Sunday, December 30, 2007

Out-of-state taxes for airplanes

There's the Maine way, and then there's the American way. The Boston Globe (via the Associated Press) reports on the situation where Maine is taxing out-of-state pilots. This has been kicked around on a few bulletin boards.

When Steve Kahn got a $26,000 tax bill on his airplane, he thought Maine Revenue Services had made a mistake. Kahn lives, works, and keeps his plane in Massachusetts.

But the bill was no error. It was part of the agency's efforts to collect taxes on aircraft owned by out-of-state residents, even though they bought their planes elsewhere and brought them to Maine only to visit.

A number of other states, from Florida to Washington, are doing the same as they grapple with budget shortfalls and as the Internet makes it easier to track the comings and goings of aircraft.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Tom Berge's tale

Doug Weiler of the Minnesota Wing of Van's Air Force sent out this note tonight.

I would like to call your attention to a rather fascinating and chilling tale of our own Tom Berge's Alaska trip about 10 years ago in his RV-6. The account is told on AOPA's website
at this link.

Over the years Tom has related this experience to me several times and I think you will agree that someone was watching over him on that memorable day. A few years ago Tom gave me the exact location of his incident on the Anchorage sectional as I told him that I fly this exact route inbound to Anchorage several times each year. This area of the Gulf of Alaska is always shrouded in clouds but on one trip it was clear and I found the exact location from 37,000 feet.

A remarkable and memorable flight...

The VS to Fuse solution

A couple of posts upstream, I wrote about a mistake I obviously made when mating the vertical stabilizer to the fuselage. On Thursday, I heard from Joe Blank at Van's Aircraft with an assessment of the situation.


Don't be too hard on yourself. It's probably not as bad as you think. Many times we make mistakes in building. Just don't crack a canopy! And don't ask me how I know this!

Option #1 - Replace the F-712 bulkhead with a new one and remount the V/S and F-712E tiedown bar. This would probably take a half of a day to drill out, prep, and reinstall. Use the existing hole pattern in the V/S and F-712E to match to the new F-712 bulkhead.

Option #2 - Bolt it together as is and add another set of bolts just above the bottom (misdrilled) row. These would be just below the lower Rudder Hinge bracket. I believe that there is a couple of rivet holes there (see DWG 27A) that you could substitute bolts.

Hope this helps! Let me know if you need additional help.

Joe Blank
Builder Support
Vans Aircraft Inc.
503-678-6545 x322

I think Joe has just recently started at Van's. Let me be the first to go on the record and say, I like him. A lot. He obviously has empathy for the builder.

So, then, which solution would you do? I'm inclined to go with #1. You?

Poplar Bluff man builds airplanes

It's always nice to read articles about RV builders. This morning, the News Leader in Springfield, Missouri profiles RV-10 builder Richard Bowie.

Richard Bowie isn't exactly one of the Wright brothers, but he builds his own airplanes. He may not go down in history quite like Amelia Earhart, but he's gotten lost in the sky before.

Bowie is a local legend because he has a 2,000-foot landing strip in his yard on U.S. 60, between Poplar Bluff and Dexter. He got his license to fly almost 25 years ago and built his first aircraft in 1996.

Having a need for speed, Bowie, also a motorcycle enthusiast, was born with a sense of adventure, he said.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Is the end near?

There are days when I wonder if I am smart enough, capable enough to build an RV-7A. There are days I wonder whether I should stop before I -- or someone else -- gets hurt in the plane I thought I could build.

This is one of those days.

I've had struggles, you may recall, with incorrectly drilling the right wing hole to the rear spar. Fixing that up took most of last winter. But I fixed it and chalked it up to just a stupid mistake.

It's taken me longer to grasp concepts of building that others seem to get almost as instinct. At times I find myself wondering if any two parts of my project will ever go together, you know, perfectly.

This evening I was working out in the garage, just sort of poking around and starting to get a little down because the crotch strap kit I just ordered from Van's has disappeared and, I presume, it somehow fell off my workbench where I just know I put it last weekend, and into the recycling, which was taken out to the curb last Monday.

"Great," I figured. "If there's a way to screw it up, I'll find it and I, once again, found it." So now I have to spend money I didn't need to spend. Par for the course. Besides, it's that time of year in Minnesota when the sun -- if it comes out at all -- reaches about 30 degrees above the horizon. We're all suffering from seasonal affected disorder up here anyway.

Then it got tragic. As I was looking at the rear bulkhead, trying to figure out how to run the strobe wires to the rudder tip, I noticed something I hadn't noticed before. Misdrilled holes.

When I mounted the vertical stabilizer and drilled it a year ago, I guess I never looked at the bulkhead after I took the stabilizer off and stored it.

Because this is a project that is now 7 years old, I'd forgotten that I drilled the holes in the rear tie down bar, and left four holes open as directed by the plans. So when I installed the vertical stabilizer, I just drilled four holes which, as you can see in the above picture, did not meet the four holes previously drilled (probably a year earlier).

I can't recall whether the holes in the vertical stabilizer spar were predrilled or whether I just did something stupid like just drilling four holes. But I clearly did something stupid and now I've got edge distance issues and strength issues all over the place. (You can click on the image for a larger view)

I suppose the only course of action here is to drill out those rear bulkheads, rebuild, and reinstall. I'll send off a message to Van's tonight.

If this turns out to be as serious as I think it is, I'm pretty sure I have to conclude for the sake of safety, that I'm not competent enough to build an airplane.

But for now, a beer is in order. With any luck at all, I can pour it without hurting anyone, although I may have to practice well into the evening.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Fixing old mistakes

Sometimes, you just have to do something.

I was hoping to get back in the air for the first time in almost two years this weekend. I've been trying to get together with a CFI to knock some rust off and get a BFR now that the FAA has said I'm OK to fly again. We've exchanged voicemails in the last month and I wasn't able to get back to him on Friday. But alas, he didn't return my call, so I'll have to wait.

It's amazing, really, what even the possibility of flying can do for your enthusiasm, so I've been paying a little more attention to the RV project this weekend.

It was only 7 degrees yesterday so I splurged and bought a kerosene forced air heater; enough to heat the garage up to around 40 degrees, which is balmy for Minnesotans at this time of year. Anything more than that and you just start sweating.

Winter for me is a time to fix old mistakes on the RV as significant progress is simply out of the question. Last winter I fixed an edge distance problem when I mated the wings. And one of my goals this year has been to fix a nuisance spring on the manual trim cable.

As you can see, hopefully, in this picture. The spring unloaded when I was installing it a few years ago

The safety wire that attaches the springs to the control arm, was of questionable pedigree, since when the spring unloaded it really only left a little bit of the spring itself connected to the wire. I'm not real thrilled with the manual aileron trim anyway, but I didn't want to use electrical here. Still, I was always suspicious of this particular arrangement.

So, today, I installed a new spring.

The spring has unfurled a little bit -- there's just nothing to be done about that, but as you can see the closed loop is still in place where the safety wire attaches. I also adjusted the length a little bit so the sticks are in the neutral position.

I'm turning my attention to the electrical system now. I've been pretty much decided I will install the Vertical Power system, cashing in a life insurance policy I sold to myself in 1976 to pay for it. When I got out of school, while waiting for my big break in show business, I sold insurance with my Dad for awhile. I was pretty good at it. Update: Nah, I'm back thinking again. If I buy it, I have to pay another $400+ for sales tax, plus I see it takes special crimpers to install. Leaning back -- again -- toward traditional electrical system installation.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

A photographic pick-me-up

If I didn't know better, and I'm not sure I do, I'd think these two chaps are looking north from their post at the Shady Bend fly-in, sponsored by the Florida Wing of Van's Air Force on Saturday, chortling at the poor saps who live there -- that would be here from my perspective.

