Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Why aviation people need to be better at telling media's stories

I'm a big fan of the podcast, Uncontrolled Air Space, which is three very knowledgeable gentlemen gassing on for an hour about all things (general) aviation. They're smart, they make excellent points, and they're a great companion for me out at the hangar.

A couple of years ago, I interviewed U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood at Oshkosh along with Jeb Burnside, one of UCAP's founders, although I doubt he'd remember me and I wouldn't expect him to.

It was surprising on Sunday, then, to be listening to a recent podcast while I was working on the RV-7A at the hangar, when this blog was mentioned and came up for discussion. Unfortunately, they did to me what many reporters do to aviation, they talked as informed analysts even though they didn't fully know what they were talking about and, in the process, they got the story wrong and did a disservice to the listener.

The subject of their segment was this blog post about the landing gear problems of a Polish airliner on a flight to Poland from Newark.

I had access to (I think from the Aviation Safety Network) the English version of an initial report from the Polish version of the NTSB. Not only that, I read it and I provided links and information contained therein.

I made clear in the post that the belly-up landing did not have its roots in the circuit breaker -- that clearly was from a hydraulic leak -- but that one reason for the belly-up landing was the circuit breaker.

In the telling of the story, however, my three friends neglected to read what I wrote and adequately inform themselves about the information before commenting on what they were reading.

You could hear the whole presentation here.

Even though I provided the source of my information, they initially questioned from where I was getting it. They proclaimed it an "implausible" scenario, and they objected to the possibility that a circuit breaker wouldn't have revealed itself via the usual annunciation systems. They also didn't quite comprehend that I was talking about the failure of the alternate landing gear system, not the initial problem of the hydraulic leak.

As they worked their way through the post, they eventually figured things out, although by not reading it ahead of time, they also missed the very real factoid that the landing gear came down on this airliner once the CB was pushed in; that just didn't happen until it was already on the ground.

But, I guess what I generally object to is the live questioning of a journalist's work to a wide audience without fully understanding what that work was. I rather hope in the future that my three companions will take the time to fully familiarize themselves with the topic before tackling it, because people's reputations are valuable.

It's nothing we don't ask of journalists toward the aviation world, and nothing we shouldn't expect of ourselves.

All that said, it's a hell of a great show, they're three great guys, and if you're not a regular listener, you should be.

I'd have posted these comments in the show's forum on their excellent website, but I haven't been approved yet.

Reporter/blogger in battle over EMI on aircraft

It's pretty unusual to see journalists sniping at each other across the country, but that's happening today between aviation reporter Christine Negroni and a blogger at the New York Times.

Negroni, who reported for the Times this year on a story about the electromagnetic interference consumer devices could cause for airplane navigation systems, is hitting Times blogger Nick Bilton hard for a series of posts that pooh poohs the threat.

Negroni makes a rationale rational argument before unleashing the journalistic version of the "nuclear option."

For those who prefer their pilots not to be wetting their pants over suspected EMI flight control issues I'll point out that it is a basic tenet of aviation safety that events are more predictive than accidents. These pilots were reporting on the precursors to crashes.

But Bilton, having spoken to at last count about half a dozen people over the course of four posts tells Times readers its "time to change the rules."

He's wrong. Aviation's remarkable record is the result of eliminating anticipated risks and creating redundant systems for the risks and errors that are unpredictable. The use of portable electronic devices falls squarely in the former.

Bilton would know that if he felt the need to take his reporting even slightly off the path between his hunches and his biases. As a blogger he may not need to do that, but as someone who's opinions fall under the banner of The New York Times, he and his editors certainly ought to.


By the way, it would be "whose opinions."

Monday, December 26, 2011

Don't turn back

This article
from AOPA last summer really caused a lot of furor in the piloting community, and it's probably what's led a few pilots to get it into their head that it's advisable to turn back to the airport when there's an engine failure on takeoff.

I'm a big fan of Internet builder and pilot forums. You can find a lot of great information there. I also think they can kill people, and I think Doug Rozendaal thinks so too.

Rozendaal is one of the best pilots in the country. He flies his Rocket up from Iowa to fly the CAF's P-51 Red Tail and the B-25 out of KSGS. He does spin training and upset maneuver training, as I recall.

So I tend to listen to what he says. This week, he penned a response to another discussion, this time on Van's Air Force, about the possibility and practicing of returning to the airport when there's a failure on takeoff.

I was leisurely digesting my Christmas Dinner, surfing VAF, and "what to my wondering eyes should appear......" Another Turnback thread.... OMG

Those who know me can imagine my indigestion...

Nothing seems to change.... Every few months I read about another SSCBD accident after a turn-back after take-off...

The AOPA did a terrible disservice to General Aviation with their articles this summer... I know for a fact that there was disagreement internally about the things they have published on the subject this summer...

I also realize this thread was started to gather data, but for what purpose.... If you believe you have the skills to consider a turnback when the unthinkable happens to you, the you have the skill set to collect your own data on your own airplane. If that is beyond your skill set, then a turnback from an EFATO should not be in your toolkit...

The most recent post that says pulling the mixture at altitude is going too far??? If pulling the mixture 4000 ft above a 4000 ft runway increases your heart rate even 1 bpm, then the turnback from an EFATO is not for you....

Long term readers of this forum know that I have never said it is impossible. What I have said, and continue to repeat, is this..

When it happens for real, there are so many variables that must be considered that make it impossible to have a cookbook go-no/go decision. That combined with the shot of adrenaline that comes with the emergency turns the brain to mush.... The statistics bear this out...

The default response to an EFATO needs to be, "lower the nose and pick a point ahead of the wings, into the wind, and land at the slowest possible airspeed." Airplanes that arrive at the earth, wings level, under control, at minimum airspeed, have survivors onboard...

There is an attorney in Des Moines IA, Tom Drew, who coined a phrase that I call "Drew's Law" Tom says that "80% of the pilots believe they are in the top 20%..."

To that I add a corollary, "The reality is that half of us are below average." (the median actually for the statisticians, but that's a detail)

Pulling off a turnback from an EFATO is a maneuver that requires the skills found a group much smaller than the top 20%.

Trying would be fine if failure did not result in almost certain death for all aboard....

Everyone have a wonderful Christmas, and I will go find a roll of Tums....

Over the years, I've covered a fair amount of accidents involving people who tried to turn back to the airport. They usually end up looking a lot like this.

Here's an article Doug wrote a few years ago which might help explain why you shouldn't turn back.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Almost done

I took this week off from work to make some progress on the RV-7A project and, wouldn't you know it, I got a bad cold on my vacation. But I got two long days of work in, including installing the interior from Flightline Interiors.

