Prepping for Paint

We are finally going to get the airplane a coat of paint! Coming up on 3 years after the first flight, it is about time. The bare aluminum is very glarey in the sun, and it needs a bit of protection from the elements. Even though the plane is hangared, it does have some little spots of surface corrosion beginning to appear. It is the sort of stuff that you can polish right out, but I’m never going to be someone who spends time polishing the plane. There are plenty of unpainted RV’s out there, and I want my airplane to stand out a bit from the crowd.

There is an endless debate about painting before or after the first flight. I just wanted to get the airplane flying as soon as possible, and I really didn’t have any inspiration for what sort of paint job I wanted. Heck, I didn’t even have an interior in the airplane for the first flight! I decided that for me, I would fly first, paint later.

There are many good reasons not to paint before the airplane flies for the first time. The main reasons are during the Phase 1 testing, you might find issues that would require you to mess up a perfectly good paint job. I had a number of issues during the first 3 years of flying that were resolved, and had the airplane been painted, it would have been a problem. Here is a short list:

  • My steps on the airplane started to crack. This is a known design defect that Van’s has since addressed by adding some welded on reinforcements. I had to drill out all of the rivets holding the steps on the fuselage, sand blast the steps and send them in for welding. I couldn’t imagine removing these on a fresh paint job!
  • I have a heavy left wing, so I did a number of experiments with various trim tab options on the ailerons. As of now, I’m just going to tape on a small wedge under the right aileron. The width of the wedge has been tweaked several times and is now at 5 inches, it is almost perfect. It will be glued on the aileron over the final paint job.
  • My early issues with my single COMM radio got me thinking about at some point adding a second radio. I went ahead and made a second antenna doubler and riveted it to the interior belly skin. I’m going to have the second antenna on the airplane when it gets painted. The second COMM radio for now is my handheld.
  • After I experienced a flat tire, I went ahead and put on new tires. The openings on the  wheel pants needed to be trimmed more, since the replacement tires were a bit bigger (retreads). Cutting into the paint on the wheel pants would have been another problem.
  • My pitot mount under the left wing was the subject of a recall for the welds cracking. I installed the replacement pitot tube that has much better welding. That would have had to be painted, along with the drilled out rivets on the wing bottom.
  • I had a small section of the thin filler crack off on the tip up canopy frame where the fiberglass fairing up front transitions into the aluminum side skins. Not sure how that happened, but I don’t think I scuffed the underlying surface enough. I had to re-scuffed the area, fill in the chipped off area and sand down the new micro slurry on the canopy side rail and it has been fine ever since.
  • I also used a small syringe with the epoxy micro mixture and filled all of the tiny holes in the pull rivets on the tail, rudder, ailerons and flaps. Doing this was totally unnecessary, but after the paint goes on, you won’t be able to tell where any pull rivets are on the airplane.
  • I was also given a tiny fairing for the nose wheel that I bonded on to the front wheel pant.

Now that all of the tweaking on the airplane is more or less completed, let’s finally get started on the process of designing a paint scheme. I didn’t want “white with a stripe”. Boring! I didn’t want to go with a military scheme. I want this airplane to stand out from the crowd of RV’s. Online browsing of various airplane photo sites came up with hundreds of schemes to look at for inspiration. I even attended an EAA webinar about paint scheme designs. The process is a lot more complicated than you’d think. I ended up deciding that I would just hire a designer to come up with the paint scheme. My initial doodles on paper never really lived up to anything. Hiring a professional is money well spent. The design cost is a fraction of what the actual paint job will end up costing. I ended up contacting Jonathan McCormick at PlaneSchemer to come up with a design. I really liked what he has done with many other airplanes. His designs are clean and modern. So many of the more commercial designs (Cessna, Cirrus, Beech, Piper) just look uninteresting to me. Trying to adapt a scheme for a King Air to look good on an RV just won’t work.

After looking at many paint schemes, I decided on not having any white, red, blue, green, brown or orange. I like silver, yellow, black and purple. Yellow is a hard color to get right. It can go from looking bright like a lemon to something more orangey like a school bus. In the end, I decided that there were just too many RV’s out there with yellow and not enough with purple. My wife likes purple, too.

I sent Jonathan an email for a quote and he got right back to me, although he did say he was pretty busy. I didn’t have any deadlines, so we got started just over a year ago. I sent in my deposit and waited. We went through a bunch of iterations to get some likes/dislikes figured out. I got a chance at Oshkosh to meet Jonathan and see some of his work. Here are the first 5 renditions.

