2008 Get Your Glass Sweepstakes Project Update: To reskin or not to reskin

July 2, 2008

Sweeps Update

Project Update: February 7, 2008

To reskin or not to reskin

By Ian J. Twombly

Last week we talked about the nasty surprises that can crop up after an airplane is free from its paint. While some owners come away with having to do no additional work after the airplane is stripped, many aren’t so lucky. Unfortunately, we were part of the latter group.

After the paint is stripped, and the airplane goes through a high-temperature and high-pressure wash, a thorough inspection takes place to note any damage. In our case, we knew we were dealing with at least one repair before we even bought N22ZT. The story is still a little unclear, but word on the street is one of the previous owners was taxiing too close to a fence and ended up dragging the underside of the wing along the top. Is that really what happened? Maybe. But in the end it doesn’t matter. The result is that we were faced with a scrape that started at the leading edge of the wing and went back to the aileron. Maintenance gurus assured us the airplane was airworthy, but there’s no way we would give away an otherwise pristine aircraft with a big scrape on the underside of the wing. In the end, we decided to repair the dent instead of replace the skins.

But the scrape was just one issue. When the paint was taken off, the folks at Oxford Aviation found minor hail damage on the stabilator, a dent on the other aileron, and some cracked fiberglass. Obviously decisions had to be made. First, we dealt with the control surfaces. We found the scrape under the wing did in fact go on to the aileron. That made two ailerons and one stabilator that needed to be replaced. Piper specifically states that no Bondo or other filling agents can be used on control surfaces. That means owners are left with buying new parts from the factory or getting their control surfaces reskinned.

We turned to a well-known company for the job, Williams Airmotive in Kendallville, Indiana. Roy Williams and the staff at Williams Airmotive are true professionals who can take care of any control surface need—as we’ve learned from previous experience with them for sweepstakes aircraft. I called him and they sent two reskinned ailerons and a stabilator with the trim tab they already had in stock. I think they had it in the mail before we even got off the phone. All we had to do was send our bum parts back.

With new ailerons and a new stabilator, it was time to talk fiberglass. There are a number of options in this area. The aircraft manufacturer will often stock a small amount of fiberglass parts, and there are a few aftermarket providers. For the sweeps airplane we called Knots 2U in Burlington, Wisconsin. In fact, Knots 2U didn’t just bail us out on new fiberglass for the dorsal fin and stabilator tips, they also supplied gap seals and a great new modification called a baggage door seal. Personally, one of the biggest annoyances with Piper’s is the baggage door. Sure there’s a strap that clips it to the fuselage to keep it open, but for such a great airplane it always seemed like such a low-end solution. Knots 2U came up with a better idea with its new baggage door strut. It’s simply a piston that connects to the baggage door and the doorframe, and keeps the baggage door open. Lift the door a few inches and the piston takes it the rest of the way. The piston even slows as it reaches the top so as not to slam the door open. One-handed operation for the baggage door—it’s just one of those nice, simple touches that will make this a great airplane when we’re finished.

Things are progressing

All in all, things are moving quite well on the “Get Your Glass” Archer. Although we haven’t talked about it a lot up to this point, the coordination for the panel is well underway, and the engine is already overhauled! In fact, just this week we made a trip to Penn Yan, New York, to visit Penn Yan Aero, our overhaul shop of choice. The company is as busy as ever, and every square inch of the facility is dedicated to engines—a great treat for those who take pleasure in such things. And if you thought the Catch-A-Cardinal project was all about family, check out Penn Yan Aero. Bill Middlebrook is the third-generation owner of the world-famous engine overhaul shop. His grandfather started the business in 1945. General aviation is built on families like the Middlebrooks, and we’re pleased that their 63 years of experience will be powering the “Get Your Glass” Archer all over the country this year, and for years to come for some lucky winner.

Next week: Let the painting begin

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Ian J. Twombly

Ian J. Twombly | "Flight Training" Editor

AOPA Pilot and Flight Training Editor Ian J. Twombly joined AOPA in 2003 and is an instrument flight instructor.