Anybody who's been around US-made machine tools, (lathes, mills and CNC machining centers) will recognise the big names like Bridgeport, Haas and FADAL.
And, if you're one of them, you probably know FADAL, the little giant from the San Fernando valley, stood for Francis, Adrian, Dave and Larry,
I met Larry today. (on the right)
His son-in-law, Mike (left) just took over the FBO at Ramona airport (KRNM) from the equally legendary Chuck Hall.
If machine tools and technology turn you on, being around Larry for a few minutes is to be able to listen to living history from California's era of unfettered progress.
The FADAL name is owned by others now, but Larry still lives in Chatsworth and says he has some five-axis tooling projects on the burner.
I found this piece on the iconic FADAL story at http://www.fadalvmcparts.com, originially written in 2001.
The Fadal family business is the perfect manifestation of the entrepreneurial spirit: vision + ambition = success.
Dave and Larry de Caussin started working in their father's garage shop in 1955 and in 1995 sold their family's multi-million-dollar business to Giddings and Lewis.
When Dave de Caussin took a trip to IMTS in 1974 to show off Fadal's new tool-changer, he had no idea that in five short years the company would be revolutionizing the machining-center market with its VMC45. Looking back, he said the trip was a pivotal event for the California machine tool builder. But, at the time, things didn't go all that smoothly.
"We put the milling machine with the toolchanger in the back of a rental truck, which had a top speed of 55 mph. Leaving from California, my wife and I made it to Bickerville, Calif., filled the truck's 25-gallon tank, giving us a traveling range of about 90 miles. We ran out of gas about 40 miles out-side of Las Vegas at 5 am. While sitting alongside the road, freezing, a guy comes by in an off-roading jeep. He drives me to a Stucky's to get five gallons of gas and I paid him and tossed in a fifth of scotch. When we finally got toChicago, it was at 5:30 pm and the height of rush hour traffic. As if that wasn't enough, I made a turn onto a street with an 8-ft bridge that the truck wouldn't fit under. My wife is in tears at this point, and it took me an hour to back the truck up. But we did finally make it to the show, and we met a lot of important people."
This story is just one example of the many ups and downs Fadal has experienced throughout its 40-year history. But the founding family members --Francis, Adrian, Dave, and Larry de Caussin -- attribute their company's success to constantly staying on the cutting edge of machine tool technology. As Larry de Caussin says, "We started in pioneering times, and pioneers take some arrows."
The foundation of what would become Fadal got its start in 1955 by Francis de Caussin, who was a toolmaker trained in the automotive industry with a dream to own his own machine shop. He purchased some equipment on time payments and his sons Larry and Dave, still in school and living at home, worked with him at the garage operation. The brothers learned a basic but important lesson in those early shop years. They realized that the faster they could remove metal, the more money they could make.
In order to keep the chips and the money flowing, the family made a lot of modifications to the machines they used to cut metal. Francis added a riser block to a small mill so that they could do bigger jobs. Larry added a temporary second motor to a main spindle of a lathe, and Dave made the handles longer so they could push harder. The family says this motivation to make better and faster machines was the beginning of a trend that would carry Fadal to prominence in the machine tool industry.
In 1961, after all the part-time experience in the garage shop, the family decided to work full time for themselves. They needed a little capital to get started and everyone turned to Larry for funding.
Dave says, "Larry was always the penny-pincher. He saved all his money. He had $2,500 in the bank. And his $2,500 financed a multi-million dollar company."
They rented an 800 ft 2 industrial unit in N. Hollywood, Calif., and bought a Siamp metal cutting lathe on Francis' good credit. Then in 1965 the shop fell on hard times when one of its largest customers, Summers Gyroscope, went into chapter 11 owing Fadal $17,000. But the shop soon recovered and started doing a lot of contracts for the "space race," including work for the Surveyor, Voyager, various satellites, aircraft landing gear, and eventually the space shuttle fuel systems.
But business really picked up for Fadal in 1969. That was the year they bought their first NC machine for $25,000 -- a Bridgeport mill with a Superior Electric control and a Spindle Wizard third axis. The machine did not, however, have an automatic toolchanger, and all the tools had to be changed using a wrench. Fadal, in accordance with their desire to do everything as quickly as possible, started designing better methods for changing tools on the new machine.
They started out designing a power draw bar and then began brainstorming on how to automate the entire toolchanging process. An aftermarket toolchanger, they believed, would be quite valuable to small machine tool builders and their customers. So Fadal set out with a new goal for the mass market -- manufacture an affordable toolchanger that could be attached to a mill.
Dave became consumed with the design and manufacture of a prototype, while Adrian designed the electrical work on the system. Due in part to Fadal's booth at IMTS in 1974, the toolchanger was a wild success. So successful, in fact, that there was a shortage of toolchangers to sell.
"The problem we had with the toolchanger is that we over marketed and then couldn't meet the demand," says Dave. "Because of that, the guy in England that we were marketing to, Matchmaker, copied our toolchanger. They apologized for doing it, but did it because we couldn't deliver to them."
