Monday, July 28, 2014

Modern updates to an Historic Aircraft - Pt. 3

The work continues on the Curtiss Robin with new electrical system and radios installation.  Here are a few more photos.

Plan for Xcom Transceiver and Sandia Transponder installation overhead above pilot.
Radio Control / CB Panel to go on headliner access panel
Radio Control / CB Panel Wiring
Fit-Check - Radio Control / CB Panel on headliner access panel

Preliminary Drawing for Radio Control / CB Panel to go on headliner access panel


Intercom Panel Mock-Up - to go above the RH window between the pilot and passenger doors
Intercom Panel Mock-up

Intercom Panel Test Fit

Box fabricated for power plugs, A and B


Box fabricated for Power Plugs A and B
Box fabricated for Power Plugs A and B

Antenna (Folded Dipole) Installation in Robin Tail


Monday, July 14, 2014

BRINGING THE ST, LOUIS ROBIN OUT OF RETIREMENT

The "St. Louis Robin" (as it is known) has a history about as interesting as could be for any antique airplane.  Fresh out of the factory in July of 1929, this plane was flown into the history books by Dale Jackson and Forest O'Brine.  Their highly publicized re-fueled endurance flight record drew the attention of the world toward Saint Louis Missouri.and on the Curtiss Robertson Aircraft Company, the Curtiss Robin Airplane, and the two successful hometown boys. Since that time, Curtiss Robin enthusiasts have considered NR59H as one of the most recognizable of all Curtiss Robins in existence.  While the record-setting event itself is worthy of study, this blog will not go into the details of that story.  We will instead pick up the history of this plane at a much later date.  And we will shift our focus on the future of this same airplane as it is being brought out of retirement and is prepared for a new chapter of flying.

After 30 years on static display,, NR59H is disassembled and readied for a truck ride to Central TX

For the next several weeks, this blog will chronicle the plans and preparations for this great old airplane and its new owner.  We will also mix in some historical milestones of this Robin and other Robins with related involvement as well.  We hope you will follow this blog and tell your friends to check it out.  We at Barnstmr's Random Aeronautics and Certified Aeronautical Products, LLC are proud to be involved in this story and to share it with our readers.  The work has already begun.  In fact, a few of my recent posts on this blog are about this plane.  But until now, I really haven't yet disclosed which Robin we've been refurbishing. So consider this the first in a series of postings about the future of the St. Louis Robin.

OK - so, by now, many enthusiasts may have heard that long-time owner (Joe Erale, of Long Island NY) has finally sold the St. Louis Robin. Joe had been advertising the plane for several years. Finally he found the "right" buyer to become the new care-taker of the plane.  I believe that Joe and his father first acquired the plane in 1968.  They completed an extensive restoration on the Robin in 1977.  That year, they brought the plane to the National Antique Airplane Association (AAA) gathering in Blakesburg, Iowa.  If you ask him (or likely if you don't),  Joe will relay some of the flying adventures they had that summer during their mid-west America tour. The next year they flew it to Oshkosh Wisconsin and the plane was named the 1978 Grand Champion Antique at the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) national convention. Basing the airplane on Long Island NY, they enjoyed numerous flights in the airplane during the late 1970s and early 1980's.  They put around 120 hours on the freshly overhauled R-600 Curtiss Challenger engine before deciding to place the airplane in long-term static display status.  That was in 1984.

I doubt that the Erale family ever intended for the plane to remain earth-bound for thirty years after that.  But as it happens to all of us, time slips by.  The younger Joe religiously pampered and cared for the plane as the elder Joe grew older and passed on.   The fine restoration work of Joe and his dad captivated Carlos (the new prospective owner) when he viewed the plane for the first time. Though not perfect in every way, Carlos considers the Robin's blemishes as its "patina" that brings out the special historic significance of this bird. (NOTE: I am not divulging Carlos' last name at this time out of respect to his privacy and of his right to tell his side of this fascinating story.)

