Using WordPress as a Building Log

Who doesn’t like WordPress? It’s fast, stable, and ubiquitous. I have used WordPress to power this building log, and it does a great job. There are so many folks using WordPress in so many ways that online help is abundant- which is part of why I’ll direct you to those sources for questions about how to install the software and implement a theme.

Once you have done those things, you’ll find one key feature missing, and that is hour tracking. How can you log hours with wordpress? I got around this with a little help from my programming friend Wesley. This strategy assumes that you are using a WordPress Post for each building session. By the way, did you know that you can publish a post with any date? I use this feature to batch post building log entries after the fact. I select the date and time that corresponds to the end of the building session, and that keeps everything organized. When you are composing the post for your building session, scroll down to the “Custom Fields” dialog at the bottom. Create a custom field called “Hours” and enter the decimal version of the number of hours you have logged with that post. This will store your build time in the WordPress database, right beside your post content.

Now, we just need to fetch that number from the database when we want to show the number. In your child theme’s style sheet (stop right there if you don’t know what a child theme is- Google it, and make one, because if you make these changes in your main theme files and then update the theme, the changes will be overwritten), create the following:


.post-hours {
[insert your css here]
}

.hours {
[insert your css here]
}


Just be sure to replace [insert your css here] with your css styling that you would like to use. http://www.w3schools.com is a great source for CSS syntax.

Now, decide where you want the number of hours to show up, and find the right file to edit. This is going to vary from theme to theme. Most themes use a file like post.php or content.php to display posts. You may want the number to show up there, perhaps in the post meta data as I do on this log. You may want it in a sidebar. The key is to find the file that you think you want it in, copy that file into your child theme, and then put some sort of sample flag (perhaps a word like “Fish Sticks”) in place to make sure you are controlling what you want to control. If your fish sticks are showing up where you want for your hours to show up, then that means you are editing the right file.


<div class="post-hours">
<p>
<span class="hours">Hours</span>
<span class="hours"><?php
$thesehours = 0;
$thesehours = get_post_meta($post->ID, "Hours", true);
echo "Logged This Session: $thesehours";
?> </span>
</p>
</div>

This was the relatively easy number to display. If you want to change the text, carefully edit the “Logged This Session: area without deleting the preceding quotation mark or the $ in front of $thesehours.

To display the total hours for the project, use the information here.

For a while I had a different method listed here, but it stopped working after a WordPress update.

As with everything else on this website, the above information may be totally wrong. Definitely back up your files and database before you attempt to implement the above changes!

