Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Let the engine installation begin!

I'm going to try to document as best I can a step-by-step guide to installing my IO-360 engine from Mattituck. It's fuel injected, for fixed pitch, one Lightspeed and one mag. At some point in the future, maybe someone else will install an identical engine and this category will pop up in Google. We'll see.

I've found this old article on Van's Air Force very helpful -- The Illustrated Guide to Engine Hanging. It was written by five members of the Tampa RV Builders Group. I especially like the step-by-step of what bolt in the mount goes in when. We'll see how that works. We're tentatively planning on starting that part of the process on Friday.

But I'm an idiot when it comes to engines. I'm learning from scratch. I've got bags of bolts and fittings and I have no idea where they go or what they do. I haven't bought an alternator yet, or an oil cooler, or many other elements of this installation. If I want to stay alive, I have no choice but to become an expert.

Now, if you haven't drilled your engine mount to the firewall yet, you'll find some information on how to do that here.

I've followed the pre-hanging checklist and tonight I made the first adjustments to the engine (photo above). I've inserted VA-128 (oil pressure restrictor fitting) into the rear port, next to where the right magneto would normally be mounted.

This has to be installed now because there's no room to work on it, apparently, once it's mounted on the engine mount. As Tom Berge explained a few weeks ago, you have a choice. there's a port on the side of the engine, or on the rear. It's your choice which one you want to use as long as you choose the rear port.

Thanks to advice from Van's Air Force members, I was able to torque the fitting to 80 inch pounds and got it to be oriented exactly where it needs to be -- pointing out -- basically -- the right wheel.

You use Fuel Lube on this fitting and you insert it, tighten it kind of tight (it won't tighten to its correct orientation, probably. So you remove it, wipe the Fuel Lube off, put more on, repeat. As it gets to about the 11 o'clock position, you'll be able to torque it to its correct amount.

The two tabs that hold on the cover where the magneto would be installed (remember, I'm using a Lightspeed electronic ignition on that side so I don't need a second mangneto), needs to come off so you can get a wrench on the fitting. Just unscrew the bolt and give the square things a tap with a rubber mallet, remove. When you're done, reassemble and torque to about 120 inch pounds.

So what does this fitting do? It attaches a hose up to the manifold transducer so that an oil pressure transducer can send information back to your engine monitor telling you -- hopefully -- that you've got oil pressure. If you just used a regular fitting, and something happened to a hose, all of the oil would come flying out of the fitting, your engine would seize up, and you'd be taking the long way home, if you survive the emergency landing. With the restrictor, the oil will not pour out.

There's another location where a restrictor is required. I haven't taken a picture of it yet, but there's a T-fitting on the side of the engine-driven fuel pump (which comes installed on the Mattituck setup). One hose attaches to the fitting and goes to the throttle. A pressure restrictor goes on the other hole on that fitting and that will attach a hole that goes up -- again -- the transducer manifold to connect to the fuel pressure transducer which will send information to your panel to tell you -- hopefully -- that you've got fuel pressure.

This is really going to be fun. Mattituck, stand by those phones! I'll be calling.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Bob Hoover

I'm one of the fortunate ones. I got to see Bob Hoover do amazing things with an airplane -- without its engines running -- before he retired from show performing. But he wasn't a showman. He was a test pilot.

The worst example of government stupidity was when the FAA tried to ground him because, I guess, of age. He could be a half-step into the next life, and he'd still be miles ahead of most pilots today.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

The hoist

I've been looking around for an engine hoist to use to mount the engine on the RV-7A project. "Somebody must have a hoist you can borrow," people kept telling me. But nobody did.

So, today, I bought one and played Christmas morning on the floor of the hangar.

And... voila!

And it folds up nicely for when I'm not hanging an engine.

It's, no doubt, more hoist than I need. It went for $229 at Northern Tool & Equipment and it can handle 2 tons. That's about 13 airplane engines. But I intend to make it available to other RV builders in the area so when the next person tells someone around here they're looking for an engine hoist, someone can tell them Bob's got one and he'll let you use it.

After I do, of course.

Last call for Oshkosh

I want to finalize the reservation list for the Piece of Grass 2009 "event" at Oshkosh on Wednesday evening during AirVenture. Well, there's actually NO event -- just a big piece of grass and other RV builders, pilots, and people interested.

Find all of the details here.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Picture of the Week

Because of its northern exposure, sunset in summer in Minnesota is quite late. This was a little after 9 o'clock tonight when the sun finally went down at KSGS -- Fleming Field in South St. Paul.

There's no time of the day that isn't a good time to be at an airport, but sunset is particularly glorious. My wife is out of town for two weeks, my dog was put to sleep a couple of weeks ago, and it's darn lonely at the house. Out at the airport, my companion is the RV project and the occasional voice on the scanner announcing downwind for runway 16.

Fewer and fewer voices break the silence as the sun gets lower, and then one stray with a landing light putters toward home. I drop what I'm doing, walk to the edge of the ramp and watch a no-wind, perfect landing after a perfect flare. "Attaboy," I say, and turn back to the hangar with a double determination -- to land as well as that pilot did, and finish an airplane that can take me away from an empty house.

The Dan Lloyd crash

I've been checking the NTSB database every day for 8 months for the report on the 2007 crash of Dan Lloyd in his RV-10. Dan was a good guy and the aftermath of his crash was ugly, with assertions that he'd cut corners on his construction and hadn't properly flown off his hours before scheduling a trip to the Boston area later on the day in which his plane crashed, killing him. I wrote about and reprinted the assertions here.

Here's the factual report, which -- for the record -- is the most extensive NTSB report on an RV crash I've seen in years. The bold sections are the salient points I highlighted:


On November 2, 2007, at 0832 eastern daylight time, an experimental amateur-built Vans RV-10, N289DT, was substantially damaged when it impacted terrain near Greenville, Pennsylvania. The private pilot/builder was fatally injured. Day visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the local flight that departed Greenville Municipal Airport (4G1), Greenville, Pennsylvania. No flight plan was filed for the personal flight conducted under 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 91.

According to a family member, the pilot had driven to the airport to practice "touch and go's" and to make sure everything was functioning properly, prior to a planned afternoon trip in the airplane with his family to Boston, Massachusetts.

