Mal Gross's N4187 Gets a New Look

For this Mite of the Month feature, we have included material from an article published earlier this year which gave a progress report on the rejuvination of N4187. The "Stage 3" photos at the bottom of the page are new, and a few more will be added before the end of the month.

During the winter of 2002/2003, Mal Gross' N4187 has been undergoing a complete re-covering in the hangar at Jeff Schussler's Island Aircraft Services on Orcas Island, Washington. We've been told Wayne Munich has been working on the plane full time since December 10th. In January, we took advantage of this opportunity to have a look at the woodwork in a Mite with the skin removed. Here are a few of the photos we brought back.

Incidentally, the only deterioration found in the wood structure was some plywood skin separation on the fuselage where it meets the cockpit, in front of the fuel tank. The consensus was that it would have been worth the expense of the job simply in order to be able to find and fix this problem. As it is, Mal will get a plane in better-than-new condition, with a beautiful new paint scheme into the bargain.

Mal is hoping the Mite will be ready by the time the May Porterville Fly-in rolls around. We are looking forward to showing you some photos of its spiffy new paint scheme. [Click on the photos to enlarge]

Stage 1 - (January, 2003) The airplane is disassembled and stripped

The metal cage surrounding the cockpit.

The extended main gear, showing part of the hand-operated landing gear mechanism

The main spar is exposed when the fuselage is removed. An auxiliary fuel tank would sit in the compartment behind the spar.

Wayne and Mal look closely at the attach point of the stabilizer.

The entire wing, including the landing gear, weighs perhaps 150 pounds.

Stage 2 - (April, 2003) The silver coat has been applied and the parts are ready for painting.

The nose bowl and assorted metal parts have been given a base coat.

Mal holds the vertical fin. The bottom of the spar will be reinforced with metal.

During the first week of June, the painting was completed and the major components reassembled along with the hundreds of other parts and pieces.

Stage 3 - (June 2003) Rolling out, test flying and bug-removing followed. N4187 made the first flight in its new livery on June 24, 2003.

The "New N4187" is rolled out of Island Aircraft's hangar into the bright sunshine for the first time and has its portrait taken.

The all-metal flaps, with skin removed.

Mal holds the super-light fin.

Wayne holds in position the metal truss by which the entire tail assembly rotates.

This gives us a good look at the gear retraction lever, fuel shut-off valve, etc.

Mal and David Favrholdt tour the inside of the spray-painting tent.

The tail stinger and a flap are likewise suspended to ensure a flawless finish.

Mal made several speed runs in both directions (E/W, and N/S), and reports that it appears the plane has picked up 4 or 5 kts. in speed, very likely due to the combination of new features: paint, Sensenich propeller and spinner.

As of June 29th, Mal logged five hours in the New N4187, including a flight over 10,500 ft. Mount Baker 40 nm east of his home airport. The photo on the right shows the summit of the dormant volcano from 12,000 ft., looking west. Orcas Island is in the distance.

The landing gear in retracted position. Notice the coiled spring.

You can see the bias-ply wood clearly in the wing (above) and the fuselage (below).

A detail of the wood work where a rib attaches to the rear of the wing d-box.

Mal and David look at the binder showing the proposed paint scheme

The fuselage and wing have been silver-coated in preparation for the final finish

Wayne holds the brand new lexan canopy made by Gee Bee Canopies of Puyallup, WA.

Outside its home hangar on the other side of the runway at East Sound.