Sunday, March 29, 2009

Where's my Hotline

Stupidly, I thought when I headed for the Red River Valley last week, I'd be able to work on the RV Builder's Hotline -- which was due out today -- in the evening. There's no time for that. Meet my new friends.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

No Hotline this weekend

I'm unable to get an RV Builder's Hotline put together for this Saturday. I'm up in the Red River Valley of Minnesota/North Dakota covering the floods and I've just been informed they want me to stay up here through Saturday.

That means I'll miss the Saturday meeting of the Minnesota Wing of Van's Air Force, which was going to be the main story, and so far, I've got nothing else.


Saturday, March 21, 2009

The first cut

There was no real reason to wait to start cutting the panel, plus the temperature pushed 60 out at the hangar today so the door went up for the first time.

I bought a Greenly punch (sp?) to cut the two holes for the backup airspeed indicator and altitude. I'm going with the 3 1/4" because, well, my eyes are old.

I had thought about getting the panel designed and then sending it out to be cut but between the cost of reducing the plan to CAD and then the cost of the jet cutter, plus shipping, I figured I'd be pushing $400. Airplane builders have been doing this by hand for generations and I'm really more interested in following them than the grand champs at Oshkosh.

Of course, the punch for the two round holes cost $140 so I'm not sure how much sense doing it myself makes. I only have one other circular hole that it can be used for (the autopilot), and then I suppose I can sell it.

Here's the original design:

I'm extremely mindful of what's behind the panel and as you can probably tell, I've already moved the Dynon down a bit. It's a tight squeeze between the backup instruments (I have a hunch I'll use the airspeed indicator as my primary) and the subpanel rib, which I moved a bit. There's not much clearance, but so far enough.

I'll have to check again to see whether the Grand Rapids EIS can fit under the Dynon still.

I also have to settle on what I want to use for a master and start switch. The "key" switch is a little pricey and it would take about 10 seconds to hotwire the engine to start (there'll be a lock on the canopy), so I may just go with a standard old throw switch and a momentary push-button for the starter.

I didn't leave myself a heck of a lot of room over the left for that. But we'll see. So far, so good.

Update Sunday 3/22 - Filing is fun:

Yeah, I know what you're thinking. Our little Bobby is growing up.

I've also played around some more with the design:

There's really less room in the panel than the Whiskey Victor panel builder suggests. I doubt there's room over on the left for the master switch (key) so I may create a row of switches where everybody else does. I moved the audio stack away from the far right rib and put the PS Engineering intercom back over there on the right, out of the way.

I'm not all that thrilled with all the space under the GPS. But I think it'll fly.

Update Sunday 3/22 6:28 p.m. The Air Gizmo instructions make reference to the radio tray so now I'm rethinking maybe putting it over there on top of the radio stack. That way when I win the lottery, I can buy a Garmin 900 and replace it.

I also measured off the location of the Grand Rapids engine monitor, centered beneath the Dynon D100, but it, filed the hole, and fit it.

Oshkosh get-together reconsidered

The era of the big RV builders BBQ at Oshkosh is probably over, as I wrote about a few months ago. We don't have the equipment anymore, I can't afford to rent a tent, the economy is too lousy to expect any help from the great companies who've helped us out in the past, and a lot of the volunteers who are the real people who made that thing go, aren't staying at the campground anymore.

But the more I think about it, the more I realize it's a great time to get back to basics. The BBQ started in 2003, when I put a note on Doug Reeves' old RV-7A Yahoogroup inviting people to stop by. I think about 14 people did, and it grew from there, and so did my expectations for making it a fun event.

Let's go back to that! Let's have a bring-your-own-chair-the-grill-is-over-there-cook-what-you-brought-grab-a-beer-on-the-way-back event!

Is that something you'd be interested in? There's no door prizes, there's no speeches, it's just a spot of grass in the campground to stretch out and relax while we watch the sun go down. Whatever you want to have while you're sitting around, you bring with you (I'll supply some chips and the condiments).

The location would be the same as always -- 12th Street between Elm and Lindbergh -- and the day would be the traditional Wednesday evening 6-10. So you'd miss Jeff Dunham (I think he's on Wednesday night), but I guarantee it'll be the exact same show you can find on YouTube, anyway.

The only thing I'd need is an RSVP so I know how much space I need to set aside. Let me know what you think below, and then in the RV Builder's Hotline in a few weeks, I'll put out a sign-up sheet.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Saturday, March 14, 2009

RV Builder's Hotline - 3/14/09

This week's copy of the RV Builder's Hotline has just been updated. Featured this week is a piece about lengthy RV airplane building projects. Not that I would know much about that, mind you. Find a copy here.

Monday, March 9, 2009

More on wiring the A210/PS 1000

I'll have more on this later but one of my favorite RV people in all of the world -- Kevin Faris (that's his plane in the RV Builder's Hotline banner) -- took it upon himself to examine my woes that I posted early in trying to figure out a schematic for the PS Engineer 1000 II intercom and the ICOM A210 radio.

Crosswind landings

Every now and again we see these videos of individual jetliner crosswind landings, but this is the first time I've seen 10 of them put together.

I hate crosswind landings, so I'm in no position to criticism. I would rather do a side slip and then kick the rudder to straighten the nose at the last minute, but I understand the preferred method for small airplanes is the wing low, opposite rudder approach. To me, this has always felt like rubbing your belly and patting your head. But I do it because, well, that's what you're supposed to do, I guess.

