Pro-Seal: It’ll stick to anything, the label says, and that’s the truth. We’ve recently re-experienced it when Van’s Aircraft sent us a bit to re-seal the leaky right fuel tank, which was found to seep between the threaded strainer boss and the rib. Even just to set a small bead of the stuff it’s imperative that you dress out, with an apron or your worst shop clothes, and thick protective gloves, to make sure that you don’t end up sticking your skin to your project.
And Pro-Seal is one of the milder substances most who build aircraft come into contact with during the construction process. The caustic etching compounds, toxic fiberglass dust and paint fumes are all cause for boning up on how to protect yourself while working in your hangar.
I was thrilled to be handed a copy of Dr. James W. Allen’s Working Healthy: A Manual on Health Techniques for Aviators, Maintainers and Aircraft Builders halfway through our project. The thick book, written by a pilot-doctor who was inspired by his own mechanics to write, holds critical information on just how bad some of this stuff can be for your body. The good doctor lists, through tables and charts, both what common shop chemicals and procedures can do to a body, and also, more important, how to protect yourself so that your health never falls victim to the creation of your dream machine. Remember, he tells us, if you aren’t healthy when it’s finished, you may not be able to fly it!
My favorite sections of the book are on the ergonomics of both the workshop and, though we don’t often think of it, the tools we select to use. The advice Allen gives here will save you a lot of visits to the chiropractor, or worse, the orthopedic surgeon.
A dab of Pro-Seal around the opening and under the head of the strainer, and a couple of days of curing fixed our seeping fuel tank problem, as Van’s tech specialist Ken Scott advised, and after another couple of days testing the repair (by leaving the tank full of fuel and watching it), we were satisfied. The right tank was reinstalled.
Full-power tests of the engine followed. That required more stringent chocking, and even hitching the back of the airplane physically to the hangar (tying it down works, too). The good news is that the brakes work well, and the ropes never even strained during the 10-minute run (not all of that time was at 2500 rpm, and the engine was only briefly at 2700 rpm, takeoff power). Taxi tests are next.