Annual Condition Inspection #3

Annual Condition Inspection Diary

Day 1

After our Sunday breakfast flight to Hemet, we got back to Ramona and I started on the Annual Condition inspection, which has to be done before June. The airplane now has 383.4 hours on the Hobbs meter.

I took off the cowling and started with the compression check. My wife was going to borrow my air compressor for her classroom this week, but I quickly realized that I needed it first for the compression check. She helped me get that done, then she took off with my compressor. Her Engineering classroom at the High School has a new Haas CNC machine that needs compressed air, and they don’t have a compressor yet!

The engine was still hot, so I drained the oil, took a sample for analysis, pulled out the finger strainer and replaced the oil filter. The engine part of the annual takes a long time to complete, but every year I find something that needs attention. I checked all of the baffles, pulled the spark plugs, cleaned the threads of the spark plug holes, put a wrench on every nut/bolt/screw. I pulled off the air filter housing and it is holding up well. I had to reinforce it at the first annual, and since then, no problems. New oil in and everything safety wired in place. I lubed up all of the throttle/mixture controls. Re-torqued the prop bolts and made sure the adjustable prop blades were aligned properly. All of the exhaust hangers were OK, along with all of the fuel and oil lines. I checked the starter and alternator wiring and belt. I cleaned out the air filter and re-oiled it with the K&N filter oil. The air filter has shrunk a bit, but it still is serviceable. I called it a day around 6pm. I had to stop on the way home and order some new NGK BR8ES spark plugs from the local auto parts store. Eight new plugs were just $21. The old plugs were fine, but when they are this inexpensive, why not just put in new ones every year? The aviation plugs are more like $30 each! All that is left on the engine portion of the inspection is to re-time the P-mags, check the Ohm readings on the plug wires, and put in the new spark plugs.

Day 2

I picked up the new spark plugs after work and then go to work cleaning up the plug adapters. I gapped the plugs, got new copper washers, and put on some anti-seize with a small brush. The plug wires all got checked with my Ohmmeter. I looked in all the plug holes with my eyes and a tiny flash light. I was hoping to borrow a borescope to take a more thorough look inside the cylinders, but I can do that some other time. I torqued all of the plugs into place and then got started on the wheels. I took off the main gear wheel pants. Brake lines look fine. I checked the brake pads, and they still have about 50 hours of use. I will order a new set of pads and put a note on my maintenance sheet to recheck these at around 420 hours. I cleaned up all of the brake dust on the calipers and wheels. I was going to rotate the tires, but frankly I couldn’t tell that they needed it. The Desser Monster Retreads are holding up very well. The original tires were shot at 200 hours. These have almost as much time and are probably at 50% tread left. Tomorrow I will jack up the airplane to check the bearings and then finish up the undercarriage, and start on the wings. I was able to get the wing gap seals off tonight and I checked the fuel lines and gear weldment bolts hidden under there.

Day 3

I took last night off. Worked late down at the office in La Jolla, and by the time I got home, decided I was too tired to wrench on the airplane.

Day 4

Back at it tonight. I jacked up the airplane and checked all of the wheels. I measured the breakout force on the nose wheel steering. I had a bunch of stuff to start on the wings. First I removed all of the inspection covers under the wings and looked at everything inside the wings. There is a Van’s Service Bulletin to check the aileron hinge attachments on the rear spar. I reached in with my iPhone to take some pictures of the area. Left wing was fine, other than some new splotches of primer from the paint job in the area. The other side had a surprise. There was some wadded up paper masking from the painter left up in there!

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I lubed up all of the control rod bearings, made sure all of the nuts were tight, and looked over the gas tank attach bolts and screws. I also cleaned the underside of the wings and put some Rejex on the paint. The Rejex is a polymer coating that is super slick, like wax that will keep the bugs and dirt off the paint. I put the inspection covers back on and finished up all of the wing inspection items. The painter had gotten a little bit of over-spray on the fuel caps and canopy latch, so I went to work getting that all off. I repolished the canopy handle by taking everything apart, sanding it with 1000 grit paper, then buffing it with some white rouge polish. It came out looking great.

