Friday, June 29, 2007

This week's column: Making progress

This is my column from this week's RV Builder's Hotline, which is due out sometime today.

* * *

I've been trying to remember that old saying about the theory of relativity this week but I can't recall is precisely. But you probably know it. A perfect example of the theory of relativity is an hour with a beautiful woman vs. an hour in a meeting at work. One is fleeting, the other goes on seemingly endlessly; both last an hour.

Progress when building an RV is like that. Quite often, the feeling of real progress is as much of an illusion as the feeling that you're getting nowhere. But in both cases, progress is being made at the same rate -- one step at a time. But I'm convinced you need those "beautiful woman" periods on your airplane project to help you get by the "endless meeting" period.

It's a been a 'beautiful woman" week on my RV aircraft project. I understand this is mostly an illusion but a builder needs illusions.

I started off last Friday night helping Warren Starkebaum (above) hang his engine (from Mattituck, as mine will be) on his RV-7. Warren and I started our projects at roughly the same time and he's been ahead of me thoughout, but our progress has been steady and if he's hanging an engine, I'm a day closer to hanging an engine too.

Last weekend I finally made the first cuts in my canopy, and I did not, in so doing, accidentally launch a photon strike on Toledo. I survived those "practice cuts" on the plexi. I also survived riveting the canopy frame (although mine moved inboard rathre than outboard as most people have experienced).

On Tuesday, I finally reached the top of the hangar waiting list at South St. Paul airport. I now have my own hangar. Sure, there's nothing in it (got an RV you'd like to stick in there? Contact me), but I have a hangar now. So I must be making progress.

Also on Tuesday, I visited SteinAir, where Marc Ausman of Vertical Power was demonstrating his new product. I'd already made the decision to buy one, but now I really have made the decision to buy one. I'm filling up panel space and starting concrete actions for an electrical system. I must be making progress.

At mid-week, Doug Weiler flew Paul Hove's RV-7A for the first time. Like Warren, I started my project a little after Paul started his. His is a QB. If he's flying, I must be making progress.

On Wednesday, I cut the long slices off the side of the canopy, and I put it on the fuselage where it looked like a thousand other pictures you've seen of badly fitting canopies on fuselages. But this was different. This is my badly-fitting canopy on my fuselage. The canopy isn't in my son's former bedroom anymoe. It's reached the workshop. I must be making progress.

Of course, I am making progress. I was making progress when nothing was happening to the naked eye. Gaining some knowledge by reading and browsing forums and reading builder sites is as much progress as anything that's above.

But you know when I really started making progress? When I stopped worrying about how much more progress other builders are making. It's impossible to ignore if you spend time on the forums. And every night, Doug Reeves posts, I'd guess, three or four more first flights from builders with really high builder numbers (compared to my really low one). Good for them, I say. They've made progress. Too. I'll see them in my plane, somewhere, sometime (unless the FAA medical folks say otherwise).

Now if only I could look at my bank account and see some progress -- or at least progress in the right direction -- this thing might eventually fly.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

NTSB cites formation flying in RV crash report

The Norman, Oklahoma crash of an RV-7 last December has been blamed on a stall/spin accident, with an attempt to fly in formation cited as a contributing factor. Here's the narrative.

It was one of five RV crashes settled by the NTSB on Thursday.

I'll have all the details in this week's RV Builder's Hotline, which will be out on Friday morning (instead of Saturday this week).

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Vertical Power firsthand

There was an ad on TV a month or so ago, I think for Comcast, where this buxom woman mumbles some sort of HDTV specifications and then says, "I totally don't know what that is, but I want one."

That's me and the Vertical Power product I've written about recently in the RV Builder's Hotline, except that I know what it is... sort of. But since I'm an electrical system disaster waiting to happen, I haven't quite grasped all of what it can do yet.

Today, I got to see it firsthand:

That's Vertical Power's head cheese Marc Ausman demonstrating his product at Stein Bruch's SteinAir facility in Farmington, Minnesota this afternoon.

Stein gave me a call so I skipped work for a few hours to go meet Marc and generally hang out. I love this product. Stein is going to be one of the authorized dealers, so I'll buy it from him.

Why? Because Stein Bruch is, perhaps, the world's greatest RVer. He's collected some funds to help with the RV Builder's BBQ (Marc, by the way, is one of our BBQers). And he bought us a huge event grill (shoot, I meant to take a picture of it) for the event.

