Who does a Canadian resort call to fix its float plane after it sustained heavy damage? One of the go-to guys is Duane Kruse of Kruse Aviation in Princeton.
Kruse began the aviation company 12 years ago and specializes in aircraft repair and restoration. He said the Noorduyn Norseman plane needed everything. “It got hit with a hail storm,” Kruse said about what happened to it. Kruse said the plane went from the Canadian resort to Park Rapids Aviation, which specializes in float planes. It hauled the fuselage of the plane to Kruse’s place for repair and then back again when it was finished.
Kruse said an aviation outfit in Alexandria redid the wings of the airplane. The work of setting a plane fuselage on a trailer for travel to Park Rapids required the effort of five men and a rented crane-type lift from Marv’s True Value. The lift picked up the nose of the heavy plane to align with the trailer tracks and then bore the weight while the fuselage was inched into place by men and machine.
The restoration work entailed replacing the exterior fabric coating that covers the aluminum and wood frame, which basically makes up the body of the plane. Kruse said he redid most other parts of the plane, too, including the controls, surfaces, flaps, rudder and ailerons, and horizontal and vertical, among other elements. He said he removed the old fabric off the “envelope” of the Norseman plane and used it a template to cut the new fabric for the plane’s body. Tape reinforces the fabric and turns blue as it is applied. Kruse said the fabric and tape get glued on then everything gets ironed so the body is smooth. He said the aircraft has one layer of fabric but about 10 coats of paint. He said the silver paint deflects ultraviolet rays so as to protect the plane body from sun damage and disintegration.
“This paint is designed to move with heat and cold,” Kruse said. The Noorduyn UC-64 he just finished is his second Norseman project. The aircraft carries eight to 10 passengers, has a range of about 1,000 miles and can reach 154 miles per hour. It has a maximum takeoff weight of 7,400 pounds and a wingspan of 51.5 feet. Kruse said the Noorduyn Norseman was a war plane built in Canada by Noorduyn Aviation and sold to the U.S. military.
There were approximately 739 of UC-64, also known as the Noorduyn Norseman VI, produced, and somewhere in the neighborhood of 40 planes are still flying. The plane was conceptualized to be a tough bush plane that could withstand Canadian weather. It needed to have floats and/or skis for water, to have wheels that could land in short-field and rough conditions and to be reliable and easy to maintain. The company’s first prototype flew in 1935 and was followed by the Norseman versions II-VI until 1953.
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