Getting Ready for Top Gun — Repairs and Do-Overs

Getting Ready for Top Gun — Repairs and Do-Overs

So here’s the story. At Top Gun 2015, Frank Tiano offered me an invitation to the world’s greatest Scale Invitational competition. Wow! Really? I commented that he must have lowered his standards but no, Frank said it would be a first–for a magazine editor to compete. For 24 years I have covered the action, pilots and planes at Top Gun for MAN, and this would a chance to see the other side of the story, from the other side of the camera lens so to speak.


(Above) still in one piece but a little banged up after the last flight in November.

After a bit of the bragging when I got home, I decided I needed to do more flying and less talking. I flew many more times during the rest of the year and then, I tried to get in one more practice flight before the winter settled into New England. So, on November 20, I headed to the Club field for “one more flight!” Yes, it was windy and yes, I should have known better, but what the heck, I needed the stick time. Well, long story short, instead of going around after a missed approach, I dumb-thumbed the Triplane in for a hard crosswind landing. It ended in a bad ground loop and nosing over.




The good news, I didn’t break the prop. The bad news, I did break one of my spoked wheels, I damaged the sub-wing between the wheels and broke my tail skid clean off the plane! Nice going Gerry!!! So, I knew what I would be doing over the winter months. Here’s some shop photos of the repairs.

Break out the ZAP

A little sanding, some fiberglass patches and a bit of Timber Mate putty and the sub-wing gets repaired. I added a patch of FG cloth on the inside and then sanded to outside smooth.





The putty dries quickly and sands easily. After the dusty parts I sprayed with primer and repainted. Being black, the repair is all but invisible.


Next I installed new wheels. These from Vogalsang-Aeroscale.


The only problem with this is they are brand new and shiny! Totally unacceptable so some more painting and weathering is in order.


Much better! Oh yea, I forgot to mention, I also snapped the landing gear rigging wires so I made up a new set and installed the new hardware.


Yes, the DuBro turnbuckles and wire will need to weathered a little.

Tail Skid


Out with old and in with the new. I used the old part as a pattern and traced it out on some plywood.


Ran it through the band saw and cut out two layers. One 1/4 inch and one 1/8 inch thick. This was then laminated together with 30-minute Z-Poxy.


A little sanding, some staining and a few coats of Min-Wax clear varnish and the new tail-skid is ready to reinstall.


Here it is installed with the original hardware. I also found that the internal bungee cord was in need of replacement after 4 years of use. I replace it also.


So that’s it for fixes and patch work. I also took the time to go over the entire airframe looking for other bits n pieces needing some attention. I then went over everything and added some more subtle weathering here and there.

Travel Plans

So the next bit of business was getting a hold on my friendly AAA agent and getting a “Trip Tik” package of maps and hotel information for my journey from Connecticut to Lakeland, FL. 1200 miles one way also required I take my tow-vehicle to my local mechanic for a good tune-up and a look-over for anything needing attention! Oh yea, and to recharge the air conditioner!


So that’s it 9 more days until we pack up the trailer and head south! Wish me luck.


Updated: April 14, 2016 — 3:46 PM


  1. No luck needed!! 🙂 Have a grand time!

    1. Thanks Natalie… I’ll be updating the post so stay tuned.

  2. Luck? You don’t need no stinkin’ luck….you’re the Sr Technical Editor!!! 🙂 But, if it makes you feel any better, good luck just the same and have a safe trip. Gee, if only it was an electric!

    1. Thanks Greg. Electric? Why I don’t even have an electric starter for the Triplane… the GT80 has a spring starter. :^)

  3. Gerry,

    Always fun to read about your adventures! Hope to make it to Florida next year.

    Hava safe and uneventful trip.


  4. Best of luck Gerry!

  5. WWwwooow!! Go scale, but the pilot is sitting up too high! Good luck and happy landings, Paul V Bangkok Thailand

  6. Cant wait to see the write-up on the experiences. Hope you your entire adventure!

  7. That tail skid should be straight grain, not plywood. The plywood is not good for strength in the typical loading direction.

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