Friday, January 14, 2011

Comet Restoration Moves Forward; Hood Leads the Way

The following article by Stephen Dennis appeared in the November/December 2010 edition of Aloft, a publication of Seattle's Museum of Flight.

Bob Hood loves the Comet; the de Havilland Comet Mk4C, that is, currently at the MOF Restoration Center at Paine Field. He is about to celebrate his 15th anniversary with the Comet restoration team, which he now leads. In nearly 25 years he has amassed over 18,000 volunteer hours and adds another 26 hours working three days each week.

His passion pours forth as he explains the Comets many design innovations as the very first successful jet powered airliner. Structural issues with the first model tarnished its reputation in the industry but failed to alter his opinion.

“This plane was designed by inspired people. Restorers that recognize the creativity of the original builders love to work on this plane,” he says as he points out yet another Comet innovation.

Bob first volunteered on the Boeing 247D in 1986. He believes the 247D was as innovative in the 1930’s as the Comet was in the early 1950’s; one with propellers and the other with jets. One of the highlights of his MOF time was watching the restored 247D take flight.

Bobs’s interest in aircraft restoration developed late in life. In 1965, with a degree in electrical engineering, he joined the leading edge Fairchild Semiconductor Company. He managed their automotive products group exploring ways to integrate new electronic controls in the auto industry.

He did acquire a pilots license and owned a four place Navion “A” followed by an “A” Model Beech Bonanza.
His flying interest took a new course in 1986 when he toured the Restoration Center with a professional group. He was hooked. While he is the current Comet Project Manager he is quick to point out that literally hundreds of individuals have devoted time and energy to the project. In 2002 they did a tally and identified over 125 volunteers who had worked on the plane up to that time. He estimates that more than a hundred names could easily be added to the roster by now. And that doesn’t include the many supporters he has found in the United Kingdom who have helped with parts, advice and encouragement.

His leadership philosophy? Point out what needs to be done and then get out of the way.

The most frequent question he is asked? When will it be done?

The cockpit and first class sections are nearly complete. The aft cabin is coming along nicely. But much remains to be done and, he is quick to point out, new volunteers are always welcome.

When the work is done, the record will be clear that Bob Hood played a big role in its completion.

Air Force One and the Concord; A Docent Love Affair

The following article by Stephen Dennis appeared in the September/October 2010 edition of Aloft, a publication of Seattle's Museum of Flight.

Rick Wheeler loves airplanes. They are in his blood. His late father flew for Hawaiian Air, one brother currently flies for them and a second brother builds planes for Boeing.

A developmental disability keeps Rick from flying planes but nothing can keep him away from them. In five years at the MOF he has amassed over 500 volunteer hours. Most of that time has been spent in the Air Park where he devotes two days a week to cleaning either Air Force One or the Concord. Rich Lynch, Air Park Lead, reports that, “Rick is hard working, reliable and very fun to work with. On Air Force One days Rick wears his Air Force One hat and conducts a pre-cleaning walk around the plane in pre-flight fashion. On Concord days he always arrives in his British Air jacket.”

One day, when the Plexiglas was removed for cockpit cleaning, Rick posed in the Air Force One pilot’s seat in a cowboy hat doing his best LBJ imitation. He is particularly proud of that photo.

It’s a 90 minute bus ride from his home to the MOF so Rick makes the most of his time upon arrival. Following his Air Park work he is often found in the control tower or the Personal Courage Wing. His current favorite in the PC Wing is the P-51 and he is saving his money to fulfill a dream in 2011; a flight in the B-17, Liberty Bell.

His volunteer work around the biplane concession has earned him several rides over Seattle and he gives each of his nieces and nephews a biplane ride upon graduation from high school. He has even done a tandem jump from a plane in Hawaii.

His plane passion continues when he is away from the MOF. He maintains a museum quality collection of aircraft and airline pins which he once displayed in the hobby area of the Puyallup Fair. He collects tail numbers in little spiral notebooks and, according to Lynch, if you want to know anything about a particular plane, just give Rick the tail number.

Rick Wheeler, with the support of his “flying family,” demonstrates there are no limits to the volunteer opportunities at the MOF.