Sunday, June 29, 2008

Sam Burgess Memorial Junket update - Sat. 6/28

J.W. French is flying around the country, dropping in on EAA Chapters. I wrote about his trip in an earlier post. Here's his latest e-mail.


Monroe McDonald at Eagle's Roost did a yeoman job of getting me up and on my way this morning at Eagles Roost, AZ (27AZ). It's hard to leave good people like Monroe and the folks at Eagle's Roost. There are many interesting people and many interesting airplanes in that airpark, and I was welcome to stay on.

Today was another gut-check day. The mountains are getting taller and closer together. My destination was Hurricane, UT, General Stout airport (1L8). I elected to head for Parker, AZ and then fly up the Colorado River Valley to Lake Mead and stop at Mesquite, NV (67L) for fuel, and claimed Nevada as the 40th state on the Sam Burgess Memorial Junket.

It was a short hop over a deep mountain pass following I15 to St. George Utah and then descending into Hurricane,UT. I had a light cross wind and finally managed to make a nice landing, and claim state the 41st state for the Sam Burgess Memorial Junket.

I was met by my host, Carlos Duenas and two other members of Chapter 936. Carlos has built a magnificent Acro Sport, and is flying the time off on it now. He also owns a 2000 Piper Archer and a two seat Challenger light sport aircraft. He is a sport pilot instructor.

Carlos and I had lunch in a resort town close to the Zion National Park and then he took me on an automobile tour of the park. The scenery was breathtaking. I got a lot of great picture of the mountains and the interesting rock formations.

My RON accommodations are an apartment in Carlo's hanger at the airport. He has built a hanger on leased ground from the city ($300/year for 25 years). At the end of the lease the rental rate is renegotiated. I don't know what the city fathers in Hurricane, UT are drinking, but I would like to buy a case of it and give it to Lee County Florida Port Authority, that runs Page Field in Ft. Myers. The apartment is beautiful, and yes, you can do your own maintenance or build an airplane in your hanger.

I will be off in the morning for French Valley Airport (F70) at Murrieta, CA for lunch with Conrad Nordquist, and a function with members of Chapter 1279 at 2:00PM. After the meeting Conrad and I will fly to Flabob Airport (KRIR) and fellowship with the members of EAA Chapter #1. Conrad is the proud owner of the Glasair RGI that I sold him last September. He will be my RON host at Flabob.

For those of you who have see articles and pictures on the EAA Web site and noticed that I am wearing the same blue shirt with the Sam Burgess Memorial Junket logo in every picture, let me put your minds at ease. I am not wearing the same dirty shirt everyday. My neighbor in Buckingham Airpark does this embroidery and I had her make me six of these shirts for the trip. I don't have to make any decisions about what I'm going to wear every morning and I have a clean shirt every day.

J.W. French

Saturday, June 28, 2008

RV Builder's Hotline - June 28, 2008



I have just posted the online version of the RV Builder's Hotline. It includes an update on this afternoon's meeting of the Minnesota Wing of Van's Air Force, a look at the affordable tracking system, tons of pictures from various fly-ins and RV airplane building tips.

Go here to see the latest issue.

I'll start mailing it out now to those who've requested e-mail delivery.

And if you like it, how about passing word along to your fellow RV airplane builders?

Sam Burgess Memorial Junket update - Fri 6/27/08

J.W. French has been providing e-mail updates from his around-the-country tour to meet members of EAA chapters.




The flight from Payson, AZ to Eagles Roost, AZ was a short one, but challenging. I climbed to 8500 msl to clear the mountains and flew for nearly an hour over extremely hostile country. There was nothing but mountains, rocks and beautiful country with absolutely no place to make an emergency landing. You just had to fly on faith in the engine.

Eagles Roost (27AZ) is about 25 miles west of Wickenburg, AZ at an elevation of of 2200 msl. The runway and streets had been newly paved so it was easy to identify. I distinguished myself by bouncing several landing attempts so badly I had to go around, before I finally greased a good wheel landing. I hadn't screwed up a landing and had to go around since Lufkin, TX and was just beginning to feel like I had the Acro Sport mastered.


I was met by my host Monroe Mc Donald, a retired electrical engineer. He had worked in the Dallas, TX area and knew Dick Gavin of Thorp T18 fame well. Dick was a close friend of mine. I spent many enjoyable RONs with Dick and his wife. I always looked for bad weather when I was close to Addison so I would have an excuse to spend the night with them.

