Central Arkansas Aircraft Repair LLC

Frequently asked questions

Here are some questions we commonly receive from potential customers. I know the answers are rather lengthy, but if you take the time to read them we feel you will have a better understanding of what is involved when its time to, or you want to restore your fabric aircraft. These are the same type answers you will get if you contact us with regards to performing work for you.


Q: How much will it cost to recover my airplane?

A: This is a very broad question we always get. Several factors must be discussed before we can give a price estimate. First off the obvious, what type of airplane do you have, is it flying or a project to be hauled in on a trailer, is it damaged. Next we need to discuss the difference between a recover and a restoration. A recover job consists of, you flying your airplane to us, we disassemble, remove all the fabric, do any MINOR repairs consistent with fabric prep, clean the airframe, apply new fabric, prime and paint, assemble the aircraft, do the paperwork, and send you home a happy camper. There are a lot of airplanes out there that only need a recover. Always remember, our goal is to satisfy the customer.  Keep in mind, if decay, unknown damage or anything unsafe or unairworthy is found during a recover, we fix it.  This does make it cost more. The original estimate starts getting higher. We never know what the inside of an airplane looks like until it is uncovered. Not everyone's "creampuff" is what they think it is, although some are. Now, if you brought your pride and joy in for a recover, and you pay a visit and tell us, "While we are at it, let's upgrade the panel, put in a new windshield, new side windows, do a custom interior, send the engine out for overhaul, and do a whole list of mods and stc's I have and by the way, can you do it for the same price we have already agreed on?" We are going to need to sit down and have a discussion. This is now in the category of a restoration. A bunch of folks out there think these two words mean the same thing. They do not. When we do a full restoration on a J-3 for instance, it usually takes about 750 to 900 hours. A recover takes fewer hours. The restoration process starts with complete disassembly of everything, stripping or particle cleaning all of the steel and aluminum parts, new primer, new paint, all new hardware, new interior, new Plexiglas, new wing leading edges, new fairings, you get the idea. EVERY SINGLE PART of the aircraft is refurbished or replaced, and this costs more, usually a lot more. The end result however, is you have what is essentially a brand new airplane. Point being, some owners do not understand the difference between a recover and a restoration, or why it cost 50,000 dollars to make their beloved J-3 a new airplane from nose to tail when Joe mechanic from Rooster Poot said he could recover it for 6000 dollars. Listen to the words he used. There is a huge difference between recover and restoration. A recover is not going to make your aircraft like a brand new one in every aspect. It is just what it is, a replacement of the FABRIC, not the interior, the instruments, the brake lines, the cables etc. Apples to apples folks. I have seen a multitude of aircraft that were advertised as "fully restored." New fabric and a sheepskin seat cover is not "restored". Look around out there, you can see for yourself. We work hard to talk with our customers and find what they want in a rebuild. Its not good business to do a 50,000 dollar restoration when all the owner wanted and needed was his wings recovered. A true restoration can go as far as an owner wants it to. If you want to discard every piece of your airplane and replace them with new parts, we will do it for you. It's difficult to give a price quote over the phone without knowing exactly what the customer wants or needs. We never try to coax a customer into spending huge amounts of money if he doesn't want or need to. If you call and ask, "How much will it cost to recover my airplane?", we can give you an idea, a rough estimate. It will take longer than a 16 second phone call. The more in depth it gets, the closer it gets to a hard, fixed number.  I tell customers, "it takes 10 good customers to help your business reputation, it only takes 1 disgruntled one to ruin it". We want to be fair and honest with you. No smoke and mirrors.


Q: But Joe mechanic from Rooster Poot says he can restore my Cub for 6000 dollars, why can't you?

