1977 Decathlon Rebuild

Bartman

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#1
Maybe like a lot of you, aviation websites are my usual destination late at night before going to bed. Classifieds sites like Barnstormers and Trade-a-plane are regular stops and one night while surfing through TAP I came across a classified ad for an 8KCAB project that had no photos and not much of a description. A call to the owner the next day went ok but there wasn't a data plate to go with the collection of parts that the guy had been sitting on for at least the past twenty years.

A few days later though he called me back to let me know that he had found it and that the logs, the airworthiness cert, and the data plate were together and legit, so I bought it.

It isn't a plane, it's what you might not even loosely refer to as a project. The fuselage is an 8KCAB though so I'm going to have a go at it and see what comes of it.

Here's the stash of parts as I came upon them on Jan 1, 2020.
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Some parts are missing, some parts are duplicates. I'm pretty sure the parts are there to build a set of new wood-spar wings including fuel tanks which can be hard to find. The tanks aren't perfect so they might have to be sent out to have dents removed and to be tested for leaks/cracks.

The parts were in Kansas, I live in NJ so there was an airline flight involved and a rental truck. Penske supplied the truck, it wasn't a good experience so take that for what it's worth.

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The fuselage had a few bent tubes so I made a side trip up to the ACA factory and dropped off the frame so it can be repaired in the original jig where it was built and they're also going to do mods to bring it up to the full 2020 standard and it'll be powder coated as well. It'll be nice to know when it's done that ACA put their stamp of approval on the frame via a yellow tag and work receipt.

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Everything else went straight into a storage unit where it'll be sorted and separated from the garbage before being brought home.

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The first step is going to be to build a set of wood-spar wings using Rainbow spars and their rib screws STC's. I'm anticipating that this will be a 150 hp Decathlon with wood spar wings and a fixed pitch prop but it's possible that there will be changes to the plan along the way and you, dear reader, shouldn't be surprised if it's a full blown 180 hp Super Decathlon with new ACA metal spar wings by the time it's done. I have a habit of letting things get out of control, mission creep I think they call it in the military. :)

Anyway, that's it for now. The factory has been in touch and they're going to rehab the fuselage for me so that is the green light I've been waiting for to officially declare that this project is a go!
 
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Bruce

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#2
Well That looked like a treasure hunt, congrats on the project. So did you get the contents of the building😳because looking at the picture there were some other treasures I see Handel bars, I think a boat, I spied some motor parts, it’s like where’s Waldo doubled with search and rescue. I ended up with this yesterday for out in WY. For when I visit. Even looks like another airframe. Did it come with motor, or just parts to one? Looking forward to the build.
 

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Bartman

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#3
that's pretty cool, I've always wanted to do an old Jeep rebuild. (y)

in the garage there were two damaged Schweizer 1-26 glider airframes, four jet skis in various stages of repair, a bass boat that got run over by another bass boat, and a '62 Corvette rolling chassis in primer with no interior. if I had the money I would have tried to buy the Corvette too!

the engine is disassembled, no crank or mags but lots of parts, no engine logs. eventually I'll send everything out for overhaul or just use it as a core to purchase an overhauled engine. will need to see what the available funding looks like when the time comes.
 

Bruce

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#4
I have one mag I removed to install sureflite eltronic and old jugs with 2400 hr and ex guides are shot if you start looking for parts, the crank will be next to impossible to find used, salvage motor is more affordable or watch the insurance sites for plane with the motor you want may come out better. The vet is a money pit unless your making street rod, going original is killer I did that with a Challenger tried to keep it original and gave up was cost prohibited so I made it a driver.
 

Bartman

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#5
this plane's going to be the same way. if I tried to do a 180 hp Super D that could be competitive with a newer factory plane I'd go broke putting all new parts on it. that's a big part of why it's going to be 150 hp, maybe with wood spar wings, maybe with new wings, we'll see. need to find two good fuel tanks first. One of mine is no good, the other is maybe no good. if I can find two fuel tanks for reasonable money then I'll be one step closer to being set on wood-spar wings, if not, then the balance move towards new wings being in play, it's a bunch of little details all being weighed at the same time to try and make a decision.
 

Bob Turner

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#6
I take aluminum tanks to a radiator shop. They do amazing work on cracks, dents, seams, and sloshing compound. You have to find a special kind of shop . . .
 

Bartman

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#7
that's a great idea Bob. there's a good radiator shop not too far from me. I'll let them take a look at the one tank and go from there. They did a good job on one of my 7ECA tanks. (y)
 

Bartman

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#8
Sent the paperwork to the FAA for registration today. Hoping to get a registration certificate without any drama so things can get rolling along. The woman that I spoke to at the FAA was very helpful, which was nice. :)
 

Bartman

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#10
Brought home most of the wing parts that I have. First puzzle to solve, which wing tips are those, pre or post 1978. Ends up they are post-1978 so that will likely direct how the wings are built since there were small differences pre-1978 and post-1978.

IMG_20200117_131019521_HDR.jpg
 

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Bartman

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#11
I learned a little something about Bellanca today. It wasn't unusual for them to make a revision to a part by erasing what they had on their originals and then redrawing what the revision was without keeping any history of the prior versions. So, if you've got a part that was manufactured a certain way but then changed, there likely isn't a document in the records at ACA that will explain what your part is or why it's different from the most recent revision.

well, huh. :unsure:
 

Bartman

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#13
are your wingtips under the fabric like a Citabria or attached after the wings are covered like the tips in the photo?

i made a lot of progress sorting through parts after that photo was taken. there will be a lot of media blasting and paint work to be done when the weather gets warm and before any parts can be assembled. many of the extra ribs are cracked so I'm going to try to learn how to do aluminum repairs to wing ribs per AC43.13. There isn't much else I can do other than to keep looking for the parts that are missing like the inverted oil system and a rudder but I'd rather not spend any more money until after things are farther along using the parts I have.

There are some GCBC parts mixed in that are going to be for sale, like a set of wingtips. Getting those sold is also going to be important until the weather warms up.

:)
 

Bruce

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#15
Check with Rainbow Ron for some used ribs may be quicker and less than you think. I have some used ailerons and elevators and maybe a rudder not sure if it’s for champ or what someone at my airport tried selling his used stuff and said either I give it away or junk it so I grabbed the pile let me see what is there I’m headed home today and will get back with you Monday.
 

Bartman

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#16
Thanks Bruce, the Decathlon elevator and rudder panels have a tube along the front of the main spar tube as a gap seal. Decathlon elevator panels also have more counterweight in the tube that runs around the front of the balance tab so they feel heavier than Citabria elevator panels.

Ron and I have been going back and forth via email. As my parts pile is separated into what can be used and what won't be used I'll be sending the list of what's available to Ron to see what it's worth to him. He's in the business for real so it helps everybody for him to have parts to sell.

Looking at the ribs last night, it looks like I have a complete set for left/right wing panels. There are a lot of extras and some of those are cracked, mostly at the front spar pass through hole. What's interesting is that I seem to have different versions of some of the ribs, some have no reinforcement in some areas, some have single doublers, some have double doublers. It all looks factory so I'm guessing they progressively added reinforcements to prevent cracking. It's all very interesting, starting with a big pile and trying to make sense of it. The factory guys are awesome, I can't say that enough. It wouldn't even be possible for me to attempt this without them being so approachable and helpful. My IA is a heck of a guy too. :) All of these people enabling my insanity, smh.