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Topics - Bill James

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Hangar Flying / The Elder VariEze?
« on: September 18, 2017, 01:24:46 PM »
Where is the Elder VariEze? Who is flying the longest currently flying VariEze? Is Ken Swain in the running?

Hangar Flying / Been Flying Lately?
« on: March 03, 2016, 06:42:44 PM »
Been Flying Lately?
The sun was three fingers above the horizon. It was going to be close.
Walking in to work yesterday morning my fighter pilot buddy said his usual greeting, “Been flying lately?” And for the rest of the day the urge to slip the surly bonds had been buzzing around my head like a persistent horse fly. There was no getting rid of it until now, heading home. My trusty ’97 Mustang had its head and was topping the mild Texas rises a little brisker than usual. The wind was buffeting the rag top and portended a sporty flight. I was thinking, “Count me in.”
When the engine started the sun was two fingers above the horizon. Time was flying and i needed to be. I didn’t look at the clock anymore, we were going.
Taxiing out, ‘brisk’ was still the operative word. The windsock was busy but almost right down the runway. The takeoff and quick climb was non-Hertzler-esque using significantly more than 4 gph, as was the entire flight. It was about eleven minutes to the lake and 4.5K was good.  It was somewhat unusual to be holding the canard down in a climb. It was also unusual on a sunset run to hold a heading very long where the sun was right over the instrument panel, with the reflection off the nose making for a brilliant double glow. Bad news. Blinding. But wrapped in the rippling willing steed around me, escorted by two proud winglets, it was glorious. Instead of being blinded, maybe you can see further…
The turbulence was a bit intimidating over the ridge lines secluding our little lake cabin, so I coasted almost power-off across the ridge and through a couple of turns around the place. One time I was sitting in the back yard there and counted a trail of over a hundred vultures pass almost effortlessly overhead. At that time I humorously wondered where the heck they were going, as if they had somewhere to be, like an important meeting maybe? Now I was soaring with them, a little higher… they are beautiful in the air… spectacular. Now I know, I know where they were going – they were flying the sunset!
Another turn around the place. I widened the turn a little and followed the creek as it twisted and turned going seven miles length in three miles span. Great for jet skis. Below, the water was high but our floating dock was still in place. All good. Mission complete. I turned to follow the ridge lines and four cove fingers around the lake to the dam. I floated past the cap rock along the ridge lines that was once the ocean floor. I made a turn and took in the entire valley that had been washed out after a meteor hit down in Mexico, some centuries ago I hear. That’s why there are rocks the size of cars that had tumbled down to our yard from the ridge above, also eons ago, thank goodness.
I coasted through the turbulence over the ridges and over the dam, gliding some, and working some, coasting down to see our creek tumble into the Brazos River, finally pulling away from the allure and vista of the Texas Hill Country. 
Oh yeah. The sun! One finger above the horizon. Not good. Still plenty of avgas so forward on the throttle and climbing fast with a little forward pressure on the stick. Let’s get cooking. Crossing over the thick string of headlights on I-20 west I humorously wondered where they were all going. The horizon opened up ahead and the lights of Fort Worth and Dallas sprinkled alive. I remembered the night years ago, I was flying a friend’s Long EZ just past sunset and the space shuttle trailed a brilliant golden contrail across the sky streaking toward Florida. They probably got there and landed before I landed.
I was flying over just about the same spot as that night. Again, a tinge of heightened awareness of the life of flying these planes crept up on me and i got chills up my sides and arms and up my neck into my hair. I watched the airport approaching and struggled through the pattern entry and the landing, not struggling like struggling, but struggling to grasp and hold every moment, to see and hold on, hold on to the feel, the feel of the wings that seemed to hold on to every molecule of lift, holding on…

This morning my fighter pilot buddy had his routine greeting, “Hey, been flying lately?”
I said, “…Yes.”