A: BEWARE! Make him define his definition of restore. We hear a lot of horror stories about this. Instead of telling you "Well, you get what you pay for", which is very true, and moving on, I want to discuss some real issues.  As I have already stated, a J-3 or 7-AC Champ for example, take about 750-900 hours for a restoration and maybe closer to 400-500 for a recover. If using Air-Tech or Superflite for instance, the materials alone to replace the fabric and paint will run about 3500-4000 dollars. Doesn't leave much room for labor does it. Another point to ponder, a lot of people have done fabric work many, many moons ago. If they are not familiar with the newer systems, and that's what you want, two things might happen. Number one, you are talked into using a system you really didn't want because that's what Joe mechanic is used to, its easy for him, and he tells you how cheeeeeap it is. Number two, you convince Joe mechanic to use a modern system he has never used. He tells you, "I can handle it. I've covered airplanes before." End result, you, sitting in the hangar staring at it because you are too embarrassed to take it to the monthly breakfast. Another real story we dealt with; A customer needed a cover job. He had never done any fabric work at all. A local guy tells him, "I have done lots of fabric work." He in fact had, using only one of the older style systems. The owner wanted Air-Tech. He inquired to the fabric putter oner as to his experience with Air-Tech. "They are all alike, I got this" he was told. Needless to say it didn't turn out well. You can't brush primer on, not sand it, and expect the paint to adhere using Air-Tech. You also don't brush on the paint in places and expect to keep getting work. "What happened?" you ask. We cut his new covering off and recovered it again. Big point here, if a shop tells you they can do it for a super cheap price, ask them to refer you to previous customers, tell them you want to see examples of their work, ask what kind of covering systems they are familiar with and their opinions of them. Do your homework. If you're satisfied with what you see and hear, then by all means, let them do the work. We can't work that cheap. The world is full of great craftsmen who do superb work, but not professionally. If they do it as a hobby, or sideline, fine. If they are brain damaged, and will work for peanuts, great for you. We can't run a shop doing the work we do at the prices these types work for. Normal overhead is bad enough. For example, we try to keep commonly used parts in stock. We have a complete AN hardware system, and always keep extra paint and covering products around so a customer doesn't spend his hard earned dough on shipping charges for bolts and nuts being ordered one at a time as needed. You do not, and should not have to pay for a whole gallon of paint, to paint a couple of small fairings at the end of the build. That makes for an even higher overhead for us. It's also hard to explain to people when they see a trophy winning airplane, built by the owner, and can't understand why we can't build them one for the 6000 dollars Joe mechanic says he can do it for. I explain to them, the guy that built that plane spent years making it perfect, it was his labor of love. Trust me, you don't want me to turn your airplane into my labor of love. It's hard for us to replicate that in a 900 hour build. Joe mechanic is not going to do it for you either, at least not for 6000 dollars. If you do want to spend the money we will build you a trophy winner, but you will vapor lock when you see the bill. FYI, we have had planes that we did a normal routine restoration on win trophies at their local events. We can't guarantee that on any though. Just be careful with "to good to be true" prices for this type work. There are guys out there who can, and will do it, but they are scarce. There are a lot more out there who end up getting your plane in their shop, tearing it into a million pieces, getting in way over their heads, and telling you "I can't finish this at the price I told you, come get it, I'm done with it". Another real story which happened, not involving us, but people we know.


Q: My airplane needs new fabric, but I will have more money in it than its worth after its recovered. What do I do?

