I like to look up obscure videos on Youtube that coincide with my own interests. It’s as far from linear TV as you can get; it’s often about enthusiasts talking in detail about various things, it’s not uncommon to have two-hour explanations and discussions. You avoid the choppy, time-pressed format and can sink into a slower, deeper experience.
But today I thought I’d talk about something that’s still fairly light-hearted and accessible, namely Rebuild Rescue, in which protagonist Jason, a successful Pennsylvanian entrepreneur in the car repair industry, is promised a free airplane, an old abandoned 1969 Cessna 401 A – if he can get it started.
Then begins the adventure of getting the engines running, which takes several episodes, all the while learning about what aircraft engines look like and a lot of interesting facts about aircraft and aviation. It’s all light-hearted and cheerful, and with a wonderfully positive tone. And, of course, the engines eventually start.
The programme becomes almost an allegory of the current state of the West, especially the USA; where the old aircraft is allowed to symbolise our society and the happy repairers a kind of positive and viable social force, the sensible and industrious citizens who rebuild and rescue.
But starting the engines is only the beginning of the journey. Several episodes deal with cleaning the Cessna, which for many years has been parked outside and turned into a veritable bird’s nest. Where small birds have crawled into every nook and cranny, building their nests out of sticks and straws. Many sacks of rubbish are carried away from the increasingly clean and tidy fuselage.
Sometimes local contractors step up to help and advise. The plane’s former owner becomes a full-fledged member of the team, joining in the work, while we get to see other planes and projects going on simultaneously in the large hangar.
The participants come across as down-to-earth and skilled craftsmen, not exactly academics. At the same time, the conversations are entertaining and of a reasonably high standard; we’re not dealing with dummies, but they don’t necessarily behave like people with a master’s degree.
The project sometimes faces big challenges, like when it is discovered that the wings are very difficult and expensive to repair. But the gang doesn’t give up, because the video channel has a huge following all over the world, and soon they get in touch with a person in Holland who has just the right kind of wings for sale, and they’re refurbished and certified too.
In one episode, Jason finds the old log book, which has gone missing but is eventually discovered during a hangar clean-up. The work is further simplified when they are able to go through all the checks and repairs made over the years.
The renovation team, led by Jason, defies all odds, but their logical, straightforward and friendly attitude overcomes all problems; even if it is sometimes a Sisyphean task with the thousands of tiny screws holding the fuselage together, as well as keeping up with all the intricate regulations surrounding the avionics industry.
The idea is for the Cessna to be ready by next summer, when it will be featured at a major gathering of the aviation community. The aircraft will then be made available for rescue missions and charity flights. Money for the project is being raised via the YouTube channel, which has a growing fan base. Jason & Co are contributing their time and expertise, and their unbeatable winning attitude. We hope the plane takes off soon!
Below you can find the first episode about the Cessna 401: