MD500e Restoration Project


If you have someone on your Christmas list that may be a little difficult to find something for, you might want to check out the great folks over at Scheme Designers. Those of you who has read my blog for any time knew that I had used Scheme Designers to design my paint scheme on my MD500.  It was a time consuming process, but in the end, it turned out very well and met all of my needs.

They sent a very comprehensive package to me to forward to my painter that covered all aspects of the paint scheme, dimensional layout, etc. I would highly recommend them anytime you are going to paint your aircraft and want something that does not look everyone else on the flight line.

MD500e Paint Scheme

 

As part of the process, I was offered a scale replica of my helicopter as well. When Scheme Designers approached me with the project idea (and price). I jumped at the chance to have my helicopter, one that I had painstakingly configured exactly as I wanted it, sitting on my desk. I worked very closely with Ronnie Hartmann on what would become a very lengthly project.

In the end, it was very much worth the effort. Every detail was looked at, many emails and pictures passed back and forth – they wanted to make sure it was exactly how I wanted it before finishing the project. And they did a fantastic job!

 

 

 

 

Great job Scheme Designers – next project – my 1990 Mooney Bravo!

 

 

Well, here we are again, yet another update. Wow, three updates in as many days. That’s really good for me. I am actually sitting in Laos in the hotel. I was having trouble with the internet connection here all last night and was unable to get the work done that I needed, so when my friends went on a day trip today I choose to stay back, finish my work and then update my blog with the free time that I had left. I am hungry, but I am not about to venture out on my own and pick up dinner. You can see from the picture below that the food here can be quite interesting!

But onto better and more interesting things. I will write about my Laos trip later, but I really wanted to bring everyone up to date on the progress of my MD500 restoration. In my last post I talked about the ship having made it back from the paint shop in Texas after a 10 month paint project. No, its not really supposed to take 10 months to get a helicopter painted, but that is really a story for another day and time. Needless to say, my ship is back in Phoenix and in the very capable hands of Phoenix Heliparts in Mesa, AZ.

What this means is that we can finally start the process of putting the 500back together again! This is a great step in the process as it signals the beginning of the end for the project. After such a long process, one can see why I am very happy to be talking about reassembly and engine start!

So here we go! One of the things that was done was a complete new wiring harness was installed in the ship. This includes every single wire, every single connector on the entire ship including the engine. Here you can see a part of the new wiring having been installed. This happens to be under the pilot’s seat.

The quality workmanship of the technicians and mechanics at PHI is amazing and it shows even in the little things like this new wiring harness. My goal is to be very proud of everything that I have put into the 500 and work like this will help make that pride a reality. Every single wire is marked with a wire code and along with all new wiring comes an all new wiring schematic! This should make changes in the future much easier than trying to decode the rats nest that was the 500 before this project was started.


Next on the list of things to do was to get the transmission and main rotor system reinstalled in the ship. This is not an easy task as the transmission is one of the heaviest (if not THE heaviest) items in the helicopter. Remember the nice pretty paint inside and out? Planning and care has to take place to make sure it remains that way when reinstalling the transmission.

So now the transmission and the main rotor have been reinstalled in the helicopter. Once that is done, the blower assembly, new belt and all of the components for heat and anti-ice can be reinstalled. All items were repaired or replaced and repainted before reassembly.

And finally all of those components have been reinstalled and we can move on to other things!

Next we throw on the towel bars and the ham radio antennas:

And then we move on to the exterior lighting which will include all new LED navigation lighting, new Whelen high intensity LED strobes both on the tail and on the belly and a new HID pulse light kit for the nose!

Now we add a highly polished static port and all new wiring in the engine bay and we are ready to move on to something else.

And one little personal touch to end the day

(Yes I know its crooked, that will be fixed)



Richard J. Sears

Hi – I am the author – Richard Sears. I have been a pilot and flight instructor for almost 24 years!

If you live in the San Diego area and would like to arrange a free airplane or helicopter flight for your child (age 8 to 18) through the EAA Young Eagles program please email me at richard@sears.net

If you are a Scout Master, I can work with your troop on the Aviation Merit Badge and provide all ground training and flights necessary to meet the latest requirements of the Aviation Merit Badge. I am a registered Merit Badge Counselor with the BSA San Diego – Imperial Council.

All my flight time is donated, there is no cost to the parents or the troop.

Parents are always welcome to ride along and get hooked!