It was 6-below-zero with snow on the ground when I woke up yesterday morning, already in a bad mood because I had a morning of house cleaning ahead of me, and would be unable to attend the quarterly meeting of the Minnesota Wing of Van's Air Force, didn't have anything special I could do on the RV, and have to travel to Iowa today (by car) for the day job.

This winter, and it's only just begun, has already been frustrating for my inability to work on the RV project. But after looking at these photos (after cleaning the house) from the fly-in, and after evaluating the sour nature of my mood, I realize that I needed to do something -- anything -- to pull me out of the no-RV-building funk.

So I attached the little doubler plate for my rudder tail light to the rudder tip, and then messed with epoxy and flox for the first time down in the family room (it had to be inside, it was sure too cold outside!), and spread it over and around the plate. It looks like a godawful mess, of course, and it'll need plenty of sanding.

But at least it was something, and it did wonders for my mood.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Profile: John Kerr

The Salt Lake Tribune profiles an RV-9A builder.

The Logan resident and real estate officer - featured recently in Kitplanes magazine - has built two aircraft and is working on his third.

A decade ago, Kerr assembled a Kitfox craft, which can take off and land from just about any grassy field or gravel strip. Some of his favorite hard-to-reach destinations: Promontory Point, southern Utah and Idaho's Salmon River.

A few years ago, Kerr's wife, Barbara, decided their flights to Sun Valley, Idaho, to see the grandchildren were taking too long. So Kerr broke out his tools and built his second plane, a much-faster RV-9.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Hangar, sweet hangar

The Austin Statesman is running a story on Sunday on Dennis Haverlah, a retired engineer who's lived at an airpark for about 28 years.

He's got his choice of several steeds, but he's now building an RV-7A with a Mazda engine. It's a good read.

End of the season blues

The first big snowstorm of the year has hit Minnesota this morning. This one might actually live up to the hype. The family dog -- Otter -- got a head start on snow-removal operations on the back deck. The nose never lies, dog.

Up until this year, I've been pretty comfortable with the pace of building of my RV project, adopting a general "it'll get done when it gets done" attitude, that is partially the child of a pay-as-you-go strategy married to a there-are-other-things-in-life mentality.

The project is still pay-as-you-go (mostly "pay" right now) and there are still other things in life, but this year is different. I feel compelled to be doing something on the project, which traditionally has gotten mostly pushed to the side of the garage in the winter. It's too cold to work on either of the two main projects I have right now: the canopy and the fiberglass.

When I first started the project, the kids were young and I figured they'd be going off to college somewhere and this would be a great too to visit them regularly. Then they graduated high school and stayed... here.

Now, Patrick is going off to the Navy (see his blog), which most assuredly will take him all over the earth, and perhaps that "new mission" for the RV is what's pushing me, and giving me a sense of needing to get going on it more than I am.

And I don't like it.

The RV project is therapy for me -- a place to relax from all the other unfinished projects in life, work (I've started a new gig at work that's just basically writing about things. Fancy that!), the back deck, separating the gladiola bulbs, peace in the Middle East, a championship for the Cleveland Indians.

But now? Now I need it finished. I need it to be the "magic carpet" that people talk about and my needs are colliding with the "therapy part," challenging the notion that you can have a relaxing "hobby" while having a ticking clock in your head.

There'll be no substantive work on the project today, other than cataloging and storing all the fiberglass materials that have been arriving this week. Maybe I'll make the doubler plate for the rear strobe light (when you talk about "glassing it over," are you tucking the glass around the hole and up into the inside of the rudder tip?).

But with a snowstorm "raging" outside, maybe it's a good time to start deciding on avionics.

Mail bag: Builder motivation comes in a lot of forms but there's very little better than following the first flights of a friend. Kevin Faris of Omaha is providing me that motivation this week. He had his fight flight a few weeks ago and is working on more transition training.

Kevin writes...

I am currently flying Mike Howards RV-6 with him and working on my proficiency at wheel landings. They are getting better every time. My tailwheel flying was very little with my endorsement in a Piper Pacer. The Pacer is evil in a wheel landing or takeoff situation as it's CG is much farther rearward than an RV. They try to groundloop at taxi speeds!

After my phase 1 is off of my 7 I have an ATP friend with 2700 hours of tailwheel time who has been cleared by AIG to give me the 10-hour signoff. To use one of two transition trainers Van's recommends requires a three-month wait. My ATP friend sold his half of his RV-7 (The yellow one in the pictures on Todd's website) to his partner, so it is no longer available to train in.

So, that is how it goes I guess. After more than five and a half years I have learned to be patient. I will fly my RV when I am ready to fly my RV. I don't want to be a danger to anybody, nor do I wish to roll it up in a big ball.

From what Mike tells me, my aircraft with the Hartzell constant speed prop is fairly vicious on a full-power takeoff. Solo takeoff distance is 300 to 400 feet. Solo climb rates easily pin the 2000 FPM VSI setting in my EFIS.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Sam Buchanan: Genius at work

I don't know why I never caught this before; you all probably have. Sam Buchanan's RV Journal Web site was one of the first RV Web sites. Long before there was Van's Air Force, and Dan Checkoway's site, and, well, long before there was lots of newfangled stuff, there was Sam Buchanan's wonderful site. We can learn a lot from the "legacy sites."

But this isn't what has me just dumbstruck with awe.

This is:

And this...

And this...

And this...

And dozens more. Did you catch it? Sure, probably. But I'm just getting around to it.

Give up?

It's Wilson.

What killed Dan Lloyd?

My first reaction to this thread about the death of Dan Lloyd in his RV-10 a couple of weeks ago was predictable: "Oh, God, just let the guy rest in peace." But once you read it, you realize it would be a disservice to all homebuilders to ignore the conclusions. "Getfinisheditis" led to a series of bad decisions that quite possibly led to the crash, which led to Dan's death.

If you want to turn away, just remember it comes from Tim Olson who may be one of the most knowledgeable RV people I've ever met.

I warn you that you aren't going to find any smoking guns in the story, so for those wanting that sort of thing, it's not here. But, the story does provide numerous opportunities for observation and introspection for the builder, to perhaps give you something to nudge you to do the proper thing if the time ever hits you. Truly, attitudes are a critical part of safe flying. Even on my first flight, I had the opportunity to take off with a battery warning because I hadn't clicked in myalternator control wire plug tight enough. I thought briefly about just doing "once around the patch", but my conscience (developed from reading so many "aftermath" reports) got the best of me and I decided to do the right thing and fix it before I took off. As you read the story you will see some reasonings that may shed light for you a bit.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Always searching

I've updated the RVator index. I don't know if anyone even finds this stuff useful but I have a stack of RVators hanging around and occasionally I think, "I remember an article in one, but where was it?" Of course, I think RVator was more valuable when it had more shop ideas and fewer company announcements; an indicator, I think, of the value of the Web.

And that's why I also created the RV-specific Google search box (You can see it at the above link on the right side).


Learn more about this.
RVator index
In the Mags index

I review the various RV-related Web sites out there and then catalog them via Google. Sometime today, I'm going to add a section for blogs. In the meantime, feel free to add it to your site, or at least bookmark it.

