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Soda blasting helps airplane restoration process

An official with Arm & Hammer paid a recent visit to Harry Odone, the gentleman who is restoring the British Fairey Gannet airplane at the New Richmond Regional Airport.

Delia Downes, product manager with Church & Dwight Co. Inc., stopped by the local hangar on Thursday, Sept. 8, to get a first-hand look at the progress Odone is making.

Arm & Hammer is among a handful of companies that are supporting the ongoing restoration effort. Odone is using ARMEX, a baking soda material used to air blast surfaces clean in preparation for eventual repainting. Arm & Hammer is supplying the product for the effort.

Downes said the product has never been used for the cleaning of an airplane fuselage, so the company is curious to see how things are going. What she heard from Odone was promising.

"I was interested in seeing for myself how the product (ARMEX) performs," she said. "Surface preparation is the most important thing in the painting stage. I wanted to see how it's going before he goes to the next step."

Downes said she's impressed with how well Odone is doing.

"He's like the proud papa," Downes said of Odone.

Odone is nearing completion of the soda-blasting stage of the restoration. He's often been seen with the Fairey Gannet along the airport's taxiways accomplishing the work.

Once the blasting is done, Odone said he and a group of volunteers will go through the entire airplane five times to clean away any soda residue left on the surface of the fuselage.

"We started the soda blasting in May and now we're toward the end of the whole process," he said. "Now, it's just like new."

Once the blasting is done, Odone will begin work on the engine and propeller. Other mechanical work will also be underway soon was well.

"Things are going quite well," he said. "It's been a long process, but anything that worthwhile doing is worth doing it right."

The goal is to have the airplane in operating condition in the not-to-distant future and returning to actual flight.

Corporate sponsors have made much of the work over the past year possible, Odone noted. Along with Arm & Hammer's support, companies such as Graco, Akzo Nobel, PreKote and Hyster have offered their assistance.

The project is also getting plenty of international press attention, which helps bring in donations, sponsors and volunteers, Odone said.

A film crew from Discovery Channel is planning to visit New Richmond in the coming weeks to begin producing a story on the ongoing project.

Odone said plans still call for the establishment of a foundation, which will perhaps open a museum at the local airport. The Fairey Gannet would be the centerpiece for such a museum and educational center, he noted.