An RV Builder’s Guide to Building a Bearhawk

I love the RV series of two-seat airplanes. They have revolutionized home-building, recreational flying, and perhaps even the overall world of GA. As far as airplanes go, they are pretty useful in that they go fast, handle well, and don’t have any bad flying habits. While they are useful as far as airplanes go, they aren’t as useful as transportation tools, especially if you plan to fill both seats. They are like sports cars- fast, fun to drive, and visually appealing, but short on trunk space, and with no back seat.
This shortcoming is something that often comes up in discussion with RV builders who see my Bearhawk. They look at the baggage area, and while it is still fairly small by car standards, it is cavernous by RV standards. While they are thinking of all of the stuff they could carry in there, I tell them that they could load 900 pounds of people and stuff in that big cabin (when the tanks are full) and still get a 500-1000 fpm climb rate on 180 horsepower, the gears really start turning.
There is a trap though for RV builders who have not built any other airplanes. It’s easy to not realize how streamlined the construction process is for the RVs. If an “RV only” builder extrapolates his builder experience with the RV and assumes that building a Bearhawk would be pretty much the same, plus a little fabric work, he would be in for a surprise.
Part of the success of the RV series is the quality and quantity of the engineering that goes into the builder experience. With thousands (perhaps soon, over ten thousand) examples flown, there are plenty of resources to devote to creating a thorough instruction manual. If there is a mistake in the manual, or if directions aren’t clear, the staff at Vans is going to hear about it. They have developed very specific instructions that make for a high completion rate with many satisfied builders.
This is where the Bearhawk is a different animal- a much more rare animal. There may be 200 examples of the line of Bearhawk airplanes flying, but I doubt there are more than that. Perhaps half of those are scratch-built from plans only, and not from a kit. I wasn’t around to know for sure, but I suspect that back when Van had 100 examples of planes from his kits flying, his instructions were probably not quite so well-developed either. The designer of the Bearhawk and the owner of the kit factory are receptive to customer feedback, and they are always refining their materials, but there is just not anywhere near as much information coming in.
Here are some examples. The Bearhawk wing is built much like an RV wing, with a few large exceptions like the strut support and the removable fuel tank. When the designer Bob Barrows specified the rivets to hold vertical rib stiffener angles to the ribs, he specified the alloy, head, and diameter of the rivet, and not the length. The intent is that the scratch-builder should be able to work out which length of rivet to use. Contrast to Vans instructions that specify rivet length for each hole, with associated symbols on the plans. Currently the Bearhawk plans are hand-drawn, and they are rich in detail and well made, but there is not as much information available as in the Vans package.
Personally, I try not to put a value on this difference to say that one is better or worse, since that judgement depends on perspective. The detailed instructions probably lead to a better completion rate. Once a builder has started construction, the detailed instructions are going to help that builder finish, especially if he does not need to deviate from the instructions. Prospective shoppers can look at a kit with more detailed instructions and perhaps be less intimidated by the prospect of building an airplane, and that probably leads to higher builder starting numbers. I wonder if that leads less-dedicated builders to start construction and later give up, but I don’t know if the numbers back that up. On the con side, someone can build an RV without having to do as much problem-solving and fabrication from scratch. To over-generalize, it seems to me that the RV builder community is more often a “buy it and bolt it on” group. That’s not to say that there aren’t plenty of exceptions, especially in folks who deviate significantly from the plans (such as by adding retractable gear or floats). Likewise, it would not be fair to say that the RV builder doesn’t still do plenty of fabrication. I think it is fair to say that an RV builder can produce a good quality airplane without having to learn many of the skills that a Bearhawk builder would need to have. Indeed, this is probably what has led to the popularity of the airplanes. It’s like the joke about whether Navy pilots are better than Air Force pilots: the Navy pilot says “I can land and stop on a tiny pitching carrier deck.” The Air Force pilot says “I don’t have to.”
In this regard, building an airplane like a Bearhawk is a different project than building an RV. The whole mindset is different. For example, you can’t “just buy a tail kit.” Another big appeal of the RV series is in the option to sneak up on construction, buying partial kits incrementally. With the Bearhawk, this isn’t an option. The tail parts are not difficult to make for someone who knows how to weld, but in the current kit production process, they must be custom-fitted to a fuselage, and delivered with a fuselage. In theory one can buy a set of wings separate from the fuselage, and the wing parts will line up with the fuselage parts, but there is a significant cost premium with this strategy, a large part of which is shipping. So when it comes to building a Bearhawk from a kit, there isn’t any toe-dipping to test the waters of building- it’s a head-first jump into the deep end. This also has its benefits. Builders have all of the parts on hand from the start, and need not be stuck waiting for parts, or try to roll the dice on sub-kit lead time.
Another big difference that may surprise some RV builders is the level of kit completion. The Bearhawk kit only includes Bearhawk parts. Nuts, bolts, fuel lines, washers, control cable, wheels, brakes, fabric, turnbuckles, pulleys, and paint are all purchased separately by the builder. The positive side of this is that a builder only needs to pay for exactly what he wants. Since there is so much variation in how builders finish Bearhawks, any hardware package provided by the factory would inevitably include lots of unused components. When the builder orders what he needs, he knows what goes where. This saves the trouble of having to sort out where everything in a big pile of little parts goes. The negative aspect of this arrangement is that in the end, builders are likely paying slightly more for the hardware than the factory would be able to buy in a large volume. In some cases, this savings might exceed the risk of wasted/unused parts, but with the way that Aircraft Spruce prices things so low these days, I think that is unlikely in most cases. For example, if the kit factory could provide bolts at 10% off of the ACS price, then a builder would need to have less than 10% loss, after correcting for the effort of having to figure it all out. This is another drawback, that the builder has to spend the time to figure out what he needs and where it goes, which is a direct opposite to the “knowing where it goes” benefit.
For a builder who is building for his own recreation and education, as I hope we all are, the Bearhawk will provide plenty of education opportunity to an RV-only builder. The quick-build kit comes with the wing almost entirely skinned, except for the section of the top skin aft of the main spar. This means that the wing shape is already locked in at the factory, and the remaining rivet holes are already deburred, dimpled, and ready to rivet once the builder is finished making connections inside of the wing. So in that regard, there is very little of the tedious aluminum work that an RV builder has already mastered.
Similarly, the quick-build fuselage is completely welded, so a builder does not necessarily need to be able to weld. Some Bearhawk builders chose to make minor modifications that do require welding, usually increasing the build time and complexity. Even without welding, working with steel is a new skill set. Then of course there is fabric covering. This should not be intimidating at all, because much like working with aluminum, there is plenty of information available on how to get the job done safely. The most important part of a covering strategy is to choose one system and follow that system’s directions exactly, and not do much wandering off of the map. The Polyfiber and Stewart systems are both likely to produce a result that will last decades. These are just a few examples of differences, and there are certainly plenty of others too.
To summarize, an RV builder should realize that the RV building process is very refined. The path that a builder takes is smooth, paved, and well-maintained. If an RV builder starts thinking he’d like to have an airplane with a little more space and payload capability, the RV-10 is not the only option. The Bearhawk is worth consideration for a builder who is willing to step off of that well-paved construction path onto a scenic hiking trail, in return for a little bit more of a challenge and a substantial cost savings.

Installing the Wings

The timing of this whole relocation effort has worked out pretty well. Tonight was the EAA meeting, so we made it a project visit. Before the meeting, I spent a few minutes checking out the cowl clearance problem, and installing the rigid tube portion of the engine breather line. Lots of folks came out to see how the project has been coming along, and with all of that help, we put the wings back on. Things went together nicely, and it was good to see the airplane looking more like an airplane again.

Wings On

Wings On

Moving the Wings

After the harrowing fuselage move, we left town for a few days of vacation. Now that we are back, it’s time to move the wings. These should be easier to move than the fuselage. The process included taking each wing off of the rack and putting them on saw horses. Then we put the rack onto the trailer and secured the bottom of it. Then we moved each wing back onto the rack, and secured the wings to the rack and to the trailer. Here is what it looked like:

Wings on the trailer

Wings on the trailer


Danny was instrumental in getting this done. We moved the whole package to the airport, including the struts (which Danny took in his car) and many of the tools. We are expecting a crowd tomorrow evening at the EAA meeting, so for now we just took the whole trailer into the hangar and left the wings loaded on it.

