Friday, July 31, 2009

Oshkosh Diary: The Inhofes

You can't throw a rear spar down the street in the campground at Oshkosh and not hit an RV builder and/or pilot.

I met Jim Davis, right, this morning as I was breaking down the campsite for the return to St. Paul. Jim is an RV-8 pilot (I think he also built an RV-6). He's from Tulsa. A few minutes later a group of his friends stopped by to visit with him. That's U.S. Sen. James Inhofe, R-Oklahoma, who may be one of the biggest supporters of general aviation in Washington. We may see a lot of RV builders here in the campground, but we don't see a lot of U.S. senators showing up for a cup of coffee.

His son, Jim (shown below) was kind enough to take our picture, and tell me about his RV-8 and flying into Oshkosh. He's been coming here for 23 years, I believe he said.

It's time to pack up and head for home. Fifty-one weeks to go.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Piece of Grass 2009

We had about 100 people -- I'd guess -- at the scaled-down annual get-together of RV builders at Oshkosh. For all of the glitz and glamour of the show, it's people sitting around shooting the breeze that keeps people coming back to a spot in Wisconsin every year. Or at least I like to think so.

It's very late as I upload this and I haven't had a chance to put captions to all pictures. But if you see yourself here, write down the number and e-mail me and I'll add you.

Internet service is very spotty, so I'll do the best I can to get it updated.

I stole this next picture from Doug Reeves:

See his pictures here.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Oshkosh Diary - Wednesday July 29, 2009

It was a real thrill to see a skywriter write "Welcome, RV airplane builders" today. Unfortunately, the school levy up here failed recently and he spelled it wrong.

One of the interesting things about Oshkosh -- at least for aviation types-- is every morning you step out of your tent and into your screensaver. Most of the EAA monthly screensavers through the year are images shot during this week. This morning, I'm sitting at the campsite watching the powered parachutes flying overhead; every now and again a bird will join the procession.

I've generally been unable -- and probably will continue to be unable -- to provide significant updates here because the wiFi at AirVenture simply isn't very good. Last evening I parked under the gizmo that provides it and I still couldn't get online. It's free, so we really have no right to complain, and in the big scheme of things it's a small complaint. But the EAA probably should stop advertising "free WiFi" to entice people to camp until it reaches a certain level of performance.

Even at the press office, the system is so overloaded, many of us can't file our stories and accounts. OK, EAA. You've worn me down. I'll gladly pay for wiFi that works rather than free wiFi that doesn't. You know what would be great? If Ford or Honda or any of those big conglomerates that EAA is now synonymous with would get into the broadband business.

Yesterday was a combination of work and play. I documented -- slightly -- my lunch with Lane Wallace. I then interviewed Joe Balzer for about a half hour. He's one of the Northwest Airlines crew members of a 727 flight from Fargo to Minneapolis in 1990 who flew drunk. He did prison time and now he's written a book. I have the interview on tape and at some point I'll bang out a story for the day job and post it here as well.

Then it was off to dinner downtown with my friends from Trio Avionics -- Jerry Hansen, Chuck Busch, Sid Tolchin, and Paul Ross. This is always the highlight of my stay at Oshkosh and one of the highlights of the year. They're fine people and I enjoy their company, partly because they're among the few that enjoy mine. I've decided, by the way, to take the TruTrak single-axis autopilot out of the RV-7A project and replace it with the Trio Pro Pilot autopilot. It's robus, can do more things, perhaps, than an around-the-patch flyer like me need it to do, but it comes from a good company with good people and because it does, I have no qualms about flying with it.

By the way, they said business -- which is mostly indicated by the number of people who stop to talk -- has been very good and this is the emerging theme of AirVenture this year. It may confound the economists but business is booming here. The airport was closed to any more incoming arrivals on Monday because there's just no place to put them. The campground is packed solid and people here apparently have money to spend.

Now one can argue -- as I have -- that aviation is for people with money anyway, but even comparing apples to apples (previous years of AirVenture), this is a significant uptick in the economic reality here. Jerry attributed it to a couple of things including the fact that there are a lot of airplane builders like me who have reached the point in the project where there's simply too much invested in it -- time, money and emotion -- to quit, no matter what the economic reality is.

Back at the campground last night, a steady trickle stopped by for "happy hour." A group from Massachusetts caused -- then cured -- a case of homesickness (you can do that to me with a Boston accent). A nice couple from The Netherlands also stopped by. They're building an RV-7A, and learned to fly at the same time. And the "RV compound residents" like Paul Trotter, and Chris Stone and John Porter were there. So we had about a dozen people and that was great fun.

