(Click pic for hi-res) Kyle and Amanda Franklin: Franklin's Flying Circus & Airshow
(50 pix - 1 CoolPix - 1 video)
The husband and wife team of Kyle and Amanda Franklin put on some of the absolute best airshow performances in the world, and they do it while being really nice people too! If you don't know about their fascinating airshow heritage, check out my podcast with Matt Younkin and Kyle from back in February to learn more. If you do know about them, you still might be surprised to learn that they take that fabulous Waco 'Mystery Ship' biplane apart and put it in a trailer after nearly every airshow they perform at.
Kyle learned years ago from his dad Jimmy Franklin that taking the airplane apart and transporting it to the next show in a trailer had lots of advantages. You put a lot less hours on the engine this way, plus, you pretty much completely remove the variable of the weather from the equation. The wonderful speed and 'straight-line point to point' benefits of flying can quickly be undone by the weather. Maybe you've heard it said: "If you've got time to spare, go by air". And when you travel the country as much as Kyle and Amanda do, you really don't need the airplane stranded somewhere that the rest of the crew and support vehicle aren't at. Putting the airplane in a trailer keeps everything safe, and together.
But wow, doesn't taking the airplane apart seem like a huge task? Well, it is a huge task, but with lots of advance prep, and years of experience, the job can usually be done in about an hour and a half. That's pretty amazing when you really think it thru! The whole process was something I was really interested in, so I asked Kyle if he'd let me document the disassembly process with pictures. The following 49 pictures and captions tell the story of taking the apart right after the Indy Air Show back in June. It was hot, and Kyle and Amanda were tired from a long weekend, but there was work to be done!
I hope you enjoy this very special opportunity to see behind-the-scenes as the Waco Mystery Ship comes apart and gets secured in the trailer in preparation for moving on down the road...
The Waco was moved from the flightline to an available hangar to facilitate the tear down. Matt Younkin is sitting on the tug in the red hat, and his crew chief Jeff Gibbs is standing next to him. Matt's Twin Beech can just barely be see in the background, and there were several aircraft based at the airport in the back of the hangar. Jeff helped Kyle and Amanda take the Waco apart (Matt wondered off : )
Kyle backing the motorhome/tow-vehicle and the trailer into position. At first glance, you just wouldn't think all that airplane is gonna fit in that trailer! But I was watching closely, and I assure you, it all did.
After letting the trail ramp down, Kyle got out the large fabric sleeve used to store all of the flying wires that come off the wings and tail. This is an exciting moment actually because 'Rocky' the dog is rather infatuated with the flying wires! He gets all excited seeing the bag coming out again. I think it's the when the wires are slid into their labeled slots that he thinks there's something alive moving thru the fabric.
There are three dogs that travel with the crew that you'll see in the pictures here, but Rocky was by far the most enthusiastic about the airplane coming apart!
Here's a little better view of the stack of airplanes in the hangar. The disassemby process begins with screwdrivers removing lots of aluminum fairings and covers to gain access to attached bolts and pins. You also get a look at the top mounted stand that Amanda uses in parts of the wingwalking act. One of the tasks in the procedure is to remove the stand and replace it with temporary one that is used to be a safety support for the wings - details coming a few pictures down.
Amanda removing several covers as one of the other dogs rests nearby. The teamwork displayed in the tear down was great to see. The atmosphere was relaxed and fun, but it was also focused and following a strict procedure as led by Kyle.
Kyle removing the large covers that will expose the vertical fin and horizontal tail attach fittings. Both components will be removed from the fuselage. You can see other covers already removed under the airplane.
Tail attach fittings are visible here as Kyle removes hardware related the tail flying wires. Another interesting element to tearing the airplane apart after each airshow is how it gives Kyle the opportunity to really have a close relationship with the structure. This can be a great benefit when you're pushing a large, old airplane like this very hard on a regular basis and want to be certain that the structure is 100% airworthy.
In a few key places, pins that can be removed quickly have been installed where you might otherwise have a nut installed. This really helps speed up the process.
The work is constantly moving all around the airplane as a variety of primary tasks are completed. Here Kyle is removing the cable bracing for the wingwalk stand.
