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Saturday, January 30, 2010

SSA Convention

Report from the floor of the SSA Convention.  Star of the show (in my opinion of course) is Dean's Cherokee II N72DG and Jerry Wenger's beautiful Rhonbussard.  We had a blast at the VSA Lunch yesterday and am looking forward to the banquet tonight.  After looking over N72DG closely I've decided to go ahead and cut out the shelf in front of the spar.  Here's Dean and I:

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Static Lines

Last night Herb, our CAF Wing Leader, came out to see the glider. Afterward I spent a little time working on the glider. First I cleaned up the new support that we glued in, from the frame to the lower longeron. It had a little overlap on the top that I took care of. Then I decided to put in the static line. First I took a look at the actual static ports and found them both to be plugged with *something*. I suppose that explains why they haven't been working for the last few years. A little time with a scissors and some zip ties and the line was in place up to the cockpit. It looks nice and new!

I need to get up to Moundridge one of these days and get some varnish for the new wood pieces. Leah and I are excited to head for the SSA Convention on Thursday night. We'll be spending the weekend in Little Rock hanging with all of our great glider friends and meeting new ones. I'll be working the SSF Booth when I'm not otherwise busy. Dean Gradwell should have gotten there today with N72DG in tow. Nice to know that a beautiful Cherokee II will be on display. In other Cherokee II news I got ahold of Eric in EAA Chapter 1111 out in Washington who has a Cherokee Fuselage and wing on display in his hangar. Quite an interesting story behind it and hopefully once I get pictures I'll make a post about it.

Hoping to get to work on Transponder mounting tonight. We'll see...

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Trailer Covered!

Yesterday was a great day for getting work done. Way back in May a windstorm blew through Wichita and my trailer got tipped about 45 degrees before an open schweizer trailer caught it. This was the scene, not pretty:

This lead to some pretty major work in May and June to get the trailer roadworthy again. Leah and I and a few good friends were working out at Harry's most days each week. The old skin and floorboards were torn up, repairs were made to broken or seriously rusted portions of the frame, the whole thing was sandblasted, primed and painted. I put in new plywood for the floor and got the fittings back in the trailer in time for the Kansas Kowbell Klassic straight out distance contest in July. But the trailer still didn't have any skin! It was a drag, literally. With only the front and rear pieces of aluminum in place, it was about equivalent to towing two trailer. Maintaining a reasonable highway speed was impossible. Tailwinds helped.

I had bought some aluminum back in June for the job but just never went through with it. Partly I was dreading it because it certainly was going to be a major job. Second I didn't have a great place to do the work. Well with colder weather these last few weeks I knew I wasn't going to get much work done on the glider so I decided that maybe I should spend the time getting the trailer finished. I arranged for a few friends to help out this weekend and a couple of my power flight students offered the use of their shop which was awesome. I had a couple of air drills from harry, had bought a whole bunch of drill bits, a couple hundred clecos, 3 cleco pliers, a couple air powered pop rivet guns and about 1500 pop rivets.

We got to work mid morning on Saturday. First sheet went pretty well while we all (Leah, Joe, Jesse, and I) all figured out what we were doing.

We put all three top pieces on after attaching the bottom pieces. With all three of the top pieces cleco'd together we used some 2x4's and ratchet straps to bend them all over together so that the seams were flush. It turned out really good!

Here is the view of the right side before it was bent.

Ryan working on riveting the pieces together at the top

The view from inside. Looks great!

So I still have a few more things to do before I can call the trailer complete, but it is completely functional in its current form. At least I will be able to park it outside and the glider will be protected. Harry is working on some lip pieces to rivet around the front to seal up the gap there. Then I will have side running lights to install along with maybe some interior lighting and some tracks for the wing dollies. I also need to get a sheet metal strap or something to hold the wingtips in the wingtip cradles.

I picked up some 1/4" ID plastic tubing at Lowe's today along with some Tees so I can replace the pitot and static lines. Hopefully tomorrow I will have time to start installing that as well as fitting the transponder, encoder, and transponder antenna.

