Thursday, December 23, 2010

Stuck in flyover country

I haven't posted much lately. It's winter in Minnesota. You have almost no chance of getting a good day to fly. My currency at the FBO expires on Sunday and while I have a plane reserved for tomorrow, it appears to be too crappy to fly.

It's too cold to work at the hangar. I'm too broke to make any progress on the plane.

I need motivation. This new video is a start. Just a start.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Fun with fuel lines

Some years ago, I wrote an essay on determining when "good enough" is good enough on your RV airplane-building project. In matters of firewall forward, however, it's very difficult for a novice airplane builder like me to know when good enough is good enough.

For the last week, I've been building a couple of fuel lines for the RV-7A and I thought things were going OK until I asked a question on Van's Air Force regarding firesleeves. That's when someone noticed that I'm using aluminum fittings.

We went back and forth and I learned that:

-1- Aluminum fittings shouldn't be used.
-2- Aluminum fittings can be used.

Then today came the question about the route my fuel line is taking. See, the problem is I'm building a nose-gear airplane and there are extra "tubes" on the engine mount for a nose gear plane. You people with tail draggers have it easy. See destination, route to destination.

I, on the other hand, have an additional maze to get through.

Anyway, once the aluminum fitting vs. steel fitting debate petered out without a declared victor, the route I took for the fuel line is faulty because my original plan to clamp it to an engine mount is faulty.

Perhaps it doesn't matter in the short term because once I put the firesleeve on, a lot of the slack I depended on to allow me to clamp it (a fuel line needs flexibility because the engine is going to be shaking) disappeared.

So regardless, I've got to build a new fuel line and, frankly, the money is used up and that pretty much kills progress until spring. God love ya, Christmas shopping season! Oh what the heck! It's too cold to be building airplanes anyway.

Here's a video that shows how things are:

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Making your own fuel lines for your RV airplane

If you've not yet worked significantly on the firewall forward portion of your RV airplane project, let me warn you: fuel and oil lines are unbelievably expensive. I learned that lesson the hard way: Buying the stock fuel and oil lines based on Van's drawings.

There are too many engine combinations (mine is an IO-360 from Mattituck with vertical updraft) to make buying stock fuel lines worthwhile. Even if you could get them to fit on your engine, you'll likely be making some concessions to efficiency -- and maybe even safety -- to get them to fit.

It's possible, of course, to have your fuel and oil lines custom built, and certainly there are plenty of RVers out there with enough money to build their airplanes merely by writing checks. I am not one of those people, however, and I strongly believe in the basis for building your own airplane: recreation and education. I've learned so much from building my RV-7A so far, that I enjoy the challenge of understanding how things work.

(Read more on RV Builder's Hotline)

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Test flight videos

It seems like an eternity ago, but it was only a few short years ago when the sight of an RV-related video online was the sort of thing to make me drop what I'm doing. There were few of them.

Now, they're everywhere and the thrill is mostly gone. They're not that great to begin with and seeing a shaky out-the-front-window view of an RV simply isn't enough to provide substantial builder motivation for me anymore.

There are exceptions, and this week Matt Dralle, who runs the RV List (still the best place to get good archived RV-building information, because the search engine actually works), has uploaded a couple of well-done videos from his RV-8 test flights.

Here's part one:

And here's part two:

Well done, indeed.

Does it motivate me? Sure, it does. The problem is it's 17 degrees out at the hangar this morning, and I'm in one of those stretches when every task runs into some roadblock.

I got a bunch of orders from Van's (baffle kit and hose-making kit) and Aircraft Spruce (hardware) the other day so I thought I'd finish up getting the starter cable secured around the engine as it makes its way to the firewall.

That ended when I realized I didn't have the right sized Adel clams (DG-5) to secure it to the aluminum prop oil line (I don't have a controllable prop, but I've got the system configured for one to preserve resale value). Last night I started creating "fake" fuel lines (using plastic tubing from Ace Hardware) only to realize that I need a straight fitting instead of a 90 degree fitting. I bought some steel fittings for the engine to connect the oil cooler hoses but when putting one in, I accidentally bashed the threads for the flared fitting nut on one. So now I have to order another 45-degree fitting.

I ended up taking a bathroom break and walking up to the terminal. Both bathrooms were out of toilet paper.

That's a sign to go home and watch football.

Monday, November 22, 2010

RVator's Log - December

Doug Weiler, who heads the RV builder's group in the Twin Cities, is a fine writer and does a great job of issuing the group's quarterly newsletter. It's been more than 10 years since I joined the group and, you know, there really aren't a lot of newsletters -- including EAA chapter newsletters -- that are so consistently published, let alone continuously published while maintaining high standards.

You can find it here.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

How to build your own airplane

The RV airplane's baffling kit arrived in the mail yesterday, along with the fuel lines and tools I need to build my own fluid lines in the airplane. But it's 36 degrees out there and I don't have much heat in the hangar and I'm having a hard time getting motivated to work on the airplane.

If only I had a book to read in the meantime:

Monday, November 8, 2010

Running AOPA is a pretty good gig

I work for a non-profit whose president is regular skewered for making too much money, so I bring a different perspective to the question of reasonable compensation for a president of an advocacy organization.

That said, 14.5% pay increases for AOPA's top executives, including more than $1.8 million for the horrendous Phil Boyer, before he mercifully retired, is stretching the bounds.

AVWEB has the story, but unfortunately buried new president Craig Fuller's salary deep into the story. It's about $500,000, which is a lot of money, but is not unreasonable for a CEO.

Still, it will be worth popping some popcorn and watching the AOPA membership reaction, given that annual dues were just raised to $45.

The salaries of Washington are simply too incomprehensible for "normal" (that is, outside of the Beltway) people. Yesterday, for example, I found out the very excellent airport manager at South St. Paul airport (KSGS) has been laid off by the city council, in order to "save" $40,000.

I doubt the City Council considered what's involved in running a small airport, including managing fuel sales and keeping tenants happy, especially on a field that houses both Wipaire and Ballistic Recovery Systems. They're going to divide up his duties among three city departments, none of whom -- as far as I know -- knows anything about running an airport.

Yesterday, I heard some old-timers grousing about the move. A week ago they were grousing about government getting too big and needing to cut taxes.

I doubt they've made the connection yet.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

The engine in earnest

I hung the engine on N614EF more than a year ago, but now that the cowling is -- mostly -- done (structurally speaking ), I'm trying to get going on serious work to get the engine all hooked up.

