Monday, March 24, 2014

A Different Perspective

Conditions were favorable this afternoon for a quick flight over to MadCo to fill the tank, and the idea struck me that this would be an advantageous time to practice flying from the right seat. I didn't think it would be all that difficult, but I was not under any illusion that it wouldn't be inconvenient in a number of ways. I was right on both.

It didn't take long to learn to delay the tightening of my shoulder belts until ready to taxi. The master switch and the two ignition switches are a pretty long reach away and a tightened shoulder strap doesn't provide the freedom to allow it.

It felt more than a little weird seeing my usual seat empty doing the run-up be

The other problem I had was reaching up to the panel with my left hand to tune the radio, or all the way across the panel to do stuff with the Dynon. My left hand doesn't have the sea legs of my right hand - it can't compensate for the chop as well, and choppy it was! That won't be a problem with someone else sitting over there to push the buttons, though.

Besides being choppy, it was quite cold. I learned that I need to do something more to block the air blowing in from the front of the canopy. I figured it was worth a Lincoln to block some of the breeze:

The first landing at MadCo was not very good. I'll spare you the suspense: neither were the other two. Climbing out after the first attempt, I made my left turn onto the crosswind leg. This is when the lady that lives in the Skyview tells me that there is another plane nearby with a gentle "Traffic."  I look at the screen and see a plane right where I am, at zero altitude difference! This happens now and then in just this situation - it was only shocking the first couple times, now I'm used to it.

I continued on into the downwind. At about midfield, the lady again said "Traffic." I dutifully looked at the screen and sure enough, there was a plane indicated on the screen just behind and to the right of me, and at equal altitude. Being on the right side of the plane, I was able to look over my shoulder and take a look. And there it was! There was a plane making a wide arching right turn to enter the downwind, and he was catching up to me fast.

I hadn't heard any radio calls, so I thought he might not be using his radio, or was maybe on the wrong frequency. I decided that I couldn't be sure he had me in sight, so I started a turn to the right, planning on making a 360 degree turn and re-enter the pattern behind him. Just as I was starting the turn, he transmitted that he was entering a midfield downwind and had traffic (me) in sight.

Ah, good.

I decided that having started the turn, I ought to just keep on going. I keyed the mic and said, "I was starting to wonder if you saw me. Two eighty four delta golf number two to land."

I don't know if he recognized the tail number or the paint job, but he responded with "Hi Dave."

That...... gave me pause. This is not all that common in aviation.

It turned out to be the guy that hangars directly across from me. He was in a plane unfamiliar to me, so it took me a couple of moments to figure out who he was. We were both stopping for gas so we had a chat will filling our planes. His new plane is a Piper Arrow, a four-seat, retractable landing gear plane with a 180-200 hp four cylinder engine and a constant-speed prop. I figure they cruise in the 130-135 knot range, and burn 12 - 14 gallons per hour doing it. Those are just guesses, mind you, which as good as you're going to get tonight; I'm bushed.

No matter what the exact numbers are, the fact is that he beat me back by a few minutes. I used to win races like that with the RV-6, but speed isn't the 12's game. He burned twice the gas that I did.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Too Early?

I can't help it. I'm leaning into Spring a little more than I should, knowing the March can push back harder, but I just can't help ramping up for a great season. The plane is done so there are going to be quite a few more hours to fill than I'm used to, and not all of those can be transferred to flying it. Many will, mind you, but there will be plenty left over.

So, where to start. Probably the best place is the long-term project of building a pilot. Jeff had his second "lesson" (quotes because nothing is loggable until I'm certified as a flight instructor - more on that soon) Friday evening when the ubiquitous March winds (Lions and lambs? Ban. "March: In like a bellicose blustering buffoon, out like a bellicose blustering buffoon) seems more apt to me) did us the favor of blowing through town right down our runway heading. Since this would be Jeff's first flight (other than a couple of joyrides: ) and we would be working on rudimentary stuff like flying straight and level, following a course, and making gentle turns, I would do the takeoff and landing anyway.

