Sawdust
1994

Falco at Ground Zero. When the big earthquake hit Los Angeles in January, the epicenter was in the San Fernando Valley, four blocks from Rick Fitzwater's house.

Rick reports: "Boy! What an ass-kicker! I am glad to report that my family is fine, except for several cuts caused by running through broken glass barefoot in a pitch dark house, and my wife Pat has a nice goose-egg on her head caused from some unknown flying projectile. Our house received no structural damage I am happy to say. The Falco received substantial damage to the left wing, which was ready to skin. I had a full sheet of drywall and two full sheets of three-quarter-inch plywood stacked near the wing which fell over onto the outer third of the wing. Since the wing is not skinned, it is still very flexible. The wing tip flexed back about 18 inches and popped every glue joint holding the ribs to the spars. The spar held up well however and supported the full weight. It will take some time, but it is repairable. The empennage and fuselage is fine, although my elevator (also unskinned) flew off the wall and sustained damage. The skinned horizontal stabilizer is stronger-the lumber rack behind it emptied itself onto this section of the airframe but it sustained no damage whatsoever. We are still getting aftershocks. It's like sitting on a bowl of Jello!"

The "Swing-Wing Falco" article in the April Kitplanes suckered more people in than any other April-fools article in recent memory. At the peak, we were getting two calls a day from breathless believers -- "65% more speed, wow!" -- and the same number were calling Jonas direct.

Ominously, most are working on their own composite designs and want to incorporate the swing-wing mechanism in their designs. Jonas reports that a local pilot burst into his hangar looking for the Swing-Wing Falco. "There it is!" he exclaimed as he saw Jonas's Falco, and rushed at it. "Well, this is a Falco all right, and it looks just like the one in the article, but this one doesn't have the swing-wing mechanism. They've probably got the swing-wing version hidden in a hangar somewhere."

Even the BIC razor blade company was suckered and called Jonas so they could send Gando some razor blades. At press time, Jonas was fabricating a lever control arm to put in the right map pocket for display at the Lakeland air show.

Penquinos into production. Flight International magazine reports that Stelio Frati's General Avia company has delivered the first two production models of the F.22 aircraft to Italian aero clubs and has completed another eight aircraft to be delivered in Europe and Thailand. Production plans are to produce 50 F.22s in 1994, 150 in 1995, and 300 a year in 1996 and beyond.

The magazine also confirms earlier reports that Russia's Sokol manufacturing plant, which produces Mikoyan MiG-29 and MiG-31 fighters plans to build the Frati-designed F.15F Delphino four-seat light aircraft in a joint venture with the Italian Procaer company, which owns the design.

Remember all the hoorah about simplified certification and how many people came to see FAA certification as an impossible hurdle? Consider this, General Avia certified the F.22A last May. The F.22B was certified in December. The F.22R and F.22C Sprint will be certified in April. Thus, in an eleven-month period, Stelio Frati and his tiny company has certified four separate aircraft with the RAI and FAA.

Making a sow's ear from a silk purse. Sukhoi has announced that it plans to produce an agricultural version of its Su-29 aerobatic machine. They're going to take the reigning ultimate aerobatic aircraft, capable of phenomenal roll rates and impossible maneuvers, and turn it into a spray plane. The new Su-38 will have a new, larger wing with winglets, an underwing spray bar, and a raised rear cockpit. How're you gonna keep them in Paree once they've been down on the farm?

Telling it like it is. "It's a bird! It's a plane! It's a flop!" screams the headline of an article in the May 2 issue of Fortune wherein Alan Farnham says what no aviation writer has (or is permitted to by the publisher).

The article is filled with wonderful quotes: "If the American Marketing Assocation were ever to carve up a mountain, Rushmore-like, commemorating misbegotten things, Starship would be there, next to New Coke and the Edsel." "Because aviation writers are polite, and because they know Beech deserves great credit for having faced so daunting a challenge, trade magazines have hesitated to say how Starship -- as merchandise -- has fared. Let me help: It's a dud. A fiasco. A Little Bighorn with wings."

On the airplane's weight, which "spiraled upward, gaining Oprah-like momentum...."

On the cost, claimed to be $350 million, "If Beech, instead of fabricating Starship from advanced composite materials, had instead used $1,000 bills laminated three-ply, it literally could have built all 53 airplanes for $300 million and still had $50 million left over for monogramming, ashtrays, and a lifetime supply of in-flight nuts." Others say the cost is more like $750 million.

Consider the glass panel. "This instrument panel, developed at a cost of $25 million, uses 14 TV screens in place of mechanical gauges to display information in a palette of colors that includes magenta. Imagine yourself flying an Amana Radar Range, and you've got it."

"Starship will be remembered as, if nothing else, aviation's version of No new taxes."

