Saturday, August 30, 2008

Where's the Hotline

I thought maybe -- maybe -- I could work putting together an RV Builder's Hotline around my work at the Democratic Convention in Denver and now the Republican convention in St. Paul but... no way. I went right from Denver, right back to work in St. Paul.

You can read my work on News Cut.

As for the Hotline, I can't see another issue coming out until a week from next Saturday. Sorry. I simply have had no time and, besides, I haven't got a clue what's going on on Planet RV.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Canopy update -- 5 layers and counting

Let me update on you on the big canopy fairing project. Technical counselor Doug Weiler stopped by on Wednesday and advised "more aggressive sanding." So I sanded the layer of filler that Pete Howell had suggested I use to get rid of the "ski jump."

I still have a little problem with two metal clips holding the canopy in place, so I don't think I'm going to get a deep radius there. I'm using a 4" PVC pipe (which I guess is really 5 inches on the outside) and it's a very shallow radius, but a radius nonetheless. Maybe I'm missing something, but this looks pretty good to me.

After sanding that layer, and after talking to Doug, I added some SuperFil to some low spots and while waiting for the engine to arrive on Thursday, I sanded that down, too. Then last night, I added the 5th layer of glass and put the peel ply on.

I probably haven't paid enough attention to the sides; it's still pretty ugly there. And, yes, I should've taken Checkoway's advice and hacked those "ears" off completely, but I only took a little bit off.

When I get back from Denver -- next Saturday -- I'll have to start putting more glass around that area. It seems to me that the windscreen fairing has to widen significantly in that area to cover the crack where the side skirts meets the front skin.

I'll probably regret this but I stopped using the black pigment. I really can't tell where air pockets are with the stuff, using the clear epoxy mix makes it easier.

Anyway, here's a series of shots showing the "ski jump" as Pete called it, beginning to disappear. I'm interested in your observations on this.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Mattituck falls off Bob's pedestal

After my screed against Dynon a few weeks ago, it shouldn't come as a surprise to you that I'm stickler for customer service. I'll pay more for it, and reward those who give it. Unfortunately, this is a concept that has completely failed the American economy. Businesses, except the really smart ones, don't understand short term sacrifice for long-term gain.

I chose Mattituck for my engine, based almost exclusively on their reputation for customer service. And, indeed, Mahlon Russell was very helpful when it came time to order the engine. I ordered the thing in May. If I'd waited two months, I figured I could get the $500 Oshkosh discount, but I ordered anyway. I thought maybe -- maybe -- they'd throw the discount in. They didn't. C'est la vie. Stupid me.

So when exactly did I stop feeling I was in a business partnership with Mattituck? As soon as the big check was cashed.

It's not a big deal in the big scheme of things, but spending $24,500 is a big deal to me. So when Mattituck called to tell me they needed the remaining $23,500, I sent it quickly, electronically, and then waited for the confirmation that, indeed, the engine was shipped and -- like Van's -- I figured they'd give me a tracking number.

Wednesday the 13th, the day the check was to arrive electronically, came and went. Then Thursday, then Friday. I heard nothing. On Monday, I sent a note to the sales manager at Mattituck asking when the engine would ship.

Thank you for your e-mail. Your engine shipped on Aug 13th, via Yellow Freight. Please see the tracking info below. It appears close to delivery.
OK, cool. Annoying, perhaps, that I didn't warrant the the "hey, heads up we shipped the engine for which you went severely in debt", but maybe they're busy on Long Island.

I checked the Tuesday delivery date and although I had a horrendous day of work scheduled, I figured that when they called, I could shoehorn the delivery into the day. Besides, I was to be at the airport between 9 and noon anyway because Doug Weiler was stopping by for a tech counselor visit.

Of course, that assumed that they'd call -- like ABF did when they had all the various subkits of the plane on which the engine is to be installed.

But they didn't. And the Yellow Freight Web site didn't provide any more help since you had to be a shipper to get the information I needed.

And they didn't show up, at least when I was at the airport. They showed up later -- unannounced -- when I wasn't.

Today, their dispatcher called to tell me they have the engine and would I like to arrange delivery? "The problem is our trucks have no elevator gates and no ramp, but you can come pick it up." Sure, with the trailer I don't have and the Chevy Cavalier I do?

I tried to find someone with a trailer but I had no luck. So I went out to the airport to talk to the folks at Wipaire.

