Adventures with G-AKDN - Chapter 8

Learning the art of polishing aluminum. One step at a time.

Not really knowing what we were getting into, we rented another hangar at the airport, put KDN in it, and started taking it completely apart. Removed the wings, landing gear, tail plane, vertical fin, rudder, ailerons, flaps, canopy, cowling, propeller, and seats. We ended up with a hangar full of parts, and no airplane. What have we done! This is a really big job and there is no going back.

We ripped off all the old fabric and stored the pieces so we could use them as patterns later when we got to the point of applying the new fabric. But that step seemed an awful long way off at the moment. What was good was all the structure under the fabric was in excellent condition and showed no damage or damage repairs. All the data plates and serial numbers matched and confirmed KDN was a thoroughbred thru and thru.

Setting all the parts that needed fabric aside, we concentrated on removing all the old paint from the rest of the parts. Tom warned us we would not be happy with what we were about to find under the paint. After 58 years of use there was bound to be a lot of damage and wear and tear, concealed by the paint. We were not to be dissuaded from our idea of taking it back to its original bare aluminum and green finish. He were optimistic that KDN had been cared for and maintained responsibly so we didn’t expect to find any nasty surprises.

Out came the paint stripper, rubber gloves, and elbow grease. What a terrible job to do! The fumes alone should have killed us. And the stripper burning any exposed skin has left life long scars. Had we known what we were in store for, we probably would have never jumped off this cliff. But good things never come easy. And we just got on with it. Our day jobs were so different then what we spent our evenings, weekends and holidays doing with KDN. In hindsight it forged a great friendship between James and myself. We were both out of our depth but with determination and listening to expert advice and learning many new skills, and trusting in each other, we soon found we were enjoying the experience.

The summer flew by with us doing a lot of hangar flying. As the paint came off it exposed an airframe in excellent condition. We did have Tom replace a few parts that were damaged to a point that could affect flying safety; but overall, even Tom was surprised with the fine condition. So the next step was to start polishing the aluminum. That again was a backbreaking job and very time consuming. But the more we worked on it the better the airplane looked. It was a diamond in the rough and we were starting to see it sparkle.

to be continued...

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