He reports he and the folks at SteinAir have been testing it out and it works really well.

In other news, I got a hangar today!

It's a T-hangar at South St. Paul. I'm looking for someone to share it with since I don't have a plane.

A terrible week for RVers; and the week has just begun

This has not been a good week for RVers.

This morning comes word that an RV-6 has crashed in Greeley, Colorado, killing one person. The aircraft apparently struck powerlines while landing. According to the FAA records, the manufacturer was Arthur Schwarz. The current owner is listed as a corporation LPV LLC out of Denver.

On Sunday, an RV-4 crashed near Wallkill, New York. Two persons aboard were killed. It crashed in a field. The builder is listed as Victor Syracuse and the present owner is James Whiteford of Monroe, New York. Here's a news story.

Just one word: Plastics

There won't be many posts this week. Why? Because the temperature is hitting 90 every day here and I'm cutting plexiglass. I can't believe I've gotten to this part of the project this fast -- 6 years and 1,800 hour. Yes, I know, that's laughable, as some people would have 500 hours on the old bird by now.

I can't explain it, although I'd like to claim it's because I'm slow and deliberate, painstaking in my attempt to get things "just right." I'll give you the "slow" part, but as I'm slicing each piece of plexiglass, I'm about spent after one cut. It's nerveracking; perhaps unnecessarily so, but it is. And even on these small slices off the front and back of the canopy, I use a bandsaw (just bought it Saturday) with 80 and then 150 grit sandpaper, then 220, then 340, and then 400 to make it nice and smooth. The edges are better than the edges on the canopy as it was delivered.

I'd like to thank the Web sites of Dan Checkoway, Walter Tondu, Dave Parsons, and Richard Horan for providing me with so much valuable information on working with plexi.

Walter and Dan are both coming to Oshkosh and will be at the barbecue. Dave was hoping to be there but he's just been hired by Dynon Avionics to work on some spiffy new piece of equipment. How great must it be to combine aviation -- a hobby-- and a profession?

Hanging out I got an e-mail from the folks at South St. Paul airport. They've got a T-hangar available. I'll visit it this morning. I don't really need a hangar yet, but maybe this would help me get airplane parts out of my son's former bedroom, which my wife would rather have as an office.

This weekend: It's impossible to keep up with all the fly-ins. But on Saturday, the Minnesota wing of Van's Air Force, is holding its quarterly meeting at South St. Paul. Then we're visiting David Maib's RV-10 project.

Hotline Update: Rob Riggen is heading out of town, and I'm busy with airplane building. So this week's issue -- such as it is -- will be out on Friday, instead of Saturday. And there will be no issue next week.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Too much, too late

Is it me or the natural order of things that the information I need the most, I often acquire after it's too late?

In building my RV, I am falling into the same mantra that so many other RV builders have fallen into: WhenIBuildMyNextRV-itis. When I build my next RV, it'll be much better than this one, because I'll be much smarter. I'll know what mistakes not to make.

Sure, except there'll be a whole bunch of new mistakes to make.

There are many "D'oh" moments when building an RV, and despite all of the Web sites and forums and the attempts to collect these "gotchas" in one place, we still miss that piece of information that will prevent problems -- even though we're following the directions.

I have been working on the canopy frame for a few weeks now and -- as befits my puttering ways -- I've read all the usual Web sites looking for just one more grain of knowledge. But, as usual, I missed one.

It being a slow day at work and all, I visited more sits. Dignity is one of the better sites out there. And today, I found one of those bits of knowledge that I desperately needed.

Here's another internet saver. I drilled up the side spice plates, but left out this hole on each plate (they're handed). This is because the very back rivet of the canopy top skin comes through the plate and lots (aka nearly all tip-up builders) end up catching any rivet located here, or running out of edge clearance. Taking the wise advice of many other who have gone before me, I'm leaving this one rivet out, the rivet that goes through the skin will do the job instead. (See more)

Well, now. Guess what part I drilled last night?

This won't happen when I build my next RV.

Our Daily Thread: Any article by Tim Olson is bound to be a good one. And there's a good one on the RV-10 List (which, by the way, is one of the best bulletin boards out there, just in case you think I had a thing against Matronics forums in general).

The subject is instrument calibration.

It's frustrating for me to see people who don't do diligence in their avionics calibration and flight testing. I think we all owe it to our hard work to get flying to make our systems as good as we can, and I really can't fathom some of the lack of follow-through that I sometimes hear. Let me give you 2 examples that are even RV-10 specific...

