Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The incredible journey

Early in this film -- brought to my attention by Ted Chang -- there's no indication that pilots of RV airplanes are involved, until you hear the sound of an engine start with a black screen. There's no mistaking that sound.

This is a great film about six RV pilots on a great adventure...

Chapter One - Blast Off (Incredible Journey) from Fly Rod on Vimeo.

Chapter Two - Camp Stories (Incredible Journey) from Fly Rod on Vimeo.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Ho, hum: Another day of the mean old media negatively portraying aviation

Monday, October 17, 2011

The direction of EAA

A short-lived thread at Van's Air Force raised the question of what's happening to EAA's Sport Aviation. The author of the thread -- I think it was the very talented Bill Repucci -- said it's becoming too much like Flying Magazine, not surprising since J. Mac McClellan, who was the editor of Flying, is now the editor of Sport Aviation magazine.

I feel like I’m about to go through a divorce

There were early signs, that’s for sure. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. I felt like my needs were no longer being met. Then I started looking elsewhere.

However, I’m still not ready to call it quits and hope it isn’t over, maybe things can turn around.

Yep, when the October issue of Sport Aviation arrived I flipped through the pages and couldn’t bring myself to read it. Yet, when the latest KitPlanes arrived, I read it from cover to cover that evening.

While I like the T-6 that was on the cover of Sport Aviation and have some time in an SNJ, the cover article was all about Mac getting checked out in the plane, not so much about the plane or its history. Then there was the story about how the avionics in the Cirrus helps keep pilots out of trouble. There is an article about how every Bonanza owner must maintain / upgrade their airplane because, after all, it is a Beechcraft. Next up for me were the articles on retired airline pilots, pilot attitudes, and a story from Jeff Skiles about flying an airliner on News Eve. The list goes on but you get the idea. At least they still list have the completions section

Sport Aviation had two stories on aircraft restorations, one a pre-war Stearman mail plane and the other a Baby Ace; but not one story about a builder or their aircraft.

This morning I called the EAA and asked them if they had a magazine for home builders and the nice lady on the other end of the phone said they did not, Sport Aviation was it. What a bummer as that is no longer a magazine that represents my interests in aviation.

I’m really conflicted. I like the idea of the EXPERIMENTAL Aircraft Association but it seems they have taken the Experimental part out and have turned it into the “Aircraft Association”. While I used to be very proud of my low EAA membership number and association with the organization, I’m seriously thinking about letting my membership expire.

In addition, what is troubling is the number of people who have contacted me who feel the same way and have asked about setting up a new organization to represent the interests of the builders.

The thread, for reasons not specified, was deleted by one of the moderators there (it's a whole 'nother topic but more and more threads are being deleted there because of an opinion that runs counter to a nameless moderator, rather than a violation of the terms of service). I was in the middle of typing a response to it when the thread disappeared, so I'm putting it here (A thread about the thread was also deleted).

Feel free to comment. I won't delete them:
I used to save my Sport Aviations, now I just read and toss 'em.

Coincidentally, yesterday I grabbed a stack of unread mags from the den and leafed through them as I watched the Patriots game.

I ripped out a couple of Sport Aviation articles -- stuff Dick Kohler wrote, for example, and tossed it. I also read Lauren Paine Jr.'s article about the old guys (I love his work but this article was a rehash of previous work, I'm afraid), and I read Lane Wallace's column. I love her work but I'm starting to wonder how many articles you can get out of one trip East with one (sort of) stepchild.

I didn't read Mac's stuff; I didn't read his stuff with Flying. I leafed through the pictures of the T6 and breezed through some of the copy. There's a T-6 or two on my field and when they rumbled past and fly over, I always stop what I'm doing and go watch them. They provide some motivation and inspiration. OK, it's not homebuilding, but there's a relationship between homebuilding and the T-6, at least in my case. That's the thing with aviation; it's incestuous.

But to be fair, I leafed pretty quickly through Kitplanes, too. I read Stein's stuff and I read your articles, Bill, which were fabulous; I was unaware of your incident.

I didn't read Jim Weir's stuff because it had a picture of a circuit diagram which made those little squares you scan with your smartphone look like the wide open spaces. And I read the article on stall/spins.

I still think Sport Aviation has the right idea with the "how to" articles -- short as they are -- pushed toward he back of the mag. And -- no offense at all to either you or Paul dye -- but I think Kitplanes suffers from getting its content from too few writers.

What content should be in there specifically? I don't know, and neither do many other people. That's the nature of these things; we know what we don't want, we know -- philosophically -- what we do want, but getting to particulars is problematic.

EAA is in a major push right now to redefine itself. It's suffering what all "non profits" suffer from. It can no longer sustain the growth required by the core audience with which it started. That's just the way it goes. It clearly sees itself as the home for all things flying (little "F") and that's its future. I get that.

It's also trying to compete in a dying medium: magazines. Anything you want about building, you can already find online. There are numerous sources of good writing and good blogs.

There was this story the other day about a 3 year old who picked up a magazine and said, "something's wrong with the iPad." I think the lesson of that is probably not lost on Mac and EAA.

update 9:19 a.m. 10/18 -- cooler heads have prevailed (i.e. Doug has come back from lunch) and the thread has been reopened.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

The instrument panel

As with so many parts of building my RV airplane, I wasn't sure I was up to the task of designing, cutting, and wiring my instrument panel. Wiring, as I've written many times, was particularly scary to me.

