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Month: February 2009

Cameroon Part 2 – Fabricating Parts Cameroonian Style

Not long after N211PH moved into the starting lineup, she bent that right landing gear leg again.  So now we had to decide whether to fall back on N37JN or fix the gear leg.  We chose to at least try a repair on the gear leg.  Terry and Tom reckoned they could straighten the leg but it would be weakened from bending so it would need reinforcement.  A leaf spring from a car would do.

The three of us headed to town in search of a leaf spring and some rubber strips.  Finding a leaf spring was not difficult; there is a thriving used car parts industry in Bamenda.  Finding the rubber strips was easy; there is a tolerable market for used inner tube, tire, and other rubber strips in Bamenda.  From the rubber strip shop, we headed over to a machine shop where Tom knew of a hydraulic press.  While the technician was setting up the press, I pointed out the welding machine that had an intriguing steel grounding block instead of a clamp and promptly about it.


Notice the rod and ground.

Presently, the straightening started and I stepped back and kicked what turned out to be a live welding rod into said grounding block.  It went like this: spark, zap, silence, …hilarity. They finished by cutting the spring to the shape of the gear leg and we noted that the man cut the spring freehand but still cut it straight.  He did not wear safety glasses.

After using the rubber straps to bind the leaf spring to the gear leg, we tried a taxi test and a few landings.  Everything looked good but after each landing the leg showed an increased deviation from vertical.


Checking the gear angle

So it would need more reinforcement.  Maybe a leaf spring from a truck would do.

We headed to town yet again and by the same means collected a truck’s leaf spring and four muffler clamps.  This time we headed to a different fabrication shop:  We noted the requisite live welding machine and gave it a wide berth.  They straightened the gear leg and then cut our leaf spring to the right length and width.  This time we noted that the man made the customary mark and then cut freehand, but he put sunglasses on about half-way through the job.

Clamp fitting

Clamp fitting


Look Ma, no mask.

He cuts the truck's leaf spring.

Cutting the leaf spring.

This fellow, instead of clamping the spring, however, had his companion stand on it.

We took the parts home and Terry customized the muffler clamps to fit the wide end of the leaf spring.  We clamped the spring to the leg and ran the same sequence of test.  This time, the leg gave a little and then held.  Success!

In part 3, we shall learn some small thing about trekking.

Cameroon Part 1 – Airplane Batteries in Africa

I figure there are probably some folks hankering for a recounting and a few pictures of the trip to Cameroon.  I figure there’s no way I could tell the whole story in one post.  Probably, I could tell it in three to six posts, but that would take some serious time too.  Instead, I think I’ll let the story out in the form of anecdotes as they come to me.  Herewith is part 1 of at least 2.

N211PH Repair No. 1

N211PH Repair No. 1

When we first got to Cameroon, Terry and Tom swapped out the spring steel right landing gear leg of Tom’s Glasair Sportsman (N211PH).  Then we attempted to get her running.  Amongst other problems, the battery was dead, so we went to town to seek a battery that would fit an airplane.  Keep in mind, that this is a country, larger than California, that boasts around 15 airplanes.  Naturally we went to the motorcycle battery store to look for the proper size and voltage cell for an airplane.

Searching Bamenda

Searching Bamenda

Well, would you believe that in a city of 500,000 it took us half of the day to find the only battery in town with the right length and width, but it was to high?  And would you believe that the fellow who aided us in our search offered to cut the top off the battery and shorten it for us?  As you will read in part 2, I found that these Cameroonians are skilled at salvaging parts, so I believe he would have done it and done it well too.  Since it was for an airplane, however, we declined.

In the end, N37JN had to ride the pines so N211PH could use her battery.  The latter was a larger ship and could transfer people and supplies much quicker.

Lesson 17 – Valentines Day

For Valentine’s Day, I asked the bride of my youth to fly with me for an hour.  She needs to gain some confidence in my abilities so it was an opportunity to gradually introduce her to flying in a Cessna 172 with a romantic overtone.  We started off practicing some takeoffs and landings and I soon realized that with passengers who are new to small airplanes, the pilot may need to shallow out most of his turns.  The winds were fairly gusty, they were quartering from the right, and my crosswind landings still need work, so we decided to do a little sightseeing instead.  We flew over to Omro and back to Oshkosh and then landed and let C get out while we practiced a few more crosswind landings.  My technique is getting better, but I still need to get better at correction.  I am looking forward to practicing some more.

Afterward, we stopped for dinner at Fratello’s on the Fox River and had the privilege of seeing a bald eagle.  We figured it was unusual to see a bald eagle in the city but probably the birds that normally hang out to the west of Oshskosh had come to the open water to find fish.

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