I liked the darker colors and the more flowing lines, so another round or two and we arrive at the final design. I wanted some “Tail Art” in the design and decided on some kind of feathery motif.


The final colors haven’t been decided on at this point, but I want some sparkle in the paint, so there will be some metal flake or pearl in the mix, along with a final clear coat. Purple isn’t a common aircraft paint choice, so I’ll probably be using some automotive paint colors. Getting here has taken about a year, and the date with the paint shop (Corona Air Paint) is arriving this month.

I can’t wait to have her back looking pretty!

Flying Stats for 2016

Time to look back at my flying statistics for 2016. Last year I put on 141.7 hours, and this year was amazingly consistent at 142.1 hours. Total time on the RV-9A at the end of 2016 was 360 hours. I now have 505 hours of Pilot-in-Command time. We took a bunch of longer overnight trips this year. The longest trip was to Oshkosh Airventure in Wisconsin. We took some 3 day weekend trips to Napa, Salt Lake City, and Sierra Vista, AZ. We did overnight trips to Long Beach, Las Vegas and Salt Lake. Other events included the AOPA Fly-In at Prescott, AZ, the Lancaster Air-Fair, and the Aircraft Spruce customer appreciation event in Corona. The majority of flights were within the greater SoCal area and entail either breakfast or lunch or a sunset flight. Only 4.4 hours of night flying and that was just keeping night current (3 takeoffs and landings every 90 days).

I hit 7 more states this year, up from 6 last year. The longest leg flown was 4.5 hours non-stop from Evanston, WY to Ramona, CA on the way back from Oshkosh. I took up 9 people who had not yet flown in the airplane for rides. It is always fun to take people up for a flight. Wanna go? You just have to ask! I added 30 new airports to the map of airports visited.

Here is map of our 2016 travels.


I only have a few destinations lined up for 2017. I’m hoping to get the airplane painted soon. I definitely want to see the Great American Eclipse in August, so we will hopefully get up to the Oregon/Idaho area for that. Maybe another Oshkosh trek in 2017? Sun-N-Fun? I’m sure we will be making trips to visit our daughter in Utah again, and of course, there is always the Bucket List to work on.

Happy New Year!

Flying Destinations Bucket List

I’ve been working on a Bucket List of places to fly to (you know, before I kick the bucket). So many places to go! I’ve seen a couple of other lists and decided to compile my own here.

Some of the destinations are close by, and others will take a bit more effort to achieve. I’ve actually checked a few off the list already. Several trips flying out over the Rockies to Boulder, CO to visit our daughter when she went to CU-Boulder, and we have now done the trek to Salt Lake City, UT where she is continuing her graduate education at University of Utah. The big destination of Oshkosh, WI for Airventure was completed this summer. We also managed to do a long weekend trip up to Napa, CA. Last year we did Monument Valley, UT and Santa Fe, NM. Another fun bucket list trip was up to Reno, NV for the National Air Races.

On the list that are close by are landing at El Mirage Dry Lake, and Chiriaco Summit. Agua Caliente, CA is probably the closest to us. I’ve landed at the strip there, but didn’t stop to experience the hot springs, pools or do any hiking/camping. Harris Ranch is another destination I’ve been wanting to hit. Great place to have a steak lunch or dinner. We also still haven’t visited much of the central coast of California. My older daughter wants to visit Monterey and go to the Aquarium. We’ve planned that twice and both times were deterred by either weather or the big fees for the car show weekend (Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance). We have family in Santa Maria and always love getting a good Tri-Tip BBQ meal up there (and fresh strawberries). Mammoth Lakes and Lake Tahoe are great places in both the winter and summer to visit. Lee Vining airport is close to the Tuolumne Pass in Yosemite NP. You can get a shuttle bus from there up to the park. Visalia, CA is a gateway to Sequoia NP and they also have shuttle buses you can ride up to the park. Kernville, CA airport has a campground close to the Kern River where you can fish. Columbia, CA also has airport camping in the Sierra foothills. The lowest airport in the US is at Furnace Creek in Death Valley NP at 210 feet below sea level.