Why? I do a lot of Googling for building help and using the regular Google, I get a lot of non-airplane stuff. Since the search only includes sites I've reviewed in the past (assuring that they're really about airplanes), the results tend to be more relevant. Use the above and search "fiberglass rudder" and you'll see what I mean.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Back to South Dakota

Darwin Barrie is one of my favorite RV people. He is the brains behind the RV Builder's BBQ. He's also provided me with builder's motivation on the RV, usually with a kick in the pants and the assurance that whatever has me all messed up isn't really that big of a deal in th first place.

He's also a very gifted writer and has just penned a terrific article on VAF about his recent trip back home to South Dakota. Mandatory reading.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Getting it together

I posted my treatise about an RV Life Coach on VAF yesterday and it developed into a pretty good thread (Doug even featured it! Thanks, Doug!). As a result, I've sorted out a few things with the help of Jim Clark, and Alex Peterson, and Paul Dye, and Pete Howell -- and many of my RV-building heroes.

I don't have it all figured out yet, but I'm a little farther along on the road to figuring out what I need to figure out.

Like this turkey, for example. This is the hole I made for the Whelen strobe tail light a few years ago. I was following a Web site when someone mentioned the epoxy used by the builder didn't work all that well. Then I was told about glassing it up, and I don't know glasswork and... oh, geez, here we go again!

Anyone got a good step-by-step on mounting a tail light? Here are some of the ideas I've reviewed.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Wanted: A life coach for RV building

You know, we live in an age of specialization and I think I've come up with an idea for a new job: RV construction consultant. This is different from tech counselor. This is more like a "life coach" for RV builders.

Here's why: I feel myself getting to the point where I'm overwhelmed by what I need to do next, and so I don't know what to do next.

Example: It's too cold to work on the canopy anymore so that's put away 'til spring... I don't want to install the struts and mounts (even though that's what I've been working on) without having the canopy in place.

I don't have an engine yet. I've been buying stuff sort of willy-nilly as funds become available. I've got two foam cores from Oregon Aero but they haven't been upholstered yet, nor is there a hole cut yet for the crotch strap. I just bought the Hooker Harness set. I just bought the ICOM radio. I already had the autopilot. I've got the Whelen strobe power pack mounted but there are no wires to it and no wires from it because I haven't planned a panel or wiring routing yet because I haven't decided yet whether I can afford the Vertical Power system which makes a difference in how I design an electrical system... the rear top skins are off... the seatbacks haven't been installed yet because I don't know if I'll need to take the floor up to run wires underneath and.... and.... and.....

So the project is sitting in the garage mostly (part of it is at a hangar but the fuse isn't on landing gear yet so I can't just roll it up onto a flatbed... and it has steps so I can't just plop it in the back of a pick-up and, besides, the hangar isn't heated... of course, neither is the garage.

I've certainly made steady, if certainly slow... progress on the thing over the years.... but now I feel it sitting in the garage... mocking me; saying "c'mon, I dare you to figure out something meaningful you can do on the project."

It seems I'm at the stage where everything somehow depends on something else being done.

I think I'm playing the RV version of "Six degrees of Kevin Bacon."

Yeah, an RV building coach. That could be the next hot job! Someone who makes me "drop and give 'em 20" when I can't figure out what to do next.

Related link: Working Smart: How to get the most out of your shop time.
See the related thread with solutions on Van's Air Force.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Mixture management and cylinder head temperatures

If there are smarter RV pilots out there than Alex Peterson of Minnesota, I don't know him/her. Alex has penned a terrific article for this quarter's newsletter of the Minnesota Wing of Van's Air Force on mixture management.

When we burn fuel in our engines, almost all of the energy created goes to one of three places. One of these is creating work at the propeller, which is of course the point of the whole thing. Secondly, heat energy is transferred to the cylinders, and thirdly, heat energy is discharged out of the tail pipes. Unfortunately, the waste heat of #'s 2 and 3 comprises the majority of the energy expended. Only about 20% of the combustion energy actually gets to the propeller!

Alex calculates that you save $4 to $6 per hour with proper mixture management. Here's the article.

Friday, November 9, 2007

What's this button do?

I'm kind of stuck on the project right now. I'm ready to attach the canopy struts, but I've decided I don't want to do it without the canopy on the frame (this makes sense, right?). But I can't put the canopy on the frame because I'm too concerned that in the winter weather, the possibility of cracking the plexi is significantly higher.

That pretty much halts the project for the winter as near as I can tell.

But today, the ICOM A-210 (or whatever), purchased as part of the VAF group buy arrived.

I have, of course, no idea what I'm supposed to do now. I need to plan the aircraft's electrical system (the only electrical components I have so far are the TruTrak autopilot, and the Whelen strobe unit. Oh, and this radio.), but I haven't decided yet whether to go with the Vertical Power set-up. I can't plan the electrical system until I make that decision.

Oh, and figure out how I'm going to pay for it.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

RV imponderables

Steve Formhals, who built the 5,000th RV, had an accident a few weeks ago in which he collided with a car crossing a runway at an airpark. The great news, of course, is that Steve is OK, although he faces a long recuperation.

He provides an update on the incident and his condition today on Van's Air Force.

But my pal, Doug Reeves, notes the imponderable in all of this:

You look at a canopy in the garage funny and it cracks - you drive a car into the plane and it doesn't.

Isn't this the truth? I've put my canopy in the hangar until summer because (a) it developed a crack and (b) it's gotten cold in the Upper Midwest. I have this feeling that I'll look at it next spring, and it'll be cracked all over the place; just because.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

The $100 hamburger

There've been a couple of nice GA articles in the last week or so, both on the subject of the $100 hamburger. Last week the New York Times ran "Cleared for Lunching."

The world of general aviation is small and intimate, filled with gearheads, adventurers and the slightly off-kilter. Its members, like devotées of hot rods and custom cars, share a subculture built on speed, an appreciation of beautiful machines and a love for the smell of hot motor oil.

But you don’t have to own a plane to bask in the singular ambience of the hunt for the $100 hamburger.

I don't think there was an RV mentioned in the story. But today the Mail Tribune of Southern Oregon ran an article called, oddly enough, "The $100 Hamburger." An RV-6 owner was profiled.

Medford residents Donald and Linda Ross share a TriPacer and an RV-6. Ashland resident Lincoln Zeve flies an A36 Bonanza, his third plane since becoming a pilot. Don got his start as a Naval aviator, and Linda followed his passion some dozen-plus years ago when they first met. Zeve wanted a way out of a small town and was hooked after a float-plane flight.

When these pilots were asked about local burger flights, the unanimous vote was for Melita's at Chiloquin State Airport, north of Klamath Falls. The airport runs parallel to Oregon State Highway 97. Melita's, an old-school highway diner with real Oregon ambiance, is directly across the way. They serve up classic breakfasts, lunch and dinner, including great milkshakes.

When my 7A is done, I'll be chasing the vaunted $100 hamburger.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Crash kills RV-10 aviator

According to a Sharon (PA) newspaper, the crash killed the pilot. He was not identified but Rick Gray posted an item on VAF this morning asking for prayers for "Dan."

The Ohio RVators YGroup said it was Dan Lloyd of Hermitage, PA.

Dan, Tricia, Becca, and Cameron were all at the RV BBQ at Oshkosh this year.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

The Faris Flight

When I first started building, I got pretty excited reading first flight reports. But, over time, they all started to sound the same "the RV features some-high-priced-piece-of-equipment-I'll-never-afford and the way-big-and-expensive-engine is turning a big-honkin-propeller." Interesting.

Instead, what interests and excites me now are first flight reports from people I know.