Now he's actually installing the temporary stand that will be used to suspend some cables that attach fairly far out on the upper surface of the top wing acting as a safety support as the flying wires are loosened. With and airframe subjected to high 'g' loads on a regular basis, you can't be too careful in insuring that no damaging stresses are put on the structure during the disassembly.
Amanda removing an access cover so the wing attach bolts can be reached. The wing center section will remain on the fuselage as there's just enough room in the trailer for it to clear the top.
The primary support for the wings as the flying wires are loosened is this padded 'U' shaped brace that can be adjusted for good support by the angle it's set at. It's simple, very stable, and very effective.
Lock nuts being backed off on the flying wires so the tension on the wires can be relaxed. The wires are made with a right hand thread on one end and a left hand thread on the other so that each rotation of the wire causes the ends to move either away from or toward each other for tightening and loosening. Kyle has this potentially very time consuming process down to an art.
Rudder cables being detached from the rudder horn.
Rocky is sorta patiently waiting for another wire to be slid into the storage sleeve. The sleeve not only protects these vitally important wires, but it keeps them all very neatly organized too.
After removing a few more key pieces of hardware, the fin and rudder are removed as a complete assembly.
More right wing flying wires are being removed as one of the dogs chills out.
Hardware on the interplane 'N' struts being removed. Note the padded vertical leg of the wing support stand.
Wing attach bolts being removed.
With Amanda holding the wingtip, Kyle and Jeff pull the first wing off the fuselage. The ailerons on the Waco were designed with pushrods which somewhat simplifies the removal process.
With the top wing supported by the stand, the lower wing is carried over to a special rack.
The rack is simple... nothing more than is needed to provide acceptable cushioning and strapping down of the wings for safe travel.
The Waco is definitely beginning to look stripped down at this point, but there's still a lot to do too. The dogs get off pretty easy tho!
Amanda removing strut hardware as Kyle is prepping the horizontal tail for removal. This is a good time to say again how nice these people are!
With the fin and rudder completely out of the way, prepping the horizontal tail for removal is pretty straight forward. Note Kyle's smile in the reflection on the fabric of the stab : )
Now it's back up the wing attach fittings... this time the top wing on the right. Both left side wings are still in place.
And now this wing panel is ready to come off.
The wing panels aren't all that heavy, but this is a critical point where extreme care is needed to ensure that the panel isn't dropped.
Wing panel clear of the airplane and headed for the trailer.
The upper panels don't get a rack like the lower ones. Instead, they are mounted on the trailer side walls.
It's a relatively simple procedure to get them in place and strapped down.
Rocky's tail is really going here as another wire is about to slide into its slot!
Wing removal continues with the lower left panel.
The second lower wing panel gets mounted in the rack.
With the lower wings removed, the Waco takes on a very mean looking monoplane stance! Here the last wing is coming off. Also, Matt Younkin has found his way back to make sure things are going well (you don't need any help here, do you sis?)
Last wing panel getting stowed on the trailer side.
Horizontal tail removal.
Completely free from the airframe and headed for the trailer.
The horizontal tail mounts on the underside of the deck in the trailer.
Rocky showing both joy and sadness as his time with the flying wires is almost over! After rolling the sleeve up, the wires get moved to the trailer.
Next in is the lower wing panel rack. Rocky overseeing.
The lower wing rack working its way to the forward side of the trailer for securing.
Swinging the tail around to roll the fuselage up the ramp and into the trailer.
Sure was nice of Waco to put that dandy handle right there!
After getting partially in, a winch cable is attached to slowly but easily pull the fuselage all the way into the trailer.
Once properly positioned, the fuselage is securely strapped in place.
And there it is! The Waco Mystery Ship completely (just barley!) inside the trailer with the ramp coming up to seal the deal. By this time, everyone is very happy that it's pretty much all over... well, except for the dogs, they seem to really enjoy all that hard work going on around them : )
Just a few housekeeping details left and the Franklin Airshow crew will be ready to hit the road pulling one big beautiful beast of a Waco inside a trailer. Makes me tired just thinking of having to put her all back together again the next week followed by another tear-down when the airshow is over.
This whole process is just another reason to be intrigued with airshow work of Kyle and Amanda Franklin. I hope you'll make the effort to go watch this unique husband and wife fly their Mystery Ship at an airshow near you... and remember all the hard work it took to get them there!
And thanx Kyle and Amanda for all you do for the airshow world, and for being such nice people : )