As we are close to Christmas, one thinks of Christmas trees, wrapped presents and the glee that will be manifested on that wonderful morning on December 25th when kids all over get to open their presents and squeal in delight at what they find hidden beneath the wrapping. So was it for me as well on the 16th of October, 2011 when Christmas came just a bit early. My MD500 was back from the paint shop and it was time to unwrap my present!

As you know if you have been following this blog, I have been working on my MD500 restoration project since I dropped it off at Phoenix Heliparts in Mesa Arizona in May of 2010! The paint job alone took from January of 2011 until October of 2011 – a staggering 10 months of work just for paint and now we are pushing 19 months of work on my helicopter – from May of 2010 when I dropped it off at PHI until December of 2011 and we are not done yet! To say this has been a long project is nothing short of a HUGE understatement….but as my friends keep telling me – think of how much money you have been saving by flying your R44 at 14GPH verses the 500 at 28GPH!

The work being performed on my ship is nothing short of a total makeover. Nothing was left unchecked, no repair left undone, no STC or accessory not seriously looked at and reviewed, many incorporated into the repairs of the 500. We see light at the end of the tunnel, I have conversations with PHI about engine start dates, test flying and delivery dates and I am as giddy as all of those kids on Christmas morning getting ready to unwrap my own present.

You would think that unwrapping something as big as a helicopter would be easy work, but you would be far from right. The wrapping is applied as a shrink wrap and there are special coverings laid under the wrap to protect the new paint. We ended up having some slight issues with this wrapping method, but nothing a good buff job will not take care of once the ship has been reassembled.


So with the help of Ryan (PHI), my son Jentry and Mary (our awesome photographer) we spent the next several hours carefully removing all of the wrapping off of the 500. We had to be very careful not to scratch the new paint, so it was a very slow going process. In the process, we found some areas that will need to be touched up, but overall the paint job will make my 500 a one-of-a-kind!


With the paint job out of the way and the ship safely tucked back in the hanger at PHI, I guess the only thing left now its to put it all back together again!


Richard J. Sears

Hi – I am the author – Richard Sears. I have been a pilot and flight instructor for almost 24 years!

If you live in the San Diego area and would like to arrange a free airplane or helicopter flight for your child (age 8 to 18) through the EAA Young Eagles program please email me at richard@sears.net

If you are a Scout Master, I can work with your troop on the Aviation Merit Badge and provide all ground training and flights necessary to meet the latest requirements of the Aviation Merit Badge. I am a registered Merit Badge Counselor with the BSA San Diego – Imperial Council.

All my flight time is donated, there is no cost to the parents or the troop.

Parents are always welcome to ride along and get hooked!

As I sit here writing this update I find it hard to believe that the last update I wrote about was done in September 2010! A lot has happened between September and now, both on my MD500 project and with me personally. I took and passed my ATP check rides for both single and multiengine airplanes. My single engine ATP check ride was completed in a Piper Meridian turboprop and my multiengine ATP check ride was completed in a Cessna Citation 525 CJ jet. I took and passed the multiengine ATP check ride in the Citation to single pilot standards!

RJS_CIT525

Of course there was also time spent with friends and family…this beautiful girl happens to be one of my nieces. We spent some time having fun on the ground and in the air!


I also took and passed my ATP written for helicopters and I am currently working towards taking the ATP check ride in my R44.

I took some time and flew up to Canadian Helicopters to complete my factory initial checkout in the Eurocopter EC120B. That was quit a bit of fun since I had never flown a Eurocopter. In June I am flying back up there in my 500 to attend their Mountain Training Course. I had heard amazing things about the course and I am looking forward to going!

EC120

I have also been flying (a lot) over the last few months. Almost 300 hours in the last 6 months, with over 200 of that in my R44. That’s not a lot for a career pilot, but for a part 91 guy, that’s quite a bit! I have been enjoying every minute of it including a recent trip to Torrance to fly with Simon up at Advanced Flight.

For anyone able to get to Torrance that wants to really work towards mastering the R44, Advanced Flight is the place to go! Besides having somewhere around 7,000 hours in the R44, being a Robinson test pilot and a generally all around great instructor, Simon’s R44 is equipped with an amazing four camera system. This camera system allows you to review every lesson from the comfort of your armchair where the pucker factor is far lower than when your at 500′ AGL, your airspeed is reading 40 knots and falling, the VSI is pegged at its limit of 2,000′ per minute and Simon is telling you to wait to push the nose over! I have a new appreciation for the versatility and capability of the Robinson R44.


