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Topics - Bill James

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Hangar Flying / Oshkosh 2011, Fuel Samples
« on: August 05, 2011, 02:30:45 PM »
Subject: Fuel samples
Everyone knows what it looks like when they get a little water in the fuel, right? Nothing to it. For almost 15 years there has never been a significant amount of water in a fuel sample from my plane. Lots of folks say the same thing about their Ezes and often attribute the clean fuel samples to less or no fuel condensation in our fiberglass fuel tanks. Whatever. Lulled by routine and complacency, this year at Oshkosh I was treated to the refresher course in indications and paying attention to the fuel sample. This beneficial event will be a front-burner awareness for some time.

Bottom line, during the week water got in the fuel system during several periods of significant rain. While I have never had this happen before, others have.
Next bottom line, the fuel system design and airplane functioned well. It started normally. When I raised the nose and climbed in it died. A good thing. Very good.

A description of the fuel system on my plane includes the statement that one must be extremely careful if even thinking of messing with a fuel system design, and that the rear seat sump tank in mine is the best safety item on the plane. No change here. I simply should have been more suspicious because of the rain, and paid more attention during preflight. As with the many valuable truths in life and Sunday school classes and sermons I have experienced, I am not pointing at anyone but myself.

I feel like you guys that get a little water during preflight all the time are probably better off. Once I paid adequate attention, I ended up draining several ounces of water from the plane’s low point. Filling and emptying several beakers of water from the drain valve was good practice in determining when you are actually getting just fuel. You hear that in an emergency all pilots spend the three second delay saying this can’t be happening to me. That thought can also be a strong factor when squinting at and smelling the fuel sample. In a standard training environment, like the flight instructor demonstrating it to the student during a training flight, the color and line between the water and fuel is unmistakable.

We have all seen the various techniques and cups.  Almost any day you can observe a pilot preflighting and running a little fuel on the ground and analyzing it by looking at the pool for several seconds and then nodding. I suppose the desired condition here is a pool of fuel with a little glob of water in it. (Sorry, I am not judging here or dealing with proper handling of the fuel sample afterward, but rather just the pilot preflight stuff  :)  )

The take-away? Just for fun – do some practice fuel samples. Play with your fuel tester device, whatever it is. But besides using your normal method, get another pilot to play Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader for you with a few set-up test samples, for example including pure fuel in one and another sample with water with a little fuel stirred in immediately before he hands it to you to analyze it. A surprise ounce of Jet-A in a sample cup would be instructive.
Is your current technique the best for your plane?  

To Terry Schubert-  Sorry you happened to walk by at the wrong time. Thank you for your help in pumping the water out of the carb. I say, at least we got to spend some quality time together  :)
You asked what I would be doing to remedy or prevent this again. First, as you mentioned, I believe the fuel caps are where the water entered. So they will get some attention. Second, I have and will pay more attention during prefight.
All in all, another great trip, still trying to catch up with you guys  :)

Hangar Flying / Around the World
« on: June 18, 2011, 10:29:31 PM »
OK, going around the world, what constant, critical “value/ingredient/number/ element/factor/quality/quantity” did the Voyager maintain for 9 days?
...Altitude? No.
Heading? No.
Power setting? No.
Fuel Flow? No.
Temperature? No.
Pressure? No.

How about… AOA.
The way I remember it they started out with both motors at full power doing 132 kts, and ended up nine days later going 92 kts with the front motor shut down and the back motor at low power. I think those numbers are close.
Holding AOA was a key requirement for making the distance with the fuel available. Heavy, they held more speed. Lighter, they needed less power and speed to support the desired AOA. Just another thought on the relationships between weight and AOA.
I wonder if Steve Fawcett had the same focus? Surely.

Reminds me of the 4400 nm/33 hour LongEZ flight where a cable was used between the wheel axles to keep them from spreading under the load, but once airborne the cable was released and retracted because the drag was unacceptable.

Hangar Flying / Thoughts on Operating Weight
« on: June 14, 2011, 09:45:13 PM »
The note that I wrote on flight characteristics was pretty light and carefree. However, it wasn't done lightly. Ha. And that's the problem, weight matters :)
There was some pretty significant prep on me and the plane beforehand. These include personal training, practice, the annual inspection and things like the BFR. FWIW, Here are a few thoughts.
- My airplane’s minimum speed is higher at heavier weights. Sure. A no brainer, right? But how does that affect us?
I observed this while doing slow flight with a pretty solid GIB (Guy in Back). The airplane just would not go slower that 80 indicated. Not having thought about it that day, I expected the minimum speed to be about 55 or 60 indicated, as on the recent test flight. However, that flight was made with me and 8 gallons. This flight, besides me probably not holding my tongue right, included over twice that fuel, warmer temps, and a solid young adult in back.
To me there are two immediate issues in flying at higher gross weights.
One, its hard on the landing gear attachment area. How many of us imagine compensating for higher operating weight by simply just always making feather soft landings? And then do it every time? Ha.
Two, another bad thing, in a forced landing at higher weights the ground speed and inertia are higher. We are just more at risk to damage and injury and a more sporty arrival when we just can’t slow down to the aircraft’s optimum touchdown speed. Any airplane.

