Sunday, July 29, 2012

Oshkosh - Afflicted With The “RV Grin”

It was a good week at Oshkosh’s AirVenture - the main goal at Oshkosh this year was to fly Van’s RV-12. And to that end, I found myself purchasing tickets for the show in advance, entering the gate last Monday morning moments after the 7 AM show opening and power walking like a crazed Olympian with tunnel vision to the Van’s Aircraft tent ... which, thankfully, was located just where it has always been in past years. Although the muscles and joints in my legs may not agree, the Herculean effort paid off in spades … I was able to place my name on the list and secure the first RV-12 demo flight. Unfortunately, I discovered the first day Van’s was providing RV-12 demo flights was Thursday, so I had a few days to enjoy the show and let the excitement build before the demo flight.

It may come as a surprise, but the RV-12 project was begun without ever flying or even having had a ride in the RV-12.  I knew, by way of attending the Oshkosh air show for many years and helping my friend Pete assemble his RV-9A, that Van’s Aircraft manufactures a high quality kit which produces a great flying airplane when completed. All of the RV-12 flight reviews and Blog comments made by owners have all had a commonality … they all concur the RV-12 flies really nice. So based on all the comments and Van’s reputation for developing airplanes that have good handling and performance, I felt comfortable ordering the RV-12 without flying it first.

Wednesday morning I found myself wandering along the flight line at the north end of the field near the Van’s booth. While in the area, I decided to hang around and watch a few of Van's prospective customers receive their demo flights in other models of Van’s airplanes … primarily to determine exactly where the factory planes operated from (so I would know exactly where to be Thursday morning for my demo flight) and to see what the procedure was. That morning Van’s was providing demo flights in their RV-7 & RV-9A models. I spent about an hour and a half there talking with guys like myself who started kits without flying in the plane first and a few who wanted to begin a build, but desired a demo flight first.  Honestly, to a person, everybody I saw climbing out of the cockpits upon their return had that big “RV grin” plastered on their faces I’ve heard so much about.

My turn to fly the RV-12 came a little after 9:00 AM Thursday morning … it was a perfect day at Oshkosh for flying. Weather wise, it was a gorgeous morning … a clear sunny day with very good visibility, a steady breeze from the west and a very high intermittent stratus. By way of a Van’s representative asking if I was scheduled for the 9 AM demo flight, I discovered a customer was able to book a demo flight prior to mine. After replying yes, I was informed the RV-12 had left earlier in the morning with a customer and should be back at any moment … about five minutes later Mitchell Lock (Van’s east coast representative) taxied up in N412RV (the red Van's Aircraft  RV-12), parked and shutdown the engine. The canopy swung up and vacating the passanger seat was another happy gentleman (he too was afflicted with the “RV grin”). It was now my turn to experience the RV-12.

Mitchell introduced himself and verified my reservation while I placed my hat and backpack in the baggage area behind the seats and climbed into the RV-12. I’ve sat in the RV-12 a couple of times in years past at Oshkosh so already knew it is plenty roomy for two people to sit in without having their shoulders crushed together or feeling parts of the airplane pushing on you (as other LSA models often do). That said, it is a “cozy” fit to be sure, but not a cramped cockpit. At 6’2”, I had plenty of room for my legs (both on and off the rudder peddles) and there is an ample amount of head room when the canopy is down.

The RV-12's Rotax 912 engine sprung to life the moment the starter was engaged suggesting there is likley not any hot start issues with the 100 hp engine. We taxied with the canopy down but open a little at the bottom … the day was heating up quickly and this offered plenty of cooling air to keep us from cooking under that big canopy.
                                  On the taxi way – we were sixth in line for a mid runway takeoff to the north.
                                  Notice the great view over the nose of the RV-12 while on the ground.

Prior to taking the runway, Mitchell requested I open a small air vent on my side of the fuselage adjacent to my legs. This let in enough cooling air to stay comfortable once the canopy was locked down prior to taking the runway while we waited for the B-17 bomber landing in front of us to clear the runway.
                           We were cleared to take the runway after the B-17 bomber passing in front of us landed.

Where else other than Oshkosh are you cleared to take the runway after a B-17 lands? … You just have to love it!!!

With Mitchell at the controls we began our takeoff roll which was quick, seemingly only a few moments until we were easily off the ground. Once a good rate of climb was established, which I suspect was around 700 feet per minute, Mitchell established a quick climbing right turn to an easterly heading towards Lake Winnebago. I was having a hard time seeing the smaller graphics on the Dynon SkyView display because I kept my sunglasses on as opposed to my reading glasses. Therefore, I could not see most the display’s features clearly all the way from the right seat … only the big numbers such as air speed and altitude, which was OK since I was not taking off or landing. The demo is only intended to let you get a feel for the airplane once airborne.
                                          The Dynon SkyView display looks great (when wearing my glasses).