Moving on to the 500, to say that a lot has been done between September 2010 and February 2011 would be an understatement. A huge amount of work has been completed and I will touch on the major updates with pictures below, but as of this writing, the ship is in Texas getting its paint job. Once that has been completed it will be shipped back to Mesa Arizona to have its final assembly completed. We are shooting for flight testing near the end of March!

Over the course of the restoration, decisions had to be made about upgrades, enhancements and repairs – some needed, some wanted. One of the big areas that I went back and forth on was the replacement of four of the bottom skins. The reason to keep the old skins was simple – cost. The bottom skins are riveted in place. To remove all of those thousands of rivets and then fit, drill and re-rivet them back on the ship would take an incredible amount of time and effort and hence, money.


BELLY SKIN REPLACEMENT

The issue I was facing was that the bottom skins currently on the ship looked like swiss cheese. Over the years, holes had been drilled, covered, repaired, redrilled and re-repaired over and over again. Some of those repairs looked they were completed by a 5 year old with a pair of tin snips! By replacing the skins, not only did I take care of all of those unsightly repairs, but the skins were thicker. This, like the new thicker floor, added additional structural stability and rigidity the original 500 lacked.

Bottom Skin Replacement

Bottom Skin Replacement

Bottom Skin Replacement

Bottom Skin Replacement

Bottom Skin Replacement

Bottom Skin Replacement




Fuel Cell Area

Once the belly skins were completed, the next step was to complete the repairs in the fuel cell area and reinstall the fuel cell liners so we could close up the rear floor area. The amount of attention paid by PHI to the fuel cell area was no less than any other area of the ship. Improvements on sealing of the area and repairs of the liners would be completed and (hopefully) will cut down on the smell of Jet-A coming from the back seat. As some may remember, PHI actually found leaks in my fuel cells requiring the replacement of one and the repair of the other.

Sealing the fuel containment area with proseal was one of the first things that was done before replacing the fuel cell liners.

Fuel Cell Area

Fuel Cell Area

Fuel Cell Area

Fuel Cell Area

Fuel Cell Area




Rear Cargo Floor Installation

OK, so once the bottom skins were on and the fuel cell area and fuel cell liners completed, it was time to reinstall the new rear cargo floor. Once again, this was a question about spending a little bit more money and ending up with a stronger ship or simply repaint the floor that was already in the ship. In order to make the enhancements to the fuel cell area, it was necessary to remove the rear cargo area floor (that covers the fuel cells). In the process of doing so, I opted to install the slightly thicker floor. Again, more structural stability!

Here is the old floor:

Old Floor

Here is the new floor:

New Cargo Area Floor

Rear Cargo Floor

Cargo Floor

Cargo Floor



AFS Barrier Filter Installation

One of the things that this ship never had done to it was the replacement of the swirl tubes with a barrier filter kit. The new filter kit from Donaldson was expensive but something almost everyone does to their ship. It helps keep dust, etc out of the engine as well as does not take any bleed air to run, hence giving you about another 20 degrees C to work with on your engine.

Swirl Tubes

The basic idea behind the swirl tube is that air and contaminants enter the swirl tube. As it’s name implies, the tubes have swirls in them, basically corkscrewing the air and contaminants around the tube on the way to the engine intake. Centrifugal effect forces the contaminants to the outside of the tubes where they are ejected overboard before the air reaches the engine.  You can add bleed air from the engine to enhance the operation, but taking bleed air from the engine increases TOT and the closer you are to blue dot, the less power you have for other things, like hovering, etc.

The AFS kit replaces all of the swirl tube with an actual filter and makes the air cleaner and uses less power to accomplish the filtration process.

AFS Kit Install

AFS Kit Install




Compressor Inspection Panel

One of the (many) things that PHI is very good at is identifying enhancements, improvements, or STCs that will make the ship easier to work on and maintain. One of the biggies was the installation of the STCed Compressor Inspection Panel. Absent this panel, the engine must be removed to do any compressor inspections. The amount of labor and included down time for an inspection is drastically cut with the addition of this very handy inspection panel!

Compressor Inspection Panel

Compressor Inspection Panel



Nose Installation

The biggest visual difference between the older E model 500s and the newer 500s is the nose. The older E model had “church” windows. That is, the bottom set of windows was made up of  four different windows on each side.

Church WIndows

Newer 500 windows:

New Windows

Since all the glass was going to be replaced anyway, I decided to have the old church style windows removed and redo the nose in the newer 500 configuration.