Even though our first lesson had been in how to taxi the plane, I went ahead and did the driving. With a very light airplane, a big vertical stabilizer, and a swiveling nose wheel, I thought the blustery crosswind we would have while taxiing down to the runway might be challenging. Not being distracted by having to concentrate on driving, we were able to talk a little more deeply about the comms interactions with the tower.

Good radio communications take a long time to learn; don't be offended, but I have to say that a great many pilots that I hear on the weekends have not yet accomplished it. To be fair, Jeff will have the advantage of learning at a tower-controlled airport - he will get to routinely deal with both controlled- and un-controlled fields. And not to brag, but he will be learning from an instrument rated pilot, a rating that is like a Masters degree in aviation radio communications.  With Bolton Field having been my home airfield for nigh on thirty years now, I've heard just about every directive in the Tower's play book.  For the most part, there are only a dozen or so things that they will routinely ask us to do. I rehearsed what I was going to say to the tower out loud for Jeff to hear, told him what I thought the mostly likely response would be, then keyed the mike and made the call.

I wonder if a flow chart mapping the different call/response interactions would be a good learning aid.  I'll have to think about that.

I explained what to expect on the takeoff, and suggested that he keep his hand loosely on the control stick while I did the takeoff so he could feel what I was doing. I'm not convinced that I have ever learned anything from that technique, but for all I know that's simply not my learning style. Nothing to lose, so why not? That said, my personal opinion is that there is more to be gained by the student just riding through the first half dozen takeoffs and landings in order to get a feel for the procedures involved and for what good takeoffs/landings should look like before getting into the stressful position of having to try it for themselves.

At 500 feet I let Jeff take over. We stayed on a straight out departure until 1,000 feet, when I had him make a right turn to the west. It took about  half hour to get to where he would keep us pointed in a cardinal direction, mostly because I never really thought about how I would teach it. What emerged as the best method was finding something on the ground we could follow. The railroad track heading west out of London, OH worked very well. When that had been mastered, I had him add the HSI to his instrument scan. I was then able to have him turn to the south and maintain that general direction. Without a convenient road to follow, we went to the next step: picking out something out near the horizon to aim it.  It's central Ohio we're talking about here, so suitable targets were sparse - mostly just flat farmland as far as we could see.

Easily solved. I pointed out the very large lake (Caesar Creek) and had him take us there. I had him make a circle around the lake and head us back to Bolton. I took over the approach and made the same mistake I always make: I call the tower at "eight miles south west."  I don't know why I do that. It causes them to send me over to the other side of the runway for a right downwind. If I had said "South" instead, the would have cleared us for the left downwind. The benefit of which would have been that my prediction as to what the tower would say wouldn't have been so embarrassingly wrong.

Well, at least the landing was a greaser.

The next thing keeping me busy is test prep for the two written tests that I have to take for the instructor certification. That, and I really need to get busy finding someone to do the dual instruction that I need.

Beyond flying, I'm starting to get other stuff ready. I got the canoe registered and a trailer for it and the kayak is on the way from Harbor Freight. I ultimately decided against getting the little flatbed trailer and modifying it. I bought the 14' boat trailer instead. I was initially turned off by the $499 price tag, but then I remembered: Harbor Freight. Sure enough, along cam a $100 off sale.  $399.  Better. But wait... I wonder if one of those 25% off coupons sitting in my allotted HCS (horizontal clutter space) parcel in the kitchen would work.  Voila!  $299, but surely they will make it all back on the shipping.

Care to guess?

What to bet on it?

You aren't going to believe it.


FedEx Ground. FedEx wouldn't two-day deliver a feather for that. To be fair, FedEx two-day was $279. Overnight was $457.  Time, it can safely be said, is money.

It will take a little while to assemble the trailer and rig some suitable cross bars in it, but that will be fun. Assembling stuff?  Well, yeah, I've been known to do that.

