Monday, July 30, 2007

This one's for Tom



This weekend, in the RV Builder's Hotline, I'll be writing about Tony Kirk's project to finish the RV project of Thomas Walsh, who was killed in an accident in January.

Jerry Hansen of Trio Avionics gave me a card Tony was handing out at Oshkosh and this evening I called Tony and talked to him. You can listen to the "podcast" here.

And you can find the Web site dedicated to the project here.

I've made note on a couple of forums tonight that we'll donate $1,000 from the RV Builder's BBQ to the cause. I hope you'll consider doing your part.

The picture above, by the way, is Tony riveting and Joni, Tom Walsh's widow, bucking. It was taken in April. "We were using the sentimental rivets I flew during the missing man flight. It's detailed in an update I made to the 'About Me' page today," Tony said..

Sunday, July 29, 2007

In-flight images of the 35-ship formation at Oshkosh



Allan Pomeroy gave me a heads-up today that Dan Checkoway has posted in-flight pictures of the 35-ship formation at Oshkosh.

Find it here.

Also, following up on a notation I made earlier this week, I was under the impression Hotline would have the in-flight video available this week. I haven't had a chance to talk to Rob Riggen directly but it wasn't available this week; perhaps next.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Oshkosh Diary - Multi-tasking

Every now and again at Oshkosh -- and it's usually about this time in the week -- I see or hear something that causes me to note, "I didn't expect that. Sure enough, right on schedule... an Oshkosh moment.

I walked into the showers in the campground today and immediately came face to face with a, um, naked old man toweling off. This caused the panic button in my brain to engage, thus interrupting the reflex cycle, keeping me from verbalizing my thoughts so that nobody actually heard the screaming that I heard in my head that said, "Wow...I didn't need to see that."

Now keep in mind, I come from the "eye's front, soldier!" school of etiquette in these situations, but as I was heading for the shower, I noticed another man -- this one with a short haircut, wearing dogtags, and, umm, naked, look at the old man I didn't need to see, and say... "it's Doug, right?"

"Huh?" the old man said.

"It's Doug, right?" he repeated.

"Why yes, Doug (I didn't catch the last name)."

"Do you remember, me?" he asked.

Now, let me just say that among the things a naked man should never say to another naked man, is "do you remember me?" First,it conjurs up images of two dogs meeting in the park and, second, well, you know.

"You look familiar," he said, which almost caused me to burst out laughing as I headed for cover.

"Do you remember when you (unintelligible verb) my Piper Cub in Lansing, Michigan?" he said.

"Why, sure I do," the old man said and as I showered I overheard the conversation, which sounded like a lot of other conversations in Oshkosh during AirVenture, but which I've never heard in the showers of Oshkosh before. (I pause here only to note that most of the conversations in the showers of Oshkosh start with, "Man, these showers are really creepy.") They were talking about how to do this or that to get this or that problem in a Piper Cub solved and they were discussing various idiosyncracies of the Piper Cub, without once stopping -- apparently -- to consider that maybe two naked men standing in the middle of a freakin' shower in Oshkosh talking about some type-specific aviation situation was, itself, a tad idiosyncratic.

And then the third man showed up.

Now, if you go into the vendor hangars at Oshkosh, you'll notice that a number of exhibitors have no one stopping to talk to them. As soon as someone does, however, a crowd soon develops.

This phenomenon -- or as someone might suggest... this "crime against nature" -- was now taking place in the showers of the campground, for apparently this third guy -- have I mentioned he was naked, too? -- was also a Piper Cub afficionado and wanted to get in on this discussion, ostensibly to learn the wisdom the naked old-timer was imparting.

Upon showering, I returned to the area -- double-checking that my towel was firmly secured around myself -- grabbed my clothes and headed for another part of the building -- stopping only long enough to note that three naked men, all facing each other in close proxmity, were in animated conversation about valve covers and leaky gaskets.

It was then and there I vowed to myself that I will never -- ever -- fly in a Piper Cub.

THE CIRCUS LEAVES TOWN

It rained most of yesterday evening, though the heavy storms that materialized never seemed to hit us, and a few things in the tent got a little soggy, but nothing we haven't experienced before, and nothing that caused any panic. The big tent we used for the RV BBQ on Wednesday evening was still in place as I returned from dinner last night, but one tent and one old, beat up truck that appeared to be home to someone, was now under it, as they sought shelter.

They were still there this morning -- sleeping, )they were up talking until about 3 a.m. I know that because even the rain, and thunder, and the air horns from every yahoo trucker who drives by during AirVenture, couldn't drown their voices as I tried to sleep) when the crew from Karl's Events came to take the "big top" down.
They said they'd come back later and as I peered into the truck to see who was in it, I saw the largest person I think I've ever seen. He looked like that guy you see in movies. He usually drives a motorcycle, has tattoos everywhere, has a shaved head, and looks like he'd kill you if it weren't for the fact -- it usually turns out -- that he's a big old softy with a fondness for ballet and fine arts.

I was pretty sure, though, that this guy was on the run from the law and ducked into Camp Scholler because it's the perfect place to hide. And there he was, under my tent, probably passed out after a night of heavy drinking; a tradition he started after the first time he'd spent a day robbing banks and killing puny men whose only crime was to ask him to move his motorycle and truck from underneath a tent.

So I did what any self-respecting man with a zest for life and desire to see tomorrow did. I wrote a note and duct-taped it to the shoes he'd left outside his truck asking him to move, and I left.

When he came back later, he was awake, and having accepted the idea that this would be my last day to live, I made peace with my God and went over to introduce myself. And just like in the movies, he turned out to be a nice guy from Oregon who had, in fact, been camping nearby and came to the RV BBQ (I invited all "neighbors" to come as our guests) and he just wanted to thank me for the hospitality, noting that the RV builders he met seemed like pretty nice people "for RV builders."

Supressing all other thoughts, I thanked him, offered him whatever beer was left over, while supressing the instinctive desire not to add "if you just let me live."

The fine arts never came up, however.

AN EASY CHOICE

I was going to head down into the AirVenture grounds -- I hadn't really been there since Monday when I covered the Cirrus news conference -- to poke around a little and maybe take in a fiberglass workshop, when Glenn Brasch called to see if I wanted to join him, his son, Michael; and Roger Everson. As they are the heart and soul of AirVenture as far as I'm concerned, I jumped at the chance to head to a drive-in near Lake Winnebago -- you know, waitresses on roller skates, '50s music, and the whole thing.



So there we sat, in the back of Glenn's pick-up, eating and sipping our root-beer floats, as plane after plane flew overhead on short final for the runway at Oshkosh.

There are times I feel guilty for having such a good life.

FALCON FLIGHT




Among my few disappointments this week was not seeing the 35-ship formation of RVs that flew over Oshkosh several times. You can find the names of the RVers here ( http://tinyurl.com/ytwunj ). Opening the AirVenture newspaper today, however, there was a terrific picture of the formation front and center on the gallery page.

I don't "get" formation flying, myself, because it's nothing a pilot like me should ever get close to, but I do know it well enough to know that flying wingtip to wingtip with another person requires more than knowing how to fly wingtip to wingtip with another person. It requires, it seems to me, some serious guts.

Lacking a plane, knowledge, and -- oh yeah -- guts, it's just not something to which I aspire, but it's not hard to appreciate, especially after I talk to fighter-jocks around here and I tell them that I'm building an RV airplane and they always -- always -- remark about these guys who fly formation at Oshkosh. If you've got the respect of fighter jocks for your ability to fly precision formation, man, there isn't much more to accomplish on Planet RV.

By the way, there are pictures all over the Internet of this. RV Builder's Hotline, Rob Riggen told me earlier this week, has some video of what the formation looked like from the cockpit of one RV.

