Restoring Old Aircraft Parts ( control wheel )

Written by: admin@makezilla

Picture of Restoring Old Aircraft Parts ( control wheel )

Hello to all aircraft and restoration lovers.
My name is Greg, and this is my first instructable.

I work at an aircraft salvage yard. Everyone who works here loves airplanes and the owner has several. One that I'm in love with is a 1946 Aeronca Chief. The 1946 Chief is a fabric skinned aircraft and has been re-skinned recently ( the ceconite fabric process weakens and fades over time so it needs to be redone, not like aluminum aircraft of today).

The interior is in rough shape, often bush planes are that way. I decided to give the airplane a little clean up and restore to its former glory, as close as I can get without spending a lot of money.

This instructable is about my first step, the aircraft control wheels.

Step 1: 2012 vs. 1946

Picture of 2012 vs. 1946

I chose to start with the control wheels because it's the first thing I notice when I look inside an aircraft. The second is the instrument panel.

In 1946, control wheels were metal and to make them comfortable to grip for hours they wrapped them with rope.

Unfortunately, after years of use, sweat and moisture gets trapped in the rope and rusts the wheel. After the rope frays and tatters, it looks like a rusty old frayed noose.

So here we have the cockpit of the '46 Chief when it was new. The second pic is what it looks like today, the third is how we're going to make it look.

Step 2: Removing the Control Wheel

Picture of Removing the Control Wheel

There's really nothing to removing the control wheel, one bolt, I think it was 7/16".

The only problem is the control wheel was painted on the control shaft by the looks of things, so I used a blade and elbow grease to loosen wheel from the control column. I jammed the pilots control wheel against my knee and pulled and rotated the copilots wheel to get it free.

Step 3: Removing the Wheel Rope

Picture of Removing the Wheel Rope

So , let's get that silly rope out of the way so we can clean this thing up.

The rope was attached on the back with glue so I cut a slice down the wheel with a utility knife and unravelled it as much as I could, cutting the rest free or scraping it off.

The entire wheel area covered with the rope was quite rusty, it will need a good cleaning when we get all the old paint off.

Step 4: Wire Wheel the ... Wheel

Picture of Wire Wheel the ... Wheel

Great that nasty rope is off, for our next trick, we'll get off all the tattered paint and wash the grime off the wheel.

Running the wire wheel is easy, but as you can see in the pics the paint on the inside surface of the control wheel is a bit tricky to get at, just like the paint on the spokes. We'll use another tool for that in the next step.

Get your beautiful shop assistant to clean up the control wheel with your wire wheel, and then move on to the next step.

Step 5: Drill with Wire Brush

Picture of Drill with Wire Brush

Next we use an electric drill with wire brush attachment to clean off the hard to get at parts of the control wheel.
Not shown: after wire brushing, soapy water to wash off the wheel and get ready for paint.

If you're into the au naturel look then re-install on the aircraft like that, but that will surely rust again in a year or two.

Step 6: Hang and Paint

Picture of Hang and Paint

The control wheel is cleaned up and ready for painting.

My strategy here is to hang with some wire and use spray bomb black glossy paint in two applications.

The tricky part is to make sure you get coverage on the spokes, you will have to make many passes to get all surfaces.

Also, cover up surfaces around your work area so you don't spray your lawn tractor and welder black.

Step 7: Reinstall

Picture of Reinstall

Putting the control wheel back onto the plane is simple.

I needed to sand down the control column a little bit with fine grit just to get everything to slide together nicely. Bolt it back on and a job well done.

Step 8: Thank you, please raise your hand with comments and questions.

Picture of Thank you, please raise your hand with comments and questions.

Go flying!

WARNING:
Do not go flying unless qualified under the licensing standards for your country/state/province. Do not fly in an aircraft unless it is properly maintained according to manufacturer and country standards. Do not fly an aircraft unless you are trained on the type and class you intend to fly. Do not fly an aircraft unless you are current on the type and class you intend to fly. Do not fly an aircraft in any weather or conditions you are not qualified for. Do not fly an aircraft in any weather or conditions the aircraft is not manufactured to withstand.

Thanks for reading!
I appreciate all questions and comments about planes, and my instructable.
If you know lots about Aeronca champs and chiefs I'd love to hear from you.

Cheers!

-Greg

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