Having all of these modes of transportation cued up and ready to go, I've started thinking about what to do with them. I've gotten it into my head that I would like to be able to go fishing now and then, using plane, canoe, or kayak. All three require the same thing: a small fishing rod. The kayak in particular is exceedingly frugal with space.  I looked at Walmart to see what was going on in the world of really short fishing rods, of which they had a couple, but I wanted to get home and do some research first. It turns out the one of the Walmart options wasn't too bad, but it was still pretty long for the airplane and much too long for the kayak.

Give Google enough time and you will eventually find what you want. Ladies and Gentlemen, I present to you the Emmrod Packer Cast Pole:

That's small enough.

Not super cheap, though. Amazon wanted $71 + shipping (less than $6.99, if you're wondering) including a cheap casting reel. I thought it was kind of spendy, but then I met this guy.

He convinced me that it is a quality product, and it really sold me that even as small as this rod is, it can be made even smaller. The canoe is far more voluminous, so when it comes to outfitting Co-pilot Egg, herself reportedly being an avid fisher, I will likely opt for the cheaper Walmart pole.

So, now we have flying and boating/fishing lined up.  What else can I do?

I remembered my discovery of last year: the trail up to the round barn is open to pets! Cabot Bennett had an answer when I asked him if he would like to "gopher" a walk with Co-pilot Egg and me: "Woof!"

As I mentioned, March is not the most pleasant of months, but it still beats the stuffing out of February. The wind chill caused by the 20 knot winds was a not-quite-balmy 21 degrees, so Cabot had to wear his coat.

Extra points for people that remember that hat.

Cabot sometimes exhibits a tendency toward holding an exaggerated idea of his own grandeur - he often thinks he's a thoroughbred race horse:

We had a pretty stiff headwind walking up the trail, which bothered Cabot not in the least. The tailwind walking back was another story entirely.  His coat wouldn't stay down where it could do him some good. It can't possible have felt good having that cold wind blowing on his flux capacitor, either.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Getting my Bearings

The replacement bearings arrived yesterday. Still hoping to have a flyable airplane for Saturday, I fired off a text to the guy at the airport that knows a guy that has a suitable press for removing the old bearings and pressing in the new. That's the flying community for you. He asked that I call him back; he was just sitting down to watch my alma mater play basketball in a conference championship game. I have so little interest in the game of basketball that I hadn't even been aware that they were playing.

His estimate of a 4:30 completion time was just that - no one really knows when a basketball game will end. After all, the last 1:30 on the clock can easily take half an hour. Just to be sure, I turned on the TV. Our team was down by eighteen in the second half. "Heh," I thought, "I could probably just go now!  Who's going to sit through another hour of that debacle?"

Me, as it turned out, because contrary to what always happens when I tune into a game, our team actually started playing better, not worse.  The game just kept getting closer and closer until eventually I ended up sweating out the thirty minutes of the last ninety seconds. They won by four!  They lost today, of course, but I don't care - I wasn't watching.

Fifteen minutes after the game, I was at Daryl's house, and from there it was just a quick drive to his friend's place. The press was apparently out in the guy's garage, so that's where we went. My eyes bugged out of my head when we walked in and I saw this (well, these):

I asked if it was okay to take a few pictures; I could understand him not wanting these gems well publicized.

"Sure, feel free."

Wondering if I might me on a roll of incredible good fortune, I went for the brass ring:

"Mind if I take the green one out for a spin?"

Yeah, not a chance.  Worth a shot though - one never knows.

This is not to say that my pool of luck had fully evaporated - I was still able to 'Tom Sawyer' those guys into doing my work for me.

By now you're wondering if I asked about buying one or both of the cars... because, who wouldn't? We actually did reach and agreement of sorts: he wasn't selling, and I wasn't buying.  


