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Lucky you fly the long EZ

October 1982

Would you like to take your Long EZ from Honolulu to Oshkosh? And if you can get it together, go the 4,500 miles nonstop? I started planning on day one. The first cloth was cut 12 March 1981 and Oshkosh 92 looked like an easy goal. ‘Coffin Corner’ goals in homebuilding are not recommended as they can unwind your main spring and money supply. Long EZ construction went along very easily. This was my third composite homebuilt. The first flight was on 7 June 1992. Oshkosh looked easy, but wait, the Loran wasn’t working yet. Neither was the ADF nor the Compucrus nor the SSB radio. It looked like the NAVCOM was inadequate for IFR.

The new transponder was dead and 1344T needed 40 hours faster. It was flying great so I filled the tanks and by 16 June I took 1344T to the EAA Big Island Chapter 780 meeting with the first 40 hours flown off, it was looking good, but wait. The Compucrus had been calibrated, however the Loran wouldn’t work with it on. With the Compucrues off, the ADF was only 20% effective and the Loran still wouldn’t work. The core of the problem is that it’s a fiber glass airplane and has no ground plane or counterpoise and none of the normal metal shielding found in aluminum airplanes.

Add dirty power to this and the dirtiest electrical noise of all, the Compucrus and a lot of time can be spent solving the noise problem. Actually once I got a system of detection, isolation and elimination going it was okay, however this cost me almost 30 days of down time. It can be done in less. Here’s how I did it. Note, if you do not need any low frequency COM or NAV gear, you may disregard all of this and simply live with the noise as VHF is high enough not to be affected. I started by disconnecting everything: battery, voltage regulator, alternator, p-leads at the engine, and all radios and appliances. I then used a small inexpensive transistor radio and tuned off a station. I started the engine many times checking for electrical noise using the transistor radio to ferret out each source, following up and down the wires inside both cockpits, into the engine bay and all over. Here’s what I went through, I replaced the mag switches as they were poor quality and arcing inside.

I replaced the Kubota tractor alternator as it was noisy and short on output. I had to add a torroidal type coil and 2 capacitors to the Compucrus airspeed gizmo to quiet the oscillator and then seal the box with copper tape to keep the residuals inside. I then added magneto suppressors to the mags which didn’t help, so I disassembled both mags and found a coil shorting in one. Then I removed the suppressors, because I didn’t need them. The sneakiest noise of all was the voltage regulator. It sounded like ignition noise. This wasted a couple of days because my detection system broke down. I just couldn’t believe It wasn’t an ignition harness problem.

The Prestolite transistorized regulator needed a coil and 2 capacitors which quieted it about 95%. It was never perfect. The Prestolite alternator had a whine that ordinary suppressors wouldn’t quiet. I added 2 of the largest hash chokes available, which together with 2 capacitors and a lot of trial and error finally gave me fairly quiet power. Back to the cockpit. Early in construction, before glassing, the single side band (SSB) HF antenna was run from the top tip of each winglet down the leading edge of the wings, wing strakes and around the nose. I installed a switcher so that the Loran could share the antenna except when transmitting on SSB. Sharing this antenna didn’t work. Loran is too sensitive to noise and I still had a low level of noise.

The Loran antenna placement problem eluded me until just a couple of days before departure. It was refusing to work in a fiberglass airplane. I had tried everything and was about to give up when it came to me. I dug a hole in the lower left winglet and put the Loran antenna pre-amp inside. I then ran a coaxial lead to the set and used 10 feet of .020 stainless wire with a small sinker out the aft of the lower winglet (trailing wire antenna). A quick test hop confirmed that the Loran was now working better then it ever had in the shop. I had essentially removed the Loran antenna as far as possible from all noise.