Yesterday I spent a ridiculous amount of time getting the ground strap from the engine case to the firewall hooked up. I wanted to make the power line from the contactors to the alternator but two things cropped up -- I can't find any of the paperwork (or wiring) for the alternator (which I put up last winter), and I've noticed some builder sites are running a #8 wire, and the instructions call for a #2. I'm going with the #2, but don't have the connectors for the wire. More ordering. More delay. More shipping.

So today I'm adding on some fittings for the oil case which will attach hoses to and from the oil cooler. And, of course, I ran into problems.

Here's one:

This calls for a straight fitting, but I have the right angle oil filter adapter on this IO-360 engine from Mattituck. What should I do here? A 45 degree fitting?

I also installed this 45 degree fitting on the other oil connection. But it's unclear how I "clock" it. Which way should it be pointing?

I also looked some more at the fuel line from the pump to the fuel servo. On a 7A, there's VERY little room to run the thing, especially with a vertical updraft engine. I need to figure out how close to the heat shield on an exhaust, the fuel line can come.

Start. Stop. Start. Stop.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Slowdown season

Building an airplane in flyover country, I imagine, is like the exchange rate for the dollar. I've put 2,315 hours into the project so far, which I started in July 2001. I'll bet 2,315 hours in other parts of the country are equivalent to half that.

Part of that is my refusal to adjust too much of the rest of my life to the demands of building -- lately my vice is season tickets to the Minnesota Timberwolves because I can hang out with my adult children, which beats airplanes any day -- but part of it is the reality of the seasons, especially in an unheated T-hangar.

From the moment the hangar door opens for the first time in April (usually), an airplane builder in the north hears the clock ticking. Winter is coming and there's lots to get done before it does.

I was fortunate this year that it stayed warm fairly late into the year, so I was able to get most of the structural work and some fiberglassing accomplished on the cowling.

But this morning it's 28 degrees and my building list includes things like "pack up all the paint, epoxy, and fluids and move them back to the warmth of the house," lest they be destroyed by freezing.

My hangar has a bit of a problem with flooding, because of the way the city graded the ramp. In the winter, the melting snow on the roof ends up flowing back into the hangar and then freezing. Fortunately, we have the American Reinvestment Act doing its good deed. Because of the "stimulus," there are road-construction signs everywhere, each weighted down with sandbags.

So I liberated a couple from the clutches of big government the other day and put them along the bottom of the hangar door. Sadly, this mean that I can't open the hangar door until next spring.

For the first time in months, I sat in the hangar (I stop on the way home from work each day) and wondered "what can I do?" There was nothing to do because I'm now transitioning to engine plumbing and orders from Van's and B&C hadn't arrived yet, and I also haven't ordered the things I need to start making the various hoses I need to make. This is the transition period when one switches from "airplane building stuff that you should do in the warm weather," to "airplane stuff you can do in cold weather" mode.

I also failed -- again -- to pick up 5 gallons of diesel that powers the kerosene heater. A builder's workshop needs to be comfortable, especially when it's mostly metal and cement.

Eventually, I'll get back on an even schedule and a good list of things that can be done when it's cold at the hangar, but this usually takes a few weeks of re-evaluating where I am in the project.

So here I sit in the warmth of Casa Collins, pouring over increasingly frayed airplane plans, coming up with that list.

This weekend I hope to attack the project again. But first I have to get the snowblower ready.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The interior

A sure sign that the great airplane-building project is almost done is the arrival of the final touch -- the interior. Yesterday, the interior arrived.

I had the seats covered a few years ago but now that the inside of the plane is mostly done, it was time to get it gussied up. Abby at Flightline Interiors in Wisconsin did the work. As with so many other purchases on this project, I selected her because she consistently gets high marks from other RV builders. I trust the RV community and haven't been steered wrong yet. I certainly wasn't this time, either. She's delightful to work with and her expertise is outstanding.

Word of mouth is a pretty effective way to keep a business going in bad times. What don't you get about that, big American corporations?

It doesn't look like much sitting in the box, perhaps, but I'm looking forward to getting it installed.

And therein lies the problem, I suppose. It's a real motivator to get the inside all put together. But before the plane can fly, it needs an inspection. And in the final inspection, anything that can be uncovered needs to be uncovered. So while it might be great motivation to get the inside all put together and looking great, it doesn't make a lot of sense.

This weekend, I'm going to get the inside all put together and looking great.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

For the love of flying

I've been building my airplane for almost 10 years. This guy has been working on his for one year. I fret about whether a 1/8" gap between a cowling and a firewall is too much (it is). He, umm, doesn't.

But which one of us loves aviation more? Good question.

I don't know whether that thing is going to fly or not. In his column today, James Fallows points out that it almost doesn't matter:
But in my experience -- mainly In Ghana and Kenya during the 70s, in Southeast Asia in the 1980s, and in China these past few years -- there is a cumulatively very different and very powerful experience that comes from meeting person after person like the Kenyan aviator-aspirant. That is, people whose material circumstances and range of experience are vastly different from a typical person's in London or high-end Shanghai or San Francisco, and who objectively have nowhere near the same opportunities -- but who take their own life drama and possibilities just as seriously and can dream just as ambitiously. For instance, I am thinking of a man in his 70s in a village in western China whose consuming project is a handwritten history of life in his village, from his boyhood during the era of war in the late 1930s and 1940s, through the Great Leap Forward of the 1950s, to the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s, and onward. He is someone who wears the same pants, shirt, and jacket virtually every day, because that's what he has. He is part of "the rural poor," but he has a plan and a dream.

Monday, October 4, 2010

The Cowling Chronicles - Episode 3

Since last we met, I've seen the light on the finagled installation procedure of the cowling on my RV-7A project. Enjoy. Or not.

Monday, September 27, 2010

The landing slump

It feels like years since I've made a decent landing in an airplane. I'm in a slump. I can't tell you for sure when it began, and now I can't tell you when it's going to end.

This is one of the problem with being a renter: It's too expensive to get out and keep one's skills sharp. Yesterday, Carolie and I flew along the Minnesota and Mississippi Rivers to check out flooding that hit last week after some areas got 10 or more inches of rain in 24 hours.

Carolie usually doesn't fly with me, so it was nice to have her along. It was a little bumpy down low and she probably drove up the stock of Benadryl a fair amount, but she's a trooper:

And before the flight, I perform the traditional toast to the airplane.

Actually, I'm checking the fuel sample I just took out of the wing tank.

Then we flew...

The actual flying skills were fine -- better than fine, actually. I held altitude at 1,000 feet AGL in steep turns over Pine Island. While filming.

