Monday, September 28, 2009

Rainy weekend...

Housebound for most of the weekend, although the rains did abate for just long enough to mow the lawn. While I was out there putzing about in the yard, I also decided to unclog one of the rain getters that I had seen overflowing during the downpour:

"I'll take 'Things That Shouldn't Have Been a Surprise' for $500, Alex."

"And the answer is, 'You get drenched with cold water.'"

"Ooh, I know that one! 'What happens when you stand under an overflowing rain gutter and remove the clogged down pipe?'"

Ding ding ding! $500!

Later in the day, it was a trip to the mall with Co-pilot Egg for to procure a spiffy dress for the Homecoming dance. At Macy's. On a Sunday afternoon. I thought it was bad enough when I was surrounded by a pack of ravening, giggling teenage girls, but no, the worst of the pain was yet to come. It was the 20 minutes that she was in the fitting room trying on dresses that really made me uncomfortable. Because, well, Macy's thought for some reason that the optimal area to put the fitting rooms was deep in the heart of the 'intimate apparel' department. I retreated as far as I could without running the risk of losing the co-pilot, but that was only a slight improvement: night gowns and robes.

Salvaging as much of my masculinity as possible after that ordeal, we stopped at Lowe's and bought pieces/parts required to build a work table for the RV-12 project. That marks the official beginning of the build process, in my opinion. But you'll have to read about it at the Schmetterling Aviation blog.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Baby steps

Walk before you run. Dip in a toe before diving in. Slow and steady wins the race.

All well and good, but here I am sitting inside on a rainy, gloomy Saturday with nothing to do when I could be deburring the vertical stab ribs.

I've been pacing myself on the RV-12 so as to minimize the shock to the normal family routines and pace of life, but I decided this morning to make a major step forward: I printed out and filled in the Vans Order Form for the RV-12 Empennage.

All that's left to do now is fax it in.

I should have that done by early December at the latest.

Baby steps.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

New RV-12 Site

It makes sense to have a separate site for RV-12 related topics. There is a new image at the top of the right side bar showing the logo for the fictional Schmetterling Aviation. Click the logo to go to the new site.

The Papa Golf Chronicles is not going away; I still have an RV-6 to fly!

Monday, September 14, 2009

On building an RV-12

If nothing else, I think I will build the tail over this winter. I'm not a very outdoorsy type in the bitter cold weather anymore and I need a project to keep myself occupied. The beauty of the RV-12 tail kit is that the vast majority of the work can be done in my basement. Because it includes the tail cone, the final assembly of the tail would have to be performed somewhere above ground. I'm not keen on leaving the cars out on the driveway so using the garage is out of the question, but I have plenty of room in the hangar to do the final riveting.

The advantages of starting with the tail are related to cost. The kit is $2,150 plus shipping which is a very small initial expense when compared to the overall cost of the kit. Another benefit is that there is resale value for the tail should I decide that I don't want to proceed with the rest of the build. There will be a very large number of RV-12s built, so there will therefore be a ready market for a completed tail. Why not buy one already done for the same cost as the kit itself?

The more important and difficult decision will be whether or not to continue to build the rest of the airplane. As the build process progresses, both the cost and the physical size of the components increases dramatically. I would be reluctant to build an entire wing or fuselage in the hangar, but if there is a reasonable ratio between time spent fabricating or preparing individual parts before assembling them into or onto a prohibitively large structure, well, that would be different. If I could take a bunch of deburred and fluted ribs out to the hangar to final rivet onto the spar, for example, the time spent in the hangar would be minimized. That's only really important for the three or four months of bitter winter cold; a good fan would keep the hangar at a suitable temperature for all but the worst of the summer days.

Along that line of thought, I asked Wingman Ted, who is currently building an RV-10, what that ratio might be. His estimate is 50-50. So, half the time would be spent preparing parts in my basement, the other half would be spend assembling them in the hangar. This would inevitably slow the pace of the project somewhat, but I think it's important to note that I have an advantage over the more typical builder: I already have an airplane to fly. What do I care if it takes five to seven years to finish an RV-12? And with the option to bail out and sell the partially complete kit any time I want, I don't see much financial risk to the endeavor.

So, why an RV-12 in the first place? Well, I ain't getting any younger and the LSA airplane has the benefit of removing any worries over losing my medical. That is, after all, how I got my RV-6. I think the guy that built it only put 155 hours on it before losing his medical. And, although the RV-12 is 30 knots slower than the RV-6, it is more capable when the winds get higher than my comfort level in the taildragging, small rudder RV-6. And with a nosewheel, the RV-12 would be suitable for flight instruction. That would be a boon to co-pilot Egg!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Papa Golf meets his maker...

