Sunday, September 27, 2009


You're supposed to put the exhaust system on the engine before doing any serious firewall forward work, so I bought the Vetterman system for the RV-7A project. It fits like a glove but it's been a pain in the neck to install anyway, almost exclusively because of me.

After the system is bolted on the engine, and the ball joint attached, you have to add brackets from the oil sump, since the moving and vibrating engine is going to shake the heck out of the pipes. So two rods in a hose are used to brace the pipes vertically, and then a similar arrangement ties the two pipes together. Simple, right?

My problem is I can't tell exactly how the pipe should be located -- that is, how far outboard of the nose gear weldment. I know it should be 3/4" below the firewall -- no problem there -- but side to side, I can't tell the perfect spot.

Vetterman's instructions say the horizontal brace should go behind the fork that goes to the nose wheel. No way. It interferes -- or nearly so -- with the castle nut on the engine mount and -- even if I moved it, it seems too likely the horizontal brace would occasionally hit the engine mount. That's a bad thing.

Now, I realize some builders attach it to the engine mount with a clamp but I think so highly of Tony Bingelis that I'm not going to do that. His advice was quite clear on the subject, even with the idea of the "floating hangar."

You can see on the picture above how I've placed the right tail pipe (I haven't done anything with the left side yet). Is that too far inboard? Too far outboard? Who knows?

Here's a look at the vertical hangar:

Here's the view from above. You can see the flat part of the bracket, which will hold the horizontal piece. It's angled a bit down now, so I'll have to bend the tab on the hangar. I'll probably also have to put a spacer under it because I don't want it to hit that nose gear fork.

And here's the view from the side. You can see the 3/4" clearance from the firewall and you can also see -- I hope -- why you really can't go behind the nose gear fork with the horizontal hangar.

I want to install the second side, but I couldn't find the tab that connects the hangar to the bolt on the oil sump. And that's typically for me, these days. Even though I think I know where I put things, I don't. I swear, I spent half my time looking for things these days. Finally, I gave up and asked Larry Vetterman to send another. I'll probably lose that one two.

I am having difficulty with another area of this installation. I can't get a socket onto inside bolts on cylinders 3 and four.

Close, but no cigar. So I can't tighten -- let alone torque -- the pipes on those cylinders. I'm going to look to see if there's a short socket with some sort of ball-adapter that may allow me to get in there.

Others have reported they've put these system on in under an hour. I started mine three weeks ago.


Friday, September 25, 2009

Go build a kit

Here's another favorable general aviation article that those on VAF who never let facts get in the way of a good paradigm will ignore.

David Allen, a retired Boeing computer software engineer, is a patient and determined man.

Twenty-five years ago, this Edwardsville resident decided he wanted to build an airplane from a kit, and he finally got the chance to start the project four years ago.

"I was single when I moved to California in 1962 to work for North American Aviation," Allen said. "A guy I worked with taught me how to fly, and I've been interested ever since, but it took me 20 years to pull the trigger and buy the first kit."

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Flying in formation for Dummies

An airplane acquaintance writes to say he posted a link to this video on one of the bulletin boards with the subject like "Falcon Flight, the Early Years?" and a moderator deleted it.

People, we really are taking life too seriously. And moderators? You've really got to get a bit of a grip. So stop and laugh at it once in awhile.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Who's saving general aviation? GA pilots and the media

In southwest Virginia, the nasty media piles on. (You get sarcasm, right?)

It elevates the do-it-yourselfer to new heights in every sense of the word. To hear Scott Freeman of Marion tell it, if you can read and follow instructions, you can build and fly your own airplane.

Of course, the Federal Aviation Administration has a thing or two to say about it, but that’s just a detail. Hammer down 15,000 rivets and you’re all about details and one more isn’t an issue.

But that’s putting the rudder ahead the prop in a story that began when Scott decided he wanted to fly. “I was always interested in flying,” he said. “I wanted to be in the military, but I had corrected vision,” a disqualifier of would-be fighting fliers.

Read more in the Smyth County News. And, yeah, one can argue that it's not CNN or the New York Times or any of a host of other big media, but when it comes time to close down your local airport, it's usually local people who do it.

Congratulations to all involved in this article for being proactive!

Monday, September 21, 2009

A dream field

This is what I'd consider living the dream. A runway mowed out of a field, next to the corn in upstate New York.

This winter, I'm going to spend the $300 to upgrade my nosewheel on the RV-7A to the Grove wheel and axle. I want to be able to land on turf occasionally. I've always enjoyed doing that.

