So if you ever take on a project like this, be aware that there will be surprises. Today is no exception. So I thought after Brent Henneman finished my welds, and the IA signed off that the fuselage was ready for final paint, I was ready to make a milestone in the restoration and begin “Building” instead of”Teardown”, well here is the story.
I reached out to Legend Aircraft Company in Sulfer Springs Tx because they have a paint booth and know how to paint tube fuselages. Darin, the Owner of Legend, told me to bring the fuselage out and they would take care of it, so Brent and I loaded it up on the truck and headed out there.
So we drove out to Legend Aircraft and unloaded the fuselage and started to carry it into the Paint shop. While doing that Darin started looking it over and his keen eye noticed some issue. First in the upper part of the cockpit he noticed one diagonal tube was bent. I have to admit that I focused on the lower sections of the fuselage because of checking for corrosion and such that I never really looked at the top. Then as Darin began looking closer and then it happened!
Darin noticed that the forward wing attach compression tube was bent downward. This make sense because the aircraft had history of groundloops and that tube would be compressed in those cases.
OK, now I feel I have been kicked in the gut! I went from feeling excited about getting this painted and starting to build, to “What the hell am I going to do now!”. Darin stated that to cut that out and replace would take a fuselage Jig. I think from his position of building new Cub fuselages each day, its no big deal, but there are not Stinson resources like that readily available.
Well I knew that this was not going to be fixed quickly, so we loaded it back onto the truck and drove back home.
Now I had to start reasearch on options. There were two camps.
#1 would be to find a replacement tube, cut the old one out and weld the new one in. I found that Univair does NOT produce this part any more, so I would have to get a used one or make one. I did find that Earl Allen had some in CA, and Steve Ruff had make some in WA.
#2 would be to “Bend” the tube back straight. This would require bolting the fuselage down to the ground, and using a winch to apply pressure to bend the tube back to original and maybe weld a re-enforcing bar on the tube.
While considering these options, I started looking for another fuslage, just so I could evaluate the cost of replacement, bending or a new fuselage. Well surprise, surprise. I find Robin Ange on Facebook is selling some extra Stinson parts. He and his Dad were rebuilding two Stinson 108s one hour south of Frankfurt Germany. Yes, I said Germany! We started talking, and this fuslage is a straight no damage history frame that was in California before it got shipped to DE. The lower longerons have been replaced and they boroscoped other tubes.
I plan to purchase his frame, and the birdcage and have it shipped to DFW. I will fly over to Germany to inspect prior to purchase. How can this be financially feasible you ask? Well I’m a Captain for Southwest Airlines so I can get back and forth to German for essentially free, and his dad is a Captain for Lufthansa so they can ship the frame via Lufthansa Cargo for an amazing price!