Saturday, March 29, 2014

Oshkosh Debut

The Ohio winter seems to be subsiding, but it is only going into April.  That means we could get at least another two feet of snow. Social Media is abuzz with upcoming airshows and fly-ins.  That made me realize that I never made a formal write-up of the Oshkosh debut of N328KL.

The paint was finished, and it was only a week before the big show started in Oshkosh, WI.  The "big show" is the national convention for EAA (Experimental Aircraft Association).  It is a Mecca for aircraft builders and pilots of all types.  When you build an airplane, the ting to do is fly into Oshkosh.  That airport becomes the busiest airport in the world for that week.  It is so busy, that special arrival and departure procedures are written and distributed by the FAA.   A copy can be found here.  It is 32 pages that look more like an invasion plan than a pilot's guide to landing at a class D airport.

A few weeks before, I put  a post out on the VAF forum to see if any other "east coasters" would be flying to KOSH and would want to caravan up together.  A few hours later, a response email came from Mitch Lock who happens to have the Van's East Coast RV-12 demonstrator.  He would be flying from near Washington DC and would enjoy the company.  We decided to meet in Parkersburg, WV and then make our way to Kenosha, WI the Saturday before the big show started.  The weather was decent VFR  over to PKB, but as we headed NW over Ohio, the weather deteriorated somewhat.  This lead to a more southerly route and then eventually it was decided to land somewhere and wait out the passing weather.  Luckily, we  were only about 20 miles from our home airport in Jackson, so a quick radio call to Mitch pointed us in that direction.  After landing, we taxied to our hangar, climbed out and opened the door.  Mitch had a very surprised look on his face as to how we had a key to that hangar at some random airport in Ohio.  He must have missed the part of "home airport" on the radio call.  It was still early in the day, the weather was moving through fairly quick.  We grabbed a quick lunch, checked the forecast (which showed clearing skies about 35 miles west of our location).  We topped off the fuel tanks and headed back Northwest.  There were some low fuzzy clouds for the first few miles, but nearing Dayton the sky cleared up and a more reasonable cruising altitude was assumed. 

The flight to our next fuel stop in Marion, IN was pretty mundane.  Marion had a nice facility with a plethora of Crop-Dusting aircraft parked on the ramp.  From Marion, it would be non-stop around Chicago to Kenosha, WI.

Mitch had flown this route many times before and his advise was to fly west of Chicago Class B airspace.  That is what we did, and the TIS on the Map courtesy of our Mode S transponder lit up like Christmas with all the incoming Chicago traffic.  A few 737's and other large airline-type aircraft passed above and below us.  It was interesting.  I did manage to get a photo of the Chicago Skyline.

Here is the route out and around the class B.

The stop in Kenosha would be an overnight.  It was getting too late to fly in to KOSH and be able to set-up camp.  Mitch was staying with family that night, so we had a room reserved just down the road.  Landing at Kenosha was interesting too, as a P-51 Mustang was on final next to us on the parallel runway there.  That is something you never get to hear on the local unicom.  Luckily, there was just enough room in a large hangar to squeeze the the two RV-12's in for the night.

Realizing that it was much colder than expected, the next mission was to find a long sleeve shirt.  I had not packed any sweatshirts to help save on weight in the -12.  Oh well.

The next morning was still cold, but no rainy weather.  Mitch and the Van's RV-12 were scheduled to do some demo flights at a nearby airport, so we would be making the 45 minute flight to Oshkosh solo.  Nothing to worry about, we had the invasion plan.

Three important notes.  Get in line.  Do Not talk on the radio unless asked a specific question.  Rock your wings when told to do so.  Basically, you fly to the city of Ripon, WI then follow the railroad tracks to a smaller town called Fisk.  Along this route there are air traffic controllers on the ground sequencing everyone to a runway.  They can see you because you fly at 1800' and 90 knots.  During this time, you are looking for other airplanes and keeping a 1/2 mile separation from them.  As we got closer to Ripon, we started seeing other airplanes.  In our area I would guess that there were 20 other aircraft in line with us.  As we approached Fisk, the controllers started asking each aircraft where they were from...making small talk i guess.  We heard, PA...TN....MI....WI...MN....TX before we were given the order to rock our wings.  That is done so ATC knows that you can hear them.  We were sequenced in for runway 27 according to the NOTAM.

 The Ripon arrival in real life

This is entering the downwind leg for runway 27.  You can see the EAA museum and part of the GA aircraft parking.