Moving the Fuselage to HKY

Our little airport is going to be a great place to base our Bearhawk, in part because it is really close to the house. It’s a small airport though, and not really well suited for a safe first flight. As such, the plan has been to move the airplane to the municipal airport about 5 miles to the north for final assembly. Today I worked on a few remaining jobs that are easier to do here, and spent some time meeting with the folks at the big airport to finalize our hangar spot. After a lunch break I came back to work on more final items, starting with the carb heat inlet on the airbox. Here’s the arrangement that I came up with:

Carb heat duct

Carb heat duct


The duct for the right side cabin air vent was really in the way of the electrical distribution panel, but I thought I was going to be able to make it work. After a few different attempts, it became clear that this wasn’t going to be the case. The easiest corrective action at this stage was just to move the vent down a few inches to clear the panel.
New Vent Location

New Vent Location


After locating the hole with great precision and accuracy, I cut out the aluminum section and riveted the vent into place with blind rivets. I used washers on the back of the blind rivets to help spread the load out on the plastic vent, instead of making an aluminum ring like I had for the first vent. I also made an aluminum blank to cover the old hole, and next time I do some painting I’ll drill the rivets and paint this piece to match the rest.
New Vent

New Vent


Next I installed the font seat seatbelts. They went in exactly as they were supposed to. I installed the two-piece stainless shields on the firewall where there were grommets, and made a rubber sealing strip to go on the front of the filtered airbox.
FAB front seal

FAB front seal


I added the remaining belly panel for easier transportation, and installed the prop. I didn’t set the final torque on the prop yet, in part because I have an interference problem with the cowl that I didn’t expect. Installing the prop sure is a pain in the rear, though the special wrench did help some.
Prop Wrench

Prop Wrench


I got the wrench from Anti-Splat Aero, and it probably saved about 45 minutes on the job. I was still able to get the cowl on, though it was rubbing the spinner on the top of the junction.
Cowling on

Cowling on


I installed the ELT antenna on the top of the rear fuselage, and used wire ties to secure the coax all the way down to the ELT. I also used temporary ropes to secure the flap cables and the electrical wires that go out to the wing root. From there all that was left was to load the fuselage up on the trailer and drive away! You can be sure it was much easier to say than to do. Fortunately, I had some help from Tabitha. For all three wheels to sit on the ground, the trailer would need to be 18 feet. Mine is 14 feet, which means that it goes from the main wheels to the handles on the fuselage. The trailer has a gate on the back, which we left in place initially. We rolled the mains onto the ramp, then hooked up big ratchet straps to the main landing gear. I disconnected the trailer from the truck so that we could tilt the whole thing back. This allowed the ramp to sit flat on the ground. Then I advanced the ratchet straps until the mains were up over the axle. Once there, we were able to set the tongue of the trailer back down to the normal height, and push the fuselage by hand up to the front of the trailer. Once there we detached the ramp, since it was going to be too tall to fold up. My plan had been to build some wooden shoring to keep the tail up, by running a board under the handles. What I didn’t realize is that the stringers protrude down below the handles. I was pretty sure that they didn’t, but I was wrong! Tabitha came up with the idea that we ended up using, and she called it the hammock. We set a saw horse on each side of the fuselage, as far back as we could. We stabilized those saw horses with diagonal braces fore-aft, horizontal braces across the front, and one long brace across both in the back.
Setting up the saw horses

Setting up the saw horses


Then we ran straps from the outer edges of the trailer bed, up over the saw horses, and then to the handles. These carried the weight of the tail sort of like a suspension bridge. Then we ran a big strap over the top of the whole contraption to hold the tail down. I used large ratchet straps to hold the main wheels in place, and made control locks out of bolts and very large washers. I installed those on the counter balance areas of the elevator and rudder. One should note that it’s not really prudent to carry the fuselage on a trailer with the horizontal stab and elevator in place. The span of the stab is 10 feet, and in my state (and probably yours too) the max towing width is less than that by a little. This was part of the reason that we conducted this big move in the middle of the night. The more important reason was that we wanted to minimize the number of other cars on the road, both for the safety of the cargo, and as to not create too much of a spectacle. Here it is all ready to go:
Fuselage on the trailer

Fuselage on the trailer


We stationed Tabitha and sleeping Felicia in a car in front, then Alan brought up the rear in his truck. Tabitha’s job was to scout out oncoming cars so that I could pull off of the side of the narrow two-lane roads. I only had to do this a time or two. Alan’s job was to make sure that the load remained secure. We briefed to establish communication methods for all of these roles, and proceeded very carefully to the other airport. When we got there, Jim came out to help with the unloading. Here is the result:
New temporary home

New temporary home


To say the least, it was a nerve-wracking experience that I hope I’ll not have to repeat.