You can see when I close the cowling how well the fiberglass "skirts" I made came out. I didn't like the gap between the fuse and canopy, not so much because it looked lousy from the outside -- it did -- but I didn't like seeing so much daylight when inside, even if I had put the weatherstripping in place there (not to self: don't forget to put the weatherstripping in there).

And then, realizing a little more about how the baffling material relates to the nose inlet "ramp," I drilled out a couple of pieces and added a few more, finalizing that project. Even better, having moved a couple of pieces, the cowling fits better.

(The music is the Killers, which I have begun and ended every work session with since this video came out)

The white cowling? That's Smooth Prime -- a filler primer and UV blocker. I have some sanding to do on the bottom piece before painting. I bought a can of MarHyde from the auto parts store and some catalyst and reducer, intending to shoot the cowling, then realized the can they sent me wasn't grey, but beige. Beige? Man, that'll look lousy. I may just get a big rattle can of MarHyde grey to finish this off.

There are a few more things to be done, yet. The empennage fairing is almost complete, just need to sand some SuperFil off and roll on some Smooth Prime. I haven't done the leg fairing, intersection fairings or wheel pants yet, and I still need to configure all of the avionics.

I had the Grand Rapids EIS-4000 engine monitor updated to allow a second tach reading, but I don't know yet where that shows up on the unit. Also, it occurs to me as I look at the engine start video that the RPM reading off the lightspeed ignition was probably half of what it actually was.

Oh, and I have to rivet on the most forward piece. After that, done! Well, there's the weight and balance and static system check, of course.

I did see an unusual blue spot on the floor under the tank the other day. It's very suspicious for a couple of reasons (a) I went almost three months without seeing any such spot, (b) the spot was big enough that you'd think there'd be fresher gas dripping (or any additional, for that matter) and c) we considered playing a practical joke on another builder in which we'd pour a small amount of avgas under his wing just to watch his reaction.

I've been filling out the paperwork to get a bill of sale from Van's so I can register this. Also contacted the Minnesota Department of Aeronautics regarding sales tax. I've been dreading this. You have to pay sales for anything you buy online, although all they really want to know is kit cost, prop cost, and engine cost, which should run me about $3,700.

I'm looking for Minnesota builders to come "inspect" the plane before I even think about having a DAR look at it. Interested? I'll be at KSGS most weekends.

My wife is losing her job at the end of the month and most of the things I thought might come true when I put this plane up for sale last winter actually have come true. So writing big checks right now is not something I feel comfortable doing. So, the plane will sit until we figure out a solution to what life is throwing at us.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Wired discovers homemade airplanes

A nice piece on the RV line of homebuilt airplanes was posted today by Wired.com.
Find it here.

Remember: The media is stupid and never writes anything positive about aviation.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

It's the little things

See this?


It's a circuit breaker that's "popped." They sell for about $30.

It apparently contributed to this, which happened a month ago today (and which I wrote about here):

The Polish airliner left Newark and noticed right away there was a leak in the plane's hydraulic fluid. That's when the pilots made mistake #1, according to a report that was just released (available here). They decided to continue flying to Warsaw, where they found out the plane's landing gear wouldn't extend.

An alternative landing gear extension system didn't work because of that $30 part shown above.

Had the pilots noticed the circuit breaker, they could've pushed it in, lowered the gear, and landed the plane.

But these days, airline crews depend on computers to tell them what's wrong and the Boeing airplane wasn't built to tell pilots when a $30 circuit breaker had popped (pilots of smaller airplanes have an old-fashioned fail-proof system: They touch run their fingers across each circuit breaker to be sure they're all engaged before taking off).

When authorities lifted the plane off the runway, pushed in the circuit breaker, applied power, and flipped the landing gear switch, down came the landing gear.

And that's the simple sort of thing that causes major air disasters.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Acknowledging an uncommon skill

Pilots and non-flyers are reading differently the story of a pilot who crashed in his plane in Princeton yesterday.

Most of the news stories, like this one in the Star Tribune, hinted that the result pilot Barry Ramage, 33, of Princeton, encountered -- crawling out of wreckage after his plane lost power when taking off -- was primarily because of his inexperience.

Ramage was not immediately available to explain what happened, but one of his partners in a gymnasium floor installation business said that this was just his second solo flight.

"There were a lot of trees in the area" where he was trying to land, said Debbie Covlin, a former commercial pilot, who spoke with Ramage afterward and added that she got him interested in flying. "It was a small area to put it down in, with what training he had."

The reality? There are a lot of pilots with much more experience than Ramage who are dead because they couldn't resist the urge to do what Ramage was able to resist -- turning back toward the airport when an engine quits.

Pilots are taught from an early flying age to "land straight ahead" when an engine quits at such a low altitude. There's no way a plane without an engine could stay aloft long enough to make it, and pilots often die trying (like this, for example).

"Landing straight ahead," however, is no fun, even if it's the best alternative. That a pilot on only his second solo, with minimal training, was able to make the right decision not to turn back to the airport, and then survive the forced landing, is a significant tribute to his skill and his flight instructor.

It's the kind of decision and result that the best pilots make. Perhaps you remember one such pilot.

Acknowledging the pilot's considerable skill would have been a much more accurate story.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The incredible journey

Early in this film -- brought to my attention by Ted Chang -- there's no indication that pilots of RV airplanes are involved, until you hear the sound of an engine start with a black screen. There's no mistaking that sound.

This is a great film about six RV pilots on a great adventure...

Chapter One - Blast Off (Incredible Journey) from Fly Rod on Vimeo.

Chapter Two - Camp Stories (Incredible Journey) from Fly Rod on Vimeo.

Monday, October 17, 2011

The direction of EAA

A short-lived thread at Van's Air Force raised the question of what's happening to EAA's Sport Aviation. The author of the thread -- I think it was the very talented Bill Repucci -- said it's becoming too much like Flying Magazine, not surprising since J. Mac McClellan, who was the editor of Flying, is now the editor of Sport Aviation magazine.

I feel like I’m about to go through a divorce

There were early signs, that’s for sure. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. I felt like my needs were no longer being met. Then I started looking elsewhere.

However, I’m still not ready to call it quits and hope it isn’t over, maybe things can turn around.

Yep, when the October issue of Sport Aviation arrived I flipped through the pages and couldn’t bring myself to read it. Yet, when the latest KitPlanes arrived, I read it from cover to cover that evening.

While I like the T-6 that was on the cover of Sport Aviation and have some time in an SNJ, the cover article was all about Mac getting checked out in the plane, not so much about the plane or its history. Then there was the story about how the avionics in the Cirrus helps keep pilots out of trouble. There is an article about how every Bonanza owner must maintain / upgrade their airplane because, after all, it is a Beechcraft. Next up for me were the articles on retired airline pilots, pilot attitudes, and a story from Jeff Skiles about flying an airliner on News Eve. The list goes on but you get the idea. At least they still list have the completions section

Sport Aviation had two stories on aircraft restorations, one a pre-war Stearman mail plane and the other a Baby Ace; but not one story about a builder or their aircraft.

