What Our Members Are Building/Restoring — North Carolina Champion 7GCBC Citabria Explorer

By Mark Thoman, EAA 604597

This piece originally ran in the What Our Members Are Building/Restoring section of the October 2020 issue of EAA Sport Aviation magazine.

PATROL, my 1970 Champion 7GCBC Citabria Explorer, has flown! The aircraft’s last flight was September 7, 2015. Since, it has been restored, re-covered, and repainted. On Tuesday morning, June 30, almost five years later, it flew again.

The flight was uneventful, which for a post-maintenance functional check flight is exactly what you want. The engine and aircraft both performed well. Garry Brown, EAA 3983267, climbed in his RV-4 and ably performed the duties of chase pilot. Though I should note that Garry had to pull way back on the throttle to fly as slow as PATROL cruises. Fortunately, Garry did not have to report any fire, any smoke, nor any large parts falling off. We spent an hour orbiting overhead Stag Air Park while I noted aircraft control and stability, pitch trim, radio operation, slow flight, stalls and stall recovery, and general aircraft handling. After an hour of playing around, we descended into the pattern, and I finished with a successful three-point landing.

In the midst of the restoration, I moved all the major components from Jacksonville to Stag Air Park (7NC1). The adventure of reassembling PATROL at Stag has been a memorable one, and I have learned a great deal. Many of the folks in my local EAA Chapter 297 have been an integral part of the reassembly project and deserve mention and my sincere thanks.

Phil Ellison, EAA 795769, tops the list because he was willing to park his airplane outside while I used his hangar. Fortunately, there was an empty space available, and his airplane has remained under cover, especially during some rather significant weather.

In addition to Phil, the team that helped me hang the wings included Aubrey Thompson, EAA 780759; Bob McGowan, EAA 337749; Allan Bobbe, EAA 755623; Tommy Gore; and Leon Sandstrom. Tracy Snowdon-Muller was instrumental in helping me untangle the aileron control cables in both wings. That was a tedious task that I simply could not do myself. Allan visited the hangar and got roped into helping hang the engine on the mount. Garry and Bob stopped by the hangar on a daily basis to check and see if I need help. They got involved in the installation of the engine starter ring and the propeller.

Both Vern Pitts, EAA 236142, and Don Rhodes, EAA 454944, have lent their technical expertise when I wasn’t positive that I had assembled something correctly. Vern has more aircraft-related tools and hardware than Aircraft Spruce & Specialty. When I didn’t have a specific bolt or machine screw, I just ambled next door and Vern would find one in his stash.

Ella Rhodes has kept watch over the newly installed interior. She gave the final installation her seal of approval. Ricky Hawkins, the FAA A&P/IA mechanic who has signed off the last 10 years of annuals on PATROL, agreed to supervise this restoration project. He has consistently lent his knowledge and expertise and ably performed the engine maintenance that was well beyond my capability. He conducted a final inspection and signed off PATROL’s annual inspection.

Tommy took me flying in the Legend Cub and allowed me to knock some of the rust off my flying skills. I joked that at least he didn’t scream, and he responded that he only woke up when I thumped the last landing. Chris Montefusco, EAA 1265724, gave me the final seal of approval. After a fun hour of flying and an hour of discussing flying knowledge, he signed off my flight review.

Some months ago, when I determined that I wanted to reassemble PATROL at Stag Air Park, I made the decision based on physical things — having a hangar with a level cement floor, the access to scales to weigh the aircraft, and a runway with a forgiving length. All of these were obvious. What I had not considered, and proved to be far more important, was the involvement of the folks around Stag Air Park. The interest, the encouragement, the knowledge, the expertise, and the camaraderie that they have collectively given made my adventure in restoring PATROL a very memorable one. I sincerely appreciate the contribution that each of them made! Thank you!

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