On the Paper Trail

November 11, 2009

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June 7
On the Paper Trail

All the signoffs to make it fly

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Around 10:45 each morning at the Griffin-Spalding Airport, the rumble of tires across the asphalt signals the arrival of the UPS or FedEx truck. Most mornings, at least since early January, those trucks have delivered shipments to the AvNet hangar in Griffin, Georgia, from one of nearly 70 contributors to the 2007 sweepstakes project.

Before the parts went onto the 1977 Cessna Cardinal we're refurbishing, they were catalogued. And before they were catalogued, Field Project Manager Dan Gryder opened each box and pulled out a sheaf of papers: packing lists, invoices, installation manuals, airworthiness certificates, yellow tags, and supplemental type certificate (STC) authorizations among them. The paper was filed for a later date, when we would assemble them all for the airplane's records.

That day (I wish it only took a day) has come.

The red binders
Last week, while the technicians from Air Wrench and Don's Dream Machines worked on the airplane in the clean and spacious Precision Avionics hangar, I made tracks back and forth, covering the 50 yards between 147 Sky Harbor Way and 101 Barry Whatley Way so many times I must have laid a rut in the pavement. I also made my routine visits to the Griffin Office Depot, and the Griffin Wal-Mart.

We like simple systems for recordkeeping, and both Gryder and I are fans of what I call The Binder Method. Everything gets a plastic sheet protector and goes — alphabetized — into an appropriately colored binder: one binder for invoices, two for installation instructions, one for shop notes, and two for any regulatory paperwork.

In addition, I devoted an entire 1.5-inch binder to the packing lists from Cessna. It took me 20 minutes to sleeve the lists — there were about 50 pages of them. No, I haven't tallied the value of all those parts up yet. I'm afraid to. I'll be honor-bound to spend my summer vacation pulling parts out in Wichita for Kelly Reich and Mike Tharp in the Cessna Parts Division.

The regulatory paperwork binders include precious papers that actually make the airplane fly, according to the FAA. I'm not sure how they do this, exactly; it must be some special fairy dust that gets sprinkled on them.

Aircraft components are typically either produced by the aircraft manufacturer or by an outside source that is certified to produce those parts under parts manufacturing approval, or PMA. For each new component of any significance, from the wheels to the multifunction display, we have an airworthiness certificate, or 8130. So we have 8130s in our two regulatory paperwork binders.

Some aircraft components that weren't on the original airplane when it obtained its type certificate get added to that certificate, essentially, by way of an STC. The STCs are make-and-model specific, and the owner of the STC (i.e., Power Flow Systems "owns" the STC for the tuned exhaust going onto the Cardinal) must grant permission for a given aircraft owner to install the STC on his or her airplane. So we have STCs and authorizations in our two regulatory paperwork binders.

An overhauled part — such as the Lycoming O-360-A1F6 engine, or the prop governor we bolted on to it — also has an 8130, and, typically, a yellow tag. So we have yellow tags and more 8130s in our two regulatory paperwork binders.

For a couple of components, such as the Maple Leaf Aviation tailcone, we are following a Form 337 field approval process, or obtaining a release (called an 8110-3) from a designated engineering representative. So we have these forms in our two regulatory paperwork binders.

I think my fingers have been rendered permanently numb from sleeving papers. But to have them all organized and ready to go for the winner — it's worth it.

The master signoff
Because of the massive rework we've done on the airplane — disassembling it and putting it together again with so many new components — Gryder also figured that we needed a special system by which to track the work done on the airplane, and ensure that everything was completed, inspected, and given a final blessing before we take flight.

To that end, we have two more 2-inch binders. What's inside them should be familiar to anyone who has gone through an annual inspection, or any major maintenance. We took the parts inventory that we produced as the airplane was disassembled, and the lists of new components added to the airplane, and records of all other work completed (like the paint application), and composed them into a massive squawk list.

Each major item that came off the Cardinal carried a squawk: Do we replace it, overhaul it, paint it, or clean it up and return it to the airplane? As we reassembled the airplane, we put various A&Ps on each task: Among many other jobs, Larry Gobble, of Air Wrench, reskinned the flaps and reworked the cowling; Earl Clements installed the new seat rails; Anja Cook reassembled the rudder pedals and rigged control surfaces; and Troy Fordham installed the Skybolt cowl fastener kit.

Each technician will sign to his or her own work, and then that work will be inspected by that shop's supervising IA (an airframe and powerplant technician with inspection authority). Finally, an independent IA will look over the entire airplane, and each squawk, and provide the final QC signoff. The binders contain nearly 300 separate squawks that we've addressed, broken into categories such as airframe, powerplant, avionics, and paint.

That's the paperwork plan, and it reflects the level of detail that your Cardinal has seen since day one on the project.

Julie K. Boatman

E-mail the author at julie.boatman@aopa.org.

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