Saturday, November 29, 2008

Installing the "here's where my remains are" machine

The ELT system in the United States is changing. Starting in February, the 121.5 frequency will no longer be monitored. Instead, satellites will monitor the 406 mHz frequency and a new generation of emergency locator transmitters has been created that encodes the aircraft's identity and also makes it possible for rescue people to pinpoint the signal's location to feet (or maybe yards) instead of miles.

I bought the Artex 406 mHZ ELT and paid about $900. Today I checked Aircraft Spruce and it's selling now for almost $2,000. Ridiculous. Van's sells them for $945. Technically I didn't have to go with the new ELT. I could've gone with the old-fashioned 121.5 system. And then it was a question of where to put it. Many RV airplane builders tuck it under the baggage floor, but to me, there's too great of a possibility the baggage area won't withstand a crash well and an ELT won't work. Also, many RVers who put there, run it to a whip antenna that goes on the backside of the rollbar. It might work, although there isn't a sufficient ground plane for the antenna, in my opinon.

Artex's instructions say to put the ELT where it'll survive a crash, and keep the antenna cable run short. So after some discussion on the RV list, which yielded very little in answering my questions (which basically was about a proper ground plane for the antenna) , I visited this site and got the idea for the location from it. I like it.

So today, I built a gizmo for installing it.

As I indicated, I'm going to position the antenna out in the breeze. There's one major problem with this, however. I have a tri-cycle gear RV-7A. An interesting thing happens with tri-cycle gear RV-7As when they crash, they flip on their backs.

It's possible the vertical stabilizer would keep the antenna functioning. There's a switch on the instrument panel to "arm" the ELT. My emergency checklist will include activating the ELT in the event of an emergency, in progression with setting the transponder to 7700 and issuing a mayday on 121.5.

I still have to run 5-conductor shielded wiring to the panel. That should be interesting since I'm running out of room to run wiring through the 705 bulkhead, especially since one pathway is taken up by the manual trim cable. But that's a chore for another day.

Friday, November 28, 2008

What's up at EAA?

I have absolutely no knowledge but if I had to guess, I'd guess there's a little bit of turmoil going on at the publications division of the Experimental Aircraft Assocation. Dave Hirschman Hipschman, left as the editor in chief a few months ago after just two years on the job. And he had replaced Scott Spangler, who I think did a fantastic job with Sport Aviation. That, too, came without much explanation.

Today, the December issue arrived (with a great article on J.W. French). But the EAA Web site has been stuck on October's issue for several months now. That never used to happen.

What it tells me I'm not sure, but it at least tells me that something is going on in Oshkosh that makes me a bit uncomfortable.

An offer too poor to be true

Despite all the protestations to the contrary, aviation is a rich person's game. It's ridiculously expensive and most of the people who do it view themselves as working stiffs, but so do the guys who flew their private jets into Washington a few weeks ago to plead poverty.

The homebuilt airplane community used to be different but now if you don't have $20,000 minimum to soak into your instrument panel, you might as well use the service entrance.

Which is why it was amusing to me to get this offer from Sporty's in my e-mail a few minutes ago. Sporty's is offeringt $1 shipping on the new Garmin 696, a portable GPS which has a price tag of $3,245.

Now, if you can afford to plunk down $3,245 for a portable GPS, do you really care that much about the $9 or $10 you'll save in shipping with this deal? Is this really the make-it-or-break-it point of the sale, Sporty's?

I'll pass and pay the mortgage instead.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Suggested reading: Air mail airplanes

Air & Space Magazine from the Smithsonian has a captivating story and slideshow from the Blakesburg, Iowa fly-in last September airplanes that were once the backbone of the U.S. Mail system. I'll have to put that on my list of things to do in September. The article is called "You've Got Mailplanes."

The Maibs' 'flying' RV-10

I wrote a few days ago that David Maib received his airworthiness certificate for the RV-10 he's been building. Now it's a rootin' tootin' airplane.

David writes:

First flight happened at 4:20 this afternoon at Fleming. 50 minutes later I landed at Airlake after a great flight. All I can say is, keep working on your airplane. The reward is tremendous. The most gratifying thing I have done in a 42 year aviation career.

Interesting. David is probably one of the last people who'll be allowed to make the first flight from Fleming Field in South St. Paul (KSGS). The FAA is concerned that it's too busy an area now for first flights. That crash in Las Vegas in September probably didn't help much.

So I presume the "box" the FAA gave him for 40 hours of flight testing is over Lakeville, a much less populated area, but still a pain in the neck for someone like me who's got a half-built RV-7A in a hangar at KSGS. The thought of having to disassemble it and truck it down to Lakeville is mildly upsetting, but it's just another challenge for a homebuilder.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

David and Mary's RV-10

I'm pretty sure that the RV-10 you see above was but a gleam in the eyes of David and Mary Maib when David stopped by to see my RV-7A project several years ago. But today, David reports, he was given an airworthiness certificate by DAR Tim Mahoney (who is obviously shown here).

