Sunday, March 11, 2012

Spring Forward, Fall Back, Fall Down?

It just happens to be one of the two weekends a year when the arrogance and controlling nature of the Band of Idiots we call "Congress" is on stark display: twice a year all of us (except the libertarians in Arizona) collectively have to shift our schedules either one hour forward or one hour backward to satisfy the whims of a nearly century old legislative body. My own circadian rhythms are entrenched into the very psyche of my being so it takes me weeks to recover. Of course, at least one of the annual shifts offers up the benefit of an extra hour of weekend time, but this one isn't it. In the Spring we "spring forward" and find that a groggy Monday morning arrives long before we're ready for it.

So, what with an hour of my time having been sacrificed upon the alter of congressional aggrandizement, there was no time to waste: I made sure that I would be able to hit the ground (foreshadowing...) running on Saturday morning. To that end, I visited the local car parts retail outlet on Friday night for to pick up some anti-seize compound, a household staple of which I had found myself embarrassingly lacking. It was a pretty typical visit: I spent ten minutes looking directly at it before finding it, a routine event caused mostly by the manufacturer's habit of applying camouflage colors to whatever it is I'm trying to find. Also par for the course: the store was empty when I came, but I was behind four people waiting in line by the time I was ready to check out. There was a self-important fifth that attempted to insert himself in the queue ahead of me, but a large helping of stink eye convinced him that perhaps he ought to act more civilly and wait his turn.

So, this is the stuff:

It doesn't look like I'll be caught short of anti-seize compound again any time soon.

Especially considering how little I actually needed:

I had the muffler anti-seized and ready to go by the time Pete showed up to assist in the final (I hope) installation. That job went a lot more smoothly with his assistance than it had on my trial (and tribulation) fit of the day before.

As long as he was there and the sun was shining, I asked him for another favor: I've been wanting to put the wings on and get a few pictures of the progress as a whole:

After that little diversion, we moved on to mounting the radiator, or "heat exchanger" in the flowery vernacular of Van's. This took longer than I would have expected. There is a relatively tight 1/32" gap required between the "heat exchanger" and the framework behind it. Despite the assistance of computerized design and robotic manufacturing, that 1/32" gap doesn't just happen; there was the normal dance of install..measure..remove..file..install..measure..remove..file..cha-cha-cha. The filing was done to elongate the screw holes in the "heat exchanger" flanges to allow a pair of washers (inconveniently located between two of the bolts and their spot on the "heat exchanger" flange) to take up the slack.

After brushing a couple of the "heat exchanger" fins with a fingernail and bending them, I decided to keep a cardboard cover in place to prevent further damage.

That was enough for the morning - I was hungry for lunch. In attempting to find an easier way home from Harbor Freight last week, I had noticed a new authentic-looking Mexican restaurant that I wanted to try. My area of town is rife with taco trucks (typically they are little food stands made out of converted shuttle buses) and you can't beat those for authenticity, but there's just something about eating food cooked in an old Hertz bus that makes me a little apprehensive. Nope, I need doors and floors.

As it turns out, this place was terrific!

Pete had a gigantic chorizo burrito while I went for the Enchiladas Verde con Pollo.

The two Coronas that I had with my lunch pretty much decided that there would be no more airplane work that day.

I woke up this morning already an hour behind (Spring Forward!!) on my plans for the day, but that wasn't too big of a problem since all I had to do on the plane were some simple installations of bits and pieces. Or so I thought.

The first thing to do was to apply some RTV/silicone to the front of the radiator "heat exchanger" to make a tight seal with an aluminum face plate that will presumably act as an attachment point for the air tunnel that will be installed with the engine cowling. The first two strips of RTV go on the top and bottom:

The face plate gets pressed into place and is held there for the entirety of the curing process with masking tape.

The small gaps on the left and right sides get filled in with more silicone.

Next, the metal bands that will hold the oil tank in place are added. Note the two nuts perched on the shelf above and behind where the tank will go.

The next step is to remove the bands and turn them around to the correct direction. That step isn't actually in the plans; I like to ad lib now and again.

While doing this, I accidentally brushed one of the nuts off of the shelf with my elbow, leading to a prolonged hunt for the now lost nut. I eventually found it hiding under the battery. I don't know if it is the fact that I used to club baby seals for sport back when I was an Eskimo or what other Karmic cloud I am working under, but it seems that anything that I drop will seek out the most difficult to find resting place imaginable. Each And Every Time!

Installing the tank itself was a breeze.

