Friday, July 30, 2010

Oshkosh 2010 - Day 5

Well, it's all over except for the drive home. Egg had her last day in the booth and I walked around looking at war birds before heading over to hangar B to finish my interview with the guy at the SimCraft booth. I'll be putting together an article about their product when I get back home - it's a fascinating gadget they've got and I'm going to enjoy writing it up.

We're back in the hotel room now resting up for our drive home. We'll hit the road at about 3 am - the secret to Chicago traffic is to get through there at 5:30 am.

There's not much else to say, so it's just going to be pictures today.

First, the Spitfire. I waited and waited to get that picture; there was a guy leaning into the cockpit either memorizing each and every knob or having a prolonged Walter Mitty moment. You won't believe this, but I just stood there patiently waiting while he did whatever he was doing. I wasn't in any hurry; by the fifth day at Oshkosh I've done pretty much everything I can think of to do.

Next is a TBM:

And a Tiger Moth:

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Oshkosh 2010 - Day 4

We broke Co-pilot Egg away from her booth duties for a few hours this afternoon to make our way over to the seaplane base. We had a nice, relaxing day over there last year and had hoped to enjoy the same today, but it was not to be. For some reason there were plenty of buses running to K-Mart, Target, and the outlet mall, but very few to the seaplane base. It was a long, hot wait of half an hour before we were able to get on a bus. The seaplane area was crowded once we got there, but I was somewhat pacified by being able to score a tasty Wisconsin quarter pound Brat. Egg had some kind of chocolate brownie/ice cream deal. The combo was expensive, totaling in at $10.50, but it was a nice change of pace, especially since I've been subsisting on Jack Links Teriyaki Beef Steak most of the week.

We then waited in another long, slow line to take the pontoon boat ride around the harbor, but it too was worth the wait if only for the photo opportunities it provided.

Egg needed to get back to work so we headed back up to the line to catch a bus back to the show. It was another lengthy half hour wait, but this one was orders of magnitude worse: we were getting eaten alive by mosquitoes. Fortunately I had had the foresight to bring bug repellent with us when I packed, and even more fortunately I had safely left it stored in my camera bag back in the hotel where it was in no danger of being used. That was a close call! 

She went back to work and I was left to my own devices. There comes a time in a full week at Oshkosh when you've seen just about everything and everyone you came to see, when the pain between your shoulders from carrying a camera and other stuff is exceeded only by the pain in your legs from all of the walking, and that pain is itself dwarfed by the agony of feet that have grown accustomed to a more sedentary lifestyle. When you reach that point, there's not much left to do but randomly select a forum to sit in, whether you know what it's about or not. The chair in the shade would make anything tolerable. Me, I lucked out. I plopped down and listened to Capt. Sullenberger and Jeff Skiles talk about their miraculous landing in the Hudson river.

Once that was done I wandered through the Federal Pavilion to, in the words of a friend, see how my tax dollars are being spent. I stopped at the Light Sport Airplanes display and was approached by an FAA person who wanted to know if I had any questions. I leapt at the chance to confirm once and for all that an FAA Commercial rating is NOT required to receive an Instructor rating for Light Sport. I really ought to get busy on that, but I guess it can wait until I actually have an LSA plane. Not, mind you, that I would be able to instruct anyone but a family member in the RV-12. E-LSAs have a lot of advantages, but being approved for any kind of commercial operation is not one of them. The conversation then took a few turns and it turned out that the FAA guy was assisting in the building of two RV-12s in Virginia and had in fact flown in a completed one. Small world at EAA.

With a little more time to burn, I strolled over to the Fly Market to pick up a few #30 drill bits. I've about used up the ones that I have, and there will be some tough drilling in certain parts of the wing. It did, however, just strike me that the holes that need to be drilled into the steel tube that acts as a counter balance on the flaperon may not be #30. Oh well, it's still a very common hole size and the bits were not very expensive.

It was time to go back over to hangar A to retrieve Egg but I never end up going directly to where I'm headed at Oshkosh.  I'm as easily sidetracked as Cabot in the toy aisle at PetSmart. I detoured to take a look at the military replicas.