This morning I called the EAA and asked them if they had a magazine for home builders and the nice lady on the other end of the phone said they did not, Sport Aviation was it. What a bummer as that is no longer a magazine that represents my interests in aviation.

I’m really conflicted. I like the idea of the EXPERIMENTAL Aircraft Association but it seems they have taken the Experimental part out and have turned it into the “Aircraft Association”. While I used to be very proud of my low EAA membership number and association with the organization, I’m seriously thinking about letting my membership expire.

In addition, what is troubling is the number of people who have contacted me who feel the same way and have asked about setting up a new organization to represent the interests of the builders.

The thread, for reasons not specified, was deleted by one of the moderators there (it's a whole 'nother topic but more and more threads are being deleted there because of an opinion that runs counter to a nameless moderator, rather than a violation of the terms of service). I was in the middle of typing a response to it when the thread disappeared, so I'm putting it here (A thread about the thread was also deleted).

Feel free to comment. I won't delete them:
I used to save my Sport Aviations, now I just read and toss 'em.

Coincidentally, yesterday I grabbed a stack of unread mags from the den and leafed through them as I watched the Patriots game.

I ripped out a couple of Sport Aviation articles -- stuff Dick Kohler wrote, for example, and tossed it. I also read Lauren Paine Jr.'s article about the old guys (I love his work but this article was a rehash of previous work, I'm afraid), and I read Lane Wallace's column. I love her work but I'm starting to wonder how many articles you can get out of one trip East with one (sort of) stepchild.

I didn't read Mac's stuff; I didn't read his stuff with Flying. I leafed through the pictures of the T6 and breezed through some of the copy. There's a T-6 or two on my field and when they rumbled past and fly over, I always stop what I'm doing and go watch them. They provide some motivation and inspiration. OK, it's not homebuilding, but there's a relationship between homebuilding and the T-6, at least in my case. That's the thing with aviation; it's incestuous.

But to be fair, I leafed pretty quickly through Kitplanes, too. I read Stein's stuff and I read your articles, Bill, which were fabulous; I was unaware of your incident.

I didn't read Jim Weir's stuff because it had a picture of a circuit diagram which made those little squares you scan with your smartphone look like the wide open spaces. And I read the article on stall/spins.

I still think Sport Aviation has the right idea with the "how to" articles -- short as they are -- pushed toward he back of the mag. And -- no offense at all to either you or Paul dye -- but I think Kitplanes suffers from getting its content from too few writers.

What content should be in there specifically? I don't know, and neither do many other people. That's the nature of these things; we know what we don't want, we know -- philosophically -- what we do want, but getting to particulars is problematic.

EAA is in a major push right now to redefine itself. It's suffering what all "non profits" suffer from. It can no longer sustain the growth required by the core audience with which it started. That's just the way it goes. It clearly sees itself as the home for all things flying (little "F") and that's its future. I get that.

It's also trying to compete in a dying medium: magazines. Anything you want about building, you can already find online. There are numerous sources of good writing and good blogs.

There was this story the other day about a 3 year old who picked up a magazine and said, "something's wrong with the iPad." I think the lesson of that is probably not lost on Mac and EAA.

update 9:19 a.m. 10/18 -- cooler heads have prevailed (i.e. Doug has come back from lunch) and the thread has been reopened.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

The instrument panel

As with so many parts of building my RV airplane, I wasn't sure I was up to the task of designing, cutting, and wiring my instrument panel. Wiring, as I've written many times, was particularly scary to me.

Last night, I finished the instrument panel.

Hard as it is to believe, I started the process two-and-a-half years ago, but that's the nature of (a) going slowly while learning what I'm doing and (b) paying as I go and (c) making changes along the way.

Here's was my final design at that time:

When you're designing a panel, it's really easy to forget a lot of the little details, so it was important to remember some of the initial advice I had received, especially in the area of not designing a panel that would preclude changes.

As it is, I sectioned the panel off into clusters. A systems cluster on the left -- the electronic flight information display, engine monitor, backup altimeter and backup airspeed indicator -- a "switch cluster" in the center -- the Vertical Power system, mag and electronic ignition switches as well as switches for flaps, boost pump and master switch -- and a "communications cluster" on the right, all within an arm's reach. This section includes the GPS, transponder, and communications radio, as well as an input under the panel for an iPod.

The wing-leveler (autopilot) and fuel gauge are tucked under the Vertical Power system.

On the far right is a "nice to have but not-necessary-to-keep-the-shiny-side up" section which includes a remote switch to activate the emergency locator beacon, a power adapter (which I'll use to power a traffic avoidance system of some sort) and a compass.

A lot of people install a map box here but I couldn't -- or at least, didn't -- because it would have meant cutting into the subpanel behind it and I would've lost this...

...the story of which you can read about here.

Oh, and way over on the left is the "keep it away from the passengers" cluster which is the starter button (actually, I put it there to (a) keep it out of the way from being accidentally hit and (b) allow me to keep my right hand on the throttle when starting) and the cable to allow the "emergency air" into the air intake of the fuel servo in the highly unlikely event the snorkel on the cowling gets plugged up in flight.

The two switches under the Vertical Power unit are for the left mag and the right electronic ignition (Lightspeed). The switches just above the throttle knob are (left to right) master switch, engine monitor power (I really didn't need this switch but it was simpler to wire it this way in order to include the red warning light),  flaps, and fuel boost pump.  The boost pump switch is powered by the Vertical Power system when flipped "up," and powered off a separate bus if I flip it down.

I like this panel a lot, partly because we've come to know each other over two years. It's the nature of the beast now that it's probably outdated even though it's never flown, but it is a functional and affordable panel.

I know a lot of people think, "an airplane you built yourself? How can that be safe?" But take a look at what one is able to do building one's own airplane? Compared to renting the factory-built Warrior II at the local airport, I'll have a traffic alert and avoidance system, better displays of airspeed and situation, an autopilot wing-leveler, immediate engine information that will alert me to problems with an engine before the big fan in the front stops turning, and a system that monitors my electrical infrastructure. That's a lot of safety right there.

I'm a VFR pilot and a lot of the big bells and whistles stuff  I don't need. Most of the information I need to fly an airplane, I actually get from looking out the window and listening at the same time.

Flying is fun like that.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The nose-gear debate redux

In the RV-airplane-building community, this video is making quite a buzz.