I'm still debating whether or not I want to cut out the shelf in front of the spar. Im a little nervous about putting the saw to that. Also, the plans show lightening holes on the keel underneath the cockpit, and my glider doesn't have them. I'm considering doing that too.

Friday, January 22, 2010


Leah and I worked on the glider tonight, taking advantage of some warm weather we're having. I finished up fitting the frame piece and Leah worked on cutting out a piece of plywood for the filler piece on the left side of the fuselage.

We got an electric space heater which helped keep the temp above 50 F while we worked. Only supposed to get down to 46 outside tonight and back up in the mid 50's tomorrow. Here is the frame glued in place.

And here is the new support for the lower longeron:

And the filler piece next to the fuselage:

So we'll have to do some varnishing once the glue cures. Great progress made though! Jesse is here and after breakfast with the CAF tomorrow we will start Akasegelflugzeuganhangar or however you spell it.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Wingtip Cradles

Leah and I went out to the shop tonight and installed the wingtip cradles. I had built these late last summer but never got around to putting them in place. Since we're going to be skinning the trailer this weekend they needed to be installed. I picked up a set of drill bits and some 1/4" nuts and bolts. Everything went well. I need to make some sort of sheet metal strap to go over the wing and act as an aileron lock. But, another key step is finished for the trailer party this weekend. Pete, who has much better German skills than me, says that our trailer summit should really be called Akasegelflugzeuganhänger. a few more syllables but I think we can deal with it.

I've made a few more updates to the Cherokee II Roll Call post. Looking through some of the old Soaring Magazine Archives I found some classified ads that I could ID to certain gliders. Interesting stuff.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Trailer Summit this weekend

Not a lot of progress on my fuselage this week. I did get out to harry's and re-cut the piece of plywood for the frame replacement. I may try to get that piece fit tonight. Then the wood will be more or less ready to epoxy into place, just need a warm place to do the work. Still don't have electricity, grrr.....

Currently, my trailer still looks something like this:

which really isn't satisfactory protection from the weather. I've had a bunch of aluminum sitting at Harry's house since last summer just waiting to be put in place. So this weekend a group of us will be having a riveting party. I've got 1500 pop rivets to pick up tonight. Need to buy a couple hundred cleco's and a few more cleco pliers. I've got a heated shop for the weekend to do the work in. Should be a great time. Bob K has Akafleig's, perhaps I can have an Akawohnwagen??

Wednesday, January 13, 2010


I had a little free time after work today so I used my newly sharpened chisels and cleaned up the cuts I had made last week. I got the area where the frame piece was removed completely cleaned up. a little sanding and it will be ready for new wood. Now I just need to re-cut the frame piece because I cut it too short to begin with. sigh. oh well that's why i bought more wood than I thought I needed.

It looks like I'm going to try to spend the weekend of the 23rd with a few friends riveting the aluminum to my trailer. That will be a relief to have it enclosed, finally.

I received a report that Ken Caldwell is flying his Cherokee this week at the Australian Vintage Rally. Hopefully he will send me some pictures when they are done and I can pass them along. He did say that it has been HOT there with several days above 100 which killed the flying spirit.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Cuttin Wood

Today it was relatively warm, a balmy 35 degrees, so I trekked to the garage and cut some wood. There was a support piece for the lower longeron that was cracked and with the help of a saw and chisel i removed it pretty easily. Then it was off to Harry's to borrow his jigsaw. Both the frame piece and the support piece were 1/4" plywood and I have some Mahogany/Poplar plywood to replace them, from Aircraft Spruce. I got the new pieces cut with few problems, and also got some 1/8" birch plywood from Harry for replacing the finishing pieces around the canopy which had gotten wet and started to rot. They are non structural pieces.

I'm going to start working on figuring out a placement and routing for the transponder antenna and cable. Also need to work out a spot for the altitude encoder and something to support the actual transponder behind the panel. Need to make a shopping list at aircraft spruce for hardware, pulleys, and other stuff like that. need to replace it while i've got everything opened up.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Update and another Flight Report

I'm still here! Leah and I were traveling over Christmas and New Year's so no progress has been made on the project. I am supposed to be getting electricity in my garage this week and then will be able to get back to work on the fuselage with heat! In the meantime record cold temps are on their way, woohoo!