Witness interviews were conducted by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the Safety Board, and while no one saw the airplane depart 4G1, the airplane was observed by a witness at approximately 0800 traveling in a northwesterly direction at low altitude, moving "fast" and sounding like it was "running strong like a Ford Mustang (turbocharged) Cobra that the witness once owned." At approximately 0825, the airplane was again observed; this time by multiple witnesses. Descriptions varied between witness statements as to the altitude, direction of flight, and velocity of the airplane; however, the preponderance of witness statements were that the airplane was flying north on the east side of Pennsylvania State Route 58, and seemed to make a circle to the left at approximately 500 feet above ground level (agl). It was next observed to travel in a westerly direction, fly across Route 58 and make another turn to the left with the engine "revving up and down" and losing altitude. When it reached approximately 50-feet agl, heading east, the airplane rolled wings level and impacted a cornfield and a fireball erupted.


The pilot held a private pilot certificate, with a rating for airplane single engine land. His most recent FAA third class medical certificate was issued on March 14, 2006. According to his pilot logbook, he had accrued 221.4 total hours of flight experience.


The experimental amateur-built airplane, was a four place, low wing monoplane. It was equipped with a non-certificated Eggenfellner E6T/220, water cooled, fuel injected, turbo-charged, 220 horsepower, six cylinder engine. The airplane's special airworthiness certificate was issued on July 10, 2007.


A weather observation taken about 23 minutes after the accident at Port Meadville Airport (GKJ), Meadville, Pennsylvania, located about 14 nautical miles northeast of the accident site, recorded the winds as 090 degrees at 4 knots, visibility 10 miles, sky clear, temperature 1 degree Celsius, dew point -2 degrees Celsius, and an altimeter setting of 30.36 inches of mercury.


Examination of the accident site by an FAA inspector revealed that a post impact fire had ensued. The airplane had come to rest inverted on route 58. Further examination of the accident site revealed that the airplane had impacted in a 35 to 60 degree nose down attitude. An approximately 100-foot debris path extended from the point of impact in the cornfield to the shoulder of Route 58.

The left wing was bent aft at the root with evidence of aft bending along the length of the wing panel. The right wing exhibited compression damage in an aft direction from the wingtip inboard, for approximately one third of its length. The empennage was intact but was partially separated from the fuselage just aft of the rear window location, lying forward of the left wing tip, and was found inverted from its normal mounting position.

The engine and firewall were separated from the fuselage and the majority of the hoses and belts had been consumed or were heavily fire damaged. Three of the four composite propeller blades were found at the initial impact point and one was found under the main wreckage.

Post recovery examination of the wreckage by the National Transportation Safety Board revealed no evidence of any preimpact failures of the airframe. The doors were closed and latched during the impact sequence, the structure had experienced heavy impact damage and tumbling, and the upper and lower baggage bulkheads were missing.

Engine Examination

Examination of the engine, and propeller speed reduction unit (PSRU), revealed no evidence of any preimpact mechanical malfunctions. Both engine timing chains were intact, the crankshaft was rotated by hand, and drive train continuity was confirmed. The PSRU contained oil, and rotated freely. Compression was obtained on all cylinders. Oil was present throughout the lubrication system. The intake and exhaust systems were compromised and exhibited breaks in the tubing. The turbocharger waste gate was closed and the turbocharger could be rotated by hand. All of the sparkplugs were intact.

Propeller System Examination

The airplane was equipped with a 4-blade, in-flight adjustable, constant speed propeller. It consisted of an electric variable pitch hub manufactured by Quinti Avio, which was mated to the composite propeller blades manufactured by Sensenich.

Examination of the propeller hub and the remains of the propeller blades revealed no evidence of preimpact mechanical malfunction. Further examination of the propeller assembly revealed that the four composite propeller blades were separated at the 4-inch blade radius station, which corresponded to the positions of the hub barrel clamps.

Examinations of the blade surfaces indicated that the blades were not in rotation at time of impact. The electric pitch control motor end bell and exterior nylon slide exhibited severe melting. The blade retention nuts were also found tightened approximately 1/4 inch tighter than the index marks scribed on the hub. This however, did not appear to affect the pitch rotation friction. Disassembly of the propeller hub revealed that the pitch motor gearbox was intact and immobile, (as designed) and held the last pitch angle selected when under no electrical load. Examination of the blade shank assemblies, bearings, and pitch slide assembly revealed no anomalies, and measurements of the propeller pitch setting corresponded to a high pitch (cruise) setting.

Examination of the propeller control

Examination of the propeller controller revealed that it was not the propeller controller that was manufactured by the propeller manufacturer. Instead, a manual electric pitch change system had been installed that consisted of a double pole panel mounted switch that could change the polarity to the electric hub motor. The motor could either run clockwise or counterclockwise from fine to coarse pitch. It was incapable of monitoring propeller rpm, and could not maintain the propeller at a constant speed by automatically varying blade pitch angle.

Fuel System Examination

Examination of the fuel system revealed that all fuel filler caps were closed and latched and the fuel selector valve was in the right fuel tank position.

Instrument Panel Examination

Examination of the instrument panel revealed that the airplane was equipped with a dual screen Chelton Flight Systems Electronic Flight Information System (EFIS), A Dynon Avionics D10A backup EFIS, Dual Garmin SL-30 navigation and communication radios, a Garmin 496 Global Positioning System (GPS), and a Grand Rapids Technologies Engine Information System (EIS) monitor.

Further examination revealed that the panel switches were positioned for flight. The "X-TIE" switch was in the off position, The "FUEL" switch was in the "ON" position, the "IGNITION" switch was in the "ON" position, the "FUEL SELECTOR" (electric fuel pumps) switch was in the "MAIN" position, and the "BUSS SELECTOR" switch was in the "ON/MAIN" position.

Flight Control System Examination

Examination of the flight control system revealed no evidence of any preimpact failures. Control continuity was established from the ailerons, elevator, and rudder, to the breaks in the system, which displayed evidence of tensile overload.

Further examination of the flight control system revealed that, the outboard ends of the ailerons had been filled with foam and then fiberglass had been used to seal in the foam. A trim tab for the rudder was discovered to be attached with duct tape. The lock nuts which were used on the rod ends for the pitch control system could be spun by hand and were not tightened against the rod ends, and were found on the threaded portion of the rods approximately 1/4 inch away from what would be their normal seated positions. The right trim tab rod on the elevator was connected to its rod end by two threads and was shorter than the trim tab rod for the left trim tab. It displayed evidence that the end of the trim tab rod at one time had broken off, and then had been re-inserted into the rod end, as the rest of the threaded portion was not present.

