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.
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