Restoration: Arrow Sport
Swen Swanson's Sportster
- By Ken Scott
- Air & Space magazine, July 2008
(Page 2 of 2)
Gustave Eiffel of Tower fame). Most of the originals were not airworthy, but Tilton was able to use them as patterns. Because the top and bottom wings have different chords (the distance between the leading and trailing edges) and both taper, Tilton had to build several rib jigs. Each jig could produce only two ribs; one left, one right. He and his wife Christine stitched and weatherproofed many yards of new Stits polyfiber covering. Christine found that the builder of the aluminum seat had etched his signature in it, so she restored rather than replaced the seat and reconditioned the original horsehair cushion.
Tilton bead-blasted light rust and pitting off the steel-tube fuselage, had the tubes tested for internal corrosion, and moved on to the engine. Parts for Le Blonds are scarce, but the engine is simple, so a local machine shop made new valve guides and a few other parts from scratch.
Tilton, Todd Rhode, and Todd’s wife Petra (whose grandfather flew with Manfred von Richthofen in World War I) worked together for two years, making parts, sanding, assembling, and covering the wings and fuselage with fabric. Early in 2007, the fully restored and painted Arrow was rolled out into the sun. The Rhodes watched Tilton settle into the cockpit. For the first time in his life, Todd swung the propeller. The little radial engine emitted puffs of white smoke and settled into a steady idle.
A month later, after minor adjustments had been made and the family had reunited for the occasion, the Arrow got airborne, for the first time in 70 years, powered by a 78-year-old engine and two generations of dreams.