Dick wrote the Thorp T18 newsletter for abount 25 years, and also wrote a regular monthly article for Sport Aviation for many years. Eagles Roost was also the home of Bill Warwick, who built the first Thorp T18, and is fondly remembered by many of the Eagle Roost resident that I met.

Monroe took me in to Wickenburg to see the sights and on the way I stopped and took a picture of the entrance sign to the abandoned airfield where Paul Poberezny took glider training in WWII.

The Wickenburg Chapter members gathered for a ice cream social this evening and asked me to share my memories of the life and times of Sam Burgess. I am still amazed at the number of people I meet who knew and respected Sam. One of the members of the chapter had judged aerobatic contests with Sam, and another had visited with Sam about the Allison turbine engine that Sam used on the second Bucker Jungmeister he built. This fellow is building a Seawind with a Pratt and Whitney PT6 turbine. What an awesome project.

One of the members, Bob Trewis EAA#2324, is still flying the Stitts Playboy he built in 1965, and there is a Thorp T18 that was built by the owner in 1976 that is absolutely absolutely gorgeous.

I will be leaving early in the morning for Hurricane, UT (1L8) General Stout Airport for an RON with Carlos Deuna, and I hope to get to Flabob Field (KRIR) on Sunday, for a visit with Conrad Nordquist and members of Chapter #1.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Sam Burgess Memorial Junket update - 6/26/08

(Today's dispatch from J.W. French follows.)

I had a delightful evening with my overnight host, Allan Lerfold, from Chapter 1445, and Steve Hulland, who is the newsletter editor for Chapter 81, and the Airport Manager of the Casa Grande airport.

Steve is doing a wonderful job of making the Casa Grande airport general aviation friendly. They are in first place for the Hall of Fame for general aviation services, facilities, attitude and fuel prices. 100LL was $4.98/ gal. The activity of pilots from Hall of Shame airports coming to use the field and purchase fuel is a credit to Steve's implementation and the city fathers who set the policy. If only more cities and counties that operate airports would stop looking at their airports as cash cows, and take this approach general aviation might have a chance of surviving a little longer.

This morning, Mike Still, the president of 1445, and several other chapter members were at the airport to see me off. This chapter went from start-up to 70 members in about a year and the enthusiasm and vitality of the chapter is just great. Mike Still is an excellent facilitator and organizer, and has really made the chapter blossom.

I launched for Payson, AZ (KPAN)) with apprehension because of the mountains and all the airspace issues, but it was still relatively cool, and winds and turbulence were not an isssue. I'm still not comfortable close to the mountains, but I sucked it up and did it. The conditions were all favorable and I gave myself the chance to handle the circumstances with minimal exposure. The scenery going into Payson was spectacular.

The airport is almost a mile above sea level. The air was choppy on downwind at pattern altitude, but when I turned from base to final it smoothed out and I greased another one. Either landings at the high altitudes are easier or I'm finally getting the hang of the Acro Sport. I wish I'd had more time to practice before I left on the trip.

My host is Robert Henley. His father, "Skid" Henley was in the aerial application business in McAlester, OK and Robert and his father and brother,
who ran the McAlester Airport for years, knew Leroy Holt of Thorp T18 fame. Leroy and I have known each other for over twenty years. I got Leroy on my cell phone and Bob, Leroy, and I had a nice chat. Coincidences didn't end there. We stopped at Ron Ward's hanger to see the Cessna 180 he now has for sale and and the beautiful Cessna 195 he has just aquired. Ron asked were I lived in Ft. Myers, FL and I told him Buckingham Airpark. He asked if I knew Paul Cox. I told him he is my neighbor, and was a big help in getting the Acro Sport ready for this trip. It turns out they were hanger mates in Louisville, KY for years.

So I got Paul on my cell phone and they had a nice visit and got reconnected.
Robert Henley has an American Eaglet replica that his father built from factory plans. It did't have the three cylinder Szekely radial engine with the cable around the cylinders to help hold them on, so I didn't recognize it at first. It started out with a C65 Continental, but after he brought it from McAlester, OK to the Arizona mountains he outfitted it with an C85 Continental. He also has a pristine 1947 Bonanza with the 225 Continental Engine.

Payson is a beautiful place, and the airpark that is connected to the municipal airport is great. Now there's an interesting approach, a municipal airport with access for a private airpark. That makes way too much sense for most levels of government to behave like this.

I will be off to Eagles Roost (27AZ), at Aguila AZ in the morning. It is another short flight over mountains, so I'm continuing to ease my way into this mountain flying in manageable steps. The pilots along the way have all been great about giving me pointers to ease the discomfort of facing the challenges of flying in the high desert and the mountains. This is grass roots aviation at it's best.

After Eagle's Nest I'll leave for General Stout Airport (1L8) at Hurricane, UT for an RON with Carlos Deunas.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Sam Burgess Memorial Junket update - 6/25/08

J.W. French has sent along this update of the Sam Burgess Memorial Junkett, which you can read more about in this earlier post.

Left the wonderful group that hosted and entertained me at San Manuel, AZ, Chapter 1406 this morning. The flight for San Manuel was only about 45 minutes and once I got out of the high country the air was relatively smooth. The wind was about 45 degrees crossed, but only about 7 knots. I landed at Casa Grande (CGZ) this morning and was met by a large contingent of members from Chapter 1445 and a photographer and a reporter from the Casa Grande Dispatch. Mike Still had done a great job of organizing the event on short notice.

I gave a presentation on the life and times of Sam Burgess, and tried to quit 10 minutes before the audience expected it, which is what a wise old politician once told made the best speech. They just kept asking questions about Sam and the airplanes he built so I hung in there with them as long as they were interested. We adjourned for a great lunch at Mimi's.

My hanger host for the Acro Sport is Terry Emig, the an officer of the AAAA/ Catus Fly In and an old friend of Robert Taylor of AAA fame. He has a beautiful Stearman. One of the Chapter members had made Sam's acquaintance in the past. I saw a number of beautiful airplanes that belong to the members, including a pristine Stolp V Star and a 1941 J3 Cub with and 0-200 Continental engine with an electrical system and a starter.

My overnight host has accepted the challenge of getting my tired old bones up early so I can get to Payson in the morning before the heat whips up the wind and the turbulence. I will be going back into the mountains to get to Payson. I am getting a little more comfortable in the high country, but I don't I will ever be able to relax in that environment.

I'll try to report again tomorrow from Payson.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

J.W. French update - June 24, 2008

Woody and Mary Haston accepted the challenge of getting these tired old bones up and at 'em early this morning. Temperature was 71 F. I was in the air by 7:30 and climbing out for Van Horn, TX. I made one circle around the Alpine Airport and was able to climb out direct to Van Horn. The mountains are still a new experience for me and

I am glad that there are big wide valleys between them. Landed at Los Cruses, NM for fuel and they are now in first place in the "Hall of Shame" for the price of fuel ($5.69/gal.) If I could have made Lordsburg, NM it was $4.20. Winds were still light and right down runway 12. I greased it on way out where nobody could see it. Trouble with the credit card caused a little delay and then I was on my way.

I'm now seeing serious stretches of "nothing there" so I tried to stay within gliding distance of I10. Gut check time at Cochise, when I had to leave the highway and fly up the San Pedro River valley to San Manuel (77). Big wide valley with serious mountains on each side and no place to go if the engine takes a dump. San Manuel is an old company town built by Del Webb for the copper mine employees. The mines have been closed for some time now so the air quality is great. Nice runway and I arrived at noon before the afternoon winds kicked up. That's noon Mountain Standard Time because Arizona doesn't recognize Daylight Savings Time.

I now have claimed my 39th state. Mark Rhoads and Britta Penca were there to meet me. We had lunch with a group from Chapter 1406 at the country club and then visited several projects. I saw Max Wood's magnificent Mustang II which is nearly finished. It has a retractable tricycle gear with a razor back cabin and a T18 windshield and gull wing doors. It has a turbocharged TIO-360 Lycoming with a constant speed prop, and a panel full of steam gages. What a beautiful airplane.

Mark and Britta both have gyrocopters, and I had a tour of their hangar and projects. Britta has a private helicopter rating and a sport pilot gyrocopter rating and will start fixed-wing instrument training in October.Their ranch is about two miles from the airport as the crow flies, but seven miles by road. The views from the house are spectacular.

The chapter is having a potluck dinner tonight to celebrate the SBMJ 2008 visit. The hospitality of the EAA Chapters and my hosts have really made this trip a pleasure. I'll check in again tomorrow from Casa Grande, AZ.

Monday, June 23, 2008

How to subscribe to the RV Builder's Hotline

There are two versions of the RV Builder's Hotline out there. One -- the one presently being updated -- is on my Comcast server at http://home.comcast.net/~rvnewsletter/. While all the old ones are at that location, they're also on the Expercraft server, where it was hosted for 6 months or so before I -- and Rob Riggen -- ran out of time to update.

I no longer have an account for the Expercraft server and the Expercraft-based pages are the ones likely to show up in a Google search. The "subscription" link on those pages, however, will not actually get you on the mailing list -- even though it will update the old mailing list (which I no longer use).

It's all very old-tech. If you want to be added to the mailing list, you have to send an e-mail to me.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Sam Burgess Memorial Junkett update - Sunday 6/22

This just in from J.W. French

I landed at Alpine, TX (E38) at 2:00 PM this afternoon. I will spend tomorrow visiting with Woody and Mary Haston. Woody was involved in the construction of the Curtiss Sparrow Hawk with Sam Burgess, and helped look after Sam during his final days. I will leave Tuesday morning for San Manuel, AZ for a RON visit with Mark Rhoads and EAA Chapter 1406 members. (Bob notes: Hey, Chapter 1406, update your Web site!)

I intend to leave Wednesday for Casa Grande, AZ for a RON with Mike Still and visit with members of Chapter 1445. Thursday, June 26th I will be in Payson, AZ to RON with Robert Henley and visit with Chapter 810. Friday, June 27th I will RON with Monroe McDonald at Eagles Roost 27AZ in Aguila, AZ.

The trip from San Marcos, TX to Alpine was with mainly clear skies, and no headwinds, high temperature, and a heat haze layer up to 7500 msl. There was no hands-off flying time in the ensuing bumps. Alpine field elevation is 4250 msl so the ground speed on landing is noticably higher even though the indicated airspeed is the same.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

J.W. to the Twin Cities?

I got an email from J.W. French this morning, saying he's planning on making it up to the Twin Cities during his odyssey afterall. Of course, we don't have any dates or anything. But I've got a hangar at South St. Paul for him, I've got a spare bedroom, and now all I need is some EAAers to make him feel at home.

There are many chapters in the Twin Cities area. If you'd like to be invited to a get-together with Mr. French, at which time we can tell our individual lies stories of aviation and airplane building, just drop me an e-mail and I'll make sure you're on the list.

Better still, if you'd like to host the get-together, let me know soon.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Living the dream



I'm still intrigued by J.W. French's odyssey. This week he spent time in Texas with Bruce Bohannon and has provided a slideshow of images.

I'm thinking of featuring this in the RV Builder's Hotline this week, even though it's not about RV airplanes, per se. But, then again, it is. Isn't it?

Here is Mr. French's Friday morning update:

I have had several people on the trip ask who RON is. To clear that up, RON is a military term that means "remain over night." I really don't know how it became a part of my vocabulary, because I am a career civilian, having never been in the active duty military.

Choir practice at Flying Tiger's Field of Dreams was a spiritually uplifting experience. Bruce, Freya, Ernie and the whole group were in fine voice, and the fellowship was wonderful. On top of that Bruce's resident electrical genius, I believe it was Alan, diagnosed and fixed the gremlin in my electrical system in short order.

Flying Tiger's Field of Dreams is a hard place to leave. The people involved are the kind that make any organization great. I hope Bruce's dream for a museum, camping and nature area, and learning center becomes a reality. It is people lilke Bruce, Freya, Ernie and the rest of the gang that will keep grass roots aviation alive. I had a great night's sleep in Kathy and Craig McDonald's guest quarters, with the heavenly sounds of "choir practice" ringing softly in my ears.

This morning thunderstorms were already forming and heading for Waco, TX so I had to scrub the visit with the Waco Chapter Thursday lunch bunch. I missed getting to meet Jeff and Lynne Stoltenberg in Brenham, TX where I stopped at the airport and had their highly publicized $100 hamburg, but I got a call from Jeff after I landed in San Marco, TX, and we had a nice visit on the phone.

It is great to visit with the family here. I haven't been here to see them since the SBMJ 2005. I will be in San Marcos, TX till Sunday morning when I will leave for Alpine, TX to visit with Woody and Mary Haston. Woody was one of the fellows that helped look after Sam in this final days. He also built one of the finest Hatz biplanes every built. He did it in German WWI markings with a scalloped trailing edge on the wings, and wire spoked wheels. It is a beautiful airplane.

I'll report again when I get to Woody's.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Today's J.W. French update

8 a.m.
Folks:

I had a great lunch meeting with a group from the Lufkin, TX chapter on Tues. Landed safely at Liberty, TX and was meet and royally entertained by a group of members from EAA's newest chapter. You cannot beat Texas hospitality.