So it was really cool to get an e-mail from Kevin Faris while I was in San Francisco earlier this week.

First flight of Kev and Sandy's RV-7, October 28, 2007

Flown by Mike Howard, EAA Flight Advisor

Now you know. It will be painted after phase one and when Sandy and I have determined what we want to do with the paint. We aren't real creative.

Kevin and Sandy Faris were one of the original dozen or so RV-7 builders who attended our very first RVers BBQ at Oshkosh years ago. Shortly thereafter, they sent these cool beenie bags that they had made to weight down plans and other things. And they worked really good -- they were filled with BBs -- until the boys found them and started throwing them at each other... a lot. I'm still picking up little BBs off the floor but I smile every time I do.

Now this isn't one of those "they built it so I can, too" feelings I have. It's pretty clear Kevin is way smarter than I am. No, this is one of those, "I really like these people" feelings.

Plus, now that it's done, Kevin and Sandy can fly over to South St. Paul and do my electrical wiring.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Two dead in 6-A crash

An RV-6A crashed bounced in a hard landing, the nose gear collapsed and two people were killed in British Columbia, according to a story today in the Calgary Sun.

The story says a toddler survived, which is interesting since the 6A is, of course, a two-person plane.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

This doesn't crack me up

You know, one of these days, I'd like to complete a significant part on my RV-7A without messing it up. Perhaps I'm overstating things, but these are the days when it doesn't seem like it.

I don't think it's possible to be more careful with the canopy plexiglas than I have been. I won't go into all of the precautions I've taken; just browse back through all the entries. But even so, I ended up with a crack in the canopy this afternoon.

It's a little blurry but this is not the place I expected to get a crack. It's on the farthest aft hole on the right side line.

So what happened? I'm not really sure, but I think it has something to do with two things:

  • I've been opening and closing the canopy in order to fit the latch lugs. There's a lot of twist in the frame and canopy as you open and close it, even if you install -- as I have -- the canopy reinforcement kit.

  • When I put the canopy on, I didn't put all the screws in on the side. I put one in ever four or five holes. That, I'm guessing, was a mistake since with the twisting and opening and closing, it was putting pressure on a single screw instead of spreading the load across 3 or 4 more.

That's the only thing I can come up with, and I hope I'm right. If I'm not, there's a nightmare ahead.

As I've made the latch lugs fit, I realize that the gap between the canopy and the rear window is less than I'd thought. As the latch comes down, since it's moving from front to back, it pulls the canopy down and slightly aft -- but just a bit. This actually was good news since I thought I'd made the gap too big down on the right side.

Instead, I had to do some more sanding today. Because of the discovery of that crack however, I didn't bother putting the canopy back on to check things. Instead, I loaded it in the car, and took it out to the hangar. In the spring, when it warms up, I'll put it back on the frame and see where we are. With any luck, the fuselage will be out at the hangar by then.

In the meantime, I've got some work to do on the canopy frame, including the gas struts, and some final painting and then riveting of the reinforcement kit.

With cold weather coming, I won't be doing much building until spring, which is just as well since I'm at the avionics/engine stage, I don't have the money, and there's a recession coming.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Car hits plane

At an airpark in Texas yesterday, Steve Formhals was hurt when a car crossed a runway as he was beginning his takeoff roll. The two collided.

We understand the injuries are not life-threatening. That was a gorgeous airplane that was a real award-winner (Picture).

You may remember it at as the 5,000th flying RV.

Here's a profile of it from his EAA chaper.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Don Thurston builds an airplane

My wife's parents came to visit last weekend. We only get to see them about once or twice a year. And I always find myself playing a mind game of "life is funny" when I think about them.

My wife's father, Don Thurston, is a hall-of-fame broadcaster, who grew up in Gloucester, Massachusetts. , where he learned to hate lobster, I'm told, because he ate it all the time as a kid. He dabbled in electronics, ended up in far northern Vermont where he helped put a radio station on the air, broadcast a morning show from a dairy barn, and eventually scraped enough money together to buy a small radio station in Massachusetts.

Armed only with an endless amount of integrity, a voice that would make you sit up straight and listen, and a unique -- especially now -- determination to serve people, he became a broadcast pioneer and, grounded in what would become a small -- very small -- group of community radio stations, a pillar of an industry. He ran for Congress, losing only because he trusted people in politics too much (he swept the popular vote in Berkshire County, however) -- in this case the Republican Party -- which thought nothing of cheapening the value of its word in favor of an expedient political orgasm of pandering to the nutcases on the very far end of the political spectrum.

Because Don wasn't a nutcase, and never went back on his word -- ever -- he didn't become one of the politically chosen who passed the litmus test of a crank element of the political party. Instead, he kept working every day in a small Massachusetts city, while helping form, for example, a non-profit capital venture firm to help minority broadcasters own their own community radio stations. He served on the Broadcast Music International (BMI) Board of Directors, including a stint as chairman. He was joint board chairman of the National Association of Broadcasters and at one point was nominated to be the leader of the NAB, until he was undercut at the last minute by another slick politician who understood the ways of Washington far better.

When I graduated from college in 1976, he was one of the many people to whom I sent a resume, and one of the many who sent me a lovely rejection letter in return. A few years later, at another radio station, his daughter came to work in the newsroom in which I worked. I didn't like her much ... until I liked her a lot. And several years after that, she became my wife, and Don became my father-in-law.

When he finally retired a few years ago in his 70s, he deserved a lifetime of golf and relaxation. Instead, he got a diagnosis of Parkinson's and cancer.

The cancer is doing better, but there are no happy endings with Parkinson's. The disease has claimed his once-booming "radio" voice. He talks in a whisper, and he is frustrated when people finish his sentences for him.

But, man, can he build an RV airplane!

This past weekend, he helped me build mine.

I've written in the past, you probably know, about the various roles my RV project has assumed. It has been a teacher, a companion, a go-between for my sons and me. It's also the world's largest scrapbook. When people help me, they have to sign their names. But beyond that, all the dings and dents that have accumulated on the project -- often as a result of that help -- are not eyesores to me; they are cherished testaments to moments that will never be relived.

We were working on the canopy on Saturday -- the latch lugs, to be specific. And so I started Don off with a lesson on installing clecos in the side skirts as I refit the canopy for the umpteenth time. Don struggled for a bit with the orientation of the cleco in the pliers, and then with the hand strength needed to expose the spring-loaded prongs, and finally with the eyesight to fit them in the dimpled holes of the side skirts.

But he did it. He did it without help and he did it without me finishing a sentence once. Oh sure, there was the occasional scratch as the prongs triangulated the location of the hole, but that didn't create a problem for me other than to figure out how I would preserve those scratches forever.

I then crawled into the canopy and fit the latch lugs as he made sure the canopy was sealed around me. He helped me get in and out of the cabin five or six times as I fitted, refitted, pre-drilled, and then re-drilled the lugs.

After an hour or two, we were done. Except for one thing. The autograph in the scrapbook (in this case on the subpanel).

"Everyone who helps gets a free ride," I said as we cleaned up around the workshop. I couldn't really hear what he said in return, but I'm pretty sure I knew what he was saying and, while I don't really want it to be true, I know it probably is.

And so, pretending I didn't hear him, I didn't say, "you'll always be flying with me."

Even though he will.

(Postscript: Don Thurston died of Parkinsons complications on October 6, 2009.)

How is business at Van's?