If only there were more Tim Olsons.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

From Nirvana to Neanderthals

I've been thinking a bit more about the various forums and bulletin boards that are out there following the "spat" that broke out on the RV List within the last week, and the comments I made it about it the other day. The more I think about it, the more I think it comes down to the question of the meaning of "community," a subject about which I've also written extensively, and one in which I dabble in my day job as an Internet news site editor, which believes in giving people a voice.

Simply stated: just because everyone should have a voice, there's nothing logical about believing that everyone needs to hear it. And while we salute the concept of "citizen journalism" and all the potential it has (and it does), we also have to recognize that there are a fair number of people out there willing to puke on a plate and call it dinner; except that everyone knows it's really just puke on a plate.

There were a couple of interesting comments in that thread, each designed to show how much smarter the poster was, I guess, than the person they were trying rebuke.

One went like this:

Arguing on the internet is like being in the Special may win, but you're still a retard.

Well, gosh, how do you adequately put a reaction to that into mere words?

I pointed out that sometimes you just have to shake your head and acknowledge that it can be a big stupid world out there from time to time. But ignoring it is about all you can do. You certainly can't convince a neanderthal not to be a neanderthal.

That was met with this from a different person:

Censorship and expulsion do nothing more than quell discussion and decrease participation. There is at least one list on this forum where the moderators acerbic responses and condescending attitude to the simplest of questions and responses has effectively censored the list causing a loss of input from many valuable contributors. Spend your time and effort on the barbecue, life is too short to develop an ulcer over someone else’s behavior

Yes, by all means, let's do something about the condescension problem. Let's be, oh I don't know, condescending, and see if that works.

You know, the more I thought as I read that prose, I kept thinking about this: The "N" Word.

I did that because sometimes, common sense to throw neanderthals into the great vacuum of indifference is met with charges of "censorship" or "political correctness," or any other word meant to trivialize what is a very serious matter. There are times when people should have a rag shoved into their mouths.

While, it's true that you just can't fix stupid, you can stomp on its head, beat it with a 2 x 4, pull the rug out from under its feet, banish it to an island, or run it over with a whirring propellor, because otherwise it'll breed, and the next thing you know, there's more stupid in the world. Sometimes, you just have to point out that something is, well, stupid.

What happened on the RV List last week was stupid. The comments of a small number of people, were stupid.

But it's also a fine example of a community at work. There are voices worth hearing, and then there are others who, while they have a right to use their voice, shouldn't have any access to a megaphone.

This is complicated by the fact that all of these lists have morphed from mere repositories of information, to social communities. And, as any cop can tell you, anytime you get together for a social occasion in large numbers, there'll be a fair number of people -- or conversations -- that make you look at your watch and send "signals" to your spouse that it's time to leave.

What is interesting to me, is how different all of the various groups are. All of them have the capacity and history to provide valuable assistance to builders. But each has its own personality. The RV List is the Old West, to me. It's a lawless, never-ending gunfight surrounded by nice scenery. Nice to visit, but you wouldn't want to breed there.

I like the Yahoogroup because it's small and while not terribly active, I think I've met most of the folks who post there. It's like a small school in an idyllic town -- almost quaint in its approach. Van's Air Force is like a Big 10 university. It's where all the best and brightest are, but you're still one person in a big, big classroom. Still, it's as wonderful as an all-night grocery store with a friendly person at the checkout. Rivetbangers is a Sunday barbecue. Only your friends show up. RVSQN is, well, how can you not like a place with a thread on "wheel spats?"

I've always been fond of considering this notion of community, but I always fall into the mistake of thinking about it in monolithic terms, because we're all building this one company's airplane. But when you think about, few communities are actually monolithic. They eventually splinter into communities within communities.

And that, I think, is where the RV "community," is. There are communities within communities -- some people are in the building community, some people are in the flying community, and some people are in the "I like calling you a retard" community.

There's also another community. The "I'm not online and don't want to be" community. Sometimes, especially when we see the same names from forum message to forum message to forum message, we begin to think that's the RV community. Then a Sport Aviation issue shows up and you see the "What Our Members are Building" section full of RVs, and you don't recognize a single name there. You go to a fly-in, and you've never heard of the pilot. Why? They're not online -- or don't post. Why? Well, have you read that RV List thread?