Day 5

I got a late start to the evenings work at the hangar. I worked late again at the day job, but this time from my home office, so the commute time is not a factor. I put the wing gap fairings back in place. I also took apart the wingtip lights to get some more over-spray off the plexiglass covers and the mirrored plexi under the position and strobe lights. I used some Meguiar’s Clay Bar to rub all of the tiny particles off of the plexiglass. It worked great. I also was able to work out all of the bubbles on the new wing walks that I put on. Not exactly a maintenance thing, but it sure looks better now. Lastly, I drained all of the fuel out of the tanks for re-weighing the airplane post-paint job. I replaced the tiny O-rings on the fuel sump drains, and put some EZ-Turn Fuel Lube on the gas cap O-rings. I had flown the fuel down before the annual to 9.6 gallons left according to the fuel computer and gauges on the Dynon Skyview. That is pretty much exactly how much I ended up with in the fuel jugs. I also got working on making some paper templates for some paint protection film pieces I’m going to cut and put on the fuselage and gear legs to protect the new paint from the fairings rubbing against it.

Day 6

Late Friday night, back to the hangar to do all of the interior inspections. I started by removing all of the seats, carpets, and unscrewing all of the baggage bulkheads, flap covers and center tunnel covers. I set an alarm on my iPhone for the next “top of the hour” to do the ELT tests, which have to be done in the first five minutes of the hour. I looked over all of the wiring, stringers, longerons and bulkheads in the aft of the fuselage. Checked the antennas, wiring, and autopilot servo back there. I did find another small wad of masking paper from the paint shop down where the flap rods retract. The flap motor worked fine, but it wasn’t turning off when it hits the limit, so I think I need to recalibrate the VP-X limits for down travel. Next up is the front of the cabin. I squeezed myself under the panel to check all of the wiring, heater controls and the fuel lines. I disassembled the fuel filter, which dumps fuel all over the floor no matter how many paper towels you have under it. I put a wrench on every nut/bolt down there. I did find one adel clamp holding some wires that had not been fully tightened down. The seat pans came out lastly and I lubed up all of the controls and made sure all of the wing bolts were still tight. I vacuumed up all of the dust and bits from the floors, and the carpets. I didn’t get out of there until well past midnight, but there are only a few things left to do on the tail, and then everything can be put back together.

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Day 7

I was only able to work on the airplane for a couple of hours this Saturday. I started with getting out my old Windows XP laptop to run the VP-X configurator. The flaps seemed to be working fine again with the original limits, but I tweaked the down travel limit just a bit. While I was under the panel I sprayed some more adhesive on the firewall and sound-proofing material to keep it from falling off. The rest of the day was spent screwing all of the interior panels back in place. Seat pans, flap covers, baggage bulkhead and center tunnel covers all back in place except for one. I found a broken nutplate on one of the tunnel covers that I need to drill out and replace. Unfortunately, the air compressor is still over at my wife’s classroom, so I can’t use the air drill or rivet squeezer.

Day 8

My daughter’s 25th birthday, so I spent all day doing family stuff. Happy Birthday, Alicia!

Day 9

Memorial Day holiday today, so I had the whole day to finish this inspection. I got the air compressor back, and used it to air drill out the broken nutplate, and then to set in a new one with the pneumatic squeezer. I put the center tunnel cover back in and got all of the interior carpeting and seats back in place. The last section to work on was the tail. I pulled off the tail fairings and got a wrench on all of the nuts and bolts for the horizontal and vertical stabilizers. I checked on the rudder and elevator bolts and trim tab. The last thing was to get the cowling and wheel pants back on. I bought some more paint protection film and spent hours getting it cut out and in place under the gear fairings. I had to head home to BBQ for the family, so the very last thing (re-weighing the airplane) will have to wait until tomorrow.

Day 10

I got to the hangar after work and set up the ramps and scales. I pulled the airplane up on the scales and made sure everything was in place for the weigh-in.

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Post paint job, she gained 38 pounds. Not all of that weight gain is paint. I have tires that are probably heavier (Monster Retreads), the Dynon Skyview Knob panel, a second COMM antenna, reinforced steps, brackets for the O2 tank, and upholstery now that wasn’t there the last time I weighed her. Empty weight, with 8 quarts of oil (I usually only fly with 6 quarts) is 1105 pounds.

After the weighing, I refilled the tanks with gas, did my pre-flight, fired her up and made sure everything was working before taking off around the pattern for a quick test flight.

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Log book entry made, and I’m good to fly for another 12 calendar months. The cost was an oil filter, 6 quarts of oil with some Camguard additive, 8 new spark plugs, one new nutplate, some various lubricants, and two tiny O-rings for the fuel sumps. Try getting a certified airplane annual done for that!

