Thursday, September 24, 2009


Its been almost four months since we happily brought 974 back to Fresno from its location in El Centro. After deciding to fly it for 25 hours or so before beginning the final restoration process back to its military form and markings, we got to hour 5 when we experienced a major fuel leak which was definitely a safety of flight issue and probably not a complete surprise on a 60 year old airplane.. Unfortunately one of the few design flaws in the Navion is the total inaccessibility of the fuel tanks and supporting accumulator tank system. Although it ended up being a small leaking Y fitting that leaked probably due to a clogged return line fitting on top of the accumulator tank, everything is buried in the wings and center section, repairs requiring the dreaded Navion de-mate. Yes, both wings must be removed from under the fuselage and separated to reach the leaking fitting. This is a major undertaking and is very expensive. But a great side benefit is the ability while the aircraft is taken apart to completely go through the fuel system by re-inforcing the metal tanks( including the fuel bays that become filled with dirt and in our case two rats nests), landing gear, cables, wiring, new hydraulic tubing lastly a complete cosmetic cleaning and make-over for the wings. Bob Juarez, A&P has diligently led this effort and he and I have worked steadily on restoring the wings. His methodical, careful approach led to a successful upgrade of the wings and fuel bays.
Some of the fun creeps in once in awhile between trips to the wash rack for pressure washing old greasy parts-when we discover “aeronautical treasure” like all the original Ryan inspectors ink stamps(which we have preservrd). Areas of original paint hidden under old coats of hastily applied civilian paint are also exciting to find and match. We are going for originality and are anxiously awaiting some L-17 files stored at the San Diego Aerospace museum that apparently has the original Ryan Aircraft archives. If anyone out there in the ether has L-17 pictures esp. the interior please contact us. Hope you enjoy the new pictures. You should know I never think of owning vintage aircraft in a prideful way, they really are just in our trust for a little while before we pass on the really worthwhile one’s to the next generation. This L-17B one of about sixty left out of 246 is going to be worth passing on and I hope to keep you informed of its status.

Ryan Douthitt to the Rescue

Ryan Douthitt found Ryan L-17B 48-974-the 54th production a/c out of a military order for 163 in 1948-49- aka. N7733C in a hanger at Redlands, CA in 2008 where it had been stored for 25 years and brought it back to life ferrying it back to his families unique airstrip and maintenance base in the outskirts of El Centro hard by the Salton Sea and only ten miles from the Mexican border. There are over ten Navions based there and this all goes back to his grandfather the late Bob Douthitt who was really a west coast pioneer for Navion operations going back to the very beginning of Navion sales. He had much to do with the original tip tank modification STC (as well as many other authorized Navion mod’s), Ryan’s father also a lifelong Navion pilot passed on this legacy to his son Ryan who today at 29 is one of the most knowledgeable Navion mechanics and restorers, IA and Navion CFI on the West Coast- and one of the nicest guys you‘ll ever meet. Best of all Ryan stood behind the repair of 33C, flying to Fresno in the company Navion for many nights to demate the aircraft then just recently returning to put the wings back on the aircraft. To me Ryan Douthitt is a throwback to the hard working, totally knowledgeable mechanic/pilots of old(and as a former corporate and military pilot I can compare his work with many). His work ethic is amazing and I strongly recommend him to anyone with a Navion or wants to buy a Navion. As the “Old Guard”Navion Yoda’s retire and disappear Ryan will be there to take the Navion into the next generation. He can be contacted at 760-791-8807.

1 comment:

  1. totally LOVE IT..thanks for the demate pix,,do you have more??I have that terrible task coming up .im N86562 super260B,allen Edwards