A bit farther from us are numerous destinations in the Southwest, such as Sedona, AZ and Grand Canyon NP. We’ve been over the Grand Canyon many times, but we haven’t landed at the GCN airport near the South Rim, or any of the smaller ones like Bar Ten Ranch or Marble Canyon. Grand Canyon Caverns would be another fun destination out on old Route 66. We have stopped in Page, AZ for gas, but one of these days we need to stay longer to do the Antelope Canyon and Rainbow Bridge NM tours. My wife loves Native American jewelry and you can’t do better than visit Gallup, NM and Richardson Trading Co. Our next trip this month will be out to Sierra Vista, AZ to see Bisbee, Tombstone, Kartchner Caverns and Coronado NM.

Farther away is Bryce Canyon NP, which has an airport close by. West Yellowstone, MT is on the short list for next summer. Yellowstone is my favorite National Park to visit. Johnson Creek, ID is a back woods grass strip with some spectacular camping/hiking opportunities. Another National Park with an airport is Jackson Hole, WY and the Grand Tetons. On the way back from Oshkosh 2016, I flew over Mt. Rushmore in South Dakota. There are several National Parks in that area that I’d like to visit, such as Wind Cave and the Badlands. Hitting the highest airport in the US at Leadville, CO is another bucket list destination.

Longer trips on the list are out towards the east coast. New Orleans, LA for Mardi Gras? The Everglades, Key West, FL and flying out over Ft. Jefferson in the Dry Tortugas. Doing a low pass over the Shuttle Landing Facility at Cape Canaveral. Flying up the east coast and stopping at First Flight in Kittyhawk, NC. Visiting New York City and doing the Hudson Corridor. Block Island, Nantucket, Martha’s Vineyard near Boston, and visiting Bar Harbor, ME and Acadia NP.

Farther north to Oregon to visit Van’s, and up to the Orcas Islands in Washington are also on the list. Cascades NP in Washington and Glacier NP in Montana would be easy to make in an extended weekend trip. This summer on August 21, 2017 will be the Total Solar Eclipse across the US, and it will cross over a large part of the Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming area. Can’t miss that event!

Flying up to Alaska via the ALCAN Hwy is probably going to have to wait until I retire and have enough time off to really make the most of it. I’m not even going to try to keep up with Vlad and his epic trek to Alaska this last summer. So many National Parks up in Alaska to visit! Unfortunately, until I retire I probably won’t be able to just “hit the skies” and wander at my own pace. One of the best ever trip reports was done recently on VAF by Scott Chastain. Very inspiring! I need to win the Lotto…

I’d like to think eventually we will venture out to some international destinations like the Bahamas, Mexico, Canada, and some Caribbean Island locations. Heck, now that sanctions have been lifted I’d really like to visit Cuba some day. Baja Mexico has many interesting destinations and that area is much more close to home. Whale watching and Margaritas by the beach sound like fun. I just need to tag along with someone more experienced before I venture down there by myself.

So many places to go! Can you tell that we love visiting our National Parks?

What did I miss? Leave me a suggestion in the comments.

EAA Airventure Oshkosh 2016

I finally, after 30 plus years, made it to the biggest airshow in the world. To fly there in an airplane you built by yourself in the garage made it even more special. Van’s Aircraft was celebrating the 30th anniversary of the very successful RV-6 model, and boy were there a lot of RV’s there. I committed to going early enough to clear my busy schedule and take off for the week.


The trip out to Wisconsin started early Saturday morning. I was awake before the alarm went off at 4am. I got to the airport while it was still dark and put the last of my stuff in the airplane. Camping gear was already in the back. I just put my luggage in the front seat, strapped it in and was ready to go after a quick preflight.


Ken (RV-7) and Suresh (RV-7A) were also headed out, so we flew in a loose flight of three. First stop was St. John’s, Arizona for some cheap fuel. The sun came up as we were just getting over the low desert. Clear skies the whole way.

After we fueled up we departed again towards Dalhart, Texas. We flew higher on this leg to cross the Continental Divide. I put on the O2 and cruised comfortably at 13,500′. The descent into Dalhart was bumpy and hot below 8,000′. We lined up for fuel, then tied down the airplanes, borrowed the courtesy car and went into town for some lunch. At this point our destinations diverged. I was going to Ankeny, Iowa, and they were headed to Kansas and Chicago. We had a very high overcast that eventually spawned a few rain showers, but I only got a few drops as I crossed the Missouri River. I made a brief stop in Tarkio, Missouri to fill up the tanks and have a quick bio break. I departed the hot, humid, steamy ground for cooler air up high. I picked up flight following with Des Moines Approach and flew direct into Ankeny. Not much going on in Des Moines traffic wise. The only other airplanes I saw across Kansas were Ken and Suresh.

