Resources and LInks
You cannot go to a local college or vocational school and learn how to restore aircraft. You can acquire many of the skills if you take a program for airframe and powerplant mechanics at your local technical school. But mostly the skills they teach will focus on the planes of today with their aluminum skins, turbine powerplants, and glass cockpits. The skills needed in my project are acetylene gas welding, fabric and tube aircraft structures, “steam” gauge instruments, aluminum repair, and fabric covering with its processes of gluing, rib stitching, and pinked tape along with knowledge of covering the fabric with butyrate dope or Poly-Fiber.
There are great fonts of knowledge. Find an aircraft mechanic, age 50, 60, or 90; that is the real expert. They are walking encyclopedias of aircraft of this era. They probably learned to fly in a Piper Cub. They are the pilots at your airport that fly Aeroncas, Ercoupes, Luscombes, Stinsons, Taylorcrafts, or Cubs. Find one and you are on your way. By the way, many have their FAA certificates for A&P/IA or Airframe and Powerplant Mechanic, Inspection Authorized. Technically, you cannot build, restore, or work on a certificated aircraft, but you can do the hands-on work under the technical guidance and oversight of an A&P/IA. It sounds a little underhanded but let me assure you it is not. But get the agreement with an A&P/IA before starting. You will have to get an FAA airworthiness certificate at the end of the project. And without the signoff of an A&P/IA, you cannot get the certificate.
The second great resource is the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) located in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. The “sun and the moon” for old aircraft is the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum located in Washington, DC, both the museum on the National Mall and the newest one at Dulles Airport. You have to see them. But for us, the “North Star” is the EAA. Started by Paul Poberezny in the 1950’s, the EAA made it possible for people to build their own aircraft, homebuilts or experimental, in their basement or garage. The movement became so strong that even the powerful Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) had to recognize it. Today the EAA supports all types of general aviation with a focus on building and restoring aircraft. EAA supports antiques, classics like the J-3 and Aeronca Champ, modern classics like the Cessna 152 and 172, the glass super ships like the Columbia and SR22, warbirds, and aerobatic aircraft. The Columbia started as a homebuilt aircraft called the Lancair. This is proof that homebuilts are not necessarily rickety aircraft put together with screws, tape, and glue. The most high performance aircraft on the market today started life as homebuilt models supported by the EAA. The Cirrus SR22, another competing glass super ship, has many of the same features as the Columbia. The Cirrus has been the world’s best selling four-place single-engine aircraft in the world for several years.