Monday, September 23, 2013

Time to privatize air traffic control?

(From the day job)

Those favoring less government may be about to land a big one in their campaign. The government reportedly is considering getting out of the air traffic control business and turning it over to private industry.

The sequester, the budget failure that led to across-the-board cuts, apparently has given former opponents of privatization of the air transportation control system a reason to consider it, Bloomberg reports today.

The FAA cut $637 million from its $16 billion budget and faces more cuts next week and some people want to isolate funding air safety from politicians.

“It makes sense to examine the alternatives for operating and funding the nation’s air-traffic control system,” Craig Fuller, who stepped down as president of the Frederick, Md.-based Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association earlier this month, said in an e-mail to Bloomberg.

That’s a pretty big statement, considering that privatizing air traffic control services most certainly would come with user fees, which Fuller’s organization has vehemently opposed for years.

The model for privatizing would likely be Canada, where every flight is charged based on its weight. “After years of success, it is clear that the privatized Canadian and British systems work,” Joshua L. Schank, president and chief executive of the Eno Center for Transportation, wrote in April:

No international travelers think they should avoid British or Canadian airspace for safety reasons. Union leaders concerned about the specter of lost jobs might consider that jobs are getting hit with today’s budget cuts.

Perhaps the sequester can have a positive impact on air travel if it gets us moving toward better organization of the FAA, air traffic control and air traffic safety regulation.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Own this airplane

Update: I'm going to have some surgery on December 4 in a last-ditch effort to get a special issuance and keep flying. I don't know if it will work; some FAA contacts have suggested they may look favorably upon that. For that reason, I'm not going to sell the plane until I know it didn't work (or that it did). However, I still would be happy to show it to you so that we can expedite things in the event it has to go.

People who may/may not be interested in purchasing N614EF have asked for some more photos, so I'm happy to comply here. A few words about the plane: She will do whatever you ask it to do. She will do it without hesitation. She will make you think the wings are strapped to your body. She will go fast. She will go slow. She will be dependable. She will return more love than what you invest.

Because of this, she will only go to a home who'll respect her and appreciate the dedication and care that created her. Yes, there are dings here, and stuff that could be better there. If you're looking for a perfect airplane, she probably isn't it. If you're looking for a great airplane, this is it.

Now then, a few pictures.

Here's the interior. Gray and maroon. It was my old high school's colors. The upholstery was done by Abby at Flight Interiors.I didn't spare a lot of expense on comfort. The seat cores are Oregon Aero (they cost about $800) I think. They won't let your tush down. The seat belts are top of the line Hooker Harness five-point straps.

Here's the back of the baggage bulkhead. I've used velcro to keep it in place, although I do have the original screws and covers if you would rather go that route.

Here's an example of the kind of minor modification to enhance comfort. Underneath the carpeting in the forward fuselage are two thick layers of soundproofing foam under .063 aluminum floorboards. This eliminates any heat and vibration and creates a very solid "feel" under your feet. By the way, with all of these pictures, just click on them to see the original very large image. Oh, here also you can see I've added springs to the master cylinders. The "pucks" on the Cleveland brakes don't retreat as much as I'd like them to and  early on it felt like they were dragging a bit. The springs helped.

And here's the carpet reinstalled. Note the coverings of the gear leg towers.

It's a beautiful day to fly in Flyover Country and you could tell she'd like to. The ELT antenna is on the top, as you can probably tell. I've always like the look of an antenna stack. The bottom features a rod transponder antenna and a comm antenna that cost way too much because of the name on it.

As you can also tell, I polish it. The rest of it hasn't been painted yet, but....

This is my inspiration and plan, a classic old design with a few updates (a metallic paint, for example).

I saw that at Oshkosh a couple of years ago and headed straight for the Nuvite booth where I bought $900 worth of supplies. I would consider throwing them into a deal if you saw fit to polish. If you don't, you deny yourself some mighty inexpensive therapy.

Update: It's going into the paint shop on April 15. I decided that if I have to sell the plane, I want it to be "finished." I have no yet worked with the designers on the paint scheme, but as I indicated, it's based on the classic old Cessna design, updated to be a little jazzy, we hope. This will not affect the price of the airplane.

See the yellow spot on the wing tips. That's some filler I put in. The wing tips, at least the one on the right, is reinforced inside with some dowels epoxied into the tip. I did this after a friend reported having his wing tips damaged when someone tried to push on the wing tips. Anyway, there was a slight depression where I weighted one of the dowels, so I filled it in and smoothed it over. The paint shop will have no problem with this.

Also note the side skirts. I didn't like the Van's design that much because it leaves a gap between the canopy frame and the side step so although it's not noticeable from the outside, from the inside you can see daylight. I didn't like that so I used carbon fiber to bring the side of the canopy over the side of the fuselage. On the other side,  I also embedded the "lift" piece into the glass for a smoother appearance.