The ADF required a lot of trial and error with the sense antenna. The best solution was a piece of copper foil tape from the nose up to the canopy rail and aft along the rail to the rear bulkhead. It was a little short so I looped it up and over the headrest. Wrong. I wasted about a day of trial and error to figure out that I was too close to the voltage regulator with this antenna and had to keep shortening the length until I got it. The ADF now worked, but less than satisfactorily. It worked to Oshkosh, but prior to the Oakland - Honolulu return leg it quit, consumed a 200 dollar bill and worked such better. A prudent navigator always has a backup and on the return leg it was worth every cent of the repair. Let’s flash back to getting ready. Mid-July and I was still searching for an adequate bladder tank for the rear seat. It was an impossible search so I started foam and fiberglass auxiliary tanks. Wow! This took a week. The front tank held 25 gallons, the rear 57.

Luckily the plumbing and vent system was already in and approved. The auxiliary tank system test flight was go. I haven’t mentioned the Compucrus because it defied all efforts to quiet the noise. I simply turned it off to use the low frequency navigation or COM gear. This required turning the Compucrus off and reprogramming it for use when you need it. Shielding is a big part of noise control when going beyond a NAV/COM. I used shielded wire in the main power and regulating syste and used it generously anywhere I suspected noise would be generated and transmitted in the wire bundle. Hindsight says I should have considered putting the wire bundle in an aluminum tube.

There were only two days left to departure. The NASA pocket autopilot was almost ready. Before proceeding, the electrical noise was checked and flunked so I abandoned that effort. There wasn’t time anyway. The total effort was not without a lot of help. I never could have been ready without Sherry Emminger doing all the flight planning; Richard Secinger on weather; Sandy Moats on auxiliary tanks: Ann, my daughter, on programming the Loran and Rollie Moran and Jon Michelle on electrical problems. My wife Rosemary, bless her soul, ran the myriad of last minute errands. The day before launch I still had to weigh the total loaded aircraft and work a weight and balance. It had weighed 755 pounds night IFR equipped and now weighed 1814 pounds with 137 gallons of fuel, me, the Loran, ADF, SSB, life raft, mae west, survival gear, candy, sandwiches and water.

The weight and balance was dead center in the first flight box. I told Sherry to plug in the 7 knot tailwind forecast over the Pacific and that I would work out the winds over the mainland when I got there. I went to bed at 1500 hours. Launch was scheduled for 0430 and I slept until 0400. On the advice of a NASA flight surgeon, I wore a set of full length anti-embolism stockings and in addition, took an aspirin a day for a week prior to the flight to prevent clotting. Other than that, the only personal preparation was to wear warm loose clothing. Of special help was a down vest with removable, Velcro attachable sleeves maads by my daughter, Jill. A last check of wind and weather showed no change so I started the last minute countdown. It didn’t go too smoothly and I was an hour fifteen late on launch. The Loran gave good track information and I split the Golden Gate, however, because of the Loran ground station layout and the fact that I went Loran station to Loran statIon (Honolulu to Fallon), crosstrack was sketchy and primarily DR. I had a couple of big shocks over the water. The first was at 15+48, which was the over water planned flight time.

There was no West Coast. Obviously the wind wasn’t as planned. There was no VOR and no ADF information. Only the Loran said I was on course, so all I could do was keep trucking. Two hours later the shock sort of wore off. The moon had come up and gone down. Wow! It was dark and lonely out there by myself. The engine quit!! I changed from auxiliary to wing tanks very quickly and it started right up. I was two hours overdue on the flight plan to the West Coast and only had 12 hours of fuel left. How lucky I really was would not be realized for another two hours. It was almost 4 hours over fight plan before the over water portion ended. Almost any other airplane in this class would have gone down in the water. ‘Lucky you fly the Long EZ.’ I had picked up a 14 knot head wind versus the 7 knot tail wind forecast.

It didn’t take a lot of calculating to figure out what to do. It was quite obvious that it wouldn’t go to Oshkosh as planned. So rather than cross the Rockies at night and then have to land in Nebraska, I stopped in Sacramento. The next corning I went to prop the Long EZ to depart for Oshkosh and discovered a piece missing from the prop. I called Bruce Tiftt at Oshkosh for consultation. He said to take a like piece from the other blade and try it for balance. I filed the piece out (3" x 3/8") and gave them both a little varnish. It ran up okay so I launched for Oshkosh. The winds from RNO to STL were the first tail winds I’d had, but they shut off at STL. The Loran was working like a charm, giving me lat and long, steering info, miles off course, miles and time to go, mag heading end ground speed.