I stopped by the house to pick up Co-pilot Egg, thinking it possible (if not likely) that an extra set of hands might come in, well... handy.  I over-estimated her potential contribution by an egregious degree; in the event, her sole purpose of being there was apparently to make peurile "That's what she said" jokes every time I made reference to "nuts being too small" or "not being able to get it in the hole."

I had to dig out Gucci, my trusty rivet gun, to re-attach the anti-spin doohickey due to the lack of a squeezer. That's the downside of borrowed tools: eventually you have to give them back.

Egg had found a new job by then; taking goofy selfies with my camera while my attention was diverted.

I thought about asking her to help with getting the bolt pushed into the hole, but thought better of it. She had finally stopped with the TWSS jokes and I sure wasn't keen on getting her started again.

Look at it spin!  I'm calling that fixed!!

My victory went unnoticed. Both Egg and my camera had departed for the warmer climes of the car.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Going Around in Circles

Going around in circles. Literally, not metaphorically.

Jeff had his first "flying" lesson. Why the quotes around 'flying'?  Simple: we didn't do any.

Here's where I am in the whole Make a Pilot program: I've worked most of the way through the Light Sport Pilot training provided by the excellent iPad app from Sporty's. At the completion of the training, Sporty's will send me an endorsement that will allow me to plunk down a ridiculously high $150 for the privilege of taking the Sport Pilot written test.

That isn't the test that I need to take, though. I actually have to take the Instructor - Sport Pilot written test, and the endorsements are not transferable. To get the endorsement that I need, I will have to work through a series of practice tests using Prepware's online training for the Certified Flight Instructor. Fortunately, the CFI test prep also contains the questions I will need to take and pass the other written test, Fundamentals of Instruction (FOI).  Unfortunately, the FOI test is another $150.


Odd that I don't seem to be rushing into it, eh?

I then need three hours of dual instruction from a CFI qualified to provide it. This is one of the weird things about the current state of private aviation: everyone is willing to bitch about how the ranks of private pilots are becoming dangerously thin, but fire off an email to a flight school asking if they have a CFI on staff capable of providing training and you will be met with stony silence. I have yet to resort to the phone, but past experience tells me that I am likely to get a similar reception.  Everyone wants to gripe about people not being interested in flying; no one wants to do anything about it, even when it's their job to do so.

What this means to Jeff is that he wouldn't be able to log any hours that we fly, but that doesn't matter to him all that much since he won't be paying for them anyway. I can apparently give dual instruction in my plane (once I'm certified), but I can't charge for it. That has to do with the nature of the Experimental category that the RV-12 falls into.

None of that matters right now, because he can't even taxi the airplane yet.  Well, I guess I should say "couldn't," because he can now.  It was too windy to fly last night, but the weather was nice and we needed to spend an hour taxiing around the hangars sooner or later anyway, so we did.

There is one thing you need to understand about taxiing an airplane with a free swiveling (as opposed to a Cessna or a Piper which have steerable nose wheels) nose wheel: it's hard to do. The closest comparable life experience you may have is steering a sled, and even that works in the exact opposite direction. To turn left on a sled, you press forward with your right foot. To left left in an airplane, you push forward with your left foot. If that's not complicated enough, in an airplane with a swiveling nose wheel, you can push that left foot as far as you want and nothing will happen, at least not at speeds too slow for the rudder to be effective. Instead, you steer by applying the brakes.

Most airplanes have what is called "differential braking," which boils down to meaning that there is a brake on each side of the landing gear and they can be applied together or separately. They are applied by pressing forward at the top of the rudder pedal - the rudder pedals are hinged at the bottom so that the tops will swivel forward. So, if you want to make a left turn, you either jab at the left brake, or if you are moving fast enough, apply light pressure to the left brake.  One of the challenges is learning which technique is applicable: if you jab, you risk applying so much braking that the plane stops. If you use light pressure, you run the risk of it not being enough and having the airplane get away from you.