You want more? Here's one on an RV-7 that was posted a few days ago, with a soundtrack that isn't from Top Gun.


Sunday, September 20, 2009

If you're going to fly the flag...

... then get a clue about the way to treat it. This business on my home field has been flying the two flags this way for about a week. I'm working on the exhaust system later today. I'll have to stop by and leave a note.

This is how we do it

My Oshkosh friend, Bob Kelly, and his colleague Bud Newhouse, did three great things last week. First, they did a good thing in flying a vet. Second, they told the media about it. Third, they told VAF about it.

It's a great example of doing nothing more than what you love doing with your RV airplane, and getting publicity out of it from people more than anxious to tell a good story.

And for the few muttonheads out there, it looks like the media got it right. Not that that'll make a difference to you.

On Aug. 15, 1945, Gene Eaton flew a P-47 Thunderbolt, which he called a Jug, in formation with 95 other U.S. Army Air Corps aircraft over the Hawaiian Islands. The military planes paraded on Victory over Japan Day, the end of World War II.

"I flew in formation all the time during the war, but V-J Day was different," Eaton said. "Usually we had formations with four aircraft."

On Saturday morning over the North Vernon Municipal Airport, Eaton flew in close formation for the first time since 1946. He was a passenger in an RV8 propeller plane piloted by Bud Newhouse. They were part of the Ohio Valley Aviators, who also go by RV River Rats, a group of aviation enthusiasts from Cincinnati that gave an impressive exhibition in precision flying on North Vernon Airport Awareness Day.

More from Plain

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Who's killing general aviation? General aviators

This is an old conversation but one I'm bringing back anyway. Another lousy article about general aviation appeared this week; this time in USA Today.

The reaction from the pilot community, which I realize is almost universally and slavishly devoted to right-wing talk radio, was swift, predictable, and completely counterproductive.

"The media" got blamed and that -- as someone once said -- is another example of the lazy convenience of the generalization. It's easy to stamp our feet and whine, rather than actually do anything. Maybe we learned this from our political discourse; maybe not.

AOPA simply doesn't know how to react these sorts of stories other than playing the part of the aggrieved victim and then throwing out some statistics which just about everyone at a small -- and usually quiet -- airport knows is complete bullshit. The EAA wasm't that much better. The subject line in their Hotline:

Biased Reporting Sparks Outrage Within Aviation Community

That might be true. Well, in this case, it was true. But nobody outside of aviation cares. Take any crook who ever got caught, and they'll insist they didn't do it. The general population sees it as a typical response from a guilty party.

In the piece itself, Tom Poberezny of EAA did a little better job, casting the blame on airlines:

“This is very upsetting but not unexpected – It’s obvious the airlines are still trying to fix their broken business model by inflaming the public with one-sided media stories,” said Tom Poberezny, EAA chairman/president. “For several years, the airlines have tried to shift the burden of supporting our nation’s airport infrastructure by tossing it on the back of general aviation. It was wrong before and it still is.”

But where are the other stories about aviation? Where is the public benefit of general aviation not tied to an economic payback? EAA, in particular, is in a unique position to tell these stories to the general public; they've got Timeless Voices of Aviation, and the greatest video team ever assembled for aviation. But they're telling the story mostly to us -- the choir. We've got to figure out how to tell that story to the public and begin to understand that the public will accept that which it values and it can -- and often does -- value things without requiring an economic equation in the black. It values that which can enhance a quality of life.

We build sports stadiums for rich owners of sports teams, even though the economic payback was long ago disproved. Why? Because people want a sports team. Why don't we think about justifying the value of general aviation on those terms? Or can't we?

The other day I got a press release from a PR firm trying to promote a benefit for a local Wings of Mercy chapter. They're bringing in two crew members from the US Air flight that ditched in the Hudson River. Good idea. But if I'm a news person -- and I am -- what story am I going to tell? I'm going to tell the story -- yet again -- of the ditching of the flight. If the PR firm is lucky, I'll mention -- for a couple of seconds -- why the crew was here.

My idea? Let me tell the story of one family who benefited from Wings of Mercy. It'll be new, fresh, and compelling.

That's the way we need to think as general aviation pilots. We need to stop trying to hide behind statistics or star power and recognize the stories we've got in our hangar and the one next to us.

To do that requires us to stop whining and start doing something.