I will be leaving for Bruce Bohanon's Flying Tiger's Field of Dreams this morning.

J.W. French
EAA #266844

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The Sam Burgess Memorial Junket 2008


If you read Sport Aviation this month, perhaps you saw the story of J.W. (James) French, in the "Chapter Hopping" article (as long as we're onto EAA pet peeves, why not make the whole magazine available digitally, as long as you're making all of the archives available to members?). He's set out on the Sam Burgess Memorial Junket 2008. He is stopping at EAA chapters along the way. He's not presently scheduled to be in the St. Paul area, but I sent him a note anyway to let him know that I have a hangar available to him -- as well as company and a spare room -- if circumstances should change.

I was also interested because he's going to end up in my hometown -- Fitchburg, Massachusetts -- at some point.

He's been sending me (and I presume others) e-mail updates and I'll be posting them here. The latest one is at the top.

Wednesday 5 p.m.
I landed at Flying Tiger's Field of Dreams (81D) south of Houston, TX about 11:00 AM today. Freya Shiller, who has been my contact for this RON landed several hours later. She had flown here two children in her Mooney to the Bahamas for a vacation. What a treat to be in the land of Texas hospitality. Freya is an airline pilot for Continental.

I am being hosted in grand style by Kathy who was her training pilot when she started with Continental. Kathy and her husband have beautiful horse farm with a nice grass strip not far from FTFOD's. The guest quarters are magnificent. Bruce Bohannon, who owns FTFOD's, kept talking about having choir practice tonight, and whether of it would be held in his hanger or someplace else. I was beginning to think this was not my kind of crowd , if their ideas of showing me a good time was to take me to choir practice.

Fortunately, Freya explained to me that "choir practice", is Bruce's code word for the boys to get together and drink beer, tell lies and talk flying. Now I am looking forward to this evenings festivities. Turns out that Freya, Bruce and I have several mutual friends we have made through our flying activities.

Bruce has a fellow who is going to trying to find the little electrical gremlin that has bugged me the last two days. If all goes well I will be meeting the Waco EAA Thursday at noon and then proceed to San Marcos, TX to RON for several days and visit with three generations of family I have there.

Monday 7:24 p.m.

Landed safely at Pineville, LA 2L0, and will RON with Jim and Patsy Hidalgo. Jim was a long time friend of Sam's and was one of the group that helped look after Sam at the end. Will overnight here and prospects look good for meeting the EAA group in Lufkin, TX for lunch and the on to Liberty, TX for an RON with the newest EAA Chapter.

The XM weather was indispensable again today. Two large thunderstorms in progress between McComb, MS and Pineville, LA but a large 20 mile wide opening between them made for a pleasant flight. A lot of turbulence on landing, but the wind was right down the runway. I still haven't discovered any shortfield qualities in the Acro Sport. Under 90 mph it has all the aerodynamic qualities of a number two grain scoop thrown from a hay mow. Wheel landings are fine but it doesn't like full stall three point landings.

Aviation's dirty little secret

You know, the dirty little secret of aviation is it's one of the last remaining places where men get to pretend it's a man's world.

I look at the occasional list of EAA Board of Directors or some inductees and it's very, very rare to find a woman. (Side to my friends at EAA: I love you guys like a son, but could you make it any more difficult to find a list of your board of directors?)

I look at the National Aviation Hall of Fame and I see plenty of men, but I don't see Janet Christine Dietrich (the death of whom was announced today).

In fact, I only see 12 women in there. What a joke!

At least in the world of aviation, it's still 1950.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Hotline this weekend

The new Hotline may -- or may not -- be out this weekend. I'm not committing to an every Saturday morning schedule, just as time and events allow.

I'd hoped to hitch an RV ride to Boone, Iowa this weekend but it didn't work out. By the time I connected with someone, it was late in the week and I'd already made alternative plans.

But if someone is going to Boone, how about sending some pictures and information? See, the Hotline is a reflection of your experiences, not mine.

Or if you've got other RV things on your mind, you can still contribute. Or not.

Update I started putting a Hotline together this morning, and then realized there really wasn't much interesting material this week.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

This week's RV Builder's Hotline

A few hundred of you (assuming you subscribe) received this week's Hotline in the e-mail before Comcast decided I was a spammer and suspended my account for 24 hours. Apparently I'm limited to sending only 1,000 messages a day. I think they've also blocked access to the Web site that has the Hotline posted on it as well.