Nose-overs of the "A" model have been a fairly common occurrence among RV airplanes. Van's has denied any engineering shortcoming over the years, but an accident in the UK seemed to confirm that all was not right with the design.

I'll be curious to see how many people buy this product and how it performs.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The pilot with the smoking gun

(From my day job)


There aren't a lot of people in the world who have been war heroes, created a high-flying business, and uttered the words that would bring down a presidency. Ken Dahlberg was one of them.

His obituary is tucked quietly in the Star Tribune today.

As a World War II fighter pilot (Barry Goldwater was one of his flight instructors) , Dahlberg was one of the war's "aces," with 14 1/2 "victories." He won the Distinguished Service Cross for leading a flight of 16 P-47 Thunderbolts against 70 German Messerschmitts, shooting down four of them. He was shot down three times and spent the last months of the war as a POW, returning to Minnesota to eventually start the Miracle Ear corporation.

The remnants of the P-47 from Dahlberg’s last flight were recently unearthed by engineers inspecting a tract of farmland that was about to be developed.

Dahlberg was the Midwest finance chairman for the Committee to Re-elect the President during President Richard M. Nixon's 1972 campaign. A mysterious check, which later would be determined to be from the CEO of Archer Daniels Midland, was made out to Dahlberg, who converted it to a cashier's check. It was money from the campaign destined for the Watergate burglars.

When "Deep Throat" told reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein to "follow the money," that was the money. And when Woodward called Dahlberg to confirm he handled the check, Dahlberg didn't lie. It was the turning point in the Watergate investigation, the first proof that the Watergate burglars were financed by a money laundering scheme that was tied to the Oval Office.

It ended up a critical part of the movie All The President's Men.

Back then, it was all legal. People could make secret campaign donations and expenditures. You can't do that anymore and this is why.

It's still amazing his life didn't end up as a movie. Here's an interview I did with him a few years ago.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Mark Spy gets TV love

Another media look at homebuilt airplanes that you won't see people on Van's Air Force point out. That would disturb the "media is stupid about aviation and is only interested in destroying it" mentality.

Great job by Mark Spy in not adopting the bunker mentality.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Prayers for Rick Gray

Rick Gray, one of the premier RV pilots and builders in the country, is in the hospital in fair condition, following the crash of an RV-10 he was test piloting last night.

According to the Marietta Times:
The plane caught fire during the crash and both men received serious burns. They were transported to Marietta Memorial Hospital and later flown by Life Flight to the Ohio State University Medical Center in Columbus.

A spokesperson at The Ohio State University Hospital in Columbus said Wednesday afternoon that Austin was listed in fair condition. Information about Gray was unavailable.

Back in 2009, I did an interview with Rick for an issue of the RV Builder's Hotline. You can find it here.

Saturday, September 24, 2011


You never really know for sure when you're tackling the process of installing the engine whether you're doing it right or whether it's going to work until you try to start it.

The engine is the only part of the RV-7A project that I couldn't pay for as I went along, so the idea of maybe ruining it while starting it for the first time is always in the back of your mind -- in my case -- for the three years I've been working on it.

The closer I've gotten to the first flight of N614EF, the slower I've gone. The big noisy thing in the front simply isn't the area I want to zip along on.

Today, however, was the day to see whether I knew what I was doing. It turns out, I did, I just didn't know it.

Famed RV builder and pilot Pete Howell was kind enough to drive over from the other side of the cities (the ceiling was too low for him to fly over) to handle the photography duties.

It took awhile to get the oil pressure up. I cranked it for a good long time while keeping an eye on the Grand Rapids Technologies EIS 4000 engine monitor. The spark plugs, of course, were not installed for this process. I never did get a reading, so I took the oil line off where it attaches to the manifold transducer for the oil pressure sensor, cranked the prop a few times until it burped oil and reattached.

Once the engine was eventually started, the oil pressure indication on the engine monitor came up just fine.

There were no leaks -- RV pal Brad Benson was in charge of finding them. My son Patrick did the video work (there are two cameras above) and stood by for any injuries (he's a paramedic). Adam, whose last name I've never learned but who stops by every weekend to help, provided critical guidance on getting the electronic ignition squared away, Vince Bastiani was on the radio with me as I barked readings, Pete took the pictures, and Ami the hangarlord was Ami.

I didn't run it past 1200 RPM and I didn't remember to check to be sure that BOTH the electronic ignition AND the the mag RPM readings were similar; there'll be time to do that before first flight. And my attempt to videotape from the inside of the cabin didn't work out because I forgot to put the start button. I prefer to think my focus was on "flying the airplane."

The next steps are finishing the firewall (I'm adding a GPS antenna platform under the cowl, finishing the cowling (sanding and then priming), adding a little more baffling and sealing the baffling with RTV, gear leg fairings, intersection fairing, empennage fairing (mostly done), and adding the interior. I have a new wet compass to install in the panel, I want to add a power adapter and a traffic monitoring system and that should be all I need.

I've planned all of the winter for this work and maybe sometime in the spring, we'll take N614EF for a ride.

Find Pete Howell's album of his fine photographs of the event here.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Flying tight patterns

I guess this video has been out for awhile, but it's the first time I've seen it. It's fabulous!

I usually observe the 45 degree entry to the base leg, but it feels to me as if I'm often still dragging the Warrior II in (is there any other way to fly the Warrior?).

Then I watch pilots at the airshows and notice they seem to make their base turn just a few feet from the end of the runway and seem to just pivot the plane around a point at somehow lose a lot of altitude in a hurry.

The key, I guess, is to be able to do that and still provide a stabilized approach that gives an average pilot the opportunity to evaluate the approach and the coming (hopefully) landing.

Jason Schappert, who does a nice job providing weekly flying tips via video, this week has a great video on the power-off 180 and how to practice it.

Monday, September 5, 2011

I'm standing between you and the terrorists

You knew, didn't you, that the Department of Homeland Security's breathless warning of small planes and terrorism would spawn at least one local TV story about the evils that lurk behind a fixed-pitchprop.

I got in this one.

Monday, August 29, 2011

USA Today on experimentals

There'll probably be the usual amount of anti-media braying about the media treatment of experimental aircraft following the weekend USA Today story (from the Detroit Free Press) about the NTSB probe into why experimentals are crashing at a greater rate than certified airplanes.

But did you notice how Detroit Free Press treated the story? They started it with the perspective of a homebuilder. A real, honest-to-goodness builder of airplanes! Someone somewhere was smart enough to develop a relationship with a reporter so that when a story came along, the perspective of the builder dominated it. (We know it wasn't you, AOPA!)

The hand-built biplane pilot Bob Richards brought to an air show in a neighboring county Sunday is the type of aircraft that has come under scrutiny by federal safety officials studying the accident rate among amateur-built planes.

