Wednesday, April 25, 2012

We Could Get 1600 Hrs Out of an 1830

This is what a "dropped valve" does to a piston.  Many years ago, WL Paris was flying for the family business when one engine developed a "small problem".

Listening to my friend describe his treasures, I could see a smile in his eyes. Every guy, and I suppose every gal, has some point in their life they’d like to revisit. Whatever their sex may be though, commonalities exist among those favorite memories.
Passion, risk, and reward season the most bland of life’s days and tenderize the toughest cuts. Monotonous turns momentous and misery becomes memory when they are at hand. How else could one explain the excitement in his voice as he handed me the stressed metal?
From a distance the part was recognizable; in hand unbelievable. Once a piece of mechanical artwork, the piston was ugly defined. Pounded repeatedly by the head of an errant valve, its original tolerances were a distant memory. Only now after decades of darkness and dust does it again have purpose. It is history; a mile marker in time.
“There was a small miss but it kept running; occasionally it would backfire. Today’s engine couldn’t do that,” my friend said. He was right.
WL Paris owns and operates Central American Airways out of Bowman Field in Louisville. The company was started by his father and two friends immediately after WWII. Back then they offered the first non-stop flight from Louisville to New York. Their aircraft of choice was a DC-3. Eventually though, they operated across the planet using Connies, Convair 880’s, and many other airframes; then came de-regulation. But, that is a story for another time.
Today Central American Airways is easily described as the most successful charter company in the area.  While going through family and business heirlooms, WL recently came across an original Central American passenger manifest from 1947, his father’s RAF uniform from a time before the US was in the war, and among many other things, this piston and valve. If I can ever get him to slow down long enough to make sure my details are correct, I’ll tell you the entire Central American story.

The valve that once helped power a DC-3 made itself a nice little bed in the top of this piston.  It should be noted, Central American had the engines figured out to the point they were able to get as much as 1600 hours out of an 1830.  Anyone who operates DC-3s today will know how amazing that number is.

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