Saturday, August 12, 2006

Heritage Days 2006

The only thing better than a near-by fly-in is a distant fly-in when you have weather like we did today: high 70's and CFB. That's "clear as a, um, uh, fantastic bell" for those of you that aren't in the know. But, with gas prices, etc. etc., I decided to stay in the area and make a quick up to Delaware Co. (KDLZ) for the Heritage Days fly-in. Of course, there would be lots and lots of observers there, both well-informed and novice, mentally grading the quality of both landings and airplanes. One always would like to make the best impression possible at these events, so I decided to head over to the airplane barn last night and re-install the new wheel pants. They're on their second coat of Rust-O-Leum rattle can primer and still show a few flaws that need to be filled and sanded, but they actually still look pretty good on the plane.

The fly-in was on the larger side of small fly-ins as far as landing and departing traffic, but I was lucky enough to arrive in one of the lulls. I also was lucky in getting there before the number of witnesses (wasn't I calling them "observers just a few sentences ago? I guess it's situationally dependent) grew to where my landing would have been excrutiatingly embarrassing rather than just mildly humiliating. A three-bouncer (and they were pretty healthy bounces, not the little chattery chipmunk bounces) in front of all the folks that showed up later would have devastated my self-esteem. On the bright side, the pants didn't even notice! No scuffs or any kind of other damage at all.

It's always a question where to park at these things, but I was met at the taxiway by a volunteer that pointed to a spot for me to park. Once the ramp started getting really busy later in the morning, a more high-tech approach was used:

It's somewhat intriguing to compare the levels of technology required to build the plane with those used in the Segway. I also wonder how the Segway will fare through the next 60 years; will it survive the test the way the airplane did?

While there was a pretty good RV turn out, there were also a lot of other interesting things to see. There was a WWII B-25 medium bomber, but surprisingly it wasn't one I saw sitting over at Urbana Grimes. I don't know how many B-25s are still flying, but having two within just a few miles of each other at someplace other than Oshkosh or a CAF air show is quite a coincidence. There was a nice collection of three Stearmans, too. Stearmans interest me quite a bit. They are engineered like a tank, built by the same company that build the B-17 Flying Fortress, and are still available to such a degree that the asking price is no more than that of a nice RV. They look like they would be a blast to fly (in the warmer months, anyway), but all of that has to be balanced against the cost of maintaining and operating a classic airplane. They go through gas and oil at a prodigious rate, but turn it into far more noise than airspeed.

This is a new entry in my "Fly Ohio" collection:

There was a Blackhawk helicopter in attendance, and the crew were very generous in allowing kids (including the heavily cliched "kids of all ages") to climb into the pilots seat. Feeling it undignified (actually, I just didn't want to stand in line) I passed on climbing aboard, but I did make a walk-about taking close up photos.

One of the highlights of these fly-ins for me is the chance to spend some time talking with the folks that gather around my plane. I clearly remember many, many situations where I was on "their side of the fence." I remember thinking how incredibly lucky the owner of whatever my current object of desire was, and today I spent a few moments reflecting on how exactly true that was. I'm incredibly lucky to live in a time where we can fly when and where we choose, using whatever means of conveyance we want. Just consider for a moment how rare that is. Less than 100 years ago, someone like me would travel for quite a distance just to see an airplane. More materially, I'm also just tickled pink to glance across the ramp and see a crowd of admirers around my plane:

This is one of the things I think must be even better for someone that built their plane. I can fly like them, I can (almost) maintain like them, but I don't think I can ever feel the deep sense of pride a builder must feel when he sees a group admiring, and I'm sure to an appreciable degree envying, his creation. As it is, I don't seem to tire of answering questions about the plane. There was a guy today that was actually more interested in talking to me since I didn't build the plane. He felt intuitively that buying an already-built plane, like I did, might be a good way to get a very capable airplane for much less money than a store-bought would cost. I was very happy to share the details of owning and maintaining an RV built by someone else - he may well end up being my second conversion from store-bought to homebuilt buyer. A lot of folks were curious as to what "Experimental" meant, so I got a lot of chances to use my "Well, with these Vans airplanes having over 4,000 flying, the 'Experiment' was successfully concluded a decade ago" line.

Of course, as a builder you do have to endure the "final inspection" the first time the RV gang comes to visit your home base. Here's Tom's new RV-7A getting the once-, twice-, thrice-over inspection:

Rick has gone through another RV-4 (he's gone through more RV's in the last few months than I've had haircuts, and each new one is an excuse for me to try out very loose formation. Unfortunately, I made a bad lens decision and kept the long lens on rather than trade back to the small. I don't think any of these pictures are particularly good, so we're going to have to try again.

Back at Bolton, I made a fairly decent 2-wheel landing (I'm practicing those a lot lately), but demonstrated pretty poor crosswind awareness. I had a bit of wind from the right, and I didn't hold enough aileron into the wind to get the upwind wheel down first - it was actually exactly the opposite wheel that I used as a unicycle for a few feet. Nothing very hairy or scary, but still poor technique and a point I will concentrate a bit better on next time.

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