Here's the thread on VAF (now closed, thankfully). Look, I know you can't teach idiots; that much we all know. But there's always hope that the effort yields a light bulb in others.


...and hardly a whimper about the 2 million + folks that showed up in DC for the Tea Party.

Its why I hate the mainstream media.
Bob Japundza A&P, EAA TC
RV-6 flying ~1000 hrs, F1 under const. Indy
"Arms discourage and keep the invader and plunderer in awe,
and preserve order in the world as well as property...
Horrid mischief would ensue were the law-abiding deprived of the use of them."

Cost is considerably less than an Acorn headcount.
Always a bummer to hear about GA airport issues in a negative light. Tax dollars well spent to improve our infrastructure and security. I can't tell you how vital our little old "expensive" GA airport is after a coastal hurricane......

Humble opinion...
Chris Schmitt
Shallotte, NC
RV9A 90970 N614RV
flying, phase 2
RV9 in progress


Man I read the article at 0330 this morning on my way out of Dulles. I was not happy. It was all very negative. Very little pluses were mentioned. At least the airport manager said if he charged landing fees he knew that no one would land there and the business would go somewhere else.
Ridgecrest, CA
RV-8 fastback: Tail kit (166 hrs) / Wing kit (540 hrs) / Fuse (95hrs) My RV-8 builder’s log
RV-4 fastback: Working on everything

Mike S
While I happen to agree with the comments above, please remember that this forum/site is not a place for political commentary.
Mike Starkey
Rv-10, VAF 909
EAA 512

Working on window installation.

"Flying the airplane is more important than radioing your plight to a person on the ground incapable of understanding or doing anything about it."

Ron Lee
The comments are not about politics
It is about how accurate the media is in reporting "news." You could investigate any other transportation infrastructure, especially roads, and come up with similar "conclusions."

Example: while some may want fuel tax money to be returned to localities in the same proportion as its users, that would leave rural/desolate areas unable to maintain their highways.

This is especially true when it comes to the interstate system. Should the country blow off paying a disproportionate share to maintain highways in the west compared to urban areas?

There is an airport near me that needs to have a taxiway repaved. I have no problem with them getting more than their "fair share" to maintain it since it does benefit me as a pilot.

I have been to numerous airports that get lower traffic than commercial airports but they served me well.

It seems that the thrust of the article is that if it does not serve passenger traffic, it is not worth spending money on. Of course there is the airline vs GA hype.

Overall it is an obviously biased piece of reporting and not one that I would pen my name to.

Bob CollinsYou know, hate is an awfully strong word. Hatred for an entire group of people who go to work every day, most of whom do the best they can, and sometimes go work on their airplanes on the way home from being mainstream media? I still am idealistic enough to think that we as aviators are better than that and I try to cling to that against virtually all evidence to the contrary.

The guy who wrote this piece? He's mainstream media, too. And I'll bet he's a nice guy. I'll bet most everyone on this forum would like him if you didn't hate him so much. The nerve. Writing a positive GA piece.

Someone here could have spread the link to that around. It would've, perhaps, shown others how positive GA news is possible and is being done. It might've given an aviator the idea that maybe all mainstream media people aren't jerks like the USA Today reporter.

But nobody on VAF today, I notice, could be bothered with spreading a positive, productive, and cooperative story about general aviation. Shame on you all. You want everyone to be excited and well informed about GA and you're not even excited about GA.

Look, we've been over this hundreds of times here. The USA Today article? Yeah, it sucks. So deal with IT. Do something productive. Make your feelings known to USA Today and rather than enhance the bunker mentality by inflating its importance while deflating the work of mainstream media who are trying to do something productive for GA, try a tactic other than spreading hate and see if maybe that works.

I approach a LOT of aviators during the course of a year and good share of the time I'm met with hostility. Is part of the reason that there are a few bad reporters writing articles? Sure. But part of it because a few of you are wasting your time spreading your hate of "mainstream media" -- which, by the way, is plural -- and poisoning your fellow aviators, thus completely neutering the good work that a lot of reporters are doing in support of GA. What's the matter with you?

We have this whole Young Eagles strategy of one person at a time and yet we can't be bothered recognizing that it works the same way for mainstream media too. Each is different. So convert -- or support -- one at a time.