A: This is an honest and valid point a lot of owners are dealing with. The aircraft market has been in the crapper since 2008 as we all know. Thank you Mr. President. This makes it tough for a lot of good owners and airplanes out there. Remember, you have to compare apples to apples. Example scenario, "My 1975 Citabria is worth 25,000 like she sits. If I spend another 25,000, it won't bring 50,000 if I sell it." True, but if your 1975 Citabria goes through our shop and you spend say, 40,000 or more on a restoration, now you have essentially a new aircraft top to bottom. A little more money and you have metal spar wings and a new rebuilt engine. Now compare that to a new 2014 American Champion Citabria at a cost of 140,000 or better, you're not in such bad shape after all. Your 1975 plane is every bit as new except what the data tag and tachometer read. Apples to apples. Both a recover and a restoration will increase the value of your aircraft, I just can't guarantee how much. Remember, you can't go find a project, buy it, pay a professional shop to build it, and be able to sell it and make a huge profit. If that could be done on all airplanes out there, I wouldn't be working for the public. It can be done on some airplanes though, a PA-18 is a perfect example. I had an actual conversation with a gentleman inquiring about some work. Here is his dilemma; He has a Tri-Pacer, (not picking on this airplane, I love all airplanes), its an average, vfr, fun weekend flier. It has a mid-time engine, nothing fancy. On the market, its honest value is probably in the 15,000 to 17,000 dollar range. (owners words, not mine) His fabric failed a punch test. He NEEDS fabric, not "wants to make it pretty". If he spends 25,000 dollars to recover, it's probably not going to be worth 40,000 dollars, or sell for that amount when its finished. This is a real life situation facing a lot of owners. Unfortunately, we don't have a good answer yet. You as an owner have to look at what you want out of your aircraft. If you don't fly a lot but you're not ready to hang up your parachute, it might be time to sell and let the next guy deal with it. Acquire yourself a new money pit. I know it's not that simple or easy, but it would take years to fully debate that point. If your plane is a family heirloom, or has deep sentimental value, spend the money if you can. Sure your upside down in it, but if your not planning on ever letting another owner violate and molest your pride and joy, and your livelihood is not buying and selling aircraft, who cares. It will look like a million bucks, and you will have a major part of your aircraft's well being taken care of for the next 20 years or so. As I already stated, it will increase the value, some. You just can't rely on it as "money in the bank". There is always the option of tackling it yourself. It is a daunting task, and it may not turn out perfect or like you want it, but you have saved some dollars you may not have had to spend in the first place. You might find someone locally who has done fabric work and is willing to help. One of those guys who does it for fun, or a hobby. Attend a fabric seminar at Oshkosh or an EAA chapter maybe, get an idea of what lays ahead. Fabric work is within the reach of some owners, with some learning and research. I will state again, IT IS A BIG UNDERTAKING. Also remember, if you are not a licensed mechanic, someone has to sign off your work. That's a biggie. We have taken over several projects when the owner got in over his head. There are lots of smelly chemicals, ruined clothing, your wife mumbles a lot, uses words like "moron, lunatic, brain damage" etc. You might consider having a piece at a time done. Most of the time if a fabric aircraft fails a punch test, the whole thing does not fail, just parts of it. Maybe the first step is to pull the wings off and have them done. Next winter do the tail feathers, you get the idea. It's not the perfect scenario but it will work. Recovering a fabric aircraft is probably the biggest maintenance cost, next to an engine rebuild, facing most owners. Facts are facts. Yes it cost a lot, but it wont fly without fabric, and the FAA says the fabric must meet their criteria and pass their tests. Everything cost more than it did in the past. That's why Joe mechanic from Rooster Poot still thinks he can cover your plane for six grand. Great Caesar's ghost, the last cover job he probably did was in 1972. I have said this a million times to owners, you can't compare what you paid, or what the previous owner said he paid to have your aircraft recovered back during the Nixon administration. Its 2013, times have changed. One gallon of red Air-Tech paint is bumping 300 dollars and that's without the hardener, accelerator, and reducer. Yes, it takes more than one gallon of paint to cover an entire airplane. We have taken in several