I just received my latest copy of the Bungee Cord and see that Dean Gradwell's beautiful Cherokee II, N72DG, is featured for the month of July on the calendar. Very nice! I really like the VSA Calendar for the winter edition of the Bungee Cord.

Is anyone going to be at the SSA Convention in Little Rock? Leah and I will both be there and Dean is scheduled to have 72DG on display. I will likely be working the Soaring Safety Foundation booth most of Friday and Saturday unless one of the presentations really catches my attention. Looks like there will be plenty of good talks and good times to be had.

I'm still hopeful to get the fuselage more or less ready for fabric this month. After the fuselage is complete I think that I'll work on getting new skin on the trailer and then go to work on the wings. End goal is to be ready to fly by beginning of or mid April.

So in the meantime, I have my old computer up and running, so might as well pull some old flight reports off it and get it published for the world to read. Here is the report I wrote after my first solo cross country flight in a glider. Previous to this I had done a few cross country flights with my instructor, Matt Michael, in his IS28B2 "Lark", both ending in a landout which was valuable experience.

I had been looking forward to Memorial Day weekend for quite a while. I had purchased my glider, N373Y, the month before and had done my first flights in it the weekend before. I was pleased to find that it handled and climbed well, especially in weak lift. With a 25:1 piece of antique aviation all to myself, my next goal was to go for some distance! Watching the forecasts for the entire week before showed me that it would definitely be a downwind dash kind of weekend. Strong flow was predicted out of the south, but sunny skies and high temps were also predicted, giving me hope.

Arriving at the airport early Saturday morning to prepare for my flight, I wandered over to the towplane hangar to find Darrel Mullins mowing. Diane Bassham, scheduled towpilot for the day, drove up as I did, and Darrel reported that the Super Cub would not turn left. The tailwheel was not engaging. I was devastated. I would have had to get launched early (like right then) to beat prohibitive surface winds and get out of there. I also realized this was going to hurt chances of getting a flight in Sunday too. I went back to the hangar and worked on washing the glider and picking up some other loose ends. Lunch with Paul Kaufmann and Darrel was enjoyed while watching nearly gale force winds knock small children over. Maybe it wasn’t so bad that I didn’t get aloft.

The tailwheel was dropped off at club mechanic and storyteller Paul “Yeager” Mcilrath’s house Saturday night. I spent 11 hours at the airport Sunday, but was ground bound the entire time. I did install an electrical system in the ship as well as a good antenna and hookup for my handheld radio. Sunday evening I was delighted to hear from Paul saying that the tailwheel had nothing broken and should work, from what he could see. I crossed my fingers that it would work when reinstalled. Paul asked if I wanted to fly Monday, sounded to him like a blowout with 20-25 knot winds. I had talked to Tom Burns, the scheduled towpilot, and knew that if the wind was 25 or under, we both were comfortable flying. I had no intention of staying within glide distance of the Ames airport, so staying upwind was of no concern to me. I told him with a resounding “Yes!” that I would like to fly and he agreed to come up in the morning and install the tailwheel. I once again arrived at the airport, not trying to get too excited in the event the tailwheel didn’t work. I had the glider all ready to go, just needed to rig. After talking with Paul and Tom, we decided that Tom would test it out and then go do some touch and goes. If I saw him flying I would get right to work rigging in order to depart ASAP. I was never so happy to see the Super Cub in the air.

Paul came over to help rig, he decided to stick around and help me get launched. Also present were mentor Matt Michael as well as Leah Benson and Rob Gilbert. Tom also came over to help. With so much help, we quickly got the Cherokee assembled, and with Critical Assembly and Positive Control checks complete, were ready to pull down to the runway. Paul and I followed Tom to the active runway 19 while Matt and Rob got ready to crew. With everything prepared, all I had to do was jump in and take off. Leah and Paul helped hook me up and see me off. The wind was strong enough that no wing runner was necessary; the Cherokee is a great windjammer!