I got the airplane tied down for the night at Ankeny, and was planning on walking over to the hotel, but the FBO offered to drive me there (in air-conditioned comfort). After getting settled in I walked across the street and had a nice Steak and Shrimp meal at Outback Steakhouse.img_7752-m


I got up early the next morning and walked over to the airport. It was less than a mile, and the temps in the morning were much cooler. The skies were clear towards Wisconsin, but were expected to go overcast as we neared Oshkosh. I cruised across Iowa and crossed the Mississippi River and landed at Boscobel, Wisconsin to top off the fuel before heading into Oshkosh. As I came into Boscobel, the skies were starting to close in with a low overcast. By the time I fueled up, it was solid overcast and fairly low. I decided to wait around until it got better.


Weather looking wet and stormy by Oshkosh.

I met a guy fueling there that was from Ft. Collins, Colorado. Just before I fueled up another guy in a Navion was getting gas and he was also from Ft. Collins! Turns out they knew each other. As we talked about whether to press on or not (Oshkosh was looking Marginal VFR), another RV shows up. It was a guy from Santa Ynez, California I had met before at Alpine County airport last year. After a couple of hours the ceiling seemed to be improved, so the 3 of us decided to test the skies by flying over to Tri-County Lone Rock airport, which has a diner on the airport. None of us had eaten breakfast and it was almost lunchtime. The forecast indicated that the ceilings over Oshkosh should be improving during the day.

After a nice breakfast/lunch meal I was able to scoot safely under the overcast at 1,800 to 2,000 feet towards Ripon, Wisconsin. Ripon is where you begin to line up and fly into Oshkosh. The bad conditions had turned better, but this caused everyone to bunch up in the arrivals. About 20 miles out, I started listening to ATIS. Nothing. OK, let’s just listen to Fisk Approach Control. Now it gets real. The controllers are talking nonstop and there apparently was an incident that closed down one of the arrival runways. This meant that the spacing needed to be around a mile between planes, instead of a half mile. I quickly learned that it was going to be awhile before they could drain the queue of airplanes on the Rush Lake hold and we get past Ripon. There are two holding patterns for situations like this. Since I was not yet past Ripon, I was to circle Green Lake and hold at 90 Knots and 1,800 feet. There were probably 100 planes in the area, so it is important to keep looking outside for traffic. There were some knuckleheads going the wrong direction in the hold, and others flying too high, too fast, too low, and too slow. The other holding pattern was closer to Oshkosh and they hold around Rush Lake, which is between Ripon and Fisk. The controllers were slowly draining the airplanes out of the Rush Lake hold and over to Runway 18 at Oshkosh. Each runway has an approach that you fly. It is pretty easy to understand the procedure if you have the NOTAM and have studied it. After two laps around Green Lake, the airplanes in the Rush Lake hold were cleared on, so the next time I came around to Ripon I figured I would be able to head into Oshkosh. The problem was that everyone holding had the same idea. The controllers got too many folks that moved up to Ripon, so they started to sort them out again in the Rush Lake hold. I did another lap around Green Lake at 90 Knots and 1,800 feet with at least a dozen airplanes around and ahead of me.


Look at all of the traffic on the display!

Third time is the charm! The controllers started allowing airplanes up to Ripon. I was in a really tight formation with a Bonanza above me and going too slow. There were several other airplanes side by side within a half mile ahead of me. Between Ripon and Fisk we were supposed to be single file and with half mile spacing. I decided to bail out and try again. I turned back to Ripon and could see the conga line of airplanes with some decent spacing. I saw a nice large gap and turned around to get back in line. Over Fisk the controllers start giving each airplane a runway assignment and ask you to rock your wings to acknowledge. Silver RV take Fisk Ave to Runway 18R, rock your wings! Nice wing rock, welcome to Oshkosh.

The Runway 18 approach has you descend on the downwind and make your base leg before the control tower and there is a big blue dot on the runway to line up with. I made a nice smooth turn and landed on the yellow dot. I turned right off the first taxiway and was at the big show. I put up my “HBC” sign to be directed to Homebuilt Camping. I had to taxi in the grass to park, but the ground was pretty smooth.