And this evening will try to increase that with the RV Family Reunion Piece of Grass 2009. I've bought watermelon (I always do at these things and nobody ever wants any) and a cheap grill from WalMart and we're encouraging RVers to simply stop by and sit a spell. No big BBQ. No door prizes. People come simply because they want to sit around and make up lies about our homebuilding prowess.

So today I'll mostly hang around the campground, buy some firewood (it feels like the '40s here at night), and get things ready.

Then this evening, I'll take a bunch of pictures and make my own screensavers.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Oshkosh Diary: The Airbus A380

It's probably worth pointing out that the presumed pilot is Terry Lutz, a former Northwest Airlines pilot and proud builder and owner of an RV-8.

Oshkosh Diary - Tuesday July 28, 2009

I started out today taking some pictures of RVs to share, then I got sidetracked. I'll go back and add some later on...


I got sidetracked because I had lunch with Lane Wallace in the Flying building, an air conditioned, catered lovely meeting spot full of the who's who of aviation. But I was most interested in a conversation with Lane, whose writing I've admired for many years.

But she's more -- much more -- than her Flying Magazine columns, or her column on The Atlantic's Web site. Her Web site -- No Maps, No Guide, No Limits -- is a great site full of interesting material on passions and risks and life.

Why do we do the things we do? Why do we persist through the "dark nights?" What is the difference between succeeding with our dreams or giving up? That was the substance of our conversation and, no, I don't have a picture of us together because that's lame.

Still, even in the "must pass through the bouncers" environment of the Flying building, several people came up to us -- well, her -- during lunch to tell her how much her writing means to them. That's saying something.


It was a happy happy hour on Monday afternoon even though the storms rolled through right on schedule and wiped out the air show, which -- from what I can tell anecdotally -- a lot of the veteran Oshkosh attendees don't watch anyway.

The Doobie Brothers were set to perform in AeroShell square and while we figured the show would be canceled, they went on, from what we're told. It's better, however, to sit under the canopy in a patch of a field a half mile away, though, and discuss the finer points of bucking bars.

And so we did. Bill Settle from North Carolina wandered over and we had a delightful happy hour with Paul Trotter and John Porter and Chris Stone and then went out for dinner.


Sitting around over the morning coffee, the comparative quiet of an Oshkosh morning was broken by a couple of P-51s taking off and flying over the campground. The QOTD goes to John Porter:

"The orthodontists are awake."


New flush toilets a hit at Camp Scholler.

Of course, the truly great campers by now have already calculated what time the Porta Potty cleaning brigade cleans a particular Porta Potty and adjusted their schedule accordingly. Another art form lost.


The wallet was found. In Chris Stone's van. Stand down.


At least in the campground, this is one of the bigger crowds I've seen in recent years. I talked to Jerry Hansen at Trio Avionics yesterday afternoon and he said it was a steady stream of people to talk to. Now the key, of course, is whether that translates into business.

I'm generally not a big fan of ripping out systems already installed in an RV-7A that hasn't flown yet, but the Trio Pro Pilot looks to be a superior autopilot.

Will head out to buy a lottery ticket later on.


The weather looks like it's savings its best for Wednesday. However, wiFi is way too spotty for posting pictures right away so the live "chat" is canceled.


I wouldn't know a good formation from a bad formation. I thought the 37 ship formation of RV airplanes that arrived Sunday was excellent. But these are particular fliers with a skill far beyond me. There apparently was some dissatisfaction with a ragged tail. Couldn't tell it by me.

Here's some pictures of what it looked like at altitude.

The day is young. More as it happens.


If you want to hear the Oshkosh Tower, go here.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Oshkosh Diary - Monday July 27, 2009

I'm realizing after three days here that I really don't have that much to do this year. Most of what I need to buy for the RV I've already bought and that which I haven't bought I can't afford. That takes a great deal of pressure off.

Frankly, though, for working stiffs like me, it's difficult to walk the AirVenture grounds and not get the feeling that everyone else did something right and somewhere along the line, I got derailed. Money is exchanging hands like crazy. There's giant RVs (the kind on wheels) worth millions and enough toys to handle Christmas around the world this year.

For an old New Englander with a Protestant work ethic, sometimes the self-indulgence can be overwhelming.


My camping neighbor and RV friend, John Porter, lost his wallet somewhere last night. We went over to the Fly-In movie theater and he figures it fell out somewhere over there, he figures. A trip to the lost-and-found yielded no success. I can't imagine a bigger pain in the neck for someone visiting AirVenture.