Communities come. Communities go. Communities change. When one doesn't fit anymore to the point it's not really about the RV brand of homebuilt airplanes, you really have to move to another community.

Because you just can't fix stupid.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Ditching 101

When I'm doing my "armchair flying," I think often of flying back East, or at least to other sections of the country. However, because I'm tucked around the Great Lakes, there's really no way to do this without involving water.

If I wanted to go east, I'm probably going to over Lake Michigan, or at least go around Lake Michigan (which defeats the point of having an airplane, if you ask me). And then there's Lake Erie to worry about.

Of course, what keeps people from going over the Great Lakes is the fear that their engine will quit and they'll go into the water.

So I was intrigued to read an interesting article in EAA Chapter 27's June newsletter today: Ditching 101.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Fuel starvation examined

There are two reactions to most aircraft accident reports when other pilots review the data. It's either (a) "there but for the grace of God go I" and there's (b) "what an idiot."

Fuel starvation qualifies under the second category and this week, Bob Miller tackles fuel starvation issues in his very excellent newsletter, "Over the Airwaves," the new issue of which is out today.

* * *

I got a nice note a few minutes ago from old RVer friend Bill Swaim (well, OK, I met him at the RV BBQ a year ago, but he seems like an old friend).

"I know Minnesota Sue.......(the airplane I posted a picture of yesterday on the Yahoogroup) Greg & Sue are based right here in Moline, Il
I've been to the Boone fly-in several times. It's always a good one. Would have been there this year, but then would have had to turn down a trip in this;"

Good choice, Bill.

The only time I've been in an open cockpit of any kind was a few years ago when Minnesota Public Radio reporter Dan Olson was working on a story about Jim Grist, a builder of a Skybolt. He asked me to go to Lake Elmo to see him and Jim was gracious enough to give me a lift. I loved it! It was a short flight (we circled the Stillwater power plant and back), but I was struck by the maneuverability and turn radio of the little plane.

You can read the whole story here.

* * *

Boone RV Fly-in

It took a little while to get ourselves launched out of Lake Elmo because of the weather but we finally made it out about 3 hours later than planned. The weather cleared just enough for us to get out and then we ran a little scud across Woodbury before finding a hole to get up and over the a thin East-West front that extended across southern Minnesota.

I've put pictures up in the Photos section of the RV Yahoogroup. Also, this morning, I notice there are photos up on the fly-in Web site.

Our Daily Thread: I've been on the RV List for a long time. Many of the same people that are on the RV List are on the Yahoogroup site and Van's Air Force and Rivetbangers. So will someone please tell me why the RV List consistently is the spot where you'd expect stupid, off-top, flame wars to break out? Is it that it's not well moderated?

The cause of this one, isn't really the issue. Because some of the participants are the same ones that are usually involved in flame wars. You know, the ones that never use their names and tell you that they're 10,000 commercial pilots who build software on the side and have built 20 RVs.

As one poster who posted today said...

I think the useful life of the list has come to an end for me. I built my RV-6 and made the first flight on July 14 1989. There are so many beautiful airplanes and neat ideas now that were not thought of when I was building, and the kits have changed drastically over the last twenty years. My RV-6 would be considered archaic by today's standards so for me to have helpful hints for today's
builders as a previous builder is not as feasible as it use to be. I have probably stayed longer than I would have if I did not have so much respect for Matt Dralle and the tremendous amount of work he puts into these lists.

Crazy stuff.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

This week's column

I didn't write a column this week for the RV Builder's Hotline, but I did write an article. This one is on the new Vertical Power electrical systems product. I also uploaded the audio of the interview with Marc Ausman.

Find it here.

I do plan on writing a column next week on the RV Hall of Fame. It's a little virtual idea I've been kicking around for giggles. If there were a Hall of Fame, who would be in it? OK, sure, Van is in it. But who else? I think Bob Avery of Avery Tools would be in it. I think Stein Bruch of SteinAir would be in it -- there's so much he does behind the scenes. I think Doug Reeves of Van's Air Force would be in it. I think Sam Buchanan would be in it. Dan Checkoway? Of course he's in it!

Who else? C'mon...comment! Maybe you'll make the column.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

The vicarious thrill off flying

Flying stories; I have a fondness for blogs where pilots just talk about simple trips somewhere for some good food and conversation. Here's one I stumbled on today.

Dave Gamble calls our attention to this blog.The top item today is about living with MS. It's surprising how many people I know have MS now.

