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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The leading edge

You are probably wondering why this posting is titled "the leading edge." An airplane has a leading edge on it's wings and how it is shaped will determine the airflow it receives to create lift which keeps the airplane in the air. There are some leading edges that are designed to produce more lift at lower speeds so planes can use shorter runways. Other leading edge shapes are designed for speed and aerobatics. Airplane designers need to understand these principals to determine the proper leading edges for the work the plane is going to perform.

A missionary organization needs proper leading as well. Just like different wing leading edges, a missionary organization's leader needs many different "edges" for the organization to run smoothly. MMS is no different. Our leader Dwight Jarboe is President and CEO of MMS Aviation. Dwight has been in missionary service 42 years filling many roles. As you see from the pictures below, he does not just sit in a large chair in a corner office but is engaged in many different tasks as he leads our organization.

Even though he's been known to play the trumpet, Dwight isn't one to "toot his own horn". He likes to showcase accomplishments of his coworkers while he stays more in the background. We are blessed to have this type of leadership and his "leading edge".

Dwight working hard at his President/ CEO duties

" Hmmm, I know that cable is in there some where "

" Well Jake, I hope you were listening the last 2-1/2 yrs. as I administer your practical exam for your A&P "

" Mornin' Phil, how's the family "

" I enjoy giving tours and talking about MMS. "

" Yep, the necessary paperwork is here for the annual inspection. "

Friday, August 8, 2014

Mercy is upon us

 Wednesday morning was filled with excitement as the distant thump of the rotors drew closer. As our eyes were drawn to the North East open sky the thumping dot grew larger and larger until the swirling wind and dust settled and the rotors worked their way to a stop next to hangar A. Out stepped two gentlemen from Mercy Air with smiles on their faces. Matthias Reuter and Michael Aebi were greeted with out stretched arms and a firm hand shake. As excited as they both are, we at MMS are that much more excited as this is a first time opportunity to share our hangar with MercyAir. They will be using our hangar to work on their newly acquired AS-350B2 helicopter which Matthias flew here from Pittsburgh. MercyAir will be using our facility to reconfigure the helicopter from a medical use to a utility used helicopter.

MercyAir was established in 1991 and they are an independent Christian humanitarian aid aviation service. Their goal is to provide lasting aid to victims of natural and human disasters in the South African region in a swift and non-bureaucratic manner. It is our desire here at MMS to use what God has given us in a way that honors Him. If you would like more information about this wonderful organization you can go to for their helicopter program and to take you to  their general site. Below is a picture of their new helicopter and following are pictures of what they do.
Matthias and Michael with the new helicopter ready to be reconfigured

Friday, August 1, 2014

Some things in life are concrete

 Our facilities manager Dave Shelly has been working very hard to set up a time to get some much needed concrete repair work done. This project is two fold, the first part of the project requires the removal and replacement of some broken concrete pads between the hangars and the second part of the project is the addition of a concrete pad for the PT6 training station that we acquired earlier this year. The PT6 training station needs to be deeply rooted as the PT6 turbine generates 750 HP. The concrete crew that is doing this work for MMS has been working together as a team for quite a while. This was evident in the seamless effort they put into it. As one crew member was breaking up the concrete another crew member was loading the truck with the broken pieces and as he drove away another crew member followed up and formed up the open spaces readying the area. The unity of a team is evidence of a deep understanding  of each individual involved. I have the privilege of watching each member of our team work together in "preparing people and airplanes for world wide mission service". Here at MMS we are always striving to have a deeper understanding of each other so that we may work in a manner that may bring glory to God and that we may be a reflection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Breaking ground by hangar C

Loading up broken concrete by hangar C

Removing and leveling dirt for the run up pad by hangar B

Breaking ground in front of hangar A

Removal of the excess dirt and concrete for the run up pad

Pouring the run up pad

Finishing the run up pad for the PT6(notice the deep anchors in place)

Finishing the prep work in front of hangar A

Let the pouring begin

We are half way there

Finally almost finished

Ahhh the finishing touches and then we are done

Friday, July 25, 2014

There is an angel among us

Here at MMS we have the great privilege of maintaining airplanes from all over the world. One of these airplanes that we are currently maintaining is an Angel aircraft. This particular airplane was designed by a missionary for missionary use. It can seat between 6-8 people. It utilizes Lycoming IO540 engines that push from behind the wing. This basically means the engines look like they are on there backwards with the props on the back rather than facing to the front. By doing this it allows for easy cargo loading in the front of the wings. These are very unique airplanes and there are only five of them in the world. The one that we have in our hangar has a serial number of #002. To learn more about these unique aircraft you can go to their website at Here at MMS we have been given the task of  preparing the airplane for export to Bolivia. Some of the tasks that we are performing are: The overhauling of both engines, the over- hauling of both propellers, the annual inspection, servicing of the struts, the fixing of some fuel seepage, and other various maintenance items as needed.

This particular airplane has been donated to South America Mission. You can learn more about South America Mission by going to their website at . Currently we have helped serve 106 missions organizations around the world with their needs. God has brought many talented individuals to serve here at MMS. Each individual brings a unique gifting and set of talents that balances the work that we do here. Part of our mission is to prepare people and we do this through a 30 month apprenticeship where they will get the necessary hands on training to qualify them for their airframe and power plant certificate, working on real air planes in a real shop. These apprentices then will move on to serve with one of the 165 Christian mission flight organizations around the world. Here is a look into part of the many projects for the Angel aircraft.
Apprentice Glen Evert seems to be up to his elbows in work
 Glen is removing old fuel tank sealant in the right wing fuel tank
Josh Adelsberger is assembling the right engine of the Angel
After assembly the right engine is now being test run to make sure that it meets the requirements. Dale Coates is monitoring all of the information on the computer you see at the right.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Something Rare at MMS Aviation: A Training Aid

MMS Aviation trains using an apprenticeship approach. Apprentice mechanics work 40-hours a week on missionary/ministry airplanes and study textbooks to learn theory outside the normal work week. If there is difficulty understanding a maintenance concept, MMS Staff mechanics gladly spend time one-on-one explaining the subject matter.