What else went right? Situational awareness. We flew well, we spotted the traffic (including birds) we needed to find, we did a great job of communicating through some busy airspace around Mankato, keeping everyone alert for us, and helping them navigate around us. We got a great view of tow plane, cutting its tie to a Civil Air Patrol glider over Mankato, and then diving for the ground.

There's just this landing thing to overcome.

We headed over to Red Wing for a bathroom break and a check of the Vikings score. Red Wing is a huge runway (5,000 feet), along the Mississippi, below bluffs on the Wisconsin side. And, sure, it gets a little squirrely, but it shouldn't have been as poor a landing as it was, especially given an incredibly stabilized four mile final.

But it was a bad landing, partially because the size of the runway makes you think you're lower than you really are, and partly because I'm not focusing on the far end of the runway, I'm looking ahead of the nose. I know this is the problem, I'm just not getting out enough to practice it.

So as we bounced down the runway, I firewalled the throttle and executed a go-around, which couldn't have thrilled Carolie, who rarely flies with me and didn't know what I was doing.

The second landing was a little better, but I still dropped it the last 10 feet or so.

And back at Flying Cloud -- a more familiar runway -- I had a better landing, but still not great.

As the RV-7A project nears its conclusion, I always think immediately after landings, "What would have happened if you were flying an RV?" I don't like the answer.

(If you're reading this via Facebook, you'll have to go to the "original posting" to see the video and Flash slideshow)

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Near mid-air over Minneapolis

From time to time I write here about aircraft accidents and, in particular, near misses. I usually hear pretty quickly -- at least at my day job -- from commercial pilots  who say it's no big deal. This shouldn't be one of those times.

The National Transportation Safety Board has issued this news release on what it classifies as a "near midair" over Minneapolis St. Paul.

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating a near midair collision between a commercial jetliner and a small cargo aircraft that came within an estimated 50 to 100 feet of colliding near the Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport

On September 16, 2010, about 6:49 a.m. CDT, US Airways flight 1848 (AWE 1848), an Airbus 320, was cleared for takeoff on runway 30R en route to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, carrying five crewmembers and 90 passengers.

At the same time, Bemidji Aviation Services flight 46 (BMJ46), a Beech 99 cargo flight with only the pilot aboard, was cleared for takeoff on runway 30L en route to La Crosse, Wisconsin. Weather conditions at the time were reported as a 900-foot ceiling and 10 miles visibility below the clouds.

Immediately after departure, the tower instructed the US Airways crew to turn left and head west, causing the flight to cross paths with the cargo aircraft approximately one-
half mile past the end of runway 30L. Neither pilot saw the other aircraft because they were in the clouds, although the captain of the US Airways flight reported hearing the Beech 99 pass nearby. Estimates based on recorded radar data indicate that the two aircraft had 50 to 100 feet of vertical separation as they passed each other approximately 1500 feet above the ground.

The US Airways aircraft was equipped with a Traffic Alert and Collision Avoidance System (TCAS) that issued climb instructions to the crew to avert collision. The Beech 99 was not equipped with TCAS and the pilot was unaware of the proximity of the Airbus. There were no reports of damage or injuries as a result of the incident.

NTSB and FAA investigators conducted a preliminary investigation at the Minneapolis airport traffic control tower on September 18th and 19th and are continuing to review
the circumstances of this incident.

In the past, when I've forwarded these reports of near mishaps, some pilots have suggested it's much ado about nothing. This is different. Fifty-to-100 feet in the clouds? That's a big deal.

To help you visualize these things, both planes took off on parallel runways, heading in the same direction. That happens all the time. Turning one plane into the path of another is highly unusual.

Update 11:55 a.m. - Here's the audio of the conversations that morning. The controller ordered the left turn -- to the south -- for the Bemidji flight as he gave the flight permission to take off. Normally, that turn would begin when about 500 feet off the ground, probably before the end of the runway. The turn would send the plane away from the parallel runway, where the US Air jet was also taking off.

A few minutes later, the controller asks the Bemidji flight if he's "in the turn." The pilot doesn't understand the question and asks for it to be repeated. It's not repeated. A minute or so later, the pilot asks to change frequencies to the departure controller and is granted the request. From the sound of things, that happened after the near miss. The controller asks, "why didn't you start the turn after departure?" The pilot's radio is nearly unintelligible, but I think he says, "forgot to go to departure," meaning he didn't change frequencies to the departure controller, which would have put him on the same frequency as the US Air flight.

Update 12:17 p.m. - As suspected, there were two planes on two different frequencies here. Here's the tape of the "departure frequency" when the US Air pilot (Known as "Cactus" because it's an Air West flight operating under the US Air colors) reports the near miss. The controller says he thought the Bemidji flight was going to go straight.

As with most disasters -- and near disasters -- this looks like the typical "chain of events," the breaking of any one of which -- repeating a question, repeating an instruction, knowing what each plan was for each airplane -- would've prevented it.

Of course, an investigation will take place, but this one isn't going to be hard to figure out. (Audio via

By the way, weather at the time was 0900 overcast and, of course, it was dark.

So what could have prevented this? File this under speculation but let's call it "informed speculation." On the tower tape, I did not hear either a request to change to departure frequency or an instruction to change to departure frequency. I don't know if that's even required (although I believe it is). But the tower controller asked two minutes after the La Crosse-bound flight took off whether the pilot had made the turn? That would indicate that the controller knew the guy was still on his frequency, wouldn't it?

The departure frequency indicates another problem. This incident occurred right at that moment when a pilot makes a transition from tower to departure. In fact, as you can hear, the US Air pilot asks "what's this guy doing off our left" before the departure controller confirms that he's got the US Air flight on his radar. That's a really icky time for things to fall through the cracks.

Update 5:30 p.m. - Here's my interview on Minnesota Public Radio's All Things Considered:

Monday, September 20, 2010

McClellan to EAA

I'm sure Mac McClellan is a terrific guy. The former editor in chief of Flying Magazine is joining Sport Aviation, and that's the problem. I dropped Flying Magazine a few years ago because it no longer was aimed at guys like me; it was aimed at guys like McClellan, guys with big bucks and twin-engine airplanes loaded with tens of thousands of dollars of avionics.

It's tempting, I suppose, to lament that Sport Aviation would do anything -- anything -- to become more like Flying Magazine, but the fact of the matter is, experimental aviation itself is becoming more like Flying Magazine. Spend a few minutes on Van's Air Force anymore and you're looking at images of guys with their $100,000 panels.Our sport is more Cirrus than Cub these days.

If I had to create the perfect magazine, it would be full of articles by Lauran Paine Jr., who of course writes for Sport Aviation too. Unfortunately, it would probably have a readership of only a few hundred people. There aren't many of us left.