Next week, I'll adjust things so that we're only sending out about 700 a day and we'll just send them on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday instead of all at once.

Sorry for any problems this may have caused.

Update - I've purchased the use of an smtp relay server outside of Comcast to send the Hotline. This costs $20 per month. As there is no advertising in the email newsletter, I'll be depending on contributions to break even. That's not much. Alternately, if you have an RV-related business and you'd like to sponsor the Hotline for a year, $240 will do it.

Because it's a relay server, some ISPs will automatically identify it as SPAM. Please make sure rvnewsletter@comcast.net is listed in your mail program as "allowed" and not "blocked." However, some ISPs -- AT&T for example -- will reject the Hotline before it reaches you. There's nothing I'm going to be able to do about that. Plan on reading the Hotline online.

By the way, this week's Hotline is now available here.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Field trip to the hangar


Eat your hearts out, Annie Leibowitz. With the exception of the fact there's nobody naked in this picture, there's something cover-photo about this picture. Or album-cover. Or late-night TV knife-salesman-like.

In any event, we've had a lot of bad news at the day job this week, the possibility of layoffs and all. So we're looking for ways to take our minds off things, even for a little while.

An invitation to the hangar where I'm building the RV-7A was extended. And these folks responded. The rest of the staff went on the layoff list. Who knew?

These are my colleagues at Minnesota Public Radio. There's two folks there from the news department and the rest from New Media.

If you're like most people in America, you have more than a passing thought about what would happen to your project if you were to lose your job. There are a lot of "wealthy" RV builders, to be sure. A glance around the RV corral at Oshkosh tells you that. But there are a lot of working stiffs building airplanes, too. These endeavors are not only leaps of faith in terms of one's ability to follow directions, stick to it, and, of course, pay for it. They're also leaps of faith that circumstances will not change significantly enough to dash a dream.

When you're 54 and in a dying business, it's impossible not to be be very careful about taking the large steps one needs to take along the way. As I am at the "spending big money stage," and since I'm aware I'm in a dying industry (Newspeople are the 2008 version of the 1960s steelworker), there is a fair amount of uncertainty over the project right now.

So it shouldn't have been a complete surprise when my employer announced earlier this week that by the beginning of the fiscal year on July 1, there will be few fewer of us working for it.

I wasn't surprised. What did surprise me is after 7 years of a combination of building an airplane and worrying about being an aging cog in a dying field, when it was announced that cutbacks were coming, I didn't much care. In fact, I didn't stay in the meeting long enough to hear most of it.

Instead, I headed downstairs to another department... where my son works, to try to let him know what was coming before he heard it from his own bosses. I know recessions; I've been through a few of them, lost my job in one of them, moved to Minnesota during another. But the younger generation has never been through this uncertainty before, and they're scared. I know that because several of them have been coming up to me this week asking me what I think will happen. What they're really asking is, "Will I lose my job?"

The answer I give them, of course, is "I don't know." In my son's case, he hasn't asked, but knowing him as I do, I'm guessing he's pretty concerned, and trying to hide it. As any father would, I hate that far more than any possibility my RV won't end up being finished. In short, as much as the RV project means to me in the big scheme of things, it's remarkably irrelevant in ... well... the big scheme of things.

I am not by nature an optimist, but I try to remind everyone of one reality: Even in the toughest times of recession, most people do not lose their jobs. Still, that doesn't stop the worrying or the uncertainty.

This is the new American economy and despite all the intellectual, pointyheaded analysis we see on TV, despite all the lying political nonsense on both side of the aisle we hear everyday, America is made up of people worried that they're next. And, for the most, their voices aren't being heard.

In our group of highly talented people, some are building airplanes, some are trying to hold onto houses, some are trying to send kids to college. None deserve to be the victims of the greed and thirst for power -- not to mention the stupidity -- that set in motion the chain of events that has led to their worry.

And so what can we do about it? We pile as many people in cars and we head to the airport, we throw open the hangar door and we give ye olde project one more role besides the many she's had: an opportunity to forget about work for awhile, and remind ourselves that there's simply more to our days than.... our days. The worst rarely comes true, and our jobs -- as much as we think they are our lives, are not our lives.

The RV project is, in many ways, a metaphor for coping with the uncertain times. Small projects rather than the big picture. You do the best you can. You ask for help when you know you need it. You stick to it even when you're sure it's not going to work.

It is our nature to take leaps of faith. There's never been a better time to jump.