Posted on
Hours Logged This Session: 13
Total Hours: 1883.75

Visit with David Bice

Today was a real treat- I was able to visit with David Bice while on a visit to ABQ.  David’s Bearhawk is of particular interest to me because it is so similar to mine.  I even used the same paint colors as he did!  His has an angle-valve 360 with slightly lower compression than ours, and he used a McCauley prop vs our Hartzell.  The empty weight of his Bearhawk is extremely low, below 1200 pounds.  I’m sure he’ll have at least a 100-200 pound advantage over ours, in part because he made his almost as light as he could.  For example, he equipped it for day VFR only.  It has one radio and a transponder (small panel-mounted Becker units), part 91 required instruments plus single-cylinder EGT and CHT monitoring, and maybe just a few other things.  He uses an SD-8 alternator as his primary charging source, and a PC680 battery. He has the back seat installed, but said in practice he really only uses it as a place to store stuff.  He’s using 800×6 tires and single-puck brakes, and a Scott tailwheel.  The fabric parts are covered with Polyfiber products.  The fuselage metal is painted with enamel and the fabric with Polytone.  His wings are bare aluminum, and while he hasn’t made an effort to polish them yet, you might not be able to tell.

David is a very interesting fellow who has a very methodical and safety-oriented approach to building and flying.  He took me up for a local flight to see the beautiful New Mexico scenery and to show me how well his airplane flies.  I was especially interested in seeing how his airplane performed at such high density altitudes.  The airport elevation was over 6000 feet, and when we were flying around at 8500 feet the OAT was 60 degrees F. Keeping in mind that 59 degrees F is standard temperature at sea level, we were seeing density altitudes on the order of 10,500 at 8500 MSL.  I would estimate our gross weight to be on the order of 1900 pounds.  Even still, the performance of his Bearhawk was quite respectable.  After takeoff the climb rate was a solid 500-700 feet per minute at airspeeds ranging from 70-80 miles per hour.  At 7500 feet with the economy power setting of 19″ MAP and 1900 RPM we were seeing 100 MPH.  His oil and CHT temperatures were also very low.  The oil temperature is probably related to the huge oil cooler that he used, anticipating the need for extra cooling in his hot and high local conditions. I thought his airplane had plenty of good performance for the conditions, and was yet again pleased with the engine choice in our Bearhawk.

As with the other two Bearhawks that I’ve had the pleasure of flying, the inflight experience is exceptional.  The sight picture in cruise is much more nose-low than the Cessnas that I have flown.  This makes for a very nice view from the cockpit.  The slow flight and stall characteristics are very predictable and honest, perhaps even more than they should be.  David has an angle of attack monitor installed, and it gave very effective warning of the oncoming stall, just before the airplane started to break.  Full-power climbing stalls required an expectedly high deck angle, but the recovery was as simple as reducing the back pressure slightly.  Even before his AOA warning, it was very clear to me that we were on our way to a stall.  The control stick warned me with its increasingly heavy pull to lower the nose on its own, and with its abnormally aft position, just as it should.  In a power-off stall with a power-off recovery, the nose has to come down fairly low to recover, but not as low as I would have expected.  To help demonstrate the good-natured stall characteristics, David suggested that I enter a power-on stall with crossed controls.  I used what I thought to be a fairly large amount of rudder and enough opposite aileron to fix the heading.  The stall break was completely straight ahead.  He reminded me that a similar maneuver in his Luscombe would have resulted in a rapid reversal of the positions of the sky and the ground.

David also let me taxi his airplane for a little while, and I was surprised by how much brake input it required for steering.  My tailwheel experience has been in lighter airplanes, and in those the rudder has been more effective for steering on the ground.  David credits this to the landing gear geometry of the design, with the weight on the tailwheel being of a higher proportion than those lighter airplanes.  The advantage of this geometry is that the airplane has much less of a tendency to lift the tail when you don’t want it to.  The main takeaway from my discussion with David about his previous experience, and my own experience with the taxiing, is that Bearhawk pilots should probably have the brake pedals covered for all ground operations.  I’ll be interested to see how that thought changes as my experience grows.  In retrospect, I remember Dave Lenart also needing a healthy amount of brake input on the taxi when I flew with him last summer.  With this in mind, I’m also especially glad that we configured our Bearhawk for dual brakes.

I was also glad to learn about the power settings that David has found to be useful.  For economy cruise, he uses 19″/1900 RPM.  He has found that the engine runs very smoothly at that RPM.  When he slows down to take aerial photos, he adds two notches of flaps and reduces the throttle to 14 inches.  At that power setting his Bearhawk loafs along sipping fuel at somewhere around 5GPH, but still going faster than the average Cub.  

Another data point from today’s flight was accidental.  David has a crossover exhaust system without any mufflers, and I was interested to see how noisy the cockpit was.  He let me borrow his Lightspeed Zulu for the flight, which is one of the fanciest ANR headsets available.  The batteries were depleted though, so I wasn’t able to use the ANR feature.  ANR headsets that aren’t actively using the ANR are usually not as effective as passive headsets.  This is in part because the manufacturers design the ANR headsets to use less head clamping force.  While this improves comfort, it also reduces the seal effectiveness and cuts down on the passive noise canceling capabilities.  I spite of all of these factors, I still found the noise level to be quite tolerable.  I wouldn’t want to fly very long without either a headset or earplugs, but honestly, I feel the same way about every powered airplane I’ve flown so far, from GA to airliners.

