Monday, January 28, 2008

The first Oshkosh BBQ update of 2008

I've been trying to figure out whether we should attempt to put on the RV BBQ at Oshkosh this year. It's usually been the highlight of my year and I would expect it to be this year as well, but the growing size of it presents a tremendous challenge, and, frankly, is a little scary. I realize it's only almost-February, but usually my work begins in April and it's a mad dash right up until July to pull it off. Last year, Stein Bruch at SteinAir put the bite on some of his suppliers to come up with donations to help pull it off. And Stein, because he's Stein, chipped in with that big event BBQ.

As a result, we were able to rent a tent, buy extra campsites, and our extra expenses were covered, allowing us to put on an all-you-can-eat and an all-you-can-drink event and keep the price far lower than cost. We had a few bucks (a couple thousand, I think) left over, a lot of which we've donated to memorials to fallen RVers, and we've rebated some BBQ expenses for attendees.

The BBQ has gotten very big -- about 500 people -- and the initial outlay of cash is daunting. That's why the sponsorship money has become important. Sure we can do without sponsors, but only if I gamble about $4,000 of my own money for expenses and hope that individuals donate enough to help us break even. Up until last year, that never happened. I ended up subsidizing the event. But I'm concerned about the effect of the economy on things. I completely understand if people are playing it close to the vest.

I'm sensitive also to those who don't want the BBQ to be a commercial affair. I totally agree and I think we ended up with a happy medium last year, especially since we limited the sponsorships to RV-related folks.

We lost Darwin Barrie, the co-organizer, a few weeks ago. So here's a list of what I'm currently considering:

1. We need businesses to donate cash. I don't do this part well. I don't ask for money. So all I can say is if you're a business and you'd like to contribute, knowing that the only thing you get is some slob standing on the back of a pickup truck as the sun sets at Oshkosh saying "thank you," then we'll be happy to take your money. We'll also add your name to the T-shirt. But if there's not enough of you, we probably won't be able to.

2. We need volunteers. I assume my pal, Howard Kaney, will help be the official brat cook of Oshkosh. But we'll need someone to flip burgers. We'll need about 10 people to staff the chow line, someone to patrol the grounds, hand out buns, hand out beer and soft drinks.

3. We'll need a person to donate hours and a truck on Tuesday at Oshkosh. I tried to fit all the beer from Sam's Club in Appleton in my wife's car. I did it. But it wasn't easy.

4. I'd like to drop the ticket price to $7 (it slides up to $10 if you wait until July to register) this year with the provision that kids under 16 eat free. Parents of kids paid a lot of money last year, and we'll rebate their cost. Some of these checks were already written, others will just have it taken off the this year's.

5. We'd like a bigger tent. It's going to thunderstorm again, just as it seems to every year. We need to fit people under the tent until it passes. This (and the campsites) is the bulk of our costs -- about $2,000 for the week. I also have to replace a canopy that was ruined in last year's storm and had to be thrown away.

6. We need a cleanup crew for the next morning. I usually work well into the early morning to make things presentable, but there's a lot of stuff to do the next morning, including cleaning an incredibly grease-filled event grill.

7. Darwin handled the bulk of the work on door prizes last year. I'm inclined to let this function pass into history.

So that's it at this point. I'd be curious for your reaction. Use the comments below. If you've attended the past years, please let us know what we can do better, and we can certainly try to incorporate it into the event.

Classic Aero Design problem

There's a problem with some RV-8 seats from Classic Aero Design. They've sent out this letter.

(H/T Van's Air Force)

Monday, January 21, 2008

Robbing my gumption

I need help from you engineering types out there -- especially you Minnesota engineering types (and you know who you are). I'm at wit's end on the canopy frame.

Last week, I installed the tip-up canopy frame struts on the project and although my old pal Kevin Faris warned me it would pull the frame forward, I was shocked by how much it pulled the frame forward. My nice 1/4" gap between the rear channel and the rollbar was now more than 1/2". And everything was slamming into the front skin, inviting a disaster of another type. That 3/32" gap I filed in per the instructions months ago? I needn't have bothered.

I wasn't sure what to do. My e-mail to Van's support for guidance went unanswered. But a gentleman of the Yahoogroup list mentioned the reinforcing kit. When I looked, to my surprise, I hadn't riveted in the reinforcing kit yet. I thought I had but I had removed them for painting and I'd never gotten to them.

I had previously fit things with the reinforcing kit clecoed in place and while things weren't perfect -- this is the canopy frame for a Van's aircraft, after all -- they were acceptable. And while the left side was a little higher than I would've liked (because I slightly misdrilled the left hinge ear way back when), the right side has been pretty darned good through all of the fitting and cutting and bending and drilling and riveting since I started this part of the project last February.

So imagine my surprise when I refit the canopy frame yesterday afternoon (I'd gotten frustrated when Tom Brady threw an interception during the Patriots-Chargers game that I shut the game off and went out to the garage where things, I thought, would be far less frustrating. Wrong!).

What you may be able to see there is what appears to be some sort of a twist. The whole right side is sitting way off the 1/8" spacer atop the side canopy rails. What the heck?

The only thing that has changed, it seems to me, is riveting on the reinforcing kit. But it fit fine when clecoed, and there's no obvious mess up there.

The one thing I did notice this morning, however, is that the angle on the right side (the one extending from the front of the frame to the rear tube "spar" is sitting atop the curved angle clecoed onto the instrument panel. That, it seems to me, would account for some of the problem.

I had backriveted on the reinforcing kit. Is it possible that somehow the rear tube got bent? Has anyone see this problem before?

I really don't want to drill off the reinforcing kit, because there's nothing there I can fix, is there? The holes are where they're going to be and perhaps the only question now is maybe getting rid of the reinforcing kit altogether.

Or should I try to bang on that rear tube somehow? I'm not sure how I'd do this because it has to get higher in that one spot.

All of this reminds me of a message on the RV list a year and a half ago from John McDonnell, who was frustrated as he whacked away on his canopy frame.

I'm no engineer, but I'm reasonably intelligent, so can somebody tell me why Vans couldn't put the welded canopy frame (and roll bar) in some kind of factory jig to make it fit the rest of the airframe? I can visualize such an apparatus but I have neither the skill, means, nor would it be practical for me to build such a jig for a "one time" application. If you can match drill skins and ribs surely you can match drill this section too. Just tell me what it costs and I'll pay it.

I've thought about John's exasperation a lot while working on this part of the project, partly because I don't recall hearing from him since and I wonder if he gave up or plugged ahead in more anonymity.

The Van's instructions say the canopy can be "gumption robbing." Man, they at least got that right.

Update: I have located the culprit. I took the instrument panel off and, voila! The side rails rested (roughly) where they're supposed to.

So what's causing the problem? The weldment that attaches at the rear tube on the right side is hitting the top of the instrument panel, thus propping it up slighly.

You can click on this image to see a larger one:

So, what to do now? I'm thinking of cutting the angle that reinforces the panel in that spot and filing the top of the panel in that, perhaps, 1/2" to 1" swath to allow the weldment to nest and the canopy frame to come down properly. Does anyone see a problem with that solution?

As to the problem of the struts pulling the canopy frame too far forward, I'm completely digging this tip from Mark Phillips in Tennessee. He created a "stop" to keep the frame from going past a certain point. This seems like a fabulous idea.

Read about it here.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Back in the air -- more or less

Flying can make you humble in a hurry, and there's no way to be a good pilot without, well, flying. A lot.

Today, I flew an airplane -- in this case, a Piper Archer -- for the first time in almost two years. After several weeks of weather delays, I finally got up to work on the flight portion of the BFR (biennial flight review), but more importantly, to begin knocking the rust off after a couple of years away from flying (vertigo problems, drop down a few pages and you can read about it if you didn't already know).

I've got a terrific flight instructor, Blaise Eisenbeil, and what I like best about him -- aside from his obvious talent -- is his insistence of flying properly. Not good enough... well.

You can't fly well being off for two years, but nonetheless, I sure wish I could have. But the departure was ragged, the steep turns -- never my strong suit -- weren't that good and where I use to be able to do jaw-dropping stall recoveries, I was only passable.

A couple of landings were, well, it would be charitable to say they were forgettable because you really can't forget bad landings... and then back to the barn.

What I got was a good glimpse of just how much work I need to do just to get to the point where I don't embarrass myself.

So this week I'll work with flight simulator to get some habits back in shape and then next Saturday, I'll go out and try to do better. Hopefully next week it won't be -6.

One thing: man, it's gotten expensive to fly in the time I've been away. Usually I rent a Warrior but one wasn't available. 1.3 hours and the fuel SURCHARGE was $63. Throw in about $5 for the sales tax to build the Minnesota Twins a new stadium, a few more bucks for the Metropolitan Airports Commission so they can give some money back to Northwest Airlines, which will give their boss another $26 million bonus, and it was a $250 1.3 hours.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

An indecent incident

I generally don't talk about religion or politics on Planet RV, but unfortunately the death of an RV builder in St. Petersburg the other day thrusts both into today's post.

Joseph Bellamy was, according to the article on Tampa Bay Online, four years into his dream of building an RV-8. Bellamy kept the fuselage in the garage and the wings in a storage shed. Working in spare moments here and there, he hoped to finish the painstaking assembly in five to eight years.

He died, along with his parents, when his Cessna 172 plunged into Tampa Bay on Saturday.

By all accounts, Bellamy was a good man, and devoted to his spouse.

Politics and religion aside, can we agree that the person on earth you love the most, shouldn't read about your death on the Internet, because nobody would tell you? Decency requires that someone put an arm around your spouse and gently break the news, right? Well, of course.

So it shouldn't matter, then, that Joseph Bellamy was gay, right?

Monday, January 14, 2008

A good word for aviation

One of the usual rants you hear about we mean, stupid journalists is that nobody prints anything good about aviation. Nonsense. In fact, as this blog has -- hopefully -- shown, there are many more positive stories written about people and their airplanes than the Phil Boyers (AOPA) of the world would have you believe. I am a member of AOPA, but I've always disliked Boyer's "us against them" attitude. Well, that and the fact he's never -- not once -- responded to a single one of my letters or e-mails on the subject.

Anyway, today the Garden City Telegram (Kansas)profiled Steve Edwards, who has an RV-8, as part of their coverage of an EAA fly-in.

It was a perfect example of what a smart EAA chapter with people willing to reach out to the media can accomplish.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Praise you, Red Baron!

The city of Marshall, Minnesota turned out in droves yesterday to say goodbye to the Red Baron Squadron. Schwan's, the frozen food people, own the squadron and have decided to get rid of it. (Note to Schwan's: STOP ringing my doorbell. I'm not going to buy from you. I'm not going to buy your pizza. Guess why.)

As told by the Marshall Independent...

Jean Regnier grasped the hand of each of the Red Baron Squadron pilots Tuesday afternoon and shook them.

“I just wanted to say thank you,” Regnier said. “They’ve done such a good job of representing the company and the community.”

Regnier was one of several hundred people who gathered at the Red Baron hangar at Marshall’s municipal airport to say farewell to squadron the Schwan Food Co. has retired after 28 years of air show performances.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

A darned shame

I lost a good RV building buddy today, and you probably did, too. Darwin Barrie is one of my favorite people. He's also the straw that stirs the drink on the annual RV BBQ at Oshkosh. I can't imagine an Oshkosh without him.

Darwin ran into a developing problem in the RV community, and has decided to pull out of it, except for giving advice and being available to local RV builders in the Arizona area.

The atmosphere on Planet RV has gotten poisonous in recent months, I've noticed. There was a time, you young whippersnappers, when the RV community was a group of like-minded individuals in matters of airplanes, who were smart enough to know that politics, religion, and primer were three subjects to stay away from, because most of us valued the joy of being together too much.

That was then, however. And this is now. Increasingly, it seems, one can't offer advice on the many bulletin boards without a flame war of some sort breaking out, each clinging to the misguided belief that there's only one true way to build these airplanes.

Darwin ran into it on a VAF thread and, as a result, decided to pull out of VAF and all of the other bulletin boards where he's been such a helpful voice for years. He also let me know he won't be involved with the RV BBQ at Oshkosh this year. I can't say that I blame him. As the RV community becomes more like the world at large, the joy it brings is markedly reduced. For that, I blame ... well... us. I suspect we'll see more of this as the "old guard" moves on. What a pity!

I feel his pain and, frankly, I've been wondering lately whether it makes sense to have the RV BBQ anyway. There is more and more bickering taking place as hundreds of new builders come into the community, and maybe it's better if we try to remember the BBQ as it was, and remember a time when everyone got along and enjoyed being with one another.

Those were certainly the days.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

The most...

I'm thinking that this is now the most photographed RV in the world -- or at least soon will be.

It appears on the just-posted January edition of the EAA 105 newsletter (PDF here, and also was the cover boy on the January issue of Sport Aviation from EAA (PDF here).

It's Trey Johnson's RV-7 amphib.

And now that I think of it, I think this is Planet RVs most photographed couple.

It's Paul and Victoria Rosales, photographed here at the SoCal RVators Laughlin, Nevada fly-out on New Year's Day. There's more on the SoCal YGroup, which you should subscribe to in any case, since it's probably the finest RV mailing list.

It's a fine looking group, isn't it?

Can't wait to get my RV finished and join them at "the table."

I still think, though, if all of these people stretched their "wings" a bit and headed to South St. Paul airport, we could have that electrical system in by nightfall.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Dancing the UK way

This video link was relayed in a VAF thread -- over serious as it was, given that it was about liability and the EAA -- to lighten the mood.

And it worked.

It reminded me of the traffic cop who directed traffic off the wharf at Provincetown.

Life's too short to be too serious. Here's to more dancin' in 2008!