I love the look of them and I love the idea of them, but they fall into a very exclusive club: The Planes That I Have No Desire to Fly Club.  Given the aerodynamics of them, I have to think that they are not very pilot-friendly in their flying traits.

It's been a long day and a longer week, and I'm banking on the hotel hot tub to ease away some of my aches and pains. Tomorrow will be our last day - we'll head back towards Ohio sometime in the middle of the night. I like to time it such that we pass through Chicago in the early, early am so as to avoid the murderous traffic. We're both homesick, too, and an early start gets up back home all the quicker.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Oshkosh 2010 - Day 3

Today was shopping day. The forecast had predicted a cloudy and possibly rainy morning and that's exactly what we got. That was, surprisingly, good news to me. Egg wouldn't care since she'd be inside the exhibition building working at the Girls With Wings booth, and I would take the opportunity to get my shopping done. The morning rain keeps people at home a little longer, thus alleviating some of the crowding in the exhibition buildings. It's more than a little frustrating to have the opportunity to buy things at show-special prices but not be able to get within six feet of the vendors.

I was a little early for the shopping, though. I drop Egg off at 8:00 so she can go in and get the inventory unpacked and shelved, but the buildings don't open for business until 9:00. I wandered around a little bit and happened across an RV-6 that I recognized. It belongs to Doug Reeves, the founder and Chief Bottle Washer of the wonderful Van's Air Force web site. He provides an invaluable gathering place for all things RV. Lately he has been working with Garmin as a tester for their new line of high-end avionics for the Experimental market. Take a look at this:

You wouldn't have to search very far to find an airline pilot that would be insanely jealous of that set-up. Or, for that matter, an RV-6 owner that you're all very familiar with that would be equally desirous. Yeah, that's right. I'm talkin' about yours truly.  While Doug's plane was there, Doug himself was not. A bit of a shame, that, as I like to say hi whenever I get the chance. He links to my blogs a lot from his site and I appreciate that. It takes a lot longer to write these posts than it does for you to read them, so sending readers my way helps make it worthwhile to me.

The goal of my shopping was to find a good special on a Dynon D-6 to replace the mechanical gyros I pulled out of the plane a few months ago. It hasn't been too horrible flying sans gyros in the intervening period, but I got to thinking a couple of weeks ago when I was skirting my way around some storms in a thick, hazy sky that it might be best to have some kind of attitude indicator in the panel in case I were to stumble my way into a cloud. With the shops not being open yet and Doug nowhere to be seen, I continued my walk. Lo and behold, I came across a local oil distributor selling Phillips 20W50 oil for a very attractive price.

Now I'm all for buying when the price is good, but there was the not-so-simple question of how exactly I was going to transport four heavy cases of motor oil all the way back to my car. "No problem," the guy said, "we'll deliver it for you. Just load it into that golf cart."

Hmm, a quandary. You see, I would be more than happy to not have to carry four cases of oil across a mile of airport, but, well, I'm not at all a fan of the ubiquitous golf carts. I have on more than one occasion fantasized about going all Mel Gibson on some knucklehead in a golf cart honking at people walking in posted vehicle-free zones. Could I in clear conscience become, albeit only temporarily, part of the problem?

In a word: yes. Yes I could. Oil is heavy, you see. And such a long way to go! I'd be able to live with myself. In fact, I argued, one should ride a mile in someone else's shoes before criticizing them, right? I'd just consider this an attempt to be fair. Yeah, that's it. It would only be fair.

Unfortunately, the oil guy was one of the rudest golf cart drivers I've seen. I was a little embarrassed to be seen with him. But I saved a lot of money on a two year supply of oil! Very mixed emotions.

Sure, the road looks wide open. That's because the wake of strewn bodies is behind us:

A bigger man than I would have refused the ride back, just on principle.

Me?  I asked if I could honk the horn.

The problem with walking riding that mile in someone else's shoes is that you just might find them to be more comfortable than you had imagined.