As far as I know, Van's Aircraft, being an employee-owned company, doesn't release business and sales statistics. That doesn't stop Isham Inc., from a pretty ballsy assertion that a decline in their sales of RV Tool Kits is attributable to a decline in sales of Van's kits. The writer appears unable to fathom any other possibility, especially since those kits are -- we're told -- so much better than the competition's.

An advertisement masquerading as a blog.

The utlimate demonstration of airmanship

A few days ago I referred to how impressed I am with some RV pilots, and question whether I can rise to their level of expertise when (and if) I need to. I can think of two emergency situations that Mark Chamberlain has had in the last year, and a fine job of making an emergency landing a few months ago by Roger Evenson. I believe, by the way, both of these were in Arizona, which also makes me wonder whether I should ever fly in Arizona.

Meet Geoff Carr of Australia. He is the guy who put an RV-7 down on a road north of Brisbane the other day.

"We were testing a new fuel and ignition system on the aircraft. The previous one had caused me a bit of grief. So, it was the second test flight. We got the smell of fuel and the engine quit dead. My wing man; he got out a mayday call and I concentrated on the forced landing and trying to get the engine restarted," Geoff said.

As a police officer nearby noted, it's not often you get to witness a postitive outcome of such an event.

And I know what that is.

Monday, October 8, 2007

RV-7 emergency landing near Brisbane Australia

The Australian Broadcasting Company reports an RV-7 made an emergency landing on a road north of Brisbane early this morning. No one was hurt, the report said.

These days, the first thing I want to know is: what engine?

How to guide a tip-up canopy closed

There were record-high temperatures in the Upper Midwest on Saturday, so I did some work on the tip-up canopy on my RV-7A. I can't seem to dispense with the notion that winter is just around the corner and my building time is running out, given that working with plexiglass in cold weather is a good way to spend a lot of money replacing a cracked canopy.

I also can't get the words of my friend Darwin Barrie out of my head, who told me last spring, "if you had the time, you can probably do the whole canopy in a weekend."

I've been working on the frame since February, and the plexi itself since May. Ugh.

My father-in-law and I installed the safety latch lugs on Saturday and they seemed to fit fine until I drilled them to full size. The instructions have you drill the lugs with a #30 hole. I fit the lugs from the inside of the canopy with it closed, marked (with a drill bit) the location of the soon-to-be-drilled hole on the lug through the rear weldment of the canopy frame, where I'd already opened the holes to a #12.

That was a mistake earlier in the construction. I should have pre-drilled those holes with a #40 (or a #30) because it's impossible to center a #30 hole, using a #12 hole as a guide; there's just too much play.

Sure enough, when I reinstalled the drilled latch lugs on one side, they didn't fit into the latch hole, hitting the fuselage side deck. Once you're in this situation, you really have no choice but to drill them to a #12 immediately, or at least drill to final size through the weldment, hoping your drill bit doesn't fall into the pilot hole of the #30.

So I've ordered two new latch lugs at $13 a piece.

In the meantime, I'm not happy with the way the canopy can twist when opening and closing, even with the reinforcement kit. This creates the possibility of really gouging the side decks (or more accurately, the oval-like (sort of) horizontal piece that attaches the side decks to the F-705 bulkhead.

There are lots of solutions to this as I found when I posted a note on the YahooGroup.

Jeff Bordelon, of Texas, has a terrific Web site and he used Delrin blocks to guide the canopy closed.

I really like this method, although fitting the Delrin block from inside the canopy seems problematic; I would think it would be difficult to get them positioned right. But I'll consider it.

Greg Blakey of Australia sent me this photo. This is more along the lines of what I had in mind -- and actually mirrors a suggestion in 24 Years of RVator.

The latch lug hits the guide and is directed down into the hole. It's an ingenious idea, made with a little bit of angle.

Somewhere I've seen folks who've added a second channel, to create a "V."

Greg sent an additional message this morning.

One thing if your going to use the angle brackets (which are covered on the guide side with UHMW tape) to get a nice snug fit is to initially use double sided tape to get the positioning right. Worked well for me and it fits as 'Snug as a bug in a ........... you get the picture.

Greg also reports he's fabricated a weather strip out of fiberglass that fits "over the top of the canopy where the two pieces of the canopy meet. This helped considerably with rigidity at the rear of the tip/up section."


I'll think about that.

Any other tips?

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Outside looking in

Now I know how folks who can't make it to Oshkosh must feel. Land of Enchantment, the RV fly-in, is underway in the great southwest and judging by this article in the Las Cruces Sun, they're having fun.

Lucky stiff.s

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

When something goes wrong

I am not afraid to fly; I don't believe I'm a bad pilot. My failure to get my certificate years ago on my first checkride has, I think, made me want to prove that day wrong. So I think a lot about flying, I read as many articles as I can, I go to safety seminars, and I constantly think about what I would do in various situations.

I read a lot of blogs by RVers and I realized I'm not the pilot they are; I'm not the pilot I want to be. But I try. And so I go on reading and, hopefully, go on learning so that when a problem presents itself, I can react quickly.

Tonight, I was reading through some recent NTSB reports on RV accidents, and came upon this probable-cause finding, on a crash that happened in Wichita in February 2006.

The pilot said that he did his run-up check and took the runway for takeoff. The airplane rotated, took off, and was climbing when approximately 80 feet above the ground, the canopy opened. The pilot said the canopy went to the full open position and the airplane subsequently yawed 45 degrees right. The pilot lowered the airplane's nose, applied full left rudder, and reduced the engine power to idle. The pilot said he then switched hands on the control stick and with his right hand, reached up and pulled the canopy closed. He said his airspeed was just above the stall speed and his wings were level. The airplane was approximately 20 feet above the ground when it "pancaked perfectly flat to the side of the runway." An examination of the airplane canopy latching mechanism and other airplane systems revealed no anomalies.

This is the airplane version of the Dale Earnhardt accident. It probably didn't look so bad -- what's 20 feet, really, when you're in a large foam seat, strapped it with seat belts? And yet, it was enough to kill a person -- in this case, the pilot's wife.

But every pilot knows what the problem was here because we have it drilled into our heads all the time: Fly the airplane! An open canopy or door, as we have also been instructed time and again, will not bring an airplane down. So you continue your flight in the pattern, and land. Only this time, the pilot did what we are constantly told not to do, and someone died.

The thing is: I'll bet the pilot had heard the instructions too, and yet, when it came time to remember it, he didn't.

It's amazing, really, how many voices I hear when I fly. At various times in a flight, I'll hear the voice of my first flight instructor, Greg Wahlmeier. I'll hear Rod Machado. I'll hear John and Martha King. I'll "hear" the words of a blogger, even.

A few years ago I took off from Osceola airport in Wisconsin in a beat-up Cessna 172. And, sure enough, the door popped open. I heard the voice say "fly the airplane," and yet I found myself reaching over to try to close it. Fortunately, I caught myself after a few seconds and left the problem alone, climbed to altitude, flew the pattern and landed.

While reading these occasional reports, I've never said "that can't happen to me." But I have almost always said "that shouldn't happen to me." Still, I can't get over the notion that many of those pilots in fatal accidents, probably said the same thing.

I sure wish the FAA would hurry up and issue my medical certificate renewal, so I can get up there and practice.

By the way, this accident was highlighted in an issue last May of Over the Airwaves.

Even slight distractions can produce a temporary brain freeze. This is why instructors should routinely create in-flight distractions like opening a cabin window while on short final or popping an inflated balloon that's tucked away in a flight bag.

One of our legendary designated pilot examiners (Jack Prior, now retired) used to blow cigarette smoke under the hood of instrument candidates as they slithered down the ILS!