Hangar Flying / More Fun
« on: October 31, 2015, 07:59:17 PM »
At the Fort Worth SETP/SFTE Symposium (Society of Experimental Test Pilots/ Society of Flight Test Engineers) I asked the president of the local chapter if it was unusual to have professional military, corporate, or civilian test pilots at the symposium give a presentation on testing their own personal experimental aircraft; as the one that had just ended. In a nutshell, he said “No.”
So it’s not surprising that as the break was ending I overheard the following joust (the way I remember it):
Test Pilot 1. “So what you need in your cockpit for better data collection is the (fantastic gizmo). It’s the latest most high tech device on the market. Don’t you agree?”
Test Pilot 2. “I disagree a thousand percent. It does too much. I just need my five data points but in the format that fits what we’re doing.”
Test Pilot 1. “But you said you wanted more data…”
Test Pilot 2. “No. What I want is to have fun!”

Hangar Flying / VariEzes at Rough River 2015
« on: September 29, 2015, 09:44:53 PM »
There are lots of great pictures from the Rough River weekend. I like Ron Springer with his faithful black lab partner in the back seat saddling up for home.
Plenty of great airplanes there. One shot of the shark fin feeding frenzy has eight of the nine VariEzes center stage lined out on the ramp; a picture surrounded by a thousand words, times ten. ☺
Then there’s my Panavision Technicolor video of the RR area with the StaggerEze panel pizazz in the foreground. There is never enough time or attention span as you want when an owner is willing to talk about their plane.
Thanks Nick Ugolini and Terry Schubert for hosting again and for my specially engraved Rough River knife door prize. Everyone needs the Rutan Aircraft Flying Museum update and T-shirt from Ryszard Zadow. And it’s a treat to get within earshot of Robert and Valerie Harris to hear them providing educated fixes for almost anything, and to maybe get a wisp of what they might be up to in their shop. As always those that had the chance to visit with other canard folks at Rough River this year were glad for the experience. Oh, was Dave Adams there?  ☺  With all the rides he gave I wouldn’t be surprised if his flight time there was higher than his ground time there.
I filled another page in my notebook with details on the nav technology octopus, watching what others are doing versus my rudimentary system of the GPS pointer and the altimeter. Whether we carry our technology in our front shirt pocket or in three bags, I would hope to never have to try to find RR without the GPS. Ah yes, I have done it; but those were the good old days.
I am enjoying replaying the images in my mind from the fly in but I may shoot Shane Banquer for that little ditty he sang in the van that keeps replaying in my head and won’t go away, “…And the wheels on the bus go round and round, round and round,...” Three days later and the tune is still going, round and round…
The heart of the weekend for me was the flight there. The marvel of again sitting there suspended solidly in that well worn seat lofting across state after state with a warm heart and a nod at every scan of the instruments, passing alongside brilliant bulging white clouds with a graceful ballet swoop from a little stick to the left and then a little stick the right, taking a longer moment off to ogle a lake or airport, taking another moment to adjust the posture a bit and watch the winglet; just watch it. At times if you hold your tongue just right the airframe structure seems to go grayscale with you propelling yourself across this special span of life powered only by the thrust of your passion. And i'm not talking just airplanes...
The trip home was significant in it’s own right, because it was with wingmen. Racing between clouds I wondered, what does the VariEze showing portend? What do builders of all types have under wraps out there, those that don’t choose to hear the naysayers or participate in the slowdown?
Time will tell.
…And the wheels on the bus go round and round, round and round…

Hangar Flying / ELT?
« on: September 22, 2015, 11:42:41 AM »
With all the new technology does anyone have a favorite device? I also use the app Find Friends a lot.

Hangar Flying / "Beefing It Up"
« on: August 26, 2015, 10:58:04 PM »
"Sometimes an attempt to strengthen a structure will actually weaken it."
     Barnaby Wainfan, "Wind Tunnel," KITPLANES, Oct 2015, p 76.