I'd like to think that some EAAer found the wallet and turned it in but the longer we go without a happy ending, the less likely there's going to be one.


The one forum I'm going to take in today is with the gentleman I'm interviewing tomorrow for the day job (and this blog). Joe Balzer was on the flight crew of a Northwest Airlines flight from Fargo to Minneapolis in 1990 with 91 passengers aboard. All three of the pilots were drunk. He's been sober for 19 years and I'll be telling his story here and elsewhere this week.


Dick Knapinski does a fabulous job with the EAA media department and it's easy for a journalist here on media credentials (this year it's for this blog via RV Builder's Hotline) to feel guilty for not working harder to dig up stories. The LED Aero folks are catering a luncheon here in the press tent in a few minutes. I don't accept free food (other than some water) so I'm vacating to make the rounds on the grounds and see what average folks I can run into.

But the EAA deserves great credit for its effort to get people to tell the story of aviation. It's important to note that the organization does not pressure media in any way to bend the message of any of the "working media."


Dave Gamble of Columbus, Ohio writes one of the better aviation blogs out there. With a gift for the printed word and an airplane that actually goes places, Dave has made PapaGolf Chronicles one of the daily must-reads.

His daughter is up here working the Girls With Wings booth all week and they're staying at a hotel in West Bend, an hour or so away. It caught my attention a week or so ago when he "tweeted" that flying his RV-6 here would be too much of a pain in the neck. But there's probably more to be said for a nice hotel than a small tent on the hard ground of Wisconsin.

If you've got an IFR-capable RV-9 that you'd like to unload for next to nothing, contact Dave.


Here's dozens of more pictures from Doug Reeves at Van's Air Force.
(More as it happens)

Sunday, July 26, 2009

RVers of Oshkosh: Vern Darley and Tommy Turner

Vern and Tommy, from Peachtree, Georgia, arrived yesterday, navigating a front that has extended from Iowa across the middle of the country. Some of the RVers were stranded on the southern side of the front, and should make it in today, Vern said.

Vern's airplane isn't a kit. He made it from parts, including a canopy which had a gallon of epoxy poured on top of it. "You can do great things with sanding plexiglass, Tommy said. And they did. The airplane is beautiful.

Vern said he heard that an RV flipped yesterday while coming in, although I haven't heard anything about that (I wouldn't; I haven't been done on the flight line until today).

Crosswinds are a real problem so far this year, some of the RVers report.

There's a big empty hole in the space where RVers are usually parked. I assume that's for a 36-ship formation that's arriving around 1:30.

Oshkosh Diary - Sunday July 26, 2009

We amateur economists -- and these days, what economists aren't amateurs? -- have been figuring we'd use AirVenture as one of the barometers of house the economy is affecting people. After all, aviation isn't an essential and finding one's way to the middle of Wisconsin is an optional way to spend a week.

As evidenced -- sort of -- by the picture above, the early indication is more people will be at AirVenture this year than last year. Usually the field around where I set up camp each year doesn't fill up at my neck of the field until Sunday afternoon. But by Saturday afternoon this year,the tide of humanity has reached me.

Now this, of course, is all anecdotal. It could very well be that the people with pop-ups and tents this year, used to be the people with the big "land yachts" down closer to the show in previous years.

We'll see.

This morning I'm going to meet up with the guys from Trio Avionics to help set up their booth. It's going to be cool this week, especially for the people from the southwest who've been living with 100+ temperatures. Dry heat, schmy heat; that's no way to live.

Welcome back to Wisconsin, fellas!


I strolled along the homebuilt camping area for RVers a little bit ago (9:27 a.m.). I'll upload some pictures later but I loved the plugs I found above.

And here is the obligatory and cliche self portrait. I am not above cliche.


Here's an interesting modification. A rudder trim tab.

This is the RV-6 of Roger Hansen of Henderson, NV. This may be a common thing on a 6; I don't know. But it's cool.

Of course you can always find the builders strolling the RV corral. They're the ones taking pictures VERY close up.

I've been looking at fiberglass work of the elevator tips as I go from RV to RV. As you may know, that's what I've been doing. For the first time in 10 years of coming to Oshkosh, today was the first time I've ever said to myself "I like my work better" when I looked at some planes. It's not that the ones I looked at were poor; far from it. I just like the amount of work and payoff I got in the last two weeks working on my plane.