Karma seemed to have been either okay with that or just not paying attention. I found a good deal on the Dynon too.

With the shopping done I was able to go for another walkabout. I swung past the RV section and stumbled across Mr. Reeves talking to my other favorite RV guy, Rick Gray. Rick brought his 16 year old daughter Lauren with him this year. She, as with all of his family, was heavily involved in the building of his airplanes. I hope Egg is inspired to help me now that she's had some good training and a positive example to emulate.

And to top off a very successful day, I found an RV-4 painted in the same colors that I'm planning for the RV-12:

Oshkosh 2010 - Day 2

Still in the mood to seek out the grassroots side of Oshkosh, I only traversed downtown AirVenture for as long as it took to drop Co-pilot Egg off at her office in Exhibition Building A and cross over to the southern suburbs. I had to pass through the central square on the way and I found the light to be perfect for a couple of pictures of the DC-3s parked there.

Just south of downtown is the Vintage Planes suburb.  I love everything about these old planes - the color schemes, the sounds of radial engines converting fuel into a rumbling yet appealing cacophony that modern engines cannot match, and the angular yet aerodynamic shapes achieved by the combination of steel tube, fabric, and hand-shaped aluminum. They are in many cases functional, flying works of art.

It was in this first ring of AirVenture suburbs that I discovered that I was wrong about the monopolistic homogeneity of dining options:

Never happy, I. I was as aghast at the prices as I was surprised by the variety.  Vintage Planes wasn't my destination, though. I've been out this far before, but have always run out of steam before pressing even further out to the boonies. Today was to be the day that I went all the way out to the very far reaches of AirVenture: the ultralight area. It's a long walk out there, but it's worth it if you are searching for the real down-to-earth (so to speak) type of flying that got organizations such as EAA started. My understanding is that a pilot of a Part 103 ultralight doesn't even need a pilot's license. Here's how EAA describes them:
Flying ultralights is an exciting and exhilarating sport when done safely. Please take the time and learn the rules of flight before your feet leave the ground.
Flying ultralights is not a step up or down, but a step into a completely different and exciting sector of the flying community. Flying ultralights might be described as a step into high performance slowness. While there are similarities to other type certificated aircraft, there can be major handling differences.
The Federal Aviation Regulation that regulates ultralight flying is called Part 103. These are the legal rules we fly by; they are the most lenient rules in the world. Our privileges, however, carry responsibilities.
Part 103 defines an ultralight as:
  • 1-seat
  • 254 pounds max. empty weight (powered)
  • 155 pounds max empty weight (unpowered)
  • 5 gallons max. fuel capacity
  • 55 knots max. full power speed
  • 24 knots max power off stall speed

To my untrained eye, it didn't seem like there were all that many true ultralights out there. The influx of Sport Planes has changed that aspect of the genre significantly. If I had to guess, I'd say it might be because of the single-seat limitation of true ultralights. There were a few flying, though. Here's one:

Now that's flying for flying's sake! They almost all look spindly and fragile like that, mostly I suspect due to the severe weight limitation. There was one, however, that didn't share that design style.

Here's a close-up of the tattoo from three pictures above because, well, just because:

I had a forum that I wanted to attend at 10:00 and it was getting late, so I had to head back towards downtown and pass through to the norther 'burbs. I was already getting tired, so I hopped a ride on one of the trams.

And, of course, I was yet again reminded that the commercialization of AirVenture that I sometimes rebel against has had many positive results. Most of the paths are now paved, I've never had to wait in line for a Port-O-Let, and free transportation is readily available. It's a massive operation and it runs very, very well. I do get tired of being beeped at by VIPs (Very Impatient Persons) in golf carts, but as long as I can avoid the major arteries it's not so bad.