There is a vent line that runs from the oil tank down to an area under the firewall that will best deposit vented oil in a difficult to clean part of the airplane. This line attaches to the oil tank through the expedient of being inserted into a shorter piece of hose. Pushing a piece of 3/8" outer diameter hose into a piece of 3/8" inner diameter hose might sound like it will be easy, but it is not. In fact, I struggled with it until I was spitting mad which, ironically, was the secret to getting it done. A little saliva on the tube and in it went!

Sliding the shorter tube onto the fitting on the tank was simple.

The hose couldn't be left to just dangle wherever it wanted, probably due to the risk that it might vent oil onto an easy-to-clean area of the airplane, so it had to be held in place with a cushion clamp. Apparently there was no place on the entire airplane that would be harder to attach that clamp to than one of the bolts on the gascolator, so that's where it had to go. Getting at the bolt to remove it was somewhat challenging.

That was nothing compared to the challenge of getting it back in once the clamp was in place. Can you see any way to get a wrench on that bolt?? Keep in mind that you can only see it in this picture because the bolt is hanging loose in the clamp; once pushed into the hole, it became completely invisible and equally completely inaccessible. I could get a 3/8" wrench on it, but I couldn't turn the wrench because it was too long - it was obstructed by the lower engine mount. That wasn't the only problem, either. I also couldn't get a finger in there to press the bolt into the hole to where it would reach the threads, so even if I was able to turn it, I couldn't get enough pressure on it to get it started in the threads. Those cushion clamps want nothing more than to spring open, so the clamp itself was pushing the bolt away from where it needed to go.

Pete wasn't around to conjure up a brilliant solution for this, so I was left to my own devices. This is the kind of solution I come up with when unchaperoned:

That son of a gun won't hit the engine mount now!!

Now that I could get the wrench to turn, albeit only through a twenty degree arc, I just needed a way to press the bolt into the hole while I turned the wrench. I tried pushing on it with a screwdriver:

That didn't work. I had been struggling with this clamp for quite a bit more than an hour at this point, and was making no progress whatsoever. I decided that the only hope was to remove the hose, get the clamp bolt started, and then hope that I would be able to pull the hose down through the clamp. The first part of the plan worked: I was able to get the bolt started.

No amount of spit or swearing would convince the hose to fit through that clamp, though. In desperation, I resorted to brute force:


Frustrated almost beyond belief, I decided to take a break. I had some paperwork I needed to drop off over in the RV-6 hangar, so I had a nice little walk over there. On my way back, I saw a little piece of metal on the ramp. Being the civil minded type, in addition to being nearly 100% sure that the piece of metal had originated from my own hangar, I stopped to pick it up. Well, more accurately, I tried to stop. What actually happened is that I slid on some of the sand that the airport authority rather ironically throws down in the winter so we won't slide on the ice. BOOM - right on my butt. Funny, but in the winter when the chance that I will slide and fall is more prevalent, I know better than to try to catch myself, lest I end up with a sprained wrist or broken arm. I don't seem to think that way when it's 60 degrees out, though.


So, as we see, not only did I spring forward this weekend, but also managed to fall back as well.

While it hurt a little bit, I was able to more or less laugh it off. I think the ability to do this is called "delirium" or "hysteria" or something like that. No matter; whatever they call it, I have it.

I considered calling it quits for the day, but all that was left to do was mount the antifreeze overflow bottle on the firewall and attach it via a hose to the coolant tank. How hard could that be?

The mounting was easy.

The only remaining hose was a white plastic length that matched the tank in color and material, but for some reason I couldn't get it to fit onto either of the fittings. Odd, that. Luckily there is a photo in the plans that I could consult.

Hmmmm. The picture shows a black rubber hose, and the only black rubber hose had just been installed on the oil tank.

Oh, NO! Tell me it ain't so!! The white hose was supposed to be used for the oil vent line? The black hose that I had just spent two hours installing is the wrong hose???

Sigh. It would have to come back out!!

This was just about the time that I decided that I'd do a little research into precisely which step in the build process is the one that prompts people to sell uncompleted RV-12s. I would have guessed "longerons" or "canopy," but I'm no longer sure about that.

The black hose, having put up such a fight against being pulled through the cushion clamp, was in no mood to be removed. In fact, it refused to budge at all. As a red mist descended over my vision, I grabbed hold of that &^%@ hose and tugged for all I was worth.

SPROING!! Out it came.

As did the cushion in the cushion clamp. And a cushion clamp without a cushion is... just a clamp. I would have to remove the clamp, find the cushion (which, Karma being what it is, was nowhere to be seen), and reinstall it.

