Building an airplane in flyover country, I imagine, is like the exchange rate for the dollar. I've put 2,315 hours into the project so far, which I started in July 2001. I'll bet 2,315 hours in other parts of the country are equivalent to half that.
Part of that is my refusal to adjust too much of the rest of my life to the demands of building -- lately my vice is season tickets to the Minnesota Timberwolves because I can hang out with my adult children, which beats airplanes any day -- but part of it is the reality of the seasons, especially in an unheated T-hangar.
From the moment the hangar door opens for the first time in April (usually), an airplane builder in the north hears the clock ticking. Winter is coming and there's lots to get done before it does.
I was fortunate this year that it stayed warm fairly late into the year, so I was able to get most of the structural work and some fiberglassing accomplished on the cowling.
But this morning it's 28 degrees and my building list includes things like "pack up all the paint, epoxy, and fluids and move them back to the warmth of the house," lest they be destroyed by freezing.
My hangar has a bit of a problem with flooding, because of the way the city graded the ramp. In the winter, the melting snow on the roof ends up flowing back into the hangar and then freezing. Fortunately, we have the American Reinvestment Act doing its good deed. Because of the "stimulus," there are road-construction signs everywhere, each weighted down with sandbags.
So I liberated a couple from the clutches of big government the other day and put them along the bottom of the hangar door. Sadly, this mean that I can't open the hangar door until next spring.
For the first time in months, I sat in the hangar (I stop on the way home from work each day) and wondered "what can I do?" There was nothing to do because I'm now transitioning to engine plumbing and orders from Van's and B&C hadn't arrived yet, and I also haven't ordered the things I need to start making the various hoses I need to make. This is the transition period when one switches from "airplane building stuff that you should do in the warm weather," to "airplane stuff you can do in cold weather" mode.
I also failed -- again -- to pick up 5 gallons of diesel that powers the kerosene heater. A builder's workshop needs to be comfortable, especially when it's mostly metal and cement.
Eventually, I'll get back on an even schedule and a good list of things that can be done when it's cold at the hangar, but this usually takes a few weeks of re-evaluating where I am in the project.
So here I sit in the warmth of Casa Collins, pouring over increasingly frayed airplane plans, coming up with that list.
This weekend I hope to attack the project again. But first I have to get the snowblower ready.