Saturday, May 29, 2010

Dale Rupp

Though I haven't seen him in a few years, I think about Dale Rupp quite often. He was the former president of EAA Chapter 54 (Lake Elmo, MN) when I joined many years ago. When I took over chapter newsletter duties, he always had a kind word (I did a great chapter newsletter (sample), thanks to his encouragement, thank you very much). He was the first RV project that I visited regularly, and he's the one who taught me the hangar rules of "No Politics. No Religion." You save a lot of friends that way, but many EAA chapters (and to some degree, AirVenture) fail to grasp this concept. It's one of the reasons I'm still without an EAA chapter. Nothing repulses me more than pilots talking politics.

Dale is also the person who taught me the proper response when somebody asks, "When is your first flight?"

"Tuesday," he'd say. He just wouldn't say which Tuesday.

When visiting his hangar, I was always struck that he was listening to Minnesota Public Radio's classical music service I found that a lot; pilots listening to public radio. That's a good thing.

The other day I was working on the RV-7A project and thought, "I'm about where Dale Rupp was the last time I visited his under-construction project." He flew the next year. He had the good sense to wait an entire winter to make his first flight. There aren't many RV builders with that kind of good, common sense.

He sent me an e-mail a few months ago:

"Bob, saw you on Channel 2 a week or so ago. How is the RV6 coming along? It looks like my PIC flying days are over. Some how I have gotten older and some of my parts are wearing out."

And, indeed, they did. Dale, who lived in Mahtomedi, Minnesota, died a few days ago.

He wrote some great President's Columns for me when I was newsletter editor. One of his last ones has a lot of good advice for RV builders:

What I have leaned while building my first homebuilt airplane or what I would do the next time could be the title of a long book. I know everyone that has built an airplane has a lot of material to contribute to such a book. Lately I have been reconsidering my choice of ignition systems for my RV6. I became very enamored with the idea of an electronic ignition for my Lycoming 0-320. The advantage is more speed and better fuel economy and it is modern. So I installed it and the first time

I tried to run the engine on Wednesday September 10th only the side that had the magneto worked. The electronic ignition was dead. So with Dave Fiebiger's help we tried to trouble shoot it. No luck, could figure it out, so did the next best thing, closed the hanger door and went home. I needed to sleep on this problem. The next morning at 0300 I decided to remove the electronic ignition and replace it with the magneto.


I can hear some of you saying why give up, just fix the darn thing. Well there are three factors to consider. The first is I do not really understand how the electronic ignition is wired up or works. It is supposed to adjust the ignition timing to compensate for the amount of oxygen available for combustion. In other words the higher you go the longer the burn should be because there is less oxygen, so the spark is advanced.

My goal in building my RV6 was to keep it as light as possible. To help reduce eight I installed an electronic engine monitor that tells me every thing I want to know about the engine including RPM.I eliminated a heavy tachometer, manifold pressure, oil pressure etc. Everything is on the glass engine monitor and it has 21 separate functions.. The engine monitor picks up the RPM data from the magneto. Therefore when you ground the magneto to check the electronic ignition you have no RPM indication. A simple circuit was supposed to solve this problem but it didn't.

There are just too many unknowns. I don't understand the wiring for the electronic ignition and I don't understand the simple circuit so best to go back to all magnetos.


The second reason to drop the electronic ignition is that the FAA says that any changes to a certified engine and propeller combination makes it experimental and it would have to be flown 40 hours instead of 25 hours. The third reason is that I am running out of Tuesdays for this year and the snow is going to fall in a month or so. Next winter I can figure out how this wonderful electronic works really works and get the wiring all sorted out. That's what winters are for.

What I have learned is that if you depart too far from the old tried and true and do not fully understand how it all fits together it is best to back up and reconsider. In my case I want to keep the airplane light so it will go fast. I did, my RV6 only weighs 1035 pounds empty which is great. I just should not have added the electronic ignition. I would have been flying months ago.

Now when I solve a few other problems and the engine runs and I get the FAA's approval I can fly Tuesday.

I don't have the details of Dale's death. He passed away a week ago Friday. It would have been so fitting, though, if he'd picked a Tuesday.


  1. Bob,

    I'm one of Dale and Joan's daughters and your blog made me laugh. For years Daddy's answer was that his plane would be done when I graduated (high school and then college), then it changed to Tuesday. But, the wait was worth it and it's a beautiful plane - aptly named "Plane Jane Too."

    Thanks for writing about him. The obituary is online at, with the service on June 5th.

    Jane (Rupp) Driggs

  2. Thanks Bob for your wonderful article about Dale Rupp. I had to laugh also about Tuesday. I read his last log book entry and had to smile it said something like "I still remember how to land her". Hopefully he is able to fly unrestricted now.

    It is so wonderful to hear from folks who knew him thru the RV and EAA.

    Thanks so much for the tribute.

    Debra Rupp (another Daughter)