It’s been a busy two weeks with no rest in sight for the maintainers and aircrews of Team Six. The Fokker Ambassador and Excalibur performed simultaneous shows supporting Black and Gold demonstration teams at Jones Beach, NY, Cape Girardeau, MO. and Salute to Veterans, Columbia, Mo. Black Team and the supporting aircrew had the opportunity to perform in front of record crowds at Jones Beach, while Gold team wowed audiences in MO and jumped into a parade for Memorial Day.
As part two of our three part maintenance series, I’d like to share with our fans our process of identifying maintenance faults on aircraft while on the road and what our skilled mechanics do to keep our fleet in a high level of readiness as the air show season rolls along.
The first part of every successful flight is a thorough check of the weather, aircraft records, weight of our passengers, and all other items deemed necessary to ensure the flight is completed in a safe and economical manner.
During the trip to Jones Beach, NY, the Fokker “Ambassador” developed a fuel seep that was identified by a very small amount of fuel on the underside of one of Ambassador’s wings. After checking maintenance logs and procedures, the crew of Ambassador determined that the mission could still be conducted and the maintenance was deferred until Ambassador returned to Pope Army Air Field.
The C-31 has what is commonly known as a “Wet Wing”. Aircraft generally carry fuel in the wings and do this by utilizing either a rubber bladder consisting of several interconnected cells, or in the case of the Ambassador, a wet wing which has no internal containment system to hold all 9200lbs of fuel; that is to say, when fuel is loaded onto the C-31, it is contained only by the metal skin of the aircraft. As one can imagine, wet wings can develop leaks if inspection and access panels are not properly sealed or if a seal breaks down over time under normal use.
Repairing a leak in the wet wing of Ambassador turned out to be a time consuming process that could only be entrusted to our maintenance partners of Kay and Associates. The first step in repairing our leak was to defuel the aircraft. This is a time consuming process requiring a fuel truck to reverse its pumps and empty out all 1300 gallons of fuel. The pictures below show the required removal,repair, and reinstallation of the access panels that are located in the underside of each wing.