BTW, I didn’t do slow flight without preparation. It is not part of our normal flight operations. Rather, it must be done very carefully and deliberately with every airplane during the restricted period, after purchase, or after a mod like final paint, to confirm that when we are in normal flight, that if for some reason we do get unusually slow, that the plane will in fact operate as designed and protect us. Follow the POH and CPs in accomplishing that minimum speed test operation. You don't just go out there and go to full back stick the first time. Do the homework  :)

I would not have done slow flight with the passenger if I hadn’t recently tested my plane and confirmed proper handling at full back stick. Because of time I chose not to demo aileron or rudder turns at minimum speed with him, although I had recently done them solo.  
Also, I backed him up on the sidestick so he wouldn’t do anything unexpected and force the plane out of controlled flight, and so I could make immediate inputs if needed.
So those are a few of my thoughts on the plane insisting on a higher minimum speed than I desired.

A couple more general thoughts. A bush pilot had an angle of attack indicator on his wing strut, with best AOA marked in red. Using that he could always climb out, or approach, at the best angle, which was always the same AOA, regardless of weight. But the speed varied greatly.
He also noted that the airplane always stalled at the same AOA, but the stall speed varied greatly between high and low weights.
Same for us. Our approach AOA can be the same, but higher weights will always have higher speeds at that particular angle, no matter whether we hold our tongue right or not. And for us, our speed at max lift/min speed may be much higher than we expect or want. And remember, in an emergency landing, to arrest the rate of descent, we need to maintain at least 22 mph over that minimum speed until flaring.

As with any airplane, use extreme caution when doing things that you haven’t done in awhile. An example was a new private pilot in a C-172 with his girlfriend that somehow ended up doing multiple circles at 60 degrees bank at 400 feet over his parent’s house. - Not something the instructor had done with him a lot in training.  

Another thought, here on a hot day the air on the 700 foot msl runway may be at over 4000 feet density altitude. It is prudent to follow the mountain flying practice on takeoff before releasing brakes of going to full throttle and then lean to peak.

- Operating an airplane at gross or over-gross weights will probably result in at least minor damage to the landing gear attachments.

Concerning building a light aircraft. I have heard and felt others say, and have caught myself thinking, “My airplane will be the lightest one ever built, and the fastest, because… because… I really care.

I know we all know this stuff. Thanks for coming along anyway.

Oh yes, one more thing. You do remember the one "constant" that they maintained on the Voyager all nine days, right?

Hangar Flying / Cessna, Give Way to Experimental Jet
« on: June 13, 2011, 07:42:32 PM »
Had I been writing a flight report on the venerable VariEze, part of it would have gone something like this:
At the busy airport the VariEze garnered a lot of attention from transients, ferry pilots, and locals alike.
Almost reverently, the line boy voiced the secret code, “Can I have a ride?” He had been hustling around helping me saddle up, with just the right level of knowledge and enthusiasm for the Eze brand. And his eyes had that telling glow. He had earned the magic words, “Hop in.”
Talking through the takeoff indications we accelerated to 160 mph indicated. I mentioned that at this point over the end of the runway we had enough energy to circle back and land on the runway without power if needed. We lofted into a gentle climb to the west and I told the tower we would be back in about ten minutes.
Trimmed and climbing out at 180 mph I announced, “You have the airplane” and raised my hands for him to see that I wasn’t on the controls.  He jostled the airplane a bit and then quickly settled down. For the rest of the flight I could hear him reacting in excitement, surprise, and appreciation at the responsiveness of the controls and the minimal input needed to maneuver gracefully.
After a minute of getting used to the plane we tried some turns, first without rudders, then with. He established a 30 degree bank to the right, and then turned left to a 30 left degree bank to the other side. I told him that with no rudder input the airplane would hesitate in the middle of the turn, and it did.
I stated that the VariEze is a rudder airplane, but successfully resisted giving him the whole bale of hay background and history on the early flights and how the first two VariEzes were flown around happily with no ailerons, using elevons on the canard, and rudder. Or how they loaded a wing to 18 Gs… and there was that picture with eleven people standing on a canard….

Instead, we continued on with the rest of our story on VariEze turns, this time with rudder.
Wings level, I instructed him to bank right to 30 degrees, mentioning that I would now be assisting with a little rudder. He nudged the stick to the right and I gently put in an inch of rudder for a second and gently released it. The plane zipped to 30 degrees right! As expected he lit up the intercom with almost gleeful noises. Fun. We held that right bank a few seconds.  Then I talked him through the left bank back to the other side and said go.  Again my gentle one-inch left rudder input lasted only a second or two. Without hesitation we arrived at the left 30 degree bank, almost instantly. Again, excited noises on the intercom. Like many things, you have to be there doing it to appreciate it.
Then, I had him hold the sidestick neutral, while I made the turns using rudders only. With my hands up and visible we banked to the right, then to the left, and back to level, using rudders only.

Next I took control of the plane and did several wingovers, describing as we lofted over the top that in addition to what he was experiencing now, how the green and blue and bronze surrounds you and reflects in the canopy so beautifully while doing these on my sunset runs.
Next, slow fight. I gradually reduced power to about 1400 rpm while he held the wings level and the nose slightly up. I called out the decreasing airspeeds as he slowed down, and backed him up on the sidestick. With the nose up high at about 80 indicated we were flying level with the stick full aft. I asked him to go ahead and try to pull the nose up further and “stall” the airplane. He said the stick was already full back. I said that, to my reasoning, we were not at a stall, but rather the canard was at maximum lift.  Big difference. I reduced the power a little more and we gently descended. Then I added power and we climbed like a scalded elevator. All with the stick full aft.

