This project is far from over. I am re-routing the brake lines next. I will then start installing an electrical system. There is no room at present for a starter or generator, but I can install a battery to power a small radio, intercom, and transponder. I am also planning to redo the instrument panels.

UPDATE 3-18-2011

I have been working on the instrument panels. Here is a before and an after picture of the front panel:

Before: F Panel before.jpg (163094 bytes)  After: F Panel.jpg (308580 bytes)

The white stickers in the second picture will be engraved into the copper and the background painted black. That is all that is left to do to the front. I did away with the entire vacuum system to reduce aircraft weight a bit and since it did not work anyway. The rear panel will be almost identical except in the upper right side there will be a G-meter instead of the clock. The rear panel will also have a radio and intercom mounted below the panel. This is quite tedious work. The first attempt at a panel was a dismal failure. I tried to use a hole saw and it went well for the first two holes, then disaster. I bought a tool from Chief Airparts that is made of a male and female die that uses a bolt to shear the metal. This worked much better. I can not take credit for the "engine turning" on the new panels. Todd Reick is a good friend from Springs East Airport who has a CNC milling machine. He did the engine turning for me, not just once, but twice. THANK YOU TODD! The second time was as a result of my first failure. The failed panel will become hangar art!

I have also made progress on the front panel. It is cut out and drilled. I will begin assembly of it today. I have also made the copper trim rings for the front. The radio and intercom are currently being wired by another friend, Mark Robinson from Meadow Lake Airport. As soon as I get them back I will cut the holes and mount them.

I would expect to spend some time at the airport starting next week to install the panels and generally begin the finishing up work. It is still my plan to attend the National Biplane Fly In at Junction City, Kansas in early June.

I have a lot to do to get it all together and to get the speed ring painted and mounted by that time.

There is more to come on this project! If anyone sees these pages and wants me to let them know when I have an update please send me your email address and I will be happy to let you know.

If you have any questions about what I have done or how I have done it, please don't hesitate to send me an email.

Have a great day - Bud Silvers

The Fuselage:

The rudder as you can see in the following pictures was a mess at the top. It simply needed to be removed from the airplane and the fabric stripped. I determined that the top of the main post would have to be replaced. Since funds are tight and I am retired I decided to do the work myself and find and IA who would guide me through it all. I found Jamie Treat at Kelly Airpark through the recommendation of a friend. Jamie is an IA and is great to work with. I have a lot of mechanical experience, but only a modest amount with airplanes. The leading edge of the rudder also needed to be replaced as did the two 45 degree braces. I made the parts and fitted them. I also straightened the remaining parts of the rudder. Martin Willis who is a friend and a great machinist did the welding. I had never done fabric before. Back in the late 1990's the airplane had been completely recovered with Stitts process. I read the manual, watched the video, talked with Jamie and many others, then started covering. When it was all done I was quite pleased and more importantly, Jamie was happy!

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The Fuselage continued:

Quite a few years ago I worked for Boeing in Wichita. My first job there was painting. I have also painted some boats and a few cars. Since I had some experience and had a compressor available, I decided to do the painting too. I chose not to go back to the blue and yellow training colors that were common in the 1930's. Anne and I decided to go with a scalloped paint job. I have another friend named Bob Sleeper who lives in Longview, Washington. Bob is a graphic artist by trade. You probably noticed the "Prairie Dog Works" logo when you entered this website. Bob did that for me. I asked Bob if he could take a digital picture of the airplane and change the colors so we could see what it would look like with different colors and patterns. What you see is what Anne and I decided on.

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The Prop:

It does not look too bad, but where do you go to get a Curtiss Reed prop from the 1930's repaired. Amazingly there is a WWII restoration shop and museum here in Colorado Springs. The also have a prop shop! The really amazing thing is that they are certified to work on this prop. The cost was high, but not nearly as high as finding a new prop. The result was amazing. The prop now looks like new!

The wings and gas tank:

There was one rib on the top of the top wing immediately to the left of the gas tank that was broken and bent. That was an easy fix. I simply made a new piece of wood, straightened the metal, and recovered it. There was also some minor damage to a leading edge near the top left wingtip. That required a gusset, and recovering. There were a couple of other areas on the top wing that got some fabric repair.

I had the wings hung and was ready to paint when I noticed that the fabric on the bottom side of the fuel tank did not look right. It appeared to have been seeping around the fuel outlets and the fuel gauge. I started removing a small bit of fabric to see what was going on and found something that looked like black sand. I also found rust inside the tank. I could see in the fuel neck that the tank had been sloshed with a coating on the inside. At this point I was racing the weather, since I needed 65 degrees to paint, but nevertheless the tank had to come out and get fixed. That meant remove a large amount of fabric, so I bit the bullet and did it. I am really glad now that I did. Since it was getting colder I decided to go ahead and paint the wings and figured I would paint the center section of the top wing when it was repaired.

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Finally the time came to address the fuel tank. After removing and thoroughly inspecting the tank I decided the best way to proceed was to disassemble the tank. To do this I used a carbide burr made for aluminum and an air powered die grinder. I did not want any sparks. I ground away the weld at both ends of the tank and removed the ends. The tank had 4 bulkheads inside. These were simply riveted into the tank. By removing the rivets I wound up with a long open tube. I was surprised to find that there was rust inside the tank. I was also appalled to see the results of the sloshing compound which had been used to seal the tank. Many people have told me that you can not slosh seal an aluminum tank. They are right. Note there are two pictures below where I am holding a large piece of the compound and the side which was against the aluminum is rusted! There was indeed some steel inside the tank. Every place where there was a fuel bung (all were made of aluminum) there was a steel doubler plate on the inside of the tank. There was also a steel doubler plate at the filler neck. These would have been the only source of the rust that I could find. In any case don't even think about sloshing an aluminum tank to seal it!

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The scallops were relatively easy to do, but quite time consuming to tape off. I used a flexible 24" ruler to make the curve then traced that onto masking paper to create a pattern. I used 1/8" vinyl masking tape to tape the scallops. Again this was quite time consuming, but Anne came out and helped me with the masking. It took us the better part of a day to mask the top wing. Another day to mask the bottom wings.

Once the tank was cleaned inside and out and the bulkheads had all been cleaned, I reassembled the tank. I used rivets for the bulkheads then had a friend weld the heads of the rivets to prevent leaks later. The same friend welded the ends back into the tank. While I was at it I installed a new vented filler. The tank was then re-installed into the wing and covered with Stitts, then painted. I then hung the top wing from the ceiling of a hangar and installed the cabine struts. I was then ready to start reassembling the airplane.

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The reassembly:

The top wing was slowly lowered onto the fuselage and bolted into place. A couple of days later my friend Tom came out and helped me install the lower wings and it once again looks like an airplane.

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In the meantime the Fleet did get finished and is flying again. You may wish to visit the following link to see a charity event we did:


OR Watch an excerpt from “CLIPPED WINGS” a 1937 vintage movie with our Fleet NC798V;