Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The Inspection

It is done and, at least in the eyes of the Federal Aviation Administration, N284DG is an airworthy airplane.

Physics and aeronautics still get to weigh in, of course, and as potentially far harsher judges, but that hurdle has yet to be reached.

It's fitting, in a way, that the inspection should occur on a morning with temperatures hovering around the 10-15 degree range when you consider just how much of the work on the airplane was performed under similar conditions. Kyle, Chief Thermal Engineer for The Jackson Two, flew up in his own RV-12 to deliver a heater to aid in keeping the Feds happy, himself surely remembering the bitter cold January night a few years ago when he and his father riveted the skins on my tail cone before taking the leap into ordering their own kit.

Unfortunately, in this case the end result of his effort was to metaphorically bring a toothpick to a gunfight; the poor little thing didn't make a dent in the all-pervading deep freeze.

Still, it's the thought that counts and I appreciated the effort. The inspectors arrived a few minutes before the appointed time and got right to work. I wasn't sure what to expect with the conditions being as unfavorable as they were and found myself torn between wishing for something along the lines of "Yep, two wings and a tail - let's get inside for the paperwork" or a full-blown, find-anything-that-could-potentially-hurt-me inspection. It ended up being somewhere in the middle.

We started with the paperwork required for things that involve the actual operation and maintenance of the airplane. In my case, that meant showing them the Pilot's Operating Handbook (POH), the Equipment List, the Weight & Balance calculations, and the Maintenance Manual, all of which were provided by Van's as part of the kit. It's fantastic that these things are included with the kit because it would take hours and hours to do them from scratch.

For the weight and balance, I showed him the Empty Weight page where I had entered the weight and balance numbers I calculated back when we weighed the plane. I also had worked out two sample weight & balance sheets. I made one for minimum weight (just me), and one for gross weight. For each of those, I did the w&b calculation at both max and reserve fuel. The point of this was to demonstrate that the plane stayed within limits at the endpoints of the loading continuum which should address any concerns about how the plane is loaded.  It's important to know this because there are planes that can fall out of the CG range just by burning off fuel - you could take off just fine, but somewhere mid-trip you'd find yourself in trouble.

They then asked me something about the POH that somewhat confused me -- they wanted proof that the one I had was the correct version for my type of airplane. I wasn't sure how I would comply with that, but Kyle helped  by pointing out that my POH is labeled 'RV-12 Skyview' and to date, there are only two types. One of them was very interested in the Equipment List and asked me to identify what each item was. I only got stuck on the 'Odyssey PC3' (or something like that) for a moment until I realized that it's the battery.

The physical inspection of the airplane took fifteen to twenty minutes and resulted in them finding nothing more to comment on than a tie wrap that I should re-do in a slightly different way. They professed to be impressed with the quality of the build, but I think that's really more of a testimonial to the quality of the kit. The only thing I can honestly take credit for was the bundling of the wires behind the panel.

Once we got to the point where the presence of the airplane was no longer required, we moved indoors for the completion of the paperwork. Unfortunately, this was their first experience with E-LSA paperwork and they had listed me as the builder in a number of places where it should have listed "Van's Aircraft, Inc."  There were a few more issues as we got deeper in the pile of documents and it eventually got to the point where it seemed that the best course of action was to drive over to the FAA offices to have some of the forms re-done.  

Yes, I was going to have to go to the FAA office! It didn't escape me that this is an occasion that is probably somewhat rare in these inspections, absent a blatantly felonious act. Still, I thought it would be nice to get this out of the way rather than make a bunch of after-work trips later in the week, so I agreed. Into the car and off to Port Columbus we went.

Kyle and I got to their office first and had to sign a guest log and receive a little paper badge to wear. We told the receptionist who we were there to see and she was just starting to reply by telling us that he was out of the office when we heard a voice of disbelief from someone just getting ready to come through the main door:

"And they didn't even have a heater??!?"

I turned to the receptionist and said, "There he is."

Sure enough, the door opened and there were my two inspectors and the temperature-sensitive co-worker.

They escorted us to a conference room and finished up the corrected paperwork.

With the final form finally signed, N284DG officially became an airplane.


Anonymous said...

Congrats Dave, Like your shirt too.

blazer003 said...

Congratulations! Just an awesome accomplishment. At some point I'm going to sell my certified flying machine and build my own. You're work is inspirational. Good luck with the rest of the inspections!

Anonymous said...

Congratulations Dave. I’m looking forward to reading your first flight blog. Did the FAA give you a five hour phase 1?


Brent at said...

Congrats Dave! Well done! Can't wait to see your bird in person - when it's a little warmer!


Mark said...

Great job. I've been following the blog for a very long time and am glad you finally made it!

Hendrick Adventures said...

Great to hear you have a legal airplane. I have been following for a long time, you are Torsten, and I was sorry to hear he is delayed and changing jobs and demoralized, so I came over here and see you are done, and that is great. Good flying. Stay warm.

Hendrick Adventures said...

Sorry, you "and" Torsten, not you "are" :)

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