This one incident today involves a Pietenpol.

Completely second-hand info follows: A couple of Pietenpol Air Campers were landing and one caught a gust of wind and went vertical, settling back on the tail. I understand the pilot is OK. I suppose if you're going to break your airplane, Oshkosh is a good place to do it. There are more than few folks around who know what to do.


The 36-ship formation of RV airplanes flew over with a roar at 1:01 p.m. As usually, very impressive.


Updated 8:01 p.m. - I've added a few more pictures. Apologies if this stuff isn't all that great. I'm taking things a lot slower -- so far -- this year.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Oshkosh Diary - Saturday July 25

Around 7 this morning, Rich Emery stopped by to help me get the canopy up before the wind came up. We got it up and the wind followed shortly thereafter. Such is the life of camping in the field.

Now we just wait to see who shows up to claim some of the camping sites I've staked out, and who will be neighbors around the "compound." You never know at Oshkosh but in 9 years of attending, I've never been disappointed.

I'll update each of these entries throughout the day.

We were spoiled by last year's Oshkosh weather. Especially out here in the field, you're vulnerable to high winds, pestilence and, of course, downpours. We've had one so far today but the wind is the difficult child. Paul Trotter (above) has joined the compound. He's joined the broken-tent-rod club.

Chris Stone, who's not too far away from flying one of these newfangled airplanes that he built himself, has also joined the compound. And John Porter should be in tomorrow. Looks like we're going to have an extra camping spot, or two.

Darwin Barrie, Glenn Brasch and Glenn's son, Michael, arrived from Chicago. They brought Glenn's trailer, got in an accident in Kansas where a woman side-swiped the trailer, they dropped the trailer off here and then Glenn and Michael went to visit Mom/Grandma in Chicago. They picked Darwin up at O'Hare today and made their way here. Good folks. I'm looking forward to many happy hours together.

Roger Evenson, also from Arizona, and his wife have also arrived. Very nice people who are helping the Hazebusters people sell sunglasses. Roger built the Web site.

Now he has to rebuild his right elevator which suffered when it hit the ground when Roger stepped on on his RV the other day.

Darwin reports by way of Jeff Point that a steady stream of RV airplanes have been arriving. I'm not sure how much time I'll spend down there this year. I may try to take in more forums.

Tomorrow morning, I hope to help Sid, Jerry, and Chuck set up the Trio Avionics booth in the hangar. I always look forward to their company at Oshkosh.

10:15 p.m. - I assume Doug Reeves is on the field. I was sent this photo this evening of Doug ready to go at 52F (near Ft. Worth). It's a four hour flight. I could be wrong, but isn't that hat going to be smushed when the canopy closes?

Friday, July 24, 2009

On to Oshkosh

I'm heading over to Oshkosh this afternoon. I'll post some items when I get there.

And, yes, I will be doing Ask the Dummy in the Campground again this year. So if you have a question about Oshkosh, send it to me at

I wanted to leave St. Paul by noon and I'm on track. Here's the shot of the car all packed. You're not going to believe how much I crammed in. I'll put up another shot when I get to Oshkosh and unpack.

Update 7:15 p.m. - This much:

As I was putting up the tent in the wind, I said to myself, "Please don't let this be the year one of these poles breaks. Then the wind came up and one of the four poles snapped. Some gents from Iowa helped me fabricate a fix but it involved using one of the pipes for the big canopy. So the tent is up but I can't put the canopy up yet because the pole is being used to hold up the tent. In a bit, I'm off to Fleet Farm in search of a pipe. Then grocery shopping. Then dinner.

As is custom, Rich Emery of Missouri was the first to stop by and say hello. He's two builder numbers below me and thinks if he put his wallet to it, he could be flying at the end of the year. I'll try to get things done quickly here so I can join him for happy hour.

If you're going to Oshkosh, be sure to stop by the campsite and say "hello" so I can duly report to Planet RV that you're there.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Builder profile: George Morgan

RV-8 builder George Morgan might just hold the most coveted secret in Sandy: the recipe for the pancakes served at Kiwanis’ annual Fly-In Cruise-In, held Sunday, July 26, at McKinnon Airport. (More from the Sandy, Oregon Post)

Stick grips

I love construction tips and seeing how other people are putting their RVs together. In the new RVator newsletter from Van's (available here), Ken Scott gives a glimpse about the stick grips in the company models.