We nosed over and banked back toward the airport. Once we were in level cruise I announced that we would do one more little historic demo for him, where he would hold the stick/ailerons neutral while I put in right rudder for a couple of seconds. The plane went nose low and rolled rapidly toward vertical. I recovered the plane before reaching aerobatic angles but it was obvious that we would have soon been diving straight down. I mentioned the sage advice: the first step of any emergency – Fly the Airplane.

Returning to drop him off, the GIB had been silent for a moment. He said, “I can tell you fly this airplane a lot. And that you really enjoy it.” I thought “Bingo!” but remained silent, letting him have the last word. I thought about how “gently efficient” is a very good term to describe the pilotage of those around me that have evolved over time into seasoned VariEze drivers. And how “elegantly efficient” is a good description of the VariEze.

I thought we were past the last of the excitement for the flight but during the approach the GIB seemed to enjoy the talk through the landing philosophy and aero braking rollout as much as anything. I mentioned that with the nose-high rollouts I used the brakes sparingly and that the pads had not needed to be replaced for the past several annuals.
I realized that during all this I had regressed a little from my “serious pilot” mindset and was having as much fun as he was.

After rollout and exiting the runway we were taxiing on Alpha, back to the other end to drop him off. I don’t know if the tower guys may have been able to see us when we were playing out west, but they were in a good mood and giving us special handling. Again, I thought we were past the best part of the flight…  
As we taxied north, a Caravan had landed and was exiting mid-runway angled in conflict with us. The tower controller said, “Cessna, hold short of Alpha and give way to the Experimental Jet…”  
Ha! We both about lost it. I looked in the mirror and the GIB was hollering and pumping his fists in the air. We both felt like we had been kinda flying a jet and the Tower's subliminal comment fit right in and confirmed the feeling. Great fun.

I think the kid and I kinda bonded.

Design Revolution or Dead End?  
Again, Ha.

Hangar Flying / SARL (Sport Air Racing League) season kickoff video
« on: April 14, 2011, 07:47:30 PM »
You do know about SARL, the Sport Air Racing League, right? Congrats to 2010 Experimental Silver Class National Champion LongEZ driver Dave Adams on his successful season, and for outrunning a lot of folks with more horsepower than him. He is building a lifetime of living and memories in a very short time!
Below is a message from Mike Thompson and a link to the excellent SARL season kickoff video:

Race Nuts - you have GOT to see this.
If you have the gadgetry, hook your computer up to the TV and plug in some speakers, then go to and click on the first video, top left for the SARL Season Preview.

Hangar Flying / Hill Country Christmas
« on: December 24, 2010, 01:34:43 PM »
The Eze growls strong and smooth over central Texas. The 42 mph winds that I initially discounted when flight planning are now threatening to extend the normally 1.5 hour trip from Fort Worth to San Antonio and make me late for a meeting. Instead of leaning to 2200 or 2400 rpm, the mixture is kept up at a hair lean of peak with the rpm at 2500. The actual headwind is only 22 mph so running at max cruise will get me there on time.  

A good portion of the previous evening included visions of sugar plums and a heavily aviation-APPed iPad dancing in my head. I had recently observed a friend surround himself with one; getting all the good stuff on it, with the iPad now having become a new “significant-other” in his life so to speak  :)  Lots of quality time together.

However, back to reality and basic-flying here, the nose is periodically nudged back to 6500 feet and 210 degrees, with the airplane describing gentle horizontal and vertical sine waves cruising across the undulating hill country below.

The wing-leveler hasn’t moved from The List to my panel yet, and the yeoman GPS has been a member of the spartan cockpit equipment for about a decade. Basic. Over the trip down and back today I will come to again appreciate the airplane’s svelte ‘antiglass’ component suite with the GPS direction arrow and altimeter being the primary distractions from the outside vistas, and the sound of the purring engine leaving the cassette player mostly unused. Just kidding, it’s really a portable CD player that I don’t get around to using  :)       No, not an 8-track either.

The sky is brilliant blue. The temperature today in mid December will be 70 degrees. Looking up past the GPS direction needle, the bug splat on the canopy is held targeted on a distinct shape on the horizon as a course marker.  Even with the headwind those distant aim-points slide under the nose at a gratifying rate. Time to flip the sectional.

Vistas of the hill country to the west remind me of places to swing over and check out on the way back. The list includes looking forward to a vibrant moment or two running that granite-floored riverbed down there, and a little further west, checking out that partially framed dream home that I stumbled across several years ago, set inside the elbow of a secluded ridgeline in a spectacular winding rock-chiseled ravine that is sometimes a raging river. Evidently.

The day is spent consulting with an official that happens to have been a school friend. Our itinerary includes lunch at his favorite Mexican restaurant out in the middle of nowhere. Looking back, the day has now settled out to be among one of my favorite days. Since renewing our friendship several months ago the friend has become several chapters in a book. And those pages are spent just trying to describe him and what he does. Riding in his truck you notice that the radio is gone. It looks like he grabbed the radio and jerked it out and threw it out the window, and now keeps his chaw and cigars and the tools of his trade in the hole in the dash. I haven’t seen burdizzos in a while.  

