It all started about a year ago, in 2019, when a 1964 Cessna 150D was donated to Experimental Aircraft Association Chapter 534 in Leesburg, Florida.
Some people thought the plane had come to the end of its useful life, but others looked at it and said, “this can be rebuilt, but it will cost a lot.”
When viewed from 50 feet away, the plane didn’t look too bad. It was only when you got close that you began to see some of the major work that needed to be done. As someone said, “it has good bones.”
Structurally it was sound with little or no corrosion, but cosmetically it needed to be cleaned up and thoroughly checked out. Cables to control surfaces needed tightening and many other small repairs were needed.
The big expensive items it needed were an engine overhaul and new avionics.
The problem for the chapter was, “OK, now that we have this plane that’s going to cost a bundle to restore to flying status, how can our meager treasury afford this?” Short answer: It couldn’t.
The members of EAA Chapter 534 saw this as a challenge they were willing to accept and they would find a way to get this bird back in the air again.
A member of the chapter donated $5,000 as a challenge grant and within a week other members met the challenge and a total of $11,000 was raised, which almost covers the cost of the engine overhaul. Some folks, hearing about the project, donated new and used avionics.
Under the tutelage of the adult chapter members, all inspection covers were removed. The young people involved in the chapter’s Youth Aviation Program, Squadron 534, were immediately put to work cleaning up the plane, taking the cockpit apart looking for signs of corrosion and any other problems they might find.
The ultimate goal is to make the plane available to the kids to help them defray the costs to learn to fly.
How to solve the problem of the cost of having the engine overhauled was addressed by deciding to use the manpower within the chapter. The chapter is fortunate to have several members who are Airframe and Powerplant mechanics, as well as an experienced Technical Advisor, Paul Adrien, who has overhauled Lycoming aircraft engines. But only one of them had ever worked on a Continental O-200 A aircraft engine before. Steve Tilford and Paul volunteered to do the job.
It took Steve and Paul nine months to take the old engine apart to determine what parts were still serviceable, superseded, or needed to be scrapped. They then determined what new parts were needed and figured out how much it would cost to repair it. After that, Steve had to chase down parts and try to get the best possible prices, as well as have outside work done on the engine and some components.
Finally, by the end of the summer of 2020 Steve and Paul were ready to start the assembly of the old Cessna’s powerplant.
They have been working diligently for several weeks cleaning and inspecting useable parts, gathering the new engine parts, and finally putting them all together. They followed the Continental O-200 overhaul manual to the letter.
Now almost completed, the engine sits on an engine stand all shiny and new looking. However, it is missing two expensive necessary parts. It needs two Slick 4301 magnetos.
The chapter has two Slick 4371 magnetos with impulse couplings and drive gears that are not usable on the Continental engine. Both were professionally rebuilt earlier this year and are yellow tagged, which means they are ready for use. They hope to be able to swap these for the two magnetos they need. If this fails, they hope to be able to find the ones they need, new or rebuilt, at a reasonable price.
What’s that old phrase? “Beg, borrow or steal.”
The chapter is fortunate to have these two talented members who can help make the dream of flight for Squadron 534 come true and restore the Cessna 150D to flight status. This proves “where there’s a will, there’s a way.”