Sunday, November 1, 2009

Schmetterling CEO Visit

As a major milestone approaches with the imminent completion of a major aerodynamic surface and flight control, it seemed that it might be a good time for the CEO of our parent company to come for a visit to the production facility. VIP treatment is standard for situations such as these so I took the company plane out to pick him up.

Or, put another way, the weather was gorgeous today and was almost irresistibly beckoning me, but the RV-12 rudder is on the cusp of completion and I really wanted to spend some time doing that. But... there's just no denying the call of a sky that appears as if it may have once or twice heard whispered rumors of these new fangled things called 'clouds' but was believing none of that wild gossip, thank you very much. And calm winds in the forecast as well! Astounding! What better way to kill two birds with one stone (hmm, this seems like a wildly inappropriate time to use that expression) than to fly out to KVES and pick up my Dad and fly him back to Columbus for a shop visit. Sure, it would mean flying him back home as well, but seriously, isn't that really just another cherry on the sundae?

It was a relaxed morning what with the DST 'found' hour to buffer the time between having a hot cup or two of Vitamin P infused coffee and having to head to the airport for departure. There's no lav in an RV-6, remember? Timing is critical. It pays to have some time between bottle and throttle when it comes to flying after a morning of drinking coffee.

The extra hour came from Daylight Savings Time ending later in the year than ever before because our Congress, always eager to flaunt their dominance over us, legislated a seemingly random change in when we shift time. They meddle in so many things anymore that I think a House bill to coerce water into flowing up hill is expected to get voted out of committee next week.

In any event, no one bothered to tell my Garmin 396 of the change of schedule. Try as it might, it just could not find any satellites, my theory being that it was looking at points in space that wouldn't be inhabited by GPS satellites for another hour. Or spots from which satellites had already departed an hour earlier. It could be either - I'm not very good at temporal calculations. If I had to bet, I'd say it was the latter case.

Whatever the cause, buggered if I was going to sit around waiting three months for the clocks to get set back ahead. I'd go without it - I have a nice spare built right into the panel. Although I rarely use it, I do dial in Direct To now and then just to remind myself how. That came in handy today since it was super simple to just dial in KVES and get things going. It's a little less pleasant than the Garmin to use, though:

Always the forgive and forget type, I gave the Garmin another chance. And another, and another, and another. I diddled around with menu pages trying to find a place where I could set the time and, for that matter, the date. It was convinced that it was October 28th. Brilliant little box, but sometimes easily confused. I couldn't find anything that would let me give the unit a temporal foothold on reality, but I did find a way to turn off Daylight Savings Time. I was optimistic about that, but the Garmin stubbornly continued to play the fool:

Finally I stumbled upon a 'Set Location' menu item. Just what I was looking for! You just pick a spot on the map or type in an airport identifier and Bob's your uncle. Well, not so fast: it seems that rather than give it a location as you're pounding through the air at a blistering 3,139 inches per second, you have to be sitting still. I typed in a couple of airports as I flew over or by them, but no luck. As soon as I stopped at KVES, POW!, it found all the satellites it could ever want.

That solved, I got the CEO settled into the right seat and we were off on the trip back to Columbus. The whole VIP treatment thing kind of went sour, though, since I had forgotten to bring the passenger headset. He had to endure the full, unadulterated cacophony of Papa at full gallop. At first I tried cruising at a sedate 2,000 rpm to keep the noise down, but I quickly got bored with that and poured on the coal. After a fuel stop at MadCo, we landed at Bolton and hangared Papa. It was time to visit the shop.

I had the rudder pretty much ready to go for final assembly. Just to provide a complete picture of the work involved, I hadn't deburred the rudder skin yet. A few passes along the ScothBrite wheel made short work of dressing up the edges of the skin and the deburring of the rivet holes is never all that time consuming. It wasn't long at all before we were ready to take the rudder back to the hangar for riveting.

With the construction of the tail kit being well ahead of schedule and the lead time for the next kit (the fuselage) now hovering at somewhere around two months, and in consideration of the all too likely end of year price increase, the discussion turned to whether the order for the fuse kit should be placed and when. The timing of the tail is looking like I will be ready to assemble the too-big-for-the-shop tail cone by the end of December, just in time for the most inhospitable months of the year for working in the hangar. With the fuse kit on site, I could defer the building of the tail cone until Spring and concentrate on the first stages of the fuselage. Right up until the roll bars go on, the fuse is small enough to assemble in the shop.

As with CEOs everywhere in Corporate America, he needed time to think about the proposed schedule changes and their budgetary impact.  Deep in thought:

My only fear is that the vertical stab and rudder might be lulling me into over confidence. Maybe the horizontal stab is when this stuff really starts getting hard. I have to say, though, that the RV-12 so far has to be the simplest to build airplane in the world. Seriously, look at this:

The fronts of the rudder skin were already rounded into shape and fit right together with no trouble at all. The skin slid right onto the skeleton and the holes lined up with unconscionable ease. I don't think you can build an RV-9 rudder in just a handful of hours, can you? This thing is amazingly well designed.

We hauled the rudder out to the hangar and pulled about 3/4s of the rivets before we started getting pretty hungry. Also, with the loss of an hour of daylight I had to keep a tight look on the time to make sure I could be back to base before dark. We decided that we'd get started back towards KVES with a lunch stop at Urbana. I always seem to end up at Urbana when it comes to fly-in food...

Hey, you know how you always want to impress your Dad? Well, I got a little help with that today from a couple of total strangers.

"See the kind of people that have planes at Bolton? The kind that drive Porsche and Rolls Royce:"

"I just drive a Subaru because I find spectacularly conspicuous consumption like that somehow demeaning." 

Yeah, that's the ticket.

After lunch, I had him stand next to his artwork (he drew the nose art)  for a picture:

The flight from Urbana to KVES went fine, although I wouldn't say it was my best landing of the day. The best was a greaser at Urbana. The rest were so-so. The winds were a bit shifty and three out of the six landings were made with light quartering tailwinds. I'm not saying that's what caused the bad ones, but it could be.

The Sun was getting pretty close to the horizon as I flew back towards home, providing perfect lighting to capture a late Fall tapestry:

Bolton tower had been using runway 4 for most of the day but as I was approaching I heard the tower clear a couple of departures to go out on 22 since they were heading southwest. That meant that I had to land on 22 also, and that meant another landing with a slight tailwind. And, it sucked. I sailed right on past taxiway Alpha 3 and couldn't make the turn off until Alpha 4. That's not a big deal as there was another half a mile of runway after Alpha 4, but it's still a bit below my usual standard. Eh, it happens.

Once back I finished up the remaining riveting and headed home with a completed rudder:

Next comes the anti-servo tab. I'll 'splain just exactly what that is next time.

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