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Phase 12 Details


Seriously - it certainly was an interesting / busy year – what with two MRP’s planned and carried out. (One is a whole lot of headache and planning – trust me – but two?) The first reaction that was had at the notion of two very involved, time consuming and risky MRP’s was, “Pass – no thanks.”

Considering that wasn’t really an option, two plans had to be thought up very quickly and implemented) But, unlike most plans dreamed up over a cup of tea – these had to work.

At the end of both MRP’s, here’s the Bottom Line Up Front (BLUF): Both plans worked – and Able was safely moved from Kenora Airport to her final destination.

Really, though – it’s not about the destination – it’s about the journey.

You know – probably the best way to explain how the impossible was done this year is to simply read on. So, brew up a cup of tea – put your feet up – and see how we did it.

Part 1 (aka ‘The DriveEx’)

09 Jun – 17 Jun 2018

Trust me – the name is quite accurate. (The MRP started off by driving to Kenora, and quickly check out how Able survived the winter. After that, then drive from Kenora to Ladysmith WI (which is roughly 700 km) and pick up a trailer which has been specially modified to haul B18’s. Then, drive the trailer back to Kenora and do a more complete check on Able. When that is done, then drive home.)

Really, it is quite simple to say (ok – read) the previous statement fast – but in reality, it was a lot harder to do.

Initially, the first area of concern was the amount of driving. (To complete this MRP, we had to do roughly 5000 km’s of driving.) Granted, the scenery was beautiful (in both Canada and the United States), but wow – was that a lot of time behind the wheel.

Problems was another concern – both with weather and the potential of vandals. (Considering that Able was on an active ramp for almost a year.) But, Able came through the winter with minimal problems with both the weather and vandals – in no small part due to the watchful care of the Kenora Airport Staff!

Photo Credit: MWJ Balodis

Photo Credit: MWJ Balodis

Second area of concern – driving from Kenora to Ladysmith. (Most of the roads were quite nice with a lot of scenery, but they were two lanes through a lot of rough terrain – at least through that particular part of Ontario.) Driving through the United States sure was a challenge, seeing that I’d never driven through that part of the world. (And - trust me! – there was plenty of opportunity to get lost on those roads.)

Dutifully – and honestly – I did get rather lost. (And, more than once!) But, in the end, I was able to find Ladysmith. (Which meant that I was able to pick up the trailer with minimal problems.)

Photo Credit: MWJ Balodis

Photo Credit: MWJ Balodis

Unusually, the next area of concern was the trailer itself!

Length was interesting – roughly 30’. Weight – roughly 10 tons with 2 x axles and 4 x wheels. I mean, I did see the pictures of the trailer prior to purchase – but, seeing the trailer up close and personal really left a very big impression. (Right after that first impression was just how much potential there was for momentum, let me tell you!)

Crossing the border to import the trailer wasn’t a concern, either. (Although, I’m very glad that the research was done with regards to paperwork – as that had the very real potential to sideways in a hurry.)

Initially (and, perhaps optimistically) I had thought that there wouldn’t be any problems with the trailer. (But, then Fate showed up.) No – the actual problem came not long after the border was crossed. Heading north on Highway 71 (not long past the turnoff), the road very quickly became quite rough. (As it turned out, there was an increase in heavy vehicle traffic due to the re-opening of a mine in the area.)

Not long after hitting a very large (and unexpected) bump in the road, the trailer suddenly came off of the hitch at highway speed.

Earnestly, I can say that – as a Commercial Aerobatic Pilot – I’ve done and experienced things that would quite hair raising. This incident – right here – topped the cake. Trust me when I say that having a trailer that large come off the hitch at highway speed is absolutely nothing that anyone wants to experience at any point in their lives. (….zero fun….)

Admittedly, I have a great deal of training with driving (and handling trailers) through my time in the military, so I had that going for me at least. (This meant that I was able to get myself, the rented truck, and the trailer off the road safely and in one piece.) Additionally, I also had the safety chains on – which was a very large help.

Keep reading – this next part is where it got interesting. (I mean, interesting in a purely academic way – NOT something to ever experience or want to experience in a million years.) A couple of things are worth pointing out, though. The first thing to point out is location – had this happened roughly 15 minutes later up the road (instead of where it happened), I would have been driving through some fairly interesting rock cuts with a trailer off the hitch at highway speed. (This would have resulted in my being spread all over the rock cuts like strawberry jam.) The second thing that was interesting with this little heart stopping scenario was the trailer itself. Unlike most trailers (which have a wheel at the front of the trailer), this one had a skid. So, instead of the wheel (likely) breaking off – causing the nose of the trailer to dig into the road, flip over and land on the truck (thus killing me fairly quickly) – the skid took the brunt of the load. (After the whole thing was over and when I was checking out the trailer, I noticed that the post for the skid was not only peeled back like a banana, but (due to the heat of the friction) the post was still smoldering.

Enjoying a deep (and shaky) breath after all that happened – I looked up from the truck to see that I was roughly 500 meters away from the local machine shop – which meant that I could get fixed up and on the way with minimal fuss and bother.

Excellent question that has been asked: “Since there wasn’t any problem – what did the machine shop do for me?” Well, the first thing that they did was they took a welding torch to straighten out the safety chain hooks. (For ‘some reason’, they were a little distorted.)