projects that were started by shops like this. You end up paying their bills month after month while they dodge your phone calls, disappear when you come to visit, and have no answer to why you are 15,000 over the initial quote of 6000 dollars. Result, burned bridge. We deal with rising cost of raw parts and products on a weekly basis. Yes, prices change from week to week sometimes. Call up Wag-Aero, or Aircraft Spruce, and order something with your tattered 1987 catalog, or even your 2010 catalog and see what happened to the price. I am not bashing them by no means, they send us Christmas cards. I talk with potential customers all the time about this issue. A recover or restoration costs a lot of money. We are not the most expensive shop in the country, but we are not the cheapest either. You do get what you pay for, and we have spent over 25 years learning to "do it" right. Maybe you want us to just do the fabric and paint work on your airplane and you do the disassembly, cleaning and prep, and reassembly. We will work with you. There is always more than one way to skin a cat.


Q: Well mister smarty pants, how much do you charge?

A: Please sir, how could you talk to a lady like that. Our shop has an hourly rate that is discussed with customers on an individual basis. Now before you burn a bearing out because you think your buddy got a cheaper rate than you did, let me discuss this area. Its hard to have absolutely one rate. For example, you fly in with your Cub. You have a new, life changing prop in the front seat and you want it installed. Installation and paperwork will probably only take a couple of hours. Your buddy flies in with his Cub but he wants a ground up restoration. There is a difference. If I charged you, FOR EXAMPLE, 75.00 per hour to change your prop and do the required paperwork, you spent about 150 to 200 bucks. You're happy, I'm happy. If I tell your buddy his 900 hour restoration is going to cost 75.00 per hour, I'm going to have to pump his chest in the floor of the shop office. You see my point here. We try to price accordingly. Yes, it is a cheaper hourly rate for a long extensive restoration. It has to be, otherwise we would be sitting around playing slap-tickle with each other with nothing to do. Try that theory at your local auto dealership. You're going to pay 125.00 per hour no matter what they do. I have never understood why some people will happily pay 125.00 per hour to have work done on their 1974 Pinto, but throw a tantrum when a mechanic tells them it will cost 50.00 per hour to work on their 2010 Beech Bonanza. We will save that for another time, let's continue. We do not change rates on a customer during a build, it's not good business. When we talk pricing with potential customers, we do not sugarcoat anything. I would rather you go home and mull over the worst case scenario than send you home with a healthy helping of smoke up your keister. We have always felt that honesty and being up-front about it is the best road to take. About 90% of the people we talk to always ask for a fixed, set price for their rebuild, and want us to hold to it no matter what. This is extremely hard to do since we don't know what we are dealing with until we at least see the aircraft and start dissecting it. I have seen too many shops in my time treat customers badly and it always ends ugly. I'm not going to put my arm around you shoulder and give you the good ole "Just let us start on it, we'll take care of you". If your plane/project is infested with corrosion and decay, I'm going to tell you. Then we will sit down and figure out the best way to approach it. Think of it this way, if I tell you it will cost 25,000 dollars to restore your plane, and we come in under budget at say, 21,500, everyone is happy. If I tell you your build will cost 25,000 dollars, it comes in at 32,500, and I shrug my shoulders and say "well you know how it is, cost overrun, pay me". You ain't happy no more, and you shouldn't be happy. We can, and will try with all means to give as close of an estimate (note what the word estimate means) of the price range you would be in. Its only fair that a customer has a good idea of the size of suitcase required to transport the money to pay for his recover or restoration. That's why when a guy calls and tells me "I got a cherry, 1975 Citabria that' s never been covered. Its perfect, but I want it to look like the new one I saw at Oshkosh."  I can't, in less than 30 seconds, in good conscious, give him a number and promise him it will not be a dime over it. You would not believe how many "cherry 1975 whatevers" turned out to be corroded and rotten on the inside. This is the reasoning for long conversations with customers, face to face visits, evaluating the aircraft, and forming a good game plan before we start, and no, we don't charge for this type of consultation.