Your Tea Party comment doesn't belong in a VAF post, by the way. I get enough talk show politics elsewhere.
Bob Collins
Coordinator of Nothing
Piece of Grass 2009
St. Paul, MN.
N614EF RV-7A
Letters From Flyover Country

Bob, my point with my Tea Party comment has nothing to do with whatever side of the political fence your on, it has to do with the fact that one of the largest demonstrations EVER in DC was largely ignored by the media. Clearly a bias on the media's part. Yet, by coincidence, a very biased, sensationalistic, one-sided anti-GA story with very little national importance appears on the front page. Aren't journalists supposed to be professional, impartial and unbiased? Certainly not so in either case. AOPA had a lot of input for this reporter before the article was written, but none of their input made its way into the article. It just shows that they're not interested in telling the real story.

Yes hate is a strong word, and I sorry you take it personally, but I'm not going to candy coat the way I feel in general towards your profession. Yes you are correct, bad apples make the good ones like yourself look bad, but lets face it, there are far more bad apples in journalism today then there are good ones.
Bob Japundza A&P, EAA TC
RV-6 flying ~1000 hrs, F1 under const. Indy
"Arms discourage and keep the invader and plunderer in awe,
and preserve order in the world as well as property...
Horrid mischief would ensue were the law-abiding deprived of the use of them."
Thomas Paine

Bob Collins

I've always had a problem with the AOPA way of dealing with these stories. I read their news release this evening and it's predictably lame. They keep wanting to make an economic argument and maybe that works at Frederick, Maryland but in many communities it doesn't. There aren't businesses on the field.

Now, one thing they COULD point out is much of the spending is for infrastructure so that planes are landing and taking off safely, especially around people's houses. What people want a plane guessing where a runway is?

They could also point out that cities are getting rent money from hangars, communities are getting property tax money and sales tax money but even then it's a questionable argument. It's also one that's Washingtonian in nature. These people don't know how to argue an issue any other way.

This is when EAA chapters get to withdraw the deposit of goodwill they make when they do pancake breakfasts, airshows and Young Eagle flights and they should stress that and the romance of flying.

They should take note of the first line in the NPR interview with the reporter this evening. "Even though most of us don't use them...." and note the relationship to the ticket tax.

It was a perfect opportunity to point out that small airports near big airports relieve congestion, and that the few dollars that a passenger spends is a good price to pay to avoid having another plane hit you. It was a chance to point Angel Flights and Wings of Mercy and a host of other valuable program. MANY of which mainstream media has profiled.

There are many, many, many ways to legitimize the value of an airport other than on economics.

More bad ones than good ones? I don't how many people in the business you know but I suspect not many, and I don't know how much media you consume other than the usual talk shows and cable shows that depend on feeding the outrage of their viewers in order to turn a buck, but I can assure you that's absolutely not true and I'll put the entire cost of my instrument panel against yours that I can find more positive stories about GA this month than you can find negative ones. But I suspect it would be a wasted effort against an entrenched attitude.

I can only say this: Save some of your outrage because you're going to need more of it than you've got.

The attitude that you embody is going to do its part to kill GA much more than an occasional story in a newspaper not very many people actually read and there aren't enough of us == reasonable people willing to invest something other than T-shirt slogans and bumper sticker rhetoric == to save us from the attitude and face that these negative approaches bring to general aviation.

You can try to win the fight GA is in with your us-against-them approach to it. But as the old saying goes, "Never pick a fight with someone who buys their ink by the barrel.

GA has wayyyyy more friends than enemies in the mainstream media. Do something to take advantage of that rather than reverse it while you still can.

But reading your comments make me want to just throw up my hands and give up and if GA pilots don't want to lift a finger to work with my profession to save it, well, why should I invest any capital in the effort?

And if you're driving me away from telling GA's story, believe me, GA is in bigger trouble than even you think.

That's the last I have to say on the subject.


Bob your response proves my point exactly. As a journalist, you should not be pontificating or advocating, whether its GA, politics, or anything... and exemplifies the fact that none of you guys report anything without injecting your own views on the subject. As a consumer of news, I want fair and unbiased, not a journalists view on how to save the world. That's my 'attitude'. Why should you, as a journalist, feel that it is your duty to defend GA? We have organizations we all support to act as our mouthpieces. Starting tomorrow evening, we'll have at least 1500 people come and hang out in my hangar over the course of the weekend. Most aren't pilots. Last year we raised over 12K for a charity. That's the sort of thing that gives the public a favorable view of GA.
Bob Japundza A&P, EAA TC
RV-6 flying ~1000 hrs, F1 under const. Indy
"Arms discourage and keep the invader and plunderer in awe,
and preserve order in the world as well as property...
Horrid mischief would ensue were the law-abiding deprived of the use of them."
Thomas Paine

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Builder Profile: Ken Elwood

There goes that nasty anti-aviation media again.

