Well everyone I am back behind the keyboard. Summertime hit and things kind of went all over the place. I spent several weeks diving the Great Barrier Reef with a good friend of mine (yes that fish is really that big…we estimated 300 lbs.), doing more consulting work in the data center world with another 1.5 Million Watts (1.5MW) of online UPS power under my belt and a third 2MW generator online at the same facility. Add to that the addition of a 14 year old French exchange student to my home for the summer and hopefully you can see why I have not posted an update in awhile!

Me and one big fish...

Me and one big fish...

But you didn’t come here to hear about how my summer is going, you came here to read up on how the restoration project is coming along on the MD500! Well your in luck since that is what I really like writing about. The good folks over at PHI have continued to tear apart, inspect, repair and paint strip the 500. Now there is some basic paint going back in place and more sheet metal work going to in order to repair every deficiency that was found during its tear down. I can tell you those guys at PHI know what they are doing and they found even the littlest of things including cracks, sub-standard metalwork and botched repair attempts by past shops. I firmly believe that when this ship is complete, the only way to have a newer (but not necessarily better) ship would be to buy one off the showroom floor!

Over the next few days I will attempt to add additional pictures and some dialog to what you are seeing. As always, you can visit my Flicker Site for all of the photos from start to finish. What I put here is just a very small fraction of what is actually going on inside PHI with my ship.

As of my last writing the bottom skins were coming off and a lot of the helicopter had already been taken apart. The Engine, Transmission, most of the flight controls, avionics and other important parts had already been removed.  Since then, they have made tremendous progress on the project.


Rolls Royce C20B Jet Engine

Rolls Royce C20B Jet Engine

One of the first issue we had to deal with was a fuel bladder that they determined was in need of repair. The fuel system in the 500 consists of a bladder that is made out of a special material. This material makes up the bladder that carries part of the fuel load of the helicopter. This bladder sits under the rear floor of the helicopter beneath the rear passengers feet. The material is flexible enough so that it can be installed and removed through a small hole also in the rear floor of the 500. When they removed the bladder they noticed several repairs that we in need of, well, repair! In my 500, we also have an additional 21 gallons of added capacity in a tank that site directly behind the rear seat. Wow…how would you like to be the guys sitting in the back. Your sitting on and in front of a bunch of Jet-A!

Fuel Bladder

Fuel Bladder removed for inspection

Here you can see the damage that they detected in the lining of the fuel bladder. This bladder will have to be shipped to a special company that can repair these bladders. Replacing them is done only as a last resort when repairing them is no longer an option – sort of like your old waterbed mattresses!

Damaged Fuel Bladder

Damaged Fuel Bladder

As the tear down progressed and inspections were made of all of the components, cracks and wear were located in different parts of the ship. Any stress cracks or metallurgic failures would have to be repaired, no matter how minor they seemed. The repair manual allows for “stop drilling” in certain cases. This is where a small hole is drilled to prevent a crack from extending further that it has already gone. Several “stop drills” were located. In my mind, now is the time to replace every one of those components.

Stress/Fatigue Crack

Stress/Fatigue Crack

Example of "Stop Drilling"

Example of "Stop Drilling" and Reinforcing

Stress Crack

Stress Crack

Crack in Co-Pilot's Seat Pan

Crack in Co-Pilot's Seat Pan

Why would there be stress cracks you ask? Well, we are talking about a 25 year old, high performance, jet powered aircraft capable of incredible aerial feats bombarded by constant and unrelenting vibrations over the years of its life. Some of the stress cracks are very common to 500s and others were not common to 500s. In many cases they are stop drilled because its not practical to tear down the entire ship to replace these pieces of metal, that is until you have the entire ship torn apart already. Also, in many cases, stronger and thicker metal is used in order to prevent these stress cracks from reoccurring  again!

Stay tuned for my next posting where I will show you how the folks at PHI can take these bent and broken parts and transform them into new!


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!