Electrical System Examination

The remains of the batteries and contactor relays were located in the center tunnel area of the cabin.

Examination of the remains of the electrical system revealed that the batteries and contactor relays had been exposed to the post impact fire.

Multiple wires showed no evidence of having being connected prior to impact. Examination of the cableing connected to the electrical system's contactor relays, revealed that a cable was not secured to its corresponding terminal on the contactor relay.

Further examination revealed that the terminal bore no evidence of dimpling or indentation and its interior surface was sooted.


An autopsy was performed on the pilot by the Office of the County Coroner, Mercer County, Pennsylvania. The cause of death was attributed to multiple blunt trauma.

Toxicological testing of the pilot was conducted at the FAA Bioaeronautical Sciences Research Laboratory, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. The tests were positive for ibuprohen.


Global Positioning System Data

Information downloaded from the airplane's Global Positioning System (GPS)unit revealed that a tracklog for the accident flight had been recorded. Based on GPS groundspeed and altitude, the accident airplane took off from 4G1 at approximately 0812 edt. The airplane than manuevered in the area surrounding the airport. It landed at 4G1 at 0825 edt and departed again at 0827. It than climbed to an altitude of 2,400 feet GPS altitude, and reached a groundspeed of 152 knots before descending in a left hand spiral above Pennsylvania State Route 58. The final tracklog point was located just west of the roadway. The last recorded GPS groundspeed was 71 knots, the last reported heading was 118.7 degrees, and the last recorded GPS altitude was 1,366 feet.

Engine Builder Information

According to the engine builder, unlike "older engines" which used carburetors, magnetos, and mechanical fuel pumps, the engine required a constant and stable source of electricity to operate the fuel injection, fuel pumps, and engine control computer.

The pilot had installed a fuel filter on the upper pilot side of the firewall prior to the engine being installed. During the installation, the pilot discovered that the filter would not clear one of the diagonal engine mounting tubes, providing the main support for the nose wheel, and removed it. Rather than relocate the filter to another location, the fuel feed line, from the high-pressure fuel pumps, was run through a nylon grommet in the firewall. This penetration, as well as the fuel return line, was at the front of the center tunnel.

The battery and contactor relay location was on top of the high-pressure fuel pumps and next to where the fuel feed line and fuel return line came through the firewall.

Instrument Panel Builder Information

According to the instrument panel builder, The EFIS alarm levels had not been set up by the pilot for his specific engine installation and degradation of performance in the EIS had also occurred, as the pilot had not calibrated the "PR" (Pulses per revolution) for RPM, The "K Factor" (Scaling factor) for fuel flow, and The Fuel Level Calibration. This would have resulted in erroneous readings for rpm, fuel flow, fuel quantity, and multiple nuisance alarms.

Examination of Recovered Logbooks

During examination of the wreckage, the remains of the accident pilot's logbook and the airplane's maintenance logbook were recovered.

Examination of the pilot's logbook revealed no evidence of the training required by the FAA for operation of an airplane with an engine of more than 200 horsepower.

Examination of the airplane's maintenance logbook revealed that on July 10, 2007, the FAA issued a special airworthiness certificate allowing operation of the airplane.

Seven days later, on July 17, 2007, the pilot certified in the maintenance logbook that the prescribed 40 hours of test flying required by the FAA had been completed however, no record of separate entries for each of the test flights was discovered. The pilot also certified on that date that the airplane was controllable throughout its normal range of speeds and maneuvers, and that it had no hazardous characteristics or design flaws and that it was safe for operation. The pilot additionally certified that he had demonstrated by flight test, the operating data for the airplane and the weight and balance data.

No maintenance entries regarding removal or installation of equipment, or repair or alteration of the airplane or engine subsequent to the date of the issuance of the special airworthiness certificate were discovered.

FAA Airworthiness Records

A review of FAA airworthiness records revealed that the pilot was only authorized to operate the airplane for the first 40 hours within an area around 4G1, including a corridor to Harry Clever Field Airport (PHD), New Philadelphia, Ohio. During this 40 hours, he was to remain clear of densely populated areas and congested airways, and during the flight testing phase, no person should have been carried in the airplane during flight, unless that person was essential to the purpose of the flight.

Review of the FAA airworthiness records also revealed that the weight and balance data supplied to the FAA differed from the weight and balance information in the airplane's maintenance logbook. These differences included differing centers of gravity and a difference in empty weight.

Witness Statements and Interview Summaries

During the course of the investigation the Safety Board conducted a series of interviews, and reviewed witness statements, photographs, and emails. The following is a summary of the information obtained.

According to friends and other builders, the pilot was impatient with the time it was taking to do everything, and he was pushing to get the airplane assembled and flying in time for the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) convention at Wittman Regional Airport, (OSH) Oshkosh, Wisconsin. This resulted in the pilot doing such things as requesting the instrument panel builder to send the panel "as quickly as possible," and traveling to the engine builder's facility to pick up the engine instead of waiting for shipment.

On July 12, 2007, the airplane's first flight occurred with Clecos (temporary fasteners) holding the upper aft portion of the cowling in place and with a passenger onboard. Total duration of the flight was 40 minutes.

On July 13, 2007 the pilot emailed an RV builders group that he was a member of stating that, he had 39 hours and 20 minutes left to fly off, and that if he "followed the plan" he would "make it with a little to spare," and thought that he would complete the 40 hours of test flying and make it to OSH for the convention.

On that day, the pilot added approximately another 1.5 hours flight time towards the 40-hours but the engine experienced some high oil temperatures so the pilot decided to fly the airplane down to the engine builder's facility at Massey Ranch Airpark (X50), New Smyrna Beach, Florida

On July 14, 2007, the pilot and the engine builder departed 4G1 for X50.

On the trip to Florida, they experienced the high oil temperatures, and experienced slower than anticipated cruise speeds of less than 140 knots. They also experienced vibrations that they were unsure of the origin of.