FOUR MAKES A NICE TRIO

The story goes -- although I'm taking some liberties with this -- that when God created the words "gentleman" and "courteous," he created Jerry Hansen, Chuck Busch, Paul Ross, and Sid Tolchin to help explain to the universe what the words mean.

The four, of Trio Avionics, invited me to dinner last evening. We stopped for happy hour at the house they're using this week on the shore of Lake Winnebago. To our left a C-5 (C-5A?) Galaxy C-17 Globemaster was performing at the airshow, occasionally roaring by (below the tree line, of course) near us. To our right, seaplanes were landing at the AirVenture seaplane base. Ahead of us was a gorgeous lake, said to be miles and miles in length, and I believe it.

Then we headed to Kodiak Jack's steakhouse. The wait -- it's one of the more popular restaurants here -- was an hour and half, so we waited in the bar, and chatted about all the things people chat about. Put simply -- and, I'm sorry to say, far less eloquently than they deserve -- they are some of the nicest and warmest people I've met at an event that seems to have no shortage of nice and warm people.

I first met them at the '06 BBQ, the one where a downpour began about the same time the BBQ did. We were staring face-to-face with disaster, and disaster didn't appear to be ready to blink. As we tried to keep things from falling apart before they could start, the Trio folks showed up and offered nothing but support and patience and encouragement, when it would have been just as easy to roll your eyes and wonder who the guys from Hooterville were that thought they could put on a BBQ.

Sid, who for 40 years was a Navy flight surgeon, and Jerry, who was in the Army yet is still allowed to associate with the Navy guys, both took the opportunity to offer encouragement for my bout with Meniere's Disease. Keep in mind a year ago at this time, I was sitting here at the world's greatest aviation event, trying to reconcile it with the very real possibility that my flying days were over.

"It'll go away," Sid said. Words that I've remembered every day since. And he was right.

We sat and chatted for an hour-and-a-half, though to me it seemed like just a few minutes. I won't tell you all the fascinating stuff I learned because I didn't ask their permission, but their backgrounds are incredibly fascinating. They were all Cozy builders -- that's how they met each other.

I learned Sid led a Navy expedition to the South Pole, and even parachuted out of a plane at the South Pole. "What was that like?" I asked, exhausting my quota of stupid questions fairly early in the evening. "Cold," he said.

Paul has restored two Swifts, Chuck served on Trident submarines. Jerry is from Nebraska originally and says he never lost the "gee whiz" part of aviation. And this was a particularly interesting part of a splendid evening.

I asked how each got into aviation. Sid was 11 years old in Pennsylvania, where he delivered newspapers and he won a contest in which the winning prize was a ride in an airplane. When Chuck talked about this recurring dream in which he -- and I'm probably telling this wrong -- would run and fly...up over his house and neighborhood -- Jerry said, "I have the same dream." "So do I," said Sid.

Those words "gee whiz" are at the heart of aviation, and for me, at the heart of the frustration at my complete inability to explain to non-pilots what AirVenture is like. I had wanted this week to take a stab at it for my day job but finally gave up this morning for two reasons: (1) I can't objectively or fairly assess an event in which I'm so obviously involved but (2) I can't find the words to explain this. There is no way to explain the magnitude of this event in context of aviation. You can, perhaps, bite off a small morsel of it, but you can never adequately describe the dinner. Never.

Sure we try, Google search AirVenture and see for yourself. But, trust me, even those of us who at least think we can make words do tricks are pikers at this. And yet, what's fascinating about it is there were already two words available: "gee whiz."

Anyway, it was a wonderful evening spent with fine individuals for whom I have a new appreciation and affection. I can't wait to see them again, next year.

RV vs.T-6

I'm sure I'm telling this incorrectly, too, but Jerry (I'm pretty sure it was Jerry) told me about an incident here in which a T-6 was holding short of the runway before getting permission to taxi across it to get somewhere else. This was at the departure end of the runway. Having permission to taxi across it, the pilot instead turned and took off on the runway, into the path of the landing airplanes, including an RV-4, the pilot of which was quick-thinking enough to coax it back into the air, eluding the warbird (I think it was a T-6 but can't recall).

If that was your RV-4, I'd love to chat with you. I'm going to guess that, at least at that moment, the two words of prominence were not "gee whiz."

BRING IN DA NOISE

I will probably leave in the morning, and by Sunday I should be in full Oshkosh withdrawal, when -- if history is any guide -- I'm sitting on my beloved bench (http://stirringsfromtheemptynest.blogspot.com/2007_05_01_archive.html), and realizing the cacophony of silence. No helicopter flying nonstop around the "pattern" of the campground, giving their first helicopter rides to --usually -- wide-eyed kids and family. No outboard-motor sound of the Goodyear blimp (did you know it doesn't fly in the rain because the weight of the raindrops would bring it down?). No crescendo of a fighter jet as it makes its low pass and then bombards you with the noise of the afterburners as it turns out over Lake Winnebago. No putt-putt noise from scooters going up and down Camp Scholler... now occupied by two (usually a young man and a young woman who didn't know each other a few days ago). No sound of the schoolbus as it drops another load of weary campers from the flight line after a day of trying to do the impossible -- take it all in. No slam of the Porta John door in the middle of the night. No rustling from the plastic tarp you put up to keep rain from coming in your tent, no nauseating hum of a generator from blocks away, and worst of all -- no voice of a someone you used to know as someone who builds airplanes but you now think of as family -- inviting you to sit down and visit for awhile.

In the next few days -- again if history is any guide at all -- there will be threads on most of the various bulletin boards. Some old-timer will talk about the old days, about how EAA is too commercial, or has lost touch with the average builder, or costs too much, or whatever whine of the moment happens to motivate one to waste precious time on such things.

Trust me. They're wrong. They're not intentionally wrong. They're not ignorantly wrong. They're just wrong.

Everything that aviation is, is still here, from the "gee whiz" of an 11 year old paperboy in Pennsylvania getting his first ride in an airplane, to the delight of a man from France camping in his car for a week in the middle of a field in eastern Wisconsin(ask Dana Overall), delighted that new rules -- LSA-like rules -- there are restoring the dream old rules took away. From waitresses on roller skates bringing root-beer floats to a bunch of aviators in the back of a pick-up truck, to the one-week love affairs of early teenagers, in the shade of a tree in the shade of a wing of a Ford TriMotor flying overhead. From the twinking eyes of an 85 year old war veteran, too old to fly, barely able to walk, but momentarily transformed when a B-17 passes overhead, to a 21 year old kid.

I haven't left the place yet... and I already miss it.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Where reality and fantasy meet

There's a sameness to AirVenture that is quite often comforting. Most of the vendors are in the same place each year, we certainly see the same people, for the most part the airshow is the same, and if there's been any upgrade to Porta-Potty technology, it hasn't reached Eastern Wisconsin.

Here it is Thursday and I still haven't spent any just me walking around looking time here, and Thursday is the day I head to the laundromat (free wiFi) to both clean my laundry and take a giant step foward to improve the aroma of the tent after two days of occasional downpours. And this evening, the great folks at Trio Avionics have invited me to the home they're renting on Lake Winnebago for happy hour, so there won't be time to do any today either.

But that's OK (unless, of course, I really needed to buy an engine and a bunch of avionics I can't afford this week), because the show comes to you here. While we were "breaking down" the BBQ site this morning (more on that later), the F-22 Raptors arrived. They usually put on a show doing what they do, one over the runway, and another over Camp Scholler (the campground). Unfortunately it was low scud weather-wise, so they could only do flybys, but that was OK as one came out over my tent.

Right around then, coincidentally, standing under the "big top," (the tent we had for the BBQ) was Scott Fechtig, who works for the Navy and told me about the software that makes these jets (and the F-18s) do the things they do.