Dealing effectively with distractions during critical stages of flight is a mark of a proficient pilot.

I think it would be great to share our stories of those incidents when something went wrong.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

What killed Scott Crossfeld

The National Transportation Safety Board is out with the results of its investigation into the accident that claimed the life of Scott Crossfeld.

"The pilot's failure to obtain updated en route weather information, which resulted in his continued instrument flight into a widespread area of severe convective activity, and the air traffic controller's failure to provide adverse weather avoidance assistance, as required by Federal Aviation Administration directives, both of which led to the airplane's encounter with a severe thunderstorm and subsequent loss of control."

Keep in mind, this is one of the greatest pilots that ever climbed into an airplane, and he died because of something he did (despite the attempt to shift blame to the controller). If it can happen to him...

Read the report.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Regulations: What every pilot should know

I'm posting this evening from the auditorium of the Hennepin County Technical College in Eden Prairie, Minnesota, where the Air Safety Foundation is holding a safety seminar on regulations for aviators. I thought, maybe, the state of flying these days was such that a lot of pilots wouldn't come out on a weeknight to hear about safety, but there are several hundred here, and my chance of winning a door prize -- a Sporty's NavCom radio -- is dwindling with each passing minute.

In the unlikely event someone actually reads this blog, I'll be "live blogging" as I learn. I'm pretty sure, however, that I'm talking to no one. Still, because I'm taking notes "live," it'll be a little disjointed.

I've always been a big fan of the ASF. It's one of the few telemarketing phone calls I'll actually take.

Earl Kantor of Minneapolis is the lawyer who's doing most of the talking tonight. We are being told they are "characters," which seems out of out of character for a lawyer.

The emcee for the night is taking a poll of the type of pilots that are in attendance. I'm heartened to see that quite a few hands went up when she asked about light sport pilots.

Why understand FARs? Among other things, to pass a ramp check. Beyond showing the inspector your certificate and ID, you need to know what your responsibilities and requirements are. "Can I look in your airplane," you might be asked. These are not things you're required to allow.

One comment, and it's a usual one with AOPA. Part of the reason for following regulations is to avoid media attention. Granted, that's a good point. But the demonization of the media -- as a person in the media is an ongoing problem with the AOPA, imho.

Some of what I'm hearing tonight, I actually heard at a meeting of the Minnesota Wing of Van's Air Force. I wrote about it here.

Are there rules not in the FARs? Yes. The POH, placads in a plane, the TSO, FAA forms, are all binding regulations.

Recent changes in the 2007 FARs: If you conduct sightseeing flights, you have to apply for a letter from the FAA, participate in an anti-drug program (huh?), must have a minimum 500 hours for a charity flight.

Be careful. There's a flight restricted zone near Washington. But many people don't know about it because it's covered in Part 99. There is no Part 99 in the FARs.

The speaker offered a tip: Just enter an FAR number in Google, and it'll pop up. She's wrong. It doesn't.

Recommended book: FARS Explained by Kent Jackson. .

Shared expenses is the topic. If you fly for yourself, that's Part 91. If you provide the aircraft and fly it, and charge any amount of money, that's Part 135. The only expenses you're allowed to share are fuel: oil, airport fees, and rental. Anything
else, you can't charge. And even then, you have to pay a portion of that.

Another bad sign for aviation. The subject is medical certification. The rules are different for pilots under 40. "How many are under 40?" the speaker asks. This auditorium is filled. No pilot present is under 40. We're doomed.

Renting. What about insurance? If you don't own an aircraft but go to an FBO to rent one, some pilots think the FBO insurance protects them. It doesn't. It protects the FBO, not the rental pilot. The great majority of rental pilots are flying with little or no insurance coverage at all. I hear a plug coming for the AOPA insurance plan.

Tip: See current TFRs layed out on a sectional chart.

Insurance. Don't spend too much on sublimits. Insurance is limited by individual.Many pilots are flying with $100,000 per passenger. That's not a lot of money these days. And not enough. A per-passenger plan provides superior coverage over a per-person plan. Per-person could be someone outside of the plane, like a ramp person. The speaker suggests it's not worth it.

(10 minute break. Hoping the lawyer is more engaging. I'm staying to get my door prize.)

Why are so many people running out of fuel in airplanes? The speaker suggests it's "computer hypnosis." She says nobody seems to keep a fuel log, or spend any time putting together a flight planning log. They just punch stuff in on the GPS and that's that. Last night in Cedar Rapids, she said, a person came up to her and said, "I just set my fuel valve to BOTH," and then I don't have to worry about it."

"Oh my God," she said, "wouldn't you rather run out of fuel on one tank, and then switch to another, rather than run out of both and have no options?"

She said you're 10 times more likely to run out of fuel than have a midair, which -- she notes -- doesn't mean that if you keep an hour of fuel onboard at all times, you don't have to look out the window.

The lawyer is speaking now. Said he just had a case last week where a pilot had his license suspended for 240 days for not advising a passenger about seat-belt use. That can't possibly be in a case of a run-of-the-mill GA airplane, can it?

Here's something I didn't know. You can only use the NASA form in an enforcement action once every five years. You can file them every day, but you can only use it in an FAA action once in that period.

Shoot. I didn't win a door prize.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Aging aviators

These days it seems there are some many crises, it's impossible to survive a one of them. The credit markets, the energy crunch, the falling dollar, oh, and that Iran thing can depress anyone.

When you work in Public Radio (as I do), you're not immune to the effect public broadcasters -- who tend not to put anything on the air that won't leave you with a sense of despair -- have on this.

Ah, but this latest "crisis" is currently of the dead-tree folks. The Star Tribune of Minneapolis reports the future of crop dusting is, umm, up in the air. It seems there aren't enough kids coming along who want to to take over for the aging aviators.

If you want to see what it's like to be a crop duster, check out this YouTube video.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

A great day for a picnic

Today was a perfect day in Minnesota. And so a bunch of RVers from the Minnesota Wing of Van's Air Force got together for one. Unfortunately, I wasn't one of them (went to the Minnesota Zoo), but Doug Weiler of Hudson has captured some pictures. Apparently I'm one of the few RVers in Minnesota with a tip-up canopy on my RV.


There is a pretty good blog out there, Aircraft Tools, for those of you who are also building an RV. It's a darned interesting read and I recommend it as a daily stop on Planet RV.

In today's post, the writer discusses the Cogsdill deburring tool, which some people swear by because you can do it all in one pass. There's some merit to that if you've ever deburred large skins; you have to do one side, turn it over and then deburr the hole on the other side.

The writer is not impressed, however:

The RV tool kit does not include these deburring tools. The reason for this is that the rivet holes can be easily over-deburred with these tools. This causes the cleco temporary fasteners not to hold after the rivet hole is countersunk.

Personally, I don't believe that Van's "overemphasizes" deburring. In fact, I think they've gone out of their way to caution against it. A couple of turns, is the advice I've often seen.

But what confused me about the post is making an apparent reference to using a deburring tool to create perfect holes. That's not what a deburring tool is for.

For more information: - When clecoes don't hold due to over-deburring. This company -- Isham -- recommends you not use a deburring tool at all. Oh, now you tell me.

Friday, September 21, 2007


The news media, sometimes justifiably so, gets the occasional incoming fire for the way general aviation is portrayed. But sometimes -- more often than aviators care to admit -- reporters get it right.

Such is the case of this morning's New York Times which has an inspiring article on soaring -- gliders as we know them.

Positive stories like this can enhance general aviation far better than any politician or any paranoid pilot's organization (are you listening Phil Boyer of AOPA?).

Perhaps it'll do for flying what the media did for men's hats a generation or so ago.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

9A builder gets some newspaper love

Frank Bretz prefers the view from 12,000 feet.

“At 30,000 feet, where the commercial airlines fly, cars and trucks look like ants down there,” said the 81-year-old pilot from Missoula.

Bretz is spending his retirement years working on a little experiment in his garage.

“They say experimental, and quote, ‘that's correct,' ” Bretz said. “However, this company has over 5,000 airplanes flying right now.”

Bretz bought a kit called the Van's Aircraft RV-9A, a single-engine two-seater that he started building in his garage in March 2003.

(From today's Missoulian)

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

What's next for the panel?

Now that, for the most part, the canopy work is completed on my RV
(except for glassing and such), and fall is setting in, actual
construction work will slow for the winter, giving me a time to
regroup on this project.

I'm also doing some "numbers crunching" on this pay-as-you-go project
because the need to get going on the panel (not to mention buying an
engine) is becoming inescapable as the "next step."

Because I don't have a bottomless pile of cash, I have to be a bit
judicious at this point. Buy a piece, pay for it either in cash or pay
it off ove a short period of time, then buy another piece etc., all
the while continuing construction.

This is as opposed to just writing a giant check for everything (home
equity variable rate now is 9.5% and, like I said, it's a
pay-as-you-go project.)

I bought a TruTrak wing leveller years ago... bought the Whelen
lighting system a year or so after that... bought the little PS
intercom last winter.

Now I'm trying to get my arms around what is the logical progression
from here? I'm thinking I could buy the ELT and transponder now. But
that VAF group-buy on the Icom A210 has my attention. I'd also like
to get an AFS3500 at some point. And, of course, I still have a
yearning for a Vertical Power unit, which I assume has to be purchased
fairly early since it changes the way one "wires" one's airplane.

I know folks say "wait to buy your avionics until the last possible
moment," but that's not really practical in my construction sequence.

So in what order would YOU add components to your panel if you were
adopting this convoluted process?

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Nosegear accident

First, here's the picture of the alleged noseover in the UK reported on the RVSQN Yahoogroup. As I understand it, we don't know for sure that this is a noseover, just that it looks like the result of a noseover.

Meanwhile, there is another report of a noseover in the UK, according to the RV Squadron Yahoogroup. I haven't gotten too excited one way or another as the debate has unfolded, but I have concluded that I absolutely, positively can not land my 7A (whenever it gets done) on a turf runway, which is too bad since I love turf runways.

Well it happenened to me today...... Some of you may have followed my trouble getting the old nosegear off to fit the new one. With all the trouble, we had resigned ourselves to leaving it to the couple of weeks prior to the permit renewal December), so we could continue to fly the aircraft over the summer.

Today, went from Mount Airy to Eddsfield, had a coffe and came back. Landed 07, uneventfully (I may go so far as to say skillfully, as I was doing my best to impress my wife, who hardly ever comes with me!!!). We finished the roll out, and back tracked.
Coming onto the apron area, there is a very slight uneveness to the
surface. The aircraft started to pitch up and down, and then the
grinding noise started. Chunks of mud started coming into the air
with the pitch up movement. At no stage did I think we were going to nose over, but it was in the front of me mind, as I have been
paranoid about this for months.

Thankfully all settled back down, and be managed a taxi to our
hangar, with a few more slight grinds. I knew instantly what the end result would be..... a yolk that had tucked under.

The conditions were firm / hard grass due to chalk under bed and a
hot dry week. Speed - normal taxi speed, no faster. Stick back ,
power idle. Nose wheel pressure 35 psi 8 days ago when I last
checked, but it retains pressure very well. I will check it tomorrow when I go back to investigate this further.

The main problem is Stick back does nothing whatsoever at normal slow taxi speed, with power at idle. I am sure it lightens the nosewheel with more than 1200rpm, or 20mph+, but otherwise not. If this had happened at higher speed, it would have flipped. I have a few phots but can not post till tomorrow, when I get away from work. Hopefully, I can also go back to the strip, and check the
area inch by inch.

I had a few misgivings about leaving the nosegear this long, and I
remember Roys posts previously about changing gear prior to the DRM flip.

It is clear in my mind now that it is not pilot technique for the
main part. Nearly all grass strips will have some area of evenness
somewhere similar to this. The wrong speed and power, and the stick position becomes academic.......

Others may disagree.


RV accident reports issued

The NTSB has completed investigations on one RV accident.

Summerville, Georgia
This accident happened in May 2007 when an RV-6A stalled while landing. No secrets here. The pilot didn't maintain sufficient airspeed on final.

Meanwhile, I hear there's been another nose-gear collapse on an RV in the UK recently. I'm trying to get more information on it. That should reignite ye olde nosewheel debate.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

EAA newsletter review

On my short list of favorite EAA and RV monthly newsletters, you can count EAA Chapter 242 in South Carolina.

The newsletter rarely gets linked on the Web site in a timely manner, but if you just change the URL around from the latest one listed, you can find the latest one produced.

The August newsletter features Jim Comer's first flight in his 7A.

Oh, did you think I was done? Oh, heck no! EAA Chapter 90's newsletter this month has an Oshkosh review. In addition to be a fine production, it also mentions the RV BBQ. Yahtzee! Here it is. You know, I was looking at Glenn Brasch's pictures he took at Oshkosh the other day. I really miss Oshkosh.


The Lippisch Letter, the newsletter of EAA Chapter 33, has a nice write-up of the AirVenture Cup race, Steve Ciha's article on building a third RV, and a nice little trip-write-up by Mark Navratil.

In EAA 1410's September newsletter, Ross Farnham takes a look at alternative engines. For you RV-9A builders, there's a fascinating test-flight card.

In the unlikely event someone actually reads this blog, feel free to post the URL of your chapter newsletter in the comments section.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Medical update

It's been a long time since I've flown. As I've indicated before, I encountered Meniere's Disease (vertigo) while at Oshkosh in January 2006. The symptoms alleviated enough that I took what I thought could well be my final flight in late February (the landing was not a good one) and I've grounded myself ever since.

With symptoms under control -- as near as I can tell -- I started the process of renewing my Third Class FAA Medical Certificate many months ago and, as expected, it resulted in the FAA asking for more information about Meniere's.

"Oh great," I thought, "now I get to jump through hoops for the federal government.

But, to my great surprise, it was less than a month before the FAA let me know that they were satisfied that Meniere's posed no problem for me -- flying wise -- but they noticed in the ECG (a copy of which I sent them and I probably shouldn't have) -- an abnormality that they now want to determine the future significance of (wow, there's a tortured sentence).

Of course, this was all an issue between me and the FAA in 2002, but apparently I have to go through the motions again.

So tomorrow morning, I have a stress test and cardiovascular evaluation scheduled. Assuming I don't go toes up, I may actually get to fly again.

I really need to get in the air again.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

How to cut the canopy

My RV pal, Neal George, sent this along today. You know, I have no doubt at all that if Neal actually tried this, he'd probably end up doing a darn good job.

Friday, September 7, 2007

The quest for perfection

Yesterday I finished -- I think -- doing any more cutting of plexiglass or drilling of canopies. I finished the final cut on the aft window (I left a little more on than the plans suggest) to parallel the cutout in the top skin.

I sanded the edges, countersunk the holes which I drilled a few days ago.

It's been amazing, really, how many times the plexi has gone on and off the fuselage, but I've enjoyed it. However, if I read one more Web site that says the "gap between the forward and rear canopies was perfect," I'll scream.