Overall, it was a fantastic visit.  David showed me around the airport and told me about lots of little things he has learned from his experience.  I was especially impressed with several of his construction details, such as the metal cover for his airbox (mine is fiberglass), his rudder cable guards, the very cleanly routed wires and plumbing firewall forward.  Those details speak to his prior building experience on several airplanes, along with his experience as an A&P mechanic who has worked on planes ranging from light GA singles to the B-17.  One of the things that I appreciated most about David’s Bearhawk is that it fits his mission perfectly.  He has managed to put together an airplane that serves his needs very well.  I wouldn’t say that I need any more motivation to get our Bearhawk flying, but this trip certainly gave me more anyway.

Visit Mike Bundy

Today I was in southern California for a little while, so I contacted fellow Bearhawk builder Mike Bundy. Mike spent most of the afternoon with me, including transportation from the hotel I was in. He’s a very nice fellow, and has an especially interesting engine for his Bearhawk. He’s using the 409 cubic inch 4-cylinder engine, which makes 230 horsepower. If it works as advertised, he’ll have the power of a 540-powered Bearhawk with the weight of a 360 engine. Seeing Mike’s project reminded me about how much I’ve done so far, and how much he still has left to do! On one level, it sounds so easy to describe what it takes to make a kit Bearhawk airworthy. Just install the gear, make up the boot cowl, do a few other little things, then install the engine, and make the cowling, and cover it all, hook up a few things, and that’s it. Those tasks have so many sub parts that take so much time, at least they take me so much time. I’ve long since given up on trying to estimate how long it will take to complete a particular job, even though everyone’s first question is “When will you have it finished?” Visiting with Mike was a great experience, and I was in a good mood for days afterward. It’s too bad that Bearhawk builders are spread out so sparsely, since I would love to spend more time with most of them.

Posted on
Hours Logged This Session:
Total Hours: 1883.75

Visiting Graham Meise

I was in Orlando for a while this April and May to learn a new airplane at work, and while I was there I had a chance to catch up with Graham Meise at the KISM airport. Graham has a 4-place Bearhawk kit and he’s jut now starting to have time to work on it. He also gave me a fantastic tour of the museum next door. Visits like this always put me in the best mood.

Posted on
Hours Logged This Session:
Total Hours: 1883.75

Dave Lenart Visit

Today was a real treat- I was able to catch up with Dave in Vermont to spend some time talking about his Bearhawk. The weather was perfect and it was a great way to spend the morning. Dave let me pick his brain with all sorts of questions about his construction. We’re using almost the same engine and prop, and we both came upon kits that were already started. We both also started building at around the same time, which doesn’t say much for my building speed! Here are a few photos of flying in Dave’s airplane, and of the pancake breakfast in Rutland, VT

Magnificent Vermont

Magnificent Vermont

.
Bearhawk Cabin Visibility

Bearhawk Cabin Visibility


Dave's Bearhawk

Dave’s Bearhawk


Dave’s airplane performs very well, and it helps validate my decisions on engine and prop choices.
Blueberry Pancakes!

Blueberry Pancakes!


Tailwind

Tailwind


This picture helps me remember where we were.

This picture helps me remember where we were.


Polished airplanes sure are pretty.

Polished airplanes sure are pretty.


High Visibility

High Visibility


Studying the Maule

Studying the Maule


Maule wing root fairing hole

Maule wing root fairing hole


I wonder why Maule put this hole in their wing root fairing? Water drainage?

Posted on
Hours Logged This Session:
Total Hours: 1883.75

Tech Counselor Visit

This afternoon our technical counselor came for an official visit. It’s still very early in the process, but it was certainly good to get his input now when it’s still easier to change things.

Posted on
Hours Logged This Session: 1.5
Total Hours: 1883.75

Picking up the Seats

Today and yesterday I have been driving over to Mississippi to pick up our seats from our upholsterer. When I was younger I flew model airplanes with Russell Wood, and he’s been an upholsterer for a long time. Since our seats were already in Mississippi, I dropped them off with him a few months ago and he did his magic. I think the finished product is much better than it would have been if we would have done it, and for likely a similar price in the end.

Posted on
Hours Logged This Session:
Total Hours: 1883.75

Patrick Visit

Today our friend Patrick stopped by for a visit. He’s building an RV-7A.

Front Baffles

Today my friend Hari stopped by from the other side of the state. He is scratch building and had an extra sheet of .020″ aluminum. He stayed for a little while and we had a good visit.
The front area of the engine baffles are pretty complicated. I started by setting the angle of the floor on the left side. The nosebowl is off in the picture, but I had to use it to determine the location.

Number 2 Baffle

Number 2 Baffle


The other side

The other side


This little triangle bracket is a doubler for the bolt.
Vans Part number 24

Vans Part number 24


I match drilled it to the baffle, deburred everything, and riveted it all together.
Baffle Reinforcing Bracket

Baffle Reinforcing Bracket


The number 1 baffle has a long aluminum angle support that tops off a sandwich of several layers of aluminum.
Number 1 Baffle Angle

Number 1 Baffle Angle


The Sandwich

The Sandwich

Russ Erb Visit

Today I had a special hangar visit from fellow Bearhawker Russ Erb. He lives in the desert but happened to be in town on his way to Oshkosh. That’s not a very direct route, but if I had an airplane like his I probably wouldn’t take the most direct route all of the time either. It was great to have a visit from such an experienced builder, and he had lots of tips for me.