The forums area (and again, these forums are presented in a dozen nice, solid sheltered, concrete floored structures sponsored by corporations) is clear across downtown in the northern 'burbs, right in the area where the homebuilts are parked. The forums are free and cover a very wide range of esoteric subjects. I was going to attend a forum on the inner workings of the Rotax 912ULS that will power by RV-12. The preceding forum was not quite done when I got there, so I learned a little bit about the Terrafugia flying car (or, as they call it, "roadable airplane"). Now that's esoteric! Some of the questions from the audience were very astute and were well answered by the presenter. The depth and breadth of diverse knowledge present and ready to be tapped at Oshkosh is simply astonishing.

The Rotax forum was also very informative. I had no say in the decision to someday acquire the Rotax912; that decision was implicit in the selection of the RV-12. I had heard of the Rotax engine, but beyond that did not know all that much about it other than that some people love them, and others don't. The presentation spoke to many of the questions I had about the engine and how it compares to the more traditional Lycoming engines that I've always dealt with. Now that I know more about it, I'm sold on the idea of the Rotax. It is a thoroughly modern engine that now has years of experience and refinement spread across 36,000 flying engines installed in all types of airplanes. On of my burning questions (heh!) was about the auto gas that it prefers to burn rather than the leaded aviation fuel I have to use in the Lycoming that propels Papa. I was concerned that pump gas has ethanol in it and wondered if that was going to be problematic for the engine. The short answer is no. The engine couldn't care less. The issue with ethanol has to do with plastic fuel lines or non-metallic fuel tanks. Neither of those are a problem for the RV-12.

I was no sooner done with the forum than I received a text message from a Facebook friend that I had been hoping to meet in person for the first time. He works for Cessna and was going to be spending a couple of days selling Cessnas at the show. Suddenly finding myself afloat with gratitude towards the corporate sponsors that had provided much-needed transportation and a folding chair to sit (albeit mighty uncomfortably, but my lack of posterior padding is hardly their fault) on, I eagerly set my course towards the Cessna exhibit located right in the heart of downtown. Oh, and I really wanted to get a close up look at the $660,000 Cessna Corvalis, an airplane that began life as a homebuilt only to be acquired by Cessna for the commercial certified market. In other words, a homebuilt that had graduated to store-bought.

Now this is one plush airplane. First, we have the hand-rubbed, teak fuel tank selector knob:

Naturally, any vehicle costing well over half a million dollars has to have a cup holder:

And a color TV:

And believe it or not, central air conditioning. The control panel for the AC is below the throttle, prop, and mixture knobs:

You probably think that big smile I'm wearing comes from sitting in such an incredible plane, and I'm okay with you thinking that, but it's really because Jeff had just given me a cold bottle of water. With the going price for a bottle of water being $2.75 (Grrrr, and I was just getting over being resentful of the monopolistic concessionaire), it was quite nice to have one provided to me gratis.

It was early afternoon by the time I was able to drag myself away from the corporate-provided treats and great conversation in order to go pick up Egg at work. She wanted to get back over to the Kidventure part of town to finish up her projects from yesterday. Today she would be carving a propeller out of a block of wood. I don't think this particular project was entirely focused on education since it is not all that common even for homebuilt builders to carve their own props anymore. In fact, given that it took a full hour, I think this one was more about giving parents a break.

Oh, and she got to pretend to fly a helicopter just like I got to pretend to fly a Corvalis:

The Kidventure area is located way over at the EAA museum complex. It's a long walk so we rode over on a shuttle bus, but going back was going to be difficult. The museum area is equidistant with the bus drop-off area to where our car was parked. In other words, it was a long walk to the car from the museum, but it was an equally long walk from where the bus would drop us off. Insult to injury, the bus would pass right by our car on the way back, but wouldn't stop to drop us off. As we were debating what to do, one of the Ford sponsored free shuttle cars pulled up. The lovely young lady hired to drive (and ostensibly sell, although she made no effort to do so) the car had no objections whatsoever to dropping us right where we needed to be.

So, thanks Ford! I'm going to quit whining about the over commercialization of AirVenture now. Well, except for the $2.75 water. That really bugs me. Fortunately I have found a spot just outside the gate that sells a bottle for $1.00. Saints, those people. Saints.