Having just had a fairly spendy sight-seeing trip Saturday, Sunday was set aside to complete a couple of pending projects on the plane. One of those, which was to cut the holes in the wheel pants necessary to gain access to the air valve, was becoming increasingly overdue as the tires lost pressure and started growing to a width that could conceivably conflict with the sides of the pants. No one wants unsightly holes in their pants, be they denim or fiberglass, so the first order of business was to prowl the aircraft parts aisle at the local Lowes for a pair of caps. Easily found, they were, and being of a fore-planning nature, I grabbed four. They have a habit of departing the aircraft prior to landing, so I thought having a couple of spares would be prudent. I wanted the biggest diameter I could find – the air chuck I use is fairly wide. The drawer of vinyl plugs topped out at a not-quite-big-enough ½”. The metal caps, on the other hand, went up to a generous 1 ½”, so despite the fact that the inflexible metal tabs don’t hold as well as the springier vinyl tabs, I went with the metal for the increased size.
Back at the hangar, I grabbed one of the caps out of the Lowes bag, and pondered the question of how to get a similarly sized hole cut into the pants. I didn’t want to use a hole saw since they make such a nasty cut, and in order to remove the temptation of using them anyway, I loaned them out. I wanted to be very careful with cutting the hole and enlarging it to the correct size, so I started with a small drill bit, just big enough to allow a length of hinge pin to fit through. After trying the initial hole on for correct location by inserting the hinge pin into it, I made a small adjustment to the center position and drilled a larger hole, just big enough to allow the first step of a unibit to fit through. I used the unibit to drill a progressively large hole until it was big enough to fit the smallest sanding drum on my die grinder. I used the small sanding drum to enlarge the hole enough to fit my largest sanding drum. At that point, I was pretty close to done, so it only took a few passes with the sanding drum to get the hole to the size that would allow the cap to fit.
Moving on to the other side, I grabbed another cap from the bag. Surprisingly, it looked different than the first one. Closer inspection revealed that I had made a rookie Lowes mistake: assuming everything in the bin belonged in the bin. The cap I had in hand was 1 ½”, as expected. The cap already installed was 1 3/8”. Ah, no problem – I could just enlarge that first hole a little bit and write off the $1.09 for the improperly sized cap. No great loss. So, I proceeded with the same patient and diligent method of cutting the new hole, right up until my normal stopping point which is, of course, just after the hole has been enlarged too much. At this point, the benefit of the inflexible tabs on the metal cap came into play: I just put it in the hole and reached back into the pant from the inside and bent the tabs to hold the cap in place. I imagine it will have to be painfully removed and thrown away next time I need to air up the tires, and I think I will end up not replacing it and just living with the visible holes in the wheel pants. I also decided that it might be best to just leave the 1 3/8” hole alone for now.
With that auspicious start to my day, I proceeded on to the next task which was to replace the corroding chrome exhaust tips with a couple of new ones I picked up at AutoZone. I’d just as soon leave those tips off entirely, but I suspect that the builder put them there in response to seeing either exhaust soot staining the belly, or heat damage to the paint. I decided that neither of those were something I would want, and thus decided against experimenting by just leaving the tips off. The old tips came off easily, and the new tips were installed just as easily. This, of course, has me worried. This kind of Karmic imbalance is almost certainly an omen, and I will not be in the least surprised if both of the new tips end up in a corn field the next time I fly.
On the way out of the airport, I paused to watch one of our local Piper Super Cubs take off and pick up a banner. I never tire of watching that routine: very short takeoff roll, followed by a 45 degree pitch up to a 100 ft. or so, then a steep dive to snag the banner and another 45 degree pitch up to wrest the banner away from the ground. This particular banner was one of the large custom rectangular kind, as opposed to the long, thin ones that have replaceable letters. Being a gorgeous Fall day without a cloud within hundreds of miles, I was left wondering whether or not it made any sense at all for that specific advertiser to be paying for his banner to be flown: the advertiser was Able Roofing. Is anyone really thinking about their leaky roof on a day like that? It seems that a better opportunity would be to offer home additions like sun rooms, or end-of-year specials on a car lot full of convertibles.