Walker on Stunt

Paul Walker restored Joe Dill's 1968 Ranger 3 for 2024 Classic Stunt competition. Paul Walker photo.

Restoring the Ranger 3

By Paul Walker
February 2024

I have known Joe Dill since the early 1980s. We lived close to each other in Western Washington, and competed there as well. I clearly remember him flying his Ranger 3 at the Boeing "Space Center" at several contests. At some point Joe stopped flying competition and hung the plane from the ceiling. He then returned to Spokane to enjoy his retirement there near his children.

Moving ahead a decade, he put me on to some property north of Spokane, and soon we owned it. Later a house was built there, and my own flying field went in. I have visited Joe at his home many times, and the Ranger 3 still hung from the ceiling. Joe has now at the stage of not being able to fly, or build. He started to thin his herd, and it was then that I asked if I could purchase the Ranger 3. "NO," he said! "I will give it to you!" My dream was to repair it in time for him to see it fly once again.

This effort turned out to be more work than I originally thought. My philosophy was to leave as much of the original plane as possible. There were numerous torn wing bay covering areas, lots of hangar rash and numerous "use" damage. However, before repairing any of that the control system had to be inspected and verified to be flight-worthy. This was absolutely necessary considering this plane was built and flown in 1968!

Well, that led to a near complete controlsystemectomy! Significant portions of the lower wing/fuselage structure was removed to replace the bellcrank, leadouts and pushrod. The flap horn was inspected and found sound. After that was repaired, the horizontal tail was found to be out of square with the wing. Lots of cuts and removals of material and then addition of material in other places to get the stabilizer square. All new control surfaces were required as all were terribly warped due to sun and age. The control surfaces were temporarily installed and tested for alignment and throw. One thing led to another and it was discovered that the elevator horn was defective. The solder joint at the root had failed and thus had to be replaced.

Then the refinish could start. New wingtips were required as the covering was cracked beyond repair, and all the balsa was terminally warped as well. More work. All the defective covering was removed and polyspan covered these areas. The wings were covered and cleared when the fuselage was addressed. There was extensive paint that was peeling that had to be removed. Most of the paint on the fuse had to be removed unfortunately. The paint around the nose was left on as the possible oil under it was concerning. The fuel rank area had to be completely redone as Joe had used a clunk tank held in with foam and it was replaced with a metal tank. The original canopy and cockpit was always going to be saved. It survived!

There were numerous "decorations" that were decals that were either in very bad condition or bad locations with respect to other repairs. Several newly made masks took care of this. One of note was his contest record he had on the top of the outboard wing that had to be removed due to a repair on the wing trailing edge near it. Jim Aron came to the rescue and it several photos of it made a transfer of it to go back in its place.

After all the color painting and ink work was done the clear started. All was well until the LAST coat of clear. All the upper surface open bays developed "cracks." It wasn't cracked but looked like spider webs all over those bays. I failed to mention how many different types of paint are on Ranger 3. There is Aerogloss, Sig, Pastrana, Brodak and Randolph all in different places. Somehow, after a few weeks it was decided to sand and buff it out. With careful sanding with 1,500 and/or 2,000 followed by 3,000 and buffing, the "cracks" mostly disappeared.

To date the plane has flown, and completed a full pattern on its second flight. Joe has yet to see it fly, but that will happen soon. The plane has been to Joe's for him to see the progress along the way. The smile I saw when I brought the finished plane to him for his approval made it all worthwhile.

Next stop, Vintage Stunt Championships 2024! It was a long trip, but well worth it.

Left rear view.


First flight on Paul's home circle in Deer Park, Wash.

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This page was upated March 5, 2019