(Yet) another project!

So it’s been a while since the last update… What happened is that one of the members of our local EAA chapter was going to ship his home-built Sonex airplane to the mainland and sell it. A couple of us who are interested in flight training made a deal that if we each became co-owners of the plane instead, the builder (who’s a CFI) would train us to fly in it. So I quite suddenly and unexpectedly found myself owner of 1/3 of Sonex #830, N132EA.

N132EA on the ramp at Hilo airport

This lead to a flurry of activity since the original owner (Bob) was about to head to the mainland for 4 months and he needed to go through the plane with us before he left. The plane also needed some work, which we attempted to get done but ultimately failed. So, over the last month I’ve been going over the plane with a fine-toothed comb, fixing a bunch of little issues, redoing some things I weren’t happy with, etc. I’ll try to write a few posts about the work itself later.

There was a certain time pressure, because the plane does not have a hangar and is parked outside. Before he left, Bob got permission from the airport to park the plane in an unused, old building for a while so we could work under roof, but we had to get the plane out about now so that’s been my ultimate goal. Today I taxied N132EA back to its parking spot.

N132EA from a different angle.

Part of what we’ve been working on is polishing the aluminum skin. The climate in Hilo is murder on aluminum, so the entire plane had a dull, gray appearance after being parked outside for a few years. Me and my co-owner put in a good amount of hours polishing the aluminum back to a reasonable shape. It’s not anywhere near what I’d like it to be, but it turns out polishing 6061-T6 (which is a hard aluminum alloy) sheet metal is a lot of work, and with the corrosion pitting present you have to go over each area many, many times to get it looking pristine. In the end, we decided to go for “not embarrassing” rather than “wow”. But it really looks quite good, at least from a distance. At least the right side, which is done. The left side isn’t (which is why I’m not showing you that side in the pictures above…)

When I taxied out to the parking, I stopped a bit away to do a full-throttle run to see how the engine worked. We’ve done some work on the engine itself and on the fuel system, and we didn’t want to run full power inside the building we were in, blowing crap everywhere. Anyway, I tied the plane down and ran it for a minute (the engine overheats really quickly when stationary) and when I shut down a bicyclist came by outside the perimeter fence and yelled “Damn, that’s a good looking airplane! Can I take a picture?” Guess which side was facing the fence? 😉

Anyway, the plan now is for us to get the airplane back in tip-top shape before Bob comes back from the mainland in August, and then I’m going to start flight training in earnest. Before then I should also take care of the written test (which I already passed back in 2001, but the tests are only good for 2 years.) Unfortunately I have to fly to Honolulu to do the written test because there’s no one that offers it on the Big Island. If only I could fly my plane there!

Sit tight for some airplane work posts.


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