That guy in the Bonanza? He wants an RV. He never told me that, but when you fly an RV, you can tell.

Here you can see an area I built up (with balsa and fiberglass) on the top skin to get it to look better with the canopy frame. There is a gap between the two (and you can see some cracking in the old windscreen fairing, which is easily taken care of with a little sanding and some flox. It's on my list). The cabin is quite comfortable. I only have on heater unit installed so on the very coldest days in Minnesota, you want to bundle up inside. But the greenhouse effect of the canopy  makes it fairly toasty.

I used a Fairings Inc., upper intersection fairing  on the nose gear, but found the Van's fairings fit better on the upper intersection main gears. The bottom fairing on the main wheels are from Cleaveland (made in South Africa, I believe). They're bonded into the wheelpants.

One thing I did after one split last winter is I created a "lip" on the aft part of the intersection fairing to fit under the front fairing and provide more stability. On my list for winter work is to clean up the "split" a little bit and make it even tighter.

Update 10/13/13 - Completed. A little sandpaper to straighten out the seam just a tad  but otherwise, you can see the difference.

This is the panel, which VFR. It's a push-button start (to the left of the backup airspeed indicator) and backup altimeter. Above it is a warning light for the EIS 4000. I use it primarily to blink during warm up and go off when the oil temp hits 110 degrees, which means it's time to go flying. The Dynon D100 sits above the GRT EIS. To the right of that the lower toggle switches are master, flaps, on/off for the EIS (I can't recall why I did it that way) and the boost pump which can slave to either the Vertical Power (top middle) or off ship power directly. Above that is the single axis TruTrak autopilot, next to that is a fuel indicator (the GRT also has one). Above the autopilot is a toggle... the left is the mag and the right is the electronic ignition. I start it on the EI and then add the mag. Above that is the Vertical Power 50. Here's a video of that installation. To the right of that is the GPS 296 in an AirGizmo dock. Below that is an Icom A210 and below that is the Garmin 327 transponder. There's a PS Engineering 1000 intercom with a music input for an iPod (or whatever). To the right of that is the ELT remote switch and a cigarette lighter-style power supply, which I'm presently using for the Zaon traffic alert system that's atop the glare shield. A wet compass is in there only because the DAR loves wet compasses.

Did I mention it's a tip-up? And also that's she beautiful? Because of that, getting to the wiring and plumbing is super easy. There's a serial port here that  I use to update the Dynon. There's also a serial connector to log stuff coming out of the EIS 4000. Wires I'm not using (some dimmer connections, for example), I've just coiled up for future use. Oh, there is a dimmer down near the ELT remote. I put in a small LED baggage area light, and that can expand for additional lighting. Nothing fancy. In fact, there's nothing about this plane that I would call "fancy."

But, it's solid, and it's all about safety. I don't do aerobatics, but the RV-7A is structurally built to allow it. I have a lot of features  that are targeted for situational awareness. I have top of the line Hooker Harnesses.

For comfort, the cores of the seats are top of the line Oregon Aero foam for comfort.

I've also run the wire from the right wingtip where my intention has been to install an APRS tracker (one of the holes in the toggle switches stack would turn it in). I have the unit that interfaces with a GPS and I have an antenna. But since I don't have the Ham Technician Class license, I haven't put it in.

This is the latest addition. Using Mel Asbery's excellent suggestion, I made an angle of attack probe and bonded to the regular pitot, ran new plumbing to the Dynon D100 which has an optional AOL (chevron style) warning system. I don't have the audio hooked up to warn because I don't need it. It's on full display. We took it up last week to calibrate and it works fantastic!

How does it fly? You tell me.

Here's the full listing of the plane:

RV7A, N614EF, VFR panel, Tip Up, FP (Plumbing in place for conversion to CS)
S/N: 70240
Location: South Saint Paul, MN
For sale by builder/owner: Asking Price: $83,900.
Many pictures for email, build logs available (pdf) by request. A scattering of videos all over the Internet, several articles about the long process involved. Plenty of stories that can be retold.

Selling because of lost medical
TTAE: 100
First flight date: June 3, 2012

Polished. Fiberglass unpainted but would be happy to share the paint design inspiration with you. (interior grey with maroon accents via Flightline Interiors)

Engine: Mattituck (Lycoming) IO-360M1B (Injected 180HP), 100, One Slick Magneto (left side) and 1 Lightspeed EI, Skytec Starter, Vetterman Crossover Exhaust. More information on the engine is here.

Prop: Sensenich FP 85 pitch (Van's recommendation). Prop has been balanced.

