Sawdust
1992

The Commies are Coming. Emergency! Emergency! Everyone to get from sky! Tired of hearing your Lycoming engines decried as obsolete technology? Well, the very latest engine to appear on the general aviation scene is just a wee bit older. Now that the iron curtain has crumbled, you can buy factory-direct Czechoslovakian Walter engine. They're all thirties-technology 4- and 6-cylinder inline engines that have powered Zlins and a host of other eastern-block airplanes. They won't fit in a Falco but, heck, they're cheap, and they look purrfect for fiberglass airplanes.

Spin-doctoring the learning curve. The first known performance of an eyeball-lomcevak took place at Oshkosh '91, but the only problem of recording this remarkable bit of ocular history was determining who did it first. Ya see, the thing is that about 20 pilots did it all at the same time. They were the airshow pilots getting a safety briefing by Verne Jobst, the EAA director who only the year before nearly killed himself and five women passengers when he wrecked the Foundation's Lockheed L-12. Said Jobst, "As you know I had an accident in the Lockheed last year, but that's okay because nothing but good came out of it." Hey, maybe if he wrecks the B-17, he might get awarded the Collier Trophy.

The future is... still in the future. This year's Bozo d'Mountbatten Memorial Award for outstanding aviation bozoism has been awarded to FAA Administrator James Busey by SAB, the Society of Aviation Bozos. According to US Aviator, when addressing the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association convention in New Orleans, Busey said it would be at least the year 2010 before the FAA considers wide-scale use of the GPS system.

CAD canard. There's a series of full-page ads running these days in engineering and computer magazines featuring aviation's own Burt Rutan. It's for a CAD program called Ashlar Vellum, and the ad is too funny for words-if you know what to look for. First there's a picture of Burt holding in mock-seriousness a propeller-head leather flying helmet, but apparently Ashlar didn't get the joke and thought it was a great shot of "one of America's most thought-provoking engineers" -- which indeed he is. Ashlar has just finished its second round of venture capital financing, having burned up the first round in over-promoting a very gimmicky program that techno-weenies love and draftsmen hate. In a way, it's a bit odd using Rutan to promote a CAD system, because as everyone knows, Rutan is a very bright guy and a skilled aerodynamicist, but his drafting skills have been the subject of insider-jokes among engineers for years. And Rutan openly admits he uses the program only for layouts and working out geometry and doesn't use the program for finished drawings. At the bottom of the ad, there's an example "engineering drawing courtesy Burt Rutan" -- an astonishingly crude drawing of a quarter-scale model airplane. It's called the 'SU-25 Roar', probably a model of a Sukhoi jet, with all straight lines and a tail on the back, scarcely resembling anything Rutan has designed.

Sign here, mister. Aviation's wildest bunch is the Reno Air Race gang that gathers each September for a weekend of racing, brawling and drinking. It's the nearest thing to an Evel Kneivel Grand Canyon Jump scene that aviation has to offer-witness this gal getting one of her Dow-Cornings autographed by one of the race pilots. Hmmm. Maybe we need to enter some Falcos in that race.

Watch your step. Everybody has to plaster 'Experimental' on their amateur-built airplanes, but as a result of his 'experimentation' with various landing configurations, Jonas Dovydenas now has 'Experimental, You Betcha' on the side of the Stealth Falco. Like a fighter jock scoring his kills, Jonas plans to add exclamation points for each future boo-boo.

Here's the Falco logo in a silver pin. Also available as tie tacs, earrings, cuff links, pendants and bracelets. Thanks to Karen Rives for getting this going. Contact Nancy Conrad, The Village Smith, 1000 Campbell Road, Suite 208-644, Houston, Texas 77055, telephone: (713) 467-7696.

Obscenity in America. According to published reports, the highest paid attorney in the U.S. is a trial lawyer in Houston who was paid $45,000,000.00 last year by his firm. That's more than the GNP of some African countries.

