How I got Home from Oshkosh
How Lincoln Electric saved my bacon...
Scott Skrjanc and Joe Kolasa, the gentlemen who fixed my plane.
I first noticed "the problem" in Dixon, IL on Saturday. On rollout, the plane seemed to want to go from side to side, something it had never done before. I attributed it to the extreme crosswind that day, about 40 degrees to the runway and 20 knots. After landing, I walked around the plane to check her tires and I found it: a half-dollar sized chunk of tread was missing out of the tailwheel and cord was showing. I was done giving rides for the day. Fairchilds are known for a tailwheel shimmy and mine was no exception. I figured I had scuffed it on one of the landings.
I called my friends at Poplar Grove and asked them to check on a tailwheel for me. Seems like every year I go to OSH, I have to make this call. I landed on the grass there and taxied in. Bad news; they couldn't find one. Oh well, the tailwheel only had to last one more landing, at OSH, and I could find one there and replace it. That would be the plan.
Up to OSH we went and landed without incident. A day later, after settling in, we went to check on the tailwheel. Borrowing a jack for the Emergency Aircraft Repair tent, we hiked back to the plane. My IA friend Glenn soon had the tire off and changed. As he spun the tire to check the bearings and roundness, we were shocked to see the tailwheel sway from side to side. "This isn't good" I nodded, half-scared and half-mad at myself; I had broken my airplane. Pulling the 1x1 foot access panel off the side of the fuselage, it was easy to see the problem. The weld between the tailwheel yoke and the lower left fuselage had completely broken. It was a miracle that the whole thing hadn't broken off, forcing a rollout on the tail with the tailwheel banging against the rudder.
The broken weld: at white arrow.
Towing to Emerg. Aircraft Repair.
Time to get some help. We went and got Cy and the boys to tow her down to the Emergency Aircraft Repair building, down at the south end of custom parking and right across from our campsite. Looking at it further, Glenn decided we needed to tig weld it. Did they have a portable tig welder? Nope. All they had was gas. We didn't want to pull fabric if it was unnecessary, so we asked them to watch over her and set off on a trek. Glenn had a great idea: Let's go ask Lincoln Welding if they'd mind demonstrating their portable tig welder on my broken airplane.
We walked and walked to the Fly-Market and went to their tent. Talking with the boss, he said to go to the welding forum and ask for Joe. We smiled and sprinted away. (Trying to beat the rain.) Once there, we met Scott Skrjanc. Explaining the problem to Scott and looking sadder than a Beagle that's lost his owner, he quickly agreed that they could fix it. "Where is it, what color is it and how can I reach you?" was all he asked. "Emergency Aircraft Repair, Big red Fairchild and here's our cell phone numbers," we gleefully responded.
"I'll bring Joe. He's our best welder. He welds Nascar for fun on weekends. We'll be down either tonight or tomorrow morning. We'll call you before we come. "
"Great, thank you, thank you," was all I could say.
The next morning we were eating breakfast at the Hangar Cafe when Glenn saw Scott and Joe pull up to the repair tent. We quickly downed our pancakes and headed over there. After a short sizing up of the problem, it was decided that we would pull back the fabric, not cut it, from the tailpost forward about 18 inches. Four fire extinguishers would be on hand and well as lookouts to man them. I think the only guys not nervous about the whole thing were Joe and Scott.
Glenn and Joe discuss the problem
Joe and Scott weld the fitting.
Joe filed and filed. He welded. Not satisfied, he welded again. All I could do was pace back and forth between Glenn and my son Skyler. Finally they were finished. Glenn had a big smile. Joe and Scott were nonchalant. Just another day at work.
Well, let me tell you what they had done. They had beautifully welded the fitting. It was more than okay, but Joe being the perfectionist that he is, had welded it again. They had spent 2 1/2 hours of their time at the biggest airshow/convention in the world to fix my plane.
And they wouldn't take a dime.
I tried to pay them. They refused. I tried to buy them a steak dinner. Again, they refused. I dropped money on the ground and said, "I think this is yours." They just smiled and said "No, we do this all the time. "
So this is my effort to pay them back. If you ever need a welder, especially a portable Tig welder, please remember what kind of folks these people are and buy Lincoln Electric.
Thank you Lincoln Electric for your kindness and generosity and upholding the EAA Spirit.
Thank you Scott Skrjanc and Joe Kolasa for fixing my plane.
Thank you Glenn Peck for being such a good friend.
Places We've Been
Oshkosh 2007-The Dh-4 Saga.
Antique Airplane Fly-In @ Blakesburg 2007
Thunder Over Michigan 2006
Creve Coeur Airport
Tailwheels in the Grass
The Historic Aircraft Restoration Museum's DeHavilland Dh-4!
A Little about Me...