Post-Painting Reassembly and Back Flying

Post-Paint Reassembly

I got the airplane reassembled after the paint shop had it for 7 weeks. My daughter was home for her abbreviated summer break after completing her first year of grad school.  We picked up her best friend, along with my daughter’s new pet dog, Cooper, and drove up to Corona Airport on May 5. I’m sure they were keen on just dropping Dad off with all of his tools and then getting out of there, but I really needed their help to get the tail put back together. After a couple of hours we had the elevators back on. That stupid middle bolt and all of the washers that go in between the two weldments is excruciating work. I thought that the rudder would be easier, but it too gave us problems. Lots of over-spray on the rod end bearings had one of them locked up and not able to rotate. I had to do some scraping with a razor blade to free up the paint from the surfaces. Putting the washers and nuts on the rudder bolts requires fingers smaller than mine. Daughter to the rescue. She had no problem getting them on. Getting the trim tab re-wired up was another task that took up some time. The girls went and got us some lunch from In-N-Out Burger and then we then worked on trying to get the canopy and cowling back on. The canopy pins are difficult to line up, but we got it done after struggling for 30 minutes. One of the hinge pins for the cowling just wouldn’t go in easy. I later discovered that there was some clear coat over-spray that kept the hinge eyes just enough out of alignment to make it impossible to smoothly slide the hinge pins in. Around 4pm, it was obvious that the airplane wouldn’t be ready to fly that day. We drove back home (with a stop for ice cream), and the weather in Ramona was IFR anyway, so I was glad we bailed out and drove back. Cooper was chilling all day in the hangar and he got walked over to the nearby Dog Park a couple of times. He loves car rides and was a good boy all day.

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I ordered some undersized hinge pins for the cowling from McMaster-Carr to make sure that I could get the cowling secured.  The next several days were rainy here, so the next opportunity to get back to Corona ended up being Thursday 5/11. I didn’t have anyone available to drive up there with me, so I just took off early by myself and figured I would just leave my car in Corona if I could get the airplane all reassembled to fly it back home. It took another full day to get the wing tips, ailerons and flaps on the wings, and all of the gear leg fairings and pants on the wheels. I worked straight through from 8:30am to around 3:30pm and got everything done. It definitely takes longer than you think it will to get everything back on correctly. The guys at the paint shop took a bunch of photos before I took off. It came out looking great. I taxied over to the gas pumps, filled up and headed back home. Thankfully, the weather was clear and sunny. The next day, my older daughter had the day off work, so I flew her back up to Corona around lunch time, so she could drive my car back home. It is a half an hour flight for me, but a 2 hour drive for her!

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Back Flying!

That weekend we got to fly up to Cable Airport to have brunch with my in-laws for Mother’s Day, and then we flew over to Long Beach to visit my Mom. My APRS tracker wasn’t showing any of these flights, so I took off the wing tip and did some trouble shooting. Everything was powered up and seemed to be connected just fine. I used my handheld scanner to listen in on the frequency and I could hear the APRS burst of data and see that the LED on the unit was sending out packets. I did some night flying this week to get night current again, and the APRS was working OK again. This Saturday I flew my oldest daughter down to Brown Field for the monthly EAA Chapter 14 Pancake Breakfast, then we flew up over San Diego Lindbergh Field and up the coast on the way to Fullerton Airport where my brother, his wife and my nephew picked us up and took us over to my Dad’s for a sushi lunch. Sunday I took my wife up to Hemet for breakfast at Hangar One Cafe. I’ve been eating well since the airplane is back flying. The paint job sure gets attention. I’m sort of getting used to that now. It certainly stands out from the crowd.

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.

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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.

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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.

Saturday

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.

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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

Sunday

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.

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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.

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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.

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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 rivetbangers.com. I must have tasted a lot because I was definitely feeling it the next morning.

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 Monday

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.

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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.

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Tuesday

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.

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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.

Wednesday

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 rivetbangers.com 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.

Thursday

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.

Friday

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.

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Tied down in Hot Springs, SD for the night.

Saturday

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.

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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 PlaneSchemer.com, and is coming soon!

Extensive photo album and website of the build at: http://www.overthehills.com/RV-9A-Project

Flying adventures documented at: http://www.overthehills.com/Travel/Flying

Flying Blog at: https://flyingoverthehills.wordpress.com/


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