Here is short final and landing on the orange dot / runway 27


 That was the easy part!  Next was getting to the camping area.  A number of flagmen directed us across taxiways and closed runways to get there.

Once we shut the engine down, we were still sitting in the plane when a blue minivan minus the back half drove up.  It was the EAA Homebuilders "Welcome Wagon"!

They asked if we needed anything, and by chance we did.  We had UPS ship up our camping gear a few days before our arrival and we were assured it would be waiting on us when we got there.  The welcome wagon drove us the mile across the field to the shipping complex and drove us back with our stuff.  Nifty.

It was still cold.  The first two days did not get above 54 degrees.  Oshkosh 2013 was nicknamed "Frost-Kosh".  Other than the temps, it was a pretty normal event. Airplanes everywhere.  A couple from Canada in their RV-8 were parked on one side, while a gentleman from New Mexico in his RV-4 was on the other side.  In the photo above, the airplane with the red and grey stripes happened to be from Marysville, OH.  Annnnd.......they knew builder Dave!

You even get to see a celebrity every now and then. 

I think the discussion was about what color to have that airplane painted.  I would stick with the rustic look myself.

After a few days of walking around aimlessly looking at airplanes and listening to everyone talk about airplanes, it was time to trek back to Ohio. 

Oh, this is the line to depart.  Its about 8,000 feet long.  It was a 45 minute wait and they were departing 4 airplanes at the same time.  

Once in the air, we had a nice tailwind all the way back.  A fuel stop was made in Logansport, IN and the trip back home was only about 3.5 hours.  

Chicago Motor Speedway was spotted on the way through

Monday, November 4, 2013

Paint Chips

In preparation for paint, an optional firewall and sideskin brace was installed.  VANS added the option to dampen some "oil canning" on the forward fuselage skin and the firewall.  This upgrade involved removing some rivets and then adding some for the substructure braces.   This all needed to be accomplished in short order as the airplane was due for paint in 48 hours. 

On a trip to 8G6, home of DESAPI aircraft painting in Harrison Co., Ohio, we talked to the shop manager and picked out the color scheme.  It was always a toss up between red and blue for secondary colors.  Steel Blue Pearl was selected out literally thousands of paint choices.  There was a book with hundreds of shades of white. Luckily a Bonanza in the paint bay had a very nice white, we went with that.   There were two aircraft in the shop at the time, one in prep, one in the paint bay.  It was obvious that to paint an aircraft properly you needed lots of patience.  And sandpaper.  And tape.  DESAPI uses a non corrosive wash to rid the plane of any existing paint.  After that the airframe is scrubbed to bare metal and etched to clean the aluminum.  All the windows are covered with what looks like foil and any antennas,wheels, and engine are masked off.  All the fiberglass is prepped and smoothed.  This is said to be alot of work by hand.  Our fiberglass is in decent shape, but by nomeans ready for primer.  All the tiny pinholes, which are airbubbles that rose to the surface during factory molding, need to be filled.  These pinholes are tough to see, and if not filled before painting, they will show up plain as day. 

Chief Builder #1 set off for 8G6 in the car, taking all the manuals and the wingstand to be used.  I made it to the hangar early in the morning hoping the low clouds would lift.  The area around I43 was VFR, but when I made it past Athens, OH the clouds dropped lower.  It was a wall of clouds from sky to ground.  I turned back for I43  It was a no go today. Fast forward to the next week :



 It was great weather for an early morning flight to 8G6.  Here is a video of the arrival.

As you can see in the video, this place is in the middle of nowhere.  However, do not let the sub-elite hangars and airport fool you, this is most likely on of the best general aviation aircraft paint shops in the USA. Darrin and Mark are good at what they do.  In fact, Builder Dave has his 12 there right now. 

Painting an airplane, big or small, is not an overnight process.
















It was time to pick the plane up after a few weeks (7.5) of waiting.  It was well worth it.  Arriving at 8am, it was an all day job of reassembling everything.  The wing seals were installed, and the wings fit fine due to trimming some metal off before paint.   

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The First 40

 A lot to cover in this posting, a quick summary on the 25 hr inspection, the few XC flights made, wheel pants and a Service Bulletin.

The 25 hour condition inspection revealed no major issues, only a minor wire rub under the cowling that was easily fixed.  Other than the time consuming task of taking the airplane apart and putting it back together, the longest project was changing the oil. 