Preparing to depart for home from the historical Alsace community, a small group looks over the plane. I fill the tanks full with $3.49 Avgas. It starts on the third pull. I succeed in resisting jumping and punching a fist in the air. Taxiing out there is a Cessna grunting around the pattern. I remind myself to take the other side of the pattern.

On takeoff the Eze climbs strong into the wind, turns and zips downwind, and with a waggle of the wing lofts briskly to the north. Climbing out through 4000 feet the plane seems to slide gracefully onto slippery glass.
Leveling at 7500 feet the air is smooth as silk. The GPs says the trip home will total about a forth less than normal.  With a smile the mixture is leaned a little more. This is where the pure simplicity of the plane rises up and is refreshingly inhaled and savored again. Better even than epoxy fumes. That’s a joke. The epoxy fumes. Rather, it’s really ginger snaps and milk that work the magic.
Running the granite lined river bed will wait for another calmer day. The winds down there would be brutal.
Oh yes … the partially framed dream home. Over there to the left a little, if I can find it again. I think its over that set of ridgelines. I think this is the right river. Topping the black bush thatched granite peak and swinging back along the chiseled butte, I’m thinking – I love the way this airplane flies – I’m thinking it must have been some really impressive water flows to cut through that ridgeline.
The dream home is finished. Six columns. Drifting down toward the river bed, above legal altitude of course – especially with the winds over the ridgelines today, you can see that the front yard holds a turquoise swimming pool and faces an imposing black and white granite cliff across the river. In the back yard there is a tennis court and several outbuildings. A dirt road winds out across the rolling hills and disappears into the distance. No runway. No helo pad. To get out here, they really have to want to get out here. I think about Freedom. I think about Time. What would it be like to have them? What would it be worth to control them.

Rolling back north, the dozen or so unmarked black ranch airstrips appear one by one out across the open expanse of the hill country. I silently congratulate those that fly off of the pristine strips, and if they are not marked, I mark them at their blank space on the sectional, and the GPS, hoping never to need them.
Here it comes again. Under the rumble, an unheard sigh of joy. Sitting here doing this. In this vibrant steed. Outracing the wind. The overwhelming magnificence of the blue sky above turning turquoise and bronze, permeating down to the blackening horizon. I have been here before. They are always here. But it’s special again. Up here. How can I stay up here more? The Wright Brothers would have killed to be doing this. Maybe not killed… but something dramatic….  
I wonder again how do these molecules hold together, and then I remember again; You Are Wonderfully Made….
How lucky was I to grab this dream, this airframe that does so much besides defy the laws of gravity…no, prove the laws of gravity. How can I comprehend… What experience can I capture…?  What picture can I take…? What words…?
And again I just relax and sit back and enjoy and let the shapely foil of molecules do their thing. The shot of the winglet on the sunset does turn out pretty good.

The towers of downtown Fort Worth are unseen in the distance, but they laser the crimson sunset back at me off their golden windows. The GPS says Approaching VNav Profile. Descending through 3500 feet over the Brazos River the air comes alive. Slow down. The waters in the river and lakes are tightly rippling.
Arriving home includes an overhead approach and a tighter bank angle than normal to stay in the county. Turning final at 400 feet, past experience reminds me to be on my toes. In a relaxed hand the stick comes alive  and will be gently stirred all the way down. We’ll be flying all the way to the hangar. The rudders respond with a wiggle and are ready. I hold an extra ten knots. Slowing down on ground rollout will not be a problem.
Winsock is straight out and skittish. Slight crosswind. Across trees and hangars. A friend refers to these moments as sporty. Gear down check the third time.
On final the windsock continues to flitter as I motor past. There’s the burble. Sporty indeed. Left main, right main, left main, settle there now, won’t need a go-around. Probably.
The landing is likely the most challenging of the thousand or so in the plane. Taxiing in unscathed it is apparent that mixing the stick (no gorilla grip) and aggressive rudder were a good part of the landing.
 I could log three landings. I wonder if Bob Hoover does when he does that on purpose. Probably not.
A well-deserved day off from work. An out and back over the Hill Country. A purdy good way to spend a Wednesday. And your birthday.
It’s late. The ginger snaps have worn off. I will again wake up in the morning in the 1970s. Thinking about what an Eze should really look like.
Merry Christmas Y’all.  I hope we all get what we want. Not what we deserve  :)
Bill James
Fort Worth VariEze

Hangar Flying / Builder Fails to Make Rough River Again
« on: October 07, 2010, 08:37:05 PM »
Builder Fails to Make Rough River Again
It may be a record. Twenty-four years of failed attempts to finish the airplane and fly to the renowned Kentucky event.
First flying it in 1917 and trying valiantly to finish up the last minute details, and failing again, the owner of the Oldest EZ hasn’t given up. With the 25th anniversary of the fly in coming up next year, he is already again setting his nose into the headwind to finish up the plane, finally fly off the restricted period, and be there next year for what promises to be a gala 25th anniversary RR event.
You may not be familiar with this airplane, the builder is somewhat reclusive. I believe it is probably the oldest EZ in existence. The builder reports that two mods, a speed fairing installed behind the GIB’s head and the addition of wheel pants from a Model T, shown in the picture, resulted in an amazing 10% increase in top end speed… 5 knots!  
Speed was confirmed flying alongside a Model A driven by his wife.
I think it would be accurate to say that he was ahead of his time.
He reported that several additional attempts to increase speed proved to be disappointments including
Gray speed tape on the gaps,
Dimples on the valve covers and gear struts,
Painting the airplane yellow,
‘Squarer’ trailing edges,
Zig-zag tape - the original,
Vortelons – which he thought that was a type of watermelon,
Trailing edge fences - picket and post oak,
A worn out smooth nose wheel,
Various nose lengths - final shorter crimped nose shown in picture,
An internal water temp gauge,
Various external control cable diameters,
Baby moon hub caps,
Tapered valve stems,
Dihedral and anhedral on the canard - neither on purpose,
Backdraft cooling,
Inverting the Ooga horn, and
A 1917 Packard ram air grill.  
For slowing down on landing he tried lengths of 2x4 studs on top of the wings for spoilers but couldn’t detect a measurable speed change.  

