Saturday, April 26, 2008

Putting the brakes on spring

What a difference a week makes! Last week, when I put together the right landing gear components, it was in the '70s, gentle breezes, and perfect. Today it's in the '30s, a wicked wind, and some sections of the state picked up almost two feet of snow.

I'm down to the last couple of drops of kerosene in my heater; I'd rather not buy another 5 gallons at $4 a gallon (although who knows how much it'll be next year), so the cold snap may require more long underwear if I'm going to work at the hangar.

I worked on the left landing gear today and I'm pretty sure I'm missing something in assembling these things.

Here's why:

This is the bracket for the brakes all set to go. There are two enclosed holes onto which the caliper (which has two prongs) fits. What has me confused is there's nothing else in the system to hold the caliper firm.

Here is the setup being inserted. I've taken off the outside brake pad to fit it against the wheel.

After it's inserted, I put the inside brake pad back on.

Now the caliper enclosed the wheel, so it can't fall off. But, it can move since the two prongs (1) float inside their hole. As positioned, you can see that the brake pads ride just off the wheel (2), but there's play in the hole caliper, so it doesn't take much to have the pad rubbing on the wheel.

That's why I say I must be missing something. I know that the brake line offers some rigidity, but I can't image you want an aluminum line performing that task.

So tell me? What am I missing?

Update: One of my RV heroes -- Tom Berge -- took a look:

You are missing nothing. The caliper floats as you have noticed intentionally. Yes, the pads can hit the disc, but that is normal. If the caliper were to be mounted rigid, then as the pads wore, the brakes would no longer contact the disc as intended.

Make sure the piston is inserted correctly in the caliper and that the bolts holding on the other half of the pads are safety wired. The brake line should have a loop in it to allow stress relief. I believe the plans show this.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Then and now

Kitplanes ran this picture of my sons -- Sean and Patrick -- with the article that is
in the June issue. It was taken on the day the RV project arrived back in 2001.

Think of how different we all were in the spring of 2001 than now. Oh, and they've grown.

Here's Patrick in a picture I took of him and his girlfriend at the Twins game the other night. Much older, but still a Tribe fan.

Sean's a little harder to pin down for pictures. Here's one from last Christmas.

They grew up a lot faster than the airplane has. Patrick is heading back to school to get his degree to become a paramedic. No doubt he'll end up in the St. Paul Fire Department one day. I'm lucky enough to see Sean just about every day since he works where I do, and continually blows me away by how smart he is in matters of technology.

You know when you're a father, you learn to never get too smug about things, because it can all change in an instant; you just love 'em no end and be thankful for good fortune. Even if this plane never gets built, here are two "construction projects" that turned out as grand champions.

WiFi at Osh

This news release is in the inbox this morning. And it's FREE again!

EAA AVIATION CENTER, OSHKOSH, Wis. - (April 22, 2008) - EAA AirVenture Oshkosh is supplying one of most-requested items for campers at its event with an expansion of wireless Internet access this summer. EAA AirVenture, "The World's Greatest Aviation Celebration," will be held July 28-August 3 at Wittman Regional Airport in Oshkosh.

Wi-Fi access will be available in many areas of the North 40 aircraft camping area, the drive-in Camp Scholler campground, and in the vintage aircraft and ultralight camping areas. This access is provided free of charge to EAA members and their guests in those campgrounds. Signal strength may vary because of computer type and setup, weather conditions and other factors.

In addition, EAA members can log on to their e-mail through computers provided at Internet Cafes located in EAA Member Village and in Camp Scholler. A limited number of Ethernet connections are available for members at those locations as well.

"We're expanding wireless access because we know that many members want to stay connected during their trips to EAA AirVenture," said Tom Poberezny, EAA president and AirVenture chairman. "We're happy to respond to the requests from our members and supply this resource without charge in our camping areas. And we remind them that complete coverage of each day's events throughout the grounds will be available at the website."

EAA AIRVENTURE OSHKOSH is The World's Greatest Aviation Celebration and EAA's yearly membership convention. Additional EAA AirVenture information, including advance ticket purchase, is available through the World Wide Web at EAA members receive lowest prices on admission rates. For more information on EAA and its programs, call 1-800-JOIN-EAA (1-800-564-6322) or visit

Monday, April 21, 2008

Kitplanes article posted

Kitplanes has posted the article (Use IE, Firefox doesn't seem to work with this)I wrote for the June issue that was, in a sense, a response to what I thought was a "cheap shot" by RV builder Dan Checkoway in the April issue. You may recall Dan used me as the straw man to set up his argument that people shouldn't be complaining about the price of fuel while planning to spend money on a nice panel.

What Dan didn't mention, for reasons he hasn't seen fit to share, was that I haven't complained about fuel and I've never much been a fan of the type of person who accomplishes something -- with lots of help from others -- and then insists that his is the only acceptable way to approach building. In effect, Dan sacrificed someone's good name -- mine -- so that he could make a quick $500 selling an article.