The perfect life for airheads. Steve Wilkinson was recently in the Bahamas, doing an article for one of the boating magazines on a brand of inflatable rubber boats. Because they were also shooting some photography for some advertisements, there were a couple of models along. One morning, Steve was having breakfast with one of these young lovelies, and in such circumstances he always mentions that he is married. Steve mentioned that Susan is a fanatic about working out. To which the model batted her eyes and said, "Ah, in the perfect life, all I would ever do is work out and groom."

Someone else's fault. Three years ago, a Christen Eagle crashed into one of the lakes outside Las Vegas. According to the accident reports, it appeared to be a couple of guys flying in hot-and-high air. They were doing aerobatics over the lake and managed to fly it into the lake while coming out of a loop, hitting the water at a 30-degree nose-down angle and killing both men on board. The accident investigation revealed nothing wrong with the plane at the time of the crash. However, the other day one of the relatives filed a suit against Christen Industries (now a shell corporation) and Lycoming blaming the accident on, if you can believe this, "unspecified design defects". Nah, that's not irresponsible litigation.

The FAA has announced its intention to crack down on the numerous 'co-build' shops that have sprung up recently to assist 'builders' of high-performance aircraft, where in fact the aircraft are simply custom-built for a fee. The first aircraft to be affected will be the BD-10 jet, where the Nevada company Fox 10 has ten BD-10 kits under construction. This is actually nothing new with the FAA; there have always been builders who hire assistants and no one has ever gotten excited about that, but any time you set up a shop that starts to look like an assembly line, the FAA is going to put you out of business. This happened a number of years ago with a shop multi-building Midget Mustangs, and it's going to happen now with shops turning out BD-10, Questairs, and the big-iron Lancairs and Glasairs.

Plastic bashing from the sea. Looking for another reason to hate plastic? According to an article in the New York Times, most of the 14 fiberglass boats in the 32,000-mile Whitbread Round the World race have experienced an "insidious threat-weakened hulls that start flexing like the sides of a child's swimming pool."

The race is being called the "delamination derby" because of problems with the hull materials with many of the yachts. Famed yacht designer Olin Stephens says there is always an "ignorance factor. The materials change all the time, and the way they're put together makes a difference."

Much of the problems are being caused by cracks in the foam core, and when the problems set in, the crews improvise by tearing apart their bunks, salvaging bed pipe frames to brace the interior walls of the boat. We're talking about million-dollar boats here, being sailed with pipes and frying pans bracing the hulls.

One year ago Dr. Ing. Alfredo Scoti caught holy hell from the Glasair folks for his article, "Lite Engineering and the Myth of Simplified Certification", in which he questioned the amount of engineering that goes into a typical kitplane.

Scoti recommends reading "Flight Instructor's Nightmare" in the June 1 issue of The Aviation Consumer, dealing with the failure of the AN-4 (1/4") axle retention bolts on the Glasair III, about how qualified engineers agree that the bolts will fail at a landing impact of approximately 3 Gs -- a typical dining-room chair is stronger than that -- and that Stoddard-Hamilton has a "new structural analysis" which indicates a redesign.

Good grief. The tension loads on the axle retention bolts is the simplest sort of calculation that any freshman engineering student can do in a few minutes. When Dave Thurston designed the Sequoia 300 landing gear, he used two AN-6 (3/8") and two AN-5 (5/16") bolts for a two-seat airplane of equal engine power. This bolt selection, he says, "will take anything that the axle or wheel will take", and it is considered a standard installation for aircraft of this class -- indeed, the brakes come from Cleveland have bolt holes for these size bolts.

All this suggests that the engineering was not simply performed inaccurately, but that it was never performed at all.

In a news conference, the emotional Scoti rapped on his chest with a clenched right fist and said "It make-a me very angry to hear about-a this. I don't-a get it. Tell-a me again why I'm a horrible person for suggesting that there is lite engineering in the kitplane field."

Back to the future. During 1946-49, the Czech company Aero license-built the famous Bücker Jungmann biplane. They're at it again, producing brand-new Jungmanns (which they call C-104's) complete with locally-built inline-four Walter Minor engines. There's also an option for 'firewall aft' airframes for owners who wish to do their own engine installations.

Yes! Three cheers for the EAA, which has just announced the EAA Flight Advisor program. Flight Advisors are a corps of volunteers who will assist aircraft builders and restorers in conducting adequate self evaluation of their piloting skills and to develop an appropriate flight test program. This answers a crying need and addresses a long-time problem where builders of aircraft feel compelled to fly their own creations, despite a lack of understanding of the principals of flight testing and the dangers involved. The accident rate for pilots with less than ten hours in type is simply gross, and this is a very good way to address the problem. Fantastic stuff.