During the trip, the pilot contacted a friend and asked him how to disable "Bitching Betty." The pilot complained that the aural alarms were annoying him, and wanted to know how to silence all of them. The friend advised him that once the pilot finished calibrating his EFIS and alarm set points during his test flights, they would be in the green most of the time, and that he would not be bothered so much as the alarms would only go off when out of the specified green range. The friend also advised him that it was up to him to set the proper ranges, and to make sure his sensors were setup and calibrated properly, so the readings were correct. He also advised him that once he did all that, he should not receive many false alarms. It was at this point that the pilot's friend realized that the pilot had never calibrated any of his avionics, so the headings were off, the engine alarms were being triggered all of the time, that he had no pitot test, and that he was having issues with choosing to display propeller rpm or engine rpm.

A transponder was also inoperative part of the time, and since neither of the EFIS systems were working, as they had not been calibrated, they had to navigate to X50 utilizing a handheld GPS. They had decided just to plug their headsets in using some alternative method to avoid having to listen to alarms, and had to swap plugs to make radio calls as the push to talk switch had been broken off of the pilot's control stick. The autopilot was also non-operational as it had not been connected to the pitot static system, and the rpm and manifold pressure readouts were inaccurate due to installation of the wrong sensor and entry of the wrong scaling factor.

Sometime prior to July 19, 2007, one of the pilot's friends learned that the pilot had not correctly completed the weight and balance on the airplane, and that he had used his friend's weight and balance data from his RV-10 and had modified it to be roughly what he believed his plane's weight and center of gravity would be. The pilot's friend thought that this was entirely ridiculous, especially after the pilot told him how much lighter his engine installation and propeller would be. As a result, on July 19, 2007 the pilot's friend posted a message on an RV builders forum, trying to urge the pilot to tell people how his weight and balance had turned out. He later learned that on the flight to X50, the pilot became aware, that his center of gravity was too far aft, and decided to eventually move the battery forward.

The friend later learned that the pilot was also disappointed in the airplane's cruise speed on the trip and that the pilot had expected "much more" from the engine and the 4-bladed propeller.

When the pilot flew the airplane to OSH, he did so with 2 blades of the 4-bladed propeller removed. The engine was planned to be turbocharged, but the turbocharger had not been completed, so prior to the flight to the OSH and while the airplane was still in Florida, they flew the airplane for all of the preliminary flights, and for many weeks after, without the turbocharger. Then on the trip to OSH from X50, he had a failure of a bracket that suddenly caused high oil temperatures, which grounded him in Kentucky until he could get some parts to fabricate a new bracket at a local store.

At OSH the pilot claimed that he had approximately 48 hours on the airplane. They removed the cowling during the show because they had made many cowling modifications to try to increase cooling which resulted in areas of unfinished fiberglass on the edges. He and the engine builder then displayed the airplane and engine and tried to attract buyers for the engine package. When one other builder stated to the pilot that "There's no way you could have completed your fly off yet." The pilot's response was "That's not what the logbooks say."

After OSH, they wanted to do some more work on the airplane so instead of heading to Pennsylvania; the airplane was flown back to X50 for the work. The airplane stayed at X50 until sometime in mid-October, 2007. During this time, they did cowling development work and installed a cowl flap to try and fix the cooling problems, and clean up the cosmetics. The temperatures were lower with the redesigned cowl and cowl flap. Towards the very end of the work in Florida, the turbocharger was finally ready, so they installed it. They took it up to 14,000 feet above mean sea level and compared the performance of the airplane to a set of performance numbers that had been produced during a series of flights with Lycoming engine equipped RV-10s. In the process of getting their performance numbers, the turbocharger, was damaged so the failed unit was replaced.

When they did their performance tests, they took photographs of the Chelton EFIS installation as proof of the airplane's performance but, the photos also captured evidence that the Attitude and Heading Reference System (AHRS) was not calibrated, it was set up to display information from a Strike Finder digital lightning detection unit though the pilot did not have one installed, the heading was off by approximately 30 degrees, the skid indicator on the primary flight display did not agree with the skid indicator displayed on the Dynon D10A, and the ENGINE and AUX SENSOR alarm messages were being displayed.

Around October 10, 2007 some performance numbers for the airplane were posted on the Internet, and somewhere around this date a video was posted on the Internet, which showed the pilot and a friend departing X50 for 4G1.

The pilot then flew the plane up the east coast to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. After spending the night, he and the friend flew the following day to Maryland and then to Taunton, Massachusetts where the pilot "came in long" and had to execute a go-around, during which the propeller would only develop approximately 1900 rpm. They then came back around for another landing without incident. The pilot then spent the night at his friend's "place," and the following morning flew to 4G1.

When the airplane arrived at 4G1, an airframe and powerplant mechanic observed the airplane join the downwind leg of the traffic pattern and could hear what to him sounded like the propeller was "cycling."

At one point within 2 or 3 weeks of the accident, the pilot called a friend and told him that he was having problems with power and propeller rpm control. The friend was surprised and wondered why this was happening with a constant speed propeller. The pilot advised him that it was because the engine builder had not yet finished designing the propeller control unit. He had to manually make power adjustments, which would change the engine and propeller rpm greatly. With the propeller now changing pitch, it would effect the propeller rpm drastically, and he would then have to manually move a prop pitch lever to bring the propeller rpm to its desired setting. As a result, every power increase or power reduction required a corresponding adjustment of the propeller.

Also in the last few weeks before the accident the pilot emailed him that he thought his Chelton EFIS wasn't displaying correctly. He said he had indicated 2300 Gs (G-forces) when flying with his wife, and emailed him a photograph of the display.

It was later revealed, that the pilot was reading "2300G" which meant the airplane was at 2,300 feet above ground level based on GPS altitude. His friend then realized that the pilot had never really read through any of the operations manuals for his avionics. The pilot had also previously complained that on his trip to X50 his autopilot didn't work, and criticized an avionics dealer for not telling him that he had to connect the pitot and static lines to his autopilot, though it was listed in the manual as part of the installation procedures for the autopilot.