Evidently two events relate to his reclusiveness. First, he was put off by a visitor that referred to his svelte highly refined steed as a “Barn Find.” And then one day another aviator stopped in his hangar, leaned on the prop and said that he had already thought of and tried all those things ten years earlier.
The owner is in the middle of the mod that kept him from making RR again this year… rounded lips on the ooga horn, and is open to any suggestions for getting that last .02 knots.

Reporting,  Bill James
Sorry, plans not available.

Hangar Flying / The Building Bug
« on: July 23, 2010, 04:04:17 PM »
I think the VariEze building push lasted about ten years. The impetus was turning 40 and realizing time really was flying and I was not. The day before, I had been 20, now I was 40, and tomorrow I would be 60. Many dreams had been reached and many had been on hold, and now was the time to get the plane going.
As I planned it, it should take about ten years to fly. The criteria, based on when the youngest child was expected to be out of college, set the time when I expected be able to get the engine. So maybe 10 to 12 years to first flight. That was frustrating but better than doing nothing at all.  Once the pile of parts and boxes was in the garage I was OK, no longer so much living that life of quiet desperation in the aviation realm.  I thought of also building a scale working model of the VariEze with all of the details built in so I could show the detail of the many mods in the plane. Instead I built the plane.
The highly detailed model I envisioned would have probably taken almost as much time to build as the real plane. Especially since building the plane went faster than I expected. From start of building to first flight took 5 years. During building life was gooder. The more self-employed work I had the better the building went, with each kinda feeding on each other; the opposite of what I would have expected. I enjoyed the discipline of doing something every day and, with the mods, did in fact probably did stay fairly well epoxy fumed-up for another 5 years or so.

About three years ago we moved from our home of 28 years. During the intense move and until now the plane has been flown at will with only moderate care and feeding. Several cowl refinements were accomplished at that time and still haven’t been finished up with proper paint. I hope they will be a little more presentable for heading to Oshkosh.
The thought here has to do with not being in the building mode for several years, and how recently my head was about to bust with several un-acted-upon ideas bouncing around in there trying to get out. I was (happily) waking up every morning with the image of a new airplane project out in the hangar. Not that I need another airplane, which would be fine, rather the issue was whether the seemingly excellent ideas were solid, efficient,  and beneficial; or just something that someone else had probably already dreamed up and tried, that didn’t work.
 The solution, immensely gratifying, satisfying, and simple, has resulted in a crude scale working model of the landing gear mechanism concept, and a hand-carved tan foam two-foot-wingspan model of my idea of what the perfect airplane would look like at the moment. Being able to actually hold, touch, play with the ideas, and run my finger along the lines of the airplane, resolved probably 75% of the angst, at no cost, and if I want something in the hangar I don’t have to walk an extra half-mile around an expensive, unfinished, un-flying plane to get the tool I need.
Hats off to those that have put their ideas to work and actual use. For now I will continue to claim minor success through the enjoyable venting of some elbow grease that was burning a hole in my sleeve, acting like I was building something for a time, and making a tiny step forward on some ideas, without getting in over my head.
Good Eze-ing,

Hangar Flying / Buzzard Contrails
« on: April 11, 2010, 08:30:11 PM »
Buzzard Contrails
You had to be there. Today I’m sitting in the rumbling aerosteed at the runup area. Scanning for traffic I see that buzzard over there gliding across the approaching sunset leaving a contrail. I blink twice, three times…the motionless bird is still sailing trailing that white contrail. The buzzard is black against the golden orange sky and you can see the fine shape of the wings and curved tip feathers. The contrail is thin and defined but starting to fluff out further back. Amazing. A buzzard contrail. You had to be there.
You had to be there, literally. Because anywhere else, even a few feet askance, the convergent confluence, the coming and flowing together of angle and distance and drifting buzzard and that Boeing 757 would not have provided the simply astounding extremely satisfying vision. You don’t think it was a Boeing 757? Prove it.
I don’t call it a trick because it was what it was. Though doubted initially, then real for a few seconds, then debunked, and then before it got away, pronounced true and real again for as long as it is pleasing. And it is pleasing.  What a wonderful experience for a few seconds in a special moment to personally witness such a truly astounding event.
For the time being I chose to hold the validity of the buzzard contrail and move along through this earthly existence for a time as if it was real. So shoot me. This sighting is a much preferable experience for stance on truth than any other thing man-made that I can find at this moment in history.

