Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Fun Field Trip


We recently took a trip to the nearby city airport. It's small. Okay, it's very small, but I ended up leaving quite impressed by what we saw this day.

The plane above is a Constellation. It is one of only 44 that were madeback in the 1950s. Of those original 44 planes only four still survive today. We happened to get a tour of a hanger for a company that owns three of those planes. We were witnesses to a pretty neat project being done there. 

The ultimate goal is to make one working plane out of the three they have. They have a lot of work to do though. They have salvaged parts from two of the planes (including the one pictured above) and they are using them to create a new working plane. Many pieces will be reused but many pieces are being used to re-machine new parts for the "new" plane. It is actually quite fascinating. 

I snapped the photo above as we walked under the fuselage of the plane. The plane takes up a large expanse of the hanger it is stored in. The entire body and wings are in there and it's quite a sight to see. There are many workers busily working to put it all back together - kind of like Humpty-Dumpty in a sense.

This nice German gentleman is the project manager. When we showed up out of the blue (there was a bit of miscommunication on the coordinator's part - not me - confirming our visit) he took it in stride and took about 30 kids and their parents through and showed us the whole process. My middle son - the plane-loving one - ate it all up. He could tell me what each piece was, what it did, and how it worked. I was very impressed.

In the above photo, the gentleman is holding a piece of the wing and sharing how it worked. Many of the pieces, for obvious reasons, can't just be bought at a local store. They actually have many of them created right in the hanger or they have to be custom made elsewhere. 

In fact, the white haired man in the background of this photo spends many days making the pieces being held up and shown to the group. The company actually ordered the blueprints for this plane from the manufacturer and then had the pieces they needed made off-site. However, when they arrived they didn't fit. They did this twice before realizing it would need to be a custom job done on site so that all the pieces could be made for this particular plane.

It was definitely a fascinating process to see. All the pieces being taken off this older plane above - the one being restored back to greatness - are being placed on the plane outside. Eventually a lot of the pieces will have been swapped out and the plane outside will be a non-working replica of the one inside. 

The kids were told - repeatedly - that this was a "hands-in-the-pocket" field trip and even the youngest ones did very well at not touching the pieces. However, at this point in the trip - near the end - they were given the opportunity to try their hand at restoration.

The goal for the restored plane is to be used for VIP's. I'm sure it will be a luxury aircraft. While it was originally used for passengers, it was turned into a cargo plane at one point and it is now being turned back into a passenger plane. 

You can read more about this project at their website. It is in German as it is a German-based company so you'll need to have a translating software to read it unless of course you read German and then you'll be all set. 

We ended our trip with a quick tour of the small airport. My plane kid took lots of photos of planes and parts and declared it to be one of the best days of his life. 

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