I skipped right over the politics on the rest of the blog -- nope, no comment one way or another -- and found items by selecting the category, "flying."

Speaking of Dave Gamble, no tour around my RSS reader -- subject "airplane building" -- in a quest to be taken somewhere in an airplane vicariously is complete without a stop on his blog. I could be a Kennedy: My own personal taxpayer-provided lakeside airport is a real sigh-maker.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

BBQ over the top

This evening we reached 352 in reservations for the Oshkosh BBQ and that's that. We're capping it there. We can't handle more than that, and, frankly, I need some time to do other stuff. My wife is out of town this week and I had big plans for working on the RV, but it's been non-stop envelope-stuffing and I need to have a period well before Oshkosh to get everything together. Capping the attendance allows that. I hope you understand.

Now then, I haven't been able to write much because this week I'm working on a column for the RV Builder's Hotline on Marc Ausman's Vertical Power gizmo. If you haven't seen it, I'll introduce you to it this weekend. I'm also putting together a podcast with a full 48-minute interview I did with Marc.

I've often thought it would be cool to do more audio work but it takes a lot of time. That's why I marvel at what Doug Reeves does. He sets up phone and people call in and leave "reports." "Citizen Journalism' at its finest.

Tonight, he has a nice piece with Mark Stewart on an Angel Flight in Georgia, the only place, from what I understand, where an experimental airplane can do Angel Flights. The audio is here, but you should really go to Doug's site, which -- if you're into RVs -- you undoubtedly do. Who doesn't?

I'm putting the volunteer duties together now for the BBQ, and Doug is getting beer-hander-outer duties. I figure that makes him the most popular person at the BBQ, which -- it seems to me -- is wholly appropriate.

This morning, I think it was this morning, someone was kind enough to send me a picture of Cleveland, following up on my post of last week. It's on my other machine so I haven't gotten a chance to look at it or post it here, but I will tomorrow, I promise. Maybe. In the meantime, there is a COMMENTS section here, so feel free to use it.

This Saturday, I hope, fellow builder Warren Starkebaum and I are flying down to Boone, Iowa for the Boone RV day. Hard to believe in 7 years of building -- or is it 6? -- I've NEVER been to an RV fly-in. C'mon weatherman! One of my favorite stories from Boone was this one, written by gifted RV drivers -- and writer -- Mark Navratil.

Our Daily Thread - It's actually this one on Rivetbangers. You know Smitty of, right? He plays up that whole Texas hick thing even though he lives in Plano. Plano! He might as well live in St. Paul. I laughed by empennage off with the picture of his BBQ grill. Scroll down and you'll find it.

Ya hear?

Monday, June 11, 2007

Aviation miscellany

Most of the RV community, as near as I can tell, is still talking about that nose-over in the U.K. over the weekend. The video (very small, done in QuickTime) was distributed by the rsvqn list this morning and at first it appeared that the nose-over happened shortly after touchdown. That would've given rise to the "bad piloting" aspect of the usual debate that starts after these things. But upon further review, it happened well into the rollout.

What scares me is how fast the deceleration is. It caught the hole -- or whatever caused the collapse -- and that was it. VERY rapid deceleration. I'm beginning to think the flipover is what saved people because if it had just stopped and nosed in, I don't think the human body could withstand it.

There is a thread about this on VAF but for some reason the thread has been closed. You don't see that everyday.

BBQ Update - We're really close to 300 attendees so given our 350 limit, we should be closing reservations within a couple of weeks. This is turning out really well so far. I got home today to find a donation from Teledyne Mattituck. Coupled with what Stein Bruch has collected, looks like it'll be an expense free night for RVers.

Newsletters: This is usually a big weekend for getting EAA chapter newsletters published. One of my favorites is Chapter 1414 which came out with theirs today.
There really are very few great newsletters being produced -- I'd guess 12-18 nationwide. And I check the chapter Web sites every week. It's surprising -- and should be embarrassing to the chapters -- how often you go to an EAA chapter site and the newsletter was from 2 years ago and the big headline says, "join us for the fly-in, 2 p.m., July 4, 2002!"

Our Daily Thread: I can't decide how I want to fasten the canopy to the frame and rollbar. On VAF, there's yet another thread about silkaflex. But I posted a thread on the RV YGroup based on an old article in RVator I read the other day from Amit Dagan in which a small plastic bushing is used. I really like this idea and Dan Checkoway posted some thoughts on this that were enlightening.