Hangar Flying / Best Laid Plans
« on: August 03, 2015, 08:37:53 PM »
Best Laid Plans
     Inspired by the goings-on at Oshkosh and my son’s upcoming elk hunting trip, the plan was to get rough field capability including tundra tires and a hydraulic lift kit. I liberated everything i needed from a guy with a 1963 Impala. Looking back on it now, I'm hoping he was actually the owner of the car.
     In homage to skis that propel you into the air, I figured that on takeoff with a little practice on the hydraulic control panel I could generate a rhythm that would eventuate into bouncing the plane a couple of feet into the air. Unfortunately the two large tires on the rear greatly outweigh the single smaller tire on the front creating an unforeseen CG issue causing a robust tendency to do a back flip. Another significant issue, I don’t have a trunk to load up all of the hydraulics. Those low-rider guys have it easy.
     To salvage the effort, I plan to roll through the Dairy Queen this weekend. Maybe I could try just one back flip. Anyone have an extra set of baby blue belly lights?
(Images attached, you have to be signed in)

Hangar Flying / Guns Guns Guns
« on: January 24, 2015, 02:51:12 PM »
Guns Guns Guns
     A friend and I were heading out the same direction. He was in his Stearman and I was in the VariEze. I slowed and pulled up about thirty yards to his right. We sat there a moment. He was known to be spontaneous. He barrel-rolled to the right and fell in behind me and called “GUNS-GUNS-GUNS!”
     I pushed the throttle forward and called, “SPEED-SPEED-SPEED!” and went on my merry way, unscathed I might add.
     That evening with friends he started boasting loudly that in our little skirmish he had gotten the best of me.
     I responded that he had not even so much as nicked me.
     He began walking my way with his chest out.  He said, “I rolled in right in behind you and called, “GUNS-GUNS-GUNS!” I got you, dead to rights.”
      “No,” I said, calmly of course, “no, when you said “GUNS-GUNS-GUNS,” I called, “SPEED-SPEED-SPEED!” I outran your bullets with my speed. Your bullets fell of their own weight, harmlessly.”
     He threw his arms up and spun around and ended up with his face a little closer to mine than before. He pointed his finger at my nose. “I got you with my GUNS,” he said.
     “Like I said before,” I said, “I… outran… your… bullets… with… my… speed.”
     His face was turning redder.
     “And,” I said, “my speed is only slightly imaginary….”
     This all came to mind again because we have another gathering coming up and I am going to suggest that we settle the issue with rock/paper/scissors.
     You pilots are such fun    :)
          Bill James

Hangar Flying / Scale model Long EZ
« on: December 24, 2014, 09:54:44 AM »
For you scale model guys, there is a Long EZ 1/48 plastic scale model by Sharkit on ebay

       Sharkit Models 1/48 RUTAN MODEL 61 LONG-EZ Canard Aircraft

With a little tweaking mine will soon be a VariEze with straight wings, sitting in the cabinet with a few other special 1/48 aircraft.
Merry Christmas and Happy Gas Prices

Hangar Flying / Paul Harvey
« on: December 24, 2014, 09:34:02 AM »
You might enjoy hearing this again from Paul Harvey
     The Man and the Birds

     “… because, life wouldn’t be worth living without the airplane.”   -Paul Harvey

You can get the rest of the story on this interesting Paul Harvey quote in the book Good Day by Paul Batura (at by pasting in:

Hangar Flying / Eze Summer 2014
« on: December 06, 2014, 02:34:37 PM »
Eze Summer 2014
The 2014 calendar initially had five major events listed. We made it to seven.  A good year. It’s not always that way.
Three things come up as interesting (that means fun).
One, on the way to Oshkosh I found out when flying lean of peak LOP, rather than keeping the throttle at full open, it doesn’t hurt to play around with the throttle and maybe end up with a little lower fuel flow. My interpretation is that with the throttle slightly canted it creates some productive turbulence in there, for better mixture longer. -I had made a two page note on that I didn’t include here   :)
Two, after due diligence study on the two armfuls and a couple of flight bags full of technology out there, its still the Eze and the altimeter and the pointer arrow on my hh GPS. And me. And a pair of underwear and a toothbush. I also have the mini iPad and such on board, but don't usually get around to them. -Also two pages on notes not included here.   :) 
Three, I am still in the afterglow of mentally ramping up to become a side-by-sider.  My wife mentioned for the third time that she would like to fly side-by-side. So the hunt began in earnest. Our neighbors have a Comanche.  I like it. -One page of notes cut out here.
I have always liked the Tailwind. To me it evokes a wild side or renegade visage similar to the VariEze, but different. There are two nearby. -One page of notes cut out here.
After a few weeks it was back to the Cozy. Pretty solidly. That had been my best candidate in the first place. With the mission changed because of grandkids in Atlanta and Montana, when looking at the Cozy with the right tilt of the head it became more lithe and sleek looking. If you held your tongue right. Flying along with Vance and others, I knew they were doing very well in cruise. At times as well as the Long EZs.
The Cozy 3 became my target. I actually became an advocate. It has a firewall the same or very similar to the LongEZ. In other words, you could end up with a pretty good aft end and cowl closeout.
Now for the two seats side by side. Beagle was a lot of help here. After a week of study it got through to me that per person, the Cozy has two inches less width than the VariEze. Hmm. At one point I was talking with my Comanche neighbor and he said “Why couldn’t you just stagger the seats?’ I believe I had been thinking that for a couple of days but the actual words just hadn’t made it to the surface yet. That was a given. Anyway that became a great option. –Two pages of notes…  :)
So now to the big issue. Weight. What could go wrong. The early stages of the hunt had included checking on several projects in work. But there was a flying Cozy nearby that I had seen before my hunt had actually started. And what was to say the projects wouldn’t already be relatively as heavy as the flying one. The issue for me was the nose lift. How can you get away from the nose lift? Hmm.
I told my wife I was going to look at it. She asked if she could go. This whole side-by-side thing is good.
So after looking at the plane a few minutes, we were sitting in it. –A page of notes left out here.  Very tight. But I had the stagger thing up my sleeve.
As we drove out of the airport she asked me what I thought. I said that I liked what I had seen and that it would be great fun to incorporate some ideas on simplicity and weight, which looked plausible after looking at this plane. And that I would love to try them. I asked her what she thought.
She said, “I kinda like your airplane.”
She talked for a moment about the trips we had taken over the years to Colorado and Tulsa and Atlanta and to south Texas to see her mom and to RR and such. She talked about how we could still do these family visits and even an occasional local sight seeing flight again.
It was very encouraging for her to voice these warmhearted thoughts, not to mention it gave me a moment to recover from mild whiplash.
So I come away from a great several-week ride of being a side-by-sider with a warm heart. And with a few ideas to try someday. There is a little letdown feeling as I walk away.
But as I stand here leaning on the longeron, a finished and well-worn longeron, I see the altimeter and the GPS, and that new engine monitor gauge, and the prospect for the new year looks good.
We wish the same for you-
Bill and Claudene

Hangar Flying / Rough River 2014
« on: October 18, 2014, 08:34:59 PM »
Enjoy the photo and video work of Edward Savage.   
Bill James

For all of my aviation friends out there (especially the canard pilots), here are pictures and video from Rough River 2014. This album also includes video of Cozy Girrrl Randi explaining the CG strakes. Thanks also go out to Bob Tilley for preparing a bunch of awesome Jambalaya for the crowd on Saturday!
Edward Savage

Hangar Flying / KANAB 2014
« on: September 03, 2014, 09:33:22 PM »
The first time I raced at a R.A.C.E. event was Kanab in 1997. I came in third, in my class, of three. When i crossed the finish line the two VariEze drivers that beat me were sitting in lawn chairs drinking sodas; Savier and Hertzler.
Those that attended the Silver Anniversary (25th) event this year were treated to great weather and great company. I would say that the attendance was quite top heavy with canard stalwarts. The second race heat almost finished before the turbulence showed up. I heard there were about 35 airplanes on the ramp and even though some left early, still 60 people at dinner Saturday nite. Great hospitality from the folks at Aikens Lodge and nice shade to sit by the pool.
A couple of poolside sessions a day made for plenty of airplane talk. Among things I enjoyed included having a tailwind both ways for the five hour trip from Fort Worth, sitting in the shade listening to Mike Melville talk about how much fun the Starship was to fly, Dave Ronneberg describing how many Long EZs and Berkuts he built, and the interesting side discussion I had with Mark Zeitlin about whether the canard stalls or not. Great fun. Oh yes, and catching up with many longtime friends. And one more, the vibrating spectacle of multiple canards zooming overhead at the finish line.
A highlight of this Kanab was John Lambert unveiling his magnificent LARGE book on the history of the RACE events from about 1983 to the recent times. It has the numbers for all but a couple of the races and an abundance of pictures of pilots and friends through the years. John did a great job of gathering images and history. Many of the pictures are of one person, or two or three individuals together, but there is often even more to see in the background. Very special to see the places and faces and appreciate the scope of Shirl Dickey's RACEs even for those of us that were not major players. Many of us will see pictures of our own planes we have not seen before. I have tried without success to describe the feeling at the start of the race of floating shoulder to shoulder with fifteen other Ezes but the pictures say it all. I took my copy to work and smiled as other pilots were wowed and I didn't have to say a thing.
I highly recommend the color version. Thanks so much John Lambert. And Char and Gary for your years of... being there.
During almost every flight there is a time when I realize where I am and what I am doing, and I am a little overwhelmed in a good way. A great way. The trip to Oshkosh this year certainly called that moment up. The flight to and from Kanab, and the time there, was the perfect thread to keep a lot of things knit together. Maybe we are getting a chance to appreciate some people and some things in this country while we still can.
Gettin ready for the next trip-
Bill James

