Mitigating a learning curve

In preparation for taking some of the parts off Air Force One like the horizontal stabilizers and vertical stabilizer we needed someplace to put them so that they would not get damaged. Because of the odd shape of the components we could not simply put them on the floor or saw horses.

Michael came up with the idea of getting hold of some used mattress and placing them on the nice soft bedding. It was a good idea, but where in the world were we going to get old mattress? So, we set out on an odyssey to find used furniture stores in San Bernardino, lo and behold, there are more used furniture stores in that area than we expected.

We were able to gather up about a dozen old mattresses and put them in strategic places so when parts came off, we would have only a short distance the crane would have to move in order to place the parts on the mattresses.

When the first stabilizer finally came off we almost lost it. Each one of those parts have what they call pick points, you attach cables to those pick points, and hook them on to the crane. In simple language, each part has a point where it will be perfectly balanced providing you put the cables in the proper place on the stabilizer. Since we were working without any blueprints, those points had to be done on a best guess basis. Frank did the math, but it didn’t come out exactly right.

So when the last bolt was released and the stabilizer started to come off, it tilted dramatically to the right of the fuselage and started to come down, off balance, and fast. Frank in his infinite wisdom, had four loose cables hanging from the stabilizer to the floor. Four of our biggest men holding the cables used brute strength to balance the stabilizer so it landed on our cherry picker with hardly any impact. We then released the cables from the stabilizer, which was being held by the crane, and the cherry picker was able to carry the stabilizer to one of the mattress.

We were able to get the right stabilizer off after only one day of work, talk about a learning curve, huh.:-)

~Joel Cohen

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