Temperatures are in the 90s in Minnesota this week. I've got to get moving on this.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Accident in the UK

Word comes from the UK of another nose-over of an RV-7A, that yielded one of the most amazing RV photographs ever, as it was happening. You can find a conversation about the accident here and more pictures here.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

This week's column

I've turned in this week's column for the RV Builder's Hotline.

Making a deposit to my motivation account
by Bob Collins

(June 8, 2007) -- Back when I did a little more business traveling than I do now, I would catch my bearings by finding the nearest baseball stadium and working my way from there.

When I was out in Anaheim for my one -- and only as it turns out -- trip to the Los Angeles area about 20 years ago, I walked three miles to the stadium, turned around and walked back to the hotel. It was like a scene from Forest Gump, but that's the way it is for me in strange cities. Find a stadium and find your way.

Last weekend, my son and I went to Cleveland for the weekend, to watch the Cleveland Indians play. You can read all about it on my other blog. It was a little easier this time since the hotel I chose to stay in is right across the street from Jacobs Field.

But it wasn't until Saturday that I realized that things have changed with me over the years, and airports are now my home base; not because I fly into them -- I don't fly much anymore, let alone land somewhere -- just because, as much as baseball has meant to me over the years, airplanes have given baseball a run for its money where my heart is concerned.

So what happened Saturday? Patrick and I walked from the "Jake" down to the Rock n'Roll Hall of Fame, which is right next to the Burke-Lakefront Airport. It was particularly interesting for me since the last time I was near Burke was about 40 years ago, when my Dad first brought me to Cleveland. We weren't there to see the airport, we were there to see the Indians in the old Municipal Stadium, right next to Burke.

That area, run down in the '60s, has all changed now. It looks great, and Burke looks like the perfect place to visit. In fact, how many times do you RV builders find yourself visiting areas, seeing the airport and saying to yourself, "I'm going to fly here some day."? That's me and Burke. It would be the perfect flight; the perfect day.

First, the airport is as beautifully situated as Meigs Field was. It's right on Lake Erie and right near downtown. I could, if I were to ever actually finish my RV, leave my home after breakfast, and be sitting in the Jake for an afternoon game, as long as I can fly into Burke.

One of my favorite bloggers Dave Gamble, made this dream trip last year. I stole the picture above from him.

Builder's motivation comes in all forms. While we're pounding rivets and soldering wires, it's hard to keep from making mistakes, because our concentration often shifts from what we're doing, to what we're going to be doing someday. Flying. Flying to our dream locations.

For some it's Catalina, or Bermuda. For others, it's Cleveland. Go figure.

Flying -- and building -- is at its best when it combines the various joys of life. For me, of course, I can think of a dozen ways to combine baseball with flying and with my natural -- unnatural if you listen to my kids -- love for finding out what's around the next corner.

When I got home from Cleveland, the grass needed mowing and, yet, there was this big unfinished, well, "thing" in the garage. The canopy frame is in the middle of wrestling with me, I'm not any smarter about running electrical wires than I was six months ago, and I'm certainly not richer than I was six months ago and there's this little matter of putting an instrument panel in. Oh, and I hear these things require engines and props.

These projects can get daunting at times. So much to do and so little time to do it. So much to spend and so little money in the bank.

That's when I go back to the basics -- dreaming. Last weekend I made a big deposit into my builder's motivation account.

It should last me through next winter. Or at least until the Indians win the World Series.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Accident findings in

The NTSB has issued preliminary cause reports in two incidents involving RVs. Fortunately, neither resulted in serious injury.

Ogden, Utah
Probable cause released in 3/24/07 incident in which RV-4 lost power. Failure to switch tanks.

Turlock, Calif.
Probable cause released in 10/28/06 incident in which an RV-6 lost power on take-off and crashed trying to return to the airport. Broken piston rings and failure to maintain adequate airspeed.

Our Daily Thread: Andrew Barker at TruTrak (disclaimer: I bought a TruTrak and I love the company) has reacted to the usual online chatter on the delay in the 2" ADI from the company.

There are many reasons that the 2" ADI has been delayed as long as it has. One of the biggest is me. I personally did all of the engineering and design of the product. Yes, we already had the 3" version, so schematics were obviously not a problem. Between all of my normal daily duties, and engineering on other new products (yes, the EFIS is certainly one of the big ones) the 2” ADI simply kept getting bumped back.