Hangar Flying / KFLY
« on: June 02, 2014, 09:19:40 PM »
Burrall Sander’s Canard Fly-in at KFLY near Colorado Springs has been on my calendar for some time. This first trip to KFLY turned out to be up there with the more enjoyable Canard events I have been to. This is the way I remember it.

Several important events had elbowed their way onto the weekend schedule. But early Saturday morning I decided to launch. That was the third or fourth re-decision on whether or not to go. Lots of places one needs to be. One of the main factors for going was after the 0-290 rebuild and lots of local flying to get the plane out on a real cross country. So it’s a go!

A little over three hours later, after miles and miles of miles and miles, Pike’s Peak was peeking up on the horizon. The chatter on 122.7 came alive and I found myself approaching KFLY with the returning racers. After loitering a couple of minutes I was able to land during a lull.  I wondered about doing like some Marathon runners, jumping in near the finish line and claiming to be a participant. Maybe next time.

Hello 6874 ft MSL. And the DA was higher. Zipping through touchdown I saw shark fins everywhere, both sides of the runway. As I taxied in more race finishers came zinging in on final. Berkut, Berkut, Berkut, Cozy, Velocity, Long EZ, VariEze… and a few local non-race spam cans mixed in…  What a scene. And it looked like a couple more Berkuts were already parked. Taxiing in, the view of the airport hangars spread out as far as I could see. Lots of Canards. Lots of airplanes! And Burrall’s hangar was full of spectacular works of art in progress.

Parking and getting out I see familiar N numbers, interesting looking persons, and familiar faces. Beagle of course who was at the great Texas Burnet GIG two weeks ago, James Redmon who was also at Burnet, there was Mike Mellville, and Dave Adams who was holding my motel key, and on and on, so many great-to-see-again folks. It struck me that there was a lot of history here, and history being made.

I spot Burrall and as I walk up he is managing to herd a large gaggle of cats and his consistent answer seems to be “yes, yes, over there, yes, yes…   I guess there’s not much to putting on one of these fly-ins.   :)

I see several VEzes in attendance and several guys I know to be working on VEzes. The iPhone buzzes and it is Joe Person waving at me from across the runway standing by our parked VEzes.  He was tying down after the race and was pointing to the cookout lunch at the EAA hangar. It’s great fun to try to walk through the crowd of Canard folks at these fly-ins. Happy faces everywhere, calling up flashbacks of memorable memories.

As Joe and I munched burgers and brats I realized that the fellow sitting next to me at our table was Craig Catto of Catto Propeller fame. About a decade ago at RR Craig looked at my prop and said something about epoxy fumes and someone having rolled up wet BID and smoked it, which is an exaggeration.