Tom Vukonich of Metamora, Mich., tries to determine the best way to install a rod into the fuselage of the biplane that he's building.

Richards, 41, of Joliet, Ill., once glided another hand-built plane down after the engine quit because the person who built it wired the battery wrong.

Yet he doesn't worry about his safety in a hand-built plane. "There are a lot of accidents that don't have anything to do with how it was built," said Richards, noting pilot error, weather and the difficulty of flying high-performance planes.

I presume some people will kvetch that the paper did the story at all. But the truth is that the NTSB is looking into it, and homebuilts are going down at a fairly high rate.

We could save a lot of kvetching if we simply fly better and smarter because, it's true, they don't usually crash for structural reasons.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Finishing the RV cowling

I'm kind of a neat freak and I don't care much for dust, so it's rather odd that I once considered building a GlaStar, a plane that is all composite with metal wings. It would have required lots of chemicals and lots of sanding. And lots of dust.

After I sent my deposit in on a GlaStar kit, the company went belly up, so I bought an RV airplane kit instead.

But there's plenty of fiberglass work on these things, too. I'm knee deep in it. I still have plenty of fairings to construct, but first I need to finish the cowling, which I actually started almost two years ago.

All the fitting is done now, of course, and the cowling is being prepped for an eventual paint job. With fiberglass, there are thousands of pinholes which will show up as soon as you finish that $5,000 job. You have to get rid of them first.

My technique worked well on the top cowling, so there's no reason to change the bottom cowling portion. The first step was to thin some epoxy with acetone and brush it on, after a good sanding with #80 grit sandpaper.

Sure, it looks all shiny and stuff, but don't let it fool you; it's full of pinholes. Some of them, hopefully, will be partially filled.

The next day -- yesterday, actually -- I sanded it all off with more #80 grit. Then I mixed up the two-part SuperFil, spread it on and squeegeed it off, except for the small part that filled in the pinholes.

Then this evening, I sanded that all off -- yep, #80 grit -- and opened up an almost-empty can of Super Prime, which is a VERY weighted primer filler that you roll on. It'll fill in, hopefully, most of the pinholes that are left.

I'll sand this all off, too, and then add three more coats and sand it with #180 grit and it should be ready, then, for a nice epoxy primer. Unfortunately, I probably don't have enough left, and it's $60 a quart. I got in the wrong business.

None of this will be done until September, apparently. We're heading out on a vacation back to New England.

Oh, I also installed the fuel overflow tube today. That should be the last item to be installed on the engine. We're ready to go through the process of starting the engine for the first time.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

The Oshkosh video everyone waits for

Oshkosh doesn't end until the guy who annually produces the finest video about it says it's over.

It's over.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Everything but a homebuilt

I didn't get to Oshkosh this year and, frankly, I didn't hear a great deal of excitement about Oshkosh this year. In the weeks after AirVenture, you usually get a lot of complaints that the EAA isn't about homebuilders, anymore. This year is no exception. You can set your watch by the outbreak.

Personally, I don't much care. Oshkosh is big enough to find whatever interests you -- homebuilts included -- and what we're really talking about here is validation from the organization, an indication that homebuilders matter.

Here's a quarter. Call your therapist.

By the way, Slick Hutto, who produces the definitive Oshkosh video each year, says this year's version is only a few days away.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Safety wiring for dummies

I posted this picture on Facebook the other day. It's the safety wiring of the bolts that hold the filtered air box top plate to the fuel servo. Pretty, eh?

When I was doing this, I was referring to AC 43.13, the so-called "bible" of building and maintaining an airplane (order yours today!), specifically this page.

In fact, I was holding the page up to the plate as I figured out how to properly secure it. Compare:

The problem is: I'm not seeing much of a difference there.

I mention this because one of my RV-building buds sent me a note on Facebook.

Take a look at http://scootermcrad.blogspot.com/2011/04/how-to-safety-wire.html for some great examples of what it should look like.

It is definitely an art to figure out how to safety stuff properly. It shouldn't take you very long to redo those 4 bolts since they are extremely accessible. I learned from a local builder showing me the tricks to safetying. It sure was a lot easier to get some tips and tricks from him rather than my method of trial and mostly error!

I know he's probably right because he's highly regarded as a good builder, but I'm not seeing what it is that's different in the photos above and I presume he hasn't been on Facebook lately to see my return query.

So I am missing something really important here. But what is it?

Update 8/10/11 It should've looked like this. Many thanks for all of the advice.

Monday, August 1, 2011

The Cowling Chronicles - Episode 4

It's been quite awhile since I last produced a Cowling Chronicle, detailing the very long process of the fiberglass portion of firewall forward. In this latest episode, I tackle the final part of installing the filtered air box, the "tunnel" to create a smooth flow of air from the "snout" in the chronicle to the air box which filters the air into the fuel servo.

Once this process is done, and with a little wiring to be completed, I'm pretty close to firing up the engine for the first time.

In the meantime, I'm working on the cosmetic part of the top cowling, which is filling pinholes and sanding primer.

Many thanks to the people on Van's Air Force for helping getting me started on this particular aspect of the project. The directions are such that they make perfect sense once you do the project and go back and look them, but they're pretty to visualize when you're trying to get started. So I hope this helps builders who find themselves in this position.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The elephant man

There was a time in airplane homebuilding when the finished product had its share of warts and flaws that stood out like a sore thumb. The goal was the challenge of building an airplane that flew. I wish I'd built an airplane in those days because I'm not sure this one fits me. As N614EF nears completion, I'm embarrassed for other builders to see it.

This era is about building flawless airplanes worthy of Oshkosh; functionality is important, but the lovely finished product is a statement about the builder. Sure, there are dings here and there, but nothing serious and certainly nothing embarrassing.

N614EF's nickname is Auntie Marge, named after a wonderful relative of my wife's who was all about enjoying life. After this evening, I'm thinking of changing it to Elephant Man.

Years ago, when I was originally fitting the frame upon which the canopy would sit, I misdrilled a hole -- one stinking hole -- that allows one side of the canopy to sit slightly higher than the other.

Note, for example, the spot at which the canopy meets the front skin. The skin is sticking up about 1/4" and will, no doubt, act like an air scoop (click any of these pictures for the full monty).

Which creates this gap you can throw a cat through on the side...

Oh, it gets worse. This is a tip-up canopy and when it lifts up, the skin at the base of the canopy moves slightly forward and if a shim isn't put under the canopy frame to raise the skin slightly, it catches on the the skin in front of the canopy. Guess who forgot to put the shim in when riveting the canopy skin to the canopy frame?

So when the canopy lifted up, it caught on the front skin and cracked the fiberglass fairing. The only way to solve the problem is to file away the skin so that it doesn't catch. Doing that creates one heck of a gap. Keep in mind the company says the gap should be 3/32" inch here. This is about a half inch. Functional? Sure. Embarrassing? Yeah.