It's a gorgeous airplane, hangared just across the field at South St. Paul Airport from that RV-7A project which, if you ask me, probably doesn't look that much further along than when David checked it out back in my garage. By the way, it's got not one, not two, but three Vertical Power 200 units!

The chances are pretty good that you've never met anyone who worked as hard on the RV-10 as David and Mary. If you want an example of dedication, they're it. They were out at the hangar all of the time.

Up until a month or so ago, David was the chief pilot for Target Corporation. But he's cashed out, they've built a home in New Smyrna Beach, Florida. They've sold the hangar to Wip at Wipaire, and after David flies off the -- presumably -- 40 hours, they're blowing this popcorn stand called Minnesota and will live where you don't need to plug your car in at night unless it's an electric vehicle.

So my joy at today's big moment is tempered by the bittersweet awareness that the birthing of the RV-10 will soon be followed by a "goodbye."

By the way, David, are you taking that engine hoist with you? If not, I know a guy nearby who'll buy it.

Friday, November 21, 2008

RV Builder's Hotline for 11/22/08 is posted

The most recent issue of the RV Builders Hotline has just been posted. This week's feature is about airparks and the people who live with their airplanes. You can find the issue here. If you've subscribed to the Hotline, you'll find it in your inbox shortly.

Monday, November 10, 2008

RV Builders BBQ - AirVenture 2009

I've been waiting for my enthusiasm to return to bring back the annual BBQ at Oshkosh for RV builders, pilots and their families. After spending the weekend putting together the latest RV Builder's Hotline, and then spending most of last evening working on the RVator index and reading old issues, I think it has. I'm ready to start planning. (Here's a slideshow of the last BBQ)

Right off the bat, though, we've got significant challenges. First, we have no donors. A few years ago Stein Bruch of SteinAir was kind enough to solicit some of the RV-related companies (or is the phrase "shake down") and surprised me with enough cash to keep the prices down, add a big tent (we'd always held our breath that our $3,000 investment in food and drink wouldn't get washed out, since we didn't do tickets in advance), but in this economy, I'm not sure that's a realistic expectation.

Last year, Van's Aircraft wanted to combine their homebuilder's dinner with the BBQ and we were on our way to doing that, but then that Kitplanes article appeared, there was some pushback at the YahooGroup when I objected to it, and I realized that a few people who had eaten my food, sat on my campsite, drunk my beer decided that there was "friendship line" that I didn't care for. These BBQs consume hundreds of hours of my time before Oshkosh and most of my time during Oshkosh (that picture above is me cleaning up the grounds the next day, which took most of the day), and it seemed like an ungrateful exercise which sapped my enthusiasm. And I'm not sure Van's would want to cast their lot with me again, anyway.

Add to that the fact that a lot of my BBQ friends weren't going to be at Oshkosh in 2008 and, well, it just didn't seem worth doing again.

So we -- I -- have some things to think about before committing to it.

  • Where do we get a grill? Stein, bless his heart, purchased a Coleman Event Grill for us, hauled it over to Oshkosh and back. No charge. That grill has now been donated to EAA Chapter 25 and even if I was allowed to use, I have no way of getting it to Oshkosh. Stein and his gang now rent their luxury waterfront villa. AndI have a Subaru with no tow hitch and no trailer.
  • How do we solve the problem of too many people attending? I think we had over 500 people last time and I don't think it was too many people (except for that one who came referenced earlier; you're not invited this time, fella!), but that's about as far as we want to go and that was with something like $5,000 in donations. We don't have that this time and I no longer have the cash to front thing (actually, I never did, but I have even less of it now).
  • Can the BBQ compete with AirVenture's new strategy of providing night events? Do we have enough people to give up an evening with Jeff Dunham? Or the concert with whatever over-the-hill rock group Ford can rope into coming?
  • Can we round up the old gang of cooks and volunteers?
  • Will the rennnovations at the AirVenture grounds disrupt the ability of people to get out to the campground? It's not like it was easy for them previously.

These aren't exactly the things that keep me up at night, but they are the things that need to be answered before the end of 2008. It really does take that long to put this together.

I'm open to any suggestions. If if you're a big company that wants to write a check for nothing more than a "thank you" (we had already agreed after 2007 that we wouldn't do door prizes; we want people to come because they want to come, not just for the chance to win something), I'm all ears.

I don't post much to the bulletin boards anymore so if you'd like to circulate this, please be my guest.

Update 11/17 - In kicking this around on the YGroup, it seems what we need are some co-chairs. Specifically, the most important would be someone to solicit sponsorships from some in the RV business community as Stein has done in the past. We would need about $3,000 total to accommodate tent and campsite as well as cost of ticketing etc., and that would give us the downpayment for food.