I told him my nephew is an F-18 driver and asked if what he was telling me that the software means that he has as much input into what his jet does as I have here, right now, with my laptop, in the Oshkosh Maytag Coin-Op laundry? No, he said, but the "pilot only gets one vote in the decisions," he said.

I took my campmate, Warren Starkebaum, down to his plane... wayyyy down in the South 40, past the end of the runway. Some big government jet (actually it was a little government jet making a big noise) was taking off, as a Cessna 172 was landing adjacent on the taxiway. I wondered about the wake turbulence of the jet.

I headed to the laundromat when two screaming jets (which I couldn't see at the time) passed low over my car as I drove on the road near the departure end of the runway. A minute later they filled my windshield -- two MIGs. Where else would you see that?

A minute later a screaming aerobatic biplane zipped by. I didn't even have to look (although, of course, I did), knowing it was Sean D. Tucker, my favorite airshow performer, going out for morning practice.

I often wonder why there aren't more rear-enders on the streets of Oshkosh, what with everyone looking up while they drive.

Well, then, let's talk about the BBQ. First, I don't have many pictures -- I have almost no pictures (and the ones I have aren't very good) -- as there's very little time for taking them. But everyone has said they'll send me CDs of theirs (hint) and I'll put them on the slideshow on the BBQ site when done.

I won't be able to tell you all of the people I talked to, but I remember every conversation, and most of them couldn't last long enough, as I was usually trying to get something done.

It was a pleasure to meet James Clark of the Palmetto EAA chapter in South Carolina. He's another one of my RV heroes and recently was with a gaggle that flew to Yellowstone. He asked me if I was interested in freelance writing work, and of course those are the magic words -- as long as the subject is aviation -- and he said, "I want you to meet someone." But I was on my way to important duty -- I was bringing the required cooler of beer to the cooks, and I never got back to him.

So there go, kids. When faced with living a dream (maybe) or delivering a cooler of beer, drop the beer.

After the BBQ, I talked to Paul Merems quite a bit about canopy fitting tips and realized that getting your canopy just right on an RV is a matter of dumb luck. Usually after Oshkosh, I'm anxious to race home and work on the plane. Not this year.

The BBQ went great and we got lots of good comments. There were a couple of things that kept me up. We pitched a lot of food and I realized that while we came up with an ingenius idea of distributing the buns for whatever folks were eating -- thus limiting them to one on the first pass through the chow line (that kept the line moving and the lines small), I neglected to tell everyone that they could make a second, or third, or fourth pass through.

I also forgot to mention a couple of sponsors on my way-too-long speech -- which shouldn't have been too long since it was the same one I gave last year -- including Harmon Lange of LangAir, nor did I get a chance to talk to him, which is a shame since he was on my list.

Others can talk about the BBQ per se, but, as usual, I'd rather talk about wayward thoughts it creates. And here's mine today: politics stinks.

We don't realize how infected our lives are with politics, and I'm not here to argue that politics -- the good of the country and the people and all that -- isn't deep and important. It is. But it destroys us, bit by bit. We choose who to talk to, who to like, who to care about, based on politics, and that's not what families, including a family of 300 million, should do.

I talked to 500 friends last night and we don't talk politics at the RV BBQ (and many other places) for a good reason. Everyone knows what politics does.

These BBQs, for a lot of people, I think, are magical. In that tent last night, we no doubt had Republicans, Democrats and a few Socialists, we had electrical engineers, airline pilots, Air Force test pilots, the lead flight director of the space shuttle program, the guy who makes the software for fighter jets, an unusually high number of cops and ex-cops, news editors, professional photographers, aircraft designers and on and on and on.

At one point in these BBQs, the first question used to be, "what model of RV are you building." I don't hear that that much anymore. Instead I hear, "how's your father doing, I heard he was ailing," or "how old are your kids now," or -- in my case -- "how's your vertigo."

Somewhere along the line, these issues dominated and, as you may know, these are the issues that families talk about when they're not talking politics.

Now broaden that a bit. Imagine if we could stop polarizing ourselves with politics, and focus on something non-political, until we got to relate to each other as "family"? How different would the relationship we have with each other in this country -- on a broader scale, I mean -- be?

I come to Oshkosh for one week out of the year. And for one week, I don't know who the real me is. Is the real me the guy standing on the back of pickup truck in a field in Wisconsin, pouring my heart out to 500 people, not giving a rip whether the Indians won their game with the Red Sox (they did, 1-0, suck on that, Boston!), or that I've got lots of unfinished projects at home that I've got to do? Or is the real me the one for 51 weeks out of the year who walks into a room and sucks the air out of it?

Don't get me wrong. I like both of these guys just fine. But it's something I'll have to noodle over the next time I'm folding laundry and watching MIGs and biplanes out the window.








BBQ - They liked it

Too tired tonight to write anything. Doug Reeves took a bunch of pictures which you can find on his Web site (Please, Doug, feel free to write, tho' I know you're on your way home. You won't be stealing any of my thunder. I know Patti Spicer did too and we'll be looking for them on Rivetbangers. And I'll post some on the BBQ site, sometime.

Suffice it to say, it was great, great fun visiting with my RV family. Many of them are scattering to the wind tomorrow (err... today) and the campsite will be darned lonely (although the fine folks at Trio Avionics have invited me to the house they're renting on Lake Winnebago Thursday evening).

But I miss my friends already.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Oshkosh Diary - Tuesday July 24

I only got down inside the show today long enough to go to the FAA Safety Forum on surviving forced landings. A rash of RV deaths of late, a few folks I know making emergency landings, and the fact I haven't flown in a couple of years, pretty well has my attention, and I've never considered myself a particularly great pilot, so these forums to make me a better pilot -- a safer pilot -- tend to be more appealing to me than forums on how to make widgets fit together just right.

After that, it was time to turn our attention to the RVers Family Reunion BBQ

I made a trip to Appleton to pick up beer, soft drinks and assorted non-perishables -- two gallons of relish, for example. Total cost? $685, less than I thought, but I still haven't bought the actual food yet.

And while I was gone, they put up the tent.



How cool is that? The BBQ is probably up to 550 people right now although it's impossible to guess on the count since I'm getting various messages that some people who bought tickets can't come and others who didn't buy tickets want to come.



It makes it pretty impossible to buy enough food, without running into the danger of throwing hundreds of dollars of it away.

As last night, groups of RVers wandered over to the site and we talked well into the evening, with a nice campfire to boot.

I was particularly pleased to see Alex Peterson, an RV-6A pilot who gave me a ride a few months ago, which I wrote about on the Letters from Flyover Country, RV Builder's Hotline Edition. Alex is one of my RV heroes and he introduced me to his mother and father (Phyllis and Wayne I believe, but don't quote me). His Dad was an Air Force pilot and I recounted how, when I was a kid, I wanted to be an Air Force pilot and I wanted to go to the Air Force Academy, until I had an eye exam and found out I was disqualified.

Heartbroken -- in a 15 year old kind of way -- I turned my attention to writing and all of that instead.

"Same as me," Alex said. Well, the Air Force wannabee part anyway. His mom noted that she had enjoyed the piece I wrote in Letters from Flyover Country, which is always nice to hear that stuff touches other folks. I have no clue if anyone is actually "out there."

Darwin Barrie, former ace detective now retired man of leisure and Little League World Series umpire, made it in from Arizona in his RV-7 today, pausing in Iowa long enough to await the end of the daily airshow.

I also met a man named Tom from the Fulton, New York area who had his grandson, Tom, also in tow, at his first AirVenture. Younger Tom and I chatted around the fire and he showed me his video he took today and I smiled at his excitement, because it reminded me of when my sons came with us for a week of camping at Oshkosh.

It always seemed we camped next to someone cool, and someone who my kids enjoyed talking to. I'm surely not cool, but I hope young Tom enjoyed talking, and will pass it on someday.