There's more here but let's just say, Andrew Barker is one hell of a stand-up guy. Tru-Trak is one of the companies, incidentally, that's making the RV BBQ at Oshkosh BBQ. I'll say it again, buy from RV builders before you buy from somewhere else and you'll never go wrong.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Son of the Polaroid camera

There was an old joke in baseball back when Michael Jackson was big. "What do Michael Jackson and (fill in name of poor fielder here) have in common?"

"They both wear gloves for no apparent reason."

Yeah, funny stuff. I was thinking of that the other day when I tried to order just one rear channel for the canopy frame, after I mistakenly misdrilled the splice plate. On the bottom of the order form at Van's Web site, there's a "notes" section where you can give additional instructions.

Don't bother. It's like Michael Jackson's glove. It has no apparent purpose, because what I wrote was "I only need a left channel, I don't need both." Yesterday, I got a delivery. Both. Total cost: $67.

Now maybe, they only sell both. In their online catalog it's listed as a two-channel buy. But why? They're not matched.

I often wonder whether Van's makes their money on the kits, or the replacement parts.

Polaroid had this type of marketing approach and it's not a bad idea. Sell the base product cheap, and then make your money on the film.

Our Daily Thread: Breather run into exhaust. It's on the RV-List.

I was wondering if anyone ran their breather tube into the exhaust. I have seen this done more and more lately on aerobatic planes where the breather runs into exhaust. Granted they have some separation from direct crankcase breathing vie the inverted systems but vent none the less into the exhaust. Any thoughts?

And there are plenty.

Monday, June 4, 2007

The angle of attack indicator

I'm only now getting serious about what's going to be in my airplane's instrument panel,and it's a little difficult ignoring what everyone else has in theirs. There are days I see the beauty of utter simplicity, and then there are days when I think something like the Vertical Power system is really the way to go, the expense be damned.

I imagine I'll be in the middle somewhere. I just don't know exactly where.

But I've always been interested in an angle of attack indicator. But should it be a separate unit, or one that's integrated with some EFIS or flight display setup?

Perusing such things today, I came across the latest newsletter for EAA Chapter 2, which is somewhere in Indiana, in which Larry Zepp has written an article about AOAs. The article itself wasn't very detailed -- in fact, it didn't serve much purpose other than to tell pilots what an AOA indicator is, a fact I find frightening is that every pilot doesn't -- apparently -- already know.

No, what caught my interest was a little article after Larry's. Kelly Meiste has apparently developed a homebrew AOA for his (I think it's a he Zodiac. I looked around Google for a Web site, but found nothing.

I'd be interested in learning more about what homebrew versions of AOAs people have developed.

Friday, June 1, 2007

Merry Christmas from Cleveland

I've heard it said that there's nothing quite so thrilling as to be traveling in a foreign country and hear the Star Spangled Banner.

I grew up a Cleveland Indians fan in Massachusetts and many years later I became a Cleveland Indians fan in Minnesota. Let me just suggest that when you talk about a lonely existence, a Cleveland Indians fan in the '60s in Massachusetts qualifies. Heck, at that time it was a lonely existence being a Cleveland Indians fan in Cleveland.

So when you find yourself suddenly surrounded by 41,000 similarly-minded folks, well, it's thrilling; thrilling to have it reaffirmed that you are not walking this planet alone in this particular endeavor.

My youngest, son, Patrick, also became a Cleveland fan. We haven't been to Jacobs Field since 2000. For Christmas this year, my wife and I gave him a brick, which is only slightly better than a lump of coal. Except this is a commemorative brick placed in the new Heritage Park inside Jacob's Field -- the home of the Indians. With it went a trip to Cleveland to see Patrick's brick.

Today, Patrick and I flew to Cleveland, to see the brick, and attend games tonight, tomorrow and Sunday against the Detroit Tigers -- a rivalry not unlike the Red Sox and Yankees -- what with Detroit being so close an all.

I'll tell this story chronologically, but suffice it to say, it qualifies for one of the best days I've ever had.

Patrick and I tried to pick the series we'd come to before the season started. We thought about the White Sox on Labor Day, but figured that the Indians might be out of the pennant race by then. So we settled on Detroit since they won the division last year, and yesterday was my birthday and Sunday is his.