Q: When does my airplane need to be recovered?

A: Very good question sir. The one thing you need to realize, a recover job is not just about the condition of the fabric by itself.  Most airplanes, when they are recovered, are not done because the fabric failed a punch test. Actually very few fail. Most are done because the owner wants it to look like it was dipped in liquid plastic, the look you get from today's polyurethane systems. Some are done because of damage, " It was my fault for letting cousin Eddie drive it around on the ground". Some are derelicts, or barn finds, being given a new breath of life by owners fortunate enough to have the funds to do so. (I'm proud of that one, makes me sound refined.) Here is what you need to keep in mind. Let's say you have a 30 to 40 year old plane, yes that means from the 70's, not picking on any particular design. It's always been hangared. The fabric is the original butyrate dope and looks fantastic. The interior is mint, even the windshield is not scratched. You honestly do have a nice airplane. There are a lot of components under that fabric that you can't see through inspection holes. We have done in-depth evaluations on planes like this and found corrosion, rusted fuselage tubes, rotten and decayed formers and bulkheads, broken pulley brackets, corroded hardware, etc. Now before you have a smothering spell, not every plane out there is like this. Don't run out and stick a knife in the side of your 79 Super Decathlon because some deranged glue sniffer from Arkansas told you your plane is a flying funeral parlor. What you need to understand is, that, "it's still good Bubba!, it passed a punch test!" is not the sole determining factor for a recover. I have had way too many owners stick their chest out and tell me, "I do not need to recover my airplane until it fails a punch test." Notice I used the phrase "need to". If it does fail, you "have to". Two different meanings. I love these "armchair aces." The fabric could be hiding other problems. My opinion, opinion being the key word, is that fabric aircraft need to be uncovered and looked at every 20-25 years or so. I am not the only one with this opinion, ask around. Many times the paint and fabric will well outlast other parts of the airplane, especially with today's covering systems. I have to stop the bus and chase a rabbit here. ATTENTION: To whom it may concern. "Razorback lifetime fabric" is NOT lifetime fabric. There is no such thing as lifetime fabric. Hold it, hold it, just let me finish. A fabric aircraft is made up of more things than just the fabric. Exercise your brain a little bit here. Good marketing sold a lot of products in the past. Razorback is a very tough, heavy grade fabric much like that used on ag aircraft (cropdusters), and it does last a very long time. A lot of airframes corroded away under it. I have seen it first hand. Squeezed more than one stabilizer leading edge and found no steel tubing where there was supposed to be steel tubing. Lifetime means absolutely zilch if your airframe has rusted and corroded away, but, boy howdy, that fabric is still "solid as a rock".  Be advised when looking at a prospective purchase and the owner tells you, "It has Razorback lifetime fabric. It will never need to be recovered, and yes, I will take a check".  Heard it before. I'll tell you the same thing I told them, BULL COOKIES. Now, back on track. More stringent maintenance and inspection procedures are key things to staying on top of the condition of your airframe. Fabric aircraft should be considered a whole different animal compared to an all metal aircraft. Airworthiness is ultimately the owners' responsibility, straight out of the FAR's folks. There are a lot of fabric aircraft in the fleet approaching the 75-100 year old mark, who would have dreamed of that 50 years ago. Joe mechanic from Rooster Poot, who has spent 37 years at a Cessna Service Center, may not be the first choice to maintain your 1946 Aeronca Champ. Metal airplanes have their own issues and niches. We are not discussing metal airplanes. I encourage owners to do more than the routine annual inspection on their fabric plane. Spend some time with your mechanic, check up on him, back him up. Also spend some time on your own with your aircraft, learn about it, poke around in places not normally looked at during annual inspection. Stay ahead of the game. All mechanics are taught about fabric at A&P school. If you saw what is taught, you would bust a gut laughing. Not all mechanics out there are experts in this field. A lot are. There are a lot who think they are experts, because they spent two whole days at A&P school learning to do fabric work. These are the same ones that think they are experts on every airplane known to exist, and any other subject you throw at them. They have a special place in my heart. Yes, several well known schools only spend a day or two covering this subject. I've spent over 25 years doing it, and I still learn new things all the time as technology changes. I think having a mechanic that has more than a few days training about fabric aircraft is at least in the top three on the list of requirements for owning these type airplanes. So many owners view that magical annual inspection stamp and punch test as a guarantee that, "My plane is good for a whole year. Nothing is wrong or will go wrong". Folks, that annual means that at that time (when it was signed off) it was considered to be in an airworthy condition. Tomorrow a control cable could snag and fray beyond limits, now its not airworthy. You have to read in some common sense here. You are the primary caretaker and caregiver to your aircraft. Stay on top of its condition. You do not want it to get to the dreaded "eye opening reality" point of, "It cost too much to fix it, I've got no choice but to sell it for salvage, or part it out." Believe me when I tell you, that has actually happened and I witnessed it. It wasn't pretty. Fabric aircraft kept outside have a lot harder life than hangared ones. UV is the number one enemy of the fabric. Moisture is the number one enemy to the wood and metal on the inside.You as the owner have to make the decision when and why you are ready to put money into a recover. Obviously if you are not an expert, or you don't feel comfortable, you will require help in this department when making this decision. I consider it kind of "preventive maintenance" in some cases, when you recover a plane even though the fabric may look, feel, smell, and taste good. It needs to be done before the inside gets in an unholy, un-fixable or way too expensive to repair condition. It's a lot better to recover your plane before it acquires the internal injuries that usually show up when you have waited until it fails the punch test. Remember, you can spend money during the whole life of the airplane, or you can spend it all at once, usually at the end trying to salvage what is there. There is no set time or date on the calendar when your fabric will give up the ghost. No bell will ring, no letter will come in the mail. You have to factor in ALL things relevant, to determine when it is time. If you can't do it, find someone who can to help you. For the love of cornflakes, don't wait till the fabric has absolutely rotted off the airframe to decide, "hmmm, it might be time to think about recovering". We can fix it for you when it's like that, but it will take heavy dollars to do it.