I wonder, though, how long this all can last. At the FAA forum today, a show of hands asked how many people are under 70. Many hands shot up. Under 60? A few less. 50? Significantly less. 40? Very few. 30? Hardly any at all. 20? Two.

Not exactly an inspiring thought for the future of general aviation in America.

wiFi at Oshkosh

I got a note from Dick Knapinski of EAA regading my entry about EAA evaluating WiFi and getting it established before charging.

First, EAA had no input on Sun n Fun's decision on that service, as sun n Fun runs its own event independent of EAA. Also, in Oshkosh we want to first establish reliable wireless service in small areas, then expand from there. There's never been any formal discussion of charging for the service.
Hope that helps!


In the campground today, WiFi has pretty much become a moot point at the tent. Of course I'm surrounded by people now so spotty service was expected. My "office" outside the showers has now been taken by some guy recharging his Segway Scooter.

BTW, I was invited to a focus group on how to improve AirVenture. I've sworn to secrecy about what is discussed and I'll of course honor it. But my camping partner insists that better soap holders in the showers be on the list.

Surviving forced landings




FAA Wings Safety Seminar
Oshkosh - 7/24/07

Presented by: Eric Basile - FAAS team

Forced landings are probably one of the most feared things that most of us pilots think about and fear; second, perhaps, only to fire in an airplane. There are some common things we may not think about ordinarily that will improve your chances of
survival.

In July 2001, two were killed when their Cherokee went down on the way to Oshkosh. The cause was throwing the fuel selector to the wrong position. But the FAA also found there were plenty of spots nearby that could have been used by the pilots to
land safely.

About half of all engine failures are related to causes directly controllable by the pilot. In 2000, most engine failures were attributed to fuel mismanagement (43%), with mechanical failure second at 26.6%. Fuel management is comprised of starvation (there's fuel available for some reason the selector was not selected properly), fuel exhaustion (no more fuel), and fuel contamination.

Most engine failures are not necessarily a point where the engine stops dead. Often, it's possible to obtain partial power from the engine. If you're flying enroute, you don't necessarily need full power to stay in the air. If the engine is still making power, that gives you a lot more options.

There is no reason an engine failure should automatically result in a fatality or serious injury.

PROPER PRE-FLIGHT PLANNING

Know your terrain. This is crucial. Plan your flight over a path that follows a highway or a mountain pass in some locations, such as Colorado, to give you more options.

Don't become GPS dependent. Most people hop in, plug their destination in the GPS and hit "direct." Since nobody draws lines on sectionals anymore, you really don't know the kind of terrain you're flying over. You lose sectional awareness.

I heard of a guy who took off from NW Montana headed for the Midwest. He called Salt Lake Center for VFR advisories in his 172. Center asked for his position and he said, "I'm 818 miles from Lincoln, Nebraska." It just shows how dependent people
have become on GPS.

You can keep an old sectional in your airplane to evaluate options. I recommend using Aeroplanner.com to study the route beforehand. EAA members have free access. When you type your route in, you can overlay your route over any kind of chart
you'd like and it'll print it out in 4 x 6 kneeboard squares. That'll give you a nice 30-mile swath to help you maintain situational awareness as you fly along.

Study the local airport area when you arrive. We are often so focused on what we'll do when we land there, we don't pay attention to what the area is around the airport. But just think of it, you're going to take off again. So if your engine
fails, you're not going to know what sort of terrain is out there. But it's really easy while landing to look around and find places to land if you need to when you take off later.

Plan your routes as best as possible to provide suitable landing areas. You might go toward a bigger airport that has maintenance services.

Consider increasing altitude to provide greater gliding distance. Fly at the highest altitude that's practical. You get better fuel consumption, more options, better radar coverage, better nav reception. There aren't many benefits from flying at
a low altitude.

UNDERSTANDING AIRSPEED

There's more to it than best-glide airspeed. Still, the first thing to do when you think you may have a problem is to establish a glide in the airplane. Pilots are task-oriented people and when the engine makes noise, they start trying to fix
the problem. They divert their attention from aircraft control to fixing the problem. You're wasting time and you're wasting altitude. By establishing the glide and trimming the airplane to stay in that glide, you'll be better off.

Best glide speed gives you the greatest forward distance per unit of altitude loss.

There are some problems with it, though. They're typically only published for maximum gross weight. The problem is best glide speed is not just one speed. It's a function of the weight of the aircraft and that's a problem that not many people
consider. By definition, the only time you can be at max gross is at takeoff.

There's a disconnect between the information that's available and what you need to fly in an emergency. It's almost never going to be "the book number" that's published.

Minimum sink airspeed is a concept integral to glider flying but it's never made it over to power flying. It's going to be critical in an emergency. The purpose of MSA is to maximum endurance, not range (i.e. time in the year instead of distance).

If we lose an engine at 5,500 feet and the landing site is directly below us, we need to maximize the time in the air to maybe get the engine restarted.

Minimum sink airspeed can be calculated as the best glide speed times the square root of your present gross weight divided by your max weight.


(Update 9/27/07: Eric sent me this correction: Published best glide speed for max gross weight X *SQRT* (Actual weight of airplane/Maximum gross weight)
is used to find the BEST GLIDE speed for the exact weight you’re flying at, not minimum sink airspeed.)


One way to establish MSA is to get in your airplane, figure out what your best-glide speed is and take it a few knots slower than that. Slow it again until you get a 400 fpm drop. That's your minimum-sink airspeed. If you slow it down more, you'll
sink faster. But there's a point on the curve that is your minimum-sink airspeed.

Ideally, you'd practice and know this number. But if not, when your engine dies, immediately put it into a glide, and then crank your trim full nose up. The nose will go up slightly and then descend a bit, pick up speed, porpoise a couple of times, and then settle at your minimum sink speed.

We need to eliminate the "rote" level of understanding of best glide speed. Start with the published numbers, but use more intelligence to use the speed that's best for you.

Glide speed can be adjusted for wind. If i'm gliding at a best glide speed of 60 and thee's a head wind. If I have an airport 2 miles away and I'm at 60 in a 50 knot wind, I'm never going to make it to the airport at best glide speed. So the best glide speed isn't always "rote." You have to be the master of your aircraft and you need to do whatever you need to do.

You can increase your glidespeed by half for a headwind. If flying a constant-speed propellor, you need to put your lever full forward. (High pitch-low RPM) to decrease drag. If not, it's going to try to suck all the energy out of the air to keep the propellor turning.

(Update 8:14 a.m. 11/22/08 - Mike Linse of Corvallis, Oregon writes:

This information about the prop speed control is not correct. Lever full forward is the high-rpm, minimum-pitch setting. The high-pitch, low RPM setting is lever (or push-pull control) fully back.)


These are the charateristics we often think about for a good emergency landing spot

1) Far away from the FAA
2) Flat
3) Hard surface
4) Big

Not necessarily. Look at the guy who landed the T-6 on Highway 41 in between cars, and only damaged the right wing on some highway signs.

The goal is surviving the accident, not touching down without damaging your airplane. This is about keeping you and your family safe. Unless the terrain is severe, a good landing spot is probably nearby, that fits none of these characteristics.

We're conditioned to moving foward, we often forget what is behind us.

Tip: Draw an imaginary circle from the spinner to the the wing tip, you will ALWAYS be able to land within this area.

The typical GA aircraft glides at abut 10:1, or 6 degrees. Take your thumb and hold it out at arms length. The distance from your tip of your thumb to your knucles is probably not reachable with no wind. But from your knuckle to the base of your hand
will be reachable.


COPING WITH STRESS


Most forced landing fatalities are caused by failures of the mind, more than failure of the aircraft. Under panic, your actions do not become productive. It locks you up and you're not going to be able to have a successful outcome. You don't just give up your pilot-in-command authority just because the engine quit.