Last night, I finished the instrument panel.

Hard as it is to believe, I started the process two-and-a-half years ago, but that's the nature of (a) going slowly while learning what I'm doing and (b) paying as I go and (c) making changes along the way.

Here's was my final design at that time:

When you're designing a panel, it's really easy to forget a lot of the little details, so it was important to remember some of the initial advice I had received, especially in the area of not designing a panel that would preclude changes.

As it is, I sectioned the panel off into clusters. A systems cluster on the left -- the electronic flight information display, engine monitor, backup altimeter and backup airspeed indicator -- a "switch cluster" in the center -- the Vertical Power system, mag and electronic ignition switches as well as switches for flaps, boost pump and master switch -- and a "communications cluster" on the right, all within an arm's reach. This section includes the GPS, transponder, and communications radio, as well as an input under the panel for an iPod.

The wing-leveler (autopilot) and fuel gauge are tucked under the Vertical Power system.

On the far right is a "nice to have but not-necessary-to-keep-the-shiny-side up" section which includes a remote switch to activate the emergency locator beacon, a power adapter (which I'll use to power a traffic avoidance system of some sort) and a compass.

A lot of people install a map box here but I couldn't -- or at least, didn't -- because it would have meant cutting into the subpanel behind it and I would've lost this...

...the story of which you can read about here.

Oh, and way over on the left is the "keep it away from the passengers" cluster which is the starter button (actually, I put it there to (a) keep it out of the way from being accidentally hit and (b) allow me to keep my right hand on the throttle when starting) and the cable to allow the "emergency air" into the air intake of the fuel servo in the highly unlikely event the snorkel on the cowling gets plugged up in flight.

The two switches under the Vertical Power unit are for the left mag and the right electronic ignition (Lightspeed). The switches just above the throttle knob are (left to right) master switch, engine monitor power (I really didn't need this switch but it was simpler to wire it this way in order to include the red warning light),  flaps, and fuel boost pump.  The boost pump switch is powered by the Vertical Power system when flipped "up," and powered off a separate bus if I flip it down.

I like this panel a lot, partly because we've come to know each other over two years. It's the nature of the beast now that it's probably outdated even though it's never flown, but it is a functional and affordable panel.

I know a lot of people think, "an airplane you built yourself? How can that be safe?" But take a look at what one is able to do building one's own airplane? Compared to renting the factory-built Warrior II at the local airport, I'll have a traffic alert and avoidance system, better displays of airspeed and situation, an autopilot wing-leveler, immediate engine information that will alert me to problems with an engine before the big fan in the front stops turning, and a system that monitors my electrical infrastructure. That's a lot of safety right there.

I'm a VFR pilot and a lot of the big bells and whistles stuff  I don't need. Most of the information I need to fly an airplane, I actually get from looking out the window and listening at the same time.

Flying is fun like that.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The nose-gear debate redux

In the RV-airplane-building community, this video is making quite a buzz.

Nose-overs of the "A" model have been a fairly common occurrence among RV airplanes. Van's has denied any engineering shortcoming over the years, but an accident in the UK seemed to confirm that all was not right with the design.

I'll be curious to see how many people buy this product and how it performs.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The pilot with the smoking gun

(From my day job)


There aren't a lot of people in the world who have been war heroes, created a high-flying business, and uttered the words that would bring down a presidency. Ken Dahlberg was one of them.

His obituary is tucked quietly in the Star Tribune today.

As a World War II fighter pilot (Barry Goldwater was one of his flight instructors) , Dahlberg was one of the war's "aces," with 14 1/2 "victories." He won the Distinguished Service Cross for leading a flight of 16 P-47 Thunderbolts against 70 German Messerschmitts, shooting down four of them. He was shot down three times and spent the last months of the war as a POW, returning to Minnesota to eventually start the Miracle Ear corporation.

The remnants of the P-47 from Dahlberg’s last flight were recently unearthed by engineers inspecting a tract of farmland that was about to be developed.

Dahlberg was the Midwest finance chairman for the Committee to Re-elect the President during President Richard M. Nixon's 1972 campaign. A mysterious check, which later would be determined to be from the CEO of Archer Daniels Midland, was made out to Dahlberg, who converted it to a cashier's check. It was money from the campaign destined for the Watergate burglars.

When "Deep Throat" told reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein to "follow the money," that was the money. And when Woodward called Dahlberg to confirm he handled the check, Dahlberg didn't lie. It was the turning point in the Watergate investigation, the first proof that the Watergate burglars were financed by a money laundering scheme that was tied to the Oval Office.

It ended up a critical part of the movie All The President's Men.

Back then, it was all legal. People could make secret campaign donations and expenditures. You can't do that anymore and this is why.

It's still amazing his life didn't end up as a movie. Here's an interview I did with him a few years ago.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Mark Spy gets TV love

Another media look at homebuilt airplanes that you won't see people on Van's Air Force point out. That would disturb the "media is stupid about aviation and is only interested in destroying it" mentality.

Great job by Mark Spy in not adopting the bunker mentality.