Fleet Dreams — Part 2

By Geoff Pritchard, EAA 348315 and Vintage 719951, Vernon Flying Club

Read Part 1 of this story from the November issue of Bits and Pieces. —Ed.

Early in 2013, with the engine crate built, a few local pilot friends were conscripted for the Kinner K-5 radial engine removal, and for the most part, everyone disregarded the subzero temperatures in my unheated hangar in order to get the job completed. Ignoring the small tools that occasionally froze to numb bare fingers, the engine was soon winched free of its mount, lowered into the waiting container, and securely bolted in. With customs export paperwork in hand, and with my 600-pound cargo in the back of my pickup, the Kinner’s travel odyssey had begun. Drop-off at the freight company proved effortless, although a change of classification from “antique aircraft engine” to mere “aircraft engine” was deemed necessary, as the word “antique” brought forth a raft of scrutiny, different coloured forms, graphs and charts, and a potential added tariff. It appeared the old engine would have to travel “economy” on this occasion.

Freshly bead-blasted crankcase ready to ship to the NDT shop.

The Kinner eventually made its way to Southern California, in twice the estimated time, though in one piece. The shop soon realized this would be another “kid at camp” engine owner, and stoically fielded my regular “newly minted radial engine ownership” questions with patience, and no doubt punctuated with regular “eye rolls” at their end, as the methodical process of overhauling the engine began. With my by now dog-eared copy of the Kinner overhaul manual sitting by the phone, I followed along with the process of mechanical renewal with all the calmness of an expectant father. I also phoned other Fleet owners who were using the same powerplant, to gain a level of reassurance that the symptoms and processes were all normal, and that everything would be fine.

Kinner radials are unique in having an individual camshaft for each cylinder.

 

The beautifully machined crankshaft looks like a modern sculpture. The Y 150 starter is disassembled next to it and ready for rebuild.

Until the inspection was completed on the crank and master rod — the critical components of a radial engine — a subtle smouldering angst punctuated my discussions, and my slightly glazed, faraway look was commented on occasionally by my wife. She was beginning to view my immersion into this vintage airplane world as akin to membership in some cult-like following, with all manner of strange mechanical mantras uttered repeatedly to strangers during long-distance phone calls.

Within a few weeks, word came that the testing proved that all parts were sound, and soon the cylinder and valve work would begin. With great relief, and with the first trimester successfully passed, I was able to relax and allow the shop to move ahead with the remaining work, and drastically cut back my calls to merely one — or two — a week.

Bead-blasted cylinder head ready for close examination.

Within four months I was at Canadian customs with my importation paperwork, anxious to retrieve my engine. When it was my turn, I stood face to face with a grimly efficient officer who proceeded to grill me as to what exactly I was importing, why, and what was it. This circular conversation went on for sometime, and the serious tone began to feel as though I was attempting to import a crate of plutonium from Russia. With a supervisor’s help, we were able to morph the paperwork to fit what I was eagerly trying to do. With a stern and exasperated look of “don’t let this happen again,” the forms were stamped, taxes were paid, and the Kinner was soon once again in my pickup and headed back to reacquaint itself with the airplane it had left behind.

The engine’s springtime return to Chestermere-Kirkby Field (CFX8) east of Calgary. Vintage bling!

This article is featured in Bits and Pieces, EAA’s newsletter for builders and aviators in Canada. Subscribe here >>

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