I was going from way point to way point. It sounded the horn at each way point where I would punch the next and away I would go. This was living. The West Coast Loran stations stayed on until Nebraska then the Great Lakes chain came on. Loran coverage all the way. The Loran used was a CLX95 from SRD Labs, 291 McBlincey Lane, Campbell, California 95008.) This particular Loran is a ferry pilot favorite. It is small, portable and has a 99 way point storage capability. I was able to pre-set all reporting points over water as well as en-route VOR's on the mainland from HNL to OSH and back to Seattle.

From Sacramento, it was 12 hours to Oshkosh to find the field closed for a thunderstorm. I diverted to Fond-Du-Lac and arrived after dark, meeting hordes of people in the same boat i.e., no place to stay. After 3 hours, I finally slept in the airplane. It wasn’t easy sleeping in the airplane. The worst part was that the airplane wouldn’t hold a heading and I kept banking and turning for a long time even after I’d fallen asleep with one recurring nightmare. The engine would be droning away and suddenly go silent. I would wake up with real fear, open the canopy and let in some of those damn Wisconsin mosquitoes The numbers for Honolulu to Oshkosh were 4497 statute miles, 32 hours, 125 gallons, 140 MPH, 3.9 GPH and 36 MPG. The trip back to Honolulu was not uneventful.

The empty rear auxiliary tank had a pinched vent line and imploded on let down into Oakland. Again "Lucky You Fly The Long EZ’. Ray Johnson of San Francisco, a Hospitality Club member, took my busted tank in at 9 in the evening and had it repaired by 11. The launch from Oakland was late because of the auxiliary tank. A small leak, undetected in the initial repair, was easily repaired on the line with 5 minute epoxy, but required de-fueling and refueling which took about 2 hours of valuable air time. The lesson learned was; never launch late and force yourself to land at night after a long flight. Give yourself a break.

A night arrival isn’t tough, but things can go wrong. For me it was again the weather forecast. It turned out that I was two hours over my ETA, Honolulu, and in that two hours, there were lots of buildups, no really big ones, but it was raining in each, rough and dark. I certainly hadn’t planned it that way. I knew on this flight I was shooting for a lot smaller target than the West Coast and these additional complications provided plenty of distraction and tension. I was in contact with Honolulu Center and they wanted to know where I was and my ETA, which was a really hard question.

The Loran and ADF said, "Dead Ahead", but the ETA part was an unknown. I knew I was on track. I just didn’t know where. Hey, relax, I had to keep telling myself and the Center. You’re flying the Long EZ with 12 hours of fuel remaining. The Hawaiian VOR’s came on one at a time and all ended well, but I had made it grossly harder than it had to be. If you plan to make a similar trip, give yourself every break you can on landing as well as on launch. For example, I would never recommend take off or for that metter IFR flight at high overgross in visible moisture. This is a problem which is personal to individual Long EZ’s.

To get the idea, load your Long with 140 gallons of fuel then try to pick up the nose. You are going to need help. It is heavy. On take off and in flight, the wings and the canard together must lift the total load. If you have less than a perfect canard/elevator and if your Long EZ pitches down in moisture, you will at some over-gross reach a pitch control limitation. It may be at 2100 pounds, it may be at 1800 or way down at 1600 pounds.

Again this is personal to your craftsmanship. If you are considering long range, over-gross operations in your Long, be sure to provide your very best flight test data pertinent to this problem in your owner’s handbook. As I was planning and getting ready for this trip, I was often asked, "Why?" It’s not why. It’s, ‘Why not?" Mountain climbers are for the most part forced to climb mountains others have already climbed. In a Long EZ, you have countless originals to climb. Lucky you fly the Long EZ.

W. A. "Rodie’ Rodewald 68-361 Crozier Drive Waialua Hawaii 96791 September 30. 1982

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