I’ve never installed a set of handlebar grips – all my bikes have bars wrapped with handlebar tape. So, off I trotted to the local bike shop, bought a set of grips… and spent an hour and a half trying to get the first #@#$! grip to slide down the control stick. It went about an inch, and then friction took over and I just couldn’t slide it any further. I tried brute force. The rubber grip smiled. I tried WD-40. The rubber grip grinned. I tried a film of motor oil. The rubber grip grimaced. I tried fervent cursing and pushing down around the rim with a bicycle tire iron. The rubber grip, I swear, snickered. Obviously, in the infinitely long list of things that many people in the world know and I don’t, is how to put a rubber grip on a steel tube.

Bicycle grips? Who'd have thought?

Strolling the RVs at Oshkosh is a love-hate thing for me. I see mostly immaculately-built aircraft that have craftsmanship I can only dream about. And it's not like I don't try.

But I also like stopping by the Van's booth to look at the company models. There's not a lot of fancy stuff involved in their construction. And yet, I don't see any indication the people who work there have any less fun flying them.

Wanted: A formation ride

For you RVers who are going to Oshkosh and are participating in any of the big formation flights, do you have an extra seat? I'd like to take some pictures and shoot some video (I don't have a video camera; I have a cheapy camera so I'd be transferring full memory cards to my laptop during the flight).

I'd also probably bring some small audio gear and stick a mic in my headset (I'll bring the headset!) to incorporate audio.

Drop me a note if you're game.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Son continues family RV project

Eleven years after beginning a Van’s RV-6A kit airplane with his father, Dennis Williams has resurrected the project and designated his front yard as his work station.

Williams’ father died about five years ago from a brain tumor and Williams decided that he couldn’t let the project go unfinished.

“As long as one of us finishes it, it’ll be a success for him and for me,” the 60-year-old said. “There’s no sense getting in a hurry.” (More on CNJ Online)

Monday, July 20, 2009

Aviation is a rich person's hobby

I've always enjoyed John and Martha King, who have advocated dispelling aviation of many of its myths. One of them is that the ride to the airport is more dangerous than the trip in the airplane. It's not true.

But aviation has spent too much time denying that aviation is for the well-off. Why not just admit it and be done with it?

A few minutes ago, I took one of those online surveys in order to try to win a Garmin 696 (boy, you don't think aviation is for rich people? Price out that puppy!). At the end, here are the possible choices in the "what's your annual income?" category.

Of course "wealth" is a relative term. The "rich" usually don't perceive themselves as rich. That's why they hit the roof when the government, for example, tries to get more of their money.

Ask anyone who wants to fly but doesn't why they don't, and money is almost always going to be the reason. So why is it such a stretch to accept that those who do fly are "rich" when defined by those who don't?

The aviation associations would do better to acknowledge the perception, rather than spend energy and resources trying to pretend there's no truth to it.

Prepping for Oshkosh

All of my gear for Oshkosh is out at the hangar, exactly where I put it when I unloaded it from the car last August. Every year I tell myself, "Next year I'll do this different."

I always plan to save a few bucks every week for 51 weeks, so that I'll have money to spend at Oshkosh. Maybe I'd even enter one of those raffles to win an airplane. Funny. Here we are again 51 weeks later, and I'm still not sure how I'm going to budget a week at AirVenture.

I always plan to get started three weeks ahead of time getting the camping gear organized, restocking the non perishables so that I don't have to pay the inflated prices of Oshkosh. And there everything sits -- or doesn't. The tubs full of staples hasn't been touched.

Other than that, I'm ready to go. I've already set up an Oshkosh 2009 category here. Last year I did a lot of work at Oshkosh -- interviews, slideshows, daily diaries etc. I may do it again but I'm just not sure there's an audience for my stuff. It's not on Van's Air Force and it's a testament to Doug, I think, that if you're not doing on VAF, you're not doing it.

So part of me thinks I should pack the recording gear away and just put my feet up for a week and watch the world go by.

We'll see.

Airport watching

Here's something you don't see everyday. A Cessna Citation jet at KSGS (South St. Paul, Minnesota). He landed with a bit of a tailwind on Sunday morning and used all but about 300 feet to stop. Then he taxied over to Wipaire, leaving the engines running while disgorging a couple of guys and their bags. I think they might've worked at Wipaire. They loaded some cans of something (paint) and then the jet took off.

I noticed later he came up from Waterloo, landed at KSGS, went to Canada, then Duluth, then back to Waterloo.

I'd love to know what that was all about.

Frankly, I don't think it's a very good idea for business jets to land at airports like KSGS. It's an airport that works very hard to be a good neighbor and the pilots based there do what they can to limit noise.