It took me a little bit to get situated. I got the airplane tied down securely, set up camp and then headed over to the Homebuilder’s registration to pick up my wristband and camping credentials. I got a nice engraved mug, sticker, patch, and a nice wooden plaque for completing my Homebuilt. That evening in the Homebuilt camping area under a big tent we had a craft beer tasting party that was organized by Mike Bullock from I must have tasted a lot because I was definitely feeling it the next morning.



I slept in as much as I could Monday morning, but eventually the bladder will make you get up. I took a shower, had some food, then decided to check out the exhibit halls. There are 4 big buildings full of various vendors. It was hot out, but at least there was shade inside. I walked and walked around the first two halls, then moved up towards the flight line to see some of the static display aircraft. I got to see the B-29 “Fifi” arrive.


I got some lunch (Subway sandwich meal was $13!) and then took the tram all the way south to the Ultralight area. On the way back I did some walking around in the Vintage area. Lots of Seaplanes and Amphibians were also parked at that south end of the field. I did the rest of the exhibit halls and later headed back to Homebuilt Camping to rest and relax. Monday night was the RV beer social. I had a beer and was still feeling a bit dehydrated, so I ended up staying with soda’s and water for the rest of the night. Monday night also has an opening concert, so I walked over just to catch the last song by Third Eye Blind and their encore. Later in the evening they had a Balloon Glow. The airport closes at 8pm, so no launching, just inflating.



I woke up earlier on Tuesday, had some food, then a shower and decided to walk around the Homebuilt area. I visited the TeenFlight and Eagle’s Nest programs. These are programs that get high school students the opportunity to build an RV-12 and to learn to fly it. My wife (now teaching the PTLW Aerospace Engineering class) is hoping to get something like this set up at Ramona HS at some point.


I had lunch (Wisconsin Bratwurst sandwich) and then visited the Van’s Aircraft tent. I picked up my banquet tickets and bought a couple of T-shirts. I walked around the rest of the afternoon and saw more exhibits, tents and sat in on a couple of presentations. Dinner was at the EAA Nature Center and the Van’s RV banquet. Food was great, and Paul Rosales gave a presentation on traveling by RV around the US and Caribbean Islands.


My mission was to go see the EAA Museum. I took the bus over and enjoyed walking around in the airconditioned building for several hours. They have a really nice collection of airplanes there. I got lunch just outside the museum and the guy sitting across from me at a picnic table got an alert on his phone that rain was coming. About 10 minutes later it was pouring. I waited out the worst of it in the museum, then once it let up, got on the bus back to Airventure. I took the tram out to the Warbirds area and from there had a front row view of the afternoon airshow. It sprinkled a bit more, but nothing like the first downpour. At 4:00pm I met up with the crew and we headed over to Camp Scholler with some help from the Welcome Wagon. There must have been 10,000 camp sites in Camp Scholler! We got in a car and drove north to the Black Otter for some prime rib dinner. I came back with a huge piece of meat and a potato for dinner the next day. We got to watch some of the night airshow when we returned. That night there was some rain, but my tent managed to stay dry. The temps really cooled off with the rainy weather and I actually had to get in the sleeping bag to keep warm.


Last full day at Airventure. I got up early and actually had to put long pants and a sweatshirt on to stay warm. It was cloudy and rainy off an on during the day. I went to several more forum presentations, and did another pass of the Warbird area before they roped it off for the afternoon airshow. I thought about getting on the bus to the Seaplane base, but just ran out of time. Leftover Prime Rib for dinner, then I headed up to the North 40 camping area via bus to go to the Uncontrolled Airspace Podcast party just outside the gate to the Super 8 motel. They had lots of good beers and snacks. I got to meet a bunch of really nice folks. I have to say that everyone at Oshkosh was so nice and friendly. Airplane people are the best! They had a trivia contest about the podcast and I managed to win a T-shirt. Thursday night I went to bed early (it was still pretty cool out). It rained hard during the night, but again I managed to stay dry.


