A SLOSHBUCKLING BUCCANEER
trouble with the wet tropics is that they are just that -
There are certain features of QAM recoveries that are so much
a standard, we become uncomfortable if they are not present
- rain, water-filled tyres, corroded bolts and changing plans.
Consequently, it could be presumed that we were entirely at
home in the recent recovery of Lake Buccaneer VH-EJX from
Mackay. The aircraft (currently on loan to us) had moved around
the airport over the last eighteen years (not under its own
power) as the owner sought to settle his plans for it. When
I saw it last year, it was disappearing under running grass
that had climbed all over it in the Fire Department compound.
Over the years, the undercarriage legs had corroded, wheels
had disappeared, and one float had been appropriated. The
last move was dictated by the requirement of the space it
occupied for a new building. One also suspects there was a
desire to bring the occupancy to a conclusion. As Yvonne and
I drove north, the weather became more showery, until at Mackay
there was continuous overcast with periods of heavy rain for
two hours at a stretch. Consequently, as the two of us plus
Alan Graham arrived around noon, there was only an hour or
so available on the Thursday afternoon to remove the rudder.
Friday morning was lost to rain, while the afternoon allowed
enough time to remove the port wing. Ten main spar bolts yielded
to various styles of encouragement thanks to the use of "Neverseize"
when installed. Not so the rear ¼" bolt which was corroded
beyond belief. Of course, sitting on the bitumen while the
water courses over it, below a wing which is lower than your
head height, trying to convince your arms to work in directions
they were not designed for, is fairly usual to these operations.
What is different is the sight of an environmentally challenged
earthworm working its way through the water ON TOP of the
bitumen until it runs into a toolbox. After some fruitless
attempt to penetrate the toolbox, it gives up in disgust and
engages reverse to disappear back under the fuselage. Plan
A had been to carry the aircraft on a borrowed long trailer.
This was not available when needed, so Plan B was to bring
it back on a hired trailer. However, none available was long
enough for the load to be legal, so Plan C saw us book a truck
(part load on a semi) and crane to load. Saturday morning
was dry enough for the removal of the starboard wing, in the
course of which we found that half of the main spar bolts
had been inserted back to front. Maybe someone was feeling
lazy and did the easiest thing - it sure doubled the difficulty
for us. However, the job was done by 1400 hours and Alan was
able to depart for Brisbane. This left only half the tailplane
to be removed and the loading to be done on Monday. The latter
was routine enough except for the strong wind which made it
difficult to control the wings and fuselage while slung under
the crane. Delivery to Caloundra occurred on Tuesday 12th
April, rather earlier than expected, and reassembly was completed
the following weekend.