The Aircraft Repair Barn at Oshkosh is where airplanes that have mechanical problems or damage go to be repaired during AirVenture. The Repair Barn has a large collection of tools and equipment and is staffed by volunteers who help AirVenture attendees get their sick birds back in the air.
One of the airplanes that found it way there this year is a J-3 cub operated by the Lakeland Aero-Club. The club is located on the Sun ‘n Fun campus at Lakeland-Lindner airport, and has 60 high-school age members who learn about aviation by restoring and building airplanes. At present they are restoring two Taylorcrafts, and building a Sonex Motor glider.
This year marked the club’s 5th trip to Oshkosh. The young members fly to OSH in airplanes “older than their grandparents” that they helped restore. They left Lakeland as a flight of 3: 2 Cubs and a Champ.
According to club member Katie Esker the motor on one Cub started leaking oil partway to Oshkosh. Enroute, they replaced a spark plug and checked the valves on the same cylinder, and were able to make it safely to Oshkosh. Once at OSH, at the repair Barn they discovered a bent pushrod and, on further examination found that one cylinder of the Cubs engine was coming loose from the crankcase. One stud had broken, and the nut on a second stud was finger-tight.
Club president Michael Zidziunar, who is an A&P-AI, made the decision that the damage was extensive enough that it was far safer to remove the engine and overhaul it than try to repair it in place. The club members removed the engine from the airplane. It will be trucked home to Lakeland for overhaul, while the airframe remains at Oshkosh awaiting its heart transplant for the flight home.
The student-members of the Lakeland Aero-Club learned more than they expected on this trip. They learned the importance of eternal vigilance in aviation, how to respond to a problem, come together as a team, and find ways to overcome the difficulties facing them. They also learned about the way the aviation community comes together to help and support fellow aviators and airplane enthusiasts, as EAA members and volunteer came to their aid to help them get safely back in the air.
Organizations like Lakeland Aero-Club are vital to the future of general aviation, because it is from activities like this that the next generation of aviators will come.