Nov 25 2012

Baby Ace N173DP :: I Bought It

I’ve been looking for a good project aircraft for years.  I’ve seen many listed on the different websites, but never did the elements of time, location, and cash in hand all combine in my favor until now.

On November 24th, 2012, my brother and I left Front Royal with a 20′ trailer attached to his big Ford truck and headed West into the dark, cold morning.  Our route took us north into West Virginia, then west into Maryland where we ran into light snow.  The snow continued through the mountains of western Maryland, and followed us all the way to Friendly, West Virginia along the Ohio border, just north of Parkersburg where we met Mike Stokes.

We looked the plane over and talked about it’s history and builder, Charles Pickering.  We poked and prodded at the 26-year old bird looking for anything bent, broken, or just plain weird.  When we agreed that everything was as it should be, I forked over my cash and we loaded up my new Corben Baby Ace model D, N173DP.

The airplane was built from scratch, and completed in 1986, after less than two years of construction.  Mr. Pickering built the airplane with his son at the same time that a friend of his was building another Ace.  The two men flew their planes together until the friend passed away, at which time Mr. Pickering lost interest in N173DP, and parked it with slightly less than 65 hours on the airframe.

The airplane was originally equipped a full electrical system, starter, lights, etc. and flown behind a Continental C-85 engine.  All the gizmos and gadgets (plus 10lbs of lead in the tail) brought the empty weight up to 700 pounds.  Quite a bit heavier than what an Ace is supposed to weigh.  All that weight on the nose led to at least one nose-over.

At some point, Mr. Pickering acquired a Piper J-4 Cub basket case that came with a Continental A-65.  He decided that he’d prefer the 85 on the Cub, so the Ace got the 65, and that’s the engine I bought.  No starter, no generator, not gizmos or gadgets.  The engine logs only go back to 1974, when the engine was given a Major Overhaul.  As installed on the J-4, the engine only saw about 20 hours of use before it went idle again.  The next log entry is from 1998, when new cylinders and pistons were installed.  The engine was test run only after that, and hasn’t been run since.  You can but your ass I’ll be pulling the cylinders to look for corrosion.

My intentions with N173DP are to tear it down and build it back to a fine flying machine.  Simple and light is the goal.  No radios, lights, or anything else that adds unnecessary weight.  The entire airframe will be stripped, sanded, painted, and recovered.  At the pace I work, this will be a multi-year project.  I have a job, two small kids, a busy wife, and plenty of household chores to keep me busy.  I’m looking forward to involving my family in this project as much as possible.  I want my kids to grow up remembering what it was like to have an airplane in the garage, and seeing it go from a pile of parts to a beautiful flying machine.

I will post pictures and information about the project as I move along.  Please feel free to share these posts via Facebook, Twitter, etc.  I appreciate feedback, and will surely picking a lot of brains to see this project through to completion.

Right up front I want to thank three people for their help in getting the ball rolling on this project.

First is my brother, Paul for being so generous with his time and equipment on a holiday weekend.  He drove over ten hours in one day in snow and poor visibility so I could buy an airplane.

Second is my good friend and EAA Tech Counselor Rob Brooks.  He has been a constant source of positive inspiration over the last twelve years as I’ve waffled back and forth over different planes, goals, and ideas.  He’s always willing to listen and provide solid advice, and I thank him for that.

Last, but absolutely not least is my wife, Marie.  Without her love and support, this project would have never begun.  Despite our sometimes crazy life and schedule, she understands how important it is for me to reach this goal of restoring an airplane.  She pushes me to reach my goals.




1 comment

  1. ML Blatchford

    Great account and wonderful project!

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