Another challenge is that the airplane does not want to track straight and true of its own volition, especially when the winds are up. The wind will hit the side of the rudder/vertical stab and rotate the plane. You have to be ready to counteract that.  Also, once in a turn, the plane typically won't center itself; it takes opposite side brake pressure to straighten it back out.

A typical turn to the right will require pressure (jab or drag) on the right brake/rudder pedal to start the turn. When the correct degree of turn has been achieved, it will take left brake/rudder pressure to stop the turn. You actually have to lead that a little bit because the response is not immediate. Learning the timing and feel for all of this is much harder than it sounds.

I think it was about forty-five minutes of looping around the hangars before Jeff got comfortable with it. There were a number of times when the plane got away from him and he exacerbated the problem by jabbing at the wrong brake. When that was starting to appear chronic, I had him stop the plane so I could take a few minutes to ask him to think a little differently about it. Once I vocalized the difference between "sled" steering and differential braking, the problem was solved.  All we had to do was finish the loop around the hangars and we would be done for the night.

That's when it happened.

We were taxiing along at a pace no faster than a brisk walk when we heard a sound that clearly wasn't normal. It sounded as if we were dragging a chain link fence underneath us. I had Jeff stop and shut down the engine so I could climb out and take a look. All appeared normal until I saw a little metal piece painted the same color as the plane sitting on the taxiway. It was one of the two anti-spin doohickeys that keep the nose wheel axle from spinning. The rivets were sheared completely off.

I pulled the plane forward and the awful cacophony from the nose wheel told be all that I needed to know: at least one of the bearings had seized. We taxied very slowly back to the hangar and put the plane away.

While I had Jeff there to help, I got the nose up on a jack so we could spin the wheel.


Yeah, that ain't right.

So, two bearings are on order from Matco (part number MSC 1628DCTN, $15.60 each) and expected to arrive in a couple of days. In the meantime, I have the wheel off and the tire/tube removed.  The bearings are a press fit and it takes an arbor press to remove them, but quite fortunately I ran into someone at the airport today that has access to such a tool. He should be able to get the old bearings out and the new ones in.

Worst case is I just buy a new wheel: $79.

Sunday, March 9, 2014


We aren't quite to the point where I am comfortable with making an easily contradicted statement along the lines of "Finally, this long winter is over!" but we must be getting close. At least it's not snowing, and every now and then we get some "good enough" flying weather. Yesterday was a good example: not warm enough for shorts and T-shirts, but the parka and mittens stayed in the coat closet. The air was calm, but in the sense of humid August afternoon five days into a stagnant high pressure area. The forecast promised benign air, but only seven miles visibility. That sounds like a lot when you're sitting on the ground, but it's not much to look at in the air. It was the kind of forecast that would elicit a disinterested "Meh..." in the more clement months, but a "Kumbaya!" when emerging from a dismal winter.

Calm air. Perfect for practicing takeoffs and landings, but even more perfect for teaching someone else to do them. I had always been tempted to teach co-pilot Rick how to takeoff and land in the RV-6, but teaching a nose wheel pilot to land a tail wheel airplane always seemed like a bit too much risk. The RV-12 is significantly different in that area: it is very simple to land.

I had Rick taxi around the hangars for three laps to get a feel for the swiveling nose wheel, which is very, very different from the steerable nose wheels he was used to. Without (well, even with) my years of tail wheel experience, it would have been much harder for me to adapt to it also. I figured getting a feel for it on the taxiways was safer than trying to figure it out during a takeoff roll. By the time we got to the end of runway 22, I was reasonably sure that he would be able to keep it pointed down the runway, although I strongly that Rick would go through the same over-braking learning curve that I did. That proved true, but by his fourth takeoff he was much lighter on the brakes.

