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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Homebuilder's Workshop - November 2013


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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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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Homebuilder's Workshop - August 2012


By Ed Wischmeyer

Outside Van’s booth early in the morning before the crowds arrived. (Ed Wischmeyer)On Sunday at AirVenture, Van’s Aircraft’s Chief Engineer, Ken Krueger, was dropping helpful hints about a new RV-14. Carbon fiber, twin engine, amphibious, vertical takeoff and landing – and aerobatic! You get the idea… Van himself mentioned an RV-14, but gave no details, and for all I knew he was pulling my leg, too. But then on Monday, there was the RV-14 prototype.

The superficial description is that it is a two-seat RV-10, with slightly smaller dimensions. In a sense that’s true, but the start of the RV-14 was with people who were building RV-7s and putting in tons of junk so that they were overweight, as were the pilots, frequently. Krueger said that some of those were so overweight as to be miniature F-104s, a nice exaggeration. So in one sense, the RV-14 is a gadgeteer’s version of the RV-7, able to carry more weight, and with more room.

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Homebuilder's Workshop - October 2011

Vance AFB, Oklahoma

By Ed Wischmeyer

Ninety minutes north of Oklahoma City by car is Vance AFB in Enid, Okla., where my nephew recently got his Air Force pilot wings.

Leon Vance was a native of Enid – the Air Force folk refer to them as “Enoids” – and a WWII bomber pilot who won the Congressional Medal of Honor. The transport plane bringing him home was lost over the North Atlantic, after he survived a harrowing and heroic ditching of his B-24. But the relationship between Air Force and community is deeper than that – the citizens of Enid bought a wheat field and donated that for the then Army Air Corps to build a training base.

Wheat? In Oklahoma? Yes. Enid actually has the world’s third largest wheat storage capacity, and a grouping of maybe 30 concrete silos is referred to by the pilots as “the battleship.” This year, though, the drought is ferocious and this July was a contender for being the hottest month ever. Cloud bases were at 9,000 feet and the 25-knot wind did no cooling but only parched those out on the 100-plus degree flightline. Coming back into the air-conditioned flight ops building, there is a large fan at chest level to help you cool off.

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