Up at the other end of the airport Mark Pierce and Ed Hansen were working on Ed's Nieuport 12, getting it ready for its final FAA inspection. They were both standing out in front of the hangar looking curiously down at the west end of the airport where a dense cloud of black smoke was gushing out of Jerry's hangar, accompanied by frenzied yells, screams and imprecations.

"Whattdaya think, should we go down there?" Mark asked.

"You mean, right now??" Ed asked.

"Seems like we might need to... We'd better go." They jumped into a car and raced down the runway to the scene of the disastrophe.

When they got there, it was all over. Tom, Dick and Jerry were standing silently outside the hangar with their arms crossed and looking into the smoky interior of the hangar.

Covered with white extinguisher powder, they looked like three wild-eyed ghosts. Silence reigned over the scene. Then, like unwrapping a package, the saga started to unfold, and Mark and Ed were told the whole sordid story.

The plane was a sorry sight. All the fabric of the belly from the firewall back to the rear of the cabin was burned off, and tendrils of melted Ceconite were hanging down like blackened goo. White powder from the extinguisher was all over the plane and everything else in a 20 foot circle.

Damage assessment started with a vengeance. It really wasn't that bad. It looked terrible, but with The Dawn Patrol, it was nothing compared with the flood of 93. The repair began in a frenzy of activity. Blackened cloth was cut off and cleaning started.

Two days later, the damage was a distant memory. The plane had been cleaned, recovered, primed and painted. You couldn't see that anything had ever happened. When The Up In Smoke Aircraft Company Fabric Shop goes into action, things happen fast! (Also) Aircraft Finishing System's covering process works great and fast too.

Jerry started working on the engine to determine what had caused the shutdown. He took it apart and examined every part. He couldn't find a thing wrong. Everything was well within tolerances and no wear was visible.

During all this, the Liberty Landing International Airport Power Plant Engineering Department was standing around him eagerly offering suggestions and helpful comments about what was wrong with the engine and how to fix it. (The engineering department consisted of everyone within a half-mile radius of the airport willing to offer their opinion about what was wrong with the engine. Strangers would drive up in their cars, jump out, look for while, say, "It's the wrist pins." and drive away.) Jerry suffered in silence and kept on working. Still, nothing could be found wrong.

Jerry finally said the heck with it, put it back together, and mounted it on the plane.

It ran fine. He tried test after test and nothing could be found mistuned or broken. Ignition... OK. Carburetor.. OK. Timing... OK. Fuel filter... OK. Carbon buildup... normal. Plugs... OK. Compression... good. No stuck rings. It was a puzzlement.

An innocent comment mumbled by one of the more dedicated four-cycle members of the engineering team during the research would come back to haunt us later... "It'd make a damn good boat anchor."

After one long final brain bashing session in the hangar, we finally decided the reason for the failure was partial seizure attributed to a piston overheating and expanding on takeoff... No one really believed it, but it sounded good and technical... and... that seemed the only logical possibility.

Jerry got ready to try her again. The buttoned up the cowling and started the engine. He taxied to the active and started to run up and down the runway. The first four runs indicated everything was working great. The fifth run was another story.

Jerry got ready for takeoff. He shoved the throttle in, and accompanied by the usual two-cycle scream, the plane accelerated down the runway. Just as he was about ready to lift off, the engine sagged about 2000 rpm. He barely got her stopped at the end of the runway.

I guess that must have been the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back. Jerry fast-taxied her back to the hangar and catapulted out of the plane like a really unhappy Jack-in-the-box.

His jaw was set. His face was pale and his eyes were flashing fire. His beard bristled like it was charged with 10,000 volts of electricity. No one in the watching crowd of onlookers said anything.

It just didn't seem like the right time.

Different independent sources have told me they have never seen an engine pulled from a plane any faster. Jerry had that sucker off in a relative jiffy. One brave individual finally asked him what he was going to do.

"I'm throwing it in the river." was the terse reply. He threw in several other descriptive words but I've forgotten them; probably for the best.

A stunned silence greeted that remark. It seemed to be kind of an extreme solution to the problem.

Larry Mowery quickly offered Jerry a hundred bucks cash for the engine.

"Nope," Jerry said, "I'm going to get more than a hundred dollars worth of enjoyment from this."

Jerry threw the engine into the back of his truck and peeled out of the airport in a spray of gravel and sand toads. Several car loads of onlookers and a small cheering section followed him. Most of them doubted he was going to do it.

A short half-mile drive took them to a small bridge over a creek that ran into the river. Jerry was going to throw the engine off the bridge but was afraid of hitting a beaver dam. So, being the kind-hearted guy that he is, he carried it downstream from the dam and prepared for the first ever, two-cycle toss.

