Oratex Success Stories

Pierre Yves Girouard Highlander

Thanks to Peirre for taking the time to write this up. Don't miss the pictures of his beautiful airplane.

My first experience with fabric covering processes was with the standard legacy products; Ceconite fabric and dope. Glue the fabric to the structure, shrink it, apply a sealer, then another toxic product guarding against UV rays, then finally the color coats. Oh, I almost forgot the breathing apparatus. Who needs to breathe that stuff? Not to mention the never ending sanding in between coats; who wants a rough finish on an aircraft? That doesn't take into account the poor man's paint shop I had to set up. Plastic sheets nailed to the ceiling, a fan to get rid of the toxic fumes, an explosion proof electric motor to drive my exhaust fan. Because the old fan I acquired was driven by an old motor, it produced sparks that could light up the whole neighborhood every time I turned it on! Then there are the air filters which had to be installed on the intake side to avoid discovering new breeds of bugs on my wet paint job. And, let's not forget THE paint gun, recommended by all experts. A pure wonder, according to the salesman, could just about paint all by itself. And, (don't worry) it is run proof, according that same sales man. (I still hate that guy).

After covering my third plane, suffering through many mishaps; I heard of Oratex. Why not give it a try, I thought. It is more expensive than the old stuff, but no painstaking paint booth, fumes, paint spillage, liver damage, or kidney pain. And in the long run, it is less time consuming along with it's non toxic nature. So in the long run: cheaper.

So here I am ordering Oratex for a Just Aircraft Highlander. 45 yards of fabric, a few rolls of tape, 2 quarts of glue and here we go. If you have experience with the older products; it is, a different process. It is in fact simpler in many ways, but you have to be more careful with things you didn't care much about with the old stuff. Like they say: when all else fails; read the instructions. Well, believe it or not, I did read them first. And it was worth every minutes of it.

The glue is different, it is to be applied more or less like contact cement. You need to apply it on both surfaces, let it dry, cover and activate the glue with your hot flat iron. The glue is triggered when heat activated, so you need the right amount of heat to get a good bond (a digital controlled flat iron). Wet glue doesn't stick. I know, I tried it; just like it says in the book. A good iron, like with any other job, is a must. Cheap unreliable, inaccurate tools are bound to end up in disaster.

When you hang the fabric on the aircraft, you have to be a little more careful. I couldn't get the Oratex to shrink as much as the Ceconite. It doesn't have to be applied tight, but the big sags by the wing tip bow or any other tight corner you didn't have to care about with Ceconite. But, with Oratex it will be hard to get rid of if you are not careful about them. It also needs to be shrunk with a heat gun; that was new to me. With a quality heat gun, it is easy. It will shrink, but sometimes, you need extra patience. First shrink it with the heat gun, then, leave it alone for a while. Then go back at it to get the perfect job. In places I needed to go back at it two or three times. It is like the thing has to bear in mind it will have to shrink. But the results were worth it.

The edge tapes are pre-glued, so no muss, no fuss. The fabric has to be clean for a good bond; so cleaning with denatured alcohol before taping is a good precaution. This will avoid those pointy ears on the pinked tape to show up. The tapes come in different widths, and shrink a little easier; they are quite easy to apply.

Templates: like the ones over inspection rings were real easy. Mark as precisely as possible where it will go. Apply glue, carefully, because sags and extra glue are a bitch to clean. And you don't want that. Let dry, put it in place, iron it with your small iron, a little cleaning and you are done.

And once the whole plane is covered, you are done! No painting, no sanding, no paint booth, no toxic fumes. In the morning I was putting tapes on the fuselage, and in the afternoon giving ground school to a student upstairs. It would have been unthinkable with most other products. If you take in account only the time to apply the fabric, Oratex consumes more time than applying the traditional stuff; but how much time is saved by avoiding the application of sealers, anti UV's, sanding in between coats, top coats, sanding, top cot again, masking, painting a second color. That is not mentioning the fumes, fowl odors, toxic wastes, and paint booth. You could do an Oratex covering in the basement while your wife is cooking diner upstairs. Do I need to go on?? Oh, and let's not forget to mention the inevitable paint runs I got (from my "run-proof" gun); you know, just next to the door handle on the passenger's side.

Oratex has been around for decades in Europe for uncertified ,as well as, (STC'd for) certified aircraft. So it did prove to be reliable.

If you want to use the old fabric, have fun; and it works, but I like the Oratex!

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