Friday, July 20, 2012

The Jackson Two take the stage


Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Those were the last steps required before a large riveting job on the skins. The timing was perfect as soon-to-be RV-12 builders Don and Kyle were scheduled to arrive for a shop visit just a few hours later. Just let it be said that I have made good use of my high school literary studies, having often leveraged the lesson of Tom Sawyer's clever means of getting other kids to whitewash the fence that his Aunt Polly had instructed him to paint. As it turns out, the only thing easier than blind riveting is having someone else blind rivet for you!

And this is the beauty of the RV-12 in a nutshell. With a "normal" RV, potential builders worry themselves into a froth over not knowing how to drive rivets and wondering if they are even capable of being taught. They make pilgrimages to Oshkosh to attend riveting workshops. They spend hours practicing on scrap metal. The end up drilling out dozens of mis-driven rivets. They sink hundreds of dollars into tools. With blind rivets, if the EAA were to offer a seminar it would take longer to get everyone settled and go through the mandatory don't-blame-us safety briefing than it would to teach the actual operation.

I had each of the visitors pull a couple of rivets under my supervision and then simply turned them loose with a pair of cleco pliers and the air rivet puller. I went and worked on the RV-6, cleaned up the hangar a little bit, and generally made myself scarce while they riveted the entire tail cone. And the best part is, they acted like I was doing them a favor.

Oh, I am soooo good! I wasn't able to convince them to come back for my broom pushing seminar, though. I guess I have my limits.

All kidding aside, it's nice to have neighbors! Don and Kyle will be building their RV-12 down in the area of Jackson, Ohio. That's just a few minutes from Portsmouth, an airport I visit quite frequently. It'll be nice to stop by now and then to see how things are going for them. If nothing else, I'm pretty sure they have a good grasp of riveting fundamentals. They must have pulled a couple of hundred of them with no problems at all.

What started on a dark, frigid night two and a half years ago had its denouement today when The Jackson Two received a highly coveted Airworthiness Certificate for their RV-12. It's one of those oddities in the highly regulated world of aviation: without a pink slip of paper that's no more substantial than a Kleenex, an airplane is really nothing more than a hangar decoration. Without the blessing bestowed by the Federal Aviation Administration, presented in the form of the only pink slip you actually hope and pray to receive, an airplane is worth no more than the sum of the raw materials it is comprised of. This blessing is only given after an inspection by official FAA inspectors or designated representatives. To put it mildly, this inspection is stressful on the builder.

When Kyle, amplifier technician and cymbal custodian for The Jackson Two told me that his inspection had been scheduled, my first thought was "Damn! They beat me!" More laudably but no less self-centered, my second thought was "I need to see this!" I figured forewarned is forearmed and having seen one of these inspections being performed could only help when it comes my turn in just a couple of months. So it was that Silke (One of my friends was married to a beautiful German girl named Silke, so I have adopted that name for my new (to me) SLK 280 - look at it thusly: SiLKe) and I departed early this morning for the drive south.

The inspectors (usually there is only one, but in this case a trainee inspector was coming, accompanied by a more senior mentor) were due to arrive at 0900, but I conservatively planned an 0830 arrival. I wanted to get a look at some things on their plane that I'm currently working on, or soon will be, myself. That, and I wanted to marvel at the installed avionics:

While we were waiting, Don (snare drum tuner and lead singer) headed off for coffee and donuts. While he was gone, the inspectors arrived. The veteran inspector approached Kyle and said, "Hi, you must be Kyle." Then, to my complete chagrin, he came towards me and said, "And you must be his Dad."

That's it!! I'm shaving off this gray beard!

With the pleasantries out of the way, the inspectors got busy with looking over the airplane. They did a pretty thorough job of poking and prodding, eventually coming up with a very short list of very easily fixed demerits. With the physical inspection done, the much more complex inspection of the paperwork began. There are all kinds of forms to be filled out, checked for correctness, and signed. There is also the official reading of the Operating Limitations, which is the document that explicitly states what the airplane can and cannot be used for. For example, the RV-12 is explicitly prohibited from towing banners or performing aerobatics. The inspector was very diligent and thorough in explaining precisely what everything in the limitations document meant in the real world. Interestingly, I learned a couple of things that I've been doing wrong with the RV-6 for six years.

With no major problems found, the Airworthiness Certificate was signed by the inspector and presented to the band:

So, it's all over, right? Well, no. While the inspection was stressful, the next event is likely to be even more so: the plane is now ready for its first flight!

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