We also need a "facilities" person to help round up grilling equipment, propane tanks, coolers and ice. And maybe find an in-kind sponsor to donate generators for the evening only.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

RV Builder's Hotline posted

Thanks to the miracles of pharmaceuticals and the snowy/drizzly weather of Minnesota, I was able to crank out an RV Builder's Hotline this week afterall. I've been suffering from a terrible pinched nerve in the neck, which made my arms quite painful. But the pain has subsided and the weather put me in the mood to write. Enjoy. And tell a friend.

Closing up

It snowed in Lake Wobegon this week. The geese started flying south -- or at least over to the next lake -- and Minnesotans who are lucky enough to have one, closed up the cabin for the last time. For those of us who have unheated, uninsulated hangars, we "closed up" our getaway spots, too.

The international sign of the end of the RV building season -- at least for me -- in Minnesota is shown above. The whiskey barrel that serves as a rain barrel at the house, gets loaded into my wife's car, and taken to the hangar. This is also the time of the year when I get to apologize to my wife for making her car smell like bourbon.

At this time of the year, a lot of the lawn furniture and other flotsam that occupies my garage in the summer, heads for a corner of the hangar. This year, with an engine arriving and the RV-7A project going up on its gear, and the tail surfaces mounted for the last time (I hope), there's a little less room.

The RV-7A was moved from the side of the hangar back to the middle. I'd moved it earlier this year when James W. French's Acro Sport honored my hangar by staying overnight last summer. Soon the barrel will be surrounded by lawnmowers, and boxes, and whatever other junk needs to get out of my garage so that the car can scoot in for the winter. One of these days, I'd like to figure out how to use all of that wall space there. Rumor has it the airport management will supply all the material if I'd like to drywall things. But I have absolutely no idea how to put drywall up in corrugated aluminum hangar.

But it wouldn't bother me a bit if the management fixes the leak in the roof. The fine cement floor is the same kind used in a hockey arena, and when the rain comes, and then the cold, I've got better ice in the hangar than the Minnesota Wild have at the Xcel Center.

Unfortunately for my neaten-the-house plan, as much stuff ends up coming back from the hangar as goes to the hangar.

Anything that can freeze up -- it'll get to be 20 below in January if history is any guide -- needs to depart the hangar. The fiberglassing season is over until spring, because the epoxy resin needs to come back inside the house. Same with the rattle cans and other touch-up paint bottles. The rear "window" of the RV-7A, which never got touched after it took it to the hangar last spring, is heading back to its perch on a shelf in the former family room, too. There's no reason to leave a piece of acrylic hanging around in a hangar where it might get bumped during the winter.

To be sure, I'm not done working on the RV-7A until spring, but my options are limited. I won't touch the canopy again until spring, but I've still go an electrical system to design and some wires to run. I've got an engine sitting in a crate and a few more holes to punch in the firewall before I mount it -- and, in fact, I'm not really sure at this point what to do next on that front. How much stuff needs to be done on the firewall before you hang an engine? Anyone?

I've purchased a Vertical Power 50, so my electrical system will be a little different. But it's not ready for delivery yet and, presumably, neither are the other components I've ordered from SteinAir (Garmin 327, Dynon 180), and that's OK, because I'm clearly not ready to install it anyway. I don't know if there's a VP-50 installation blog out there yet, so maybe this will be it.

I've got a propane heater in the hangar, but in an uninsulated hangar, that's mostly good for rethawing frozen fingers.

I'll be out to the hangar to "futz around" a little bit here and there, but for the most part the RV airplane building season over the winter will be like other winters: Me sitting on the couch reading AeroElectric Connection again, and wondering what the hell it's talking about.

Spring can't come to Lake Wobegon soon enough.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Temporary hiatus

The RV Builder's Hotline is going on temporary -- hopefully very temporary -- hiatus, but not for the usual reasons. I've developed a very painful nerve problem in my back, which is radiating tremendous pain down both arms. It's a struggle just to type at the computer, especially at home -- which is where the Hotline is written each week.

I'm hoping it'll clear up within the next week or so but there's no way I can get a Hotline out as scheduled this Saturday. My apologies.

However, you can still help. If you see any RV-related items, have some pictures, have tips, please send them to me. You can help lighten the load a bit.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Aerobatic video proven a fake

This is a video that's been making its way around the Internet, in which a plane that lost a wing lands safely. It's fake according to this YouTube video, which appears to be real.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Getting current

My 90-day currency was going to expire in the next few weeks, it was a nice day out, and I wanted to get away from the ridiculous campaign nonsense on all sides. The only way to go is up. I rented a Warrior and flew around the southern edges of the Minneapolis St. Paul Class B, landing over at Fleming Field to check in on the RV project and do a few touch and gos. Here's some images.

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