The Plane Building Bug is Airborne in Albany

Ken Elwood's wife says he's a wing nut. He doesn't disagree.

He admits to a fondness for things with wings - specifically airplanes. An aerial gunner in the Navy during World War II, he was bitten by the flying bug when he was just a kid.

"I was hooked on flying after I saw a German dirigible fly overhead," said Elwood, 84. "I guess my wife is right. I've had a pilot's license since I was 21."

He's built five planes, including his Starduster Too, an open-cockpit bi-plane finished in 1971 that he was still flying up to a year ago. The retired teacher and member of the Experimental Aircraft Association even helped his students at South Albany High School build one some years back.

The whole story can be found at

Thursday, September 10, 2009

When a dream dies

I don't think there's anything sadder than when RV builders give up on a dream, especially when they're my best building buddy.

Warren Starkebaum is selling his RV-7 project. Warren's wife left him not long ago and the project isn't surviving the aftermath. Unfortunately, he also is selling his C-170. It's out of annual, Warren needs a BFR, and he's got a few issues with his medical certificate.

Warren and I met at the first meeting of the Minnesota Wing of the Twin Cities RV Builders Group back in 2001. The best Oshkosh I ever had was the one when Warren was with me in 2006. We flew to Boone, Iowa for RV Day a few weeks ago. He introduced Carolie and I to Bayport and Madeline Island. He's the closest thing I've got to a best friend.

I, of course, have seen Warren's work and it's sensational. Whoever buys his project will be getting an outstanding piece of workmanship.

You may recall the video I made of him cutting the canopy:

Here's his note:

If you happen to know anyone interested in an RV-7 project (airframe, IO-360, FWF kit, no electronics or prop) point them my way. Any suggestions on how to sell the project would be much appreciated. Of course if you stumble onto someone in need of a C-170 you can steer them over here too.

If you're interested, let me know.

Planet RV just got a lot less fun. A lot less.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Enlarging the flap rod push hole

I got an e-mail via Van's Air Force earlier this week that my article on how to enlarge the hole in the bottom of the fuselage for the flap rod is no longer posted online. It's possible I'd submitted a message on VAF with a link to the Expercraft site, when the RV Builder's Hotline was hosted there. But it actually is on the current Hotline Web site. Here's the link. Do your thing, Google.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

A few tips

A year ago at this time, I was struggling -- and I mean struggling -- with the fiberglass fairing around the front of my RV-7A's canopy. Fiberglass was a foreign land to me. All that sanding, and to what end?

This has been a weird summer for me in many ways. Most notably, however, is that of all of the around-the-house chores and the RV-7A airplane project goals I had for the summer, I've now completed all of them. Mostly, anyway. That's my story and I'm sticking with it.

Fiberglass is a warm-weather activity and the hangar is not heated for winter work, so this summer I tackled the fiberglass work on the tips.

This evening, I finished the tip of the vertical stabilizer. Can you find the seam between the fiberglass and the metal here?

It's not clear to me just how perfect I'm supposed to get these. I'm trying to get rid of every pinhole but how much of this is done now, and how much is done when I'm -- or someone else is -- preparing it for painting? I'm choosing to get them as nice as I can.

When I started on the elevator tips a few weeks ago, I think it took me at least two weeks.

I moved onto the horizontal stabilizer tips, and that probably took a week:

The vertical stabilizer tip probably took 5 days.

I try to stop off at the hangar for an hour in the morning and an hour or two in the evening.

But now I'm working on a fairly major part, the rudder. It has a fiberglass tip on the top, and a fairly large one on the bottom, that also houses the wiring for the tail light and strobe.

I started that on Sunday, today -- after spending two days getting the joint smooth, I added the fiberglass.

The hardest part about glass work now is keeping my epoxy-laden fingers off other parts of the rudder. I've generally failed in that so I'll have to sand it off.

It'll probably be mid week next week before this part is finished. But that's it for fiberglass work for the "season." I still have plenty to do. The wheel pants and fairings haven't been done yet, and the cowling hasn't been fitted, let alone fiberglassed.

This evening, by the way, I passed 2,000 hours of construction time on the project. There's still plenty of work to be done.

Oh, did you figure out where the seam was? Maybe this will help. Here's what the part looked like a few days ago.

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