Thursday… 5AM… Woke up tired and I wasn’t feeling like the drive this morning. As we head into summer the sun comes up a little earlier each day. When I leave the house now at 5:55am It’s day light out. Do 15 minutes mean that much at the end of the day? No, I guess not. I do enjoy that twilight sky right before sun cracks the horizon, makes the day seem fuller, worth more. It’s Thursday and at the Norwalk bridge traffic is backed up.
Time… Progress… We are chased from the day we are born by the pendulum-like swing of the second, minute and hour hands getting closer and closer to our necks. Time is unforgiving. It is the great equalizer. There is never enough time. Too many projects to finish. Not enough help. When there is help your out of time again. It’s hard to make progress on a project when you have run out of time before you really get started. The clock is running.
The Cancer… The Guillotine… Working on this project has taught me a thing or two about the body. Everyone working on the project has some sort of ache or pain. I have aluminum shavings embedded in my hands. Other people have bad backs. Someone has fought and or is fighting cancer. Then there is the Corsair. She is riddled with cancer. Every time we peel back a panel there is more damage that we weren’t aware of. Out back past the rudder is an aerodynamic tail cone with a light in the stinger position. Or there should have been. At some point the tail was chopped off or broken off or smashed, whatever. There was a new tail cone fashioned out of mild aluminum. Bill Dinghly worked the dented section out pretty well but when he cleaned the paint off the bottom a large patch just opened. Inside it is deeply pitted, like an organ riddled with cancer. It can be fixed, SIGH. Everything has to be fixed.
The Historian… The History… Bill is my inspiration. At 90 he outpaces most of the people I know for sheer determination. Slow but sure wins the race. I found out today he worked on the Vought F7U Cutlass. Bill is a wealth of knowledge that is truly treasured. We had a large group of visitors today, older members and new hopefuls. I was really honored to meet a gentleman named Dick Steele. Mr. Steele is a tall lanky soft spoken man with a huge smile. I was working on the rudder with Rob Brucato when I heard Mr. Steele and another man theorizing about the tail numbers. I hopped down and introduced myself. Mr. Steele recognized my name from recent story in the CT Post and we started talking. It turns out he was a Corsair Pilot. Wow! My day had just gotten a lot better. He went on to tell me about how he was in the Corsair for 4-5 months and his unit was switched out to SB2C Helldivers. It was then that an engine failure caused him to ditch in the Pacific Ocean and he counts himself lucky that his gunner was able to help him get free. Later in the 40’s he flew the F9F Panther. It was an honor to spend 5 minutes talking with Mr. Steele.
The Accomplishment… The Appreciation… Today we got the elevators off. What should have taken 20 minutes took most of the day. Every fastener is painted, rusted or corroded tight. Removing the elevator pins took a Herculean effort of using the BFH and a drift to ease them out. The elevators are in good shape except for the fabric was removed and they skinned them with tin. In the process they also removed the balance and trim tabs. This goes for the rudder as well. We will have to figure out what we will do to remedy that. The corrosion in the top port and starboard horizontal stabilizer is bad near the attachment points. We lucked out today when Gary Duhaine stopped in and gave us a hand for an hour. Gary has been absent due to… you guessed it time. There is never enough. Add in the wife, the kids, the job and there isn’t a lot of time left to work on old airplanes, no matter how much you love it. His help made maneuvering the surfaces down and off the airframe also safer and quicker.
Also we had another missing resident show up. The fuselage from a Sikorsky H-52 has returned on our trailer with a fresh coat of primer. The whirlybird guys got her unloaded and into her work bay. Now Lou and the gang can finally get the parade float project up and running. Our absent trailer had created a conundrum, one needing the other to continue ongoing work.
To wrap up today with a great note, Mr. Steele had a few private words with me after our chat. He took the time to thank me for the time I have been dedicating to the center and for helping to save the Corsair. Here is a fighter pilot, a member of “our greatest generation” thanking me. These men are my hero’s. Wow. Thank You, Sir. Let me thank every single person who shows up and gets their hands dirty, working next to me. They deserve the praise far more than I do.
Saturday… 5AM… Can’t get here quick enough!