Training aids have not been a normal part of learning because the planes we restore, modify and overhaul provide needed experience. That is, except in turbo-prop engine maintenance experience. MMS does maintain a Beechcraft King Air 200 that has two Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A turboprop engines. This is extremely valuable because our mechanics see the engines in a normal environment during the airplanes phase inspections each year. However, this doesn't provide the ability for each mechanic to operate the engines and perform maintenance checks (and we're OK with that).

So, early last year MMS leadership decided to raise the money to purchase a runnable PT6A at the going retail price. AVOTEK, a company in Virginia, manufactures state of the art aviation training technology. We checked the price so we'd know how much money to raise. Before fund-raising began a company that operates a lot of these Pratt & Whitney engines heard about our plan and donated an engine for the test/run-up stand AVOTEK would build for us. This brought the price within available cash on hand.

Yesterday an Old Dominion truck (Old Dominion - Virginia - get it?) pulled up at the MMS hangar complex with our new training aid and were we ever excited!

Dave is our capable lift truck driver.
It might as well been wrapped in Christmas paper.
MMS Director of Training Bob Schwartz (left) will take the lead in developing our PT6A training program. Aircraft maintenance Supervisor Mike Dunkley has a lot of experience maintaining this type of engine and teaching others about it. Mike will work closely with Bob. Other experienced MMS staff will have input as well.
A turbo-prop engine is a gas turbine engine whose rotating core is geared down to turn a propeller. It burns jet fuel which is far more available around the world than aviation gasoline is. That's why missionary aviation organizations are operating more turbo-prop engine powered aircraft.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Engine Overhaul Tools

Aircraft engine crankcases must be separated to allow removal of the crankshaft, camshaft and other internal engine parts. Many Lycoming engines require special tools to push the crankcase halves apart. Until very recently MMS used a quickly improvised set of tools to do this. The old tools protected the engine parts from damage and undue stress, but were inefficient and had become quite worn. New factory-made tools for this operation are very expensive; however, the engine overhaul manual has pictures of the tools and a clear description of how they are used.

Several years ago money to purchase a milling machine was donated and MMS Director of Maintenance Tim Obarow is a skilled machinist. An adequate amount of heavy steel plate and some other material were purchased and Tim went to work. Using that milling machine and a lathe, Tim fabricated the various parts of the new tooling for the engine shop.

After all the parts were made, MMS aircraft maintenance Supervisor Dale Coates ordered a sturdy case to house the new engine tooling along with copies of instructions for its use. All this cost about $3,200 less than the same commercially available tooling.

After all external parts are removed from the crankcase, the plates are installed on both sides. Here Joel puts the plate on the right side of the engine.

The plates push on the long bolts that pass through the crankcase to separate the crankcase halves. As Joel and Dale begin, the case halves are still held together by dowels that align them (as indicated by the arrow in this picture).

As large nuts on the outside of the plates are tightened the crankcase halves separate until the dowels are disengaged after about 3/8" of movement. The plates are removed and the case halves are easily lifted away from the crankshaft that is bolted to the engine stand.

So, how did the new tooling work? To quote Dale, "Great!"

Monday, March 24, 2014

Horizontal Stabilizer Talk

It is said that necessity is the mother of invention. The truth of that saying is seen in the modifications MMS Aviation mechanics make to airplanes used in missionary service. In fact, the Federal Aviation Administration provides a way changes can be made to production aircraft that are approved by the FAA and issued a Supplemental Type Certificate. As in any acronym-ridden system, we simply refer to this approval as an STC.

One STC we have installed several times was developed by a company in Alaska to improve the durability of the horizontal stabilizer on Cessna 206 and 207 airplanes. The stabilizer skins are removed, new skins are installed in a slightly different configuration, and the leading edge skin is held on with screws instead of rivets. This is valuable because, when a plane is operated on unpaved airstrips, stones kicked up by the wheels and propeller blast can beat up the horizontal stabilizer leading edge quite badly.

Phil works on leading edge attachment. The yellow frame in the picture is a fixture to keep the stabilizer straight while giving good access to it for repair.
After the original aluminum sheet skins are removed the horizontal stabilizer structure is cleaned, inspected, and repaired as necessary. Additional pieces are added to hold the "plate nuts" for the leading edge screws. The leading edge material is thicker than the original and is more resistant to damage.

Josh, a LeTourneau University student on spring break, drives rivets while Phil (standing) bucks the rivets. This swells the aluminum rivet to hold the layers of sheet metal together. 
Skins aft of the leading edge skin are riveted in place as they don't need changed as often as the leading edge. With this STC installed, a damaged stabilizer leading edge can be changed with a screwdriver instead of drills, a rivet gun, and bucking bars. Considerable time is saved as well.

Bob bucks a rivet while Phil drives it with the rivet gun. The more skins in place reduces easy access for the bucking bar (a piece of smooth steel). Added concentration is often required to achieve desired results.
Riveting 101: The repeated hammering of the rivet gun on the rivet head (outside the structure) against the bucking bar (inside) swells the rivet and holds the pieces together. The FAA publishes standards the driven rivet must meet.

An FAA Advisory Circular gives guidance.