The RV-12 is a nice flying airplane.  It has good handling qualities, very light controls and stable in all stages of flight.  Landings are a no brainer as long as you stay on your target airspeed of 55-60 kts on final.  I had the opportunity to try the crosswind capabilities and i was surprised.  The XW component was 12-14 kts and the plane handles it fine.  I would not recommend a new pilot try it, as the RV12 is a light airplane and the wind will blow it around.  Once on the runway, it slows quickly and allows for better stability in the XW situations.   Here is a video of that landing.  FF to the 2:00 mark and see the comments for wind dir and speed.  

If you are curious of the video, it is a GOPRO 3 mounted to the belly using a gopro mount customized  to fit an inspection panel.  Works fairly well.

 Hard to see in the photo, but it is the silver box hanging off the belly.  Look above the chair.  Here are some screenshots of some video uploaded.  And click HERE for the youtube videos to date.




Over the last few months, we have taken the -12 on some "cross country" (over 50 miles in the FAA's eyes).  All from I43 to Prestonsburg KY, Delaware OH, Urbana OH, Columbus, OH, Cadiz OH and Zanesville OH.  It is a comfortable airplane to ride in, trimmed out you can fly with your fingertips.  Plenty of legroom and snug but comfortable side by side fit.  The skyview system is full of information, more than you ever need.  All basic airport  information built in to the GPS interface including radio freq's, NAVAIDS, and airport services.  To fully learn the Skyview while in-flight, an autopilot is a must.  That is on the "to-do list".

 The Ohio River looking west over Ashland, KY and Ironton, OH

 The basic skyview display. 

 Some touch up items on the list have been completed.  Our cowling had a minor "pucker" at the lower right hand side.  When the cowling was fully installed, that corner sort-of sucked in.  To fix it, we learned from other builders that had the problem is to install a backing plate and screw the cowling to it.  It worked.   


 Another project just waiting for attention was the wheel pants or fairings as some like to be called.  These 6 pieces of fiberglass needed to be trimmed and sanded to fit.  That is putting it mildly.  Lots of sanding and lots of trimming in just the right spots for a decent fit.  After all that trimming, you drill holes and hope they line up to the manufactured brackets. 


 This is the front half of the front wheel fairing.  The blue piece is a template to drill holes in the mounting brackets.  The grey part is a "splice strip" that allows the rear half to be screwed on.  Lots of work here, drilling, dimpling, riveting....

 One of the main wheels fairings installed.


With all airplanes, things arise from time to time that require attention from the manufacturer.  A recent example, the Boeing Dreamliner and it's batteries.  The FAA grounded the fleet.  With the RV-12, an issue with the landing gear has been a hot topic amongst builders, owners, and the factory.  With certificated aircraft like Cessna's and Pipers, the FAA issues Airworthiness Directives that are MANDATORY.  example here:

In the experimental certificate world, Service Bulletins are issued and are not mandatory but it is up to the builder/owner to comply.  This is the VANS Aircraft issued SB for the RV-12 landing gear :

This one is a big deal.  It is more than an inspection of a certain part or parts.  It requires dis-assembling part of the aircraft and installing new upgraded parts.  To take a look back on how this occurred, we must delve into the abyss of a forum on the VAF website.  A current builder brought up that some flying RV-12's (why he was the contact point instead of VANS is mystery to me) had damage to the side skin directly above the main landing gear.  Interesting.  The damage pictures posted on the forum were telling in the fact that normal operations did not cause this damage.  As the story goes, the owners who experienced this damage to fess up to having a "hard" landing and or over braking causing the aircraft to skid on the landing gear.  It was also found that some of aircraft had loose bolts on the gear attach points that attributed to the damage.  

Van's was quiet on the subject but they were busy testing away at the factory.  They issued a 1st SB to inspect only and report damage.  They also said to standby for further instructions.  Then came the service bulletin with parts shipped for free to every -12 owner.  Did van's make a mistake on initial design?  I don't think so.  I think they "beefed up" the design to cover themselves down the road.  A statement from VANS revealed that they had to go beyond "ASTM" testing standards for light sport aircraft to reproduce the damage.   If you land any airplane hard enough, something will break.  I'm glad they did what they did, because now we know we have a strong(er) airplane.  

 Landing gear removed for update

 Side skin doublers added on the outside


 New bolt holes for larger and thicker doubler and wear plates

 Right side doubler plates installed

 With some free time, made an oil lid holder that attaches to the oil door.