Joe Erale (Left) and new owner, Carlos.
Now that the plane has been passed on, I think our readers will find the story of its future to be fascinating.  Stay tuned to this blog to see it unfold.


My Personal Involvement:
Since I've always tried to keep track of all of the remaining Robins, I knew of the plane being for sale.  I've always admired this airplane.  So for me, getting hired to prepare this plane for airworthy status once again is both an honor and a thrill.

I actually got to view this plane up close when I was 13 years old during the 1977 National AAA fly-in.  My Dad and I marveled at the quality restoration and the seemingly pristine originality of its configuration.  Dad was always fond of this Robin as he also owned a Robin with some interesting involvement in re-fueled endurance flights of the 1920s and 1930s.  Not in our wildest imaginations would Dad or I have ever guessed that the plane might someday come here to Central Texas and that I would be working on it. But lo and behold!.... here it is in our shop in 2014.

Unloading the Robin in Central Texas.

What an interesting turn of events this has been for our family.  My dad is gone now. He passed in 2011.  I am a 2nd-generation Curtiss Robin proponent.  So for me, this has become a unique tribute to Dad's legacy as I strive to make an important contribution to the continued future of this plane.  But not just for me, there are some other 2nd generation tribute stories unfolding here as well.  As I make postings in the coming weeks, I will also be telling about these other 2nd-generation tributes.  Stay Tuned!



Thursday, July 10, 2014

85 Years Ago This Month - A whole lot of Flying Going on!!!

This Week in Aviation History -  Way back in 1929, the 2nd week of July marked an exciting time in the History of Aviation for Air-to-Air re-fueling and Atlantic Ocean crossings.  It must have been the exceptional weather and man's quest for notoriety that led to the following events.  Note the dates... Many of these interesting flights overlapped each other as newspapers across the world followed the action.


JUNE 30 thru JULY 6, 1929: NEW IN-FLIGHT RE-FUELED ENDURANCE RECORD
7 DAYS, 6 HOURS, 00 MINUTES, 00 SEC.
Roy Mitchell and Byron K. Newcomb flying a Stinson Detroiter
Cleveland Ohio.
Photo: Critical Past -
 
JULY 2 - 12, 1929: NEW IN-FLIGHT RE-FUELED ENDURANCE RECORD
10 DAYS, 6 HOURS, 43 MINUTES, 32 SEC.
Loren W. Mendell and Roland B. Reinhart flying a Buhl CA-5A Airsedan nicknamed "Angelino"
Los Angeles, California
Photo: DMAIRFIELD.COM - Gerow Collection





 
Photo FAI.org



JULY 13 - 30, 1929:   NEW IN-FLIGHT RE-FUELED ENDURANCE RECORD
17 DAYS, 12 HOURS, 17 MINUTES, 00 SEC.
Dale Jackson and Forrest O'Brine flying a Curtiss Robin C-1 nicknamed the "St. Louis Robin" NR59H
Refueled by  Curtiss Robin NR81H: C. Ray Wassall and Percy V. Chaffee
Saint Louis Missouri


Photo: Bowden collection of News Clippings





JULY 13 1929 ATLANTIC OCEAN CROSSING ATTEMPT - 1st. West to East
Dieudonne Costes and Maurice Bellonte Flying a French Breguet 19 nicknamed "?"
Returned after 17 hours to LeBorget Airport after facing bad weather
Paris France

Photo: Acepilots.com


Photo: Wikipedia

JULY 17 - 22, 1929 RE-FUELED ENDURANCE RECORD ATTEMPT
4 DAYS, 21 HOURS, 20 MINUTES, 00 SEC
Joseph A. Hammer and W. Gentry Shelton flying a Curtiss Robin C-1 nicknamed " The Missouri Robin" NR78H
Refueled by Curtiss Robin C-1 NR82H: Eyer L Sloniger and Frank Buchanan
Saint Louis, Missouri






