HP-24 Project

Update 25 October 2004: Twenty-hour day, eight-vehicle weekend.

Friday, 5:15 PM: Drive to San Jose Jet Center, leave my car. Doug gives me a ride around the airport in his van to National car rental. I pick up a one-way rental car.

Saturday, 3:00 AM: Start driving rental car.

We took 101 south to Pacheco Pass, crossed the hills over to I-5, and proceed south past the various stockyards. The largest of these, Harris Ranch, is the place my friends call Cowschwitz. The rental car, though somewhat small and tinny, drives along smoothly at speed and the miles fly past.

At Lerdo Highway, we lateral over to 99 South, and a few exits later get off the freeway and navigate over to Bakersfield airport.

7:00 AM: Arrive at the terminal at Meadows Field, Bakersfield. Drop off rental car.

After dropping off the rental car, I call the truck rental place, and the guy picks right up. Yes, he'll come and get us in a few minutes.

While waiting, I spend the time crawling under and around a T-38 on display at the terminal entrance. It was the second time I've ever been close to one, but the first time I was at liberty to examine one closely. Unlike a lot of fighter-on-a-stick displays, this example stood on its gear and gave me a good look at the retract mechanism.

Man, the retraction unit for that thing is slick! The wing is only about 4" deep where the gear struts fold inboard, and it looks like it was a pretty tough problem to get the actuation hydraulics and downlock system to all fit within the depth envelope. The system they arrived at is incredible in its effectiveness. The hydraulic cylinder has pivot points for the drive arm, and is so mounted on pillow blocks so that while the arm swings the cylinder rotates about 90 degrees around its long axis to tuck the arms up into the wing as the gear comes up. And you gotta know that they didn't have any 3D CAD/CAM when they designed the thing in 1956 or so. It was just a couple of smart guys with slide rules and mockups made from blocks of wood.

That T-38 is a good example of a collection of bad parts. The horizontal tail surfaces were just tacked on to the boattail, and the elevator pivot cluster was absent. Also, the wing root ribs showed some trauma that suggested either a de-mil operation or cosmetically repaired structural damage. The outboard flap hinges had been made out of door hinges, and the inboard flap hinges were omitted entirely; their place was taken by a set of angle brackets that just tacked the inboard end of the flap onto the fuselage skin. Somebody had drilled many holes in the exterior, and used sheetmetal screws to secure hooks for Christmas tree lighting to the aircraft exterior. None of the screw holes looked irreparable, but none of them were the work of someone with any respect for high-performance machinery.

When the guy from Budget truck rental arrived, it turned out that the 10' truck he brought only had two seats. Doug elected to sit on the floor between the seats.

7:45 AM: Start driving 24' box truck from Bakersfield to Tehachapi.

At the truck place, the Budget guy sent us on our way in the homeliest, worst-running truck I've ever rented. It had started out as a Ryder truck, and still had the yellow paint and Ryder graphics - except that they'd been plastered over with Budget graphics. The engine never made more than about 50 psi of oil pressure, and ran most of the time in the high 20s. We looked in the manual, and it said that the minimum oil pressure at cruise RPM was 33 psi. We checked the oil and made sure it had plenty, and then pretty much just made sure it stayed above the 25 psi line until we were rid of it. The worst thing was that the engine ran very poorly at mid-power throttle settings. It idled great, and ran OK at full throttle, but at mid-throttle assumed a shaking, stumbling chuffing mode that shook the whole truck.

9:00 AM: Arrive at Tehachapi, start loading truck

At Tehachapi we got sort of a surprise in terms of how much stuff there was to cart away. Of course, there were the two fuselage mold halves, each with its steel support truss and each being 22.5 feet long and weighing about 300 lbs. And there were the mating flange mold extensions bolted to one mold half. And of course there was the full-length fuselage plug, which with its tail spindle was about 23.5 feet long. And there was the short fuselage mold, which was about 12 feet long. And there was also the plug for the canopy frame and the two-piece mold for the canopy frame. And also the first-article canopy transparency. And also the plugs and molds and first article parts for the two nose bulkheads. I knew about all of that stuff, but somehow I had never sat down and thought about it all together. And all put together, it was pretty much a truckload in bulk if not in weight. We ended up mounting transverse 2x4 supports across the truck box, and supporting the fuselage plug and the short mold above the mold halves.

12:45 PM: Start driving from Tehachapi to Douglas Flat

We got lunch at the Raven's Nest before leaving Tehachapi, and then drove and drove north on 99. We got dinner just south of Merced, where we turned off on 59 and then drove and drove. We stopped briefly at several spots to trade off the driving, but basically just drove and drove that big chuffing piss-yellow monster until we got to Douglas Flat.

7:30 PM: Arrive Douglas Flat, rest for about ten minutes

We stopped at home for a few minutes to marshall our forces, and then set out on the last 12 miles of the mold's journey. This time Alia rode with me in the truck, since she's never ridden in something that big. At least, not something that big that isn't a school bus.

8:30 PM: Arrive Arnold, start unloading truck

Our friend Cody Harsch, who had also helped us with the wing plug layups, was already there at the shop to help us unload. Unloading went a lot faster than the loading, since there was more room and we didn't have to tie stuff down.

9:30 PM: Start driving from Arnold to Douglas Flat

The truck emptied, I drove the truck back to the house and dropped off Alia.

9:50 PM: Start driving from Arnold to Douglas Flat

With Brigitta in trail in our Volvo wagon, I drove the truck back across the Stanislaus at Parrott's Ferry, and then over to the Budget yard at Jamestown.

10:15 PM: Leave truck at truck rental place in Jamestown

We'd driven the truck for 375 miles, and used 47.6 gallons of fuel. Brigitta picks me up at the truck place in our Volvo wagon and drives me home.

11:00 PM: Arrive home, sleep like the dead.

Sunday: Go hiking out to a 1920s mining site with the family and Doug. Go to the shop, cut some rectangles of .050" and .125" 7075-T6 for an HP-18 builder. Do the first few grades of sanding on the finish paint on the bottom of the horizontal stabilizer plug.

Monday, 4:50 AM: Drive from Douglas Flat to Columbia in Subaru snow car.

5:30 AM: Fly from Columbia to San Jose Airport in commute airplane.

6:10 AM: Pick up my car at the Jet Center, drive Doug back to his home in Santa Clara. Go to work.

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page updated 25 October 2004 all text and graphics copyright (c) 2004 HP Aircraft, LLC