Most people perform better under a small amount of stress. In a complex task or emergency, your performance falls off a lot faster, even with the same amount of stress. So shed things you don't need to be concerned about. Keep things in a process, establish your airspeed, pick a spot to land, and evaluate your progress to the field.

Stress exists. Deal with it by having a rational, systematic approach to emergencies. This is the Air Force philosophy. They have a thing called stand-up where they tkae the new pilots, put them in a room with everybody else -- instructors, commanders, etc. It's intended to be stressful. They'll pick one person out out at random and post an emergency situation to them. He has to repeat the bold-faced procedures. If he screws up or says something out of order. They tell him, "sit down." And he's grounded for the day.

But before he even gets to how he'll handle the emergency, he has to say these words,

"I will maintain aircraft control, analyze the situation and take apropriate action, and land as soon as conditions permit."


Success is as much a matter of the mind as much as it is of piloting skill.

APPROACH AND IMPACT MANAGEMENT

We're going to configure the airplane, circle around, figure out which way the wind is coming, manage the plane to the ground.
I would suggest the idea that you're gloing to plan your approach and if you are too high at your decision point, increase drag or slip the airplane. But you can't do anything being at low. If you come in and bring it high and you don't end up
touching down halfway down and go off the end at a slow speed, that's survivable. Bring it in short and fast, it's a lot less likely to be survivable.

Speed is the thing.

Doubling your ground speed quadrupples the total destructive energy. Reducing it by half reduces it by one-fourth. All the energy has to go somewhere. That's why you must manage the energy all the way to the ground. An impact at 120 is three times
as hazardous as at 70.

General aircraft are designed to decelerate at 9 G's. At 50 mph, you need 9.4 feet to stop an aircraft at a 9G deceleration. From 100 mph, you need 37 feet.

That's why minimum sink airspeed -- not best glidespeed -- should be your speed at touchdown. But not all pilots are comfortable flying at these slow speeds.
Your survival is primarily determined by your speed and angle of impact.

Before touchdown:

Shut off all sources of a postcraft fire (fuel and electricity). Brief your passengers and keep them in the loop. What if you got knocked out? Your passenger will have to shut the master off. Consider keeping the doors shut to maintain cabin integrity. Keep a tool in your plane to bash out a window if need be.

File flight plans and stay in touch. Prepare an emergency survival kit to deal with adverse conditions. If you don't file a flight plan, nobody knows where to look for you. It's cheap insurance to tell someone where you're going.

Low altitude engine outs:

Why do pilots continue to kill themselves by turning back to the runway at low altitude? Few pilots understand how difficult a maneuver this is to perform. If you were at 500 feet, and banked at 45 degrees, you're still not going to be near the
runway. You'll tighten your turn and spin into the ground. It's a high-performance maneuver for which we're completely untrained. The outcomes are so poor that it's better to think of just about any OTHER option than turning back toward the
runway.

If you just look either way at a 60-degree arc, chances are you'll find someplace suitable. In a study of turnbacks, they said only 62% were successful, but even this statistic is lying. They put pilots in a simulator and gave them an engine failure. Thirty-some percentage of the turnbacks were successful, and even after repeating over and over again, they could only get 62% to be successful, whereas those who chose to land straight ahead were successful 100% of the time.

Have a plan for engine failure on departure. When it occurs, it's too late to come up with a plan. Monitor your airspeed on climbeout. Stalling is almost always fatal.


PRACTICE

Under periods of high stress... we do not rise to the occasion -- but instead sink to the level of our proficiency!

Get together with your favorite CFI and talk about these things. Talk about minimum-sink airspeed. Practice spiralling descent from cruise altitude, how to do a rollout etc.

QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS:

Q: What about at night?
A: Only about 10 percent of flight activity happens at night. Plan your flight to go along the edge of populated areas.I'd suggest landing NEXT to a road because there's probably a field there (don't land right next to the road because of
powerlines).

Let's say you had a choice between trees and water. I'd choose trees. If you land in water, your plane is probably going to flip and fill with water. And there you are at night, with water coming in, in an unfamiliar environment.

Q: With a retractable, leave it down or up?
A: The idea on a hard surface, leave it down. Soft surface, follow your POH. A lot consider leaving it up to keep the plane upright and decelerate on the belly.

Note: To view a powerpoint presentation, go here.

The faces of Oshkosh

As a general rule -- in my day job -- I'm not a particularly well-liked individual. Let's just say that it's not in my DNA.

But for one week a year, I've got a ton of friends. Coming here each year, and having a natural vehicle like the BBQ, setting up a large get-together area for RV builders in Camp Scholler, the RV Builder's Hotline, or the Yahoogroup I created some years ago, or just occasional posting on Rivetbangers or VAF or any of a dozen other places talking airplanes, offers endless opportunities to meet interesting people, who have a habit of becoming friends.

For me, this is the face of Oshkosh:



This is Frank Zwart of Kalamazoo, Michigan, who whizzed by on his scooter Monday evening as Warren Starkebaum and I sat around ye olde campsite. I've never been happier to see someone not named my wife, children, or family. When my youngest son
and I were here in 2005, Frank happened to pull up in his bigger-than-the-Goodyear-blimp RV (the kind on wheels). "Are there RVers here?" he yelled out the window?
Oddly enough, there were.

Frank, as it turned out, is an RVer, and built an RV-6 many years ago, back when you didn't just match up holes and assemble a homebuilt plane. He was here with his brothers and they were very kind and generous to Patrick and I.

Then last year, as thunderstorm swept through our BBQ site minutes before it was to start, threatening to leave us with a several-thousand-dollars disaster, Frank showed up in his RV, pulled it around to our campsite, and unrolled the awning to
allow us to stay dry until it passed, basically saving the evening. Oh, also inside the RV was his new wife, Joyce.

I sent Frank an e-mail last week to see if he was coming this year, but it bounced back. And me being a Collins and all, I feared the worst. But, as it turned out, he just changed e-mail addresses.

There are dozens and dozens of people here like Frank Zwart, whom I've met and grown fond of. As great as all the planes and whizbang displays are here, it's better just to see old faces. At least for a week, not long enough for anyone to get to know
me enough to.... know me enough.

In other news...

On Monday I met Patti and John Spicer, who run Rivetbangers. Patti arranged for volunteer T-shirts to be printed, which I'm now giving out.

I tried to give one to John Porter of the Pacific Northwest (by way of Georgia). But apparently he already has one...



We sat around and had many laughs at the campsite last evening. Chris Stone of Oregon joined John. Bob Kelley of Indiana, who had his first flight in his RV-9A (I think it was a 9A) in February, stopped by to give me a DVD of a video he made of the entire construction process.

Howard Kaney, another one of my many Oshkosh favorites, also checked in. Howard does the brat cooking, and also co-chairs the AeroMart here, where people bring their old airplane parts and sell them on consignment.

and Dava Overall of Kentucky made the 9 hour drive and has camped right behind us.




Hopefully we've got enough RVers that when our BBQ spills over into a much larger area (and it will), nobody will be too offended.

As the sun set, a gentleman came by from San Jose and introduced himself. "Hi, I'm Bob Collins," he said.

It was, weatherwise, conversation-wise, and friend-wise, a perfect evening... and then the Goodyear blimp came by...



It's funny -- if not in a ha ha way -- how things are so relative. Here we are in this patch of field in the middle of Eastern Wisconsin enjoying everything about life, and at home, my wife is suffering as her best friend's mother, who's she has known since she was a little girl, passed away, the same day, she found, that our next-door-neighbor also passed away after a short battle with brain cancer.

