Field Fixin'


We had everything but a jack- all the tools we needed to change a tail wheel on our Tundra were a set of pliers, a 3/4″ wrench to pull the axle, and a pair of 7/16″ sockets (and drive handles) to split the rims. Oh yeah – a source of compressed air to inflate the tube as well. Fortunately, the mountain ranch resort where we had landed for the evening was self-sufficient – they had to be, since the only way in or out is by air, or horse. So they had a bottle jack and small piece of plywood to keep it from sinking into the soil.

The tail wheel wasn’t actually flat – but it was getting pretty worn from lots of landing practice, so since we had a spare, and a beautiful afternoon (the flying was done for the day due to winds), we figured…why not?  The total task took about half an hour.

So when you think about putting together a tool kit for an “away mission”, think about the tasks you might need to do  in the field. A complete tool kit might sound good, but it can be heavy – so think your way through a project, and visualize what you will need. I don’t carry a complete wrench set – just the wrenches that fit the fasteners I am going to work on. If we hadn’t had the bottle jack, we would have propped up the tail by hand. Tire inflation? How about a bicycle pump?

You probably won’t be pulling a jug – but tires, leaks, and replacing missing screws are going to be high on your list. So do a little mental exercise on what you might need to accomplish – and then take just what you need.

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Paul Dye
Paul Dye, KITPLANES® Editor at Large, retired as a Lead Flight Director for NASA’s Human Space Flight program, with 40 years of aerospace experience on everything from Cubs to the Space Shuttle. An avid homebuilder, he began flying and working on airplanes as a teen and has experience with a wide range of construction techniques and materials. He flies an RV-8 and SubSonex jet that he built, an RV-3 that he built with his pilot wife, as well as a Dream Tundra and an electric Xenos motorglider they completed. Currently, they are building an F1 Rocket. A commercially licensed pilot, he has logged over 6000 hours in many different types of aircraft and is an A&P, FAA DAR, EAA Tech Counselor and Flight Advisor; he was formerly a member of the Homebuilder’s Council. He consults and collaborates in aerospace operations and flight-testing projects across the country.


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