Mr. Rutan goes to Washington. Voyager pilot Dick Rutan is running for congress. Shame he wasn't in office during the Anita Hill thing and could have demonstrated his famed sensitivity towards women. Somehow the usual california-words -- caring, sharing, concerns, communicate -- don't seem to apply to the guy who would barely let Jeanna fly the thing on the round-the-world flight. Basically, what happened was that the two, who had been something of a pair, had already come to a terminal split before the flight but decided to stick it out anyway.

Enterprise Zones. Want to solve all of our nation's inner city problems without costing the taxpayer a cent? It's quite simple, according to a plan concocted by a friend, Walter Marsh. You just pass a law that any products manufactured in inner-city enterprise zones would be free of product liability claims. The problem, of course, is what do you do with the rest of the country after everyone moves to the inner cities?

Sorrreeeee. Gee, we're really sorry about this, but Mr. Frati made a little ol' miscalculation some years ago on the CG of the Falco, so what we need all of you to do is saw the wing off and move it aft 1.5"-either that or make a new horizontal tail that's bigger. Just kidding, but now you know what it's like to be a Glasair IIS builder who just got a service letter to that effect.

Good curve. Is anybody noticing? For the second year in a row, the EAA's financial base has grown by about 30%. One more year like that and the EAA will have grown financially more in three years under Tom Poberezny than it did over the first thirty years.

Hair travel. She's stubbornly resisting hair coloring, but things could change! It was pretty tough on her recently when Meredith Scott was talking to my brother's classmate and his wife. They were only ten years younger than Meredith, and Meredith was talking about working in New York right out of college, flying back and forth to Richmond, etc. "Really?" asked the gal. "They had air travel to New York back then?"

It ain't so EZ for the big guys. No one argues the potential benefits, but in "Why Composites Wait in the Wings", a major article in the April 1992 Interavia, writer Bill Sweetman details the enormous problems faced by airliner manufacturers in making components of composite materials. There's the expense of the raw materials: a manager at Douglas says "we pay more per pound for the prepreg system than we do for the end product in aluminum."

And in a speech of exceptional candor to his alma mater Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Raytheon President Max Bleck talked about the staggeringly difficult problems that Beech had to overcome to design, certify and manufacture the Starship. When they began "much of the technology to accomplish the task was still largely theoretical." In all, it took six years and $350 million dollars to overcome the problems and to develop the technology. Although graphite epoxy has just 57 percent the density of aluminum, the weight savings in actual structure were different.

"In Starship, we believe we achieved a modest weight savings over what the airplane would have been in metal. In some areas of the aircraft, this weight savings may approach 20 percent. In others, it is substantially less. Clearly, the reality of weight savings is less than initially forecast."

Bleck's conclusion on the field of composite airframe manufacturing? "In many respects, the jury is still out." And the conclusion that most engineers have is that what the production companies are doing and what homebuilders and the composite kit plane companies are doing are worlds apart, and that if you don't do the engineering, sooner or later it's gonna bite you.

With a tongue like this, who needs a propeller? One of the first things any journalist learns is how to say terrible things about people without libeling them. You learn to use weasel-words like alleged and reportedly and to express things as a personal opinion.

It appears Javelin Ford designer Dave Blanton has never been to school on this stuff. First, he calls a world famous engineer "a Goddamned liar" -- in print! Blanton called a NASA engineer -- who happens to be an expert on powerplants -- "a professional liar." In print.

You want to know what this is all about? It's an argument about what is a horsepower. No kidding. You can look it up in a dictionary. He attacked plenty of others -- the editor of Kitplanes, Aviation Consumer magazine, the EAA, some EAA directors, and finally a guy named Bill Jongbloed. Jongbloed simply wrote an article for Kitplanes explaining (correctly) how to calculate horsepower. Blanton wrote letters attacking Jongbloed, who makes high quality racing wheels, and said that Jongbloed's wheels "had killed people on the track."

That's not true, and Jongbloed finally took him to court and won a judgement for $100,000.00. Blanton didn't even come to the trial, and when he came to the default judgement hearing, Blanton reportedly was ejected from the courtroom by the bailiff because he reportedly wouldn't shut up, in fact, Jongbloed reports that as he was being taken from the courtroom, Blanton yelled, "Goddamit, this is America. I want my trial. This man threatened to kill me."