One of the reasons I pulled out of the RV community wasn't so much Dan -- Dan is Dan -- but the fact several others put their sense of decency aside so as not to upset Dan to the point that he'd take down his Web site. He does have a nice site (although Walter Tondu's is better), but, you know, friendship -- or what I thought was friendship -- should not be so easily sold. Color me shocked that the price of friendship is so low.

In any event, I reminded the Kitplanes audience that there are people in the world whose lives aren't controlled by their airplane project, who have room in the world for family, and see the benefits of real friendships. Nothing you haven't read here a thousand times before.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

The Field of Dreams

There are moments when all you can do is smile at your good fortune. And there are days when you feel guilty for jamming so many moments into a day.

I spent most of the day working on the RV out at the hangar I rent at Fleming Field in South St. Paul (KSGS). I spent most of the day smiling.

I've read an occasional builder log online where the builder complains that people kept stopping by the hangar to see his project, so he couldn't get anything done. I didn't get that much done today, but I'm not going to complain. As the RV continues to grow, each dream is being realized; one of them was to have a project in a hangar, and have people stop by to introduce themselves, and to sit and watch planes in their native environment.

After a day of scratching my head yesterday over the various configurations that could spring out of the very, very poor Van's instructions for the brake and wheel pants bracket on the 7A landing gear, I called up Walter Tondu's excellent site (See landing gear info here) and within a couple of minutes, I had all the answers. Walter is one of the truly good people in the RV community and although I've pulled back from the online forums, exchanging the occasional e-mail and story with builders is always inspiring. It was a pleasure meeting him at the RV BBQ at Oshkosh I put on (but am taking the year off putting on this year; maybe next year).

And so today, I headed back out to the hangar and when I turned the corner on Cessna Lane, I knew I was in for a good day. An RV-9A was sitting outside, waiting for its owner to take it for its first ride of the spring. The morning 40 degree temperatures and clouds were clearing, so I opened up the door on the hangar.

As the RV-9A came taxiing by, and the owner looked inside, then braked and shut off his engine. He and I had the same reaction about each other's plane: "An RV!!"

His name is Bruce and he moved up from Iowa, and just picked this airport out of his hat to house his plane. He was on his way down to Airlake and asked if I wanted a ride. I did, but I also needed to do some work. I gave him a tour of the project and then Vince drove up. Vince is building a QB RV-7 and he needed to look at my rollbar again to see how something works. Imagine that, people are looking at my work to see how something is done. You can't beat that with a stick.

After a half hour or so of standing out in the "street," talking RVs, I announced I had to get back to work. Bruce had to get down to Lakeville, Vince had to go wrestle a rollbar, and I had to get some bearings packed with grease.

One of the smartest moves I ever made was putting one of those EAA Chapter 1000 workbenches on casters, so I could move it out near the door and work while watching planes take off and land. What an inspiration it is to hear and see planes while working. Why didn't I do this years ago? (Answer: because of the $220 a month rent!).

I plugged in the iPod and sang along, as usual, to the steady stream of Sprinsgteen, Clapton, Norah Jones, B.B. King, ZZ Top and AC/DC. They're the soundtrack of my project.

Wipaire's Facility
As I started dispensing grease, I thought I heard something and looked up and "Ray" was driving by in his van on his way to the hangar. I met Ray yesterday. "Hi Bob," I heard him say over "Hard Times" by Clapton, as he waved. "Hey, Ray," I said. Hmmm, Bob and Ray. I like meeting my neighbors and this is becoming the best place in the world to spend a beautiful Sunday afternoon.

As I finished packing a bearing, I realized I'm now the old guy with a greasy rag hanging out the back of his jeans. Cool, I always wanted to be that guy; the guy with a plane in a hangar at an airport, while watching planes, and talking to people passing by.

One of Wipaire's big amphibs came roaring over. Is he on a upwind leg? Then I saw the wind had shifted slightly and a Cessna was landing opposite him. He must've gone around. Fun times at an uncontrolled field.

SGS Terminal
And so it went all afternoon, all sorts of planes to watch, plus the base-to-final turn for MSP is directly overhead. Can it get any better?

South St. Paul is a cool, little airport. It's not one of the Metropolitan Airports Commission relievers. It's a former Navy field (George Bush the elder learned to fly here) that was deeded to the city in exchange for keeping it an airport. Wipaire has a nice facility here, partly in old World War II hangars. Ballistic Recovery Systems, the Cirrus parachute people, are also on the field. They're building a big new facility nearby, too. The Commemorative Air Force is here and there's a couple of really cool turbo prop firefighting antiques. I don't know what they are (see picture) but they roar like a Mustang on floats.

We have a nice little terminal with wireless on those rare occasions when I feel like doing some work (I have to actually go to work to work, mostly).

I Packed the bearings, got the wheel put together and the tube put in the tire. Hey I've got a wheel!! Whoo hoo. I mounted the wheel and dragged the whole contraption around the hangar; then spun in circles pretending it was taking off... airborne for a second, and then landing. Man, that makes me dizzy.

