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Do you think I'm obsessed?

My wife looked up, a startled look on her face. I hadn't asked the question for its shock-value, nor was I merely messing around. As spontaneous as it may have seemed at the time, the query was not without foundation.

For nearly a full year, I had lived the airplane restoration project. Every spare minute was spent either in the shop wrenching, or searching the cavernous depths of the Internet for an answer to some obscure question. For nearly a year I had thought of little else. I ate, breathed, slept, and functioned with little else in mind.

During the winter of 2011-2012, the project began to come together, in a big way. Bill Weeden completed his stellar work recovering the left wing, and began the process on the right wing. While this was going on I literally spent days researching and ordering parts - everything from the new radios and alternator, to electrical components and flight accessories.

I spent two entire weeks rebuilding the braking system. This deceptively simple task turned into nothing but a nightmare. It was not uncommon for World War II-era airplanes to utilize automotive parts. The brake cylinders in the Fairchild are actually from Chrysler, with aviation parts mixed in. To rebuild the system required expander bladders, springs, and pads from California, tires and tubes from Tennessee, and two rebuild kits from NAPA of Monroe, all powered by brake fluid costing some $30 a quart.

Additionally, I had to install new fuel gauges and sending units. The setbacks and dilemmas associated with this task were infuriating beyond measure. I can do little to articulate the stress that accompanied the job, but I can offer this perspective: Imagine performing a ground-up rejuvenation of a World War II-era airplane. Try to think of all the work involved, the obstacles that could arise, the challenges faced. Then realize that for the entire project, start to finish, rebuilding the brakes and installing new fuel gauges gave me more trouble than any other aspect of the airplane.

In addition to the aforementioned, Mike Weeden repainted the entire fuselage of the Fairchild. The fabric was in excellent shape, but the topcoat and paint had become brittle and cracked over time; kind of like the way skin peels after a sunburn. In spots, the paint had actually lifted, exposing the fabric underneath. This is fixable, through a process called rejuvenation. An intense chemical is applied to the airplane, causing the topcoat to liquefy and re-adhere to the fabric. Although time consuming and tedious, this was clearly the time to rejuvenate the topcoat.

For days on end Mike sat on a stool, meticulously cleaning and brushing chemical into the cracked topcoat. When the rejuvenation was complete, the entire fuselage was repainted.

January 2012 was so mild, that we painted with the hangar door open. Still, it took a few days to convert his shop into a suitable painting booth, another couple of days to mask and prepare the skin, a week to rejuvenate, and two days to shoot color. Then, since the airplane has a blue accent down the side, another day to mask for blue, a day to paint, and another two days to remove all of the masking paper. This process has convinced me that there are few things in life more satisfying than pulling tape off a new paint job.

Quite literally, this hobby had turned into something of a part-time job. During the winter of 2011-2012 I spent days at a time, sometimes even a full week, working on the Fairchild. I came home only to milk my cows, sleep, and perform the most fundamental chores that keep a farm going during winter.

Every day was different. Mike might call me in the morning, announcing that his schedule had changed - he'd be available to work on the Fairchild all day. More than a few times I would scramble to find a relief milker, sometimes on incredibly short notice. Mike's time was valuable enough to justify a night off here and there, and a special thank you to Chris Guthrie for making it possible. Especially on short notice.

There was a justification to this madness - the days were getting longer. My biggest fear from the onset of this project was to start it, and then not be able to finish it. I knew that once spring arrived and fieldwork began, the airplane would become a low priority. I could afford to devote my wintertime, but not the spring or summer, to such a hobby. In short, I hated the thought of not finishing the airplane before spring.

Which is why, following a regular schedule of coming home late and putting everything else on hold, I asked my wife if she thought I was obsessed with this project. I actually expected her to say yes, and she would have been justified.

Instead, she thought for a moment. She was not flippant or dismissive. She smiled sweetly, but very earnestly replied, "I do not think you are obsessed; you're just concerned with doing a good job, and getting it done right. Which, by the way is a good thing, especially if I'm going to ride in it.

"I'm proud of you for sticking with it and not giving up. It's obviously more difficult than you thought it would be, but if rebuilding an airplane was easy, everyone would do it."

- Dan Wegmueller of Monroe writes a column for the Times each Monday. He can be reached at