During the EAA audit, Blanton, who lives in Wichita, called me "direct dial from Hong Kong" with a whole bunch of silly stuff and followed up with an incoherent letter saying among other things that Tom Poberezny "is a nasty little boy." Don't you love it? It was so bad that I actually faxed the auditors asking them not to waste any of the EAA's money pursuing accusations from "this notorious fruitcake". Um, make that alleged notorious fruitcake.

Not dead yet. Worried about where we'll all get our engines of tomorrow with aviation going all to hell? The answer is -- surprise! -- Lycoming. For a company that was all but declared dead by cynics, Lycoming is astonishingly healthy. All of their production lines are open and they are now producing 2000 engines a month. With 240,000 engines in the field, there's a steady flow of engines coming back in for overhaul or replacement. Plus, Lycoming now has a competitive new cylinder program that means that if you're overhauling your engine, for slightly more money you can just purchase new cylinders instead of overhauling the old ones. With Textron and Cessna now under the same ownership, Cessna president Russ Meyers is now talking in terms of when-not if-they will re-start their piston engine airplane production. The first, most likely, will be the big twins.

Send more tail. Pity Australian builders of the Lancair 320 whose airplanes are permanently grounded pending a redesign of the airplane for greater longitudinal stability. Amateur-built aircraft in Australia must meet FAR Part 23 stability requirements, and the Australian test pilot (a graduate of the U.S. Navy Patuxent River Test Pilot's School) who flew the plane published this assessment in Aircraft & Aerospace magazine: "Lancair 320 VH-LPD displayed unacceptable handling characteristics in several areas. It displayed unacceptable longitudinal stability characteristics in all configurations, poor lateral static stability, unacceptable pitch trim changes with sideslip and unacceptable stall warning."

You can never be too careful. One of the side effects of producing a highly detailed construction manual is that builders become totally dependent on them and end up like some musicians who can read music but can't hear the tune. When the Christen Eagle kits were first introduced with their encyclopedic 300-page-each, 30-volume set of assembly manuals, Christen issued weekly revisions.

Every question from a builder, no matter how small, resulted in a change to the manual. This process went on for four years until all possible questions were exhausted.

During this process, Frank Christensen received a call from a brain surgeon in Boston. He had a problem. He was installing the wooden stringers that are mounted on standoffs from the tubular steel structure. These stringers give the fuselage its shape, once the whole thing is covered with fabric. The doctor had installed the stringer on the left side without difficulty, but the stringer on the right was 1/32" too long and wouldn't fit in the standoffs.

"Well," said Frank, "I'm marking up the page right now, and we'll get a revision right out on that, but in the meantime all you need to do is to sand a thirty-secondth of an inch off the end of the stringer. You can just go ahead and do that now."

To which the doctor replied, "Nah, I'll just wait for the revision to come out."

Mine's bigger than yours. Flying magazine calls itself "World's Most Widely Read Aviation Magazine" and for many years it's been true that their circulation has been larger than that of any of their competitors.

No longer, the Smithsonian's Air & Space magazine has now overtaken Flying. The irony is that Air & Space is edited by an old Flying writer, George Larson, who Steve Wilkinson hired when he was at Flying. Now Steve writes for George, who has a collection of stringers that include many of the best writers in aviation.

If you're a snob like me about writing and enjoy articles simply for their writing style, you'll continue to read Peter Garrison and Nigel Moll in Flying, but you'll find more arm-chair reading pleasure in Air & Space than any other magazine short of James Gilbert's Pilot magazine in England.

 

Testy book. Three cheers for Vaughan Askue who has written one of the most valuable and long-needed books about homebuilts. His just-released "Flight Testing Homebuilt Aircraft" ought to be required reading for the builder of any homebuilt airplane.

