ABOVE: Although the wings were
structurally fine, Chris wanted to make
them as perfect as they once were before
recovering them in Ceconite 102.
RIGHT: One of the things that attracted
Chris to the project was the quality of the
welding. It was "pure art," he said.
Chris got it back together in time
for April and had a ball in it that
summer. By the time Thanksgiving
rolled around, he was ready for the
“I gave in to modern times and used Ceconite 102 rather
than cotton, but the finish is butyrate dope on top of
nitrate. The rest of the airplane was old school, so going
with dope just seemed like the right thing to do.”
And so the Ace once again went out to play in the
April sunshine, a winter of rehabilitation behind it.
Come Thanksgiving, it would be time for more serious
mechanical happenings. This time it would be rebuild-
ing the engine.
“The engine was running okay, but it leaked and generally needed freshening up. I was working on my A&P
in Daytona Beach that year, so I took a Continental A- 65
and had an A&P friend looking over my shoulder while I
replaced the original crank with a flanged crank and
upgraded the engine to A- 75 standards.
Buying an Antique
Books can be written about buying any kind of project,
especially homebuilts. So, view the following checklist as a
loose guide and a starting point only.
NUMBER OF THE TYPE BUILT The market decides what is a good
airplane, both flying and building. Don’t buy an orphan, low-production airplane just because it’s cheap.
AIRFRAME CONDITION Don’t forget that it’s a homebuilt so
you look for more things than you would normally with a
CRAFTSMANSHIP This is first, last, and always. You’re less likely
to find funky parts or modifications in an airplane that shows
STEEL INSPEC TION Check the condition (rust, etc.), the quality of
the welding, edges of fittings (are they rough cut or sanded smooth,
etc.). Look for evidence of repair or modifications.
WOOD INSPECTION Again, it’s condition and craftsmanship.
Condition includes drying cracks, dry rot, evidence it has been wet,
separating glue lines, popping nails, loose rib gussets, or discolorations around bolt indicating internal rust.
ALUMINUM Look for discolorations around rivet heads indicating
the rivet has been “working.” Inspect rivet tails looking for
clinched, cold set, crooked tails. Also, watch for corrosion, sharp,
unbroken edges, or scratches in the surface.
COMPLETENESS Is the airframe missing any parts? These all have
to be replaced and purchased individually are much more
expensive than buying the airplane as a whole.
ODDBALL PARTS (non-aviation parts) It’s a homebuilt,
remember? This means anything can be, and often is, used.
Check to make sure there are no hardware store bolts or fittings
anywhere that sees a structural load.
LOCATION An airplane that’s local is a better buy because the locals
know it and it doesn’t have to be hauled far. However, always go for
condition and completeness, even if it means going cross country for it.
COST PROJECTIONS Right up front make up your mind that it’ll cost
more than you want it to so you’re not shocked when it does. Visit
www.SportAviation.org for an Excel spreadsheet that allows you to
plug in costs and have a constantly updated total.
BUILT AS PER PLANS Steer clear of modified homebuilts unless
done by a well-known and reputable source.
ENGINE Type: Is it an aircraft engine or something else? If not
aircraft, how much has it flown and how well is it engineered? If
an aircraft engine, is it one the airframe was designed for? Parts
Availability: Is the engine easily supported or does it use parts that
are difficult to find. Condition: The standard of hours flown may
not be applicable, if it has been sitting for a long time.
HOURS FLOWN No homebuilt flies enough to be worn out, but one
that has very little time on it is suspect. Why wasn’t it flown more?
STORAGE ENVIRONMENT An airplane that sat in a barn
in Arizona is subject to different problems than one stored in
PROP CONDITION Wood props don’t like moisture, nor do they
like constant high heat and low humidity. If it shows any
delamination, it has to be replaced or sent to the factory for
rebuild, which isn’t cheap.
Remember, this is just a starting point of what to look for,
but get out there and start looking in the back of hangars.
No telling what you’ll find.