Time to depart for home. I packed up, took a shower and loaded the airplane. The tent was still pretty wet, so I put it loosely into a plastic garbage bag. The ceilings were below 1,000′ AGL, so no VFR departures for several hours. Finally, after listening to ATIS and the Tower frequencies on my handheld radio, they opened for departures around 11am. I had to really tug and pull on the towbar to get my plane out of the soft, wet grass field where I had been parked all week. I started up, got marshalled to the taxiway and was in line to leave VFR. The line moved constantly, so it probably only took 15-20 minutes to get on the runway and take off. You have to stay below 1,300′ in the Class D airspace on a certain heading before you can turn or climb. I knew that the skies north of Oshkosh were clear and sunny, so I headed northwest to Central Wisconsin at about 2,000′. Thankfully, no mountains out here, so flying low under an overcast isn’t too scary. I landed at Taylor County airport for fuel, then flew just clear of the clouds to the south down to Luverne, Minnesota for my next fuel stop. I got in line behind a SuperCub who was refueling. The guy asked me a couple of questions about my RV-9A. Turns out, he was Larry Vetterman of Vetterman Exhaust, which is where I bought my exhaust system for the airplane. He asked where I was headed and I said I didn’t really have much of a plan for where I was overnighting. I mentioned that Rapid City or Colorado would be an option. Larry lives in Hot Springs, South Dakota, so he gave me the phone number of the airport manager and told me to call him and reserve the courtesy car and that I could get a hotel in Hot Springs. About 2 hours later, I land in Hot Springs, get the car, Larry takes me into town to get a hotel room, and we have dinner together. It was a perfect serendipitous evening.


Tied down in Hot Springs, SD for the night.


I got up early, had some food at the hotel, then took off from Hot Springs and headed due north for about 15 minutes to see Mt. Rushmore.


From there I turned west towards Wyoming and home. There wasn’t much to see over Wyoming. A few fires made it hazy and smoky as I got near Rock Springs. I landed at Evanston, which is just next to Utah and got refueled. From Evanston I flew non-stop for 4.5 hours home. I got some light chop bumpiness over Utah, but it smoothed out once I hit Nevada and the desert. The Las Vegas area had extremely low visibility due to dust and haze. I had to dodge a thunderstorm building over the Palm Springs area and some clouds out in the mountains by Ramona. I got back around 2:30pm. Total flight time was just about 27 hours out and back.

All of the photos I took are here.

N5771H’s specs

I’m headed to Oshkosh, Wisconsin for EAA’s Airventure 2016!

I decided to write up a single printed page of my airplane’s information and specifications about the equipment I chose to use during the build process. I’m not looking for any formal showplane judges to look at it as a show plane, especially since it really isn’t completely done (still needs a paint job – more on that shortly). It doesn’t look very nice on the exterior just yet with its fiberglass in white primer and bare sheet metal (unpolished). Simply put, I didn’t set out to build a show plane. Maybe on the next one!

Here is the information flyer that I will post on the airplane so that anyone who walks by at EAA Airventure can find out more about the equipment and construction used on N5771H.

Van’s RV-9A
Piloted and Built by Bruce T. Hill
Ramona, CA (home base is KRNM)

Slow Build Kit, fully primed with AKZO-Nobel epoxy primer.
Build Started 8/2009 with First Flight on 4/18/2014 (~4.5 years).

I wanted an efficient cross-country cruiser, and the RV-9A is the perfect airplane for my mission. Currently approaching 300 flight hours.

Performance: Normal Cruise is planned for 147-150 Knots TAS, at 6 to 7 gallons per hour. Gas cost has averaged $28/hr!

Engine: Rebuilt Lycoming IO-320 E2D with 8.5:1 compression pistons (160 HP), Airflow Performance Fuel Injection with Purge Valve, and Dual P-Mags. B&C starter, alternator and voltage regulator. Vetterman exhaust with dual mufflers. EFII fuel pump with Flow-Ezy 74nm filter.

Propellor: Sensenich Composite, Ground Adjustable.

Panel: Full Dynon Skyview system with 10” EFIS, GPS, Transponder, COMM Radio, ADS-B In/Out, Engine Management System, Intercom, Knob Panel, AOA pitot (unheated), and Autopilot servos (roll and pitch). Electronic circuit breakers by Vertical Power VP-X Sport. P-Mag monitoring with Electronic Ignition Commander. Byonics MT-RTG APRS radio for position tracking. ACK 406 ELT. Switch and panel lettering by Decal Pro dry transfers.

Lighting: All LED with Ztron position/strobes, Baja Designs Squadron landing lights, and baggage area light. White LED strip lighting on the panel and blue LED footwell lights underneath, both on dimmers.

