Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Ups and Downs

It's been a bit of a rocky week at the paying job. There are weeks where the time passes docilely by as I get in some good, solid development work, and there are weeks where the problems come at me one after another like the waves of an incoming tide of irritation. Given that I start out each week with the type of fairly pessimistic outlook that you'd expect from a guy that views the oceans as half empty, these difficult weeks are almost the default expectation. Even so, they always end up darkening my outlook on just about everything else. It's even worse when the problems are not of my own making; that was the case this week, and it started early. By 7:00 am on Monday morning, I could already tell that a tsunami of ire was barreling my way.

Monday was therefore a complete write-off for airplane work. Tuesday was indiscernible from Monday at work, but the evening was much better. We had a brief respite in the muggy weather that lent itself to a brief flight in the RV-6. As luck would have it, I even had an excuse to burn a few gallons of extremely precious 100LL: a woman that I work with had asked my advice regarding her 13-almost-14 year old son's desire to get a pilots license. At that age the best advice I could come up with was to get him a decent flight yoke for their PC and turn him loose with Microsoft Flight Simulator. In the short term, though, I asked her if he might be interested in a plane ride. He was, of course, so we scheduled a ride for the only evening of the week that had a forecast for decent weather. So, there was an excuse to fly, just in case I needed a better one than the one I already had: the plane needed gas. I was going to have to fly out to MadCo eventually anyway, so it worked out as one of those two birds, one stone kind of deals.

We met at the hangar and I spent 10 or 15 minutes showing him a sectional chart and our planned direct-to route out to KUYF, or as I call it, Ugly Young Farmers. Along with that I gave him some introduction to the names of the parts of the airplane that aren't obvious (having learned long ago that people feel somewhat talked down to when you point at the wings and say, "And those are wings.") and described the functions that they perform. He seemed to get all of that pretty easily, so it wasn't long before we were strapping in and getting ready to go. I gave his mom directions to JP's BBQ where she could sit in the shade and wait for us to get back.

The takeoff went pretty much as I had briefed him, so there were no unpleasant surprises. We climbed to 3,000' where I relinquished control to the young co-pilot. We did some straight and level flight, and I had him do a few turns to the left and right to get a feel for it. He couldn't see out the front very well, so he spend a lot of time looking at the instruments. In this zig-zag manner we worked our way out to MadCo. He did pretty well at holding altitude, although by the time we got there we had crept up to 3,500'. I didn't figure it worth mentioning, my thinking being that I'd rather we unintentionally crept higher than lower.

As I flew us down short final, I hedged my bets (a nice way of saying "took advantage of his naïveté") by explaining that an airplane of this sort invariably bounces a little bit on landing. And so it was. It wasn't a bad bounce, but neither was it a greaser.

Getting the gas took a little longer than expected as we had to sit and wait for one of the local crop dusters to get fueled up. There's a new crop dusting business opened down in Mt. Gilead, it seems. After we finally got to the pumps, I asked one of the workers why crop dusting was making such a comeback in central Ohio. He said it had a lot to do with a new type of fungicide that they're using on corn these days. He told me the name of the stuff, but I've forgotten it.

The tower was closed by the time we got back and the pattern was empty, so I took advantage of the empty skies by entering the pattern at a midfield crosswind, cooking along at a good 200mph. Hey, I figured, what a great time to put on a show for mom sitting down there waiting for us to return. It's a small office, after all, so it's virtually guaranteed that this particular story is going to make the rounds. Might as well make it a Tom Cruise story, albeit 700' shy of actually buzzing the tower.

That all went well, but the landing was one of those embarrassingly ostentatious bounces that one never wants to do in front of witnesses. I couldn't even fall back on my earlier preparation since the landing back at MadCo had been fairly good. About all I could say was that a landing like that was proof that I'm just not flying enough.

As far as the RV-12, well, I was able to work for about an hour tonight. I'm still doing prep work for the eventual drilling of the flaperon torque tubes. The first step was to clamp the flaperons into a neutral position. This ultimately proved to be the only step that went well.

Against the prevailing trend, it was the right wing that gave me trouble this time. The little black plastic cone wouldn't fit into the open end of the torque tube.

This kept the torque tube from flushing up against the brackets.

I had to unclamp the flaperon and allow it to droop down, then had to pull the wing pins out and pull the wing out a few inches to gain some room to work. The powder coating on the torque tube was keeping the cone from fitting, and it had also built a little ridge around the circumference of the cone as a result of my having tried to push it in. A very light filing of the tube and a light sanding of the cone resolved the problem.

The next step was to insert a .063" spacer between the two tubes. Now here's the thing about a .063" spacer: if you're very lucky, someone will give you one of those, having himself built one up from other, thinner shims and used it on his very own RV-12. That's probably the best way to get a .063" spacer, but if you aren't lucky enough to have one given to you, or if you're careless enough to lose the one you've been given, there is an alternative. You can go to Harbor Freight (hopefully not the Home of Arbitrarily Sized Feeler Gauges) and pick up a set of feeler gauges for $3.99. You can then remove and combine the .028" and .035" plates to make something that at least mathematically equates to a .063" spacer.

Having done so, though, you're very likely to decide that enough is enough and call it a night.

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