Traveling Tools


Wright Tool BoxYou’ve built your airplane – now you want to travel with it. But leaving home and flying hours away is always an invitation for something to break – a tire goes flat, a spark plug fouls – alternators go quiet because a crimp came undone. Aviators have had to deal with minor mechanical inconveniences since, well, since the days of Wilbur and Orville!

I always carry a little bag of tools with me a carefully thought out assortment of wrenches, screwdrivers, pliers, and miscellaneous small parts – such as safety wire, a spark plug, a few nuts and washers in common sizes – that are guaranteed to keep me safe from any failures that would need those tools or parts. Yup – something else will always be the problem. I carry the tools nevertheless, simply so that I can look busy while pondering the problem until someone comes up and I can intelligently say that I just need one more 7/16” wrench to get the thing back in the air.

Wilbur and Orville? Yup – they carried tools as well, and wouldn’t you know it – one of their original traveling tool boxes is still in existence in their home town of Dayton, Ohio. It’s empty now – but have a look at the picture to get an idea just how much their demonstration teams carried with them when they went out on the road with an airplane. I’d bet that many modern builders could fit their entire tool inventory in that box! The really interesting thing about the Wrights’ tool set was that they were just ordinary hand tools – there was nothing really specific to aviation, because specialty aviation tools and parts had not yet been invented! It would take us a little longer to develop wrenches that fit only one specific device made by one specific manufacturer… and that cost more than an entire wheel.

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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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