The flight was smooth and easy, just what you would want. My intent was to enjoy the magic of flight anew. On recent previous flights i had concentrated on mechanical details and such and had now admonished myself to also take a few minutes and soar and drift along with the currents and have some fun. I did. While i expected the warmer weather to negatively affect the lift and thrust some, the takeoff and landing were very gratifying.

Nice to be so pleasantly distracted with you for a few enjoyable moments.  Now get back to your taxes   :D


Hangar Flying / Thank You For Your Service
« on: November 10, 2009, 09:52:18 AM »
In honor of those of you have been willing to potentially place yourself in the opening scene of Private Ryan. Thank you for your service.

Hangar Flying / Rough River 2009
« on: October 03, 2009, 09:07:43 PM »
Rough River 200
I was trying to remember how many times N95BJ has taken me to Rough River. One of our hosts Dave Russell told me right away. Three. This is my third trip across the river and through the trees to the bluegrass of Kentucky. I envy those of you that had the presence of mind to start building and get in on the good life early. As time goes on and the miles fall away behind the prop I appreciate the effort and discipline that went into your accomplishment. And how getting a plane in the air requires discipline that positively affects our lives in other ways. Those of us that made it to the party later find a welcome place in the Canard movement,  and can readily settle in at our chosen place to fit in. 
This year Oshkosh was the most fun I have had there. The same for Rough River this time. Just great fun. It helps if you spent Saturday on the ramp with bright people chasing air molecules over the airfoils and cowls, which is always the case. And especially if you can end the night asking the right person what they do for a living, Especially if he starts out saying that he is a machinist and is soon describing how he was recently making a smooth surface on titanium  by blasting off layers of molecules with ions. Especially if there are two others in the group agreeing with him and finishing his sentences with him. Yeha. Oh, and it helps if you enjoy talking about airplanes in the rain, which I do. While growing up we usually didn’t haul hay in the rain. Usually.
Bruce Sinclair made the trip interesting. If you met him at RR you know what I mean. Two weeks earlier he had come in from Australia and had taken my place at Reno sleeping on Tim LaDolce’s kitchen floor and working Security at the Races. Then he spent a couple of days at our home in Fort Worth. I was surprised that with all the things to do in Cowtown, while I was at work he spent most of his time on our back porch. Thursday night we did the last minute buttoning up on the plane and solved many of the secrets of aerodynamic efficiency. Also, it is interesting to listen to the thoughts of others at this time in our American history.
On the flight east we paralleled the frontal system that was pinwheeling over Kentucky. We had smooth and clear sailing between layers until approaching RR. Arriving at mid-afternoon, with a little patience we found long holes it the pinwheel spokes and dropped down under the deck and made the flyby over the eleven planes at the park. By evening there were several more. And more on Saturday. While the decks were often at 4 or 5 thousand with blue patches of sky around, it seemed that most folks arrived while there was some mist in the air. Bruce was in eze haven no matter how many planes were there. Me too.
Next time you are there at RR be sure to be present when hosts Dave Russell and Sam Chambers recount the history of the event. Also, if you can get in on any of their lunch or dinner conversations it will be a treat, especially if they describe trying to get their own planes finished and to the event, specifically the personal awards they have presented each other. A hint, Dave is a urologist. He mentioned some of his thoughts on augmentation and i cant wait to see the results.
This year there were several folks that were particularly enjoyable and interesting to be around. For those of us that haven’t made all of these canard flyins, we are surely aware of the things we must have missed. Which makes it all the more enjoyable and worthwhile to spend time on the ramp and dining with special folks that are normally mostly an apparition at the keyboard. 
The first year with the VariEze I flew 200 hours and made Jackpot, Kanab and Oshkosh. And RR soon thereafter. Thirteen years is long enough to observe some trends and cycles. The last couple of years here we moved out of a 28 year home and built another, so little new idea work has been done on the plane. I have flown the plane on most weekends and did arrange to fly 31 times in 31 days. The obvious characteristic of the plane during this time has been its dependability and ease of maintenance. The early investment of time into researching the plans and CPs, and extra work that went into building a sound structure is paying off, along with a few items that make it user friendly. And with grandkids sprouting up, my wife is finding her way in to the plane again.
I believe that while at RR Bruce got much the same answer as mine on minimizing accessories on the plane until well into the restricted period. Many emotions fade and facts come into focus during that time. Even after flying for several years there is still time and interest in sprucing things up a little here and there.
So much for a few thoughts on Rough river. Thanks to you that made it fun and interesting. Already on my calendar for next year.