Askue brings his expertise and experience as an aeronautical engineer and former flight test engineer to bear on a subject that's been badly neglected, and the book lays out an organized approach to how take a new airplane through the flight testing process. The only 'bad advice' in his book is his advocacy of 'land-backs'-a brief liftoff in ground effect which all flight testing schools strongly argue against. The rest of the book is life-saving stuff -- less important to Falco builders who have our flight test guide than to other homebuilders. The book, which features Jim DeAngelo's Falco on the cover, is published by Iowa State University Press, 2121 S. State Avenue, Ames, Iowa 50010-8300. Telephone: 515-292-0149. It's available for $15.95 from the publisher, Zenith Aviation Books, or your local bookstore.

Lower the landing gear, bozo. German researchers are developing an artificial intelligence system that would follow the actions of a pilot, compare them to the flight plan and give verbal advice to the pilot. The system, called CASSY, is a computerized back-seat driver that's being developed for the airlines, but such a system could also be developed for general aviation. BOSSY? I doubt we'll be doing much with it for lack of time-I've volunteered to be a beta test site for a Virtual Sex System.

An oil-additive scorned. Aviation's best brouhaha of the year is the Dick Rutan/Jeana Yeager Microlon political tussle. If you enjoy a good fight, this one is vintage supermarket-checkout quality stuff. The problem began this summer, when Voyager pilot Dick Rutan announced he was running for Congress. About the same time, his twelve-percent-of-the-time Voyager copilot and ex-girlfriend, Jeana Yeager, married Bill Williams, manufacturer and promoter of the (in?)famous Microlon engine oil treatment. Williams has gained notoriety for excessive claims of the oil additive, and The Aviation Consumer once ran a story where an angry Microlon user demanded his money back and who reported that Williams had threatened to burn his house down. Williams once told me he rubbed the stuff on the wing of his plane, and it flew faster.

This summer, Microlon ran an advertisement with a testimonial from Yeager, where the Microlon ad suggested that as they crossed the coast of Africa they lost all of the oil in the aft engine, but that after two hours without oil, the engine "was still purring" and if it hadn't been for Microlon, the two of them would have been "down in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Africa, trying to tread water." Microlon also claimed it was a sponsor for the Voyager flight-news to everyone.

Contacted by The Aviation Consumer, Rutan denied ever putting Microlon in the airplane and whatever minor oil-pressure fluctuations that did occur at that time didn't involved any lost oil. Rutan's lawyers fired off a letter to the Federal Trade Commission. A war of letters erupted with Williams telling Rutan, "If you hurt me now, as you have in the past, you leave me no option but to attack you. Interesting thing is that I will destroy your hopes with the truth about you." Then Yeager, who initially signed statements urging voters to support Rutan, came out in support of his opponent and called Rutan "not fit to hold any public office."

There's more, but read about the rest in Dick Weeghman's account in the December 1992 Aviation Consumer piece, "The Microlon Fracas". Rutan lost the election by a narrow margin.

Heading back to Washington. He may be balding and getting-up-there, but former astronaut John Glenn still has the Right Stuff for some. My reporter friend, Ken Ringle, was out in Ohio covering Senator Glenn's re-election campaign for a week, and found that many people barely remember that Glenn was an astronaut. Ever the dogged, anything-for-a-story reporter, and ignoring his own health and safety, the brave Ringle continued to work late into the night gathering material -- at a local bar. Twas there he interviewed a hooker with a brown leather mini-skirt. Her voice was very raspy. "I'm sorry about the way my voice sounds," she said, "but my husband came home last night and tried to strangle me. I had to throw him out." Ringle asked her what she thought of Glenn. "Well," she said, "he's kind of cute. I'd give him a head, but I wouldn't vote for him."

Stanford University researches say their flight tests show a single GPS receiver could replace the functions of more than 50% of the current cockpit instruments, since it can track attitude, heading, altitude and speed. In a surprising side benefit, they found that GPS is so accurate that it can be used to sense wing deflections in millimeters, and angular accuracy was better than 0.1 degrees. Sales of GPS receivers of all sorts are virtually exploding, growing between 50 and 100 percent a year.

     

 

 

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