Here's the news release from EAA:

      EAA AVIATION CENTER, OSHKOSH, Wis. — (Sept. 20, 2010) — J. Mac McClellan, former editor-in-chief of FLYING Magazine and one of aviation’s most-respected journalists, is joining EAA and will share his insights through EAA’s publications and electronic communications beginning in October.

      McClellan, an extremely active general aviation pilot, will provide his aviation expertise to EAA with his popular “Left Seat” column and other features for Sport Aviation magazine. He will also contribute to EAA’s e-publications and websites.  His focus will be on EAA’s pilot community, encompassing flying experiences, flying techniques, weather, technology, and aircraft ownership.  McClellan’s writings will interest all readers, including those EAA members and aviation enthusiasts who fly more complex aircraft for personal and business transportation.

      “Mac is a most welcome addition to EAA,” said EAA President Rod Hightower.  “His expertise across all of aviation will help us build on the success of the “new” Sport Aviation magazine that was launched in January 2010. Mac is certainly no stranger to EAA, having participated at Oshkosh for decades and has a thorough knowledge of EAA and AirVenture.  His unique understanding of EAA’s mission and role within the aviation community will help us better serve and add even more value for all EAA members.”

      McClellan has logged more than 10,000 hours as pilot-in-command, flying everything from a 1946 Cessna 140, his first airplane, to the Cessna 162 SkyCatcher and virtually all general aviation airplanes that have been in production over the past 30 years.  He holds an ATP certificate for multi engine airplanes with type ratings in several business jets, has a commercial certificate for helicopters, and is a CFI-I.

      “I plan to share information on a number of topics monthly, each designed to inform, educate, and entertain the broad spectrum of the pilot community, plus those who want to be pilots, with an emphasis on using an airplane for fun or travel,” McClellan said. “It might be new equipment, airplanes, or services, or it might be the basics of flying technique that helps all readers enhance their skills in the cockpit.”

      Sport Aviation magazine is EAA’s flagship publication and is sent to all EAA members.  It is part of the organization’s suite of five monthly publications and nine electronic newsletters, designed to meet the needs of the diverse aviation interests of EAA members.

       EAA embodies the spirit of aviation through the world’s most engaged community of aviation enthusiasts.  EAA’s 160,000 members and 1,000 local chapters enjoy the fun and camaraderie of sharing their passion for flying, building and restoring recreational aircraft.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Don't let facts get in the way of a good story

I guess this column in the Austin American-Statesmen about the death of an RV-7A pilot is supposed to be a testament to the willingness of a wife to let her husband go fly those danged experimental airplanes. But, geez, it's based on an ignorant premise -- that a plane crashed because it was homebuilt and experimental.  The laws of physics could give  a damn.

I don't know how my life will end. But I know how it won't. I've vowed that my obituary will not include the phrase "experimental airplane" or "home-built airplane."

I had that in mind yesterday when I spoke with the widow of a man whose did.
"Charles William Miller, 66, died tragically when his experimental, home-built, private airplane crashed August 19 in El Dorado, Arkansas," said the recent obit for the Georgetown resident.

What kind of man goes up in an airplane he built himself? What kind of wife allows that? Chuck Miller was that kind of man. Suzy Miller was that kind of wife. And they combined for a 43-year marriage marked by triumphs and tragedies, as well as adventures sparked by the greatest of those tragedies.

Sunday, September 12, 2010


#360 An airplane you built yourself is a poor substitute for a happy spouse.

More cowling chronicles

I don't have a big video presentation for you but I do have another installment of the process of figuring out how to fit the canopy on the RV-7A. After some fiddling and the 35th and 36th reading of the instructions, I at least have the order of fitting figured out.

Once the top of the cowling is where it should be, this -- as near as I can figure -- is the process.

1) Cleco the front of the bottom cowling to the top cowling behind the spinner. By the way, it's a real pain in the next to fit the bottom while the spinner back plate is on. I had to cut an extra three or four inches on the nose gear slot.

2) Drill the top cowling to the top hinges. Today I changed out my shims from .020 to .032 because I added some fiberglass to the aft edge for strength when I put some fiberglass back on from the original trim.

3) Mark the aft bottom edge of the  bottom cowl and cut. I did this last week but decided to put fiberglass back when I cut 1/4" off the top of the front to make it fit better. I retrimmed the back bottom today. I still have too big a gap -- I think -- at one point. But I can put more fiberglass back later.

4) Drill the bottom aft of the cowling to the hinge.

5) Mark and cut the side edges (after sanding a straight edge on the top cowling). I'll be cutting the top of the bottom cowling. There's an "indented" molded edge on the top of the bottom half of the cowling. The top cowling does not mean this edge at one point on the left side so I'll be adding some glass there soon.

6) I think at this point you drill to the horizontal hinges connecting the top and bottom sections.

7) Trim the aft side edges of the bottom and drill to hinge material.

I may have #6 and #7 reversed; I'll have to see.

One of the things that's been delaying me is rather than just get this thing fitted and sliced, I've been messing around with gaps and adding glass etc. I'm pretty sure this is something that can be done after everything is drilled to hinge material.

We'll see.

More as it happens

Thursday, September 9, 2010


Continuing the airplane building maxims:

#361 The law of physics does not care that people on an Internet building support group told you to "build on" when you turned to them for crucial structural decisions.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

#362 Larry flies

Like you, I read the first-flight reports on VAF and elsewhere all the time. While I'm happy for the builder-owner, they all tend to sound the same and I don't usually know the person.

Every now and again, however, a friend of mine completes his RV  and goes flying. When it's someone who's been building for quite awhile, it's all the better.

I first met Larry Frey at one of the RV BBQ's at Oshkosh. He was always ready to help, usually with his patented beans and unabashed enthusiasm. He's as good a guy as I've ever met and one of the draws that keeps me going back to Oshkosh.

So I'm thrilled to point you to this article in the newspaper in Larry's hometown near St. Louis.

Larry went flying!

And a quote Larry gave to the newspaper is the Maxim of the Day:

"You will find out in the first 100 hours if you will finish or not."

Tuesday, September 7, 2010


Continuing the airplane-building maxim of the day:
#363 As you build your airplane, you will have fewer parts around your workshop. You will spend more time looking for those that remain.

Monday, September 6, 2010


Continuing the one-a-day plane-building maxims:
If you have a pneumatic rivet squeezer, you will oneday mow your lawn sitting down.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

The Cowling Chronicles - Episode two

One of the most interesting things about building the cowling for the RV-7A airplane is that when you change something somewhere, the effect shows up somewhere else. That's what I'm doing in episode two -- chasing the somewhere elses. Apparently, that will also be the storyline for episode three.

