A Real Corker of a Story

Posted February 2017

This is an old story. 

Not old as in, "This has happened to countless other individuals." 

I really doubt that.  Anyway, this happened ~30 or so years ago when I was flying N500F, the original Fly Baby.

The standard Fly Baby fuel gauge is a Cub-type; a cork on the end of a stiff wire.

Not long after I started flying N500F, I decided the 30-year-old cork was looking too ragged, and decided to replace it.  It took a few tries....

Attempt #1

I found a nice big cork at the local hardware store, intended for closing the top of a thermos bottle. I installed it on the wire, slid it through the cap, bent the top, shellacked the cork, and let it dry.

Turned out the cork was too big to go into the fuel tank opening. It was tapered, not cylindrical like a wine cork, and the small end was small enough but the flare was too much.

Attempt #2

Grabbed my trusty jackknife, whittled the cork down, shellacked it again, let it dry.

It fit...but the cork plunged to the bottom of its travel. Worked in water, but the change to gasoline meant it didn't have enough buoyancy.

Attempt 451

Took it off, bought TWO corks, put them inline, and shellacked them.

By this point I was getting impatient. Didn't want another overnight wait for the shellac to dry. I grabbed my big mondo heat gun (bought at Boeing Surplus), cranked it up, and pointed it at the corks.

A few seconds later, they caught fire. Looked like a couple of abused marshmallows at a cookout.

Attempt #4

So... two new corks, lather, rinse, repeat, and flew Fly Baby N500F for years with the stacked cork system.

About ten years later, I'd bought my own Fly Baby. It needed a new cork on the fuel cap.

I bought an off-the-shelf J-3 unit from Wag-Aero....

Ron Wanttaja

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