Before a young bird attempts to fly it typically stretches its wings. Something comparable also applies to old airplanes.
Recently in Arizona, the engines of the first of seven Hannibal-bound Grumman Albatrosses had a successful engine test. The owner of the Albatrosses, Mike Barron, who has been working for months to get the first of his "flock" of king-sized, twin-radial aircraft airworthy, was ecstatic, according to Robin Carroll, who was on hand when the engines roared to life for the first time in decades.
"He had a grin on his face from ear to ear. He was so happy," said Carroll, who is the fixed base operator at Hannibal Regional Airport.
Although Carroll does not have the monetary or emotional investment in the planes as Barron, owner and operator of Barron Aviation Private Flight Services at Hannibal Regional Airport, she admits being moved during the successful engine test.
"After 30 years to hear an engine running... It was just monumental," she said. "I tried to shoot video, but my excitement got the best of me so they weren’t very good."
Despite the positive test results, more maintenance immediately followed.
"We did send out the carburetors to get them overhauled just to make sure everything is OK," said Carroll. "You don’t want to fly something that hasn’t been flown in 30 years without checking every little inch of it."
After the carburetors are overhauled the engines will be again tested. The 65-foot long plane, which has a wingspan of 100 feet, will then be taxied. And if the big "bird" behaves, some test flights will follow.
"Mike will put a few hours on them before he heads back home with them," said Carroll. "It’s very exciting. One airplane is just about ready to come home."
When might that first plane be seen touching down at Hannibal Regional Airport?
"It’s anybody’s guess at this point really," said Carroll.
Barron now has less than a year-and-a-half to get all seven of the planes out of the aircraft "boneyard" near Tucson, Ariz., where they were slated to be chopped up and recycled when he was offered the chance to buy them.
"So far we’re ahead of schedule, which is completely awesome," said Carroll.
The pace of progress could soon slow.
"With the heat coming on in Arizona we’re a little skeptical on how much we’re going to be able to get done during the hot, hot summer months," said Carroll.
In the meantime, Barron’s attention is now focused on plane No. 2. It has an issue that wasn’t really encountered on the first of the amphibious planes – corrosion.
"It’s definitely worked in salt water," said Carroll. "Mike found a lot of corrosion on the airplane just taking off the flight controls. Some of the bolts were rusted.
"This plane will have to be gone through even more thoroughly than the others."
Since the Courier-Post’s January story about Barron and what might be the largest flock of privately-owned Albatrosses in the United States, if not the world, he has been overwhelmed by interest in his massive restoration endeavor.
"I want to thank everyone for their continued support. We’ve had lots of people volunteer," said Carroll. "It’s quite the undertaking for us. It’s very exciting."
Reach reporter Danny Henley at email@example.com