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Aircraft Recovery Operations

Graham and Jeff have worked on a number of recovery operations to return disabled aircraft to the shop. A Cessna 180 that had flipped over was dissassembled and trucked to the shop, a Cessna 150 with a folded nose gear was fitted with a new motor mount and nose strut and then flown out of the field back to the airport. The latest was an operation to recover a Cessna 185 on floats from the Willamette river.

The Incident, Saturday The Incident, Saturday

The aircraft struck an object in the river and damaged the right side float, the pilot reached the bank and tied up. By the time we reached the aircraft the right float was completely submerged.

Sunday Sunday

A crew of five was assembled and equipment transported to the river. The air tank and barrels were taken up river to the aircraft by boat. The other crew members accessed the river south of the aircraft and hiked to the location with the rest of the equipment. At the aircraft the crew filled the barrels with water and sank then next to the right float and then straped them to the float under water. Access panels on the float were removed and old inner tubes stuffed in the float compartments and then inflated. The barrels were then filled with air. As the float rose the barrels were again filled with water and repositioned lower on the float then refilled with air one at a time. As the float surfaced, the remaining water was pumped out of the float.

Floating Agian Floating Agian

With the boat the aircraft was towed away from the bank.

Down River
Towed down river the aircraft was taken to a gravel bar that was accessable from a dirt road.

Secure on the gravel bar Secure on the gravel bar

With the aircraft secured at the gravel bar the crew headed home (Okay, some of us went to the pub). Now that the aircraft was accessable from the road, options for removing it from the river were discussed and evaluated for cost. Graham and Jeff looked into patching the float and flying the aircraft back, due to the extent of the damage to the float this option was discarded. The second option was to rent a crane and dissassemble the aircraft on the gravel bar and truck it back to the shop, due to the cost of dissassembly and reassembly this option was going to be expensive. Graham contacted two local helicopter operators and discussed the possibility of lifting the aircraft with a chopper. Terra Helicopters has a Kaman Husky capable of lifting up to 4000 lbs, the estimated weight of the aircraft was under 2500 lbs. Two concerns were raised, the distance from the gravel bar to the shop which was 10 miles and the fact that the airplane had wings that could generate lift and cause the load to be very unstable. Not wanting to have the chopper pilot cut the load loose should it start flying and become uncontrolable this concern was discussed at great length. Wednesday afternoon Graham and Jeff used an ATV and sled to transport tools and equipment through the woods to the aircraft. Partially inflated inner tubes were strapped across the leading edge of the horizontal stabilizer, 4 by 4 pieces of lumber were strapped on top of the wings above the front spar. The oil and gas was drained out, the prop and seats were removed.

Thursday Morning Thursday Morning

The Kaman Husky departed the airport at 6am, Graham met the helicopter at the airplane at about 6:10. Landing on the gravel bar the rigger exited the chopper and attatched the load line to the hook. the chopper lifted off and positioned above the airplane and Graham attached the line to the aircraft. As the helicopter lifted the aircraft it rotated 90 degrees to the left and as the chopper moved forward the aircraft straighten out and followed the helicopter while water (about 800 lbs of it) drained out of the damaged floats. By 6:40 the aircraft was sitting on grass at the airport and the helicopter was shut down in front of its hanger. The helicopter pilot estimated the lift off weight to be 3200 lbs but said the load tracked very well and gave him no problems. N W Air Repair saved the customer $5000 over the estimated cost of dissassembling the aircraft and trucking it back to the airport.

A link to a video off the trip back to the airport available soon


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