The Jet Job

Bill Keefer,  manager of the Chillicothe, MO airport contacted Jim Deardorff about a special painting project.  Bill had received the OK from the City to repaint the F-105 Thunder Chief fighter jet on display at the entrance of the airport.  The last time the jet had been painted was in 1980 over 25 years ago.  It was in bad need of a new paint job.  Also, the aircraft had been painted with the Thunderbird paint scheme and Bill wanted it returned to the original Vietnam War camouflage pattern. 

The reason Bill had called Jim was because of his experience in removing old paint and rust from classic car parts.  Jim has developed a special sandblast process he called Classic Blast.  Bill had used Jim in the past to clean parts off his Ford Model A and Harley Davidson motorcycle. 

Bill was aware of the quality of Jimís work and his ability to remove the aged coating from the planeís aluminum skin without damage.   Jim scheduled a time with Bill for a test pattern.  Jim usually performed a free test to determine how the metal would respond to blasting and give the customer an idea on cost.

Jim originally developed Classic Blast in the early 1990s to remove mil scale and rust from fabricated steel products but, later found a more rewarding and profitable market in classic restoration. 

According to Jim the majority of classic owners are more concerned with quality work than speed and low price.  Some classic cars are worth many times more than their original sale price when restored to mint condition. 

To prove his point about the safety of Classic Blast Jim demonstrates how he can remove the paint off a soda can with damage.  This is one of my best sales tools.  Each year I give away a case of Coke can with half the paint removed at area car and antique tractor shows.  Jim also uses Classic Blast on antiques and collectables including iron bed frames and old well pumps.

Jimís Classic Blast is based on a special blend of hard dense minerals and an exact percentage of graded walnut shells.  Walnut shells have been used for years to blast clean the rotor fans in jet engines and polish brass.   Classic Blast operates at low pressure (25 to 45 psi)  At low pressure it is difficult to insure a steady media flow through the blast hose especially since Classic Blast media is very dense and heavy (0ver 125 pounds per cubic foot).  To solve this problem Jim uses a special blast nozzle that has air induction holes in its body.  The holes produce a venturi suction action helps to move the media evenly though the blast hose even at low pressure.   

Since the jet sat on a stand less than 100 feet from a busy four lane highway, Bill and Jim felt it would be better to lower it to the ground and more it away from the highway.  A local construction company brought in two large lifting cranes for the job.  The two canes were positioned at each end of the jet and secured by heavy cables.  Gently, the plane was lower to the ground and placed on a flat bed semi trailer.  The F-105 was then move to a concrete pad behind the airportís office building.

First, the jet was washed to remove surface grime.  For some time the plane had been home for a flock of pigeons who had gained entry through the air intake openings and the exhaust hole.  Each day Jim noticed that the pigeons returned to the stand confused to where their home had gone.   

After the washing was completed, Jim sat up for blasting.  From his test patterns, Jim figured it would take one ton of abrasive material used 12 to 15 times.  Large ground cover tarps were positioned under the plane to catch used material for recycling.  Jim and his crew usually worked from 7:30 am till noon then cleaned up used media for use the next day.

The blasting took a little longer than Jim had figured.  When delivered to the airport in 1980, a local body shop had sanded the surface and sprayed to new primer and finish coat over the original coating.  This made a total of four coats to blast off.  Jim found that the silver grey paint came off fairly easy but, the red and blue accent coats were much more difficult to remove. Jim had unluckily picked the silver gray area for his test patterns.  Still with delays due to bad weather, the blasting was finished by the first September.

Some minor body repairs were completed before the St Joseph National Guard painters show up to apply the new paint.  First, an epoxy primer coat was applied by airless sprayer.  Since there were four separate colors (gray, white, and green) for the camouflage paint scheme each color was applied and allowed to dry before the next color was sprayed.  After the painting was finished the original identification numbers were stenciled on.  The F-105 jet fighter with a bright new paint job is scheduled to be returned to its platform stand by the 1st of November.

 Itís a rare chance that a local paint company gets a chance to work on a project with such a rich military background.  The F-105 Thunder Chief (nicknamed the ďThudĒ) was used extensively during the Vietnam War and had experienced the highest loss numbers of an U.S. aircraft in the campaign.  Jim Deardorff was very grateful to be a part of the painting project.  Bill Keefer later told Jim he was probably the only individual, outside the military to sandblast a vintage F-105 fighter jet.

Distinguished Visitors:

During the F-105 painting project several distinguished visitors passed through the airport and stopped briefly to talk to Jim.  This included Missouri Governor Matt Blunt and Congressman Sam Graves who flew in to present the Silver Star metal to Carl Hart a Korean Was veteran.  Another notable visitor was Kenny Stufflebean from Marceline, Missouri.  Kenney had worked on the F-105 Thunder Chief as a crew chief during his tour in Vietnam. 

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