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Friday
Feb132015

Homebuilders' Workshop: February 2015

People

By Ed Wischmeyer

EAA founder, Paul Poberezny, said that people come to EAA for the airplanes and stay for the people. For whatever reason, that seems an appropriate reminiscence on this clear, brisk Georgia winter afternoon.

The current issue of EAA Sport Aviation has a marvelous summary of the U.S. homebuilding movement, written by Richard VanGrunsven, the “RV” in the RV series of airplanes. In addition to being perhaps the preeminent homebuilt kit vendor, Van knew some of the very earliest homebuilders who coincidentally lived nearby in Oregon.

I first met Van at Oshkosh one year, about the time that the RV-4 came out. I had sent him three dollars or so for an information packet, and it came in the mail. Then I noticed an ad that said that the information packet was four dollars, but he had sent me the information packet anyway. At Oshkosh, I gave him the extra buck, and we had maybe a brief conversation.

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Friday
Jan092015

Homebuilders Workshop: January 2015

Hope for the eFIRC

By Ed Wischmeyer

By way of happy accident, I managed to establish correspondence with George Perry, Senior Vice President who has taken over leading the (AOPA) Air Safety Institute. One thing led to another, and I was talked into taking their eFIRC, electronic (online) Flight Instructor Refresher Clinic.

The bottom line? Good things are starting to happen at ASI. The eFIRC show’s balance, perspective, candor and even humor are so refreshing to see in an aviation course, or any other course, for that matter. Dogmatism is diminished. These are all harbingers of good things to come and a very welcome change from past offerings.

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Thursday
Dec112014

Homebuilders Workshop: December 2014

Well and Truly Grounded

By Ed Wischmeyer

There’s a trick to avoiding having the FAA ground you for medical reasons. Just like in telling a joke, the answer is “timing.”

In my latest case, the problem is scoliosis, meaning, that my spine is not straight, but rather looks like the ground track of a pilot landing with a tailwheel for the first time. That spinal curvature puts pressure on the nerves coming out of the spinal column (stenosis) and that causes pain and, I’m guessing, eventually, could cause lack of full functionality.

The king-kong fix for this is spinal fusion, meaning, the doctor opens his erector set catalog to “implants” and gets all the metal bits and pieces to hold the selected vertebra in place until they can grow together, i.e., fuse. The downside of this is that with those vertebra rigidly affixed, stresses accumulate at the end of the fused region. A real world example is that on many sailplanes with extra stiffening around the spoilers, eventually the paint cracks around the end of the spoilers, indicating the stress.

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Thursday
Nov142013

Homebuilder's Workshop - November 2013

Perspectives

By Ed Wischmeyer

So now that I’ve rejoined the ranks of “real” pilots with a homebuilt taildragger, namely an RV-8, here are my unimpeachable thoughts on life, the universe, and all that.

Tailwheel vs. Nosewheel

Actually, there are several kinds of tailwheel skills. There’s the faster landing tailwheel airplanes like the RV-8, and the slow landing kind like the AirCam I used to own. When I got the RV-8, it was a real surprise how much my skills had degraded. A tailwheel airplane will keep your skills at a level higher than required for a nosewheel airplane. But the flip side is that the nosewheel airplane is easier to land when you’re tired or in ugly wind conditions (safety), at night if you’re trying to make a wheel landing, and a nosewheel gives you over the nose visibility when taxiing (safety).  There are few circumstances that legitimately demand a tailwheel, so the nosewheel wins hands down. But I’m not in any hurry to sell my new RV-8.

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Wednesday
Sep112013

Homebuilders Workshop - September 2013

More Oshkosh Details

By Ed Wischmeyer

The gating factor for flying to AirVenture on the airlines is not airfare, it’s rental car rates. This year, I was late renting a car, and the rates in Appleton and Madison were both well north of $100 per day. However, Milwaukee still had rates a third of that, so that’s the airport I flew into. And for an extra $10 per day or so, I rented a Mustang.

The Mustang’s speedometer needle turned through only 180 degrees of arc, and the markings looked like they’d been copied from the 1970s – cluttered and hard to read. There were numerical readouts between the tach and speedometer that were clear and crisp, but the radio etc. panel in the center of the car had pixels as big as pizzas and as dim as your old girl friend. With the floaty suspension and the imprecise steering, you kind of herded the Mustang down the road as the slow-shifting automatic transmission encouraged the engine to make raucous noises before acceleration set in.

To be fair, this was a rental car, and there are undoubtedly other versions that are better tuned, but even the high-powered Mustang in the Ford pavilion had the same funky clunky speedometer markings. Disappointing.

My new RV-8 has very precise handling, by comparison, and I’m well on the way to flying it as well as I used to fly the old RV-4. Part of the drill is to do wheel landings and keep the tail up in the air as long as possible, and part of the drill is to not overcorrect on the steering. That’s all coming back, and today’s flight was at a much lower anxiety level than past flights. Now to start getting the G-tolerance back, something that might take a while at age 64. But back to Oshkosh.

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