Perfection, though I strive for it, does not come easy to me. In fact, it doesn't come at all. My gap on the passenger side is about 1/8" since I accidentally sanded the wrong edge when getting the aft window to fit over the brackets that hold the rollbar in place. From there it alternates between about 1/16" and slightly larger.

But you know what? I'm happy with how it looks and I'm happy with how it came out and I've grown comfortable in my later years with some of my imperfections.

Bob Miller's RV-8

Bob Miller, I believe, was one of our attendees at the RV BBQ in Oshkosh, so it was nice to see him get some props (no pun intended) in the Fargo Forum (a pretty decent newspaper, by the way), this morning.

He had followed all the directions and logged plenty of wrench time – five years and 2,826 hours, to be exact – to prepare the sporty single-engine airplane for flight.

Nevertheless, “There are so many horror stories about people taking off, and the engine’s never worked that hard, you just don’t know how it’s going to go,” he said.

Turns out it went just fine.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

MN Wing newsletter is out

I'm thinking one of these days of selecting my All-Star team of RV and EAA-related monthly newsletters. There are, when you get right down to it, only a handful of them.

More often than not, when I was spending a lot of time browsing them for the RV Builder's Hotline, I'd go to a chapter's Web page and be greeted with "Come to the Father's Day Pancake Breakfast, June 11, 2000!" Seriously, EAAers, how can you let that happen?

Anyway, back to the subject, fine newsletters. Doug Weiler singlehandedly puts out one of the nicest newsletters as president of the Minnesota Wing of Van's Air Force.

Doug recalls his early Oshkosh trips, provides several first flight reports, Pete Howell -- who writes the greatest trip stories -- tells of his trip to Montana in his RV-9, and Pete also has details of an amateur-built headset.

You can find the newsletter here.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Hotline and moi

Life is spinning faster and faster and it's harder and harder to keep up. Ever felt that way? I'm starting a new gig at work within a month or so and it's taking more time away from other pursuits, and I'm racing to get the RV canopy done before the cold weather comes. Time is hard to find.

Earlier this year, I ended the RV Builder's Hotline as I'm trying to pare those things that might give me more time. Rob Riggen, bless his heart, created a bunch of new tools and took on more of a role, in order to keep it going.

But I have found that it still has required more time than I'm prepared to give it to have it be a fair representation of my work and interest in it, so I told Rob yesterday that I won't be able to support it with writing and browsing, at least on much of a regular basis.

If you'd like to help Rob in the endeavor, however, I'm sure he'd love to hear from you.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Just looking

This week I drilled the canopy on my RV-7A project to the rollbar and side frame. In the process of documenting it in my Kitlog Pro log, I discovered that I've just rolled passed the 1,750 hour mark. I guess that's a lot (I noticed my friend who runs the Dignity Web site was at 1,000 hours at this point) , but over 6 years, probably not unusual. That's actual building time. It's not "just looking" time.

I think I'm not alone on this undocumented part of building a homebuilt airplane. There's building time. And then there's "just looking" time, and I tend to think the latter amounts to more than the former.

Here's how it works: you spend a day (or an hour) as I did this week working on a particular component. Around 5 or 6 p.m., you cleanup, head inside, take a shower, and prepare the spend the evening with your family like "normal" people. Perhaps you watch a little TV.

When the commercial comes on, you go back to the garage -- or maybe you fumble around for some excuse, like taking the dog out -- and you look; just look, at what you did during the day.

Truth be told, I do this a lot. OK, I do it every night and sometimes I do it during the day, and always after I get up in the morning to let the dog out (no, he really has to go out!).

Ken Scott at Van's always says "touch your project every day" as a way to keep progress going. He should've said "or just look at it."

The canopy process, while intensely enjoyable (everything on this project is to me), has not been easy and without challenges. During one of my "just looking" forays last week, I decided to take a piece of scrap plexi and drill it with the cordless (hey, they were both just sitting on the workbench as I was walking past to let, umm, the dog out!).

Snap! It broke easily. I went back inside and watched the rest of the movie, but darned if I can remember what it was about. I was too concerned about what was to come. You can read all about it on the YGroup.

Suffice it to say, the challenge presented itself and -- after I "grew a pair," to quote my buddy, Darwin Barrie -- the challenge was met.

Captain's log: 8 hours of building time, 8 hours (so far) of "just looking" time.

I mean, there it is, sitting out there on the workbench. A finely drilled canopy, with countersunk holes. I even ran some sandpaper through them to reduce any chance of cracks. I did a pretty good job, for me anyway. It's worth looking at.

And it's not just the RV project. I have a hangar at South St. Paul's Fleming Field that, other than some wings and a new workbench, is empty. I stopped there four times this week. There really wasn't anything to do there, although I pretended the hangar needed sweeping out... again.

I just go there, sit, and look. It's a hangar. My hangar, sort of. Someday it'll have a plane inside it, I think. We'll get together early in the morning, crack the door to reveal a splendid dawn, fire it up, and go fly.

Or I'll just sit and look at it.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Van's Homecoming coverage

Doug has done his usual outstanding job on Van's Air Force, documenting everything that happened this weekend at Van's Homecoming. This time it was held at the Independence Airpark. I'm pretty sure in my next life I want to come back wealthy enough to live on an airpark. Guess I'll have to figure out a new line of work, though.

Anyway, here's Doug's pictures of the RV-12, which he got to fly (check that, in my next life, I'm coming back as Doug Reeves), here's video of his landing, and here's his account of the Friday BBQ.

Doug told me in an e-mail that he was spending the day at the Portland airport and wouldn't be home until 10 p.m. Way to take one for the team, Doug! And thanks for your hard work.

I also found this blog -- My Left Nut -- which had some images and accounts of the action this weekend.

I'm hoping EAA Chapter 292, which hosted the event, posts some pictures soon, too.

Too spooked to drill

It's 57 and rainy in Minnesota today so I fired up the Buddy Heater in the garage to see how hot I could get it. By late afternoon, it was up to 74, so I put the canopy back on the fuselage and lined it up with an idea that maybe -- maybe -- I would drill it. Working with the plexi these last few months, I've gotten a little more confident that maybe this idea was wrong that if I so much as look at it the wrong way, it'll crack.

I thought I was happy with the aft edge but I'm really not. It lines up fine on the pilot side, but I took a little too much off the passenger side and it's slightly forward of the line I drew in the middle of the rollbar. So I'm thinking a little more about this and what to do. But that's not my problem.

You know those builder sites that show a builder drilling some scrap plexi and noting that, try as they might, they couldn't get it to crack? I had no such "problem." And now I'm way too spooked to drill this thing.

Using an Avery plexiglass bit in the cordless drill, I put a little pressure on this scrap piece -- not a lot but I'll bet it's not much more than I'd put on pushing in the side of the canopy as I drill it.

This first time, I drilled at a normally speed, and just before the bit broke through, snap! The piece flew about 4 inches.

Here you can see that it broke just as it was about to break through.

Next, I didn't put any pressure on it, but drilled at the same speed. As you can see -- hopefully -- cracks developed:

I experimented a little more, not with putting less stress on the plexi, but slowing down the drill speed. I got it down to where it was turning very slowly, and while it took a long time to drill through it, it didn't snap this time, even when I put on a fair amount of pressure.

Obviously, there'll be no canopy drilling today. And if I can get the garage up to 90 degrees sometime this week (supposed to get hot again), I'll run these tests again.

But, boy, am I scared to death now.
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