On October 25, 2007, he emailed his friend and stated:

"Eww I am an idiot!! I had no clue because yesterday I was at 6000ft and it did the same thing, listing 2330 g's with the same reading, and then tumbled to the right. I am scared of it and that is why I have not been using it. It is difficult for me to process everything it is telling me. I can understand some of it, but then it starts putting up all this other stuff and it is just easier for me to look out the window for now. But I do need to learn it so I can feel comfortable before I ask an instructor to fly with me. I called .... and he said it is because I have not calibrated it, for that matter this is the first couple of times I have turned it on for anything. So yes I need to read the manuals and build many hours using it before I get in the clouds. I need a lot of help to learn all of this stuff because I am not having a clue on how to do it. Definitely a case of money versus intelligence. But I have to learn it to use it. Does that mean I can come up and get some lessons? Or do you know anyone who will teach behind it? I have been using the Dynon and G496 because they are easy. Everything else is still uncalibrated, including the AP etc. I am definitely behind the power curve on this and need help! And they say that is the first step to recovery, realizing that there is an issue and asking for help!"

His friend once again advised him that he really needed to "read the manuals," and offered suggestions regarding training.

The pilot followed up with another reply:

"I just got off the phone with .... and he said it is like trying to drink from a fire hose, and I tend to agree. I need to get my hands around flying the airplane and getting everything calibrated. Then I can sit down and read the complete manuals. I have read the first 4 chapters of the Chelton manuals but that is just basic symbology and the tapes, and those I do understand. If you take all of my owners manuals and stack them up they are over 3 feet high! I am lucky the dynon and 496 are already familiar because I can use them to navigate and get myself out of trouble if absolutely necessary. Remember I have only flown a Cherokee 140 for 200 hours, so I am learning how to fly high perf stuff too, I feel more comfortable, but still learning the Egg stuff/ and the variable pitch prop is also more stuff to learn. I am getting there and in a couple of hundred more hours I will maybe be ready to start IFR training again. I have passed the written, and have 10 hours towards it, but with the new plane I can already tell it will be time to start over. Right now I am working on how to slow down and make sure I have enough pitch on the prop for a go around, once that is done, I will move up the ladder a rung and work on additional stuff. Calibration, troubleshooting other electronics etc is also going on at the same time ...and you both say I have to just laugh at myself and the various issues I am having because everyone has something or another happen. But it just seems like lately I am way out of my comfort zone and clawing my way back in."

His friend replied in part that:

"No prob. You're right, there's a lot of stuff there to learn even without the avionics... The -10 is high performance, slippery, and there's a LOT going on with the C/S prop and engine stuff.

I would encourage you to calibrate a.s.a.p. because you really will be hindered in improving skills and having the experience go well until that's done. Things like Bitchin' betty are there for a reason, and just flying without them will not add to the safety. It would be better to HAVE the warnings when they happen, but have them happen appropriately. None of it is that hard to set up, but it all takes time.

I flew 70-100 hours before I did anything other than normal stuff for the most part. Just take your time."

On November 1, 2007, the day before the accident, the pilot once again emailed his friend asking:

"What speeds do you carry on base and final when at max load? I am taking the family on our first trip and I am being paranoid but this is the first time I have taken more than 1 passenger. So just doing due diligence."

His friend replied back advising what airspeeds he used, and the pilot replied back to him that:

"Good that has been what I have been flying, but I float awhile and was thinking I was carrying to much speed because .... had us carry 70 mph on final, and since I switched to knots I was thinking that was my issue, but until I get allot more comfortable I will bleed the speed over the runway, instead of slowing on the approach, much safer in my mind! Going to the airport to redo W&B after I moved the batteries forward, then I get to fly this afternoon and tomorrow to get ready to take the family to Boston on Saturday! THX for being there for questions, it is always good to have a friend that can double check my thoughts."

At approximately 2300 another friend also spoke with him. The pilot advised him that he had determined that the weight and balance was wrong and had moved the batteries forward but the battery cables were also wrong and he did not have a battery terminal crimping tool, and was using a big set of channel locks to crimp with."


FAA Guidance

According to the FAA, after an FAA inspector inspects an amateur built airplane, the inspector will issue a set of operating limitations. Those limitations then become regulations for operation of the airplane and are part of the special airworthiness certificate. The airworthiness certificate that is issued at the time of the inspection contains two phases. Phase 1 is the initial flight testing phase of the aircraft, and Phase 2 lists the operating limitations that go into effect upon completion of the flight testing. Phase 2 applies for the duration of the certificate.

14 CFR Part 91.305 defines a flight test area and states that flight testing must occur over sparsely populated areas having light air traffic.

14 CFR Part 91.319 provides a listing of operating limitations. The flight test area is defined within the Phase 1 limitations along with the required number of hours that the airplane must be flown. The primary restrictions regarding flight testing are: (1) no passengers, (2) day, visual flight reference only, (3) no operation over congested areas, (4) the pilot must also advise ATC that they are experimental, and (5) the pilot must have the appropriate ratings. It also requires that in order to have the Phase 1 restrictions lifted they must prove that the aircraft has no hazardous operating characteristics and that it is controllable throughout its normal range of speeds and maneuvers.

14 CFR Part 21.93 requires that any major changes that are made to an airplane require inspection by the FAA prior to further flight.

AC 90-89A Provides guidance regarding flight testing and includes information for determining the weight and balance of the airplane.

Kit Manufacturers Guidance

As part of the kit that the pilot purchased from the airplane kit manufacturer, guidance regarding crimping of wiring was provided.

The kit manufacturer's "Finish Kit Contents" also provided guidance for determining weight and balance, as well as guidance for final inspection and flight test.

Engine Builders Guidance

Guidance was also provided by the engine builder regarding electrical connections in both the E6-Series Powerplant Installation Guide (Chapter 3: Electrical Installation) and in the Eggenfellner Subaru Electrical Systems Installation Document (Creating Good Cable Connections).

It's important to note that this is not the final report. In fact, it's clear the NTSB is paying much more attention to this accident than most general aviation accidents. And it's pretty clear why. This is not the type of report you want to read; and although it doesn't assign blame, it is the factual report and for everyone who is building an RV, it has more than enough lessons in it.

I'll also point out that when you ask a builder "when are you going to get this thing flying," or when you post to or start a thread on VAF or other bulletin boards chiding builders to "hurry up and get finished," you're not helping the cause of safety. Not one bit.

Kitplanes subscriptions

I love -- love -- Kitplanes Magazine. Stein Bruch's latest article on keeping wires tidy is a must read, especially for me. When I got home last night after a few hours of tidying up wires, there was Stein's article waiting for me with things I hadn't thought about.

But Kitplanes' -- Belvoir's, actually -- marketing has always been among the most questionable of the aviation magazines I subscribe to. It's generally BS in an industry -- advertising and marketing -- known for BS.

