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.
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