Posted on
Hours Logged This Session:
Total Hours: 1883.75

EAA Chapter 309 Visit

This evening the EAA chapter from Charlotte came up for a project visit. I’m a member of the Charlotte chapter too, and I was glad to have so many folks drive so far to see our Bearhawk. It’s always great fun to talk about our project with other airplane builders, and of course the pizza was good too.

EAA Chapter 309

A few Chapter 309 Members


As the visit was winding down, I tested the position lights, and they work. It sounds silly to be excited over turning on a switch and seeing the lights come on, but in a project of this scale, small victories are important.
Aeroflash Bearhawk Nav Lights

The position lights work!


Left Position Light

And on the left too…

Posted on
Hours Logged This Session: .5
Total Hours: 1883.75

Visit with Wayne

This isn’t really a building entry, but I was in Rochester and got to visit with Wayne Massey. Wayne and I work at the same place now, though we first met back in the spring of 2008 at the Bearhawk Cookout before Sun-N-Fun. Wayne is scratch building for the purpose of scratch building, and he has come a long way. His craftsmanship is exceptional and it was really fun to get to see his wings essentially done. While I was there he was drilling the rear spars for the hinge mounts. Here’s a link to his building log entry for that day. He’s a great guy and I can’t wait to see how well his fuselage turns out!

Posted on
Hours Logged This Session:
Total Hours: 1883.75

Visiting Matt and Stacey

I had another visit to XNA (x-treme northwest Arkansas) and was able to visit Matt Kunkel and his wife Stacey. It’s always great to visit with them, and we got to spend some time in their hangar. Matt keeps things clean, which is one of the few differences between us.

One Clean Bearhawk!

Matt Kunkel's Bearhawk


Matt was making a rotisserie for his fuselage, and he even let me weld a couple of pieces.
Matt Welding

Here Matt is welding together the parts for attaching the tailpost to the rotisserie.

Hard Decisions Series: Panel Backup

I’ve spent quite a bit of time thinking about whether or not to incorporate backup instruments in the panel. My primary reasons against adding them are the cost, weight, complexity, and the already redundant Dynon installation. My primary reason for wanting to include some kind of backup is to be able to have enough information to keep the airplane upright and under control no matter what.

First, I’ll address the “no backup” reasons. What is the cost (including purchase, installation effort, weight, etc) of adding conventional instruments? Well, that depends on the instrument. It’s pretty easy to add in an airspeed indicator or altimeter. Those instruments don’t require any electrical power, so they are fairly reliable. I’ve had an airspeed indicator fail in flight before, but not an altimeter. The problem with those two instruments is that they really don’t tell me much. If I’m in an emergency situation where both Dynon’s have quit working (see below), the altimeter is of little value (except in a non-precision approach in very low IFR- otherwise a glideslope will really be what I need), and the airspeed is something that I can gather from several other cues such as wind noise and GPS ground speed. What I would really like to have as a bare bones minimum emergency standby is an attitude indicator. The problem with attitude indicators is that they are either electric or pneumatic, and those two sources are troublesome. If the electrical system is operating normally, then there is really only one case where at least one Dynon unit will not work (see below). Pneumatic systems are either engine driven or venturi driven. The engine driven vaccuum pump is really not even on the table as an option. First, they are expensive and unreliable. Second, the vacuum pad on the engine is going to host the second alternator instead. The venturi is intriguing in some ways, though the drawbacks are of course continuous drag (whether I need the instrument or not) and spotty performance, especially in any kind of unexpected icing conditions.

Now, about the inherent redunancy in the system. Since the D100 and D180 each have their own internal air data computers (airspeed, altitude, vsi) and AHRS (DG heading, Attitude), that provides one layer or protection. If one has a failure, the other one will still be there. I asked the Dynon techs about how the units have failed in the past, and they said that the units do occasionally fail during their initialization, but that in-flight failures are exceptionally rare. In fact, I think I remember him saying that he didn’t know of any. But what about a loss of electrical power to the units? My electrical system includes a single battery with two alternators. Each Dynon is powered by a different bus, and there are only a few exceedingly rare situations that would cause both of those busses to lose power on the same flight. Even if that does happen, the Dynon unit has an internal battery backup so that it can run in a completely isolated mode for long enough to land. Perhaps the only serious vulnerability that I can see is that the units are built by the same company, and both run with similar parts and software. If there was some sort of software breakdown that was not unique to a single unit, it could potentially impact both of my dynon units at once. This is the heart of the “yes backup” argument.

So what about that goal of always wanting to have enough information to keep the airplane upright and under control? How does the equipment in my panel serve that goal, especially when compared to a traditional instrument panel? I would suggest that the goal is unattainable. There are no mechanical devices that will operate in all conditions no matter what. Even in modern airliners, the last resort is still a backup instrument that almost never fails. The best that system designers can do is to design a system that will tolerate failures, with the least hardship to be associated with the most likely failures. My installation is in many ways superior to traditional panels of light aircraft, which are usually not equipped with any significant backup. So far, I’m not planning to add anything other than the two Dynons. I’ll have plenty of VMC hours to gain confidence in them and learn more about their vulnerabilities before I depend on them in IMC.