Papa meets his maker? That sounds pretty ominous! But it's true only in a strictly literal sense; I flew Papa Golf up to Urbana to attend the 42nd annual Mid-Eastern Regional Fly-In (MERFI) this morning. I don't go to many fly-ins anymore for various reasons, one of which is that it can be quite hectic in the landing pattern when a few hundred airplanes all converge on a quiet rural airport all at once, but I wanted to go this time because the guy that built 466PG was going to be there. I call him the guy that built my airplane and he calls me the guy that bought his airplane, but Papa doesn't much care about the distinction either way.

I know to get an early start on these things but found myself to be inordinately tired by Friday night, even with the holiday-reduced four day workweek. I slept in a bit longer that I usually do and lugubriously lingered over my morning coffee for almost an hour before heading to the airport. The Weather-out-the-Window&trade was gorgeous and I knew that I was going to face a stiff penalty in the form of a traffic pattern full of other arrivals for indulging in such an extended morning lassitude, but it was a fair trade.

I arrived at the hangar to find Luke, the owner of a nice looking Yak, getting ready to make the same short trip to Urbana that I was planning, albeit with a brief stop at MadCo for gas. He had a passenger, Dave, going along for the ride. Dave's a big fan of RVs, so I suggested that he ride with me over to MadCo where I would replace the fuel used on last week's trip to Chicago. He could then jump in the back of the Yak for their trip up to Urbana. Hard to beat a deal like that, he said, so off we went. As long as both planes were headed to the same place, I suggested to Luke that we form up for some air-to-air photos. I did the flying while Dave used my camera to take the pictures:

Luke landed first, but I made the first turn-off from the runway in a devious attempt to be the first in line to get gas. They have two 100LL pumps, though, so that turned out not to be much of an advantage at all. I had a pretty good-sized bounce on the landing (inexcusable given how calm the air was) but made a nice recovery. I needed far less fuel than that big, thirsty Yak so I was back in the air just as they were climbing back aboard for their departure.

I dialed in the Urbana Unicom while still 15 or 20 miles out, and it was a very close thing: I almost turned around an went back to Bolton. The radio traffic painted a pretty ugly picture: there were so many planes calling position reports and intentions that it seemed impossible that anyone was hearing anything others were saying. I counted at least three planes that were on left base to runway 2 simultaneously and another half dozen scrapping for a spot in the downwind.

As I got closer I heard a Mooney pilot flying a long three mile final griping about planes cutting in front of him. That really ought not to have been a surprise to him; there's no justification for making a long straight-in approach with that many planes flying a full pattern. He started getting pretty snippy about it, too. While it seemed that tempers might start to get pretty short, it all settled down and for the most part everyone was behaving civilly and trying to work out their positions in the scrum by the time I got close enough to care.

By the time I got to the airport area, there were two on left base to runway 2, a maroon Stinson that was making a 360 degree turn out of the downwind to increase the gap between himself and the two other planes on downwind in front of him, and two more entering the downwind on a 45 degree angle behind the Stinson. I slotted in behind the Cessna that was two planes back from the Stinson. Other that having to fly the pattern much slower than I'm used to, it wasn't too difficult once I had a spot in line. I greased the landing, too. That's always nice to do in front of a few thousand critical witnesses.

I taxied in and was directed to park next to a very nice looking RV-6. As I climbed out of Papa, happy to have gotten through the hectic approach and landing, I commented to the other RV guy that nothing makes your day like a near death experience before breakfast. He chuckled at that; he had just landed too and had a pretty similar experience.

I hung around the plane for awhile and eventually a golf cart pulled up in front of Papa. I could overhear the driver talking about his old plane. Aha! He must be the very guy I'm looking for! We chatted for a few minutes about how well everything was going with Papa, the few changes that I had made since I took over the care and feeding, and how we both would like to be building RV-12s:

I also found out where the antique eight day clock in Papa's panel came from: it used to fly in an F-100 Super Sabre. Cool!

(Look close - I put a white box around it)

It's not that he hasn't got anything else to work on, though. He spends a lot of time working on the B-17 restoration project that they have going on at the airport. So you could say that he's already building another plane:

They have an amazing shop:

Restoring a plane that big is a huge undertaking, but not all of the tasks are big. There are plenty of small details to take care of:

You can't just order parts. You have to fabricate nearly everything:

That will eventually end up being the engine control stand.