I put the trip together and found a hotel, across the street from the Jake. We arrived at 5, changed and headed to the game. This is a picture of the two of us, only I didn't aim the camera right. (Click on any picture for a big copy)

The first stop was the team shop to buy a jersey -- a Grady Sizemore jersey -- for Patrick. Then we found heritage park, which -- like the similar park at Yankee Stadium -- is out in centerfield. Patrick's brick is in the Nap Lajoie section.

I found the brick, but Patrick wouldn't get on the ground next to it and let me take his picture. So I did.

The brick commemorates Patrick's long-standing optimism. He did not get it from my side of the family. But back in 2001 -- or sometime around then, click on the picture to see the exact date -- the Indians were playing Seattle on national TV and were down 12-1 when Carolie and I gave up and went to bed. Patrick stayed up because he had faith in his team. The Indians rallied over the last three innings and as they got closer, he kept running into the bedroom shouting, "Now they're only down 6! Now they're only done 5!" etc. They eventually won 14-12. Remember that because in a minute I'm going to tell you a story about tonight.

A nice woman offered to take our picture, as we told her the story of our trip from Minnesota today. So she took our picture of our feet on Patrick's brick.

And then she took a picture of us.

Everywhere we looked there were Indians fans. Just like us. Cool.

We headed for our seats.

The Indians are in first place -- the latest into the season we've been in first place since 2001. But things got off to a rocky start for our heroes. The Tigers scored two in the first and 1 in the 4th to take a 3-0 lead. All-Star catcher Victor Martinez homered in the 4th to make it 3-1. It's fun to cheer for the Indians and not have people turn around and look at you.

The Detroit-Cleveland rivarly is great fun and there were, as you might suspect, a lot of Tiger fans there. They started chanting "Let's go Tigers..." (same tired old chant like the Red Sox and Yankee fans use). And everyone else would "boo."

Detroit came back with 2 more in the 6th to make it 5-1 and I thought our two game Jacob's Field winning streak would end (Carolie and I brought the kids to a game on the way to Massachusetts in 1994...and Patrick and I came once years ago).

Without much to cheer about, I started playing with my camera and wondering how a picture of the exteemed Mr. Sizemore in centerfield would look if I put the camera up to the new binoculars Carolie bought me for my birthday.

Not too bad.

Anyway, in the bottom of the 6th, the Indians got 4 runs. Jacob's Field was rocking, and the Indians fans turned to the Detroit fans who earlier had earlier been chanting "Let's go Tigers," and started chanting "Cleveland Rocks," after the Drew Carey Show theme.

However, because our bullpen is almost as inept as our manager (he had nobody warming up while Tom Mastny was giving up 3 hits and two walks and every single run of the 4 the Indians had scored moments earlier. It was 9-5 now. But in the bottom of the 8th, Cleveland scored two more to make it 9-7.

Hey, we're still in this thing. Except that our bullpen is almost as inept as our manager and it immediately gave the two runs back. 11-7.

But remember: Patrick is Mr. Lucky.

In the bottom of the 9th. We're down 4, and Grady Sizemore grounds out to cap an awful 0-5 night for the first out.

Casey Blake singles. Then Travis Hafner walks. Victor Martinez hits a ball to left that is going...going...and goes over the wall for a three-run homer (his second homer of the night). We're down now 11-10 and the Jake is rockin'. So is Patrick.

But now there's nobody on, until Jhonny Peralta doubles, bringing Ryan Garko the plate. He whiffs and there are two down.

Detroit closer Todd Jones walks Trot Nixon intentionally and up comes Josh Barfield, a fairly anemic hitter so far. But he hits a line drive to Magglio Ordonez in right. From the upper deck, it looks catchable, but Ordonez doesn't catch it and -- unbelievably -- this game is tied 11-11. Un - freakin' - believable.

David Dellucci takes a called strike, two balls and then singles to centerfield. Trot Nixon scores, the Indians win 12-11, the ballpark explodes, and I'm screaming "I can't believe this." Storybook. Absolutely storybook.

Ten minutes later, everyone is still screaming. And the good part? The show ain't over. In addition to being dollar-hot-dog night, it's also fireworks night, and so they turned off the lights...

And we get a 15-minute fireworks show set to '70s music (It's '70s disco weekend here). (I'll put up a video shortly)

Here's the video (sorry about the view, turn your monitor on its side, I guess)

Tomorrow, we hit the Rock 'n Roll Hall of Fame and then another night game across the street.

After tonight's game, I rubbed Patrick's head and reminded him he's our lucky charm, because he's the luckiest person I know.

After today, I'm #2.
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