There's the guy who generally treats people poorly, who sits in the subscription booth at airshows and signed me up for a year's subscription. Then when I got home, I got four back issues and a subscription that expiree in 8 months. Terrible.

Now, take the e-mail I got this morning -- "special savings for AVWEB members!" (Click image to be able to read it)

Some special deal! It won't last long. It sounds almost exclusive, doesn't it?

Here are two of the million subscription cards that fell out of the issue that arrived yesterday:

It's the same deal. But is it "a deal" at all? Not much.

Here's the subscription card from last August's issue:

It's a savings, actually, of 50 cents an issue. Ten issues never cost subscribers $49.90. It cost subscribers $20.80, a deal that saves subscribers $4.90 a year. That's not much to get excited about. And even the company's masthead says the regular subscription price is $29.95 a year (which -- by the way -- is what you're charged when you go to kitplanes.com to subscribe), not $49.90( which is the single-copy price).

"That's so low, it's like getting 6 issues free" the flyer says.

Not it's not. Not even close.

But the real question is why the subscription period is 10 issues now, and not 12? Is the company just using those numbers to make the subscripion seem significantly cheaper? Or is the company planning on reducing the number of issues it prints each year?

The fact the math is compared to a "year's" subscription cost (false as it is) means that it's cutting two issues, although the masthead still says Kitplanes is "published monthly," so perhaps not.

None of this, of course, is unique to magazine publishing. A few years ago, airlines stopped posting round-trip fares, posting one-way costs instead to make it look cheaper than it really was.

As with everything else, buyer beware.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

RV accident reports 6/23/09

Ripped from the NTSB database:

Texas - Probable cause determined (6/22/09) in the 4/4/09 incident in Angleton in which an RV-8 crashed on take-off. Cause: Pilot's failure to maintain clearance from trees. (More)

The pilot of the first airplane was observed doing a roll during climb-out. The second airplane climbed out normally. As the third and accident airplane was on initial climbout the airplane was observed to do a roll. As the airplane's wings rolled back to a level attitude, the airplane impacted into trees and subsequently the ground. The pilot exited the airplane unassisted, but was later airlifted to a hospital. Following the accident, continuity was established to all of the airplane's flight controls. Due to the pilot's injuries, he could not be interviewed by investigators or submit an accident report form.

Oklahoma - Probable cause determined (6/22/09) in the 8/11/08 fatal crash of an RV-6A. Ronald Dickey of Tennessee died in the crash. Here's a news clipping from last year. Here's the NTSB report.

The instrument-rated pilot was flying under visual flight rules on a cross-country flight and encountered instrument meteorological conditions. A review of the pilot's logbook showed that he had not flown in actual instrument conditions for over five years. The pilot last logged simulated instrument time during his flight review in February, 2007, and prior to then had not logged simulated instrument time since September, 2004. According to the pilot's wife, she thought that the airplane was equipped for instrument flight, but this could not be verified. Radar data showed the airplane changing altitude and making large heading changes during the last ten minutes of flight. The last four radar returns showed the airplane descending in a right turn from 8,500 feet msl to zero altitude in 23 seconds. Witnesses heard the airplane engine running and saw the airplane exit the clouds in a steep nose-down attitude and impact the terrain. Examination of the airplane disclosed no preimpact anomalies. The airplane's turning ground track and the challenging visibility conditions were conducive to the onset of pilot spatial disorientation. The airplane's rapid, near-vertical descent is consistent with the pilot's loss of control of the airplane because of spatial disorientation.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident as follows:
The pilot's improper decision to continue flight under visual flight rules into an area of reduced visibility weather conditions, which resulted in the pilot's spatial disorientation and subsequent loss of aircraft control. Contributing to the accident was the pilot's lack of recent experience flying in instrument conditions.


NM Nose gear collapsed on an RV-8A while landing in Angel Fire on Sunday. (More) Possible registration data here.

CA: An RV-8A flipped over while landing in Cameron Park last Friday. (More) Possible registration data here.

OR: RV-6 struck landing lights while landing in Hillsboro last Monday. (More)

Update 5:07 p.m. CT 6/21/09 - Two are dead in the crash of an RV in Cottonwood, AZ.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Incident at KPVD

Count the mistakes in this incident at KPVD. And put me in the club that's really scared by a pilot who says "hi" at the beginning of a transmission to the tower in this situation.

RV Daytripping

It was a big weekend for using that big thing with the stubby wings.

  • On Saturday, the annual Boone, Iowa RV fly-in was held. And, sonofagun, RVs flew in. Pete Howell posted pictures on VAF. A gaggle of them are posted here.

  • Dave Gamble at PapaGolf Chronicles flew to Oxford, Ohio with his dad. Nice. And what's not to like about an airport with a building like this?

  • Mark Burns flew to Dauphin Island, AL.

  • Photos of the 18th Annual RV fly-in Scappoose, OR. have been posted here.

    By the way, in June's EAA Chapter 25's (Minneapolis) newsletter, Peter Denny has an article on how to photograph your airplane.

    Beautiful RV-4 for sale. $45,000. Details here.

    Piece of Grass 2009 Update: About 33 people have signed up for the Wednesday night Oshkosh do-nothing.


    Where should you install your Fuel Flow transducer in an RV? (RV-List)


    I want to know more about the hangar set-up for this RV-7A.

    And you'll always remember the first time.


    The Dynon remote compass has now been installed. The wiring to the aft fuselage has been secured. It's time to rivet on the aft top skin. So tonight, my youngest son, Patrick, will meet me at the hangar after work and we'll rivet it on.
  • Sunday, June 21, 2009

    RV Fuel tank modifications

    A new RV Builder's Hotline article from Kevin Faris.

    If you have ever flown the Piper Cherokee 140’s you learned to appreciate the “tabs” inside the fuel tanks. If you filled the tanks above the tabs you have a two passenger airplane with four seats. Over the years several pilots have commented to me on how nice it would be to be able to accurately know how much fuel is on board. It seemed to me it would be really easy to do this in an RV where you build the tanks and seal them yourself. (Read the article)

    Saturday, June 20, 2009

    Today on Planet RV - 6/20/2009

    Watch the birdies!

