Monday, June 20, 2011

Travels with Charlie!

Friday June 17th we finished a week of pushing hard, trying to get our old H-34 ready to roll to the Bonner County Fairground for the veterans standown happening Saturday the 18th.


Many volunteers worked very hard to get the last little details wrapped up in time for the event. We actually did not finish until 4:00 PM Friday night, when the tow bar was completed and attached to the helicopter.
We departed shortly thereafter.  First we had to remove one tail rotor blade as it sticks up way too high.

Tow bar laid out on floor at the Quality Collision repair shop, ready for welding.

Many thanks to James Belvail for volunteering leadership and his skill in laying out the steel and drilling the holes for the pins that hold it together. Many thanks to Dave Monte and his dog Ellie May who did the actual expert welding on the tow bar. (Actually Ellie May just supervised.).  Yet another vet was an enormous help, but asked to remain anonymous.  Where do you find men like these who will work so hard and not even want a mention in the blog?

Thank you Richard Oliver for the final cuts with the plasma torch for cutting the slots to attach the tow bar to the tie-down rings on the machine. Many thanks to John Pugh for his round trip to Cocolala to fetch his high-pressure tank so we could inflate the tires to road-ready pressure, and for running to the hardware store for the last bolt needed to secure the left landing strut oleo. And not to be forgotten, for volunteering to be the tow driver!  Russ Fankell furnished the trailer hitch.

Here is a picture of John driving Charlie to the fairgrounds,

and their arrival:

Below is our professional safety crew (Carla and Kandy) who followed along behind Charlie with their four-way flashers on to help control traffic.  We took back roads and saw very few cars.  Those few cars we did encounter, the drivers were kind enough to pull way over and give us the twelve feet we needed to pass.  We got a lot of belwilderd looks, some thumbs up. and a few people stopped their cars to take pictures with their cell phones. It is not every day you encounter a fourteen foot high, forty foot long helicopter on the road!

Unlike my usual philosophy of "It is easier to get forgiveness than it is to get permission,"  I did clear our trip with the local chief of police, and the local sheriff ( we passed right by both their offices but saw no patrol cars);  both of them said, almost casually when I asked, "Just do it!"  Love this rural community and its
can-do attitude!

The tow bar worked beautifully.  Charlie followed along like a docile dawg that she is.  Only a few times did she bounce around a bit. when going over railroad tracks or very rough pavement.  We made two precautionary stops to check and see if everything was working on this 4 mile, 15 mph trip. The wheel bearings refurbished by Roger King, and the axel wheel retaining nuts performed without a hint of a glitch.  The bearings never got even warm on the trip. The tail wheel assembly, also redone by Roger, performed like new, swiveling all the way as needed. Thank you again, ROGER KING! 

A crew went out hours before with a long stick and made sure that all wires were high enough to allow Charlie to pass underneath.  Thank you Calvin Aerni and friend Jimmy for helping with that.  We had at least 18 inches to spare all the way, and that little only once at a phone wire.

Here is Charlie at the Bonner County Fairgrounds, awaiting the arrival of over a thousand veterans who gathered for the standown.

A great big kudos to the Viet Nam Veterans Of America Chapter 890 for hosting this event; well over a thousand vets attended. The same to the Marine Corps League Detachment No.1110 for providing meals to more than 750 hungry vets on Saturday.

That is what this is all about...veterans helping veterans.

Just for those of you who think veterans associations are all about drinking and telling war stories....NOT!
Helping veterans is what we do and is what we are.

Saturday about 4:00 PM we reversed the process and dragged Charlie back to her nest at Quality Collision Repair.  She is a bit long and unwieldy, so when John started his turn across the street to set up for backing Charlie into her yard, he got just a bit close and dragged the end of the horizontal stabilizer across one of the posts in front of Quality.  OOOPS!  Looks like we will have to so a very small, quick paint touch-up Monday soonest.  Otherwise, the whole operation went perfectly.

For the several other people who helped and I have not mentioned your name, your help is greatly appreciated too.

For our next trick:  The Forth of July Parade!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Tail wheel on. 3 for 3. Ready to roll.

We got the tail wheel on yesterday.

Here is what the whole thing looks like.
Love those very authentic looking tail rotor blades, thank you Barry Gage.

John Pugh showed up again toay and started a big project.  The entire bottom of the tail section has been badly mauled by fork lifts over the years.  John is in the process of removing all the skin from our spare tail in preparation for re-skinning Charlie's existing tail bottom.  This is an enormous project.  John has lots of skill and more patience.

Note the two steel bars on the ground in front of the nose:  Today we fabricate the tow bar so we can tow the helicopter around. Richard Oliver of Quality says he will be our welder and metal fabricator.

I asked the local police chief what we need to do to keep the police department happy.  When I explained what we are planning to do he said:  "Just do it."
Then I went to the local sheriff office to see if they had any requirements form us to tow it on county roads. None!
Gotta just  love a small town in a rural area.   Lots of support for veterans.

A few days ago, when we went to a local paint shop to buy paint for touching up the red bits--the "Paint Bucket" propietor donated the paint and some brushes.  Nice folks!