Q: Which covering system is the best?

A: Oh boy, you have opened up a barrel of monkeys here. First off let me be very clear, I'm not bashing any covering system out there.  All of them are good, but all are different. Its up to you, the "payer of the peso's", to decide what you want and expect from a covering system. We have used A LOT of Air-Tech. We do technical assistance for them. They are local to us and we have known them for 25 years or more. We have used Superflite, a great system. Both Air-Tech and Superflite are very similar in design and application. Poly-Fiber is a great system we have used quite a lot. It offers a "dope like" look with the Poly-Tone or gloss with Ranthane. The StarGloss system by Poly-Fiber is also a very good system, probably the easiest sanding primer of all the urethane primers . I know, opinions are like elbows, everybody has one. I talk to a lot of people and give them the ins and outs of all the systems and help them decide on whats right for their application.  Oratex is becoming wildly popular with people. We have not used Oratex, but we have looked at it and formed an opinion, which I will not go into here. it has its place, if you like it, use it. That is why they make chocolate and vanilla, something for everyone. It closely resembles what I used on R/C airplanes for many years. I will say this, saving a couple of pounds on a covering system is not going to change the performance qualities of your airplane. Do not read too much into that comment, weight is a critical issue in performance. Let's say you have built your experimental, fire breathing Super Cub and built it as light as humanly possible. You have done all the tricks to save weight, no electric system, carbon fiber and titanium components etc. All of these things make for better performance, but sacrificing your covering to shed 5 or 6 more pounds is not going to make a noticeable difference. You have maybe 100 grand in a new airplane, why skimp on the last step. You can make any covering system as light as you want it, use less product. The main problem I have on this subject is arguments I have been sucked into with stubborn fabric guys who tell me, " Dope and silver are the only things you should use for fabric planes. Fabric airplanes are not supposed to be slick and shiny. You're an idiot if you use anything else." Believe me when I tell you this, I have actually had this conversation, with these exact words used, with boneheads on talk forums and in person. That is why I try to stay away from forums. They are full of "arm chair aces" who spend way too much time on the internet, and no time actually doing any real world work. Give me just an ounce of credit, I have been restoring fabric aircraft for the better part of 30 years. You can still use a butyrate/nitrate type system if you want, after all this is America. At least for now anyway.  If you want me to, I will cover your plane in dope, and even grade A cotton if you can still find any. You will be required to pay accordingly, and visit a therapist. In my humble opinion, there are aircraft that do not need to be slick and shiny, a Sopwith Camel, a military warbird, or the Wright Flyer for instance. Me personally, I don't want cotton and dope on my Pitts. It needs to be slick. It needs to be shiny. It needs to go fast, and make me puke. The Stewart system is another great system. It is receiving a lot of interest to homebuilders especially, because it is a water based system. You don't have all the fumes to deal with. You can cover the wing of your new pride and joy in the bedroom without your wife having you arrested or committed. But understand, the poly-isocyanates in the hardeners are what does damage to your body. Most all single stage polyurethane paint system hardeners have these. Wear a respirator when you spray them. Point being, for all you tree-hugging builders, read the MSDS data sheets. Any of these systems can be altered depending on if you want the "dipped in liquid plastic" look, or the "flatter" dope look, the choice is yours. We will give you recommendations based on cost feasibility and our prior experience with any covering system you choose. Remember, on type certificated aircraft, you have to use an approved or STC'ed system or duplicate what the factory did originally. You can't mix and match. Whatever system you start with, you must adhere to it. To clarify though, we can cover your wings with Air-Tech, fill out a 337 on the wings, cover the fuselage with Poly-Fiber and fill out a 337 for the fuselage. They are considered individual components. What we can't do is, cover your wing with Air-Tech, put Poly-Fiber poly-spray on for primer, and paint it with an expensive metallic "wonder paint" your buddy at the body shop got you a good deal on, late one Saturday night. Now, if you have an experimental category aircraft you have a much broader range to deal with. We can mix and match the best components from any system out there, yes even if you want Krylon from Wal-Mart. As long as you are the one building and painting it. It's your airplane, it's your decision. We don't paint with Krylon. As you will read in a later answer, we have a workmanship standard we adhere to, and it is high. Our work is our reputation and our reputation is our living. If we covered your experimental airframe and you take it home and roll on latex house paint, that's your choice. When someone at a fly in ask, "Who covered and painted your airplane?", and you respond proudly, "Central Arkansas Aircraft Repair," it makes us look like a bunch of brain damaged baboons. We covered it, you made it look bad with your roll on paint job, but you neglected to mention that. Now that guy walks away thinking, "Those clowns at Central Arkansas ain't touchin one bolt on my airplane". We don't want to take the heat and fallout for your decisions, after your project has left our hands. Do some research. Talk to people, get their opinion. If you are at a fly in or airshow, ask the owner if he covered or painted his plane. If he did, what system did he use. Did he like it and would he use it again. If he paid to have it professionally done, ask the same questions. Look at the results, you be the judge. You are the best critic when it comes to your aircraft. Would you like your plane to look like his, etc. There are cost differences between systems, but it is not as great as most people think. Remember, sometimes you have to take what the guy in the booth at a large aviation event says with a grain of salt. The more product he sells, the more he makes. He doesn't have to sit in the hangar and stare at it because he is too embarrassed to take it to the monthly breakfast. Not all company representatives are like this. Most are good knowledgeable guys with a wealth of information on their product. We have dealt with a lot of them. Talk in depth with them about their product and form your own opinion. Talk to shops that use a particular system you may be interested in. They will usually be pretty blunt and brutally honest. Shop around and be informed. That makes it a lot easier when you come to a shop like ours. You have a better understanding of the technical terms we talk about.


Q: Okay, I have decided that I want you to recover/restore my beloved airplane. When can I bring it, and what kind of time frame will I be separated from my mistress?