Nose Installation

Nose Installation

Nose Installation

Nose Installation



Window Installation

Once the nose was completed, it was time to install the windows. We purchased all new windows from Tech Tools Plastics. I decided on a light tint all the way around with comfort windows for the rear doors.

Window Install

Window Installation

Window Installation






WSPK (Wire Strike Protection Kit) Installation

One of the most interesting (for me) kits added to the 500 is the WSPK. The WSPK is a $30,000 (plus installation) insurance policy that you hope you never, ever need to cash in on! As it’s name implies, the wire strike protection kit is designed to save you in the event you run into a set of wires. However in order to do that, it has to be installed in such a way as to be able to guide the wire and then cut them without chopping your head off in the process, or worse, rip the cutters off without actually getting cut!

Because of these requirements, there is a lot of structural stuff that goes on with the installation of the kit. This includes a big plate on the bottom of the helicopter to adsorb the shock and impact of a cable hitting it at 130 mph. In addition there is a runner that goes up the center of the front windows so that if the cable hits in the front windshield area it does not chop the cabin in half (quickly removing your head in the process) but forces the cable up and into the upper jaw. Then there is more structure added to support the top jaw. Its all very interesting!

WSPK

WSPK

WSPK

WSPK

WSPK

WSPK




Meaker Hinge Installation

Yet another “Nice” to have but not “necessary” addition to the 500 was the installation of a full set of Meaker door hinges. Anyone that has worked around or flown the 500 without the Meaker hinges knows what a total pain in the butt removing the doors on a 500 can be. Since I do not have air conditioning in the 500, I figured I had better be able to get the doors on and off without taking the interior apart and beating everything up in the process each and every time.  So Meaker hinges were the answer.

Meaker Hinges

Meaker Hinges




Interior Paint

Once all of the internal sheet metal and assorted work had been completed, it was time to send the ship over to the MD factory to have the interior painted. I choose Thunderstorm Grey for the interior color using a high gloss white in any of the areas where there would be mechanical components and a high contrast paint for the control areas.

Interior Paint

Interior Paint

Interior Paint

Interior Paint

Interior Paint

Interior Paint

Interior Paint

Interior Paint

Interior Paint


Traffic (TCAS) Upper Antenna Mount

One of the things I really like about my Meridian is active traffic as opposed to TIS. I choose the Garmin GTS800 active traffic (TCAS) system. On of the issues was where to mount the top antenna. So PHI had to design and install an antenna mount for the upper directional antenna on top of the WSPK!

TCAS Antenna Mount

TCAS Antenna Mount

TCAS Antenna Mount

TCAS Antenna Mount

TCAS Antenna Mount


Ready to Ship to External Paint Shop

WOW! A lot has transpired in the last 6 month to the 500. Everything that can be repaired has been repaired. Everything that can be upgraded has been upgraded. All the bells and whistles that PHI could come up with and my budget could handle have been completed (other than avionics which we will get to later). All that is left is to get the ship packaged and ready to ship (by truck) to Texas for it’s external paint job!

Ready to Ship

Ready to Ship

Ready to Ship

Ready to Ship

Ready to Ship

Ready to Ship


Shipping to Paint Shop

So in order to protect the 500 on its trip to Texas we had the ship “shrink wrapped” with heave duty plastic and then loaded onto the back of a transport for its shipment to the paint shop. It was an interesting process.

Wraping

Wraping

Wraping

Wraping

Wraping

Wraping

Wraping

Shipping

Shipping

Shipping


So what is next..?

Well hopefully around the end of this month (February) the ship will return from the paint shop in Texas looking like the picture below! Then we can put it all back together and start the test flight process!

Final Paint Scheme

Richard J. Sears

Hi – I am the author – Richard Sears. I have been a pilot and flight instructor for almost 24 years!

If you live in the San Diego area and would like to arrange a free airplane or helicopter flight for your child (age 8 to 18) through the EAA Young Eagles program please email me at richard@sears.net

If you are a Scout Master, I can work with your troop on the Aviation Merit Badge and provide all ground training and flights necessary to meet the latest requirements of the Aviation Merit Badge. I am a registered Merit Badge Counselor with the BSA San Diego – Imperial Council.

All my flight time is donated, there is no cost to the parents or the troop.

Parents are always welcome to ride along and get hooked!

As the project with my MD500 continues, I am continually amazed at the complex nature of some seemingly very simple repairs and everything that has to go into the repair process for each repair.  This includes design of the repair, documentation of the repair itself and the exact procedures to be used for the repair, justification for the repair, margin of safety evaluations for the repair, references to design documents, structure catalogs and more. All of this has to be documented (in this case a full 15 pages of documentation, pictures, figures, evaluations, metal and alloy material statements) and then forwarded to the FAA DAR (Designated Airworthiness Representative) for approval BEFORE the repair can be done.

