Friday, June 29, 2007

This week's column: Making progress

This is my column from this week's RV Builder's Hotline, which is due out sometime today.

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I've been trying to remember that old saying about the theory of relativity this week but I can't recall is precisely. But you probably know it. A perfect example of the theory of relativity is an hour with a beautiful woman vs. an hour in a meeting at work. One is fleeting, the other goes on seemingly endlessly; both last an hour.

Progress when building an RV is like that. Quite often, the feeling of real progress is as much of an illusion as the feeling that you're getting nowhere. But in both cases, progress is being made at the same rate -- one step at a time. But I'm convinced you need those "beautiful woman" periods on your airplane project to help you get by the "endless meeting" period.

It's a been a 'beautiful woman" week on my RV aircraft project. I understand this is mostly an illusion but a builder needs illusions.

I started off last Friday night helping Warren Starkebaum (above) hang his engine (from Mattituck, as mine will be) on his RV-7. Warren and I started our projects at roughly the same time and he's been ahead of me thoughout, but our progress has been steady and if he's hanging an engine, I'm a day closer to hanging an engine too.

Last weekend I finally made the first cuts in my canopy, and I did not, in so doing, accidentally launch a photon strike on Toledo. I survived those "practice cuts" on the plexi. I also survived riveting the canopy frame (although mine moved inboard rathre than outboard as most people have experienced).

On Tuesday, I finally reached the top of the hangar waiting list at South St. Paul airport. I now have my own hangar. Sure, there's nothing in it (got an RV you'd like to stick in there? Contact me), but I have a hangar now. So I must be making progress.

Also on Tuesday, I visited SteinAir, where Marc Ausman of Vertical Power was demonstrating his new product. I'd already made the decision to buy one, but now I really have made the decision to buy one. I'm filling up panel space and starting concrete actions for an electrical system. I must be making progress.

At mid-week, Doug Weiler flew Paul Hove's RV-7A for the first time. Like Warren, I started my project a little after Paul started his. His is a QB. If he's flying, I must be making progress.

On Wednesday, I cut the long slices off the side of the canopy, and I put it on the fuselage where it looked like a thousand other pictures you've seen of badly fitting canopies on fuselages. But this was different. This is my badly-fitting canopy on my fuselage. The canopy isn't in my son's former bedroom anymoe. It's reached the workshop. I must be making progress.

Of course, I am making progress. I was making progress when nothing was happening to the naked eye. Gaining some knowledge by reading and browsing forums and reading builder sites is as much progress as anything that's above.

But you know when I really started making progress? When I stopped worrying about how much more progress other builders are making. It's impossible to ignore if you spend time on the forums. And every night, Doug Reeves posts, I'd guess, three or four more first flights from builders with really high builder numbers (compared to my really low one). Good for them, I say. They've made progress. Too. I'll see them in my plane, somewhere, sometime (unless the FAA medical folks say otherwise).

Now if only I could look at my bank account and see some progress -- or at least progress in the right direction -- this thing might eventually fly.

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