That toolchanger also caught the eye of a company out of Bozeman, Montana, Summit Engineering, a division of Dana Corp. That firm offered to buy the toolchanger design and patents so they could package it with an inexpensive control. Summit paid Fadal $75,000 for the toolchanger, which was renamed the Bandit Quick Draw. Summit also gave Fadal the rights to manufacture the mechanical assemblies for the changer. That $75,000, plus the profits from manufacturing over 2,000 mechanical assemblies, made it possible for Fadal to start their biggest project ever -- the design of a complete CNC machining center.
Larry tells the story of what inspired the family to build their first machine.
"Being machinists and having some experience with controls, we realized there was a lot of fat in the Japanese equipment that was selling for up around $160,000. Our first machine was a geared head 45 taper, with a 4-speed gearbox. It was a high-end machine we were selling for $110,000. But in 1980, right when we came out with our first model, the Japanese dropped the prices on their $160,000 machines down to $90,000.
To counter this, Fadal decided to pursue a simpler design to appeal to a broader market. Dave sold Fadal's first redesigned machine to Columbia Machine, which was where Francis, Dave, and Larry had all worked before starting Fadal. As much of an accomplishment as that was, confidence was not always high. "We used to say, 'We'll have a nice auction someday when we go bankrupt,'" says Dave.
However, people loved the speed and the price of the simpler system, and each year the company sold more and more machines. By the 80s and 90s, Fadal's manufacturing plant was at peak efficiency -- building 10 machining centers per employee each year. By 1995, Fadal had sold 10,000 machining centers.
With success came a lot of important decisions, one of which was changing the machine's control. The company was being pressured to use a different control on the machine. Dave says the family decided against it to keep cost down.
"We stayed with our control because we could see that the competition, especially the American industry, had made a mistake by catering to special requests. They had too many special orders. 'I want my machine pink, I want it with this control, and I want it with this and that.' So you ended up not having a production line. We refused to do that."
Larry adds, "In addition, custom machines are a nightmare for service. Other builder's servicemen would have to go out and review the situation before they could fix the machine. With our machine, the servicemen were able to go out ready to do the job, get it done, and then get out of there."
This was the kind of common-sense customer service that helped drive Fadal to the top of its industry. And that success caught the attention of Giddings & Lewis when it came time for Fadal to sell its family business to the corporate giant. But selling the company was not an easy decision. Originally the brothers had planned on passing it down to the next generation of de Caussins, but there were some problems.
Fadal's cash was tied up in property, equipment, inventory, and accounts receivable, and the company was going to have to dip into profits to pay the 55% gift tax. That was an issue because profits were also being taxed 50%. Financial advisors told the brothers that $1 earned was going to be about $.25 cents in pocket once the transfer was complete.
So, fearing the company's demise in a forced "fire sale" if the succession was unsuccessful, Larry and Dave decided it was best to sell the business outright. Fadal sold to G&L in April of 1995, and the brothers are pleased with the new ownership.
Do you treat your Yak the same way all year?
Think twice says Vlad Yastremski
In warm climates, it's easy to fall into this habit . Like a West Coast buddy recently, who noticed the morning air was colder than it had been ( Yep, cry for us, it got down to 37 degrees F last night) but took off without checking his tire pressures. After landing a little while later and making a rather sporty exit off the runway, he side loaded the soggy main tires enough to where the snap rings and rim popped off one of the main wheels. The tire and inner tube departed, leaving it rolling on the hub. Hurt pride, embarrassing more than costly.
Similarly, if you're flying cross-country in December, you might end the day in New Mexico, leave it on the ramp overnight with both air gauge needles nice and perky but come back to 20 bars or less in the morning.
Right off the same page in the Physics textbook.
And as for how low temperatures affect your Yak motor, lets split this little rant in to two parts: starting it and warming it up.
At temperatures lower than +5 Celsius (41 Fahrenheit) it's mandatory to preheat your Yak's motor before starting because of the damage that cold oil can do. Some use electric pads, some pipe hot air into the cowling, and you can even use a hairdryer pointed into the Oil Radiator rather than nothing at all. Back east it's not unusual for rented airplane hangars to be heated, with full service tow-outs by the FBO, but for most of us, it's just a big cold chunk of metal that's going to need a lot of warming up.
Even if it's showing warmer than 5 Celsius at your airport, one safe guide as to whether or not your motor is cold is to feel the prop. Make sure both Mags are off, brakes are on, then pull a blade for a few inches. You've turned that prop enough times over the years to notice how stiff it feels normally. If it's feeling like treacle this morning, don't just jump in and crank. In addition to the normal precautions to avoid Hydraulic Lock, follow these oil pre-heating precautions above and keep pulling blades until you feel the oil moving more freely. We'll touch on oil dilution a bit later.
In cold weather sluggish oil will cause permanent damage to the weakest link - the core of the Oil Radiator. There are two designs of bypass in our Oil Coolers, but while both re-route cold oil away from the cooling circuit (until engine heat has raised its temperature to a specified value), they can both fail. When forced into these slender-walled copper heat-exchanger tubes, it's an easy job for the cold oil to hydraulically expand them like a balloon, but permanently. Their OD increases to effectively block air flowing between the outside of the tubes, compromising the Radiator's function and will ultimately lead to fracture, leaving tell tale oil under the ground in the vicinity of the cooler. That's a pricey mistake. Preheating your oil is the preparatory step that will prevent this.
When it comes to starting, perform a thorough priming preparation and monitor oil pressure during the first few seconds. The motor catches, you set it to the normal 40-50 percent for warm up, but suddenly oil pressure is dropping to zero.. The seconds keep ticking by without improvement. What the...? So you shut it down...
In cold weather the magic number on the Oil Dipstick is 12 liters. If you have this much oil in the tank, the level will be completely covering the mechanical "flop" or pickup tube inside (which keeps oil feeding during aerobatics). With an oil level below 12 liters, some of the joints on this mechanism will be above the oil surface.
When it comes to a choice of sucking air or cold viscous oil, the oil pump will take whichever is easier. Air gets sucked into the oil system and the sensors and gauges tell you the truth.
Warming it up
What if it starts, but lopes and runs roughly for a long time?
Remember why you fitted auto plugs ? Because they are cheap. If you use a BR7 auto plug in summer, treat yourself to a set of BR6 for the winter season. The lower the number, the hotter the plug will run. Also, visit your mechanic and have them adjust the mixture a few clicks leaner. The clue to perfect mixture is that small white telltale of completely burnt oil on the trailing face of the two exhaust stacks. Expect to see oily black at the same spot if your mixture is too rich. Perfect mixture for Summer is not perfect mixture for winter.
One of the things we love about Radials is their sound. And some of us think that really slow loping idle they'll do sounds awesome (and a low idle may have some valid applications in certain flight regimes ), but the reason for the recommended idle speed is to warm it up as fast as possible. In Winter, that loping idle means the butterfly is completely shut, the vacuum created by the pistons is prodigious and fuel and oil are finding their way in through the wrong jets, through any place in the carburetor they can. You'll get blue or black smoke and so much fuel on the cylinder walls you may be compromising lubrication. But just cracking the butterfly open will stop it immediately. The warm up RPM is recommended to get T's and P's where they need to be as fast as practicable.
If you didn't do a thorough priming preparation, the motor starts for a few seconds then quits. So you sit in the cockpit, pumping and priming like a crazed weasel until pretty soon, the motor's flooded. No sign of life even after cranking through your second air tank fill. The remedy? Mags off, brakes on, throttle wide open and start pulling blades. What you are after is at least two charges of fresh air through each cylinder. The only karmic payback here is that you just performed a kind of oil dilution by flooding it. After pulling the 20th blade, you might notice the oil becoming thinner because of all the fuel you dumped into it earlier!
The Manual is the place to learn about Oil Dilution but here's the view from 30,000 feet. It's something you do before you shut down the motor the day before, so planning is required. You'll also need to know how much oil you have on board and how cold it will be overnight.The chart will tell you how many seconds to hold the momentary switch that injects fuel into your oil system. It also advises the correct rpm setting at which to perform the operation. So keep your eye on the oil pressure gauge as you do it, because you'll see the needle begin to drop due to oil thinning.
The next morning, there you are started, warmed up and ready to taxi. Once airborne in winter air though, even with the exit door firmly shut, the oil radiator will be unable to keep your oil gauge in the green, (or even in the low caution range ), without extra baffle plates over the Oil Radiator inlet. These baffle plates came in sets with different sized cut outs, marked for specific air temperatures. You may not need the entire set - or use them all year, but to install one, your Oil Radiator sheet metal housing under the right wing has clips for two wire locking pins on the lower edge and two snaps for the baffle's upper edge. Three rubber tubes are attached to the rear of these baffle plates to minimize damage to the fragile cooling fins of the radiator core.
Thanks to John Bergeson for this picture of factory baffles installed on his Yak 55/M. If you inspect the image of the 52 on skis at the top, you'll see even less opening at the entry to the Oil radiator.
And yes, that cockpit heater muff on the M14-P exhaust ring is just a liable to asphyxiate you as any other aero engine, so go the distance and install one of those visual Carbon Monoxide indicators within the pilot's field of view.
In the days of the DOSAAF, there was an entire Winterization procedure. Among other things, it included a lighter grade of engine oil, heavy grease on the uplock mechanisms (for protection against freezing & debris), lighter oil added inside actuators and cloth covering of all the wide diameter tubing associated with the oil cyclone / circuit. Without insulation these thin-walled tubes are the first place for internal condensation, that can lead to possible freezing and blockage. Your oil needs to reach 74 Celcius (165 Fahrenheit) before all the water has evaporated.
Not convinced that there's water in your oil? Try this one morning on a cold engine. Using a suitable container at the quarter-turn main drain of the Oil Tank, carefully turn it to open and just stab it quickly - and collect what comes out. (Clue: Oil floats on it)
Here's an airplane that was designed to operate in temperatures so low you'd be hard pressed to encounter them in the lower 48.
As they say in Northern Mongolia, happiness is a warm Yak - so warm yours up and go flying!
John flies out of KSEE whenever he can scrape together a few bucks to fill the tanks