|By Carmelo Turdo|
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.
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.