    Doug Weiler, who runs the Twin Cities RVator group, found the birds in Put-in-Bay, Ohio are quite active. He found this mess after just two days. A trip report is on the Minnesota wing's Web site. (More)


    Oshkosh arrival - How many take the high route (VAF)
    Since RVs are faster than most planes, what are we doing down with the slowpokes?

    New wheel bearings could use more grease (VAF)
    One RVators experience after the first hours

    Inspection camera
    Harbor Freight's sale (AeroElectric List)

    Tube/tire advice
    When you're ready to replace the tubes that came with the kit, what are better choices? (RV List)

    Rear baggage wall access panel
    How to make it easier for access to the baggage wall area. (RV-10 List)



    Gary Sobek's images
    Pete Howell's day trip to Olivia, MN.


    CA: Santa RosaProbable cause released in the 3/17/09 incident in which an RV-4 nosed over after a bounced landing. (More)

    Plane crashes in Cameron Park (Folsom Telegraph)
    Pilot speaks about fatal crash (TimesDaily.com)
    Minnesota Wing's June 2009 newsletter
    Includes an article on landing gear fairing repair.

    IA: Boone. The annual RV fly-in is underway. Please send any pictures or information.

    Friday, June 19, 2009

    Minnesota's reliever airports

    Minnesota's Metropolitan Airports Commission has produced separate videos to highlight six reliever airports.

    Here's the one I drive to -- 45 minutes each way -- even though there's one a stone's throw from where I live (I like the FBO here).

    The airport where I have the RV project -- Fleming Field in South St. Paul -- is not a MAC airport.

    But, you know, with so much talent out there on Planet RV, how cool would it be to collect short features on the airport you fly out of?

    Thursday, June 18, 2009

    How to solder

    Just in the nick of time, more tips from EAA on electrical work. Some people are born to solder. Some of us aren't.

    Dick Kohler taught the EAA Sport Aviation workshop at Oshkosh I went to a few winters ago.

    Here's the RV Builder's Hotline article I wrote about it

    Wednesday, June 17, 2009

    Installing the VP-50 control box

    With an electrical system design (mostly) completed, and with the wires to the back of the airplane (mostly) run, allowing me to button up the top skins, I'm getting down to brass tacks on the electrical system.

    Last night at the hangar, I mounted the Vertical Power VP-50 control unit.

    It's mounted on two pieces of .063 angle that tie the ribs together. You'll note, too, that doing it this way also allows me to add more Adel clamps for wires heading to the panel from the conduit that runs up the firewall. The more Adel clamps, the better.

    You'll also note, as an aside, that I didn't prime the subpanel components. Why not? Somewhere along the line, I read someone's Web site that they'd wished they'd painted the subpanel white so it would be easier to see up under there. So I figured I'd keep it mostly unpainted and allow the light to reflect to see better later on. Whether this ends up serving any purpose, I don't know.

    As you can see, I have a nice "approach" to the VP-50. This is the shot of the connection for the cord that connects to the control unit in the panel.

    I still have more research to do on the full electrical system design. For example, I was reading last night that Lightspeed wants me to wire directly to the battery, whereas it's possible to wire via Vertical Power and have a backup available to switch to a different circuit should I lose the VP. I'm thinking that's the way to go.

    I have an order coming from B&C (by the way, why does it take B&C just two days to get my UPS shipment to me and it takes Van's almost a full week?) which will have the wires and connections I need to wire the VP-50 to the battery.

    In any event, I'm hoping the blog will be a good source of information for people considering the VP-50. Just use the Vertical Power category.

    Monday, June 15, 2009

    Filling the panel

    I've been spending a ridiculous amount of time on cutting the panel and getting the jig lined up right for the screw hole locations for the steam (round)gauges. But most of the cutting is done (I still have to put a master switch in and a few other things) but the initial filling of the panel is going pretty well.

    With the panel mostly cut, I'm ready to put the Vertical Power control box back in and start significant wiring once I get a gizmo to crimp on a #8 terminal ring to bring power from the battery contactor to the Vertical Power system. You can see I've put in the instrument panel Vertical Power interface, which is about as easy as it gets -- a bracket, a thumbscrew and -- voila! This system brings a solid state approach to aircraft avionics instead of fuses, circuit breakers and switches.

    This is not a show-stopping panel but you know what? The more I look at it, the more I love how I have it arranged for the way I fly. And thanks to Doug Weiler, Tom Berge, and Stein Bruch's presentation a few years ago, I've got everything fitting tightly but efficiently in the panel.

    It's a very exciting time. I'll be hanging the engine in a few weeks, the wiring to the rear of the ship is layed, the skin is ready to be riveted on back there and things are moving right along to the point where I'm starting to think 2011 might be the year.

    Wednesday, June 10, 2009

    No Hotline

    This weekend is a publication date for the RV Builder's Hotline, but I won't be publishing this weekend. I've got nothing to pass along; no tips, no pictures, no newsletters, no articles. I haven't found enough to fill an issue and most everything I've found interesting this week I found through the daily glance at Van's Air Force and there's no need to aggregate RV-building material if the only place it's appearing these days is on VAF.

    The Hotline doesn't compete with VAF nor did I intend to push out an edition just because I had to.

    You know that ad where the guy is browsing the Internet and he comes to a screen that says "You have reached the end of the end of the Internet?" That's where we are with RV information.

    Everything that could be said about RV building has been said; we're at the point where we're saying it again.

    Most of the content on Planet RV now isn't really building information -- which is what the Hotline emphasizes. It's user-generated content; people's flying stories, people's photos, a few tips. And Doug does a great job of sifting through that content and plucking a few things out for VAF's front page. No need for me to repeat that process when user-generated content isn't spread throughout various sites anymore.

    Many of the building sites are dormant or -- as in the case of rvproject.com -- gone. The mailing lists are moribund. The bulletin boards -- other than VAF -- are stagnant and mostly uninspiring.

    What does this mean for the Hotline's future? We'll see. But for this week, anyway, there isn't a need for it.

    Tuesday, June 9, 2009

    A ride in a B-17

    I was supposed to take a ride in a B-17 at St. Paul yesterday as part of a film effort with a colleague for my day job. But throughout the day, the METAR said 1200 overcast and I figured, "why bother?" But they flew and the competition got a good story. Did I say good story with an aviation theme? Imagine that.

