It’s amazing how happy this little piece of metal makes me.
A lot of small airplanes have these little windows. They leet you put your fingers into the wind stream without filling the cabin with noise. They let you call out “Clear prop!” right before you hit the starter. If you are sitting on the tarmac waiting to take off on a hot day you can open this little vent window and cup your hand to direct some cooler air into the cabin.
A pilot is sad without this little window.
Diamond Aircraft Company thought they would be really clever and make clear catches to close the clear plexiglas vent window. They would be invisible! It would be like Wonder Woman’s Invisible Plane! No it wouldn’t. Plexiglas is transparent, but it is not invisible. You know what would have been nice? A little chrome catch.
Nope, it’s clear plastic. Okay. But it’s brittle. After three years the little tongue that slips under the bar on the window snapped off. That’s less of a problem than you might think. Once the plane is going sixty knots or so, the Bernoulli Effect will hold it closed. But on the ground it will fall open. I used a bit of scotch tape to hold it closed until I could get to the shop in Long Beach and have them replace it.
For ninety dollars.
Yes, a little plastic catch costs ninety dollars when it is for an airplane.
Maybe that would be okay once in a while, but the fourth one broke on me this summer. In my disappointment I put off calling the shop and on the flight north I had Dexter calling out the window, “Clear prop!” before I turned the engine.
A fellow Diamond pilot, Kai, runs the Diamond Aviators Net web forum. There has been a long discussion there about the latches and whether someone could get a small batch of metal catches made. Kai is in Thailand (and Europe some).
I did a little research and even sent one of the catches to a place in the midwest. I then sent some drawings Kai worked up for having plastic ones made with injection molding (but they would be a lot less expensive, and if they were a couple bucks each I wouldn’t care if they broke every year or two). When the place I had contacted asked what to do about the difference between the item I sent and the drawings I was stumped and haven’t followed it up.
Then the catch broke recently.
Right when I was considering what to do about it a padded envelope arrived all the way from Thailand. Kai sent me two metal catches to try out.
They work perfectly. They might be a little tight, but if I had a metal file I could file the tongue down a little and they would fit a little easier. I’m not even sure that’s a good idea. I think a tighter fit is a better idea.
One little piece of metal. And an airplane that connects me to a global community of pilots.