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!

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