Electric Flaps, manual trim (elev and aileron) as God intended, Whelen 3-point strobes, Duckworks landing lights with wigwag

Avionics: Icom A210 comm, Garmin 327 transponder (to GPS), Dynon D100. Installing AOA plumbing now, Garmin 296. TruTrak Digitrack (to GPS), VP-50 power management. 406 ELT (May 2014 battery). Zaon MRX traffic detector. Backup steam gauge airspeed and altimeter. GRT EIS 4000 with fuel flow indicator and fuel gauge. Backup (or primary if you want) EI Fuel gauge. ARTEX 406 ELT (new antenna).

Interior: Upholstery and carpets, grey/maroon by Flightline Interiors. Hooker 5-point harnesses. Portable Airox oxygen installed.

Tires/wheels: Desser Monsters (just installed) retread. New brake pads installed. Nosewheel has Matco mod. I had that fairly common "groan" when applying the left brake for awhile (you can hear it in the Oshkosh departure video). I took the caliper off and put some Disc Brake Quiet on the back of the pad holder assembly where it contacts the metal "puck" that's activated when you press the brakes. It's quiet now as the experts on VAF told me it would be.

General info: Fully loaded, it cruises at 148 ktas at 6,500 (determined on way home from Oshkosh). It's never been higher than that so I can't give you better information. Full logs and install/owner's manuals for all avionics, cockpit cover (Cleveland), and towbar. Fiberglass wheelpants, leg fairings, intersection fairings completed (some cosmetic work necessary on upper intersection fairings) but not painted. It's a pretty stock build as I learned long ago to follow instructions.

Stall speed: Flaps 48 kts, No flaps 51 kts.

Empty weight: 1121 (2 pounds over the Van's sample)

Wiring run for APRS system. APRS equipment and antenna included.

Date last annual: May 2013. Flown regularly while I could but it's never had a flight longer than about an hour and a half (to Oshkosh this year, and Madeline Island last year). Sadly, it never made it to Cleveland or New England. Everything else has been local, the equivalent of a little old lady only taking it out on Sundays.

Insurance: Presently through NationAir, with 100 hours of RV time and 300 hours of total time, I pay about $1,400 for full coverage at $80,000. YMMV.

Things I intend to do before selling: It doesn't need it but I want to change the oil again and remove the quick drain I have in there now because while tightening it last time, I crimped the safety wire holes. So I'll buy a new one and install. I also want to put a new crush gasket on the oil strainer plug. It uses very little oil but it weeps there slightly. I may connect the APRS, I want to work on the fiberglass intersection fairings a little more, and if nobody's buying, I'll be polishing anyway.

Various performance data: I don't have a great deal of nerdy data because we haven't been on a lot of long flights. Generally at about 4500 feet I lean out to about 7.5 gph, doing 146 knots (give or take) indicated at about 2400 RPM. I climb out at about 95 or 100 knots  because to go any slower means I've got the nose high and I like to be able to see things in front of me.  Slowing down an RV with a FP isn't as bad as some people like to make it as long as you've read Stick and Rudder and understand power and pitch. It's that simple. With this plane, you'll feel like you're wearing wings. Trust me on this.

The terrific Tom Berge did several inspections during construction, did the final inspection before I had DAR Tim Mahoney do that, and Tom did the first flight and said, "congratulations, you've got a fine airplane." Tom doesn't lie about these things and he's got high standards. The flight test data you can find here. Tom would make an excellent pre-buy inspector, and can also provide you with outstanding transition training.  It's in nobody's interest that you not feel completely comfortable in this aircraft.

I'm not going to lie to you; I don't want to sell this plane. She and I have been together through some good and challenging times. There are pieces of people all over her (and here). I can't tell you how much she means to me and how much I want her to mean to the next owner. If that happens to be you, I sure would appreciate your stopping by every now and again and let me go for a ride.

Also, if you're in the Twin Cities area and would be interested in a fractional ownership, I don't really know how they work but would be willing to investigate and consider it.

Contact Info: Bob Collins,, c: 651-470-6371

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The FAA lowers the boom

Five months after my FAA medical renewal exam, and having jumped through all the subsequent hoops, the Federal Aviation Administration sent me a letter today saying my request was denied. My flying days are over.

I can reapply in six months, but there's nothing in the FAA decision that gives me any hope. The FAA surgeon's opinion of not having any underlying medical condition now or in the future extinguishes that. I have Meniere's Disease and although the FAA gave me a medical renewal two years ago knowing that, this time they didn't. There's no cure for Meniere's, you have it. I recently started using a Medtronic device which is said to control symptoms, but from what I gathered from today's letter is that even using the device suggests symptoms and, hence, there's no qualification to fly.

I think I can accept that. I think I can go through with the process of selling N614EF OK, if I can find a buyer. Curiously, the one thing I find most difficult to accept is that me, five or six years from retirement, who's been looking forward to retiring for years, has nothing, really, to look forward to in retirement.

I don't have another recreational passion besides aviation. I guess I need to find one.

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