Airplane-building maxims

It occurs to me that since I've taken so long to build my RV-7A, I have more "airplane-building experience" than most people. I've got 10 years; they've got, say, three. That's my story, and I'm sticking with it.

So I'm starting a new category on the blog -- maxims. If I can get 364 more of them, maybe I'll publish one of those one-a-day calendars. Some will be truthful and insightful. Others will be humor only. But you'll have to determine for yourself which is which.

Let's begin:
#365 - The best part about building an airplane is you meet some great people. The down side of taking 10 years to build is you constantly increase the odds of meeting some real dicks.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

The power of an engine

A lot of people say once you move your airplane building project to the hangar, the progress you make on it tends to slow down since it's not living arm's-length away from you. There's some truth to that, although when you're working at the airport, every plane that you hear taking off on a distant runway provides a fair amount of motivation to keep plugging away.

It's even more motivating to have the guys who've been building the RV-7 one hangar down, to push it out and see if the engine starts. That was the case last night. I was on fire-extinguisher and videographer duty.

After a celebratory beer, I went back to work on the stupid cowl, adding some fiberglass so that I can sand down pieces of it to make the damned thing fit.

From what I can tell, it'll take about four or five more first-engine starts to get me to finish this aspect of the project.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Cowling Chronicles -- Episode One

If you've been following me lately -- and even if you haven't -- you may know that the airplane project has hit a big snag because I've worked my way up to the dastardly fiberglass cowling. The instructions I've been using have been awful. They basically say, "figure it out for yourself."

This evening, I thought, "I wonder if there was an update in the instructions since I started this project in 2001?" And, indeed, there was and it appears to answer some of the questions about why some people have been offhandedly citing instructions that weren't in my instructions.

They're still not great, but they're more informative than the dinner napkin I've been trying to read off of.

So maybe this will be the only episode of The Cowling Chronicles. I'm betting not. Enjoy.

It's the cows... still

One of the great marketing elements of Oshkosh is Aeroshell's "cows" posters featuring Amoolia. More than once I've thought, "maybe this is the year I'll skip Oshkosh," only to catch myself and say, "but what about the cow poster?"  I think every homebuilder's garage or hangar has at least one cow poster. So I've updated last year's slideshow to present a decade of Amoolia. It might be easier to view these in the full-screen view.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Cowardice and cowling

It always seemed to me that when RV airplane builders started working on their cowling, they were near the end of their project. This week, a little more than nine years after I started building my RV-7A, I started working on the cowling in earnest.

Don't get me wrong, I've still got plenty to do on the airplane -- there's the little matter of plumbing the engine, for example -- but other than the wing tips, this will be the last of the "outside" parts of N614EF that people will see when they walk around my airplane. And therein lies the problem, of course.

I don't want to screw it up, and yet, this is the part of Van's airplanes that everyone says has directions that are not very good. Indeed, I've spent two weeks starting at the plans, and reading the instructions and it was only today that I noticed that the instructions basically say, "make it fit." Swell.

Last week, my building pal, Warren Starkebaum, flew over to South St. Paul to give me the once-over on how this is done, so I started on the top of the cowling and after three or four days of being fairly finnicky, I got it to fit as good as I think it will.

So today, I started on the bottom of the cowling, after reading several Web sites with some tips. The problem with almost all of them is they are taildragger models, whereas mine is a nose-gear model. That means you have to cut a slot for the nosegear leg to fit through.

The problem is there's really no knowledge that I've come across that tells me -- exactly -- what I need to do next... and after that... and after that. It seems to me there's money to be made here somewhere for someone in a particular region of the country to be a "cowling coach," working with a builder for an afternoon until they get past the point of no return. These things are expensive, and there's no desire to have a cowling coffee table.

Anway, I found a new use for the wing stand (which I don't need anymore because the wings are attached to the plane now).

The instructions say the bottom cowling should match the radius of each bottom corner of the firewall -- and mine does. And now I need to trim the back end to make the front end match, I guess. But this is kind of crazy.

Still, I can see how it will end up looking like an airplane.

All this fitting seems to be a two-person job. So I think I'm going to wait to do anything more until I can find someone in Minnesota who's done this before, who's willing to spend a few hours helping me get it to a final fit. After that, the sanding and then the filling and sanding of the finish, can be done solo.

Any volunteers?

Update 8/22/10

I've been sanding and grinding away at getting the two halves to fit. So far, this seems to be the best I can do. I don't want to sand too much off and make the two parts that overlap brittle. But, geez, ugly or what?

Here's the front left

Front right:

From what I've found on other people's sites, the plans call for you to drill the two halves together in the front. But I'll be darned if I can find that mentioned anywhere in the plans or on the drawing. Time to get a break, methinks.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

High-speed taxi tests

A line in a news story about the death of RV-6 builder Alan Clark caught my attention today.

Nampa Fire says Clark was high-speed taxiing and testing his plane when wind lifted it and sent him hopping up and down before it flipped over.
I wrote an article -- or rather pieced together submissions from pilots -- on the practice of high-speed taxi tests for RV Builder's Hotline a couple of years ago.

Van doesn't like them:
We expect that the motivation for such testing is often
the eagerness to “see how it works” while waiting
weeks for that final inspection. We assume that there
are many successful, thus unreported, high speed taxi
tests and “down-the-runway” lift off flights made in new
RVs. But still we wonder…what do pilots hope to learn
from fast taxi tests and brief lift-offs that they cannot
learn from sedate taxi speeds and actual take-offs?

Well, there’s theories and there’s facts:

THEORY: It is desirable – even safer -- to perform
high speed taxi tests during the pre-test flight phase of
homebuilt aircraft development because nothing can go
wrong at speeds less than stall/take off speed.

FACT: There is little to be learned from high speed
taxi tests, other than that RVs accelerate faster than
expected, and may take flight at lower speeds than expected.

An RV is capable of flying, particularly in
ground effect, at very low throttle settings. Even at far
less than full throttle, an RV can quickly accelerate to,
maybe, 40 mph. The pilot then pulls the throttle back a
bit to hold that speed while he exercises the ailerons
and elevator a bit, to "feel it out". But that retarded
throttle position, maybe only 1/3 open, is still too much
and has, within seconds, accelerated the plane to 60+
mph – enough that in the hands of an inexperienced (in
RVs) pilot, unanticipated flight is probable.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The next step

With the RV-7A nearing completion -- sort of (I still don't have a solution to the fuel line problem) -- I've found myself wandering, and dreaming about what I might build next for an aircraft. Then I saw this video that's been posted about powered parachutes, specifically an air tour around the gorgeous landscape of southeast Minnesota.

