Sunday, June 26, 2011

Meet David R. Copperfield

From Wiki:
David Copperfield (born David Seth Kotkin; September 16, 1956) is an American illusionist, described by Forbes in 2006 as the most commercially successful magician in history.[ Best known for his combination of storytelling and illusion, Copperfield has so far sold 40 million tickets and grossed over $1 billion.
Over $1 billion dollars, and his best known trick is making the Statue of Liberty "disappear." Pffft. I'm here to tell you, he ain't got nuthin' on me when it comes to making things disappear. But I'll get to that.

First, I have to provide an update on my EAA Chapter 9 hangar visit. You may remember that I attended a similar event last month when I went to see an RV-10 under construction. The RV-10 is similar to the RV-12 in that it is the only other Van's RV design that employs the new step-by-step builder's manual, but in all other ways they are polar opposites. While the RV-12 is essentially a simple enough airplane to be used as a trainer, the RV-10 is a fire-breathing, load-hauling, high end travelling machine. I'd be lying if I were to say that I didn't lust after an RV-10 myself, but an honest assessment of the types of trips I take and the palatability factor of the higher costs involved, plus the order of magnitude more difficult building process, puts me firmly in the RV-12 class.

So, back to the event. You also may remember that I was concerned about what kind of comestibles to provide. I didn't know how many folks to expect and bakery donuts at Krogers are only $3.49 a dozen... I bought three dozen. Fully half of those remained after all was done and said. Better too many than too few, although I feel somewhat bad for anyone that went to Krogers yesterday hoping to buy donuts. I had nearly all of them.

Most of the crowd arrived right around the advertised starting time of 10am. One of the earliest arrivals was the older gentleman that I am hoping to presume upon to paint my airplane. He arrived astride a beautifully restored Cushman scooter. Best known for their nearly ubiquitous golf carts, Cushman also produces small-ish gas, diesel, and electric trucks. The scooters were produced between 1936 to 1965. This is a 1963 model.

Pilots are a fickle sort. The scooter (not surprisingly) stole a little of my thunder.

Some folks even scored rides on it. I was busy acting the host, so I wasn't able to get in on that action, more's the pity.

With the RV-6 now moved into a new hangar, I have plenty of shop space again. Cadillac Pete helped me move the fuselage out towards the door where I get better light (and, as it turns out, a lot more heat when the afternoon sun is on the 'Broil' setting) to work with. There's no way my visitors would have been able to safely navigate their way trough the Byzantine labyrinth of parts, tools, benches, and airplanes that I was dealing with just last week. As with a goldfish whose habitat is a small bowl, the growth of my RV-12 was becoming severely restricted by the close confines. Now that it has a huge aquarium to live in, I expect much more rapid growth.

The weather was nice so a few of the visitors flew in. The unpainted plane in the foreground is a completed RV-12. As you look down the row, there are three more RVs. The plane at the end is a store-bought Piper, but I'm pretty sure the pilot of that one is building an RV-8.

After the guests departed, Pete and I decided that the pleasantly temperate weather warranted a little work on the airplane. I've been putting off the installation of the roll control rods for awhile because reports from the field indicate that they are an massive pain in the, uh, "sit-upon" to install. I'll cut to the chase: the reports are true.

The first obstacle arose immediately, just as if the starting gate of the Kentucky Derby was positioned backwards on the track. We didn't even get started before the race was blocked. The bolt wouldn't fit. This is nothing new; it is very, very common to have to final drill a bolt hole through a powder-coated steel part, but I didn't think to check these holes before installing the control sticks.

That's why I have an angle drill.

The beauty of the angle drill was that I could drill the hole without pulling out the control sticks. The sticks are only held in with one bolt, a washer, and a nut, but the nut takes a cotter pin. I didn't want to remove the cotter pin because 1) it's hard to do, and 2) I don't like to re-use them and I only have a limited number.

If I were to tell the truth, I'd have to share that I do in fact have twice the number of cotter pins that were included in the kit. That came about because I lost another bag of parts. In this case, it was a good bag to lose if I was going to have to lose a bag: the entire contents of the bag cost $.32. As we all know, the way to find a lost bag is to order replacements, but this time I thought I'd be clever and only pretend to order the parts. I loaded up my web-store virtual shopping cart at and waited for the magic to occur.

It didn't.

After a suitable percolating period still failed to produce the lost bag, I went ahead and placed the order. I don't have the bone in my wrist that will let me click my mouse on a Submit Order button for a collection of items whose total cost is less than the shipping charge, so I updated my order to include two of every cotter pin. Thus it is that I have spares.

But still, reason #1 was still in play and I was averse to the idea of removing the cotter pins.

With the holes drilled out to final size, I was ready to put the outboard bearing end of the control rods in place. Which would have been easy except for three things:

- 1, there is a little steel washer that goes between one of the control stick flanges and the control rod bearing.
- 2, there is a little steel washer that goes between the other control stick flange and the control rod bearing.
- 3, the control stick flanges are too close together for either of the washers to fit.

The only way to fix that problem was to remove the control sticks. So much for my efforts to preserve my limited number of cotter pins.

Even with the flanges bent out to provide more room, there was a problem with installing the washers. That problem was just like the risks associated with walking a tight rope strung over a bottomless pit: if a washer were to fall, it would drop all the way down into the guts of the fuselage.

The solution to that problem was simply to use a safety net, or in this case, a piece of paper.

Now, here's where I put Mr. Copperfield to shame. While attempting to get the fourth and last washer in place, some debit on my karmic balance sheet came due. It's as if the karmic bill collector suddenly appeared to collect the debt incurred from kicking a puppy or pushing a senior citizen aside in my fervor to collect three dozen donuts. I dropped the washer. Now you'd think that it would be a simple matter to find that washer. Surely it would be sitting right there on the paper safety net.


Well then, it couldn't have gone far. Surely it would be somewhere down in the fuselage and, while tedious difficult, it should be possible to find it with an inspection mirror and a few degrees of patience.


Well then, surely it just fell all the way through and would be somewhere on the floor in the vicinity of the fuselage.


As we all know, time drags when you're becoming increasingly frustrated and perplexed in equal measure so I can't say exactly how long we looked for that washer, but it was at least fifteen minutes. It was long enough that I was harboring thoughts about just using one of the two remaining washers of that size and forgetting about the lost one, but the thought of paying the shipping charges on a $.03 washer quickly disabused me of that idea.

I finally turned to Pete and said, "You know, the only other place that washer could conceivably be is in the control stick."

I picked up the stick.


I turned over the stick and shook it.

The washer dropped right into the palm of my hand.

Let's see Mr. Copperfield do that trick!

But at the end of the day, the control rods are in (hopefully never to be removed) and the cotter pins replaced. Still no sign of the lost bag, though. That magic still isn't working.

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