Craig’s propeller presentation in Burrell’s hangar that afternoon was to say the least immensely interesting and inspiring, a video of tufted prop blades from a GoPro that Craig mounted on the crush plate. And he was soon followed by BBQ and then Mike Mellville’s show and tell of he and Dick Rutan’s flight around the world in their LongEZs. Mike’s slide show began with a picture of he and Dick looking extremely young sitting in their identical nose-less LEZ canoes on sawhorses with their feet sticking out front of the canard bulkhead. It ended with a shot of Mike flying a WWI biplane, one of five aircraft of the era that he has mastered so far.
Walking the ramps you see an abundance of bright ideas and bright eyes. Of the many afternoon and evening side conversations, I would classify three or four of the exchanges of information and opinion and BS as classics. Besides the side conversations, I believe that often in the quieter moments, significant information, both positive and not so positive, is transmitted between old friends and also often between new friends, that lead to someone making a positive change in their aircraft or their operational routine, if the recipient listens. And that’s good.

Several times in quiet moments the thought occurred that after a quick decision the plane easily got me here in less than four hours, and that Orville and Wilbur would have very much enjoyed the flight up, as well as the camaraderie of the day. I believe they were canard drivers?

As usual, several lessons learned:
- High altitude ops are serious. You (I) need to plan, review lessons learned (before you go), and keep your wits about you, both in flight and on the ramp when trying to push the plane to the fuel pump  :)
- It was impressive to see folks flying and operating successfully at the afternoon 10K+ density altitude.
Earlier I mentioned the VEze guys at the fly-in. 
- Of course the main highlights of the weekend for me included catching up with Joe Person again and and finally seeing his VEze; and dragging out of him all of the crazy things he is doing that he will talk about, and wondering about the crazy things he is doing that he wont talk about. Hope you got to see Joe and his spectacular VEze recently on the Discovery Channel.
- And catching up with Dave Adams again, always a pleasure.
- And as we were just preparing to leave, a new VEze builder from Albuquerque had just arrived and walked up and starting asking questions. But time had flown. You know how the cadence quickens when everyone starts saddling up. I hope he contacts me as he said he would.
- Another VEze driver provided the learning highlight for me. As Dave Adams and I were starting up to depart, after I had pulled the prop through a couple of dozen times, and Dave had tried his hand at it, Dave suggested not enough fuel, and I thought it was flooded. Chris Woodard, a KFLY resident and owner of Burrell’s VEze came up and asked if he could use a particular technique for propping the engine. I told him that with the two EMags it had normally been starting right up, but there were too just many people watching. I expected him to launch into a discussion of air molecules and gas molecules and holding your tongue right but instead he just motioned for me to man the throttle and walked behind the plane. He gently but deliberately flipped the prop - three times - and after numerous attempts by me and Dave Adams to fling the prop into forced combusted submission – Chris started it on the third flip. With no thrashing.
Just started right up and purred.
As the motor started I immediately recognized and remembered the several times the motor has started for me with that same simple, quick flip through the compression arc, and the excellent sound of the effortless strong ignition bite and bark and start up, with me recognizing the difference but not realizing why or what I had done right. I also remembered years ago seeing Gary Hertzler at Kanab standing there behind his prop and seemingly almost nonchalantly flipping the prop through a couple of times, and again that excellent strong ignition bark and rumble to idle. I also remember Brad at EMag telling me that the engine would start fine with a leaner mixture.
When I thanked Chris he pointed out that Joe Person had just showed him the technique that morning. Joe had said that with the ferocious manly flings of the prop the fuel gushes more than needed. However, the quick short flips through the compression stroke inject just the right amount of fuel. I think all that is close. That simple insight is worth much more than whatever “price” I paid to get to KFLY. And the notebook has several more of those insights, and good cruise info on the 0-290 to boot.
Ah, the chance to fly creatively again.
Thanks Dave Adams, and Chris Woodard, and Burrall! Good to see everyone.

Great to see the Canards Rising
Bill James
Fort Worth VariEze


Hangar Flying / Texas GIG at KBMQ Burnet this weekend 17 and 18 May
« on: May 13, 2014, 10:21:08 PM »
The Texas GIG is this weekend 17 and 18 May at KBMQ Burnet northwest of Austin. So far 40-50 attendees. Nice airport with eats nearby and a museum in the CAF hangar on the airport. If you didn't get an invite and want one next year let Gary know at
Bill James

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