A rich guy coming in on a Sunday morning to buy some stuff is bound to upset the neighbors, and I don't blame them a bit.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

You can fix wheel pants and landing gear

Two men walked away from a plane crash at Lone Star Executive Airport around 11:30 a.m. on Thursday. It was the county’s second aircraft emergency in four days.

The planes owner and co-pilot Bill Gibson said the experimental Van’s RV-10 aircraft began “running a little hot” and began losing power for unknown reasons. (Montgomery County News -- Texas)

'Gun on!" "Shoot!"

With a few exceptions, building my RV airplane has been a solo affair. I've written before, you may recall, that when I started this project, I thought it would be a family affair. But I learned the hard way that just because I have a particular interest, the rest of my family isn't required to have the same interest at the expense of their own.

Both of my kids are so different, yet so similar. On those occasions when we've worked on the plane together, I've admired their attention to detail and their willingness to stick to a project to its proper conclusion and not rush it through.

That's significant to me because they learned that at a young age somehow. I only learned it a few years ago... when I started building an RV-7A airplane. Side story: I was back East this spring and my mother has an old rickety cart that she rolls out to the side of the road each spring to display the nursery flowers she'll sell to anyone who stops.

So I decided to fix it up a bit to make it easier on her; replacing the old go-cart wheels that we used as kids for something else, with some nice swiveling casters, and reinforcing some elements of the cart. As with my plane, I was working on this project in the barn when my sister stopped by to monitor the project. I was measuring, making sure things were lined up properly, and then drilling -- stopping to measure again -- and finally adding an extra bit of reinforcement to the structure, when she said, "Geez, Bob, you're not building an airplane here."

I don't know if I've ever heard more beautiful words. I was known as the "Scotch Tape kid" by this same sister while growing up, for my penchant to take shortcuts and quick fixes.

But back to our story...

I needed to rivet on the far aft top skin and asked my youngest son to help. So last evening he stopped by the hangar. He, too, had helped with some difficult riveting of the wings and he'd gotten good at being the "shooter." We developed a good rhythm and a good system back then. He'd yell "gun on," and when I was ready, I'd yell back, "Shoot!" (Here's a tip. You don't want "go" to be the word that tells the shooter to go ahead and fire.) Blrrrpppp, and then I'd check with the rivet gauge while he set up the next hole.

Like most teens and kids in their early 20s, my son has been through a lot -- good and bad -- since those days years ago when we built the wings. He found his passion during high school when he decided he wanted to be an EMT, became one, got a job, lost it when he got a speeding ticket on a motorcycle, thought the world would end, joined the Navy, then unjoined the Navy, decided to complete his training to be a paramedic, got robbed at gunpoint while I was watching Jeff Dunham at Oshkosh last year, and now is faced with trying to find a job in the most difficult environment since the Great Depression, which I'm pretty sure worries me far more than him.

Sometime in the last few months, he told his paramedic instructor (he's aced his classes and is known, I guess, as the best paramedic student at the school) up at the college that he'd like to become a nurse practitioner. "Why stop there?" his instructor said. "Why don't you become a doctor? You're not going to like handing over your patients on a gurney to someone else."

He thought about that question and responded, "Nobody ever told me I could." (Parents don't count).

I hadn't heard much about that until he called yesterday afternoon to find out what time to meet me at the hangar, when he said he'd spent the afternoon "finalizing his plans." He said he'd been working with the University of Minnesota to finalize plans to go to the college of biological sciences (I think that was it; I'm probably wrong).

He's going to try to become a doctor.

As he told me that, I thought back to first or second grade, when he came home crying because he was getting some extra help reading. "I'm not stupid," he cried over and over. Fortunately, the first Harry Potter book came out shortly thereafter and he realized that this reading stuff is pretty cool.

Being a professional worrier, I worry about all the challenges he now faces. As I crawled back into the tail, trying not to bend the elevator pushrod, and trying not to let the vertigo that Meniere's Disease provides whenever you're flat on your back get me, I was still thinking in the back of my mind about the years ahead for him. And, of course, worrying.

And then we started shooting rivets. About two rivets in, we found the rhythm we'd had years before.

"Gun on!"



I had said we only needed to do a few rivets in tough locations because I didn't want to tie up his time on a Friday night. But there we were going down one side, and coming back up the other.

"I'm not going anywhere," he said. He was focused on the task at hand.

And as I sat in the coal mine that is the enclosed tail of an RV-7A project, I knew then that someday he'd be a doctor.