Posted on
Hours Logged This Session:
Total Hours: 1883.75

Hard Decisions Series: Props

I’m getting to the point where it is time to decide on a prop. My assumptions so far are that it will be a constant speed prop, and that low weight, low initial purchase costs, and low recurring maintenance costs are all good things. The first assumption comes from flying with Eric in his fixed-pitch Bearhawk, and Bob’s recommendations. If even minimalist Bob says that I should really use a CS prop, then I’m convinced. The next assumption, that low weight is preferred, is somewhat debatable. Since we have the smaller 360 engine, the weight and balance envelope has plenty of room for forward weight. Also, the extra flywheel effects of a heavier prop aren’t entirely without benefit. So to sum it up, I would say that the weight of the prop is a wash, not really worth making any decisions over. As for the costs, both initial and recurring costs are a priority, with a slight preference towards recurring costs, since I hope that I’ll be incurring them for some time to come. So based on those assumptions, three primary contenders still stand: the Hartzell aluminum prop, the MT, and the Whirlwind. The Hartzell and MT are both certified props, while the whirlwind is experimental.

The Hartzell has the following benefits: lower initial purchase price, easier to repair in the field, more widespread and thus easier to find qualified repair stations, proven with high numbers of hours and installations*, and lots of other Bearhawks to use as examples. The cons are the history of ADs and other problems (per asterisk above), the higher weight (especially with the required dampener), the likelihood of damage in the field to the soft aluminum blades, and the less efficient blade design. If we were using an engine that didn’t require the $1000 dampener, then the Hartzel might be more favorable, but with the dampener the initial price advantage begins to diminish. I think that the overall purchase price would be around $7500. The benefit of it being a certified prop is really not a priority for me, and if anything, I’m not impressed by the history of expensive ADs that their props have had. The maintenance interval is 6 years or some insane amount of hours that won’t apply to us. The 6 year clock ticks whether the prop spins or not. After those 6 years, the prop has to be sent in and overhauled at a cost of approximately $2000, or $333 per year.

The next contender is the MT. This prop has a wooden blade that is wrapped in layers of fiberglass. It is also certified, and has tens of thousands of examples in service. The weight is slightly less, and while it doesn’t require a dampener, it has a restricted RPM range for the same reason. The prop is more durable when considering rock nicks, since the leading edge is harder. However, since MT is a German company, any repairs that require adjustments to the wooden core require that the prop be shipped back to Germany. The initial purchase price is higher, right at $10,000. The maintenance interval is very similar to the Hartzell in duration and cost of overhaul.

The final choice is the Whirlwind 200C, which is a McCauley Hub with carbon-fiber hollow-core blades. The blade design is arguably more efficient in this prop, and the overall package weight is advertised as 47 pounds. This is somewhere around 10-20 pounds less than the Hartzell, depending on who you believe. The initial purchase price is right on par with the MT. The Whirlwind goes back to the factory every 250 hours for a $650 service that includes replacement of seals and inspection of the rest, with no additional maintenance requirements. For us, that will probably mean sending the prop off every 2 years, at a cost of approximately $325 per year. Of course this is based on flying 125 hours per year, which is just an estimate. There isn’t a calendar-specific maintenance interval for the Whirlwind. At first I thought that this maintenance interval was a big problem, but Tabitha pointed out that perhaps it isn’t. The prop is a single point of failure that has no redundancy. What’s so bad about having the factory inspect it every 2 years? Furthermore, this maintenance interval is based on aerobatic use, so there is a possibility that the interval might grow over time, either by the factory’s recommendation (as TBOs often increase for engines that have been in service for a while) or by our own decision, based on our lighter-duty use of the prop. The disadvantages of the Whirlwind are the high initial purchase price, the limited maintenance facilities, and limited distribution of the prop in service.

It’s hard to know which one really will do the best from a performance standpoint, and it is quite likely that any differences wouldn’t really be noticable in our application. I lean towards the whirlwind because of the lighter weight, reduced maintenance costs (depending on how many hours we fly per year) and a perception of better durability, efficiency, and performance.

Posted on
Hours Logged This Session:
Total Hours: 1883.75

Visit with Joe Lisanke

Today I was able to catch up with Joe Lisanke in Gainesville Florida. Joe has a set of wings that he built from scratch and one of the first Avipro fuselages. He has a Continental 470 with a propeller and is in the process of installing all of the stuff that goes into the airplane, including much of the instrument panel. It was interesting to see how much longer the 470 is when compared to the 360! His firewall planning was much more challenging, simply because there is less space available for the various parts that mount there. Joe has been building for a while and has been rounding up lots of parts from all kinds of sources. This leads me to believe that he also enjoys the treasure-hunt aspect of airplane building. He spent a couple of hours answering all of my questions, and I really enjoyed seeing how everything was coming together. I didn’t take any pictures to add here, but it was still a great learning experience. I value these visits immensely and consider it to be a positive spin on the usually less-positive travel requirements of my employment.

Posted on
Hours Logged This Session:
Total Hours: 1883.75

EAA 731 Cookout at E40

Today we hosted a cookout for the members and friends of EAA Chapter 731.

Hanging out in the shade

It was so hot inside the hangar that we spent most of our time in the shade behind the building!


Good Turnout!

We had a great turnout, and got to meet a few folks who we have heard a lot about.


This event was a great opportunity to talk with several people who we have heard about but hadn’t met yet. These included Ben, Jim’s Wife, John, and others.
Fly-in Airplanes

Two airplanes flew in- the Bormuths and the Maule.


