Ridge Runner 3 restoration - "Project Whiskey" - KBTV


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Aug 29, 2020
Burlington, Vermont USA
To start, we're going back in time to September 2019. I had just gotten my PPL & was starting my IFR training. I realized the required hours for IR & CPL would cost a lot renting at 180$/hr in the school's 172s (and the 130$/hr Cherokee had just been taken down for maintenance), so I set off on the path of buying an aircraft.

I was browsing Barnstormers & came across a low-time, good condition Rotax 503 DCDI (Provision 8, modern version) within a two hour drive of me. The previous owner was building an UL & the 503 was too heavy, so he was switching to his 447. He had cleaned & bagged the air filter, replaced the fuel lines, & changed the gearbox oil; The engine looked in good shape so I picked it up & began narrowing my kit options.

I did a ton of research on what aircraft to buy. My mission was simple, I thought; One seat, cheap-ish, & good off-airport performance.

The last one was the big reason I went with the Ridge Runner over building a new MiniMax. Both were made to use the 503, but the RR could get into places the MiniMax definitely couldn't. There's many reasons why I wanted STOL capabilities; Out in the rural areas I can actually commute with the plane, it gets the same or better MPG than my car (assuming no wind)! One of these days I plan on flying this bird to Valdez & really putting it to the test :D

Finding a Ridge Runner for sale was a challenge. I checked Barnstormers, Craigslist, & Avidfoxflyers every day for almost a month before this popped up! There had been an ad posted years ago for this plane, but the owner had just relisted it on Barnstormers the same day I went looking. I took a huge risk & bought the aircraft unseen, & had it shipped from Washingston state to Vermont - Luckily it paid off, the paperwork was all there & the airframe was in good condition!

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All the parts were there, and we were considering assembling the plane & flying it after a good inspection, however little things kept adding up that required a re-covering of fabric on everything.

For starters, the entire plane had been rattle-canned & brushed over with yellow poly-tone, and it was a very rushed job. To say the plane was ugly would be an understatement, and there was a lot of extra weight in that paint.
Most of the fabric was in flyable condition, there were only a few places that needed patching. However, the closer I looked, the more I saw chips in the powder coat that were rusting; On the airframe, on the landing gear, & on the lift struts. These all added up to be more than I was comfortable with, especially in the long run.

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Originally, I was going to clean everything as best I could & repaint over the chips with enamel paint. It would've been the cheapest option, that's for sure. But, with everything else wrong with the rest of the parts, I decided to tear the whole thing apart & replace the fabric with Oratex.


It was a very good idea to take the plane apart, in hindsight. Both wings' false ribs had detached, and were only held on by the fabric. There was a hornet nest in the right wing, too.

The left wing was damaged pretty severely, unfortunately. Two of the three drag wires were unusuable; One bent, one broken at one end. The whole spar sweeps backwards about 1 or 2 degrees midway down the wing - The A&P who's doing the condition signoff said it looks like minor ground loop damage.

These are the prices we pay for not doing a prebuy! Luckily, the mechanic & FB group agree it's still flyable - Just gotta fix it.

In the next few posts I'll talk about where the project's at now & what the next steps are, first I gotta take more pictures!