(Photo: When someone helps me on the plane, I always have them autograph the part.)

Friday, July 17, 2009

Why sell an RV?

We pretty much know why people don't complete their RVs -- it usually resulted in more work than they had anticipated, children came along, or a marriage dissolved.

But it still surprises me when a builder puts his RV up for sale. I don't know why it does; it just does. They become a real part of your life and it would be hard to walk away.

I just noticed, for example, that Andy Karmy is selling his RV-9. Andy's Web site is one of those "must read" builder sites. He's going to step (I refuse to call it "down") to an LSA to keep flying.

The sale of the plane reminds me that we become somewhat "attached" to certain RVs out there. I've never met Andy. I've never seen his plane. But I feel like it's part of me nonetheless. Heck, so is Andy. Imagine how many of us will feel if/when Dan Checkoway sells his RV-7; or Doug Reeves' parts with "Flash."

Dan got out of the online world because he got tired of people assuming they know him because they visited his outstanding Web site. But that's the thing about social media.

Anway, I'm interested in writing a story sometime about why you sold your RV? And what the process of separating emotionally from it was (if it was at all, of course). Email me.

Rick Gray's Rocket

Back when I interviewed Rick Gray for the RV Builder's Hotline, he mentioned EAA had just finished filming him.

Apparently the film is done:

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Dear Southwest: Come help build my RV-7A

The National Transportation Safety Board today released this image of the exterior of that Southwest Airlines jet that developed a hole in it on a flight this week.

The hole is interesting but as a homebuilder, it's not what got my attention. What got my attention is that the people at Southwest are really good at drilling out rivets. Click the image to enlarge.

Attaching fiberglass tips to your RV airplane

I don't whether anybody who subscribed to the RV Builder's Hotline is paying attention to this blog. perhaps you've noticed that some of the content that appeared in the Hotline is appearing here, too. Perhaps you'll notice it more during Oshkosh.

But having more how-to articles is always the goal of both the Hotline and, now, Letters From Flyover Country.

I've started working on attaching the fiberglass tips to the empennage and I'm using instructions sent to me years ago by RV-building buddy Darwin Barrie. I'm adding pictures and commentary as I go. I'm sure this is available on some builder sites in multiple pages, but I'm actually putting it all in one article. You can find it here.

I'm also showing it to you so you can contribute to it as we go with your own commentary and directions. When done, we'll have a fine document for future builders. I hope.

I don't know whether I'll have it done by Oshkosh or not.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

RV accident reports

There are no new NTSB reports based on previous accidents this week.


WA: Friday Harbor. RV-4 prop strike on landing. 7/14/09. Registration information. No injuries.

UT: Wendover. RV-4 went off the side of the runway while landing. 7/10/09. Registration information.

Tip: Removing wing bolts

There's a really great thread at Van's Air Force with suggestions for ways to remove wing bolts that are stuck. They include using a big hammer and rotating the bolt, both of which are considered idea that aren't compatible with loving your RV.

Rick Galati has posted a great solution, which involves a socket set and a large C-Clamp (although I'm not sure a C-clamp will fit in this position.) The solution will look familiar to anyone who's ever changed brake pads on a car, it's using the leverage of a brake-puller, and it makes perfect sense.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The mail pilot

I'm sure it's hard work, but to me this seems like the perfect job.

About two minutes in, I think I heard a stall horn while the plane was a little high.

One person's health care

(One from my day job)

The story of health care in America is loaded with lives that changed in a split second.

One year ago next week, Alan Henley, a popular airshow performer, was doing some chin-ups on a bar when it collapsed. He hasn't walked -- or done much else -- since.

His wife has been relentless in posting updates to his Caring Bridge site. But today, there's the desperation in her words that serve as a reminder that for millions of Americans, there's more to the health care debate than politics.

You all know how hard it is for me to update when things are not going well, but I so believe in the power of prayer that I'm just going to say, things are not going well at all. I'm assuming it has to be because we are almost upon the year anniversary of that night...the night that has forever changed our lives irreversibly. We had so hoped for more return but it's just not coming back, so now instead of hope we have to face reality.

Yes I believe that Alan will be able to do so much more in time but he needs help and equipment that BCBS just won't pay for. His therapy visits will be up in the beginning of August and then we are on our own. He said, "I guess they just give up on you when they no you have no hope of getting better." To say that this has impacted his frame of mind and determination is an understatement. I can't blame him and I find it hard to help him and relate from my able bodied state. I would be a fool to think I get it. But what breaks my heart is how do I get him back? He feels like he has nothing to live for and is just a burden. How did it get to this?