Monday, June 13, 2011

It is beginning to look a lot H-34!

Roger King called today and said the main axel nuts were completed;  we met at the H-34 and here is a picture of Roger after installing the right main wheel assembly. It spins beautifully.  It reminds me of the 90 knot rolling take-offs and landings I used to do with H-34's in Viet Nam, sometimes by necessity.
(Note the helicopter is still up on blocks at this time.)

Here is a close-up of the finished axel nut product.  Beautiful work Roger!
...and he was sorry that he did not take the time to annodize it.
Here is Roger installing the left main wheel assembly.

Here is Charlie with both wheels attached.  It is beginning to look a lot like a real H-34!
Also see the tail rotor blades attached.  They are so very much like the real thing that only Igor Sikorsky could tell them from the real thing.  Thank you again Barry Gage!
Roger also completely re-worked the tail wheel assembly.  He had to improvise the top bearing; the tail wheel locking pin release is inside the struts and is completely manual, with a simple hook retainer to keep the pin extracted as needed.  You should have seen what a mess this machinery was before Roger got to it.
Roger says he put in about 16 hours in preparing and creating these works of art, and he refuses to take any payment other than to be reimbursed his out of pocket expenses.
Thank you Roger King, you are a wonderful fellow!
I  think there is a gift certificate for dinner for two at Trinity restaurant coming your way!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Here is the right side with the cargo door hung.
John at the riviting.  Got to love a guy who brings his own tool and work bench to the job.
                                          Barry and the Mrs.installing the new tail rotor blades.
Today and yesterday we got a lot of exciting work done on old "Charlie" the H-34 dawg.

Jim Locke put in an amazing feat of patience and perseverence by figuring out the multiple problems with the main cargo door and got it hung on its tracks.  It seems that some where in the past a heavy load had been dropped on the lower edge of the cargo hatch, deforming the lower track, making it almost impossible for the door to attach to and slide in its proper way.  Jim was able to correct the swerve in the track with a few careful whacks from a 5 pound sledge hammer.  This is delicate work here, folks. He was also able to puzzle out how to replace the ball bearings back into the upper track and get that reluctant track back into its groove. Then he installed two windows in the right side;  no easy task considering the old rubber seals were very inflexible and reluctant to cooperate.  Once again he showed amazing perseverance and patience.
Then he did a repair on the right side engine door and placed a new screen on one air intake. Jim is amazing! Thank you Jim!

John Pugh has put in two arduous days drilling out old rivets and putting sheet metal patches over the more serious spots of fork lift rash.  These old hulks were not treated well over the years, and no one cared if they got puncturted or bent up. He is is very talented with the sheet metal and will find lots more work here before we are done. We have been having some nice conversations while we work about places we both have both visited.  Marble Mountain being one. Thank you John!  John had some fascinating stories to tell about his recent trip back to Viet Nam as a tourist;  makes me want to go! His charming wife Candy assisted him for a while.

Barry Gage, who got his experience in Viet Nam repairing and crewing on Hiller H-23's, ( I had no idea these little things were even in Viet Nam, much less going out armed as gun ships!)  took three of the tail rotor hubs back to his shop and pressed out the bolts so he could then install the beautiful rotor blade replicas that he hand crafted out of traffic barricade plastic, and painted to look very much like the real thing.  This was a real challenge.  At first we tried to simply back out the old tail rotor blade retaining bolts, but they would not budge.  Then we tried to heat up the blade retaining hubs with propane to allow the bolts to come out.  After a hard hours work on ladders we got two bolts out;  that just was not working.  So Barry took the entire tail rotor assemble apart and took the remaining three hubs home to his shop where he used a hydraulic press to press out the bolts.  he said it took 6000 pounds of pressure to get those bolts out!  No wonder we had problems trying to do it by hand. These things are all built to very close tolerances, and sitting in the desert for decades did them no good whatsoever.

Last, but far from least, Roger King  (Shouldn't  we be calling him "SKY KING"?) stopped by a coupla days ago with a finished main axel nut;  we should have the wheels on very soon!  Roger made five, count'em: five, prototypes with his magical computer controlled milling machine before getting the magic combination of threads and diameter right.  What a challenge for Roger. And what a great help to the project.  Roger is also working on the tail wheel assembly.  Love these guys with so much mechanical talent.  My job has always been to take the machines out to the field, work them hard until broken and bring them back to the base for repairs.  I never had to worry about the repair bit.  After I wrote up the problems, I went to the bar!

Mike Kazar stopped Thursday by to get aquainted and to confirm that he is willing to pull Charlie thru town for the 4th of July parade with his Korean War vintage JEEP.  YEA  Mike!

With a bit of luck we will have Charlie in the standown at our local fairgrounds next Saturday. the 18th.

Next post:  "What's in them black boxes, anyway?"

AND, Just because I must:

If anybody would like to make a donation to this great cause, it will be tax deductible.
Send a check made out to V.V.A. chapter 890
send to:

bill collier
402 Sandpoint ave. 
No. 224
Sandpoint, Idaho, 83864

all donations will be used carefully and will be greatly appreciated.