He got the feel for the landings even faster.  It really is a friendly little airplane. That said, it is somewhat counter-intuitive that the landings are easier than the takeoffs, but it's true. Early on in the takeoff roll, you have to steer using the brakes and it is very difficult to get comfortable with that. You're urging the plane to get up to the speed where the nose will lift and there will be sufficient air across the rudder to make it effective for steering. It feels detrimental to the process to be using the brakes at the best of times, but even more so when you're still trying to get a feel for how much is just enough.  When landing, braking feels much more natural - you're trying to get the plane slowed down anyway, right? Of course you're using the brakes! The only issue he had with the landings was that it felt to be like he was flaring too high. Keep in mind, though, that I was as nervous as a caged canary in an Ecuadorian coal mine - it's not easy giving up that level of control for the first time. I needn't have worried - they all turned out fine.

After transitioning Rick from co-pilot to Captain status, we went up to Urbana for breakfast. Being a Saturday, the B-17 restoration place was open and we stopped in for a visit. One of the neatest things about the place is the willingness of the guys working there to stop what they're doing and tour you around a little. I enjoyed a fifteen minute chat with the guy that flies their B-25 - it's always interesting to talk to a pilot about an airplane that drinks oil by the gallon and has fuel burns measuring in at 100-plus gallons per hour.

It's also interesting to talk to the restorers. Having built an airplane provides an entirely new perspective for looking at what they have accomplished. Four years ago, I would have looked at the hook-shaped oil tank oil tank straps and naively shrugged them off as just a simple part. Now I look at T-shaped aluminum bent into a fairly tight radius with the stem of the 'T' on the outside of the bend and think, "How in the world did they do that?"  This naturally prompted me to ask, "How in the world did they do that??"  The answer was, "Very slowly," just in case you're wondering too.

Another part that was very difficult for them to fabricate was the oil cooler scoop mount at the bottoms of the engine nacelles. It's the unpainted part that looks like a door in the picture below. They made it by routing a channel into a large flat piece of wood, then bending a steel hoop that matches the outline of the recessed area around the circumference of the part. The routed wood was the female part of the mold and the bent steel rod was the male. They used a press to for the steel hoop into the mold, thus creating the trough around the edge.

Me? I unpacked kits and riveted stuff together. Not the same thing at all!

They've got quite a bit done up in the nose of the plane where the bombardier sat. The wooden box holds the belts of .50 caliber ammo for the nose gun(s).

The panel on the wall controls the oxygen required for flying over 14,500' in an unpressurized airplane.

They even have a Norden bomb sight. There was a day when I would have been executed as a spy for taking pictures of it.

The Norden bombsight was a tachometric bombsight used by the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) and the United States Navy during World War II, and the United States Air Force in the Korean and the Vietnam Wars to aid the crew of bomber aircraft in dropping bombs accurately. Key to the operation of the Norden were two features; an analog computer that constantly calculated the bomb's trajectory based on current flight conditions, and a linkage to the bomber's autopilot that let it react quickly and accurately to changes in the wind or other effects. 
Together, these features allowed for unprecedented accuracy in day bombing from high altitudes; in testing the Norden demonstrated a circular error probable (CEP) of 23 metres (75 ft), an astonishing performance for the era. This accuracy allowed direct attacks on ships, factories, and other point targets. Both the Navy and the AAF saw this as a means to achieve war aims through high-altitude bombing, without resorting to area bombing, as proposed by European forces. To achieve these aims, the Norden was granted the utmost secrecy well into the war, and was part of a then-unprecedented production effort on the same scale as the Manhattan Project.
Since the Norden was considered a critical wartime instrument, bombardiers were required to take an oath during their training stating that they would defend its secret with their own life if necessary. In case the bomber plane should make an emergency landing on enemy territory, the bombardier would have to shoot the important parts of the Norden with a gun to disable it. As this method still would leave a nearly intact apparatus to the enemy, a thermite grenade was installed; the heat of the chemical reaction would melt the Norden into a lump of metal.
The Douglas TBD Devastator torpedo bomber was originally equipped with flotation bags in the wings to aid the aircrew's escape after ditching, but they were removed once the Pacific War began; this ensured that the aircraft would sink, taking the Norden with it.
After each completed mission, bomber crews left the aircraft with a bag which they deposited in a safe. This secure facility was typically in one of the base's Nissen hut support buildings. The Bombsight Shop was manned by enlisted men who were members of a Supply Depot Service Group ("Sub Depot") attached to each USAAF bombardment group. These shops not only guarded the bombsights but performed critical maintenance on the Norden and related control equipment. This was probably the most technically skilled ground-echelon job, and certainly the most secret, of all the work performed by Sub Depot personnel. The non-commissioned officer in charge and his staff had to have a high aptitude for understanding and working with mechanical devices.
In spite of the security precautions, the entire Norden system had been passed to the Germans before the war started. Herman W. Lang, a German spy, had been employed by the Carl L. Norden Company. During a visit to Germany in 1938, Lang conferred with German military authorities and reconstructed plans of the confidential materials from memory. In 1941, Lang, along with the 32 other German agents of the Duquesne Spy Ring, was arrested by the FBI and convicted in the largest espionage prosecution in U.S. history. He received a sentence of 18 years in prison on espionage charges and a two-year concurrent sentence under the Foreign Agents Registration Act.
Note that historians, who pride themselves on their 20/10 hindsight and concomitant vastly superior morals, may have a differing view of both the historical impact and morality of its use. I'll leave it to you to decide.  Me? I just have a thing for mechanical gadgets - I think they're wicked cool.