"I'm building an RV at 217 Charlie Lane," I said to Dave, the customer service guy. "And Yellow is delivering a 400 pound crate tomorrow only they have no elevator gate and no ramp..."

"So you need a forklift..." Dave said.

"Can you help me?" I said, somewhat relieved at his obvious friendliness.

"Call me tomorrow when Yellow gets here and if we're not moving something for us, I'll send a line guy and forklift over," Dave said.

"Great, how much?" I inquired.

"You get the good-guy discount, Wip believes in helping the people on this field," Dave said. No charge.

I called Yellow back to arrange delivery and it was then that I was told they had tried the day before and since I wasn't there, it would now cost me $63 for a "redelivery fee."

"Why didn't you call?" I asked.

"Because Mattituck didn't put your phone number on the waybill," he said. "We had to call them -- today -- to get your contact number."

OK, let's step back here.

Mattituck, that's a $63 mistake you just made. You think maybe it would be a good idea to put a contact number on the waybill? Me, too.

Yellow, that's just crappy stupid business.

Between the two of you, I've spent $25,000 on both of you and I don't like mistakes that cost me money. I don't like people who cash my check and then stop talking to me, not giving me heads up, and not giving me a freakin' break.

American business: You should treat the customer like gold from the time they call you to do business with you, all the way to the time you -- or your agent -- delivers your product. You should followup with phone calls from the time it ships, to make sure everyone is ready. Does it take more time? Yes it does, but what's the price of good customer service in the long run?

Let's ask the folks at Wipaire.

Between three companies, the one company that provided terrific customer service was the one company that didn't get some of my money beforehand. What's wrong with this picture?

Of course, Mattituck doesn't lose any skin in this deal. I'm not likely to ever buy an engine for a homebuilt again. So what's the big deal? As far as I know, they make a great engine at a halfway-decent value. Putting them on a customer-service pedestal was my fault, based on the tales of others. In many ways, my expectations of customer service far exceed the ability or interest businesses have of providing it. But in line with the rest of this project, I can still dream.

Update The engine arrived. I was sitting in the terminal waiting for Yellow to make its promised "one hour beforehand" notification. Of course, being a scuzzy business, they didn't make the promised call. So the guy was sitting outside the hangar when I walked back over.

"You were supposed to call," I said.

"I didn't have your number," the truckdriver said.

OK, here we go again. So I called over to Wipaire and they sent the forklift over but it took about 5-10 minutes, with the truckdriver saying, "I gotta get going." If I were a real jerk, I would've said, "hey, buddy, do me a favor. Shut your piehole. I've paid, now more than $300 for you to deliver the engine and you're going to sit right here and wait until the forklift gets here, because your scuzzy company didn't make the phone call it promised to make."

But, of course, I didn't.

And now I have an engine.

I think Tony Partain should get into the engine delivery business.

Here's one more suggestion for Mattituck: Put a letter in with the engine. Nothing fancy. Just a letter that says "thanks for your business, we hope we enjoy your engine." Maybe even sign it, although I suppose that would be optional.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Don't spam me, bro

It looks like I've gotten things back in order with the Hotline, by going back to the old mailing program.

Please take a moment and review this document, however. It'll make life a LOT easier if and is in your safe senders list.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Are you getting the Hotline?

Some folks who have subscribed to the RV Builder's Hotline say they have not been getting it. I got very few bouncebacks this weekend.

Update It looks there was a problem with the Dada Mail program I was running. It was reported having sent them out -- and, indeed, some people did get them -- but I wasn't being notified when they bounced back or weren't accepted by your email client. So I've sent them out again on the other program I was using to mail them out (the one I was using on July 12 -- the last time people reported getting them en masse).

My apologies. In the meantime, PLEASE make sure and are both in your address book.

Melting the ski jump

If you've been following along with the progress of canopy windscreen fairing, you know I've been bothered by the "ski jump" on one side. It's a bump where the plexi meets the aluminum and where I also have a "clip" installed.

Here's what it looked like when I took the peel ply off this morning. You can still see a little bit of it there, and compare it to yesterday's entry.

I took Pete Howell's advice and mixed up some epoxy with microballoons -- I mixed it fairly dry and squeegeed it on.