Normally, it should look something like this:

Another RV builder stopped by the hangar tonight. "I'd redo it," he said.

Allow me to translate that from the polite Midwestern lingo. "You suck at this."

Which, of course, I already knew, but it made clear that for as long as I hang around other people who build airplanes, I'll be apologizing for this one.

And, by the way, starting over would require a $1,200 canopy, and a few hundred dollars for a new canopy frame. I can't do it; I work for a living.

"Are you still thinking of selling this?" he said.

I am, but his message was clear; nobody will pay much to buy it.

All of this, of course, is -- in the lingo of Van's Aircraft, "gumption robbing."

Those thoughts I've had this week about flying N614EF to Oshkosh next year? Yeah, let's stop those.

Perhaps I should have built a time machine.

Greg Poe

Airshow performer Greg Poe died this week of a heart attack in Idaho. He used aviation to spread a motivational message to kids.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Feel-good aerobatics

I've never had a desire to do aerobatics when -- or if -- the RV-7A is finished. I wouldn't know how to do an aileron roll even if I had. SlickHutto on YouTube is the guy who makes those fabulous post-Oshkosh videos each year and he can make any activity look inviting.

Here's his latest video, the soundtrack of which uses my favorite song from one of my favorite -- and long dead -- TV series: Eli Stone. The guy just knows how to make everything perfect in his videos.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Magneto mysteries

I'm completely flummoxed by the wiring of the one magneto in my RV-7A and maybe you can offer some advice.

I have one Lightspeed electronic ignition in the RV, and one magneto. I'm not using the fancy and pricey rotary switch that is so common on airplanes; I'm using a simple toggle switch to activate the Lightspeed, and one to activate the magneto.

The Lightspeed wiring was pretty simple: run a wire to from the Lightspeed control box to a switch, wire through a pullable 5 amp circuit breaker to battery power.

The magneto is a little bit different. It doesn't use ship power, of course. It generates its own power and, thus, spark. Simple.

I've read Bob Nuckoll's discussion of the magneto; I'm not understanding its application.

Here's how I have it wired. Tell me where I went wrong. I made a so-called P-lead, which uses a single connector shielded cable. The conductor wire attaches to a post on the magneto. The shield is pigtailed to an 18g wire, which attaches to a ground stud. I used the construction practices as specified here, except that I soldered a wire to the shield, rather than crimp a connector onto the shield. I figured it would be more durable.

And so, here's how it looks on my magneto. You can click the image for a larger version:

My understanding is that when the magneto is grounded, it is, basically, off and when it is not grounded, it is on and capable of providing electrical power to the spark plugs.

I was under the impression that it is grounded when there is connectivity between the two posts/wires. The problem is from what I can tell there is always connectivity between the two posts and, subsequently, wires; at least there is when I measure it.

I ran this wire to a toggle switch on the instrument panel, figuring that providing connectivity between the two wires "grounds" the magneto, rendering it inoperative.

Here's the wires at the toggle switch:

So, under my theory, flipping the toggle switch upside down, the "down" position establishes a connection between the two wires which grounds the magneto, making it inoperative.

But because the two wires appear to be always with connectivity, because there's continuity between the two posts as I measure it, this would appear to make the switch itself irrelevant, which means I've done something wrong in my theory of how this works.

The problem is, of course, I don't know what it is.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Paintjob of the year

We were out at KSGS (South St. Paul, Minn.) the other day when we stumbled across this beast.

Apparently, it's owned by the Kodiak company.

Sunday, July 3, 2011


I'm still on track for an engine start this summer, and one of the critical components I wanted to get done is the spinner.

You know what? The spinner is sexy.

Monday, June 20, 2011

No Oshkosh this year

I've tried to figure out how to be able to get AirVenture into my schedule this summer, but I've been unable to do so and have given up on the possibility.

Oshkosh has become mostly a social gathering for me, and the highlight of the year, but there are too many things that need to be done. I promised to paint my mother's house in Massachusetts this summer and I've also promised to take my wife on a vacation, something we haven't done since our great trip down to the southwest more than a year-and-a-half ago.

The only dates that work for me are to go up to Massachusetts during AirVenture than come back to work for a few weeks, and then take my wife back east for a few weeks.

Plus, EAA Radio hasn't invited me back this year for AirVenture and it costs too much to camp for 10 days now.

You know what makes all of this stuff easier? A flying RV.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Planes in the heart

One of the best parts about being a news blogger is hearing from people years after you've written a post, who have a personal connection with something mentioned in a News Cut post.

Meet John Fred Moore of Deland, Florida. He's a former freighter pilot and, from what I could discern from his phone call today, a character with plenty of swashbuckling stories to tell.

Moore, who can't fly anymore because of pulmonary disease, was spending time online last weekend, trying to find out whatever happened to some of the planes he once flew, when he came across this picture on this News Cut post.

"38-Charlie was a great plane," he said, as if he was talking about a long-lost love.

The plane crashed in Eden Prairie in August 2009, killing two people aboard. He called to try to find out what happened.

"Engine problem," I said. "And the pilot stalled it..."

"You can't do that with a Twin Beech," he growled. "If you lose one engine with the landing gear down, you're not going anywhere but down," he said, recalling the time off the coast of Bimini when a similar model developed engine problems. He had a parachute and jumped.

38-Charlie had a glorious life with Air Cargo Services out of Miami, he said. "That plane probably flew a few tons of dope in its career," he said.

"And were you at the controls when it did?" I asked.

"If I was, I wouldn't tell you," he said, shortly before telling me of the hazards of flying at night in the Everglades in the '80s.

"You had 20-35 planes flying overheard at any one time, and none of them had any lights on," he said. "It was pretty easy to get into a midair."

Moore is an old pilot with time on his hands, thanks to a lousy economy and cigarettes. "When I was a kid, John Wayne and Errol Flynn smoked cigarettes and I wanted to be like them," he said. He can't fly anymore and the flight schools around Deland are closed and the airport doesn't have much business anymore so there's no one to swap flying stories with now.

Like the one about the time he lost an engine while flying a load of PVC pipe and had to land in Cuba. "It was right after Grenada so I was pretty concerned about what reception I'd get," he said. "But the Cubans were great. Better than the Jamaicans, he said.

But it was 38-Charlie, he said, that still holds a place in his life.

"I got my Mile High wings in that plane," he snickered, "if you know what I mean."

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Bob's big birthday present

Yesterday, the Liberty Foundation brought its B-17 -- the Liberty Belle -- to Saint Paul for media flights in advance of next weekend's appearance to the general public.