A: Here is the way we generally operate our shop. If you bring us your aircraft, we are not going to put it in the corner of the pasture till we get to it. We are not going to make a lot of false promises and hopes either. We have nice storage facilities for whole aircraft and projects. We may have 2, 3, or even more projects in motion at any given time. What we try to do is begin working a new project in line. We have customers on different time frames, different payment schedules according to their funds etc. We are not going to solely work on your plane, you are in line. However some work will be started. As other projects are stopped, or finished, work on yours speeds up. You move up in line. You as the customer make the decision as to how much you want to spend per week, per month, which directly affects how fast things move along. In other words, how fast do you want us to rip off the band-aid. By doing it this way we can rotate around the shop from plane to plane and keep everyone happy. Plane "A" may be waiting on a part, plane "B" may have paint curing, plane "C" may be being prepped for fabric, you get the idea. We don't do the "start one project and stay on it till its done", which is perfectly fine and done in other shops. It just does not work for us. Usually when a new plane comes in it gets evaluated, disassembled and cataloged to a storage hangar pretty quickly. A lot of the "dirty work" can start immediately, stripping, cleaning small parts, etc. This work is sometimes done by some of our young interns, (Robbies son) and our general labor help. This way, when you make visits to the shop you're not looking at your treasured toy piled in a heap out by the dumpster with a family of raccoons living in the seat. You get to see progress started from day one. Now keep in mind, if the shop is at full capacity, your plane or project might have to sit in storage for a while. But by physically bringing it to us, you have secured a slot. It depends upon the work load we are at when you will get a slot. The work load is always changing. Usually J-3, 7-AC, Citabria type aircraft run about 750 to 900 hours for a ground up restoration. Keep in mind though, if you have a Stearman, a Beech Staggerwing, a Stinson Reliant type airplane, bigger and more complex equals more hours and more money. A complete ground up, your probably going to be without an airplane of any type for the better part of a year to a year and a half, if we have a full shop. No promises here, we will do the best we can. Remember what I said, no sugar coating, be prepared for possibly the worst case scenario. On occasion, we might be able to start ahead of schedule or even finish in a lot shorter time frame. It has happened before. If you have more money than Bill Gates and you want to have it done in an unrealistic, fairy tale time schedule, we might be persuaded to put in some weekend-offtime hours to help speed things along. I sincerely hope you don't believe reality TV. I am not a car guy, but I know you can't build an award winning show car or motorcycle in 7 days. You all know which shows I'm talking about. (I hate reality TV.) Airplanes are no different, hours are hours.  Now don't take that wrong, we do spend alot of hours in the shop. I am pretty regularly in the shop til 7 or 8 at night. No, I don't start at noon.  I have slept in the shop before, don't ask why, long story. Just remember we have lives and families too.


Q: What happens if a storm blows down your shop, or it burns down, will my aircraft be covered?

A: No. We strongly encourage owners to have "not in motion" coverage on their aircraft. (Note, if an Arkansas tornado hits, your plane will be in motion pretty fast.) "Not in motion" coverage is surprisingly cheaper than you think. We have insurance to replace our facilities and tools. We can't afford to cover everyone's plane, much like you are not expected to cover my health insurance while I'm visiting your house and choking down your wifes meatloaf. The two worst things in owning an aircraft are, not insured or under insured. Owners have no problem telling me how much their plane is worth, so it should be insured accordingly.


Q: May I visit your shop and check on my project?

A: Yes. We encourage visits. Keep in mind though, if you come every day, look over our shoulder, try to pitch in and help, ask us to teach you how to do what we're doing and why we are doing it, that will end up costing you more money. We are not trying to be snooty. We love to talk airplanes, sit around, drink cokes and tell lies. We will do that with you, just not every single day. Obviously, if you do not live anywhere near us this probably does not apply to you. We have been known to have a fish fry on occasion, or grill some "big ole meat". If you are in the area, or live close enough, we'll call you and tell you to come and feed your face with us. If you live 500 miles away and want to eat some "big ole meat" with us, by all means come. If you are one of those "armchair ace" types that enjoy spending all day standing beside me, raping my ear hole with your expertise and advice, telling me, "You are not doing that like I would", or "Joe mechanic doesn't do it that way", stay at home and work on your lawn mower. If I'm not even working on your airplane, that's not fair to the guy who owns the plane I am working on. He just paid for you to practice your stand up act for 8 or 10 hours. Now, you show up and ask, "Hey, can I take all these fairings home and strip them in the kitchen sink? My wife won't mind. I need to save a little money this month. I got to pay for juniors new nose ring." That is a different circumstance. We have no problem with a customer lending a hand by doing things like, stripping paint, or cleaning grease from parts. Its good to be involved in your build. We may even call you and ask you to come and help. This does happen occasionally, especially at the end of a build when its time to take pictures and such. Sometimes you may be needed for a "fitting" of sorts, try out the seat, do you have leg room, do you need more headroom, etc. We have had a lot of customers gain a new respect for what we do and what it takes to produce the work we are capable of, when they help with some sort of work. As long as you don't screw it up. As already stated, we have a standard of workmanship that goes out of this shop. Be forewarned, it is high. Our workmanship makes our reputation.


Q: My plane has been at another shop, I would like you to work on it. The guy that had it did a lot of work, but I have no log entries, 337's, or signatures on what he did. What do I need to do?

