This is what it's supposed to look like when done!
The Saga of N3391H
A few summers ago ( too many I'm afraid ) I was lamenting to some friends that I didn't have a project and was looking for something to restore. I didn't want a basket case but something that needed a little TLC to become a butterfly.
It came almost immediately in the shape of a friend that had an Ercoupe. The little airplane had been put in flying condition several years before but had never been flown. Since then it had been sitting in the grass of a private airstrip waiting for some attention. The time hadn't been kind as it appeared that overspray from agricultural spraying in nearby fields had damaged the paint and plexiglass. Mice and birds had called the little plane home and there were nests everywhere including a stuffed engine compartment. The interior had deteriorated in the sun and had come apart. So we aired up the tires and towed it out of the grass, removed it's wings and trucked it up to Fort Wayne, Indiana. The picture was taken after we removed the cowl and all of it's occupants possessions. After having a chance to inspect it we discovered that there was more to getting it airworthy than we first expected. The FAA had issued some airworthiness directives that would require a lot of time, and it seemed as though every part we removed to inspect or clean, caused us to have to remove another.
While we worked on the wings, the fuse sat in the "Big Hangar" in Auburn in good company! A turboprop and a jet.
Once we got back to the fuselage it was apparent that the birds lost a good home. This picture was taken after most of the nesting materials were removed. When the cowling was removed, the whole compartment was packed with straw, grass and bird droppings. What a mess...
Once we got it into the shop, we went to work cleaning her up. In addition to cleaning the engine, we inspected all the other systems as well and as you can see had to remove the horizontal stabilizer and rudders. A little corrosion was found on the stab and we had to find a new one. We also did a little stripping ( the paint, not us! ) to see how it would come off.
The insides were a little dirty but we removed all the flooring seats and stuff so we could clean it up and fix what's needed.
Of course, we wanted to see if the engine was in working order so we had to replace a few things due to the damage done by the critters living in the cowling! A new ignition harness and later a carburetor overhaul improves performance.
Help from 3391H's last re-builder (Eric P.) was at hand for the big engine test. It was started by hand and the engine ran! Now that that's out of the way we can get down to some real fun.
As with any project, help is always needed. In this case we were tackling the dreaded inspection AD where we had to install 32 inspection plates in the wings. Helping out here is Mike W. The wings were spotless inside and Eric P. had done a great job in their rebuild.
Also helping in the effort were Dave B. and Ed T. It probably took more time than necessary to accomplish most tasks as we were busy telling lies like is often done when pilots get together around airplanes. We had fun anyway and that's the object!
As normal, someone always gets to crawl into tight places and Steve W. got the call. He was helping with the disassembly as we had to rebuild the master cylinder and repair the floor mounts. It only cost him $20 to get help in extricating himself from the plane. We did offer to bring him food occasionally!
Stan P. also took his time in the barrel and has been a consistent volunteer in this project. He's helped with about everything we've done so far and we wouldn't be where we are today without his help. We're not done due to me, not Stan!
Both main struts had to be rebuilt or replaced as there was some excessive wear on them. At that time we elected to install the Belleville springs instead of the rubber doughnuts normally used. Also, at this time we installed the spacer in the struts that raised the tail to it's original position when designed. When the dual fork nosegear modification had been done, it raised the nose a little and therefore lowered the tail. This causes some handling problems in crosswinds and is probably the reason some think the Ercoupe is dangerous in a crosswind. NOT TRUE! The spacer raises the mains slightly and re-establishes the design angle of attack while on the ground which solves the crosswind handling problem.
Also while putting everything back together we decided to overhaul the brakes. The concrete floor was cold in the winter and the carpets on the floor helped.
Now that the mechanical stuff is mostly done, it's time to start stripping paint. I can't think of a more miserable task and a test of your friends. If they keep coming back to help............well they're really friends
We did come up with a way to more easily get the bottom of the plane, we turned it over! It's light enough and it could be done without any damage. We were about ready to roll it in this picture. This is the only time it has been "rolled" as its not certified for it while flying!
Of course, Stan was still there..............
The final results of our efforts was a pile of shiny parts ready for cleanup and paint.
So that's where we are for now as this last year we didn't have much time to work on it. I'm flying a friend's Ercoupe and with that and the other things in my life the time just hasn't been there. We have all renewed our commitment to finish this airplane and hope to accomplish it in 2002. (Yeah I know I've said that before..............)
TO BE CONTINUED..................
This page last updated 05/25/2002