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.
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