Fuselage: Andair fuel valve, Anti-splat Nose Job II, Grove Nose wheel, Parking Brake, and Bonaco flexible brake lines. JD Air flush canopy latch with keyed cabin lock, fuel vent and fuel drain fairings, Kroger shade. Crow 5 point seat belts. Safeair static ports. Fairings-etc nose wheel fairing. Aerox 22 Cu. Ft. Oxygen system. Canopy bonded to frame with Sika Flex adhesive (no screws or holes in the canopy).

Interior: Paint is JetFlex WR in Gray/Beige. Seats done by Flightline in Ultraleather Brisa Grotto and Currant over Oregon Aero foam with heated seat elements. Bose A-20 noise cancelling headsets.

Paint: Design is being done by, and is coming soon!

Extensive photo album and website of the build at:

Flying adventures documented at:

Flying Blog at:

Stay tuned for the post-Oshkosh report and paint scheme reveal!

Annual Condition Inspection #2

May is the month for N5771H’s annual condition inspection. I figured I would start early in the month and hopefully not be down and torn apart for too long. It is good to get this all done before the summer flying season. Of course, it is always flying season in SoCal!

I flew up to Corona Airport for a last minute trip to Aircraft Spruce for some supplies. A call to the Will-Call number will bring a van to pick you up from the airport. Purchases made, I headed back to the airport and then a quick flight back to Ramona. Back in the hangar, off comes the cowling and the first thing on the list is to drain the oil and do a compression check while the engine is still hot. The compression looked good and so did the sparkplugs. I use automotive spark plugs with the P-mag electronic ignitions. Replacing all 8 plugs is around $20, so it makes sense to just put new ones in rather than try and clean and re-gap the old ones. I had bought a new tool from Avery Tools (before they closed down the business) that cleans out the threads in the cylinders and adapter plugs. The anti-seize used on the plugs tends to gum up the threads. I methodically went through all of the engine systems. Fuel lines all checked and tightened. Injectors cleaned. Oil lines inspected. Air filter cleaned and re-oiled. P-mags inspected and re-timed. Plug wires Ohm’ed out to spec. Exhaust system inspected for cracks, and some Mouse Milk lubricant applied to the joints. Basically, every nut and bolt gets a wrench applied to make sure it is still tight. The big job for the engine this year is to get my leaky crankshaft nose seal replaced. For this job, the propellor has to come off. Once that was out of the way, I was able to pull out the old seal and thoroughly clean the old sealant off the engine case. Getting the new seal on requires some technique. You have to heat the rubber seal up (I boiled some water in the FBO microwave), then stretch it over the prop flange. It took some effort, but I was able to slip it over and glue it in place. I did the same job last year, and this time it seemed much easier. The old seal didn’t appear to be damaged, so I’m not sure why I keep getting oil spitting out from the crank. It isn’t a lot, but it does make a mess. The engine breather tube is not blocked and I do see evidence of some oil coming out there (like it is supposed to). Fingers crossed this time it won’t leak oil.

Next up I worked on the tail and wings. All of the inspection covers and fairings come off. Again, all of the nuts and bolts get a wrench applied, and the control bearings get lubricated. I cleaned off all of the control surfaces and ran my fingers over every rivet line. I buttoned up everything only to find out the next day that a new Service Bulletin had been released by Van’s to inspect the rear wing spar where the inboard aileron brackets are riveted. Back off with the inspection covers on the wings. I was able to get in there with my camera to get some photos of the area of concern. No cracks! Thankfully, I won’t have to add the doubler that is the fix for any cracks found in this nearly inaccesible area. I’ll have to put this check on my list for next year.

On to the interior parts of the fuselage. Out comes the interior carpet and seat cushions. Now I get to wedge myself in and under the control panel and inspect everything under the panel and on the firewall, like the heater controls and parking brake valve. I pulled out the fuel filter and opened it up to find just a tiny little bit of junk in there that looked like some lint. I found a couple of slightly loose nuts on the main gear leg weldments where they are attached to the side of the fuselage. The left brake pedal on the passenger side has been weeping just a bit of brake fluid. I disconnected the brake lines (a very messy job) and let the brake fluid drip out into a small plastic bin. Out come the small elbows that screw into the brake pedal cylinder. I cleaned them up and reapplied some Loctite 567 sealant and this time really cranked them into place. I counted three rotations to remove them, and I put them back in with four complete turns. Much tighter. I also didn’t put enough sealant on these originally. The brakes got bled and fluid topped off. Seat pans were taken off and everything underneath looked good, just like it did last month when I had everything apart to fix the steps under the baggage floor. The flaps go up and down smoothly. No issues in the back of the plane behind the baggage bulkhead. The ELT was tested and all wires and cables are still secure. Pitot, static and AOA lines still in place. Seat belts look in good condition and the mounts are all tight.