Unlike some homebuilders that agonize over the decision as to what engine to use, these guys already have it figured out:

Apparently there are still some open questions. I hope they get this figured out, whatever the question is:

There were quite a few restored warbirds that had flown in. This is what the B-17 being restored will eventually look like:

There's also an old DC-3 sitting in the new museum hangar:

No one was guarding it, so I helped myself to a little tour of the interior. There's not much nose on a DC-3 so you get a pretty good view out the front:

The panel has been modernized, but a lot of the radios have gone missing, maybe due to the lack of a guard:

Ha, just kidding. I think. It looked like they didn't mind if you took a peek.

Here's an old checklist and the required airworthiness certificate:

After walking around absorbing the history and ambiance of all of those airplanes, it's not too surprising that this impromptu Rorschach test elicited a response of 'airplane' from me when I saw it:

So there I was, tooling along on a relaxing flight back to Bolton when it happened: The mid-air collision that I had been so nervous about in the morning:

I was at 3,500' at the time, and I hit that bug so hard that I could hear it over the sound of the engine and wind noise, and despite the noise reduction of my headsets.

I don't like insects very much to begin with, but over-achievers that want to fly at 3,500'? They really bug me.

I got home to find that the photo that I had ordered from Shutterfly had arrived. I really liked one of my Chicago skyline pictures from last week and had had it enlarged in order to frame it and enter it in next week's annual photo show. I rushed up to Hobby Lobby and had them frame it while I waited - it has to be dropped off for the competition by Wednesday. I think it came out great:

Wish me luck!

Monday, September 07, 2009

The Windy City: Part 3: Riding Around

We still had a few hours to spend in Chicago, the transportation to do so, but nothing even remotely close to a plan for what to do. Step one was the easiest: find a place to park. Lisa works downtown and had a parking card for one of the garages, so we enjoyed a short drive from the Meigs area to a parking garage just a few blocks away. With my head hanging out the window of the Prius like a well-pampered poodle, I took pictures of various buildings that we went by. And, with the same comprehension level of the aforementioned poodle, I don't have the least idea what any of them are. Hey, at least I didn't bark at squirrels! Not that I wasn't tempted, mind you.

Once parked and out on the sidewalk, I was surprised to discover that there is a river flowing through downtown Chicago. Hey, don't laugh. How was I to know? Did you know that we have two or three flowing through land-locked Columbus? You did?? Oh. Never mind.

With a river running right down the middle of a major metropolis, there are bound to be a few bridges here and there. Because the rivers offer access to and from one of the Great Lakes, the boats traveling through can be quite large. With that in mind, it should come as no surprise to learn that there are dozens of drawbridges in Chicago. And interestingly enough, they're rather scenic. They have little huts on each end, presumably for the draw bridge operator to nap in during the long spells between openings. The huts at each bridge are architecturally diverse. Some are bland concrete while others have a Victorian feel to them:

Close on the revelation that there are rivers in Chicago came the introduction to the idea of "water taxis." Yes, rather than sitting in the back of a swelteringly hot, smelly cab, you can take a boat up and down the river for just a few bucks. Which, by the way, Lisa paid for. I found that even with all of my preparation for the trip, I had failed to bring any more cash that a single $20 bill. Sigh. Still, the cab was just pulling up to the dock as we got there, so it was a mercifully short wait before boarding for a trip down the river to China Town.

What? Did I know that there's a China Town in Chicago? No, of course not!

There were a lot of diverse boats moving up and down the river. All this one needed was a drunk skipper, a shrill missionary, and a bigger smokestack to be cast as The African Queen:

The hierarchy of command on the boat was starkly apparent. The three-striper stayed at the helm the whole time while the two-striper sold tickets, marshaled landlubbers on and off the boat and, for all I know, swabbed the decks at the end of the day:

I'm sure that people that ride the water taxis frequently become oblivious to the views eventually, but I found the variety of bridges and views of the city to be intriguing:

Lisa said this next one is the Trump building.

I said, "That explains the Phallic nature of it."

The guy across from me chuckled.

Too bad they couldn't add a bad toupee to it somehow:

Lisa wasn't too proud to be seen with a pair of tourists:

You can ride along, if you'd like to:

We pulled into the nifty little China Town dock after about a fifteen minute ride:

It's a five minute walk from the dock to the China Town commerce district. This square is bordered by the twelve Chinese horoscope animals, and each has a plaque defining the traits of those born during the matching lunar cycle. I am a Bull. In a competing horoscope, I am a Leo. Hmmm, a Leo and a Bull. That explains so, so much! There might be something to all of this. Read the words I underlined in red:

Ha ha ha ha ha! They sure got that right!