I'm not wondering anymore. A powered parachute it will be.

(h/t: Statewide blog)

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Things that go bump in the night

If it weren't 1,000 degrees in the Twin Cities with ridiculously high humidity doing so, it'd be the engine on the RV-7A project that keeps me up at night.

As regular readers know, I've been working my way from the tail of the airplane to the front for final assembly. With the avionics now -- mostly -- done, the only things left (other than fairings) to get the airplane flying is (a) the engine (b) the cowling and (c) the propeller. All are pretty important, from what I've been able to understand.

Over the course of the coming winter (which can't get here soon enough), I'll be working on the various lines for the engine.

I'll start with the the fuel line from the engine-driven fuel pump to the fuel servo. And, because this is me, I've already run into a problem. See if you can spot it.

Give up? Look closer.

Pay no attention to the black hose, that's simply a support hangar for the Vetterman exhaust. It's the brown hose. As it comes out of a T-fitting at the fuel pump and winds its way forward, it's striking the engine mount. Angling the T-fitting doesn't change anything, because the engine mount is parallel to the longitudinal axis of the plane and it'd keep hitting.'

I suppose I could clamp it -- somehow -- but the engine is going to be vibrating and don't I want the hose to be free enough to "give" from the constant vibration.

Also, I'm looking for anyone who has a good Web site documenting the installation of the Grand Rapids Technology EIS 4000 in an IO-360 engine. The instructions aren't bad, but they're not as good as they could be, and I learn by seeing rather than by reading and guessing.

Update - It occurred to me that perhaps I could swap the two ports out of the fitting that goes into the fuel pump. Alas, no dice. They're separate fittings.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

False floors for an RV-7A airplane

Last year, when I was interviewing RV building expert Tom Berge on the RV Builder's Hotline (download here), he mentioned the value of false floors in the forward fuselage. Ideally, I would have accomplished at the beginning of the fuselage building process, rather than at the end of the RV-7A project, but I'm pleased to finally have gotten around to it. Tom said, and others confirmed, that putting the false floor in dampens vibration, and heat, and changes the "sound" during an RV airplane flight.

There is a price to be paid; it adds about 7 pounds of weight. But it's a much cheaper addition for flight comfort than items that cost a lot more. (Read more)

Friday, August 6, 2010

Oshkosh 2010: He did it again

I'll be damned. He did it again. The guy who put together the best video in the history of Oshkosh in 2009, has put one together in 2010.

As good as it is, though, it still doesn't capture what Oshkosh is. It's so much more than what's flying by at a given time. But he's sure come closest over the years.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Oshkosh Diary: Doesn't anyone want to fly anymore?

At the tail end of a segment on our being a nation of dreamers on MPR's Midmorning yesterday, I did a short interview with host Kerri Miller on the week at Oshkosh. It starts at 45:48.

Kerri asked whether kids are still interested in flying and so I relayed an anecdote from a friend who flies Young Eagle flights at Oshkosh (Young Eagles takes kids for their first airplane ride to try to get them interested in flying). He called me Thursday because he had a seat available and wanted to know if I'd like it. I couldn't because I had an interview scheduled but how is it with so many kids around Oshkosh this week, no enough wanted to go flying? And what does that say about the future of general aviation?

My interview was with Ray LaHood, the U.S. secretary of transportation. He was giving me the usual rote answers that were uninspiring, if not borderline patronizing.

"Did you ever want to learn how to fly?" I finally asked.

"Me?" he said. "Oh no!" He then relayed all of the aspects of general aviation that are stereotypes of why we shouldn't fly -- he was too old, too risky etc. All of them, of course, are wrong. But it's hard to have confidence in a transportation vision and a secretary who says "the administration is 100% behind general aviation" who has never harbored the dream to take flight and look down.

Kerri also asked about the DC3s at Oshkosh. A lot of them didn't show up, I told her, because of the conditions of the field. But look at this beauty that was at Aeroshell Square. This is why I bought a little aluminum polish at Oshkosh (I spent a total of about $20 on airplane stuff this week, a record low for me, even for me).

 Click on the image for a larger and more beautiful view. There are reasons not to go with polished aluminum on my RV airplane -- paint hides mistakes, they say -- but when you look at a plane like this, it's hard not to think about the option.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Oshkosh Diary: Ardy and Ed's

It's not really Oshkosh until we've stopped at Ardy and Ed's drive-in for lunch, which was today's mission. That's Darwin Barrie and me. Glenn Brasch took the photo. I don't know why son, Michael, isn't in this.

Ardy and Ed's sits on the approach end of runway 27 at Oshkosh. As we waited for our food, sitting outside, we saw a B-17 approaching from a distance and it went directly over us.

There is, probably, no place else in the world where people today waited for their root beer floats while a B-17 passed directly over head.

Tonight we had the annual RV gathering. It was great to see Mario Nolte from Germany, and Linda and Terry Frazier from Nevada, and Bob Kelly and his wife from Indiana, and Ben Schneider did a great job putting it on. Also attending was Brad Oliver (who took some unbelievable night shots which I'll get a link to soon), and Chad Jensen and his dad, Jeff. And Bill Wightman of Terminal Tool fame. And Jeff Pointe, Darwin, Glenn, Michael, Don Hall, Rich Emery, and it's always great to see Larry Frey, who's coming up to Minneapolis after Oshkosh for some transition training with my pal, Tom Berge.

Tomorrow, I have an interview with Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, and then it's probably time to come home.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

An Oshkosh wedding

I've seen some cool things in the years I've been coming to Oshkosh, but I haven't seen anything as outstanding as tonight's wedding in the North 40 of Michael Regen and Karen Benitez.

The search for an alternative to 100 LL

If you're a general aviation pilot, you know that the days of 100 LL (low lead) are ending. Though it's called "low lead," it's not, and environmental concerns, coupled with the reduced demand, are making it increasingly difficult to find an alternative. Many aircraft engines can't handle auto fuel; it simply doesn't provide enough power in many cases. And ethanol is not good for aircraft engines.

Today, the President's Fuel Coalition, which is trying to come up with an alternative that won't make our aircraft engines paperweights, is holding a briefing. I'm providing details as they're announced.

