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The Aero Experience is a celebration of Midwest aviation and aerospace achievement. We invite you to join us as we explore the treasures of Midwest aviation through first-hand experiences. Our contributors take turns flying lead, and we are always looking for new destinations. Check in with The Aero Experience frequently to see where we will land today, and then go out and have your own aero experiences!

Blue skies,

Carmelo Turdo, Mark Nankivil and Fred Harl - The Aero Experience Team

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Midwest Plane Jane: Classic 1960 Cessna 172 Takes to the Sky Again After Restoration, Part 2 - Learning to Fly Again

By Carmelo Turdo
A classic 1960 Cessna 172A Skyhawk recently took to the skies again at the culmination of a new restoration program conducted in the heart of the Midwest. The product of a cooperative effort between Ambassador Certification and Consulting Services of Lee's Summit, MO and Big River Aviation located at St. Louis Downtown Airport, the aircraft has become the first "Plane Jane" success story. The early model Skyhawk, shown below, was recently transformed into a beautiful and smooth flying aircraft following a thorough inspection, repair and customization process that has become the model for another restoration already in progress. She was delivered to her new owner, Mr. Griffith Pickett, during a flight from St. Louis to Lee's Summit, MO Municipal Airport January 24th.

The aircraft at right was purchased last year by Mr. Pickett, who is returning to flying after recovering from a medical procedure. He was looking for an affordable, early model Cessna 172 with the original "steam gauge" cockpit. The price was right, but there was considerable work to be done before the aircraft could be signed off as safe to fly. It had been idle in a hangar in rural Illinois, south of St. Louis, since the 1990s with only occasional engine run-ups. The aircraft had been flown for only about 200 hours in the past 25 years, There was dry rot in the hoses and seals, a damaged aileron and pest damage to the interior. Fortunately, though, the exterior paint was well preserved, and the engine was in good condition (two very expensive items to replace). The work to make this classic 1960 Cessna 172A airworthy again was just beginning.

The sale of the aircraft was managed by Michael Jobe of Ambassador Certification and Consulting Services, and he went about the business of selecting an aircraft maintenance service provider in the St. Louis area to perform the required restoration work. The assignment was unique, being the launch of the company's "Plane Jane" Kustomization process wherein aircraft in poor or unknown condition are brought back to life for a new owner. This aircraft became the original "Jane," the proof of concept for the restoration methodology to be used in all subsequent aircraft. As he searched for a local facility providing the required depth of knowledge and attention to detail required for the restoration, one name kept rising to the surface: Paul Voorhees of Big River Aviation. Jobe met with Voorhees, and the project was launched shortly thereafter.

Michael Jobe describes the program as a start-to finish inspection and restoration process. "Before Kustomizing a plane, we absolutely must know the true condition of the aircraft. To  ensure safety of the public, we conduct an abnormally thorough inspection, going well  beyond a regular annual condition inspection. We seek to find 'hidden' safety risks on all prospective 'Plane Jane' projects. Jane had an extensive, historic story to tell." Those stories came mostly in her earlier years, where she flew tourists around Yellowstone National Park and crop dusted in Sikeston, MO. 

During the restoration, Big River Aviation replaced the windshield, floorboard, carpet, firewall, an aileron and all rubber and gasket components. They repaired the landing gear and brakes, installed flap gap seals, sent instruments for overhaul and performed many other internal servicing tasks too numerous to list here. 

Fast forward to January 24, and the aircraft is ready for delivery. The Aero Experience accompanied Big River Aviation owner and pilot Paul Voorhees on the flight from St. Louis Downtown Airport to Lee's Summit Municipal Airport, where Mr. Pickett and his wife, Janet, were waiting along with Michael Jobe. We lifted off around 10:00am, but due to unusually strong headwinds, we arrived a little after noon. The classic Cessna flew well, and Voorhees successfully tested the VOR and the wing-leveler autopilot along the way. 

In this first series of photos, we show the aircraft rollout at Big River Aviation before the flight, the thorough preflight inspection, fueling and some scenes during the flight:

We arrived after struggling through strong headwinds for over two hours. Paul Voorhees discussed the work done to the aircraft and the log book entries with owner Griffith Pickett, and they went for a short orientation flight around the local area. Pickett was happy with the transformation of the aircraft, and there may be some updates to come as it is flown more over the next year.   

The Aero Experience thanks Paul Voorhees of Big River Aviation, Michael Jobe of Ambassador Certification and Consulting Services, owner Griffith Pickett and Janet Pickett for their hospitality and assistance in our coverage of this story.    

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