Photo Credit: MWJ Balodis

Pausing after fixing the safety chain hooks, they then helped out with the actual reason why the trailer came off the hitch. As it turned out, there was a miscommunication between the previous owner of the trailer and myself. (That resulted in a smaller trailer ball being used.) So, the owner of the machine shop loaned me the proper sized trailer ball with no questions asked – and they wouldn’t take any payment for the work that they did on the safety chains.

Honestly, all I have to say is this, “You guys are amazing! Thank you so much for your generosity and your trust. I only hope – when I’m called to help someone like this – that I’m able to do so with the same style, grace and honesty as you. Thank you!!!!”

Open roads, safe travels and clear skies were quietly enjoyed during the very long – but thankfully – anti-climatic drive back to Kenora. (After all, one heart stopper is more than enough for a trip!)

Looking now at the photos that were taken right after I got back to the Kenora Airport, you can see that Able came through the winter (and on an active ramp) with little to no problems!

Photo Credit: MWJ Balodis

Photo Credit: MWJ Balodis

Photo Credit: MWJ Balodis

Done and done – and then it was just the ‘relatively minor’ thing of a very long drive home.

Initially after arriving at home (and the trailer was safely stored away plus all post MRP drills were done, like the Hot wash and AAR’s), all that wanted to do was just put my feet up and drink a well earned up of tea. After that cup – ok, after several cups – then the planning for the next phase had to happen.

No kidding – not a lot of fun. So, why was all this fuss done about the trailer when there was an airplane to move?

Good question. The answer? Simple – the trailer was needed to move the airplane in 60 days. (Yes, I said 60 days.)

Oh – and here’s the preview on how Able was going to move.

Photo Credit: Lech Liebedowski

Photo Credit: Lech Liebedowski

Part 2 (aka ‘The Move’)

18 Aug – 22 Aug 2018

Not much fun, that last MRP. (And, honestly, I was ready to put ‘pause’ on the whole thing for the year.) But, Able had to move by 25 Aug 18 – so we really didn’t have much of a choice. (Oh, why the specific date?) Well, when Able moved last year to Kenora, I asked for – and kindly got – one calendar year of storage. While I was exceptionally grateful for the opportunity to store Able at Kenora for a year – that also meant that when it was time to move Able, it was a ‘no fail tasking’.

And – like the first MRP of the year – this one also required a great deal of planning. (After all, in addition to the logistics of actually getting there, there was the ‘little matter’ of putting Able on the trailer and moving her in a way that I’ve never done before.)

Very, very easy to just say ‘enough’ at this point. But, still – I had to try.

‘Relatively small footprint’ – that was the intent as soon as I got to Kenora Airport. Minimal personnel involvement, minimal hassle – and then Able is moved. That noble intent didn’t last very long at all, with the Manager of Kenora Airport, two of his assistants, a fully articulated back hoe, two lead and follow vehicles (and drivers) plus me all involved in getting Able on the trailer.

Photo Credit: MWJ Balodis

Photo Credit: MWJ Balodis

Photo Credit: MWJ Balodis

Photo Credit: MWJ Balodis

Photo Credit: MWJ Balodis

Photo Credit: MWJ Balodis

Photo Credit: MWJ Balodis

Initial thoughts good – actual follow through – with 20/20 hindsight – only two things had to be changed for the original plan to work. One – the beam that Able rested on was only 10 inches wide. (It should have been 3 ½ feet wide.) Two – the ramps that Able moved up were only 10 feet long. (Doing the math for the height of the trailer, that meant that the angle was – roughly – 12 degrees.) If the ramps were 20 feet long, that would have reduced the angle to between 5 or six degrees. Ah well - ‘the road to hell is paved with the stones of good intentions!’

Looking to be as fair as possible, I really didn’t know that when the planning phase of the MRP was done.

Laughably, one thought on this MRP (at this stage of the game) could have been, “Now that Able was loaded, that’s it – right? MRP over?” (Hardly – now she had to move to her new home.)

At the beginning of this MRP (actually, months prior to it, when the paperwork was filed), I had asked for a relatively direct route to her new home. (Wide roads the whole way, no big deal.) What I got was very narrow roads with minimal / no shoulder plus very little (if any) place to pull over and check the airplane.

Photo Credit: MWJ Balodis

Very near the top of the long list of concerns, though, was the fishtailing that was happening with Able on the trailer. Not only was it ‘fascinating’ – it was downright dangerous. (Anything over 65 kph, and you were taking your life in your hands.) As a matter of fact, I was (once again) very grateful for my training. You see, the fishtailing (at 65 kph) would become so severe that there was a good chance that the truck would flip over – and have both the trailer and airplane land on me, with fairly predictable results.

Intentions being what they were – sometimes luck (fate?) plays a hand when you roll the dice this much. This worse case scenario almost happened – roughly – 5 times throughout the very long drive.

Good news, though. I’m proud to say that all of us (the Pilot Vehicle Driver, myself and the Follow Vehicle Driver) got Able to where she was going with minimal actual fuss!

Now, she’s home – and yes, it’s the same flag! Photo Credit: MWJ Balodis

Not a lot fun for the MRP’s this year. But, like I said earlier, a very interesting / busy year – and certainly worth it.

Easy to think that the majority of the hard work is done, right? Well, it is true that one part of the very hard work is done. Now the actual restoration work can start!