I caught some odd looks for doing my Bull pose. Or maybe it was for standing there saying 'Tatanka. Tatanka' like the Indians in 'Dances with Wolves' said to Kevin Costner when they were trying to learn each others' language. Either way, I'm sure it looked pretty silly:

At this point I think I was stretching Lisa's patience with my touristiness pretty close to the breaking point but the funny thing is that just a few moments later, as we were walking across the square, I saw a girl by the Year of the Monkey statue doing a monkey impersonation. So there.

China Town seemed to primarily a collection of Chinese Restaurants, something I have access to at home. Still, I love Chinese food and we were getting hungry so we initiated the prolonged search for a restaurant. We didn't choose the restaurant whose food is so gelatinous that they can display it in the window:

There was no way I wanted this much fluid, particularly after the Bladder Capacity issue of the morning flight:

I've seen smaller hot tubs!

We eventually found a very nice little place. They had a very well made menu, and it fulfilled my requirement that I be able to order by number:

C12: Braised Grass Carp Tail in Brown Sauce.

Ummmm, no.

Rick and I played it safe with relatively tame food. I had Mongolian Beef, and Rick went with Chicken Lo Mein:

Lisa, who had no obligation to fly that afternoon, took a walk on the wild side with a 非常辣 (according to Google Translator, that means 'very spicy') chicken and red chili dish:

My choice, in contrast, was 适合小女孩. Google says that means 'suitable for little girl.' I believe that to be synonymous with 'pilot that knows better through prior experience,' but I defer to Google's 通过试点,知道以前的经验更好 for that. My way is shorter, though.

After lunch we made our way back to Gary for the trip home. Papa was pretty hot after sitting in the sun all day, so we were pretty uncomfortable sitting in the RV greenhouse with the canopy down and the engine running as we waited to squeeze a word in edgewise with the gregarious Tower controller. He was playing "guess who this is" with a group of guys in the Cessna 210 that was taxiing out in front of us. I finally leveraged in a transmission requesting a taxi clearance during a brief moment where they were both taking a much-needed breath. Hey, it's one thing to be a nice, friendly airport, but it's quite another when two hot (thermally, if not aesthetically) hot guys sit stewing in an airplane waiting to conduct a little business.

We were ready to go at the end of runway 30, but the Cessna was waiting for an instrument release. By that time I was really steaming (again, thermally, not temperamentally) and ready to go.

"Gary Tower, 466 Papa Golf, we can take an intersection departure at Alpha 4."

"466 Papa Golf, hold short."

Well then. Guess I'll just set here a spell.

The Cessna departed a minute or so later.

"466 Papa Golf, clear for takeoff runway three zero, [mumble mumble] on course."

"466 Papa Gold clear for take three zero and was that a left turn on departure?"

"Six Papa Golf, why, did you want a right turn?"

"No, just wanted to be sure what you had given me."

We took off and made a left turn out. As we were heading on course east of the airport:

"Six Papa Golf, if you're going to have to cross the extended centerline on course, cross over now. There's a plane coming in on the ILS."

I had forgotten that they had radar up there!

"Wilco," I replied, and turned Papa to the North and out over the lake. I should have just taken the right turn out in the first place. Oh well.

It's pretty cool having radar in the tower. We were a few miles outside of Gary's Class D when we got another call from the tower calling out some traffic to us. It was hazy and the clouds were dark and low at 4,200', so I really appreciated that they gave us a head's up on that one. That said, I heard another guy waiting at the end of the runway ask if he could go back and take a Alpha 4 departure rather than wait behind the plane in front of him.

"Sure, go right ahead."


It was hot and bumpy by then and the low clouds were going to keep us down at 3,500' for most of the trip. Yep, that means exactly what you think it means: Rick's turn to fly.

The weather smoothed out just past Fort Wayne and from there it was just a routine flight back to Bolton. I was getting pretty tired by then, so this was a welcome sight:

Almost there!

It was an adventure packed day and what is most amazing about the whole thing is that we just barely scratched the surface of things to do in Chicago. It's a 1.5 hour flight each way and there is no landing fee at Gary. Transportation isn't even the issue that I thought it was: there's a train that runs from Gary right into Chicago. It only runs every other hour on the weekends and the train stop is about one mile from the Gary airport terminal, but those are small details. It's a $5.50 fare, far less that what a cab or car would cost. It's probably less that what it would cost to park a car. As mad as I still am at Chicago's mayor, I can see myself going back for more.