Hangar Flying / Oshkosh 2009
« on: August 02, 2009, 10:07:47 AM »
Oshkosh 2009
The landing was the easiest of the six or seven previous entries, simply following the endless line of arrivals to a simple left 90 degree turn to runway 36 and a simple taxi to parking with most of the Ezes. Oh, there was a hitch, orbiting solo under a cool cloud for an hour waiting for the extended airshow to end before descending to Ripon and Fisk, and then holding over Green Lake for 45 minutes before being directed in.
Down the row Scott Carter was carrying on all week next to his spectacular new yellow Extra EZ (a Cozy, kinda). There was always a crowd around, including a film crew at one point. For some time a man with an accent had been trying to interrupt his antics to get a straight answer and finally in exasperation said to Scott, “I find it is appropriate to laugh at you.”
Someone commented on the EZ drivers and grey hair. I notice an increasing balance, including Matt Steinemetze’s fastidious LongEZ sitting under WhiteKnightTwo’s shadow on the ramp. Although he looks like a teenager to me, Matt is Scaled’s project engineer and program manager for the Virgin Galactic space program. Schubert will surely provide pictures in the next newsletter.
The Schubert and Hertzler forums were excellent as usual, with several Glasair trespassers taking notes in the audience. Schubert refused to define a speed gain on his cowl refinement. I told Terry that if I can claim getting five more knots on a coffee table (The Forward in the Sturgils’ Big Book of Canards), he should certainly claim 5 knots on his cowl.
It would have been very easy not to go to Oshkosh this year. I almost didn’t go. But it was again totally worth it. Listening to the random flow of conversations over the week fed my current interests surprisingly well, which include the textbook Physics For Future Presidents, and excursions through the Periodic Table of Elements. At one midnight skull session under the stars with a group of total strangers, I quoted one of the textbook’s statements that a chocolate chip cookie has more energy than dynamite. One of the robust participants asked “How big of a chocolate chip cookie is that?”
Burt’s non political paper/talk on global warming from the perspective of an objective data analyst was a highlight for me. Along the way he recognized Ken Swain being there in his VariEze for the 33rd year in a row. After the talk Burt signed my picture in the Canard coffee table book and said “I appreciate your work”. Another five knots for my list.
Oshkosh 2009 for me fittingly ended over coffee with Rob Martinson. I hadn’t seen him in a while and had some catching up to do.  Oshkosh 1992 began with meeting him, and when he found out I was a new builder he pointed over at Charlie Airesman. So much for my previous purist intentions. Climbing out for home, again catching and passing a couple of dozen more socially acceptable aircraft, I look at where we were then and where we are now, and smile.

Hangar Flying / Stuck Valve
« on: November 20, 2008, 10:09:08 PM »

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, an EZ Chronicle from the past-
Friday afternoon, of a three day weekend.
Somewhere in the middle of northern Georgia.
I give the engine three more starts hoping it will exorcize itself of the recalcitrant valve. But the valve stays stuck. It had stuck once before at Kanab a few months back, and had fixed itself on the restart. But not this time.
Over there in the FBO hangar the two young A&Ps see me pushing the VariEze their way. It’s close to quitting time on a holiday weekend and they waste no time getting out of Dodge. Spraying gravel behind his multi-primered Fiero, one of them sticks his head out the window and yells “The Boss, Charlie, is across the runway. He’ll be back over here pretty soon. The hangar is open, use any of the tools you want.”

The FBO hangar is well equipped and everything is well used. Cool enough inside here. I get the cowls off and start unscrewing some valve covers hoping to save some time on the mechanic’s clock figuring out which valve is stuck. Assuming he does make it back over here. My goose is cooked. It’ll probably cost me the whole weekend, and some big bucks. Bet he owns the motel back in town, if there is one. Bet his brother-in-law owns the rental car agency, if there is one.

During every annual inspection I have a couple of A&Ps stop in to work on the engine a little, set the valves, check the timing, or just look the engine over. I always learn something. Watching this master at work today will make this session one of the best.

Charlie walks in and sets some tools on the work bench.
“Stuck valve, huh? I heard it from across the runway.”
Leaning  past my efforts to remove a valve cover, he puts the palm of his hand on each of the four valve covers.
"Here’s your problem right here, number 2."
OK…I’m catching on. Stuck valve, no flow, temperature…three hot, one not…he’s done this before.

In the next thirty minutes he says only a couple of words.
He moves to the tool chest and purposefully selects several tools. He removes the #2 valve cover and I remove all of the top spark plugs. With the switches confirmed off he pulls the prop through watching the two valves. He puts a finger on the exhaust stem and nods.

After securing the prop to keep it from turning he twists an air chuck into the spark plug hole and pressurizes the cylinder. He puts a pry tool on the valve spring and nods for me to hold it. He deftly removes the valve keepers and sets them and the spring on the bench. He taps on the valve stem with a rubber hammer. It's stuck. He quietly says Yep.

With a wooden dowel he taps on the end of the stem. It moves in and is pushed back out by the air pressure. I think we are both hoping it will free up by just tapping on it and loosening it up. But no go. He gets it to move a couple more times but it is sticking. With the wood dowel he taps the valve and it falls clanking into the cylinder. I catch my breath.

It’s Friday afternoon of a long weekend. The valve fell in. We are going to be pulling a cylinder. His brother in law surely owns the car rental place. Dollar signs ratchet across my eyes. No way I’ll be meeting the family in Fort Payne today. Maybe not even tomorrow.

But he doesn’t miss a beat. It doesn’t seem to bother him at all that the valve fell into the cylinder. He is rummaging around in a small drawer, looking at one drill bit and then another. Turns out they are “reamers.”  He trial fits several of them into the valve hole, selects one and chucks it in a drill. He takes a stance beside the engine, positioning his feet and crooking his neck around like a batter at the plate. He deftly positions the drill and gently works the reamer in and out of the valve hole.
He extends one pencil magnet and slides it down the plug hole and slides another extended magnet in through the valve hole. He fishes around for a half minute or so, then delicately, with his little fingers up, magically pulls the valve into position, one magnet pulling the tip into the hole and one magnet lifting the stem. Spectacular. I start breathing again.