A: This actually happens frequently. If you left another shop or individual, for whatever reason, we will be able to continue work. Now let me explain some things. If work was done, major or minor, and it was done in accordance with FAR's and acceptable data, we can certainly look at it, inspect it and proceed. Not all of the previous work will have to be done over. Note, this is a very thin line here. If you bring me an engine and tell me, "Joe mechanic from Rooster Poot overhauled my engine. It's good to go." I'm going to ask to see all the pertinent paperwork, yellow tags, log entries, machine work receipts, etc. for this overhaul. "Well I don't have anything." Notice he said "don't have anything", no logs, nothing. Now there is a problem. Yes, the engine may have been legitimately field overhauled but we can't prove it. Even if the engine is truly good, looks like a million bucks and even if you tell me, "He overhauled it. If it goes bad, it's on him." That's not how it works in the eyes of the FAA. We have had this discussion with them. We install that engine on the airframe during the completion of your airplane. When its finished, I do all the paperwork and return the aircraft to service. My signature and IA number goes in the logbook and any other forms needed. That means that I am giving it the "holy blessing" that says it's in an airworthy condition. I returned it to service, I assumed responsibility. This last sentence came straight out of the FAA's mouth. Now, fast forward down the road. The engine decides to self destruct. Your plane is now a dirt dart. You are killed in the crash. It doesn't matter if the overhaul was or wasn't right. Heck, we didn't have anything to do with the overhaul, all we did was bolt it on. Guess who is held responsible by the FAA, the NTSB, the widow, and the legal vultures slinking around the crash site. The poor schmuck who belongs to the signature that returned the aircraft to service and stated it was in an airworthy condition. Yep, that sucks. It's never a good practice to sign off unknown work. We don't do it. Its too much of a liability. This is our living and we can't afford to jeopardize it. Stop here and re-read what I said. This does not mean every engine has to be freshly overhauled before we put it on your airplane. Let's say we are restoring your J-3 and you want to upgrade from a 65 h.p. to an 85 h.p., no problem. You find a good mid-time c-85 and buy it. It has a complete set of logbooks, again, no problem, we can install this engine using the proper STC. Now, say you buy that same engine out of the back of a van at a truckstop. All you get is the engine, nothing else. It may run fine, but without logs, nobody knows anything. I can't and won't install it and return it to service. The scenario I just described actually happened. A customer wanted us to install an engine he bought for his project we were restoring. The engine had no logs, no history, nothing. All he had was what the guy he bought it from told him, "This engine was overhauled in 1970, trust me." Even if that was true, it is not wise to trust your life with a 40 year old overhaul on an engine that has not been run since the alleged overhaul. Common sense folks, common sense.  You have to understand, if you lose the logs to your airframe, new logs can be constructed using past information and history on file with the FAA. If you have an engine with no logs, the same can be done, but here is the difference; the FAA says the engine has to be rebuilt , overhauled, or at least disassembled and inspected. It's not as easy to see inside of an engine as it is to see inside of an airframe. When you send an engine to a shop and have it rebuilt or "zero timed" you get a new logbook. If it is overhauled, you get the proper entries made in your current engine logbook. There is a difference between rebuilt and overhauled, look it up. Also, the term "re-manufactured" has no specific meaning to the FAA, look it up. I could spend years discussing different scenarios, how they apply to the FAR's, and what we are allowed to do. Now, concerning other work, an IA can most certainly inspect and approve work if he did not perform the work. That is what the designation is, Inspection Authorization. You have to look at the circumstances you're dealing with. The engine scenario was real. It won't work. Now lets say Joe mechanic from Rooster Poot installed a new wing spar in your wing. You bring the wing to me. The wing is not covered and he is a licensed mechanic The work is inspected, and found to be legitimate and conforms to all FAR's and acceptable, relative data. We should be able to proceed on. We might have to involve Joe in this process, we might not. As you can see, this can be a sticky situation under the right circumstances. This is the reason, when we get the well known phone call all shops eventually get which goes something like, "My airplane needs an annual and my IA has moved away. It's always passed inspection and he never charged me over 250 dollars. I have already looked at everything and its in great shape. Will you sign my logbooks if I bring them over?" I have to say, "No, I'm sorry, I can't help you", that simple. Real story, a plane was brought to us to finish. The owner had a bridge burning with the previous mechanic. The wings were already covered through silver. The owner didn't want the covering process used. The mechanic, on his own, used what he was familiar with ergo start of the fire on the bridge. The owner was contemplating recovering the wings for that reason alone. We did a pretty hard scrutinization of the wings and started finding all kinds of problems, extra ports in fuel tanks not plugged, wrong bolts used, bolt too long, bolts too short, missing cotter pins, missing cable fairleads. All of this under the fabric, not easily seen. This helped him make up his mind to recover his newly covered wings. I tell this not to bash another shop, or make us look good. I think it is important for you, as the owner, to realize the importance of good and safe workmanship, no matter who does it. A small, fabric aircraft, like a J-3, will kill you just like an F-16 fighter jet, it just kills you slower. Planes like these are always looked down on and referred to by other types as, "those little fabric planes." That is a whole other rant I won't punish you with. There are some situations where you as the owner are just plain stuck. We will try every avenue possible to make things work. Sometimes there are no avenues. Try to get to know the people/person working on your aircraft. A good honest working relationship is invaluable in this business. We do not like secrets or surprises any more than you do, and we can't, and won't make problems go away with that "magical signature" in the logbooks.