Jerry planted his feet in the mud on the bank and got a firm stance like an Olympic athlete getting ready to do something pretty dang dramatic. One of the watching crowd started humming the prelude from "Gotterdammerung." It was a truly Wagnerian moment.

Suddenly bracing himself, with a Homeric grunt, Jerry lifted the engine up higher, spun around to gather momentum and with a wild half rebel yell, half Celtic war cry, launched the engine into the air.

It described a very pretty arch in the air with appreciable hang time. The final splash was eminently satisfying to all there.

The stunned crowd stood there in somber silence while one brave individual whistled "Taps." Then they all walked back to their cars, refreshed, entertained and knowing they had all been present at the birth of a legend to rival Paul Bunyon, Pecos Bill, Superman and the Pillsbury Dough Boy.

Three days later, Jerry had a new engine on the plane. He decided to go with a more proven engine and installed a much more reliable Rotax 582, twin ignition, oil injecting, 65 horsepower son-of-a-gun with a three bladed prop. That was almost a fifty percent increase in horsepower. Wow! The water-cooled 582's twin ignition and oil injection pretty well takes care of the main reasons most two-cycles fail.

Everything went great. The 582 runs flawlessly. For some reason, it is a lot quieter than the other engine and has power out the wazoo. Flying solo, Jerry can climb out at an unbelievable angle. He seems a lot happier. Considering all the failures and frustrations he had experienced with the other engine, he should have made the change sooner.

As I write this, he's finishing the fine tuning on the engine and flying the heck out of the plane. It's a lot more fun to fly now that he doesn't have to keep wondering when, not if, the next engine failure is going to occur. Now, his plane looks like an Avid with an attitude. We call it the Mini-Maule. It looks mean just sitting there on its gear.

Aftermath... Now two weeks after the toss, Jerry is saying that tossing that engine into the creek was such a satisfying feeling, he wished he'd tied a rope to the engine so he could pull it out and throw it in again.

Unfortunately, he won't be able to do that. It was too late. The engine had mysteriously vanished from its watery final resting place.

The world famous Liberty Landing International Deep Sea Recovery and Underwater Treasure Hunting Team had gone into action the next day after the toss and had retrieved the engine.

Bob Loyd and Larry Mowery drove over to the resting place of the engine and looked into the murky, viscous depths. They found it! The engine was sighted resting in five feet of water, half buried in liquid mud and catfish residue about eight feet out from the bank of the creek.

A coin was tossed and a shivering Larry (the loser) got ready to dive. With a hissing sound coming from his tightly clenched teeth, he waded into the icy, chin-deep water. Finding the engine with his feet, he took a deep breath and with his eyes squeezed tightly shut, ducked down and grabbed the engine, wrenching it from the mud.

With a mighty guttural grunt he stood up with the engine clasped tightly in his arms. Dripping water and assorted frog and turtle by-products, he floundered to the shore in a flurry of mud and water and handed the engine to Bob. Shouting and singing with joy, they went back to the airport they went with their "treasure." Larry got to ride in the back of the truck since Bob didn't want him to drip on the seats and carpet.

When Bob showed his brother, Bill, who flies an ultralight too, the slimy, mud-caked engine he and Larry had salvaged, Bill's only comment to his little brother was, "You're an idiot!"

The mud-caked engine was quickly taken apart, cleaned and the parts preserved with LPS-3. Then Bob and Larry approached Jerry to see about getting all the other accessories for the engine that he didn't throw away (carb, cables, exhaust, etc).

"Hell no!" he snorted indignantly. "You can't have any of those parts. You're not supposed to have that engine anyway. The only reason I threw it away was so it wouldn't end up failing on a plane and hurting someone."

In any case, Bob and Larry now have a source of spare parts for the engines on their two ultralights.

And so, as life at the field settles back to normal, another memorable Liberty Landing International Airport saga comes to a close. Jerry's happy. Bob and Larry are happy. And best of all... The rest of us are happy. We've got unlimited ammunition for many hours of joyful, boisterous hangar flying during windy or stormy days. Flying season is here and life is full and sweet!!!

The only way of knowing that this whole episode happened is a sign that mysteriously appeared on the wall in Jerry's hangar: REMEMBER... ONLY YOU CAN PREVENT AVID FIRES!!
Shorty .............
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Postby xgary » Tue Dec 21, 2004 7:44 pm

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Postby xgary » Tue Dec 21, 2004 7:56 pm

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Postby xgary » Tue Dec 21, 2004 7:58 pm

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