He pressurizes the cylinder and taps on the valve stem. He unhooks the air hose and pushes on the stem with his finger. No smile yet. He finds the wooden dowel and taps the stem once, twice, three times, and the valve clangs down into the cylinder again. Good grief. And I thought we were out of the woods.

He picks up the drill, repositions in his stance and gently reworks the valve hole a couple of times. He inserts the two pencil magnets into the cylinder and works them around and glides the valve up into place again. With the cylinder pressurized he taps the stem with the rubber hammer. The valve moves in and out. He takes the air hose off and pushes the valve stem in with his finger and pulls it out with the magnet. Nice. He smiles.

With the cylinder pressurized he positions the spring compression tool and nods for me to hold it. He slips in the spring, washer and retainers.
Replacing the valve cover he says, “Do you need a receipt?”
I say no.
He says “That’ll be fifty bucks”.
Dinner in Fort Payne is good. As is the valve, from then on.
Michelangelo lives.

Hangar Flying / Thirty Days
« on: October 24, 2008, 09:18:58 PM »
Several responses were started to SAF_Zoom and his "Hi new to the forum", but i will just post this developing note.

Thirty Days
Thirty days have September, April, June and November.
All the rest have thirty one, as does my log book.
-Thirty-one flights in thirty-one days.
-Three sunrises, the rest mostly sunsets.
-A one hundred degree flyby for the Horseshoe Bend EAA ice cream social.
-A couple of flights in mostly clear skies in the cool of evening between wispy, drifting curtains of rain.
-A sunset entry at Oshkosh,
-And a sunset arrival back home.
The 31 days got started with a four day run. That was enough to inspire going for seven straight. Then fourteen straight. At that point I risked generating a jinx by mentioning out loud what I was going to try to do.
I wonder, what is the potential of engendering a jinx by announcing the thirty days out loud. Luck these days is less sought after. Unearned luck is the young man’s ally. Now, rather, flying through the Eze’s thirteenth year, common dogged gumption serves as a steady and desired partner. Durability its own moniker. 
During some past lives I would have been happy to fly 31 times in a year. That much flying in one month is addicting. Some things improve day by day. Like the sunset therapy. Some things accelerate, like tire life. Some things that vibrate show up quicker. Some things show their value, like confidence in a good airframe. Some demonstrate the value of the time that went into fabrication, like one minute cowls.
The 33 hours is much less than the cattle herding days, but close to my monthly military average. Those helos or the T-28 make the Eze fuel burn almost thrilling. Sitting here I remember in 1976 seeing the diminutive and audacious N7EZ on the cover Air Progress. 180 mph for $4000.  How many promises from that era have held their value?
One day I’m putting the Eze away, loading the lead-filled inner tube ballasts in the nose. A neighbor rumbles up to help. I scan back over the plane, looking at it as he is going to see it. To me, the machine is a raucous steed being brushed down after a brilliant run, actually a season of runs, to be bedded down for the day. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and often only skin deep. Surely so with airplanes.
The cowls come off after almost every flight. They aren’t worn like the armrests, but do have a few dings. As he walks up I’m thinking that maybe they should have been kept in gray primer. Instead they were painted with the rest of the plane at the last minute, but are still on the list to be repainted for real later.
The lower cowl is pretty scarred. The dozen or so inlets and exit wounds will eventually be grafted back to lighter simpler smoothness. Each scar marks progress or failure during the deliberate oil cooling process. A productive pastime and favorable memory resulting with oil temp as a non issue this summer.
The meticulous visitor first comments on the nice paint job. But once he sees the masking tape holding on the TE Fences, any further conversation is muddled. After the visit, as the visitor goes out the hangar door the masking tape will get one last worried glance. But soon the Fences will get final paint and proper mounting and we will be slightly more socially acceptable.
Finishing up, the light cotton cover slips on over the nose and pulls back over the cowl. A good fluff settles into that sleek shape. I tap a knuckle along the wing on the way to turn out the hangar lights. With the flick of the switch the image of the winged porpoise dissolves into darkness. Life is good.
-Today, flight thirty-one skims the open ranchlands. The visuals and smoothness of the flight are alluringly soft, illuminated through light reddish yellow layers and bronzetone haze.
At the apex of a wingover a glowing winglet is captured as its shadow passes over the camera.
From behind the sinking sun highlights the home base air strip ahead. A silent 200 mph overhead entry lofts over the top. Stretching out ahead on the eastern horizon, grey cloud bottoms are lighting up pink and maroon. Carving wide through the downwind, yellow/silver spokes spray across to the far horizon.  The panorama glows over my shoulder, deepens and pulls the canard along through the glide to base. I feel like I am just along for the ride. Banking toward final turns us directly into the wide screen spectacular. A reach for the camera stops midway and instead the vision just permeates the grey matter.
On final, He’s not done. A go-around is called, for a gentle pull up and back around again through the encore. The canard surfaces light up a bronze halo around the canopy. The golden sun touches the earth and dissolves into the black horizon. Final is milked for every breath of lift, drifting to touchdown below the silvery guard of old man moon.
Thirty days have September, April, June and November. Now that’s a plan.

Hangar Flying / Dancin' Dave Sold His Airplane
« on: June 27, 2008, 03:33:27 PM »
Hangar 30 sure is quiet...

-Bill James

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