The technical working group is:

Rob Hackman - Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association
Doug MacNair - Experimental Aircraft Association
Walter Desrosier - General Aviation Manufacturers Association

Oshkosh Diary: Meeting the neighbors

So far, this has been an "uncomfortable" Oshkosh, not in the sense that there's a lot of mud and all, but that it feels like it does when someone has moved the furniture around. While the AirVenture grounds feature the usual "been there, done that" vibe (I'm seeing very little I'd describe as remarkable for the homebuilder), out here in Camp Scholler, things are chaotic.

The grounds have dried out fine, but if you come here for years at a time, you usually end up in the same spot. It's comfortable. You know where to find people and people know where to find you. Not this year.

Fortunately, I've been able to connect with buddy Glenn Brasch and his son, Michael, and RV pal Darwin Barrie, who I'm pretty sure is now convinced I'm building a ghetto RV-7A. He's probably right, which is one reason I've decided never to fly it over here.But lots of other people I usually visit with are scattered to the wind.

In the meantime, Camp Scholler always offers an opportunity to meet the neighbors. This morning, for example, I met Alex and Benny, who are from "west of St. Cloud." Benny is a homemade wine afficianado so I've been invited to stop over this evening for a glass of his 2008 vintage. We'll see.


I'm not sure what the significance of this is, but I passed a display in one of the exhibit halls of beautifully carved airplanes of every model. The only one that's been cut to rock-bottom, is the RV line. The RV-8 models were also on sale. (Update: Gary Sobek e-mailed to tell me the vendor sold him one last year for $15. Now I remember this part of Oshkosh!)


There was a time when if you ran into someone wearing a Van's shirt or some other signal that they've built an RV airplane, you could instantly strike up a conversation. There weren't that many of them. Now, because of their popularity, they're everywhere. And the RV community -- singular -- has got pretty fractured. The RV-10 is for the monied, family crowd (not that there's anything wrong with that), the RV-12 seems to be for the older gen (getting there), and the RV-9s and RV-7s and RV-8s in between are for a very diverse crowd.

In other words, there really isn't an RV community anymore. It's no longer unusual to run into someone else building their own RV airplane and when you do, it isn't any more (or less) special than if you run into any of the other hundreds of thousands of people who live here for a week. What the community has in common -- building RV airplanes -- isn't really that significant as it once was. Sure, it's great to put faces to names of people you run across online; no doubt about that. And it's always great to see old friends, but there's 6,000 flying RVs now and probably another 20,000 under construction somewhere. As any city that grows past a certain point knows, larger communities split into smaller ones, and it becomes more and more difficult to maintain the larger group.

Like a corporation that's spinning off, it will be interesting to see how the transition occurs.


I'm using my son's old bike during Oshkosh. Fortunately, it's a mountain bike so it's good in mud. But here's a tip: Keep a detailed note of where you parked your bike at Oshkosh.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Oshkosh Diary - Getting back to normal

Anybody who has ever brought their little kids to Oshkosh recognizes this picture. It's Oshkosh in the campground. Kids doing what kids to; parents doing what parents do. Sure, the adults -- some of them -- are kvetching about the conditions here, but they're actually getting back to normal.

The main roads around the campground are now in pretty good shape, and the side roads -- through the fields actually -- no longer present a squishy "I'm crossing the Delaware" sound. True, they're still a mud bog, but all those pictures you've been seeing are starting to create a somewhat exaggerated pictures. Yes, there are still long lines of campers that can't get in. Yes, there are still rich people's toys who are camping on the roads. But there was a goodly amount of dust being generated around the campground today.

You watch, in a few days, some people will be complaining about that.

I have no idea -- and don't care that much -- what the situation is with people flying in. Jeff Point, who handles parking for RV airplanes, has been doing a great job of keeping people up to date on that on Van's Air Force.

My good friend, Warren, was supposed to fly over here from Minneapolis today. But the information about who can land here and who can't has been wildly inconsistent. He says he listened to the controllers at Fisk telling people nobody was landing. So he landed in Necedah and called me. I told him "you don't want to be here." Not with an airplane, and not sitting on the ground somewhere with the sun going down.

So he's opted to fly back and spend the evening with better company and a bottle of wine. Good choice.

Meanwhile, the biggest likely tragedy is that the porta-potty trucks aren't able to get to some parts of the campground. Guess which two they can't get to? In a couple of days, that's going to be a real problem. Meanwhile, we can ignore the one with the beer bottle and the vomit in it, I suppose. That one is, apparently, for the moose hunters from Kansas camped nearby. Awesome job, fellas. Awesome.


The EAA has wisely -- in my opinion -- given up on the idea of providing roaming wiFi around the campground. Instead, it's built small shacks all around AirVenture where people can connect. This is a good thing. Yes, it's a bit of a pain in the neck -- in a 2010 way of thinking -- to ride a bike to a hotspot. But I admit to being discomforted by seeing so many people last year sitting in their tent in the evening, playing on the computer. The place to be is outside meeting people.


The radio broadcasts began this evening and continue through AirVenture. My guess is more people listen around the world than at Oshkosh. It seems like a great group of people, all of whom could be my son or daughter. Many are students at St. Cloud State.

I've done a few interviews, as previous posts have shown, and for the most part I'm opting to dump them onto the kids, so they can write and produce the material. That's what they're hear for. I don't need my name plastered on a piece, although I do intend to do one or two.

The young journalists are part of a class at St. Cloud State University. It's nice to see that people are still interested in the art and the sooner they can get into the business, and the sooner the people predicted its demise can get out of it, the better off the world will be. I'm just glad they're letting me play along with them for a few days.

As I type this, they're one minute away from beginning the broadcast of tonight's program at Theater of the Woods. Throughout AirVenture -- and beyond -- you can listen here.


Canon, the camera company, has lent out huge cameras to just plain folk in recent years. It was a great promotion, and the cameras the size of Montana are the only way just plain folk will ever take great pictures. A sign on their building door today, however, said something like "due to worldwide demand, we're not handing out cameras this year." This, of course, is the type of gibberish that earns a public relations student a good grade.

Love and the airplane builder

All love starts in France. Or aboard the Ford TriMotor.

Just ask RV-7 builder and RV-4 owner Michael Regen of Maryland, who proposed to Karen Benitez a year ago on a flight aboard the Ford TriMotor at AirVenture 2009 in Oshkosh. "As we took off and I was able to get out of my seat, and propose to Karen."

She said yes. "I was actually looking out the window when all of this was going on, because I was somewhat irritated with him before we got on the Ford Trimotor and it almost didn't happen. I was staring out the window, grumbling to myself. I turned around, and there he was."

The two actually met as kids, thanks to their parents. "Our parents were stationed together in France before we were born, and they always kept in touch," Karen says. "We always saw pictures and what everyone is doing. I come from a family of three girls and he comes from a family of three boys."