Better. I went out to the hangar this morning so that I could get this done in the comparatively cool weather. It's supposed to get up near 90 this afternoon and I didn't want to be working with fiberglass in that kind of heat. So I'll let this cure for a day and then tomorrow after work I'll sand it and then put another layer of fiberglass over it. After that, I'll probably do one more layer and then try to figure out how I want to "radius" the thing.

Somewhat problematic are the sides where the canopy goes back under the side skirts. At the moment it looks like the scene of a crime.

I still can't imagine how people use one long piece of fiberglass fabric on this windscreen. I'm not sure how they get it so it doesn't bunch up on the inside curve. I'll worry about it later, I guess. I've got all winter to sand.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

The 4th layer

Today I laid down the 4th layer of fiberglass cloth using 1 1/4" tape.This time I laid it down dry and then brushed on additional epoxy. I really would rather work with clear epoxy than black because it's so difficult to see if you have the cloth saturated.

You can click on the images to get the full size. The "bump" is still there. There are two clips underneath and darn close to the surface. Pete Howell said that "ski jump" is on the backside of sliders. He recommends mixing up some filler and fairing the bump, which I'll do tomorrow. I'll probably add another 1" strip in the "trench to build that up, and then add the filler onto the canopy between the bump.

Here's a better shot:

Mike Hilger stopped by and it was great to see him. He's a technical counselor and gave me some good advice on sanding the fairing (I intend to spend ALL winter sanding and filling). Then David Maib stopped by.

"I hate fiberglass," I said to him. "I really don't know what I'm doing."

"I know exactly what you mean," he said.

It's surprising how good it feels to hear that.

David's working on an RV-10 across the field with his wife, Mary, who is down in New Smyrna Beach getting their new house ready. When the RV is done, they'll fly off to Florida and leave the Minnesota winters behind. I'll miss them.

I'm also experimenting with a tool to sand with:

That's a 4" PVC pipe, cut in half... with a smaller PVC pipe (it's the Van's shipping container for something) glued in as a "handle." I'm not sure it's going to work.

Also stopping by today was a pilot from Arizona who was taking his daughter's RV-4 (in the hangar across the way) out for a spin. I like to leave my hangar door open so people stop by. I notice a lot of people just open them a tad on my row. That screams "go away," which perhaps is the message they want me to get.

RV Builder's Hotline for 8/16 is now online

The August 16, 2008 edition of the RV Builder's Hotline is now posted online at . This story of Jack Beck and Marmy Clason's RV-9A project highlights this week's issue.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Canopy fairing update

I'm plodding along on fiberglassing the canopy windscreen on my RV airplane. Like few other parts of this project, this feels like I'm walking blind in the woods. I've looked at other RVs, I've talked to other builders about the process, and yet it seems like I'm in uncharted territory. That may be because I am in uncharted territory, complicated by the fact this is a $1,200 part.

Last night I stuck the third layer of fiberglass on...

(Click for larger image.)

I've sanded the previous two layers before putting the next one down. So far, I've layed up each layer "wet." That is, on a piece of aluminum foil, I've covered the fabric with black-dyed epoxy, then placed it on the project. Others, as I understand it, put the expoxy on the previous layer, and then lay the fiberglass fabric down "dry," wetting it then by brushing the fabric to spread the underlying epoxy. Which is the preferred method? Honestly, I haven't a clue.

The only real problem I see so far is a slight bump on the right side of the plane. In that spot, I didn't trim the canopy back as far as the other side for reasons of symmetry. You can see the "bump" here:

I'm not sure whether I should put another thin layer below that bump, or just keep adding layers of ever widening amounts and then hoping it all evens out when I sand the thing.

I'm open to review and suggestions

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Wagstaff story updated

I don't know why I've suddenly become interested in this story, but I am. AvWeb did not update the story today (or at least hasn't yet) as the editor said they would today. So I did something highly unusual -- I picked up the phone and called the Winnebago County District Attorney. No luck. I got voicemail. reports Wagstaff is still scheduled to perform there this week.

Wagstaff says she wasn't given a test at the scene of the alleged incident in Oshkosh. But what wasn't clear is if she was asked to take one, but refused. If it's the latter, that has some significant consequences for pilots.

Under Part 61, she can have her pilot's certificate suspended.