I needed to be home more than I needed to be here.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Oshkosh - Monday July 23



With the RV BBQ requiring a tremendous amount of shopping and set-up -- I usually start in earnest on Tuesday -- Monday was the only day I really will have for the first half of this week to get around and see what's at AirVenture this year. Turns out the most impressive thing is this huge brat grille I found on the back of a trailer truck. I could use that!

For the most part, Oshkosh doesn't change from year to year. What makes it such a fascinating experience -- aside from the social gatherings -- is the range of aviation.

While covering the Cirrus news conference this morning -- they announced a new "light" airplane -- a couple of F-somethings screamed by for 10 or so passes. A little later I saw a couple of flyboys walking around in their Navy -- or was it Air Force -- flight suits. Kids. They're just kids. Not far removed probably, from calling mom and dad late at night to announce they wrecked the car on the way to the malt shop.

This afternoon I was helping Rob Riggen at a forum presentation on using online resources. As usual, I had my spiel prepared on the meaning of community and the habits of online resources and those who use them. Fortunately I was done before turning it back over to Rob, but when I did, the Harrier arrived.




This is the jet that hovers and can land like a helicopter. To do it, it has huge jets that can rotate. And they make lots of noise, a fact that has been known to anger all of the 10 gazillion people here who are trying to sell things to 10 gazillion other people.

And selling they are...



That's one of the big hangars where exhibitors have all set up. Here's the gang from PMag. They've donated a Pmag and harness as a door prize at the BBQ.



And here's Rob Hickman and if you click on the image, you'll see Advanced Flight System's fine product. I want one. Memo to self: buy lottery ticket.





Unfortunately, at the same time as our forum, there was a hands-on forum next door on working with fiberglass. I've put off doing any fiberglass work on the plane, because I really don't know anything about fiberglass work. Oh, and I also hate sanding.




I visited one of the exhibit halls today. One of my favorite things here at Oshkosh -- and remember, I'm a simpleton capable of excitement over cheap thrills -- is the Shell Aerospace posters they give away every year, based on a "cow" theme.

Here's this year's version featuring Amoolia Earhart.



I also ran some BBQ tickets to the folks at P-Mag, and found fellow RV builder John Tierney instructing at a sheet metal workshop.



When I first started coming here -- 1999, I believe -- I took one of these workshops and decided that a sheet metal airplane is for me. You have to give credit to guys like John, who are so willing to share their knowledge. Oshkosh is full of thousands of people like this. As much money as the EAA makes on this place, 99% of it is run by people doing it for nothing.



While filing my ... excuse me I had to pause while a pair of F-18s just did a low-deck flyby... story for MPR on the Cirrus announcement today, I met Corey Emberson of Kitplanes Magazine, who told me about their arrival at Oshkosh on Sunday. Now, keep in mind there are thousands and thousands of planes flying into this airport (this week it's the world's busiest airport). All was well on short final when a Lancair came screaming out of nowhwere went across their nose, circled around under them and cut them off in the line of incoming plane.

The more stories I hear like this, the less I feel compelled to fly my plane (should it ever actually, you know, fly) here. If I were to, however, I'd be sure to have a passenger. I can't imagine doing it by yourself, as my camping partner, Warren Starkebaum, did when arriving on Sunday.

I mentioned the other day that the Goodyear blimp, errrr... airship, arrived last night. Today, Rob Riggen told me he got a chance to sit in the pilot's seat. I think flying an airship would be plenty of fun. I'd probably try to ram a Harrier, though, so I'm best left groundbound.

One other photo. I'm beginning to like the idea of a nice motorcycle to tour the country with. What's more, my wife, Carolie, has also expressed an interest in riding around the country on the motorcycle if she gets her own.

Wrap up two of these, please.

News from Oshkosh. An LSA from Cirrus




I just finished the story for my daytime job. You can find it here if you're interested. (I've fixed the previously busted link).

Oshkosh Diary - Sunday July 22



Most of Sunday, like most of my time so far, has been taken up with socializing, although I visited the homebuilt camping area and was startled by the number RVs that had filled it in the previous 24 hours.

The highlight was meeting Doug Reeves of Van's Air Force. I stole the picture above of him taking a picture of me taking a picture of him.

I took many more pictures and have added them to the slideshow, which you can find here. I'm also adding separate campsite shots of the BBQ festivities (of which they're none so far on the BBQ page at http://home.comcast.net/~bcollinsrv7a/eaa/.

I have more stories to write than time to write them. I met a couple from Tennessee (they're on the slideshow) with his-and-her RVs; not the only people who have his/her RVs (the Velvicks come to mind. Oh, memo to self: go meet the Velvicks), but I have a feeling there's a good story here. Reporters know these things.

Kelly Patterson of Phoenix had a valve problem and had to put down at an airport in Kansas, so he and his girlfriend are a scratch for this year. I had them down for some BBQ duty so we'll see.

I talked to Darwin Barrie by phone yesterday. His mom is out of the hospital and doing better, but I don't think we'll be seeing Darwin. I guess we can now reveal the door prize list for the BBQ (as dictated to me by Darwin).

  • 3 Van's Air Force belt buckles from Glenn Brasch
  • A $40 gift certificate for a DRDT-2 form Paul Merems and ExperimentalAero or $25 for a front end kit.
  • $500 off a Vertical Power unit
  • Three premium Weathermeister subscriptions from Dan Checkoway
  • $500 gift certificate from Barrett Precision Aviation
  • 1 PMag and harness from PMag.
  • One 7, 8, or 9 tail kit from Van's Aircraft
  • 25% off an ECI 340 Stroker engine from ECI & American Aircraft
  • A Skybolt fastener cowl kit for an RV
  • Many T-shirts, a few books

    At this point, I'm tempted to dump the ticket table at the "door" as there are now people coming out of the woodwork asking to come. So we may just throw open the "doors" (easily done since there are no doors) and put out a donation bin.

    At the EAA briefing this morning (Monday), Dick Knapinski said a T-6 made an emergency landing on Highway 41 (that's the main north-south drag in these parts) last night in Fond du Lac. No injuries although there was leading-edge damage.

    About a half-dozen helicopters were to arrive from France but about 3 of them had to turn back because of mechanical difficulty.

    The RV formation folks arrived on Sunday, but were denied permission to fly in as a group (like the Bonanza folks). They will be performing their close-formation 35-ship roles everyday this week, I believe).

    Had a very nice BBQ last night at Michael Sausen's house up near Appleton. Michael is building an RV-10.

    I'm covering a Cirrus news conference for the day job this morning and will write a story (I presume on VLJs) later.
  • Sunday, July 22, 2007

    The Goodyear blimp

    Is big...






    And here's some pictures my camping mate, Warren Starkebaum took...





    Oshkosh - Saturday July 21, 2007

    Oshkosh has become more of a social visit for me over the last few years. I rarely watch the air show anymore, except if I'm sitting at the campsite, and I only make about one pass through the exhibit halls. Sure, I know I'm supposed to put an engine
    at the front of my airplane. And I guess there's supposed to be some instruments in the panel, and who can't always use a drill bit that can drill through a brick and stay sharp.

    And yet, I'd rather walk around and meet people.

    Saturday, in particular, is a good walking-around day. I visited the RV corral in the morning where about 30 RVs were already in place (see slideshow here), and Jeff Point and his gang were directing one about every 4 minutes it seemed. They've expanded the RV parking area, but I don't think it's going to hold everybody. Last year there were more than 400 RVs at Oshkosh; I'd expect more this year.

    Many had "judge me" signs on them, which means the pilots also write down their names on the cards, that are then stuck on the props. Many of the names I recognized; many I didn't, which is always a good reminder that no matter how often we hang around the forums and get used to seeing the same names, there are probably 10-15 RVers out there for every one who posts on forums.