I was assigned to ride the 1 p.m. flight but when I showed up with my AOPA hat, the crew asked, "are you a pilot?"

"Yes, sir," I said, thankful that they didn't ask if I was a good pilot.

"We need a third crewman to be sure people are buckled in and to help them tour, can you handle two flights?" they said.

Sure, let me think about this: Can I handle two flights in a B-17?

It was great fun sitting in the jump seat, on the headphones so I could hear the guys chat as they flew. Even better, it turned out that one of the pilots -- Jeff Hess -- is an RV-4 pilot from Falcon Flight.

He was kind enough to invite my wife on the second flight. She was hesitant. "You're only going to get one chance in your life to do this, " I said. She jumped aboard.

I love Planet RV!

I made a video about it for my day job.

It's my birthday today; I got my present yesterday.

Update: Vern Darley sends along these additional notes. Vern's name came up during our flight, by the way.

The Falcon RV Squadron-Vern Darley

The Falcon RV Squadron is an informal group of airplane builders and flyers based in Peachtree City at Falcon Field Airport and headquartering at Hangar D-30. The Squadron has over fifty members who are either building Van's RV aircraft designs, or have already completed or purchased one. The RV Squadron roots began as builders helping one another in their garages and basements around town. As planes were completed, hangars were needed, and soon the community of builder-flyers had formed.

Since many RV Squadron members are former military pilots, formation flying and aerobatics were a natural transition. For added safety, squadron standards and training was established. Some RV Squadron members have maintenance skills and their skills added to the safety and soundness of the homebuilt aircraft.

Each plane is carefully inspected before its first flight by an FAA designee and a flight test period of either 25 or 40 hours in a test area is required to shakedown any discrepancies. After that, the RV aircraft are able to fly most anywhere. An RV-4 flown by an Australian pilot has circled the globe over both poles and around the equator.

Besides helping one another while building and learning to fly these marvelous aircraft, the Squadron gathers weekly at the Mellow Mushroom on 74 N in Peachtree City every Tuesday at 11:30. Visitors are welcome. Unscheduled formations are flown each week based on weather and pilot availability. Fly-outs and Squadron socials are regularly scheduled.

For more information, contact Vern via email at or 770 310-7169. More info on the planes is available at www.VansAirforce.net and www.Vansaircraft.com

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Ted's plane and 'the voice'

RV-building acquaintance Ted Chang had his first flight last week in the RV-10 he built.

Today, Ted reported on Facebook, he had an in-flight fire, four miles from the airport and had to make an emergency landing.

It's a testament to Ted's flying ability that he was able to land safety. But as a builder it sure gives me pause. Am I up to responding to a similar emergency? Am I building properly? Is that fuel line too close to something?

There's still a long way to go before my plane is finished, but there is a creeping doubt that is making its voice heard.

Monday, April 18, 2011


The baffle project is like driving in traffic: Stop and go. After about 70 hours of work, it gets pretty tedious.

But the baffle work is primarily done on N614EF and over the weekend I cut the oil cooler bracket out and fabricated all the strengthening mechanisms on the outside corner, which seems to be the area that cracks. It took many hours to get it just right, so I was excited on Sunday when I fit it all back onto the plane.


As you can see the bottom nutplate is hitting the cooling fins on the cylinder. This is not good, and certainly not acceptable. Moving the cooler higher isn't an option because it'll impact the cowling and the engine mount tube.

I've made a lot of good progress on the plane lately, but this has stopped everything in its tracks while I figure out what to do. Griding some of the cooling fin away? No, I don't want to do that to a perfectly lovely engine.

Move the cooler? Maybe, although I don't think the firewall has a lot of options to it at the moment.

One idea I'll consider is maybe adding another spacer -- it'd have to be almost .250 I would think -- to the outside corner, cutting the flange of both the oil cooler baffle and the baffle it attaches to, rivet in some angle, rivet some .063 onto that and re-drill the connecting holes, effectively moving the oil cooler back 1/4", but I'm not sure that will do the trick on a vibrating engine. And, it's a major pain in the neck since it means ordering a bunch of new parts.

Building an airplane is fun.

Update 9:21 p.m. 4/18/11 - On the advice of both Mahlon Russell at Mattituck Teledyne and Ken Scott at Van's, I drill out the lower nutplate and covered the hole and will go with two bolts on the right side.

The Van's instructions with the baffle kit are very contradictory here, so I'll pass this along for people who haven't go this way before.

The main problem in this location is the pre-punched parts that come with the Van's baffle kit and the optional oil cooler doubler. The doubler is prepunched and has three holes for the bolts on the right side. OP-27, the drawing, shows only two.

There's also a brace that goes in the front of the oil cooler doubler/baffle area. This is also pre-punched and is supposed to match the pre-punched holes across the top of the oil cooler cutout doubler.

If you do as I did -- take Van's advice and wait to do the oil cooler brace until the baffling is done -- you'll likely end up in trouble, at least if you do the oil cooler cutout and drill for the doubler. You'll have to drill out the top row of doubler rivets because the brace's holes won't line up with them. The brace can only go in one way, but the location of the oil cooler could be any number of places.

So do the oil cooler cutout, match drill the oil cooler doubler with the exception of the top row of rivets, fit the brace, backdrill the five or six holes through the the brace, the baffle, and the cutout doubler.

You'll also want to leave the most-aft rivet hole unriveted on the horizontal angle/stiffener on the #4 cylinder baffle because if you rivet this, you'll find it hard to fit the brace for final drilling.

Also if you use a .125 angle to beef up the corner, you'll probably have to abandon one of the holes in the doubler since it will interfere with the angle.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

It's still for sale

You've now got about 150 hours less work to do on N614EF as I've been working on it for the last six weeks in the spiffy, heated hangar. I'm stuck on the baffles at the moment but trying to work through it. The electrical is just about done (have to make up the mag P-lead and get cranking on the Grand Rapids EIS 4000 engine monitor. Still have wingtips to do. But it's nearing completion.

Why don't you buy it?

Saturday, March 5, 2011

With friends like these...

For a time today, it was like American Chopper at Ami Sela's hangar, where N614EF is getting more attention than she's had in quite awhile.

(Left to right:) Brad Benson, Adam Youngman, Pete Howell, and Devin Pearcestopped by today to help. Pete made the large oil cooler fit around the engine mount and beefed up the aft baffle. Devin, who knows engines, solved the Lightspeed controller problem by fabricating a new bracket and moving the existing location forward one hole. Adam was able to get the prop extension off (which I need in order to put the prop on), and Brad fit the tail empennage fairing. I, meanwhile, took about 9 hours today to drill a stinking pass-through hole in the firewall (for the filtered air box emergency air cable). I really hate drilling stainless steel.