I looked high. I looked low. I looked and looked and looked. I had just about given up when...

It was easier the second time around, but not by much:

The black rubber line, on the other hand, had been cowed into submission and placidly accepted its new role in life:

I was done. I went flying. It was a great day for it - I even found a new place to shoot trap.

It was an awkward, lousy landing, though. My second of the day.

ADDENDUM: (Plucked from the internet):
Can we please slow down and get something straight? There is simply no way to “save daylight.” People can spin the hands of their clocks like roulette wheels, but come Monday here in Washington, D.C., we’re still going to have sunshine for about 12 hours and 45 minutes. The sun can rise at a time of day we call dawn or Howdy Doody Time or whatever–but the stubborn facts of astronomy are at work here and they can’t be wished away.

The reason we have Daylight Saving Time (DST), of course, is because the politicians have mandated it. Washington is much better at wasting things than saving them, but federal lawmakers nevertheless spent much of the 20th century insisting, with typical modesty, that they could “save daylight.” (Why couldn’t they instead have tried to save Social Security?)

Congress passed the first DST law in 1918 and repealed it the next year. Franklin Delano Roosevelt imposed year-round DST for three years during the Second World War. In 1966, Congress approved a uniform DST standard for the whole country. In the 1970s, Richard Nixon had the nation go on DST for 15 consecutive months in order to conserve energy. The last president to modify DST was Ronald Reagan, who advanced DST’s start date to the first Sunday in April.

I recently wondered exactly why we observe Daylight Saving Time (DST). For some reason, I had harbored a vague notion that it had to do with farmers.

Well, it turns out that DST had nothing to do with farmers, who traditionally haven’t cared much for it. They care a lot less nowadays, but when the first DST law was making its way through Congress, farmers actually lobbied against it. Dairy farmers were especially upset because their cows refused to accept humanity’s tinkering with the hands of time. The obstinate cud-chewers wanted to be milked every twelve hours, and had absolutely no interest in resetting their biological clocks–even if the local creameries suddenly wanted their milk an hour earlier.

As Michael Downing points out in his new book, Spring Forward: The Annual Madness of Daylight Saving Time, urban businessmen were a major force behind the adoption of DST in the United States. They thought daylight would encourage workers to go shopping on their way home. They also tried to make a case for agriculture, though they didn’t bother to consult any actual farmers. One pamphlet argued that DST would benefit the men and women who worked the land because “most farm products are better when gathered with dew on. They are firmer, crisper, than if the sun has dried the dew off.” At least that was the claim of the Boston Chamber of Commerce, chaired by department-store magnate A. Lincoln Filene. This was utter nonsense. A lot of crops couldn’t be harvested until the morning dew had evaporated. What’s more, morning dew has no effect whatsoever on firmness or crispness.

Perhaps farmers should take one for the team–i.e., put up with DST even though they don’t like it because it keeps city cash registers chinging into the twilight. Yet the contention that DST is good for business is doubtful. It may help some businesses, but it also stands to reason that other ones suffer. If people are more likely to browse the racks at Filene’s Basement in the daylight, then they’re probably also less likely to go to the movies or take-out restaurants. And in the morning, when it’s darker during rush hour, commuters are perhaps disinclined to stop at the corner store for a newspaper or the coffee bar for a latte. Although it’s impossible to know the precise economic effects of DST, any attempt to calculate them carries the malodorous whiff of industrial policy.

We’re also informed that DST helps conserve energy, apparently because people arriving home when the sun is still up don’t switch on their lights. Didn’t it occur to anybody that maybe they compensate by switching them on earlier in the morning? Moreover, people who arrive home from work an hour earlier during the hot summer months are probably more prone to turning up their air conditioners. According to Downing, the petroleum industry once was “an ardent and generous supporter” of DST because it believed people would hop in their cars and drive for pleasure–and guzzle more gas.

But the very worst thing about DST is that it’s bad for your health. According to Stanley Coren, a sleep expert at the University of British Columbia, the number of traffic accidents and fatal industrial mishaps (Ed: and painful falls) increase on the Monday after we spring forward. (Check out one of his studies here.) The reason, presumably, is because losing even a single hour of sleep over the weekend makes a lot of people a bit drowsier on what we might usefully call Black Monday. Unfortunately, there’s no compensating effect of a super-safe Monday as we go off DST and “fall back” in the autumn.

So DST is deadly. But maybe we should keep that troubling little fact to ourselves, before Congress decides to impose the National Bedtime Hour.

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