    I met Jim Dickson(photo), tying down his plane after a trip, he said, from northeast Colorado. He's been flying for two years, he said, and has about 175 hours on his plane so far. Jim reported no problems on his trip to Wisconsin. The weather was great, he said, except for a layer around the Omaha area. "I was alongside a couple of Bonanzas," he said, "and I lost them around there."

    A few minutes later I was eyeing a lovely yellow (is there any other color for RVs?) in the homebuilt camping area (still somewhat sparse at that time). "How ya doing?" I heard from the back of the plane... somewhere. Strolling around to spy the brand new Target-inspired screenhouse ($29), I met Bob and Karen Brown of Independence, Oregon (photo below). Fantastic, putting faces to names of people I've read about (Bob is the president of the EAA chapter in Independence; Karen is also a pilot, and both are coming to the RV BBQ on Wednesday night).




    Their first stop was the Goodwill store near the airport to pick up a couple of bikes, required for getting around a place as massive as AirVenture.

    This is their first visit in their RV, though they've flown in to Oshkosh before. They made fuel stops in -- if I recall correctly -- Caldwell, Idaho; Thermopolis, Wyoming; Mitchell, South Dakota, and Portage, Wisconsin. As Bob rattled off the
    names, Karen recited the identifiers, immediately revealing her role as a professional navigator and expert aviator.

    We chatted about the plane's paint job, hundreds of hours of preparation, they said. "Sanding the fiberglass was the worst," Karen said. "You think you've got it in good shape and then you put some paint on it and you see pinholes everywhere."
    Bob was kind enough to offer complements about the RV Builder's Hotline, as we talked about the difficulty of getting people to understand how interesting they actually are, regardless of whether their story is a short flight that might seem routine, or a difficult (or not difficult) part of construction that they tackled.

    Back at the campsite after struggling with a failed DreamWeaver program, I created a Flash slideshow of some of the RVs I saw (I'll be adding more during the week) and then wrestled with a balky FTP program to upload it.

    Terry Frazier and his wife, Linda, stopped by from Nevada. Terry and Linda pitched in to help cook at last year's BBQ and it was great to see them again. Larry Frey came by on his scooter, noting he's taken Wednesday off from his duties on the
    flightline to help mastermind the BBQ setup.

    I was particularly honored to meet Joke and Rens Verhoeven from Veghel, The Netherlands. We had communicated by e-mail with Rens for tickets to the BBQ and I had been holding them for pickup. They're building an RV-9A. "I need to give you some money," Joke said.

    "If you came ALL this way, JUST to come to the BBQ, then we can provide you with free food and beer," I said, knowing full well that the lure of Oshkosh was something more. Still, driving 4 1/2 hours from St. Paul often seems like a struggle. How much committment does it take to get here from The Netherlands?

    Rob Riggen of Expercraft, my partner on the RV Builder's Hotline has arrived and rode his bike through the moundy field of Camp Scholler to find me, armed with a bucketload of new ideas and stories, but severely lacking in plans to help me find the time to do it (g).

    As I had my morning coffee on Sunday, a perfect story came to me, as I was leafing through the AirVenture official program -- find a homebuilt judge and accompany him or her on the judging process of an RV. I'll bet we can all get some good instruction, even if we're not building showplanes. Another story for me to do... when I find the time. The show hasn't even opened, and I already feel the deadline pressures of getting stuff done.

    In the evening, I found Stein Bruch's (SteinAir) compound. They've rented a couple of RVs (the kind on wheels) and even have a refrigerated beer dispenser. They're camping with the folks from TruTrak, which reminds me I saw Jim Younkin flying in
    yesterday in his RV-10. I've never met Jim, but he remains one of my RV -- and aviation -- heroes. Covering politics for a living, I've been around senators and vice presidents and presidents and never thought much of it, but I still get excited to meet a "famous" RVer.

    Stein showed me a picture that he took with his cellphone of an RV-9A whose nosegear collapsed while parking. He apparently hit a chuckhole and, well, you know how these things go by now. It's now parked in the emergency repairs area of Oshkosh, another notch in the holster of the "there's something wrong with the nosegear" brigade. I don't know if I'll get down to any of the forums Van's does every year, but I'm pretty sure that THIS year, the admonishment to just be a better pilot, isn't going to work when the nosegear question comes up -- which it will.

    And my evening was finished the way most of my best evenings at Oshkosh are, sitting with Glenn Brasch (Tucson), his son, Michael; and Roger Evinson (I've got to get the spelling right). Three of my favorite people on Planet RV. As you may know,
    Roger's RV-9A was destroyed a few weeks ago when he lost his engine, made an emergency landing and the plane flipped, destroying it. "When I think of all the work I put into it," he told me, not needing to finish the sentence, and me not
    knowing how to other than to tell him, again, how good it is to see him here.

    Roger spent, if memory serves, about 5 years building the plane. We talked about the committment it takes to build an RV. He worked his "day job," and just about every night, he says, he worked on the plane.

    I didn't have the heart to ask if he's going to build again, for I imagine everyone else is. Suffice it to say, we all feel his pain.

    Back at the campsite, I bundled up for another "cold" evening, temperatures in the 50s, by firing up the laptop as I made my comfortable bed in the tent, and watching my beloved Cleveland Indians on mlb.com. Ah, this is camping the way it was
    supposed to be! If only they could win a game.

    By the way, the deal on the free wiFi here is EAA was worried about its failed experiment at Sun n'Fun with wifi so they aren't charging this year. This year is a "proof of concept" to see if reliable servince can be provided. If so, next year
    they charge. Next year, I'll pay.

    On the docket for Sunday, I'm heading back down to the homebuilt camping area to take some more photos to add to the slideshow, and then delivering some BBQ credentials to David Lowy of Vancouver, who arrived on Saturday. I want to get a
    blow-by-blow of what it's like to fly into Oshkosh. I'm pretty sure he's camping near Doug Reeves (see note on "famous" RVers above). This evening, Michael Sausen, who lives near here, is hosting a BBQ at his house nearby, and I've invited myself and my RV building pal, Warren Starkebaum (flying in today in his Cessna 170 and camping with me).

    I need to do more BBQ shopping. For one week a year, I'm WalMart's best friend.

    Friday, July 20, 2007

    Oshkosh - Friday July 20, 2007



    I've arrived for another week at AirVenture, which starts -- at least officially -- on Monday. I've set up for big RV BBQ, grabbed 6 spaces ($190 apiece...I bet if I weren't so honest, I could have bought one and staked out 6!).

    A few folks have stopped by so far. Glenn Brasch from Tucson and his son, Michael. Jeff Point heads a group of very dedicated volunteers who manage the RV parking area and make sure people get to their spot safely and efficiently. I've given Jeff a dozen or so tickets to the BBQ to distribute to the folks. Rich Emery and his wife, Mary Jo, also came by and it was good to see Roger Evinson (and I'm sure I'm spelling that wrong) who had the misfortune of having his first flight in his RV-9 (I believe) also be the last. His engine gave out and he had to make an emergency landing. And I mean, it's good to see him.

    I understand old pal Mark Chamberlain (I wrote about him a few months ago) had his second engine out and had to put it down; some damage this time, I understand, but he's OK and it sounds like he's still planning to be at Oshkosh. If so, we'll see him Wednesday evening and find out more.

    Sad to report that Darwin Barrie's mother had a heart attack yesterday and was due for some surgery today. Our thoughts and prayers are most certainly with the family.

    Coming up: the 35-ship RV formation (I believe it's known as Falcon Flight) is due in at 2 p.m. on Sunday.

    I believe Doug Reeves is coming in on Saturday.

    Wednesday, July 18, 2007

    Off to Oshkosh

    The last-minute folks who are pleading to go to the big RV BBQ have pushed the total over 400 now -- not unexpected. I've almost got all of the BBQ stuff put together and tomorrow I'll try to get the packing taken care of.