The SkyView display was divided in thirds and set up to display flight parameters on the left, GPS mapping in the center and engine monitoring on the right side.

Once we were around 1,200 feet I was given control of the RV-12 and asked to climb to 1,700 feet and head out over Lake Winnebago. Once past the shore line, climbed to 2,000 feet and began getting comfortable with the RV-12 while doing a few maneuvers.

The RV-12’s bubble canopy offers great visibility … there is even a good downward view (which for a low wing airplane is unusual) this is because the seating is forward of the main spar.
                                                 The RV-12’s large bubble canopy offers impressive visibility.
                                                            I would say the over the nose visibility is superb.
                            The RV-12 has a super downward view because the seating is forward of the wing’s spar.
                            Try getting this downward view in a Piper Cherokee during level flight.

Flying the RV-12 was a joy, I absolutely loved the way the RV-12 flies! The control forces are well balanced, with good harmony … light and smooth, but by no means “twitchy”. The RV-12 flew very stable with two fingers on the stick. I momentarily popped the stick or rudder a few times just to see the reaction. The airplane responded to the control input and as soon as I released the control input the RV-12 continued flying like it was on rails. At no time did I have the feeling the tail was “squirrelly” (as is one model of LSA I have been in) or of there being a tendency to porpoise.

Instinctively, I was pulling up on the nose slightly during 30 degree turns, as is often necessary on other airplanes I’ve flown, but soon discovered that is not necessary on the RV-12 (at least not for 30 degree turns). I should have tried doing some steeper 45 degree turns, but chose not to … mainly because at Oshkosh, there are airplanes EVERYWHERE!! So, in the interest of safety, I did not feel comfortable making sudden steep turns with so much traffic all around.

Was hoping to hit a little turbulence to see how well the RV-12 handles it … unfortunately, there was none to be had. My thought is with the light wing loading of the RV-12, you will get bounced around a little for sure … but since the airplane seems inherently quite stable, I wouldn’t expect there to be any control issues. Also flew the airplane purposely out of trim to see how the control forces were and discovered the control forces required to maintain level flight were easily manageable with appropriate pressure on the control stick. The trim control is motorized by means of an up-down switch mounted on the control panel to the left of the throttle. (I believe my preference would be to locate it on the control stick … so that is where my trim switch will likely end up being installed since I’m building my RV-12 as an EAB).

On the way back to the airport I needed to quickly lose about a thousand feet before crossing the shore line so the throttle was pulled out and the nose pushed down … the RV-12 responded with a smooth quick decent and leveled out as if on a rail.
Clicking on the  above photo to make it larger one can see Oshkosh’s AirVenture show parallels runway 36 ... which can be seen entirely in the center of the photo as we were approaching from the east. On the far side of the runway there is a sea of aircraft from one end of the runway to the other. If you look closely, you can also see a brown strip just above where the runway ends on the left side of the photo … that is the grass strip used by the ultra-lights and rotorcraft.

Mitchell took over the controls as we were quickly nearing the airport … initially, we were turned away from the runway by the air traffic controllers. A few moments after turning away from the airport, the controllers changed their minds and cleared us to land on 36 right (a wide taxi way to the right of the main runway which is used as a parallel runway during Oshkosh week) but ONLY if we could land quickly. Before the controllers could change their minds again, Mitchell yanked the RV-12 into the quickest and steepest 180 degree descending turn I’ve ever experienced. The RV-12 responded smoothly and gracefully.
                                        Short final to 36 (right) which is a wide taxi way 51 weeks of the year.
                            During AirVenture week, the taxi way becomes an active runway for smaller airplanes.

To add to Mitchell’s challenge, controllers then requested he hold off on landing the RV-12 until after the third turn-off  so we skimmed approximately two thirds the length of  the runway at about 25 feet or so off the deck before setting down just after the third turn-off as requested … once we were safely on the ground, Mitchell received a nice compliment from the controllers for his able abilities to efficiently comply with their requests.

Needless to say it was a thrill to fly at Oshkosh and, of course, I was already smiling about that. However, it was an even bigger thrill to fly in the RV-12 not to mention the “E ticket” turn to short final (older Disneyland visitors may remember the “E ticket”). As I exited the RV-12, I came to the realization that I too had become afflicted with the “RV grin”.

So based on my demo flight, do I have any buyer’s remorse?
Yes, I do!!!  … I should have purchased the RV-12 years ago!!!!!

PS .. My apologies for the poor resolution on all the photos. I forgot to kick up the camera resolution and discovered I still had the camera in a low resolution mode I had been using for taking photos for the Blog. 

Friday, July 20, 2012

Work Suspended ** Oshkosh Week **

All production on the RV-12 at DOG Aviation is suspended for Oshkosh week.