I jacked up the airplane from the wing tie down points. Landing gear legs get inspected along with the wheels, tires, bearings and the breakout force on the nose gear. I recently replaced the main tires, tubes and brakes, so they are all in good shape. One of the gear leg fairings had slipped down just a bit. Cleaning up the brake dust off the calipers and wheels is probably the messiest job.

I cut a new hole in the panel for the Dynon Knob panel. This little addition adds three knobs dedicated for setting Baro, Altitude and Heading/Track on the Dynon Skyview EFIS. After everything is inspected and checked off the list, it is time to put all of the interior back in, cowling on, wheel pants and fairings in place. I drained the right fuel tank and put the fuel from it into the left tank. I was able to recalibrate the fuel level sender on the right tank. The last time I did it, something got screwed up and it would only show 11 gallons (instead of 18) at full capacity.

The condition inspection isn’t complete until you make the required logbook entry and do a complete system check, engine run up  and test flight. I did the run up and had some timing divergence between the two P-mags, according to my Electronic Ignition Commander instrument. Some searching on the internet showed several avenues to pursue in tracking down the issue. Today I did some troubleshooting on the ignition. Timing was fine, but I think when I replaced the P-mags I oriented them differently enough to cause some of the plug wires to cross and potentially interfere. The instructions have you keep some spacers between all of the plug wires as they run from the P-mags over to the sparkplugs. I loosened up the P-mags and repositioned them, then set the timing again. Another run up performed and this time no divergence alarm. Unfortunately, the day wasn’t good for a test flight. It was Marginal VFR due to some heavy overcast (May gray) weather. I’m hoping for clear weather tomorrow so I can be back in the air.

Filled Logbook #1

Today I filled in the final blank spot in my first Pilot Logbook. I flew Marissa out to Mesa, AZ and back for a grad school interview (4.4 hours out and back).

The logbook was a Christmas present from my Dad back in 1987. I had just finished grad school and was ready to take on flight training next. My first flight entry was on February 7, 1988. It was my first lesson in a Cessna 150 out of Corona, CA. I flew with that CFI out of Corona on 10 more flights, then decided to move my training closer to home in Long Beach, CA. I switched to flying Cessna 152’s starting in July of 1988. All of my Private Pilot training was finished flying 3 different Cessna 152’s. First solo was August 16, 1988 with 17 hours of training time. I took a couple of months off of my flight training to get married in November of 1988. Back at it in December and then my first solo cross country flight from LGB to Ramona (prophetic?) and then to Riverside and back to LGB. My long cross country solo flight was from LGB to Paso Robles, then Santa Maria and back to LGB. Another solo cross country was to Santa Barbara. I got my Private Pilot Certificate on March 29, 1989. I had 54.5 hours.

I transitioned to flying our Rockwell Commander 114 on April 16, 1989. I got my high-performance/complex checkout in 3 hours, then started really flying every chance I had for the next two years before we sold the airplane. I put 74 hours on the Commander. It was expensive to operate and maintain, and it had several lengthy annuals during our time of ownership.

I didn’t log any flying time between June 1991 and December 2013. Twenty two years of raising a family (very successfully, I might add).

I got back to flying at Plus One Flyers flying club in a Cessna 172. My Flight Review was completed on December 21, 2013 and then I flew it for a couple of months. Renting an airplane sucks, not to mention the cost ($100/hour). I did 7 hours of transition training in a Van’s RV-7A in preparation for flying my RV-9A for the first time. Since my first flight in April 2014, I’ve put almost 250 hours on my RV-9A in 146 flights.

My first logbook ends with 391 hours, 591 landings, 219 hours of cross country, and 21 hours of night flying. I’ve been to 6 states, 67 different airports, and have flown with dozens of friends and family. I’ve flown all my hours in single engine land aircraft category, with seven different aircraft types.

I certainly hope that the next logbook will be filled much faster than the first one (28 years!)