    During Oshkosh, I'll post a daily diary here and on the RV Builders group on Yahoo, as I did last year. And then by next Saturday, I'll have a full-blown article in the RV Builder's Hotline.

    The Hotline, as you may know, incorporates data from all over the Web and it would be great to know who is posting stuff on a daily basis from Oshkosh (or near daily) so we can incorporate the coverage.

    If you've got something going from Oshkosh, please use the comment sections to spread your URL.

    Sunday, July 8, 2007

    The Big Cut

    I've read so many builder sites about "the big cut," the one where you slice the canopy in two and create a rear window and a tip-up-canopy, and everyone said when it was done that it was "no big deal." But you know what? It is a big deal, a very big deal and while might went very well in today's 90+ heat, I'm not ready to say the reason it went well is in spite of the plodding effort I've given it to now. Who knows? Maybe that extra strip of duct tape is whey it didn't crack?

    In any event, I got up this morning and it was already 80 degrees so I knew there'd be no waiting for the garage to heat up, it was already an oven. I put on some more Duct-tape strengtheners (strips to hold the edges together, and I also put strips in to keep either side from falling off the sawhorses when it was finally cut.




    And I started cutting. Now that this here is a straight cut...




    ...and it went pretty much perfectly. I got down very close -- probably way too close -- to the cutting wheel to be sure I was dead on. Pices of hot plastic were pelting my face and while I should've had goggles, I didn't. I used safety glasses. The picture above is my "fix" to prevent the bounding plastic from getting behind the glasses and into my eyes.

    As has become my custom, I overdid it on the precautions (or maybe it went well because I overdid it!). Van's said to use duct tape to keep the halves together every foot or so. I did it it about every two inches...



    When done, I just pulled the two apart and finished the edges to a 600 grit stage. Look at this beautiful edge!



    My garage has really become a disaster since I started doing the canopy work. So after placing the two back on the fuselage, I gave the place a good cleaning and hosed it out, just as storms and much cooler temperatures came through.

    I guess I cut just in the nick of time.

    Our Daily Thread: Why it's this one on the Yahoogroup site. Some good pointers on what is done next, and a notice about a common mistake made in assembling the canopy frame.

    Friday, July 6, 2007

    Digging plastic



    One of the things that fascinates me about building an RV airplane, is the opportunity to work with a variety of materials. By this stage of construction -- the finishing kit -- most builders (and even me if I think about it long enough) are pretty darned comfortable with sheet metal work. In fact, by now it becomes our security blanket. Nervous about working with fiberglass or plexiglass or electrical work? No problem, do some airframe work on ye olde aluminum.

    But these "other" materials that I get a chance to work with also give me an opportunity to learn about their properties. In essence, they have their own personality and character, and "meeting" them is almost as much fun as strolling down a hangar row and finding a few open doors, with a pilot inside.

    That's where I am with my plane project right now. "Bob, meet Mr. Plexiglass." I've been working on the canopy -- off and on -- for a couple of weeks now and have made my initial "practice" cuts and now I'm getting down to the point of making smaller cuts as I near a final shape.

    Fortunately, the Earth is about to implode with heat -- at least in Minnesota -- so it's been warm enough to cut plexiglass with a minimum of risk. Oh sure, there's always the chance I'll do something stupid, but knowing a replacement costs $1,200 motivates me to employ the "measure a gazillion times, cut once" philosophy.

    Last night it was 83 degrees in the garage at 9 p.m., and what with everyone still firing off July 4th fireworks, it wasn't like I was going to disturb anybody by cranking up my compressor and die grinder.

    I have to say I've enjoyed working with the plexiglass so far. Last night I learned there is a huge difference when cutting plexiglass when it's 80 (the temperature when I've done most of the cutting) and when it's 83. Last night, the cutting wheel sliced through it like it was butter. Three degrees certainly made a big difference.

    Sanding the edges, too, is good for giving one a feeling of accomplishment. I've treated the edges on every cut so far -- even the "practice cuts." It teaches me patience and reinforces the notion of doing a quality job, not just charging ahead. I start with an 80 grit and then a 130 grit roll on the new belt sander, then switch to a manual sanding block at 150, 180, 240 (or whatever) and 320, before finishing it off with 400 grit. I'm not sure just how smooth the edges need to be when done but they're smoother when I treat them this way than the edges were when the canopy arrived from Van's.

    I had made some drawings on the fuselage to try to get a symmetrical cut, or at least to try to translate a very poor outline of the canopy on the forward fuselage in the Van's Aircraft plans.



    Online sources had basically told me to cut where the horizontal part of the canopy meets the vertical part, but you know what? I'm still not sure I want to do that. I did cut, last night, the very center part right up to that point. But looking at the plans, and transferring the measurements to the forward skin, gave me a different cutting pattern from the center to the side.



    Here you can see the mark on the fuselage and the curved cut I had in mind. But I didn't make it. I overshot it in some spots (I actually was staying close to the point where horizontal meets vertical as I got nearer the edge, and that conflicted with what I had envisioned based on the plans), and left material on in another.

    Now look at the right side.



    Again, you can see the planned line vs. what the canopy shape was telling me to do. It's not symmetrical with the other side, but now that I've made the sort-of-but-not-quite final cuts in the front, I'll measure it off to get both sides correct... or at least symmetrical. The line paralleling the forward skin is the 1.75" that the forward edge should touch. I like it in the center there and I'm not inclined to cut anything more off. The plexi -- and it's impossible to really tell -- seems like it's within a half to an inch of the rollbar and other sites have indicated that Van's says that's fine.

    The question I have now is how much more to cut before making the "big" cut; slicing the canopy along the rollbar.

    For example, the front sides still need to be trimmed to allow it slip between the "ears" of the skin, but should that be done now or after the "big cut." I have a flush fit with the forward skin and in the instructions, Van's says that's what I should be working toward.

    But the instructions aren't clear when this should be done. In fact, they say to tape down those ears when fitting the canopy and -- a few paragraphs later -- admonishes that I should not "attempt to do any trimming to final size other than around the base of the windscreen, until after you have split the canopy at the roll bar."

    Does that mean I don't chop anything more off the sides until then? Do I leave the "ear flaps" taped down? Am I just to be concerned about the front fit?

    What's fascinating -- at least to me -- is by taking my time doing this (folks had said it could be done in one day.), it gives me a chance to think more about what I'm doing. Sometimes that's good, sometimes it's not. Give me more time to think, and I've got more time to get nervous about doing something wrong. The more small trims I make, the closer I am to not having any room for error. Frightening? Sure. Exhilerating? You bet!

    As you can see, I still have lots of questions before the next step (feel free to answer them). But I'm running out of plastic.

    I love building my airplane.

    Tuesday, July 3, 2007

    Wings Over Wisconsin

    Fly-in season is in full force now and it's hard to believe GA (general aviation) is in trouble; I've never had a more difficult year trying to keep up with all of the shows.

    WiscNews.com has a story this morning about Wings Over Wisconsin, which was held last weekend. It mentions Dick Martin and his RV-8. Dick was the poster boy for the very first RV Builder's Hotline more than a year ago.

    I didn't do any airshow work last weekend. I did take in Saturday's meeting of the Minnesota Wing of Van's Air Force. I've written a blurb about it for this week's issue and will add some photos sometime today... if it's not too busy at work, that is.

    Rob Riggen is out of town this week and it originally looked as though we'd skip an issue this week -- it happens during fly-in season -- but I've got time on my hands and it's just like the "old days" this week, me just sort of perusing Planet RV looking for stuff and -- surprise -- finding it.

    I've got some fabulous new photos from Don Neuberg, a great photographer and presumably even better commercial pilot. He was at Peachstate Aerodrome for a gathering of RVs last weekend. Look for that.