Two years ago, the Italian gummint instituted a ludicrous tax on aircraft. The airplanes are taxed by weight alone-age or value has nothing to do with it. The result is that the annual tax on an old Cessna 320 is $35,000 a year, the same as the value of the plane. How's general aviation doing in Italy, in a country where avgas goes for $8.00 a gallon? Well, two years ago there were 352 corporate jets in Italy. Today there are 27.

OSHA wants you to know. Our own Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration has determined that there is a sufficient workplace safety issue raised by the presence of certain amounts and types of wood dust that our plywood suppliers have been required to issue a Material Safety Data Sheet and a caution label on wood dust. It says, "Sawing, sanding or machining wood products can produce wood dust which can cause a flammable or explosive hazard. Wood dust may cause lung, upper respiratory tract, eye and skin irritation. Some wood species may cause dermatitis and/or respiratory allergic effects."

Friends of ours adopted a girl at the age of two months. Now in the second grade, the girl is just learning that she's adopted. Riding along a back road with her mother, she was taking it all in. "So, I was never in your tummy." "That's right," said her mother. "Okay, now let me see if I've got this straight", the little girl said, very carefully and deliberately, "somebody else had me... but they couldn't afford to keep me... so they gave me to us."

Jim Baugh's Sequoia 300 was badly damaged in August after a precautionary landing on a gravel road near Gillete, Wyoming. Jim reports that he got caught in a squall line and was unable to find any clear air over the hills to the Sheridan airport. He landed safely on the gravel road, but a 40-knot crosswind pushed him into the ditch. The left gear collapsed and then the airplane spun around, shearing the nose gear axle off and damaging the right gear, engine mount, propeller and buckling the left wing. Jim is not sure if the aircraft is repairable or even if he wants to try.

Larry Black's engine was one of those affected by the Chevron contaminated fuel incident of this summer. The engine is now back at Lycoming for a complete rebuild. The incident, which reportedly will cost Chevron $40 million, is bizarre in that Chevron has, if anything, gone overboard to take responsibility, meanwhile Melvin Belli -- to Larry Black's disgust -- is filing a class action lawsuit against Chevron.


Cecil Rives's highly modified removable flightline pass.

The Bracelet Menace. Once again the dark, storm clouds of controversy hang over the EAA. Angry voices are heard, suspicions abound, and members threaten to quit. Some say they'll never come back to Oshkosh again. Petitions are circulated and signed by scowling men and then marched into EAA offices and presented in fierce defiance.

And the cause of all this concern and anger? Why it's the bracelet, the most horrible and awful of things to descend on Oshkosh in years. In years past, the flight line pass was a paper luggage-tag on a string. This year they went to a bracelet worn on the wrist. The daily pass was a colored paper band. The weekly pass was a plastic, hospital arm band affair firmly held on your wrist with a rivet. When the show was over you cut it off.

What caterwauling there was about this plastic band! People were threatening to go home and never come back. Members were threatening to quit the EAA over it. Someone had a petition that they were circulating, protesting this thing. One couple reported that they scratched themselves while making love. Always the clever mechanic, Cecil Rives devised a little bracelet modification with a ring terminal so he could take it off at night. Kitplanes editor Dave Martin said he still had the bracelet on when he got back to California, and the receptionist at his office said, "My Lord, Dave, what happened to you!" when she first saw the 'hospital' bracelet.

One woman said the band gave her a rash. This led to the Bracelet Riots on Friday evening, when a beleaguered Tom Poberezny was pinned against a wall by the irate crowd and was heard to say, "Unfortunately we didn't have the luxury of testing the new bracelet before we put it on the market. We had to stay in business. We had to keep selling tickets." Just kidding on that last one, but you actually had grown men with huge astronaut watches on one arm crying like babies about the agony of wearing a nearly weightless band on the other arm.

The problem with the tag-on-a-string is that you can pass it over the fence, something you can't do with a bracelet. The result is that more people buy tickets and the numbers are significant. Tom Poberezny says it's hard to pin down exactly what the bracelets did, but he guesses that the additional revenue is somewhere in the range of $100,000 to $125,000. Any way you cut it, that's a significant amount. Tom said that most of the complaints were in the first few days and all were about the plastic weekly band that you couldn't take off, (next year, they're going to issue a series of paper bands) and since Oshkosh he has received 15-20 letters about the bracelets. "Some people really lay it on, and it's no fun to stand there and listen to the complaints, but they deserve to be heard. When people said that they were going to quit the EAA over this, all I could think was: Where had we failed them that such a little thing would push them over the edge?"

Why general aviation is not going to hell. 1993 was an awful year for everyone in general aviation and kitplanes as well, but from everything I can see, it all hit bottom back in October or November. Since then, there's been a significant increase in plans and kit orders here, and everyone else I've talked to says the same thing.

The EAA's revenues at Oshkosh were up $700,000 over the previous year, and everyone reports increased interest in aviation. Product liability and litigation-a problem for society and not simply aviation-is now seen by a majority of people as a gross excess, and I think the tide will turn because of this attitude.

The first good news is the Statute of Repose, just signed into law and which limits liability for aircraft manufacturers to 18 years. Cessna's president, Russ Meyer, says it's the most significant thing for aviation since the Wright Brothers's flight. He knows the cost of litigation better than anyone else, and is easily the smartest man in aviation today. Cessna will put piston singles back into production, and this will spill over to everyone.

We now have lightweight starters. Unison just introduced a certified electronic ignition system. Aircraft batteries are better. New and better oil filters are being introduced. Falcos and many other high performance kitplanes offer superior performance, looks and handling over anything we've had before, and you can work on them yourself.

We now have two magazines devoted to the care and maintenance of aircraft by the owners. Tom Poberezny is doing a phenomenal job of transforming the EAA into a mainstream organization. By a huge margin, our navigation systems of today are better than anything we've ever had-today you can buy a hand-held GPS with a moving-map display for around $1200! -- and the next ten years will see phenomenal advances in avionics and flight controls.

Yes, things are still expensive and the economy is not yet booming, but I think we've hit a long-term bottom in general aviation and things will improve slowly from here on out.

Put down November 5 on your calendar for the 14th annual World's Only Oyster Fly-In and Gathering of Stelio Frati Aircraft at Rosegill Farm, Urbanna, Virginia. This year's special invited guest of honor is none other than Libya's Col. Mu'ammar Qadhafi, whose air force owns 190 SIAI Marchetti SF.260's. Look for Col. Qadhafi's tent compound to the side of the runway. Following dinner on Saturday night, Col. Qadhafi and Al Aitken (who once bombed Libya-President Reagan made him do it) will have a big hug and make up.

What to wear when you take dollies up for a ride in your Falco. Keep an eye out for Steve Wilkinson and his Falco in a late January issue of the Sunday Times magazine, included with the New York Times newspaper. They're in the Fashion section, where Steve and four models display the latest in spring fashions in a full spread photo. Apparently this feature of the Sunday Times magazine is considered to be more important than the cover of Vogue, and models will kill to get in the photo. Steve said they arrived with a 'location van', a converted bus and about 20 people were involved in the process of getting the models made up and their hair done. The entire process took four hours in bitterly cold weather.

Calendar girl. Get a copy of the EAA's 1995 'World of Flight' calendar featuring Bjoern Eriksen's Falco. It's the June airplane, and appropriately so because June 15, 1995 is the 40th anniversary of the first flight of the Falco.

Next time you're tempted to blame everything on lawyers and insurance companies, consider the plight of the insurance company covering the owner of the airplane that taxied into Pawel Kwiecinski's Falco. The elevator and rudder were rebuilt by a shop in Alexandria, Minnesota, that specializes in wood aircraft repairs. They're right across from the Bellanca factory, and their work came to $6,000, including the kit parts purchased from us. No complaint on that from the insurance company, which is used to paying a premium for one-time repair work. The problem, however, was about the painting. A guy did the job at night, and on a time-and-materials basis. He did a beautiful job, everyone agrees, but there's just this wee little problem about the cost. In all, it came to 296 hours of work, all itemized and accounted for, and at $35.00 an hour, that comes to $12,827. The insurance company is in agony. You get the idea that someone is getting hosed here?

NASA is always spending money on futuristic things, few of which ever have any practical use, but then that's not necessarily the point of it, is it? The latest scheme, being cooked up jointly between NASA and Stanford University, is a supersonic flying wing. Imagine a flying saucer stretched to a long elliptical shape, with a tilting rudder at each end. It's sort of a surfboard, 400 feet long, that takes off like the average mad scientist's flying wing, but as it approaches supersonic speed, it turns to an oblique angle-a one-piece swing-wing where only the rudders move. The really crazy thing about this thing is that it's not so crazy after all, being a simple mechanical design utterly reliant on computer-assisted controls. Who knows if this thing will ever see production, but at least NASA is keeping the readers of Popular Science amused.

Following the Urbanna Oyster Festival, authorities reported finding an intoxicated yellow labrador dog passed out on a curb on Saturday. "Someone had been feeding him beer. You could smell it on his breath" reported Sheriff Lewis Jones. The young dog was taken to the firehouse where he recovered. "We fed him a little bit and walked him around, and he was all right," said Jones. The authorities returned the hungover dog to its owner, who said she hadn't seen him for two days. Also on the Urbanna front, following the publication of our press release in the local paper about inviting Col. Qadhafi, there was a minor uproar in town about inviting undesirables to the area, and some of the citizens raised the subject at the town council meeting.

     

 

 

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