A Family Adventure

Tyson, Emilie & Isaac

Citabria recovery from Lake Potanipo

August 20, 2016
Emilie Phillips

This spring Carl moved to Brookline. He parked his nice looking red and white Citabria in the NH16 T-Hangar. For the summer, Carl put his airplane on floats on nearby Lake Potanipo. Tyson and many of the Brookline pilots spent the summer hoping to get to fly the Citabria while it was on floats. Jerry even signed up to get his float plane rating. Unfortunately, overnight on the 13th of August, a maple tree blew down onto the airplane. It crushed the left wing.

The telescoping forklift that made it all possible.
The telescoping forklift that made it all possible.

Instead of getting to fly the float plane, we all showed up Saturday morning to disassemble it for repairs. There were maybe twenty of us. A mixed group of Carl’s friends from other airports and the Brookline crew. A bunch of folks, including Tyson and I, brought only our hands to help. Mike and Mark, a friend of Carl’s from Connecticut, brought tools and expertise working on airplanes. And Jerry brought the telescoping fork lift. It’s useful to know people in construction. We did almost the entire extraction with the airplane suspended by the forklift.

Mike and Mark struggling with the wedged floats.
Mike and Mark struggling with the wedged floats.

First we took the floats off and put the wheels back on. We tied a rope to the bad wing to control it. Our two concerns were holding the airplane at the right angle and preventing it from shifting when the floats came off. The floats appeared undamaged, so this should have been simple. But the tree had compressed the floats between the sandy bottom and the fuselage. In the process, all the attachment points had been bent or miss-aligned. It took a good deal of hammering to get the bolts out.

Carl removing float fittings while lying in the lake.
Carl removing float fittings while lying in the lake.

Putting the wheels back on would have been simple in a shop — a creeper to access the underside of the airplane and a simple hop to climb inside the plane. Instead, Carl laid in the water while unbolting float fittings. We set up a step ladder in the lake and had people hold the airplane steady while he reached inside to turn nuts. Once the wheels were on, Jerry set the airplane down on the shallow sandy bottom. Finally we had a stable airplane to work on.

Carl had to read the instruction manual to find all the points to disconnect on the wing.
Carl had to read the instruction manual to find all the points to disconnect on the wing.

We decided to take the good wing off first, so if the airplane tipped, it would fall on the bad wing. The struts were bent and wedged. The flaps were attached to the fuselage in more spots than we expected. Carl had to run up to the house to read the instruction manual. Many hands made light work of carefully carrying the wing over to pads on the dock. That wing still contained fuel which we didn’t want to leak. The two main attachment points for the wing were shockingly small. I guess the struts must carry a lot of the load.

Bad wing laid out on the ground.
Bad wing laid out on the ground.

Then the next wing. This one went faster after the practice with the first wing. We had run out of space to put it, so we laid it in front of the tractor. The tree had crushed the middle of the wing and bent the spar. But many of the ribs in the wing are probably salvageable. Carl will have to decide whether to buy a new wing, or rebuild the one he has.

Carefully walking the fusilage along while Jerry drove the forklift back.
Carefully walking the fuselage along while Jerry drove the forklift back.

Now we needed to extract the fuselage. Telescoping forklift to the rescue again! Jerry hoisted the fuselage and slowly backed up while people held the fuselage with hands and ropes. We passed it from one person to the next over the bad wing. And then set it down in the grass.

Another float plane friend showed up to help.
Another float plane friend showed up to help.

At this point we had disassembled everything we were going to. Carl wanted the fuselage stored in the Brookline T-hanger. He didn’t have a plan yet for the other parts. We pumped out the floats and carried them up onshore. Another one of Carl’s float plane friends flew in to help. Clouds up north had delayed him.

Dump truck slowly towing the fusilage onto Mason Rd.
Dump truck slowly towing the fuselage onto Mason Rd.

Jerry’s next useful piece of equipment was a dump truck. We put the tail wheel on the tail gate of the dump truck and tied it off. The elevators were too wide to fit into the bed of the truck. They would bump if the truck turned too sharply. One of Jerry’s contractor friends drove the truck and Carl and Jerry stayed in the back ready to holler if the elevators got too close. We stopped traffic on Mason Rd to pull out, and then slowly, carefully made our way up the road.

I saw one more float plane. Mark had flown in earlier in his experimental Super Cub on amphibious floats. It was a prototype for the Top Cub. He had it tied down for the night in the T-Hangar.

[Edit summer 2020:] Carl ended up selling the Citabria as parts. He is building a Bearhawk Patrol now. Peter interviewed him on youtube during the build.

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Comments (2)

  • Love the community effort. Great writing and pictures. Found this blog through a bearhawk search a couple years back and keep ready for the great family outdoors vibe.

    • Thanks! We got a little bit busy with some new job logistics and me crashing my bike twice. But there’s more posts coming.