Oct 03 2011

Day 4… Flight to Greeley, Co

This morning I was greeted to a wonderful sunrise. I am sat in a chair, looking across an open fields with nothing between me and the rising sun except some horses and rabbits. I love the west, so open, so vast. Beautiful. I want to greet the sun and toast the morning with a warm coffee and be thankful for another day. Burrall has a great at place. 7 acres, a nice house, a huge hangar with lots of toys and planes in it on the edge of an airpark. Wide open spaces with beautiful views. What a place to live!


Time to get started on the plane to see what is going on. Off goes the cowls, and I started checking the Pmag. Hum, this is interesting. It is powering up like it should. I called Brad (at Pmag) for some tech support and after a long chat, went back to the plane. After further testing I found the Lightspeed igntion system had failed. Wow, this is interesting! I have not heard of one failing before. Coils yes, electronics no. This would account for the burning smell in the cockpit since the unit is mounted IN the cockpit and the Pmag is mounted on the engine side. I called Brad back and apologize for assuming his equipment was at fault. I have a Pmag in my plane for the last 4 years and it has worked flawlessly. They seem to have their product refined to the point one rarely fails.


A call to Lightspeed, and Klaus said he would ship a new unit out to me via overnight delivery. This is great, my trip can continue.

I remember when I lived out west as a kid, the great root beer (in a tall frosted much) from A&W. When I headed out for lunch I passed one and had to stop… The root beer was just like I remembered it…… yummy!


I made the decision to ferry the plane (30 minutes) to Greeley as I was already planning to spend a few days with Lee and if I had to do more trouble shooting, I would rather be at his house. Burrall was having two more guests showing up today (Bill Allen and his buddy) so two is company, three would be a crowd. I hope to spend some more time visiting him as I really like Burrall a lot.

Another nervous flight to Greeley, the plane is now in the hangar and it is time to relax. Tomorrow I’ll be out there (after fedex delivers) and I’ll be ready to continue on with my trip.


After parking the plane in Lee”s hangar I met his buddy Don who is here at work on Lee’s airplane in the hangar next door. Don used to be a film editor in Hollywood before he retired and worked on quite a few major movies and TV shows.

Time to head out for a bite to eat at a TexMex restaurant with a little music. I love the western part country…..


Oct 03 2011

Day 3… Flying to Colorado Springs

I wanted to leave RR fairly early in the morning as I had a LONG flight out to Colorado. About a 5.5 hrs flight. I was …I think… the first plane to lift off off at 8:15 am. I wanted to do a fly by, so a quick call on the radio and I overflew the air field on final at an eye popping 238 kts indicated. That is 273 MPH. Wow, this plane is REALLY fast. All felt well and it was very stable. Later I was wondering where all the cold air was coming from and found I had left my landing light down. Am extra bit of drag. Heck I might have gone even faster!!

First stop is a 30 minute flight to Sturgis for fuel. Yikes, $5.40 per gal.
Sec0nd stop is an hour flight to Rolla National for fuel and to take my buddy Chris up for a quick flight. Chris has been following the restoration of the plane on my blog and really wanted see it up close. He is the young man who I have know from Oshkosh through Lee Devlin. Chris usually camps with us and it has been fun to see him grow and develop over the last few years. When we first met (he was a hyper 15 yr old), I used to yell at him “run Forest, run” because he had so much energy he ran everywhere. A brilliant home schooled kid. I still call him Forest.


After a quick lunch and even quicker loop around the pattern it is off for a 4 hr flight to Colorado Springs to visit with Burrall Sanders.

About 2.5 hrs into the flight at 10,000 ft is when the fun started. I was cruising along, writing emails on my ipad when all of a sudden, I smelled weird odor…. a burning electrical sort of smell. SHIT. I quickly switched the EFIS panel to the engine page and saw the oil pressure bar graph was showing 0 psi oil pressure.

Oh shit. (that is a technical term you NEVER want to hear a pilot say). I called Kansas center and immediately found a close by airport to head toward. I was in the middle of freaking nowhere, somewhere in Kansas, so off I went. What struck me as funny was I didn’t get any alarm on the EFIS panel and when I looked closely, I noticed a number above the bar graph.

Hum, could it be me? I had played with the setting of the GRT EFIS, and apparently I set the bar graph setting wrong (teaches me) and when I changed it, sure enough I had oil pressure (the small number). I decided to land anyway to check the bird out. Something still didn’t feel right.

I landed at a 3000 foot strip in the middle of ??? nothing there except one lonely plane.


After finding nothing wrong, I was ready to head out and continue on my trip, and when I did the mag check, I found one of the ignition systems had failed. Shit! That was what the burning smell was. Frying electronics. My Pmag had failed (the other side is a Lightspeed which is bullet proof).

What to do? I am in the middle of nowhere land, no hangar, no FBO, not even a road close by, so I elected to travel on to Burralls (1.5 hrs away) as he has a repair facility where I can fix her. Off I went, picked up flight following in case anything else would happen and routed myself over a series of small airports which I could easily glide if needed. Nothing out here except fields, isolated farm houses and nice long dirt road I could use if needed.

Here is what I wrote while flying….

I am currently at 10,000 ft typing away with my iPad (in it holder) which really works great and was worth the effort.
I have sitting in this plane for 3.6 hrs with 1.6 to go and I can tell you these seats suck. My legs are not too comfortable. My plane has temper-pedic foam and I have sat for almost 6hrs comfortably. Ouch…
This is the longest leg. UuuhhhOoooo
Back in the air. Crap I had do an emergency decent. Travel plans are now shot. Oh well stuff like this makes life exciting an gives me another story to tell.
I miss my tweedy bird. She would never do this to me.
one hour to sit here at 10,500 ft on pins and needles.


After a nervious flight to Colorado Springs and I am on the ground. Burrall greeted me and escorted me to his HUGE hangar where is repairs canards (Free Flight Composites).


After a beautiful sunset set over the mountains,


I need a drink (a frozen margarita please) and food. The plane can wait. Off to a fantastic TexMex restaurant for a real chili relleno made with real a roasted fresh poblano pepper. They just dont know how to make a good chili rellenos in Charleston. Yummy…. life is good.

Oct 03 2011

Day 2… Rough River

It is unusually cold here today. The morning was in the 40s. After breakfast its out to the flight line.

I took off the cowls of the plane and quickly a small crowd gathered around the plane checking it out. The day turned out to be windy and cool .

Over 65 canards showed up. Lots of new faces, lots of people asking all sorts of questions of me. Apparently I must be a sort of go-to kind of guy for tech stuff. Just call me Yoda. I really enjoy sharing what I have learned over the years.

Ed and and Sue Richards. Great firends.

The work I did on the bird turned out to be a BIG hit. This is one of a kind plane for sure and with a new paint job and interior, it will be show stopping LongEZ. It is the most technologically advanced LongEZ in the world and I am almost positive the fastest one in the world. I am glad I had the chance to work on it even though I cant wait to deliver it and move on to other projects. As much as I liked building her, I definitely I like wiring the best. Wiring in a plane is the brains and nervous system of the bird. After a plane is built ANYONE can fix the engine, and fuselage, but if the wiring is mess up you have MAJOR problems. One can spend endless hours trouble shooting the problem. Most can do good glass work, but I see very little outstanding wiring work. It is complex and mystifying to most. I find it challenging and artistic in some ways. If I ever work on a plane again for someone else I will ONLY do the wiring aspect of it. I’ll leave the engine and glass work to someone else

After lunch in the tent, I check out the plane flown by my cabin mates, Gram and Mary were late arriving in RR due to a radio issue. They asked me to check it out and found the radio connection had come loose from the panel because a wrong retaining ring was used. Why their mechanic or radio shop didn’t see this is beyond me. I did a quick field repair and life was good again. They can now use it on the way back to Texas.

Had a wonderful day with my friends. I love coming to this event because it is canard….only canards.

Oct 03 2011

Day 1… LA or bust: Leaving Charleston

Well, I headed out to Rough River, KY for my airshow early this morning.

After washing the bird, I filed my IFR plan and took off, climbing to 4000 ft due to head winds. I had 40 kts on the nose.

After passing Columbia, had to climb to 8,000 ft with a 52 kt head wind to get across the Smokey Mountains. Yikes! I was cruising 180 kts plus yet my ground speed was about 126 kts. Wow, I had flown my plane I would have been going as fast as a car on the ground. It took about 3.5 hrs to get to RR which is close to 45 minutes longer than I had planned for.

After overflying the airport at 200 kts (just for fun), it was a smooth landing, parking the plane and chatting with people when I saw a Glass Air 3 take off. What a beautiful sounding engine. I assumed it must be a 6 cylinder Lycoming. The owner did a quick flyby when it happened. Weird popping sounds from the engine. He turned around on down wind, trying to make the airport, kept on going losing altitude and crashed. A huge fireball about .5 miles from the end of the runway. Crashed into a hotel. …more details…

You know, I was sort of numb to it. Watched the plane, saw it descend, knew it was going to crash, fireball.

Later that night, in bed thinking about it all I realized the reason it didnt have a visceral effect on my is that the fireball looked just like the fireballs you see at Oshkosh during the warbird re-enactment. Boom, fireball. Maybe too, I didnt know the guy, only saw the plane taxiing and was not emotionally connected.

He had built the plane and used a corvette engine it it (hence the smooth sound) and a funky redrive. Apparently the reduction drive decoupled the engine from the prop and he no thrust. I have never liked auto engines in plane and have NEVER seen a successful installation. Heavy, problem prone, troublesome. In almost all cases the builder eventually installs a Lycoming or Continental engine and begins to enjoy his plane. Why in the hell would you want to fly an experimental plane with a REALLY experimental engine? Isn’t one enough?

Off to dinner with friends and beer with my buddies. Life goes on.