Update - The DA's office never called me back (Wisconsin stateworkers, you know.) But AvWeb confirms my suspicions. The reason Wagstaff says she wasn't given a sobriety test is because she refused a sobriety test.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Alan Henley update

It wasn't until I was watching the Olympics tonight -- specifically the highbar competition -- when I decided to check on the progress of Alan Henley of the AeroShell team. I was aware only that Alan was injured when he fell from a chin-up bar in a doorway in his home.

No big deal, I figured at the time. I figured wrong. I'm now following his progress on the Caring Bridge site and reading entries his wife is posting.

I feel quite guilty that I didn't know things were as bad as they sound. Throw a couple of bucks in an envelope so we can help his recovery.

Why did AvWeb remove the Wagstaff story

AvWeb has Patty Wagstaff's version of the events which led to her being charged with drunk driving during AirVenture.

Air show pilot Patty Wagstaff is denying "rumors" that she was impaired by alcohol when she was taken into custody by Winnebago County Sheriff's Department officers late July 31 on a runway at Wittman Regional Airport in Oshkosh. She told AVweb she was not tested for alcohol impairment during the incident. A report in the Green Bay Press Gazette last week said the Sheriff's Office has asked the Winnebago County District Attorney to press first-offense drunken driving charges against her and it will be up to the DA to decide whether the charge will proceed. "I do deny the allegations," she told AVweb. "And I did not do a breath test, a blood test or a field sobriety test." Although we still don't know all the details surrounding the runway incident, Wagstaff has provided AVweb with the following statement

AvWeb describes the incident as "rumors" even though the District Attorney confirmed that, yes, charges against Wagstaff were filed.

Nobody loves a good media mystery more than people in the media, so here's the thing: Why did AvWeb remove the original story from its site?

I sent an e-mail to Russ Niles, who wrote the "rumors" entry today, and appears to have written a story on Friday -- since removed -- that indicated Wagstaff may be charged with drunk driving.

Re: Wagstaff. Can you tell me why an article you wrote last Friday about Wagstaff is no longer available?

You mention the charges are "rumor" but the GB Gazette says they were filed. And it sounds like your story of last Friday said they were filed.

Bob Collins

Russ wrote back:

First story said the same as this one, which is outdated. We'll be updating it tomorrow.

But the headlines -- via Google -- seem to shift the severity of the allegations. In one, the one posted, the headline is Wagstaff Denies Impaired Driving 'Rumors' and the one that was removed says Wagstaff May Face Drunk Driving Charge.

It would behoove someone working on this story to call the DA and find out if charges hve or have not been filed.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Day-tripping: Madeline Island

While I'm building my RV airplane, I still need to keep current while I fly. Most of my flying is touch and goes and some local flying. My currency with the FBO I rent from is up next week, so this weekend we decided we needed to go somewhere. Carolie, who has never flown with me for any significant amount of time, was game for a day trip up to Madeline Island on Lake Superior for lunch. So we launched around 10:30 and by a little after noon, we were walking down the road on Madeline Island heading for the ferry.

It's probably somewhat significant that as we took the ferry back to the island later, an RV-6 circled overhead. Another reason to finish up the RV airplane project -- 3.9 hours of rental : $507. Criminy.

(Change the pictures by clicking the arrows --forward or backward -- below the captions)

Related links:
  • Our trip to Madeline Island last year.
  • Sunrise on Lake Superior.
  • Friday, August 8, 2008

    RV Builder's Hotline schedule

    Now that Oshkosh is over, and the height of the fly-in season has been reached, I'm going to try to gracefully get back to the every-other-week schedule for it. So the next one will/should be out next week.

    It gets a little dicey from there because I have to go to Denver to cover the Democratic National Convention and follow that up with a week in St. Paul for the Republicans. Those are usually 5 or 6 20-hour days and they're back-to-back weeks. Somewhere in there, I've got to carve out some time for producing the Hotline.

    I presume the fact nobody volunteered for either the threadwatcher or submitted any intersting links means I'm on my own, right?

    By the way, are there any RVers in the Denver area who'd like to show me their project. I'm without transportation while I'm there, however.

    Thursday, August 7, 2008

    No turning back

    After weeks of reading, talking to people, and generally procrastinating, I took the plunge and did the first layup of fiberglass on the RV-7A canopy this morning. Previously, I'd added filler to the space where the canopy and skin meets, sanded it down, and cleaned it.

