My time at home in April was split between catching up on the usual home and office duties and working on the interior of the Swift. I bought a new Garmin SL-30 communications radio for the plane along with a new Comant CI-121 VHF communications antenna and RG-400 cable to connect the two. About a month ago we had a nice warm day, so I decided to go out and work in the hangar and to start the new radio installation. First I took the old unit out, a big box com/nav unit that had long outlived it’s usefulness. The next step was to remove the old antenna and install the new one, then route the new cable along the same path that the old cable used.
I won’t say what I found when I removed the old antenna other than to say that it hadn’t been installed using the best practices. In order to correct the workmanship and install the new antenna correctly I would have to install a doubler under the antenna. That would involve stripping the ugly yellow/tan paint away from the area below the antenna before doing the riveting. Stripping the paint in just a small area and then painting a new color wasn’t a good idea, so now I was looking at stripping the ugly old paint in the aft area of the cockpit and repainting the whole thing. Now I needed to remove the shoulder harness installation, the electric pitch trim motor and lines and the rear windows. This list is not getting shorter!
Last week I finally completed the stripping process. That cleared the way to rivet in a doubler for the new antenna and to install a flush patch in the place of an ugly scab patch that had been installed on the top of the fuselage. I finished that two days before I was to leave on my next trip, then spent the next day doing a final cleaning and masking in preparation for the new paint. I chose a medium gray acrylic enamel for the project. First I sprayed on a self-etching primer, then followed with two light and one medium color coat. The blue lines you see dangling in the cockpit are the loop of the elevator trim cable and the power lines for the electric trim motor which is now sitting in the bottom of the cockpit. They are masked off with blue painter’s tape.
The painting directions said to wait seven days for the paint to cure before adding additional coats. That happens to be just the amount of time that my airline trip is taking, so when I get back I’ll evaluate whether the job requires any additional painting. If the paint coverage still looks good, I’ll remove the masking reinstall the trim and shoulder harnesses. Then I’ll get some new window material, make some aluminum frames for the inside of the window, paint them and reinstall the windows with new frames. THEN I can get back to the antenna, cable and radio installation.
Remember, when you estimate the time it will take to complete a project on an airplane, make your best guess then double it and go to the next higher unit. A one-week project will probably take you two months, if you’re lucky.