I glance at something and think to myself – that looks like a 5 minute repair job. A little bondo, a little paint and hey, we are back in business. As part of this process with my 500, the folks at PHI are teaching me a great deal about the process a repair has to go through from start to finish. I thought I would take this opportunity to share with you the process for just a single, simple repair.

Lets start with what I assumed would be a simple repair. In the MD500, there is a cooling fan and a shroud and ducting that sits behind the back passenger area. This shroud and ducting has a tendency in the 500 to rub on what is commonly referred to as the Station 124 Canted Beam. This beam is part of the main structure of the helicopter and hence is pretty important to the overall airworthiness of the aircraft.

Take a look at the pictures below. This is the “damage” caused by a little rubbing of a cooling duct over years and thousands of hours of service.

Station 124 Canted Beam Damage

Station 124 Canted Beam Damage

Station 124 Canted Beam Damage

Station 124 Canted Beam Damage

Now I don’t know about the rest of you, but a little scratch .008″ deep just does not set my alarm bells ringing…heck the neighbor’s cat did worse than that to my BWM the other day when it decided to run across its hood first thing in the morning! Thankfully, I am not the one that decides which repairs are important and which repairs can be corrected with a little 80 grit and some white rustoleum! This canted beam is integral to the structural integrity of the 500 and it required repair.

As I said earlier, PHI went to work putting together the necessary documentation showing how they intended to make the repair, proved via engineering calculations that the tensile strength of the repair would be the same or better than the total replacement of the canted beam and received FAA DAR authorization to complete the repair.

(Click on the sheet for a larger view)

Station 124 Canted Frame Illustration

Repair Report for Station 124

In the above document pages, you can see where PHI is using the MD documentation to show the exact location of the repair to be completed and just a small part of the planning information that went into the repair showing all of the documents they used for the engineering justification. Further we see an exact CAD drawing of what the repair will look like when it has been completed.

Figure 4 Showing Repair

As you can see from just a few pages of the 15 page repair report, there is a lot of information and engineering that has to go into a repair like this. In the end, failure to get it right can cause serious consequences for the crew and passengers aboard the 500 should the repair fail in flight.

Below are the pictures of the repair as it progressed from one stage to the other. I hope anyone reading this can appreciate the nature of the repair along with my fascination at the high quality workmanship that went into this repair. This is indicative of all the work that has gone into my 500 to date!

Station 124 Canted Beam before repair work starts

Station 124 Canted Beam before repair work starts

This is the canted beam before they started any repair work on it. You can see both wear marks noted by blue tape here to identify the exact area of damage.


Station 124 Canted Beam after prepping for repair

Station 124 Canted Beam after prepping for repair

This is the canted beam after it had been prepped for its repair. It had to be cleaned, cured and then epoxy primer and adhesive was applied prior to installation of the repair pieces.

Doublers in Place

Doublers in Place

Here you can see that the doublers and shims needed for the repair have been put into place and they have started to install the rivets and Hi-Lok pins that will hold the entire repair in place.

View of work from other side

View of work from other side

Here is a view of the repair work from the other side of the picture above. You can see the bottom row of rivets/Hi-Lok pins are already in place and the epoxy adhesive is also visible.

And now you can see the extent of the completed repair:

Completed Repair

Completed Repair

Completed Repair

Completed Repair

Completed Repair

Completed Repair

Completed Repair

Completed Repair

Now I don’t know about the rest of you, but I feel much better with this style of repair over my “80 grit and some white rustoleum” repair. And if you happen to see a grey BWM with a white streak across the hood driving around Mesa one day, you will know that’s me!

Richard J. Sears

Hi – I am the author – Richard Sears. I have been a pilot and flight instructor for over 20 years!

If you live in the San Diego area and would like to arrange a free airplane or helicopter flight for your child (age 8 to 18) through the EAA Young Eagles program please email me at richard@sears.net

If you are a Scout Master, I can work with your troop on the Aviation Merit Badge and provide all ground training and flights necessary to meet the latest requirements of the Aviation Merit Badge. I am a registered Merit Badge Counselor with the BSA San Diego – Imperial Council.

All my flight time is donated, there is no cost to the parents or the troop.

Parents are always welcome to ride along and get hooked!

Next Page »