Are these videos an indication of how airline pilots approach crosswind landings? Or do they use the wing-low,opposite-rudder method and just don't get themselves in a position where their landings because YouTube material?

Saturday, March 7, 2009

No fun with wiring harnesses

This week I started making a wiring harness for the ICOM A210. The power connections seemed simple enough, although the power lead has to come from the Vertical Power system harness. None of this is installed yet and I haven't figured out exactly how to put all of this together on a bench yet. By the way, PS Engineering provides a really nice Powerpoint presentation on making wiring harnesses.

But it's the audio cabling that has me confused. I'm using a PS Engineering PMA 1000 - II intercom. The 210 comes with an intercom function, bu the PS Engineering intercom comes with a digital recorder that automatically grabs the last 60 seconds of communication and I think that could be handy feature ("what altitude did he tell me to descend to?").

Here's the schematic for the ICOM A210 (Click to enlarge). Note the three different wires heading to the audio panel, which I assume in my case would be the PMA 1000 II. It's labeled as auxiliary audio 1 ,3, and 2. But what is it on the PMA?

Here's the schematic for the PS Engineering 1000 II (You'll want to click it to make it full sized). I'm a little confused by a number of things like (a) Where do the "audio low" and "audio high" wires go? (b) If my push-to-talk switch is yoke mounted, how do I square that with the apparent callout for a three-wire shielded cable? One of those wires would have a very long run. So what happens to the shield, let alone the other two wires? (c) There are connections out of the ICOM to the microphone jack. There are connections out of the intercom to the microphone jack. Do they end up at the same spot?

It's also entirely unclear to me where the three wires that are shown in the ICOM schematic as going to the audio panel, go on the PMA, if anywhere.

I think the problem is that I need to see this as one giant schematic, rather than two.

This is the first chance I've had to try to square away wiring disagrams for two different components. I could some advice what what they're telling me to do.

I could throw $200 at someone and just have them make the full wiring harness, but part of the reason for building the airplane is for "recreation and education," and I'd like to learn how to do this.

Still, I think this is a job best left to SteinAir.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

What makes a great pilot?

I'm looking forward to today's Talk of the Nation on National Public Radio. In the first hour, Chesley Sullenberger, the pilot of the US Airways jet that ditched in the Hudson, and John Nance, the long-time ABC News aviation analyst, as well as Matthew Wald of the New York Times, kick the topic around.

Nance, in particular, is one of my favorite interviews. Back in 1994, I did a week-long investigation into the practice of major airlines "hiding" the fact their regional carriers are different airlines and -- at that time -- operated to different safety standards.

Mike Brady, then the president of Express II Airlines (operating as Northwest Airlink) described a Hibbing, Minnesota crash and said, "everything the crew did on that flight was exactly to the textbook."

To which Nance replied, "I've yet to see an aviation textbook that ends in a crash."

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Flying with Ray

I was working out at the hangar today when my hangar neighbor, Rey Hurdt, asked me if I wanted to go flying with him to try to warm up the oil. Sure! So we launched. It's been awhile since I've been able to sit in the right seat and just enjoy the scenery.

Hangar flying the instrument panel design

I'm going flying today, but I'm not going to leave the ground. I've been working on the layout of the instruments in the panel, and now I have to go put it in the plane, sit in the seats and fly some "fake" flights to get the "human action" part of it down. Are all the instruments in a logical spot for the most efficient usefulness for the way I fly? We'll see

I did make some changes from the last revision I made using ePanel Builder on For one thing, that program doesn't consider the aluminum angle that is installed on the backside of the panel, all along the side and top.
I also realized the Grand Rapids Technology EIS 4000 engine monitor was in a dumb spot for me -- above the radio stack. I use the RPM indicator a lot when I fly, so I movedit over so it would be in the critical flight instruments grouping, just under the Dynon 100.

I also moved the PS Engineering 1000 over, closer to where it is on the Piper Warriors I fly. There's no reas difference, I suppose, than if I'd left it way over there on the right side. But it's something I'm used to.

I'm not sure I'm particularly thrilled with where I have the TruTrak autopilot control panel, but I'll lave it there for now.

I was mindful of some things I read in the article I wrote a few years ago -- Principles and Myths of Instrument Panel Design. Stein Bruch, Doug Weiler, Tom Berge, Tom Irlbeck had some good advice. One that was worth remembering is Tom's observation that for people who don't have much in their instrument panels -- and I certainly don't have much -- they tend to space things out, which prevents adding spiffy new things one might find at Oshkosh.

As you can see, I've left a lot of room to add things.


I took the panel out to the plane and did some mock flights and made some changes. The TruTrak autopilot is now just below the Garmin portable GPS. I've set up three groups, basically. Flight instruments, navigation, and radios. I moved the intercome to above the radio stack (I can expand the radio stack later and use the hole. I moved the ELT switch next to the transponder.

Here's my reasoning. I can now run an emergency situation and am the width of a hand from everything I need, ELT, switch transponder, shed load, communicate the emergency in this configuration.

I'm not particularly thrilled with where the TruTrak is, but it's grouped with the GPS -- navigation.

I've also got everything is withing a 'half-reach,' so that no matter how tightly I'm strapped in, I can reach everything with a minimum of effort.