    Sunday, June 7, 2009

    1,900 hours

    This weekend, I passed 1,900 hours of actual work on the RV airplane project. Still a long way to go, but getting there.

    One of the things I like about buying many of the wiring harnesses from SteinAir (the Dynon electronic information display and the Vertical Power system primarily), is that once you lay them in, it looks like someone did the wiring who knows what they're doing.

    Today I finally got the last of the wiring runs to the aft fuselage area, which means I'm ready to rivet on the top aft skin, which will make it look more like a plane and less like a canoe.

    The remaining task was to get the bracket built for the remote compass for the Dynon EFIS system. I used a strong piece of angle between gussets behind a bulkhead, made a mounting plate, and then cut some small tubing and filed them to an angle to create a pitch in the plate that matches the pitch forward of the Dynon instrumentin the panel (the panel is angled forward.)

    Final check. Here's the pitch of the Dynon in the panel...

    ... and the pitch of the remote compass in the back of the plane...

    I used a lot of Adel clamps to keep the wire from chafing on any part of the plane. I have a little cleaning up to do yet with some of the wires from the strobe power supply (on the left below). I have to figure out how to keep them from moving around but I think the only thing that can be used is tie wrap tied to an adhesive-backed tie-wrap anchor. They tend to become un stuck over time but I don't know what other option I have.

    Here's the compartment ready to be buttoned up, which also means other than drilling a hole for the ELT antenna, and to do the actual riveting, I won't have to crawl back in there later.

    And with all that in place, I put in the elevator push-rod tube for the final time.

    In the panel, I finally drilled the holes -- using an Avery jig -- that attaches the backup airspeed indicator (and a bracket I bought from Van's). I fretted over this for the longest time. The airplane isn't parked level; it's off by perhaps .3 degrees. At the same time, I want the side of the airspeed indicator to be completely parallel with the side of the Dynon EFIS.

    Since I cut the panel myself, there's a pretty good chance these instruments aren't all level; I just don't want them to look all not level. I took abut a half hour trying to get it perfect, but I didn't. It's cocked slightly to the left. The pointer is at 88 +/- vertical degrees instead of 90. But once I'm flying, and once the airspeed indicator is moving, I'm really not going to care much.

    I hadn't realized up to now that I've got more work to do on fitting the back-up altimeter because it has notched portion by which you can set the barometric pressure. I'm not sure how to cut that notch perfectly.

    Anyway, then I attached the static port tubing to the airspeed indicator.

    I'm about ready to put the engine mount back on and if I can find an engine hoist to buy, I think we're about ready to mount the engine on this thing.

    Friday, June 5, 2009

    Personal responsibility vs. product liability

    (Here's one I wrote for my day job today)

    A jury verdict against Duluth-based Cirrus Design is likely to reignite the product liability vs. personal responsibility debate.

    According to MPR's Elizabeth Stawicki, Cirrus and the University of North Dakota have to pay $14.5 million to the families of James Kosak and Gary Prokop. The suit claimed the organizations didn't properly train the two to fly in bad weather ("instrument meteorological conditions" or IMC). Their plane crashed not long after take-off from Grand Rapids in January 2003 for a flight to St. Cloud.

    "By all appearances, one day of in-flight training on how to fly the airplane in bad weather conditions was skipped, " Attorney Phil Sieff said when the lawsuit was filed in 2006. "We believe it would have given him the tools to avoid the crash. If you agree to provide four days of training, you do it. We think there was a very specific identifiable failure to train this guy as they said they would."

    According to the National Transportation Safety Board, the pilot had undergone flight training from Cirrus when he bought the plane just six weeks earlier, but his completion certificate specified he shouldn't fly in "instrument" weather conditions.

    According to the NTSB, the pilot received a weather briefing before leaving Grand Rapids and was told it would be marginal. (See narrative). And the NTSB blamed the accident on the pilot. "Contributing factors were the pilot's improper decision to attempt flight into marginal VFR conditions, his inadvertent flight into instrument meteorological conditions, the low lighting condition (night) and the trees," the official report said.

    The verdict may add to another debate in aviation circles: Whether the Cirrus Design airplanes are too much airplane for relatively inexperienced pilots.

    At the end of 2008, according to a Cirrus owners group, there had been 44 fatal accidents with 88 fatalities and 13 serious injuries, and 29 survivors. More than 4,000 models of the airplane were flying.

    The organization also points out that "all but one of the 28 probable causes determined by NTSB accident investigations lists pilot causes." It said the large number of crashes in which pilots inadvertently flew into bad weather "suggests that the increased situational awareness in a Cirrus SR2X was not sufficient to help those accident pilots escape bad weather encounters. And the IFR-in-IMC accidents suggest a lack of proficiency with flying in challenging weather." The question: Whose fault is that?

    The majority of fatal accidents involving a Cirrus plane, involved experienced pilots. The only Cirrus accident in which the pilot had fewer than 150 hours of flight experience, was the New York crash with New York Yankee pitcher Cory Liddle.

    His family is suing Cirrus, too.

    Wednesday, June 3, 2009

    Instant motivation

    One of the great parts about AirVenture at Oshkosh is the constant sound of big radial engines. When Oshkosh ends, homebuilders scurry home to start work.

    At KSGS -- South St. Paul -- I get that on many mornings when "Miss Mitchell," the Commemorative Air Force's B-25 goes out for a morning walk.

    Throw in a gorgeous Minnesota morning -- as today -- and it's hard to put down the tools and go to the day job.

    AVWEB drinks the Kool Aid

    Only cocaine addicts exhibit more evidence of paranoia than pilots. Today, AvWeb promotes a false narrative with its self-promotion of the Fiddling Across America Tour:

    These days, the bright light of favorable publicity doesn't shine much on aviation. AVweb's "Fiddling Around America" tour with Dan Gryder's Herpa DC-3 changed that, at least for one week.

    ... AvWeb's editorial director Paul Bertorelli writes.

    Wrong. Not only wrong, but ignorant. Not only ignorant, but intentionally ignorant.

    If pilots continue telling this narrative, it's only because they want to in some weird enjoyment of their sense of victimization. Organizations like AOPA depend on it for their survival, and they're guilty to. "It's us against the world."

    If pilots aren't finding positive news about general aviation, it's only because they don't want to.

    This week's RV Builder's Hotline has at least two. They weren't hard to find. They never are.
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