"We always used to fight over who got to sit next to Karen when we were kids," says Michael.

The two will be married in the North 40 on Tuesday under a tent put up by the Bonanza airplane group.

"It's vacation time. It's relaxed, and you can't be around a greater group of (mostly) guys," according to Karen, who had the idea of getting married at Oshkosh. She figured most of the couple's friends are in the area, although when we talked on Sunday, Michael was trying to find a workaround to a canceled Delta Airlines flight that was to bring two of his children to Oshkosh. They'll fly to Appleton instead.

"We've been sweating for the last few days because there was a chance the Bonanza people weren't going to be able to fly in," Michael said. "Fortunately, things worked out."

Regen built an RV-7 a few years ago but has sold it in favor of an RV-4. "They both have their little nuances, but I couldn't pick which one I like better. The 7A was a great airplane."

But he says his soon-to-be bride tops any plane. "Karen's wearing half an RV-7 on her finger," he said.

Brazil to Oshkosh

Three RV-10s are sitting at show center at this year's  Oshkosh. Their pilots have earned the honor. They flew from Brazil to attend their first AirVenture.  It took eight stops and six days, according to Victor Yancovitz, right, a former airline pilot.

None of the airplanes was made by the pilots. In Brazil, companies are allowed to make kit aircraft, and then sell them to customers, Yancovitz says.  "Brazil is very strict about homebuilding. In the United States, you can make your aircraft, and go fly. There (Brazil),  it's very restrictive. You must be approved by an engineer."

Antonio Nallin's RV-10, which was made in Sao Paulo,  features extended fuel tanks. Three 150-liter tanks

Extended range tanks installed increased the size. Three 150-liter tanks (about 39 gallons) give the RV-10s a range of about 6 hours and 30 minutes.

Nallin says he likes to upgrade airplanes but doesn't like the idea of flying a light-sport category plane. He previously owned an RV-9 which is considered an ultralight in Brazil.  He was the first Brazilian pilot to cruise over  the Andes Mountains in an ultra-light five years ago. "It was a great adventure," said Nallin.

"He's a crazy man," counters Yancovitz.

Yancovitz says he's excited about the RV-12 and other light airplanes. "I've flown for  45 years," he said. "Boeings, DC8 , Airbus, everything. I love flying. When I retired I stopped flying commercial in 2001.  I have to keep my medical every six months. With the ultralight, it's every two years. All of my licenses have expired -- commercial, ATP, private, they've all expired. Now we have a license to fly ultralights. For me, the smaller aircraft is enough."


I awoke fairly early this morning, looked out the tent and saw this...

 The line from yesterday afternoon was gone; I don't know where it went, I've seen no indication anyone was allowed into the campground at AirVenture. But it was replaced by another line that stretches about a mile down the road. It's not moving and it doesn't appear it's going to move anything soon.

After breakfast, I went out and talked to some of the people.

Nate Gifford, from Worthington, Mass., and he flies for Continental. He and a couple of friends from the Berkshires (who didn't want to be identified but we exchanged some Berkshire County connections) drove all night from Massachusetts, and pulled into line at 5:30 this morning.

Nate was in pretty good spirits; he's been coming here since the '80s and didn't seem to mind waiting in line much. His colleagues are on their first trip to Oshkosh.

This gentleman is from my neck of the woods -- Oakdale, Minnesota. Kirk Martenson is ex-Army where he flew helicopters and he's looking forward to evaluating some of the kit helicopters. He says EAA could've done a better job of posting signs that say "go home."

As he understands it, EAA is going to organize a caravan to the parking lot at at the University of Wisconsin Duluth, where they'll drop their trailers. What happens after that, I don't know, and this isn't official so don't quote me.

From looking at some of the shopping center parking lots, however, it appears that EAA is trying to line up space for these people to put up shop. Various parking lots along S. Koeller Ave -- the frontage road -- now sport mini-neighborhoods.

This group is from St. Louis, the president and vice president of EAA Chapter 32 in St. Louis (on the right). David Doherty and his son, William Doherty. David proudly points out he was born on the day the EAA was formed in the basement of Paul Poberezny's Wisconsin home.

The people on the left are all from Australia. Dave Looten and Rae Percival are here for his 60th birthday. They've been traveling in the states for seven weeks and are now taking in Oshkosh and all its, at least for now, inaction.

I asked David -- Aussie David -- for his favorite flying experience and he reports that it came just a few weeks ago when he flew over the desert in Australia and found everything to be green, which apparently rarely happens. Everything's green in Wisconsin, too.  I told him if he got tired of making camp on a frontage road, the biggest ball of twine in the world is but a few hours away. He seemed appropriately unimpressed.

Last night, I had dinner with Darwin Barrie, and Glenn and Michael Brasch, and the pal I know only as "Tom the Camp Locator Shack Guy," and Jeff Point, who is the master parker of RV aircraft.  Jeff says the "phrase that pays" this week is, "I've never seen anything like this before," and describes the situation as a "Biblical flood." He says at this point, organizers are just "making it up as we go." There's no long-term plan, because people are just trying to figure out what to do in the short term.

They can't even park cars for people coming in today (although AirVenture officially opens tomorrow) because the fields they use for the parking lot are too wet.

EAA officials have fanned out around Camp Scholler, telling people they can't drive their cars once they set up camp; they have to walk the half mile or so to a shower or the store or wherever. The cars are simply carving up the field.

That wouldn't be such a  bad thing if the camp shuttle buses were running, but I haven't seen them yet and if they are running, they're going to have a difficult time because of all the big land yachts parked along the road.

And the owners of those rigs aren't sacrificing much. Even though people need to use the road, those that have living rooms that extend out the side, are deploying them, carving up more of the road. Thanks for taking one for the team, rich folks. Stay classy.

I did hear this morning from my favorite vendors -- Jerry Hansen and the gang from Trio Avionics, who were driving in to set up their shop. Hopefully, we'll be able to get together for dinner as we always try to do.

My friend, Warren Starkebaum, is due to fly over from Crystal Airport (Minneapolis) today. I left him a message saying "you don't want to be here."

Normally on Sunday, one can pass the time pulling up a chair by the runway and watching the mass arrivals. But there are no mass arrivals because there's simply no place to park them. There will be soon, Jeff hopes, but there are going to be large sections that simply won't hold the weight of airplanes this week.

The big fly-in of DC-3s has been canceled. They take up too much parking space on the ramp, space that has to be reserved for smaller planes.

(Click on the images to see larger ones and to see what's cut off from the smaller ones posted here.)
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