With today's accumulated hours, the project passed the 2,400 hour mark.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Moving day

Since the plane project went on sale, there hasn't been much interest, while there has been much interest in seeing it sold -- if it has to be -- as a flying airplane. So some RV friends stopped in a few weeks ago and said we should move it to a heated hangar, and it might be easier to get people to pitch in to get it flying.

So we found a heated hangar in the next row over at South St. Paul. Today was moving day...

That's my son, Patrick, doing the honors.

I'm in the process of coming up with a "to do" list. It's far from complete, but here's what I've got so far.

 Order shielded 18 AWG
 Order insulator boots (3x small 2x large)
 Install left MAG switch
 Install right LIGHTSPEED switch
 Fabricate left mag P Lead from switch to mag
 Run 18 AWG wire from mag switch to ground tabs
 Run 16 AWG Alt. field wire and spliace to Vertical Power (wire coming from VP)
(Follow bottom upper motor mount turbe, between engine cylinders and intake tube)
 Install insulator boots as required
 Adjust alternator to proper belt torque and safety wire
 Double check to be sure you used a doubler at the engine ground nut plate on firewall.
 Mag switch off: Test for 0-10 Ohms between wire terminal and airframe
 Mag switch on: Test for infinite resistance
 Starter button activate: Hear start relay activate and +12 volts at end of DISCONNECTED starter cable.
 Lightspeed Install details to follow

 Check to make sure there’s no problem running probe wires in same penetration as P Lead
 Figure out how to tap into tach on Lightspeed or use tach drive on engine.
 Fuel pressure gauge line to firewall. Connect to EIS
 Oil pressure connection to firewall

 Install left and right Whelen nav/strobe lights in tips
 Install tips
 Find and order close tolerance bolts for rear spar attach point (GATCO?)

 Order intersection fairing from Van’s
 Empennage fairing
 Gear leg fairing
 Main Wheelpants
 Nose gear intersection fairing
 Nose fairing
 Install canopy and replace the stupid quick-release
 Fabricate guides on roll bar into holes L/R
 Install upper canopy lock/secure mechanism
 Install struts (All hardware already installed)
 Reinstall canopy forward limit stops
 Figure route for FAB emergency air cable and install to panel.
 Replace cheap plastic vents. Add screens to vent inflow.
 Remove prop extension.
 Install prop on prop extension (Mike Hilger might be able to help here)
 Install on engine.
 Check prop extension to crankshaft gap (within 1/16“).
 Torque prop bolts properly
 Safety wire prop bolts.
 Check for proper prop track
 Spinner assembly and installation

 Baffling
 Calculate route for servo-to-flow divider line, order or fabricate line.
 Order fire sleeve to install on oil pressure gauge line. Change Adel clamps accordingly.
 Figure out manifold pressure line install.
 Engine breather line.
 Install and secure heat ducting.
 Oil cooler install. (Current hoses may be too long)
 Fabricate tray on firewall for GPS antenna
 Purchase and install antenna firewall passthrough for GPS.

 Safety wire calipers
 Install brake fluid and test
 Consider replacing nose gear axle “puck”
 Think about “jack points”

 Oil door installation
 Install inlet ducts
 Glass around front corners for better fit
 Finish surface for painting.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Plane for sale

On a wall in the hangar of the RV-7A project, a dry-ink board indicates the number of hours I've worked on it so far -- 2,339 2,429 2,742. Another 30 or so hours, and the plane will probably fly.

I need you to put that 30 hours into it. N614EF -- the RV-7A project -- is for sale. I no longer have the means not only to finish building it, but to fly it when it's done. I'm hoping you do.

This has been a pay-as-you-go project with the exception of the engine, but I now need to pay down the debt on it, and sock some money away for anticipated medical bills that continue to increase in the family at a particularly alarming rate.

I put the kit up for sale years ago -- around the time I was working on the wings -- but I pressed on in the hope I could get it done, increase its value, and sell it as a flying airplane, getting my investment into it back. That no longer is an option.

This is what I call a "working man's" airplane. It's not a show plane by any stretch of the imagination. But I believe it's well built and its progress has certainly been well documented.

Here are the particulars on the plane, which is very much built to plans (update 10/14/11 - updated to reflect recent work):

- wings attached.
- Canopy completely finished but not presently attached.
Engine: Mattituck TMX IO-360 - vertical updraft (New: $24,000)
Configured for fixed-pitch prop by plumbed for constant speed ($2600)
Plane Power 60 amp internally regulated alternator
One mag, one Lighspeed electronic ignition. Wiring not done.
(Update 11/14 - First engine start here)

Instrument panel - VFR (About $10,000)
- Dynon D100
- Vertical Power VP-50
- Grand Rapids EIS 400 engine monitor
- ICOM A210 radio (antenna installed on belly)
- Garmin 327 transponder (antenna installed on belly)
- 406 mhZ ELT (antenna on top)
- TruTrak wing leveler - servo in right wing
- Backup altimeter and airspeed indicator installed and plumbed
Interior: Flightline interior seats and interior package (not yet installed)
-- Hooker Harness 5-point belts
Prop: New Sensenich fixed-pitch prop. Not yet mounted.
Vetterman exhaust
-- False floors with soundproofing


- I've started installing the fuel lines but haven't finished.
- The engine monitor connections
- Oil lines
- I've started on the baffle kit but I'm only on page 4. Done.
- I have an oil cooler but I'm not sure it's compatible Oil cooler fit but not yet mounted.
- The cowling is fitted and drilled but I haven't done the oil door or done the cosmetic work. Pinholes filled. Ready for primer.
- The wing tips need to be installed. The wires for the Whelen strobes are already run and panel connections made.
- Wheel pants and leg fairings and empennage fairing not completed.
- Soundproofing of the firewall (I've made rough templates but all the conflicting information on VAF has made me wait)
- Filtered airbox mods and installation for vertical updraft (a blank .063 bracket is already cut, in order to move it slightly to the right)

There are no used parts anywhere on the airplane.

The plane is currently housed at KSGS -- Fleming Field Airport in South St. Paul.

I don't really have a set price at this time, though I'm thinking around $70,000.

Please, no tire kickers or people who want to look at it just because you think you might someday want to build an airplane. I don't have that kind of time to waste.

(Want to help me? Please print out this flyer and post at your FBO)

Update 12:34 p.m. Aug. 30 - It's official! My wife has lost her job and, yes, the plane is still for sale. I've actually put another 250 hours of work into it since this was posted, so my original estimate of how much was left to do was off by a few hundred hours. Now, there really is not much left to do and it's about ready for an engine start. The price is the same but once the engine starts, it jumps to $75,000 and once it's got an airworthiness certificate and its test period is flown off, it goes to $80,000.
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