We towed straight out into the wind, in case I needed a relight. Lift was weak on tow, but I released at 1800 ft thinking I was in some great thermal. Of course I ended up being wrong. I drifted downwind towards the airport and couldn’t find anything. The lift was getting broken up by the wind and hard to work. I entered the pattern, and of course as soon as I did I found a little lift, maybe 100 fpm up. I worked it for a little while, but wasn’t climbing very well. Eventually I had to leave it as the airport was getting farther upwind and I didn’t have nearly enough altitude to try to set out over town. I probably wouldn’t have made it past the north side of town.

Tom had just landed the towplane and I landed behind him. Paul raced the Festiva back down to 19 and we hooked up quickly and off I was again. It was about the closest I’ve gotten to doing a touch and go in a glider, without landing on tow.

I wisely decided to take the second tow to a higher altitude, and got off in some weak lift at about 2500 AGL. I also had Tom take me further east of the airport where some better looking clouds were. Thankfully I found a good patch of 200 fpm up and was gone. I set off to the north, the 20 knot tailwind giving me a good push. After the initial climb I had trouble finding any good lift. Occasionally I would find a patch of rising air, but it was getting broken up and was impossible to work. Holding altitude was just as good as climbing and I took what I could get. Once north of Story city, I was approaching 1500 AGL and still going down. I started scoping out good landing sites, which I was surrounded by. Continuing to the north, I was now half way to Jewell and going through 1000 feet. Crap. I was sure that I was going to lose it and started to set up for an approach. At 800 feet, about to turn base leg for a nice field, I flew through a strong core, and it literally startled the heck out of me. After regaining my composure I turned back for it. I was unable to find the core again, but once again found some good 200 fpm lift that was semi steady. I worked it to my maximum altitude of 2800 AGL.

While on this climb I noticed I hadn’t heard from my crew in a bit, and then noticed that I had bumped the radio and changed the frequency. I regained contact with Matt and he told me they thought I had crashed into a field. Some confidence! I reported climbing to the north and was considering heading northwest as there looked to be some overdevelopment ahead. Once back in cruise, Matt reported that thunderstorms were building from Omaha to Fort Dodge headed northeast and he recommended I also turn northeast. Conditions looked fine in that direction so I agreed. I started to notice that once again I was not finding any lift. Occasional zero sink was the best I could do. As before, I started to scope out landing sites, made a radio call that I was starting to get low, and pressed on downwind. As I got below 1000 AGL I picked out a nice cornfield with a farmhouse and big driveway at the south end. I set up an approach to it, still hoping for some lift. The low save was not to come this time, and I turned final and gave up hope. My landing site was at the bottom of a hill, which I cleared. With the strong headwind and the soft dirt, my landing roll couldn’t have been longer than 50 feet. This left me about 300 feet from the house; I was planning on a longer landing roll.

I immediately unstrapped and pulled out my phone to call Matt and let him know that I was safely on the ground. I also tried to estimate my position for him to come get me. I got out of the glider and saw some people at the house looking kind of funny at me. I waved to let them know (hopefully) that I hadn’t crashed and wasn’t dead. I started to tie down the glider when the farmer and his son walked out to meet me. I introduced myself and let him know my crew was on the way. I asked if we could derig in his driveway, and made very clear we didn’t want to damage any crops or inconvenience him. He had work to do, but helped pull the glider up to the house. As we were walking up, Matt, Leah, and Rob showed up. We got to work derigging, and in just under an hour were on the road.

We made it back to Ames in time for the Memorial Day picnic and I made up a bunch of lies about how far and fast I had gone. Total distance was measured at 50.3 km in about 1 hr and 10 minutes. Because of the high tow, I would’ve needed about 75 km to get silver distance. Oh well, something to aim for next flight

Had a blast and finally got to put to the test all this cross country soaring instruction I’ve been taking.

Here are a few pictures from the flight: