Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Oshkosh Diary - Day 5

This was "me" day today at Oshkosh. I've got a few things to do and I didn't have any appointments or "deadline" stories to write, so I did whatever I felt like doing. I was going to go to some of the RV-based forums; I blew them all off.

I did put together a little slideshow of RV "art" -- both nose and tail. You can find it here. If you're at the show and you shot a picture of some nose or tail art, I'd like to add it to the slideshow. Please send me a copy.

Many of the things I've been working on, by the way, will be in this week's RV Builder's Hotline, which will probably come out Sunday. I haven't been able to keep up with the various threads online, however. So if you'd like to be 'editor for a week' on the Hotline, all you have to do is send me your five favorite threads of the last two weeks. The Hotline emphasis is on building, so if they could stick to practical building/flying information, that'd be great. It would be a big help to me.

Reality check

You can probably tell by the piece I did on aircraft judging that I've been pretty well wow'd by some of the workmanship of RV airplanes here, almost to the point where it feels like I should go home, and leave the airplane building to the people with talent. It's that good. I knew I needed a lift and so I stopped by the Van's tent to look at their demonstrator models, knowing I'd feel better. This -- my airplane -- is, afterall, a "working man's RV."

Sure enough, the empennage fiberglass tips that the instructions tell you to fill are not filled. That's really all I needed to see, just a confirmation that these planes can fly without a complete investment of my waning years and children's inheritance.

How to survive in a bad economy

Customer service! What part of that don't you get, American businesses. I hold a grudge -- a long grudge -- against companies that provide poor basic service. My wife and I walked into a Norwest Bank (now Wells Fargo) when we moved here. We signed our name on the sign-up sheet, sat down and waited for someone to help us open checking and savings accounts. The reps ate their lunch and ignored us and we left, vowing never to do business with Norwest again. And we never have. And we never will.

You learn a lot about a company by the way they treat you before you've purchased anything. Now, don't get me wrong here, I'm not saying the company I'm about to mention is a bad company; they're not. I'm not saying their product is a bad product; it's decidedly not. In fact, it may be the best value on the market.

But here's why I'm now going to spend my money on the Grand Rapids Sport EFIS package instead of the Dynon. I was the booth today trying to get the lowdown on Dynon's product. I'm pretty near ready to commit to either it or Grand Rapids (Ideally, I'd probably go with Advanced Flight Systems, but it's pretty far out of my financial league): I was 10 seconds away -- 10 seconds away! -- from saying "I'll take it," when the Dynon rep saw somebody he knew and struck up a conversation with him, leaving me to twiddle my thumbs.

Guy, did you come here to sell your product or chew the fat?

A few minutes earlier, I was in the engine monitor-shopping business and had stopped by Grand Rapids' booth. The gentleman who helped me understand their system (and, yes, I know there are more whizbangy systems out there, but this is a really good one) spent about 10 minutes answering my question. If he talked to someone else, it's only because that other person was watching the demonstration and had questions that were valuable to me, too.

He got about $1,400 of my money today. I already knew Grand Rapids' reputation for customer service; this guy reinforced it and he not only got a customer today, he'll have one when I buy the EFIS.

As I said, nothing against Dynon, and I know at airshows there's a lot of folks kicking the tires. But I work hard for my money and I demand the attention of salespeople when they want some of it. Perhaps I looked like a tire-kicker and the guy decided his friend was a better customer. If so, he was wrong.

Composite 101

Among the more valuable things at AirVenture are the short workshops intended to get you used to a building material, whether it's sheet metal, fabric, or fiberglass. One of my goals this year was to go to the composite workshop. Mission accomplished. We made a little laminated sheet that's along the lines of something we'd have brought home from school as kids. But you know, I think 90% of building an airplane is the confidence to do so and I feel a little better about fiberglass now.

On the flight line

I haven't sat down by the side of the flight line along to watch planes go by for years. So I did that today. From my seat I got to see the RV formation flight. It looked pretty bumpy up there and as I've said before I'm not really in to formations, but this was really impressive stuff. Most impressive to me was the overhead break to landing and the sight of four RVs in single file, handling a hellacious cross wind as if it were nothing. And, I'd guess, for these guys, it was nothing. Some of the best pilots in the world are here, and these are a few dozen of them.

I'm sure the RV groups will be littered with pictures of it, but they do it no justice. Only the naked eye and an appreciation for precision as maneuvers change can provide that.

Ardy & Ed's Drive in

Ardy & Ed's drive-in has been ranked as one of America's best. It's not just a throwback to an earlier time -- it has waitresses on roller skates and you can eat in the car if you wish -- it's got great food and it's situation not far from the runway at Oshkosh, you get a steady diet of airplanes while you ruin your diet.

I'd intended to head there this week to hoist a root beer float in honor of the friends who couldn't make it to Oshkosh this year. And so this afternoon, I did.

I elected to have mine inside, at the soda fountain...

The place actually looks really cool at night, all lit up in neon. So, anyway, to all of you who couldn't be here this week, this float's for you.

BBQ weather

Interesting to note that had we done the BBQ this year, it would be an absolutely perfect evening to do it because, well, it's an absolutely perfect evening. The last two years we've had thunderstorms move through right at the start.

Figures, eh?

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