I started on the left side and realized I needed some 1/4" washers. I know I've got some stuck somewhere, but Wipaire has a parts counter that's open on Sunday, so I walked over and saw Linda, the woman who loves soaring. She set me up with some washers and some Torque seal and I walked in the warm sunshine back to work.

I was having so much fun, watching airplane, singing to myself and occasionally talking to folks, that I had to call home. I felt guilty having so much fun watching airplanes, singing to myself and occasionally talking. My wife told me to get back at it. I went back at it, occasionally laughing like James Earl Jones as he entered the corn field in Field of Dreams.

By 5 I reached my self-imposed 'quittin' time,' so I picked up and swept up after deciding repacking another bearing can wait to another day.

I can't wait.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

A day in the life of a blogger

Today was the first test of the "new gig" at work, covering breaking news via blog. In my case, this is "News Cut" at Minnesota Public Radio. As people get more used to blogs, telling stories incrementally becomes a faster -- and in many ways a more complete -- way to get lots of information to people on their timetable, rather than waiting until reporters , umm, research, report, write and eventually -- if you're listening at just the right time -- deliver the information.

I think the two methods are most compatible in radio and I'm thrilled that Minnesota Public Radio is courageous enough to try it. Not many mainstream media folks will say to its newsroom blogger, "go do your own show and make it interesting." Traditionally in mainstream media, nothing ends up on the blog that hasn't first been on the radio (or TV or newspaper) or isn't gathered primarily for the purpose of getting on the radio (or TV or newspaper).

The MPR way allows me to actually have conversations with the audience, have them ask the questions, and then I go find the answers. That is then sprinkled around thenuts-and-bolts of a breaking story.

Believe me, I've had my share of sleepless nights wondering whether this sort of thing can work, but today convinced me of some of the possibilities. In a market like this, a reporter usually works one angle. This method makes the blogger more like a "talk show," turning from one angle to another and then another and then another (this is the old "talk show," not the current "let's set fire to a cross on somebody's lawn" version of a talk show).

So what was I able to do? Over the last 24 hours, I:

  • Get an analyst at Clark University to give me first impressions
  • Provide an immediate FAQ on what the merger means to people.
  • Live blog the investor conference call
  • Live blog -- sort of -- the news conference
  • Examine the "branding" issue and why it's important for a merging company to get rid of the old logo,colors and message of the company being taken over.
  • Find out about the frequent flier programs and what people should do to maximize their miles' worth.
  • Provide an interview with an economist about what investors were saying about this in helping the stocks to tank.
  • Put together an admittedly "turdy little piece" on repainting airplanes.
  • Examine the influence of Southwest Airlines, consider the future of regional airlines, and answer a few more questions from the audience.

    You know what? For one person, that's a hell of a good day's work. And it's the way a typical day used to be for us newspeople in small market radio in the old days; still, I think, the best form of radio, may it rest in peace.

    Oh, and I threw a bone to the core medium, in this segment with Tom Crann on All Things Considered (Listen here in mp3 format).

    Man this was a fun day!
  • Thursday, April 10, 2008

    Exploring affordability

    What am I missing?

    The EAA has the details on a system called Forward Vision, which it describes as an "affordable infrared technology for general aviation aircraft."

    A blogger yesterday also called attention to it, saying, "WOW! Forward Vision is making this attainable for GA pilots."

    This "affordable" unit goes for $15,000!!!

    If that's the definition of affordable, I'm clearly running with the wrong crowd.

    Wednesday, April 9, 2008

    The bias against pilots

    The captain of the ship carrying millions of gallons of oil that smacked into the Bay Bridge in San Francisco last year was able to pilot his ship even though he was taking medication for depression.

    If you even whisper the word "depression," the FAA will ground you.

    Who's the the bigger threat?

    Monday, April 7, 2008

    RV-10 crash in Alabama kills two

    I know that there are more RVs flying than ever before, so perhaps it's not surprising that they seem to be crashing more often than ever before, but I'm beginning to wonder if the rate of their demise is going up.

    Two are dead in the crash of an RV-10 in Alabama. It was from Tennessee. Here's the registration data.

    I wonder if they were on their way to Sun n Fun?

    Greetings from Nebraska!

    You know, you've got to know your way around a camera to get a shot like this. It's a beautiful picture of my RV pal Kevin Faris, taken by his wife Sandy (who I also consider an RV pal).

    It's amazing, really, how many RV builders are also great photographers.

    Kevin reports he's got over 15 hours on the ship and says after a dozen or touch-and-go's, it all "just clicked."

    Kevin has been helping me sort out the mysteries of electrical wiring.

    Friday, April 4, 2008

    Airplane building the old-fashioned way

    Here's a guy after my own heart. Tom Aurand of Swartz Creek, Michigan has finished his RV-4, about 20 years after he started it. He says there was about 10 years when he didn't even touch the project.

    It's a nice little video with terrible audio mixing (reporter in one channel and sfx in another). Oh, and you may have to sit through a commercial for some money-grubbing personal injury lawyer first.
    Share |