Mr. Birddog writes...
Let's walk the flight line.
Many of the Birddogs flying today are a true reflection of their owner's passion for owning and flying one of the longest serving warbirds in the world. However, many of the Birddog restorations - no matter how beautiful they appear on the outside - lose the battle for the judges "nod" in the interior of the aircraft.
How many times have you seen a brightly painted L-19 taxi up to the ramp, fresh out of the paint shop, sun glistening off of fresh polyerethane paint and highly polished plexiglas windows - only to view the interior of the Birddog to see acres of peeling, multi-colored olive drab paint, or worse yet, blue, brown or John Deere green paint?
Granted the interior of the Birddog is a very tough place to work with paint stripper and a spray gun - but if you are trying to win judging points, all of the time you spend cleaning and repainting the interior to the original shade of olive drab paint (34102) will pay off in the end. For you French "E" model types, I don't know if the interior was always black, or if it started off green and was then repainted black in France. My guess is that it was once OD just lfke the rest of the Birddogs. Paint stripper has the habit of ending up everywhere you don't want it... under your arms, on your face and under the floorboards. Take time to seal off the holes around the ribs and bulkhead openings on the cabin floor. Some stripper will end up under the floor, but the more of it you prevent from getting there...the easier it will be to clean up the unwanted "stripped" areas and to repaint the unintentional dribbles of stripper. Take similar precautions with your body...wear goggles for your eyes, a pair of coveralls, rubber gloves, and by all means, have a charged garden hose ready to spray on you if you get stripper accidently on your skin. I found that "Captain Lee's Spra-Strip" is some of the best stripper to use. It is easy to apply and to control, plus is is easily neautralized by water.
Invest in a handful of stainless steel tooth brushes. They are available at all welding supply houses. I take three of them and glue them together to make one larger brush about 2 x 2 inches for covering the larger areas more quickly. Once all of the aluminum is clean of paint and corrosion, take the time to acid etch and alodine the metal. Plan this stage of your restoration to be completed within a 2 or 3 day period before you apply the polyurethane primer on the interior. I found DP-40 primer is a very easy material to use and dries quickly, and once it is cured is very duarable. Within 48 hours of spraying the primer, apply the finish coat of polyurethane in OD shade 34102. This color can be mixed at your larger paint supply outlets.
I'm often asked about "flat" or semi-gloss finishes. Very flat finishes show oil and grease stains easily and they sometimes develope shinny spots when rubbed. I have found that the clean-up of my flat finish interior cna be accomplished with a rag moistened with 80 or 100 octane fuel. (don't tell the safety officer that I said that). The fuel cleans the hydraulic fluid or grease quickly, dries quickly and the odor disappates rapidly. The fluid is bad for your skin and is very flamable, so be careful.
With all of the rebuilds taking place today it's often hard to find all of the correct interior parts for your particular model of L-19 or O-1. The biggest decision you have to make is what model do I want to represent? L-19A, TO-lA, L-19E, TO-lE, L-19A (BT) L-19A(IT), 0-IG, TO-ID, 0-iD, or 0-IF? Some of these decisions will already be made for you, an example - if you have an "A" model with hydraulic brakes in the rear cockpit you will probably complete it as a TO-lA.
If you are modifying your aircraft to look like a different model, then choose one model and try to stay as close to the original as possible.
I realize that many Birddogs are just there for fun and utility and their owners are not interested in building a "show-plane" I can understand that and I sometimes wish I had another L-19 in the hanger just for fun. It is very difficult to work on a show- plane as you are constantly concerning yourself with paint chips and the "dreaded" oil drips on the belly.
How do you find diagrams of the different models? The easiest way is in my book THE LOVABLE ONE-NINER. In the appendixes there are diagrams of all the models interiors and instrument panels. Radio installations for your particular serial number can be found there too. While the complete installation of military radios is impractical because of weight and maintenance costs, the installation of the original radio heads adds greatly to the restorations originality.
Original fabric interior panels are becoming very difficult to find. While I've never found a new material that comes close to the original waxed canvas material, I have found some new manufacture fabric at a tent and awning company that would make a very nice military looking interior.
Where do you find N.O.S. (new old stock) parts? Many of the old standbys for parts are drying up. The Civil Air Patrol Suppy Depot in Amaril1o, Texas (1-800-858-4370) used to have many of the parts that are desireable for a "new"restoration, but a surge of restorations during the 70's and 80's has depleted many of the items that wore out quickly, like interior panels, air vents, primers, etc. They still have many parts, but It is uncertain how much longer that they will cdntinue to support the Birddog through their surplus sales. The Ector Aircraft Company is now out of business. The Bird Dog Aircraft Company started by Bill McBride, sold to Bill Pryor, sold again to Pete Jones has many parts still available, but due to multiple sales of the business and the costs of moving the large inventory, the prices on parts has risen dramatically in the past couple of years. Jay-Tex, JTA of Colorado, JTA all the same company, but different names, still has an impressive inventory in Fort Collins, CO. Some of their parts were made in France by Fennick Aviation but the parts are well made and would not represent a problem in using on your civil Birddog. Your A&P would be the person to contact about using the part if you had concerns. Vic Hansen in Yelm, WA has one of the larger private collections of Birddogs parts in the country. Bill Duff in Denver, CO has another store of parts and wrecked aircraft. Kris Reynolds in St. Albert, Alberta, Canada has parts for sale also, as does Monte Bowe in the Los Angeles, CA area. One of the unusual things in the Birddog parts business is that one guy will have many of the left hand parts of one Item, and another guy (usually located thousands of miles away from the first guy) will have many of the right hand parts.
While building a "like new" Birddog is not as easy as it used to be, all of the needed parts are still out there you just have to look harder and longer.
The best advice I can give anyone looking for a Birddog to purchase? Buy one that is restored to the level that you want. Even if you have to pay more for the aircraft than you think you should. If all of the restoration work is completed, all you have to do is fly It and have fun I spent seven years building my Birddog up from a pile of parts, and three more years of trying to work the bugs out of It and get it painted before we took it to Oshkosh in 1996. During all of this time my wife Ronnee and 1 were grounded and it was the pits to go to the annual Birddog fly-ins without our Birddog! Take it from me...I've been there and I have a T-shirt.
Mr. Birddog, AKA Minard Thompson
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