It’s that time of the year again to make the annual pilgrimage to Oshkosh Wisconsin to attend Air Venture … a week long air show hosted by the Experimental Aircraft Association. Oshkosh could be called the Mecca of experimental aviation in the United States and in fact, some would agree, possibility the world.  Oshkosh is an amazing experience and the Experimental Aircraft Association has hosted the show for so many years now, that for such a huge event, it runs like a well oiled machine.

Oshkosh is not just about experimental airplanes it embraces aviation in general .. new or vintage, war birds, ultralights, jets, amphibians, helicopters, etc. -  if it flies, it is or will be at Oshkosh.  Plus there are vendors galore with the latest avionics, engines, parts, supplies, ect.

Oshkosh is truly an amazing experience!

Control Horns Installed On Anti-Servo Tabs

Today was one of those days where life got in the way of building an airplane. So there was not much accomplished except for making sure the anti-servo ribs flanges were squared before riveting the ribs to the upper skins of the left and right anti servo tabs.

                                                     Riveting the upper anti-servo skins to the anti-servo tab’s ribs.

 The only other thing I was able to get accomplished today was riveting the control horns onto both anti-servo tabs.
                                     Using the pneumatic rivet squeezer to squeeze the rivets attaching
                                                  the control horns to the anti-servo tabs.
                                                          Control horns installed on left and right anti-servo tabs.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Assembly Begins On The Anti-Servo Tabs

After finishing up with the rudder, decided to move on and begin the assembly of the anti-servo tabs by using Clecos to attach the ribs of the left and right anti-servo tabs into place for riveting.
Installing Clecos to hold the ribs onto the upper skins of the left and right anti-servo tabs in preparation for riveting.

The RV-12 Grows Another Tail Feather - Rudder Completed

Even though getting a late afternoon start, the rudder was finished in just a few hours of riveting and shirt moistening sweat fron the heat and humidity. Everything fit together perfectly and I must say, the flush rivets add a nice touch … the rudder looks great!
                            Installing Clecos to hold the rudder skin tightly onto the rudder’s ribs and spar.

My childhood partner in crime and long time friend Bernie stopped by on his way home from work for an hour or so to see the progress on the RV-12 … perfect timing, put Bernie to work helping with the rudder assembly.
                           Bernie helping by installing a few Clecos to hold the rudder skin onto the rudder skeleton.
                                                 Bernie trying out the pneumatic rivet puller for the first time.

Jan’s nephew Jordan is visiting us from Columbus and has been helping with a painting and wallpaper removal project.  Thought Jordan may want to try out the pneumatic rivet puller so invited him to join me at the DOG Aviation assembly facility to pull some rivets.
                              Jordan using the pneumatic rivet puller to rivet the rudder skin onto the rudder’s spar.
                         Can’t let everyone have all the fun with the pneumatic riveter so I got into the act as well.

                                 Holding the finished rudder assembly ... another tail feather completed!

One tiny downside of using flush rivets is the rivet is virtually hidden by the tip of the pneumatic puller so that made it a little more difficult to see if the puller was square on the rivet. One had to lean over and look at the point of contact with the rivet to make sure the rivet puller is squarely on the rivet. After doing quite a few rivets, we got the idea of holding the rudder perpendicular to the table … now all you have to do is look down to see the point of contact which made the riveting much much easier and faster.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Rudder Skeleton Completed

Today was a productive day at DOG Aviation in spite of a late afternoon start. The rudder skeleton was assembled and, here again, I substituted a stronger (and lighter) solid rivet for the LP4-4 blind (pop) rivets called for in the plans to attach the rudder's ribs to the rudder spar. My pneumatic squeezer was able to access all of the rudder's rib rivets, so decided to make a substitution. I used a rivet gauge and determined an AN470AD4-4 rivet would work well so that is the size I used.
                                              First rib riveted along with the spar caps and rudder hinge rivets.
                                 Photo of the rivet gauge - an AD470AD4-4 rivet looks to be about the right size.
                                 When forming a shop head on thinner material using a piece of vinyl tubing over
                                the rivet keeps the thinner metal from riding up as the rivet expands … works great!

Clicking on the photo to make it larger one can clearly see the rib to spar joint is tight together where the upper three rivets have been already squeezed. However, getting that little piece of tubing to stay in place can be “challenging” … patience is a virtue when using this method.
                                                 Squeezing the last rivet where the rudder horn to attaches to
                                                 the rudder spar. This completed the rudder skeleton.
                                        Sliding the rudder skeleton into the rudder skin - paper is placed in the skin
                                        to prevent the primer from being scratched while the fit is adjusted.

Sanchem CC-6100 Faux Pas

Houston we have a problem – yesterday evening I placed some parts that were prepped with the Sanchem part “C” cleaner/activator the evening before into the CC-6100 solution and they did not appear to convert to any shade of a golden hue.

The evening before I decided to try to save a little time and just prep a pile of ribs along with a handful of the smaller parts. My thinking was all the parts would be prepped and ready to go into the CC-6100 solution the next day so all the parts were scrubbed with a maroon Scotch-brite pad with the part “C” cleaner/activator solution in advance.

That was a really bad idea ... none of the first few pieces that were placed into the CC-6100 solution converted. Apparently there is more to this process than meets the eye. I was forced to reapply the cleaner/activator, rinse and then place the parts into the CC-6100 before they would convert.

Apparently, the “activator” is only good for a limited amount of time regardless of whether the part is wet from the rinse or dried … and that time is less than 24 hours. I do know I can do 3 or 4 ribs and let then set around awhile, say 30 minutes, and they appear to convert fine so do not know what the time limit is … guess a call or Email to Sanchem is in order.

Another interesting observation - a few of the small pieces that were rinsed and dried after the cleaner/activator were placed in a plastic tray with a Bounty paper towel on the bottom. Those parts, even after being rescrubbed with the cleaner/activator, showed the pattern of the paper towel after coming out of the CC-6100 solution. So it appears setting activated parts on paper towels is also “NOT” a good idea.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Primer – Without The Mess This Time

Although quite warm (90 degrees or so) it was, by in large, a calm morning so decided to prime parts. This time there was no paint leaking everywhere because I remembered to place the lid on the disposable spray paint cup system … there was plenty of pressure at the gun so we were good to go. I mixed a double batch of paint and still ran out but by then I was getting overheated from wearing a spray paint suit, breathing through a respirator and standing in the hot sun spraying … plus tromping back and forth to store wet parts inside did not help matters either.

By in large the parts turned out good except for a couple of places where I got the primer  on a little heavier than I would have preferred. No runs but you can tell it is thick in some places. Still trying to master the spray gun .. guess it is a learning curve. It is very cool that with the disposable paint cup system, you can paint upside down or sideways. Found myself spraying with the gun sideways a few times and never ran out of primer.

If you ask me, the biggest challenge is holding small parts like brackets or small ribs without leaving marks on them. There is so much air pressure coming out of the tip of the gun the smaller pieces want to fly so you need to use a small wire or string to secure the item. I ran a board across the back of the table and placed some nails in it to wrap some wire on so smaller pieces could be suspended and turned while being sprayed. Worked, but the parts still want to fly and sometimes the wire would be pushed into the paint because the part would twist atound under the spray pressure.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Preparing Stabilator Parts For Sanchem CC-6100

Prepared a large pile of ribs and the stabilator forward spar today with the Sanchem part “C” cleaner/activator. I knew I would not have enough time today to clean all the parts and then dip all the parts in the Sanchem CC-6100 solution. So decided to clean everything with Acetone then scuff the parts using the part “C” cleaner/activator with a Scotch-brite pad. Finished them all today and plan to dip them tomorrow in the CC-6100 solution.
                                                                 Cleaning a stabilator rib with Acetone.

                              Scrubbing a stabilator rib with the part”C” cleaner/activator on a Scotch-brite pad.

I have found the Scotch-brite pads need to be changed every two or three ribs. They can be used longer but require much more rubbing (which adds even more time) before the metal looks dull.
                                     A comparison of a finished rib on the right and an unfinished rib on the left. 
                                     The one on the left reflects the sky but not the one on the right.

Based on previous use, the metal must be scoured until there is no shininess left on the surface. Shiny spots appear not to convert when placed in the CC-6100 solution so a dull finish is required over the entire part.

Trimming Stabilator Ribs – The Guessing Game

The plans call for filing a radius on all the HS-1204 and HS-1205 ribs. Unfortunately, the drawing the plans refer to is a side view … so there is lots of room for interpretation. It would truly be much more helpful if the amount of material required to be removed were shown as a top view so a builder can see the suggested radius.

Based on the amount of material removed from the ribs in the vertical stabilator that required trimming and a quick look at a couple of other builder sites I chose to use a water bottle cap to mark the radius of the cut. Instead of filing, I just used the left & right hand metal snips I have and then smoothed the cut with a Scotch-brite wheel. It looks to be about the right amount to cut off based on the builder sites I visited, but won’t really know until after a trial fit.  If more needs to be trimmed …  I’ll make note of it here.
                                                  Trimming the HS-1204 and HS-1205 ribs with metal snips.
                             Left to right - Cut and uncut HS-1205 and uncut and cut HS-1204 ribs. A water bottle cap was
                             used to draw the radius and left and right hand metal snips were used to cut the material.
                                                         Using the Scotch-brite wheel to smooth the cuts.
                                       Finished ribs after using a small diamond file to smooth the inside edges.