RV fly-ins

Here's a video from last weekend's Northwest RV fly-in at Scappoose. I wish it were embeddable, but you'll have to go here.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Crash claims Noles

From the

Sarasota Herald

Vance Noles took off from the small airport at Wimauma on Wednesday morning, flying an aircraft he built himself from a kit. Noles, 72, was flying his RV-7 to Tennessee to pick up a friend in the single-engine, two-seat plane, a flight he had made several times before.

But Noles never arrived.

A search began, and on Thursday officers from the Florida Highway Patrol and Baker County Sheriff's Office in North Florida located the wreckage of Noles' plane in a wooded area about a mile south of Interstate 10, near Jacksonville. Noles was killed in the crash.

Gary Specketer's RV-10

Gary came over to help me hang the engine on the RV-7A project. He flew over to KSGS (Fleming Field - South St. Paul, Minn.) in his RV-10, painted in the colors of the Georgia Bulldogs. Afterwards, Warren Starkebaum and I watched him take off. His RV-10 sounds like all muscle.

By the way, I will get that article about hanging the engine done one of these days.

Blue Mountain goes toes up

I have to admit that I've made many -- most -- of my purchasing decisions based on the experiences of others. And while I know a lot of RV builders have bought Blue Mountain products for their instrument panel, there were enough stories of customer service problems to make me stay away. Recently there was an uptick in products not being delivered to people who'd sent in deposits.

And this week, the company put this notice on the Web site:

Well, it's been fun. We developed a whole new class of machine, started an industry, dominated it, and are now leaving it. BMA will be ceasing production and spinning down. The best way to contact us is via email.

I'm sorry; that's just not good enough. You can't not communicate with people who've spent money with you and then just walk away, saying "it's been fun." It's not fun trusting someone to deliver a product and then fail to do so.

On the company's discussion board, a customer asks if he's "screwed" because he sent in a deposit. The message is, so far, unanswered. There are stories of other builders who paid for their product more than a year ago and had heard nothing.

There's a lesson here for experimental aircraft builders. Pay attention to the recommendations of other builders. If you find a company has a higher number of complaints from builders, walk away.

Related link
Thread: Blue Mountain ceases production (VAF)

Thursday, July 9, 2009

David Morgan's RV-12

Pilot David T. Morgan, of Monroe has built many airplanes with his brother and been around these vehicles most of his life.

In September, Morgan, 76, who is a civil engineer retired from his father’s general contracting company in Middletown called B.D. Morgan & Company Inc., and a sister company Morgan Engineering and Concrete Company, began building a RV-12 single-engine airplane with the help of his wife, Rose, in their one-car garage in the Mount Pleasant Retirement Village on Muskingum Street.

The kit aircraft, which is designed and founded by engineer Richard VanGrunsven from Van’s Aircraft in Aurora, Ore., is a 100 horsepower, two-seat, all metal, side-by-side airplane that meets the certification standards of the Light Sport Aircraft category. (Read more in the Middletown, OH Journal)

Meanwhile, for you RV-12 builders, Van's has announced availability of an RV-12 avionics package.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

What to do if the engine quits

Jason Schappert does a really intersting job of teaching basics of flying on his Web site, especially with the use of videos.

Many of them are good reminders for those of us who've been flying for awhile. Like this one:

Another good source of information? Try Around the Pattern, which has a post up about spin training. The most fun I had learning to fly was when my flight instructor taught me about spins by showing me how to get into one. Maybe it's one of the reasons I still go up and practice stalls on virtually every flight.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Building Tip: Removing tires

On the ultra-slick Twin Cities RV Builders Group Web site (and, yes, I have noticed that they don't seem to be calling themselves the Minnesota Wing of Van's Air Force these days), Tom Berge has a great tip on replacing your RV airplane's tires with an inexpensive contraption to help you do it. Find the whole article here.

After years of struggling with the dreaded tire removal job, I finally decided that a simple, cheap solution could be had. I know there are tools you can buy to do the task, but why spend lots of money for something that is done so infrequently? So here goes.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

The engine is hung

I don't know why the title of this post makes me want to crack a joke.

We hung the engine on the RV-7A project yesterday afternoon. I actually didn't do that much work, following the lead instead of some master builders who've done this before.

I'll be writing an extensive article about the experience in a day or. Pete Howell took some great pictures, which you can find here.
Share |