JULY 18 - 27, 1929 RE-FUELED ENDURANCE RECORD ATTEMPT
9 DAYS, 7 HOURS, 12 MINUTES, 00 SEC
Joe Glass and Glenn L. Loomis flying a Stinson Detroiter nicknamed"Billion Dollar City"
Houston, Texas


JULY 23 - 29, 1929 RE-FUELED ENDURANCE RECORD ATTEMPT
6 DAYS, 25 HOURS, 45 MINUTES, 00 SEC.
Owen T. Haugland and P. J. Crichton flying a Cessna nicknamed "The Minnesota"
Plane crashed, killing Crichton, and injuring Haugland
Minneapolis, Minnesota

Photo: Hannepin County Library
Photo: Googlenews.com

JULY 27, 1929 ATLANTIC OCEAN CROSSING SUCCESS
Graf Zeppelin left Friedrichshafen on July 27, 1929 and crossed the Atlantic to Lakehurst, New Jersey,










Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Modern updates to an Historic Aircraft - Pt. 2

We have been following the team at Certified Aeronautical Products, LLC who is busy incorporating an electrical system to an Historic Curtiss Robin aircraft which previously was non-electrical.  For the most part, this particular airplane retains the mystique of its original instrument panel configuration.  Their challenge is to implement modern  electrical components and avionics without significant changes to the look of the airplane. We previously looked at the battery installation in Part 1.  So now, we will watch as this airplane is permanently altered with a master switch, master relay, starter relay, power buss, ammeter/voltmeter, and some important indicator lights.

CAP Technician making a permanent change to this Robin's sub-panel.
 The following standards were the rule in this job.
1) Safety and regulatory compliance are the first priorities (in that order).
2) Whenever possible, avoid alterations that change the panel and interior furnishings. (i.e. Don't drill a hole unless there is no other alternative!)
3) If altering anything, try to do so with minimal changes and try to do so in a way that retains the original "look" and feel of the airplane.

The next image shows the original instrument panel prior to alterations.  The following images show the added components.

Notice that there is a toggle switch visible on the lower sub panel in the "before" modification photo.  As it turns out, this switch (labeled "Navigation Lights") was not connected at all.  The aircraft has no navigation lights.  Aparently, this switch was added sometime in the airplane's history.  So, we decided to utilize this location for our "master" switch. This will be discussed in further detail later on.

The airplane will utilize an alternator to charge the battery during operations. The customer also requested two power receptacles (cigarrette lighter sockets).  These will be used for portable electronic devices such as a GPS or to charge cellular phones, tablets, or laptops.  Therefore, it was necessary to install a "power buss" with circuit breakers for the alternator, "power socket A" and "power socket B".

New power buss with room for expansion.
 
Power buss under the sub panel.
Mounting for the power buss was accomplished flush screws hidden behind the aircraft data plate.  The assembly is positioned with room for labeling just under the data plate.  The circuit breakers are easily seen if "popped" and convenient to the pilot for re-set. Also visible in the above photo is the combination ammeter/voltmeter instrument.  The location was chosen as the instrument may be hidden during static display by reinstalling the plastic pouch which holds the original registration certificate.  Behind the ammeter and the left rudder bar is the electrical "shunt" which is a necessary part of the ammeter/voltmeter installation.

Normal view of the instrument panel (after mods). 
Note in the "after" photo there are two indicator lights added.  One is just to the left of the hand crank for magneto booster.  This light indicates when the master switch is "on".  The other is above the starter tee-handle control to indicate when the starter is engaged.  The power circuit breakers are barely visible below the data plate.  And the new ammeter/voltmeter has been added to the lower "sub-panel".



  The last photo shows the forward side of the firewall where the electrical equipment and wiring are neatly installed.  Note the master solenoid is mounted at the right and the starter solenoid at the left.  Most of this will be hidden behind the oil tank which was removed at the time of this photo.  One more change will be necessary.  That is to change up the orientation and routing of the fuel primer and primer lines (at mid left)  for better separation from the electrical wiring. Look for further discussion of the starter switch installation (mid right in photo) in the next installment of this series.

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