While attempting a landing on a grass
strip, Chuck felt the plane veering strongly
to the right. To avoid the runway lights, he
applied power in an attempt to do a
go-around. As he did this the right gear
collapsed under the belly, and the prop
struck the dirt. Fortunately, he was able
to walk away from the damaged craft
A variety of factors, including inexperi-
ence with tailwheel landings, an undersized
gear, and the flight handling of the new craft,
all contributed to the crash.
Seeing his commitment to Delta Charlie,
our family was not willing to let him get discouraged. Over the following six months, he
repaired the damaged wingtip, replaced the
metal propeller with a wooden version, and
rebuilt the landing gear to better withstand
The crash damaged two of the four belly
panels, leaving Chuck in a bind, as he no longer had the tooling to reproduce the shaped
panels. He turned to a material called Sintra,
a 6-millimeter thick PVC panel, which he
shaped using a heat gun and a plywood form
of the belly. It was then attached with Bondo
at the joints.
During the rebuild process Chuck made a
conscious effort to reconfigure the front
landing gear to buffer any future rough landings. He chose to install an Atlee Dodge
3-inch, extended landing gear. This proved
to be the most challenging part of the
rebuild, as he had to replace all of the welded
fittings on the fuselage with new ones.
With no previous aircraft building skills,
Chuck documented the entire building process and the skills he acquired, and then
organized them in a series of binders. He
now has binders with details on fabric and
covering procedures, welding, cable-fabrica-tion techniques, the rigging process, and
much more. These came in handy, especially
when doing the rebuild, serving as a
refresher of skills he had learned years ago.
October 18, 2009, Delta Charlie was back
in the air, after a six-month hiatus in flight
testing. While at times Chuck’s experience
was painful and frustrating, it was a valuable
reminder of the importance of the flight-testing process. With the knowledge gained
from his experience, the plane that emerged
at the end of Chuck’s journey was unmistakably different from the one that started it.
Top: Chuck used AutoCAD to design his instrument panel and
had all of the components cut out utilizing a CNC water jet
cutter. The oval panel that holds the steam gauges is easily
removable with two machine screws and offers easy access to
the rear of the panel.
Middle: Chuck decided to make the turtledeck a working
feature, installing a non-electric, self-contained, hydraulic
pump to operate two pistons at the hinge of the deck.
Bottom: These plywood boxes were used as a mold for the
bubble doors. The metal frames of each door were placed
inside the box, creating an air seal to the interior side. With
this in place, plexiglass was cut to fit the frame, heated in an
over-sized oven, and then blown out with pressurized air.
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