    The problem is the black dye. It's impossible to see air pockets in the one layer of fiberglass I put on (do you people really do this with one long strip? Really? How?). And it wasn't until I got back to the office and looked at the pictures I took that I see all the places the peel ply isn't laying down on top of the glass. I'd squeegeed everything with a credit card but the compound curves make it impossible.

    I'm at least encouraged that the side where it meets the side skirts is going to look better than I thought it was. I think.

    It's only a dinky little 1/2" wide strip of fiberglass that's under that peel ply. And so, the waiting begins.

    No telling what that first layer is going to look like when I pull the peel ply off tomorrow.

    This is really nerve-wracking.

    Wednesday, August 6, 2008

    Airplane Geeks podcast

    Here's a great idea from the folks who do the Airplane Geeks podcast.

    On Sunday, August 10th at 8:00 pm EST, Courtney and Max will be hosting a live, interactive episode of the Airplane Geeks Podcast.

    This episode will be devoted to a discussion of aviation-related social communities, such as blogs, podcasts, forums, and especially emerging communities like We’ll examine the aviation communities available today, where these online communities are headed, and what we’d like to see from them in the future.

    This live “meetup” will be of interest to those who operate these aviation communities, as well as to those who participate in them.

    We will be using for our interactive episode. This requires a free registration if you’d like to participate in the conversation, but anyone can listen live without registration.

    Unfortunately, I won't be able to listen -- at least live. We're going to try to fly up to Madeline Island on Sunday afternoon. So far, the weather looks like a "go."

    Tuesday, August 5, 2008

    The numbers from AirVenture

    Here's a press release that just arrived from the EAA:

    Comment from EAA president Tom Poberezny:

    * "The concern was that 2008 would be less than a banner year, because of questions and challenges in areas such as fuel prices and the economy, but it turned out to be an overwhelming week. Each day on the grounds was filled with outstanding activities that made every day at AirVenture a unique event in itself. This year's "Oshkosh" was the shot of enthusiasm, inspiration, and economic boost that aviation needed."

    Attendance: Estimated 540,000 - A slight decrease from 2007 and nearly equal to 2006's attendance.

    Comment from EAA president Tom Poberezny:

    * "This year's attendance held steady for a variety of reasons, including superb weather, the substantial number of outstanding programs, a large number of aviation innovations unveiled at Oshkosh, and the importance of EAA AirVenture to the aviation community. Initial exhibitor response indicates that the majority of exhibitors reported good to record-setting sales."

    Total aircraft: More than 10,000 aircraft arriving at Wittman Regional Airport in Oshkosh and other airports in east-central Wisconsin.

    Total showplanes: 2,516. That figure includes 972 homebuilt aircraft, 822 vintage airplanes, 404 warbirds, 114 ultralights, 131 seaplanes, 40 aerobatic aircraft and 33 rotorcraft.

    Commercial exhibitors: 797 (up slightly over 2007).

    International visitors registered: Up nearly 25 percent, with 2,128 visitors registered from 71 nations, with Canada (492 visitors), Australia (299) and Brazil (186) the top three nations. (NOTE: This total includes only non-U.S. visitors who register at the International Visitors Tent, so the actual international contingent is undoubtedly larger.)

    Total estimated campers (fly-in and drive-in camping areas): More than 37,000.

    Media: 865 media representatives on-site, from five continents.

    What's ahead in 2009? Comment from EAA president Tom Poberezny:

    * "We are already looking forward to 2009 with the expected attendance of Virgin Galactic's White Knight Two space vehicle, a reunion of participants from Concorde's five visits to Oshkosh over the past 25 years, and a salute to mission aviators who perform humanitarian work around the globe. Visitors in 2009 will also begin to see additional amenities and site upgrades that will make EAA AirVenture 2009 an even better experience and value as The World's Greatest Aviation Celebration."

    EAA AirVenture 2009: July 27-August 2

    Saturday, August 2, 2008

    RV Builder's Hotline -- Oshkosh edition -- is posted

    I've just finished this week's RV Builder's Hotline. It grabs a lot of the stuff I've been posting here for the last eight days or so and tries to make some sense out of it. It also grabs links and information from other sites. Keep in mind that some of the material from the postings for the last week are not in the Hotline, so feel free to check out some of the pages here.

    To get to this week's Hotline, go here. To subscribe -- it's free -- go here.
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