Thursday, May 28, 2009

The wall

First year NBA players hit it. Marathoners hit it. Why can't RV airplane builders hit "the wall"?

I think I did this week and you'd think I'd know for sure by now because in my eight-year construction project, I think I've hit it about a half-dozen times. Hitting the "wall" is when you want to move forward, but you can't.

When I hit "the wall" this week, it surprised me a bit because I've been making reasonably steady progress in recent months, even slipping out to the hangar in the middle of the day to do a little work. I've cut out the instrument panel -- by hand -- without having it look completely stupid, I've bought a lot of the hoses and thingamajigs I need for the engine installation, so there's really no good reason for me to suddenly be shy about heading to the hangar.

But here I sat at the end of another workday this week, debating whether I should stop at the hangar on the way home for a little "me time" with my pal.

Tom Berge, bless his heart, stopped by for a tech counselor visit a few weeks ago and that gave me a few things to do, but nothing major. My Oshkosh camping pal, John Porter had a layover in St. Paul last week (he flies for Delta which has put Northwest Airlines asunder) and reminded me that "it won't be long" and that I'm "making good progress," things that should make me enthusiastic. And for the most, do. They're words of encouragement.

But I've also started writing a weekly "to do" list on a whiteboard at the hangar and at the same time updating my Kitlog Pro builder's log. Last night it revealed that I have put in 1,890 hours on the project so far. And the "to do" list tells me that while I'm making good progress, I still have a lot to do. And Dan Baier, who runs the RV Builder's Group on Yahoo, looked at my post on Tom's visit the other day and noticed this picture...

... and was good enough to let me know that the aluminum fittings I'm using -- as instructed by Van's -- are probably going to leak and should be swapped out for steel fittings. He's right, I'm sure. He's flying. But it just another addition to the "to do" list, and if you want to make your project feel endless, just start redoing stuff you've already done.

But I'm also at the part of the project that's like driving in traffic. Start and stop. I needed to drill the holes for the instrument panel the other night and couldn't find that jig I bought from Avery Tools for $39.95 a few weeks ago. "Great," I thought, "that's money I didn't need to lose." Of course, I knew it would turn up when I was looking for something else, but that was plan for the "to do" right then. And it didn't work out.

When I found the jig the next night, I was ready to go, until I realized I didn't know what hardware to use. I'm at the stage of the project where hardware doesn't come with anything, so it takes time to research and figure out what screw holds the altimeter in, and then figure out where to get it.

Time wasted is time wasted, and it made me feel exhausted and a bit hopeless.

Just about that time, Paul Story took off in his new RV-8. I watched for a few minutes as he disappeared into a speck, and then I got back to work, while thinking, "man, I could do this all night."


  1. Did you seal your alum. fitting tapered pipe threads with that brake lube? I guess it's like EZTurn (fuel lube) but for the brake fittings.

    Can't find where to buy it for the life of me but I know it was shown on Checkoway's site at one time.

  2. Bob,

    Glad you smashed the wall! A lot of people are quietly cheer you on! We are all waiting to see your first flight and many enjoyable hours afterward.

    As for brake fitting, the steel one is the right one. I used EZTurn (from Aircraft Spruce) and after 580 hours they have not leaked.