This is what it will look like when it's done.  Note the flight yoke looking like thing standing on a post to the right of the bomb site. That is the control for moving and aiming the chin turret.

The inverted U hanging down above the bomb sight must have been an aiming sight for the chin turret. 

It seems like that bombardier could have been a very busy fellow at times.

You can read the users manual for the chin turret here:

A lot of the parts that the team finds for the restoration come from odd places. There was something (I forget what it was) that they found under an old widow's porch. The throttle stand was found in a bar.

And again using my preternatural ability to peer into the future, here is what it will look like installed. Looking at this has prompted me into trying to find out why there are six throttle handles to manage four engines.  My working theory is that the two handles on the top of the six pack control the #1 and #4 engines, or in other words, the furthest out on the left wing (#1) and the furthest out on the right wing (#4) independently of the other two. You would do this if you wanted to use differential thrust to assist in getting the big bird to turn while taxiing on the ground. The middle two handles (they look like there are four - they are split down through the 'cylinder') would be used to control all four engines at the same time. The bottom two would control the inboard engines.

Update: Well, there ya go!  I was right.

In this one, you can see how they use the middle level controls to advance the throttle on all four engines:

Some (most, actually) things they build up from plans. Something like 99% of this control surface is newly built, but they found the original torque tube - fabricated a new one would have cost tens of thousands of dollars, and it's a barely noticeable part.  It's the little things that matter the most, it seems.

This is a mold being built to form a new piece for the turtle deck that streamlines air behind the cockpit and dorsal turret.

It will be just forward of the yellow 'DF':

They even restore the machine guns, although I strongly suspect that they will be inert.

The vertical stab is almost entirely new build.

They have reams of drawings and plans to work from.

They even have (inter) bombs to carry in the bomb bay, someday.

In less interesting news, there is a new RV-12 at my airport. One of the guys that would stop by now and then when I was building my plane has made the leap: he sold his Cessna 172 and bought a nearly complete RV-12. Pete and I are both excited about the prospect of helping him finish it up - it's right at the stage where it starts to sink in that this thing is going to fly in the near future. 

As luck would have it, he thinks my brown seat cushions (which I selected years before I know what color the plane would eventually be) will look better with his intended scheme than the cushions that came with his. And I thought his cushions would go better with my paint than the brown ones.

What do you think?

As I transition to the new interior design, I'm either going to have to re-paint or (and more likely) buy the interior kit from Van's to get everything back in sync, but that's easy to do and there is no great urgency to do it. I'm probably going to have to re-do the panel too, but that is also something I've already been thinking about as a "some day" project.