This was the first time that Tabitha had seen a Maule since she’s been working on our interior design, so she was eager to take notes and see how everything came together. The owners also shared lots of insight about what they like and don’t like about it. This was all very encouraging and motivating.
Brandon and his Cub

Brandon also flew in a little bit later. This picture is noteworthy because it includes our color choices- we'll use the same blue and white shades on our finish paint scheme, though the layout will be different.

From Across the Runway

Bradley and I crossed the runway to take pictures of the Maule departure.


Short Takeoff

They were flying in a short distance for sure!


Brandon made Ice Cream

Brandon's homemade ice cream was a real hit.


Overall the event was a great success, though we didn’t get to spend much time talking about the airplane. Hopefully we’ll do better next time when we have more work to show off and the weather is a bit more moderate.

Posted on
Hours Logged This Session:
Total Hours: 1883.75

Visit to Matt Kunkel’s Bearhawk

I was visiting Arkansas and was able to catch up with Matt and Stacey Kunkel. We had a Thai food dinner that couldn’t be beat and Matt and I spent a while looking over his project.

Matt's Bearhawk

Matt's Bearhawk


I only took this one lousy picture, but it was a great visit. Matt and I are close to the same age, and we have lots of other common interests. Hopefully I’ll be able to stop back by soon. Meanwhile, you can track his progress at http://bearhawkproject.com

Posted on
Hours Logged This Session:
Total Hours: 1883.75

Picking Up Our Engine

Today I drove up to Bob’s to pick up our engine! My day started very early in a hotel near the Tri-Cities airport. In a rare work schedule fluke, my day ended when we arrived in CLT at around 6:15 in the morning. I drove down to the south part of CLT to get to the Harbor Freight store, since there weren’t any others on the way. I had found a coupon that would reduce the price of their engine lift to $100, and I knew that I was going to need it before the day was over. I knew that today was going to be the engine day, so I had also tossed an old tire that I picked up from Claude’s into the bed of the truck a few days earlier.

Leaving the Harbor Freight store in Charlotte


I got to Bob’s at about 12:30, and it was a pretty chilly day. The engine had actually been ready for a couple of weeks, but he advised that I not try to come due to the icy and muddy conditions. Even now the runway was just visible.

Bob's Winter Runway


Bob had made quite a bit of progress on the LSA variant of his Bearhawk Patrol design. As you can see, now the wings are on it and it even looks like an airplane.
Bearhawk Patrol LSA

Bearhawk Patrol LSA


After a few minutes of conversation and Bob’s explanation of a few key features, Bob and Bruce loaded the engine up for me. Here they are taking it off of the stand.
Bob and Bruce Barrows

Bob and Bruce take off the engine stand


I asked Bob about whether or not he would still use electrical conduit parts for an exhaust system, now that he has over 10 years and 1000 hours on his. He said that he would, and he offered to go out to his prototype Bearhawk to take some pictures.

Bob's Exhaust System


I also really liked the design of his heat box for cabin and carb heat. Left and right exhaust muffs take hot air into a mixing box, where both supply cabin and/or carb heat as needed. Carb heat exits through the forward-facing SCAT tube, an cabin heat exits through the aft side of the box. These kinds of pictures can be really handy for other purposes too.
Bearhawk Exhaust and Heat Muffs

Exhaust and Heat Muffs


Engine Compartment

Here's another really handy picture of how Bob has everything routed.


It was getting to be time to go, since the weather forecast for more snow was starting to materialize into a wintry mix.
Fincastle Snowfall

The snow was starting to come down again


We put the engine onto the tire, strapped the engine to the bed, then covered the whole unit with a blue tarp. To limit flapping, I bunched up handfuls of tarp and used wire ties to secure them.

Ready to drive home


Bob was saying that the snow had just melted enough to clear the runway, then it started again.


As I started to drive south, the snow turned to rain and the interstate stopped moving. It turns out there had been an accident, and I was able to shut off the truck and sit in the same place for more than an hour.

Driving in the Snow


At about 8:30 I finally backed the truck into the hangar. 6 hours for a 3.5 hour trip! Tabitha met me there to help assemble the engine lift.

Back Home!


The next few pictures are a little bit blurry since it was dark.

Ready to Unload-Almost


We had to assemble the lift before we could unload the engine. By this point I had been awake for quite a while, so it took longer than it should have to get it together.

Please inserting the lower foot support into extension leg part 42


Tabitha was helping too


Here is the engine, unwrapped and looking all new.

Engine Ready to Unload


I thought I should test the lift before I put something expensive on it.

Testing the Lift- it works.


In the end it was a pretty long day, but I was glad that everything went well.

Posted on
Hours Logged This Session:
Total Hours: 1883.75

Burn Testing Nautolux Decco Dot

I have been looking for some good material to use as a floor covering. Bob uses bare aluminum, and that method certainly has some merits. It is light, simple, and durable. Tabitha would rather have something that looks a bit more finished, but also something that dampens vibration a little bit better. She says that prolonged exposure of her feet to a vibrating structure like the floor will accelerate the development of arthritis and contribute to an overall mood of malaise and discontent.

I don’t really want to use something like carpet, because I know that it is going to be harder to clean than a solid surface. I don’t want to have to worry about getting into the airplane with slightly dirty shoes. I’d really like to find the airplane equivalent of linoleum, and there is a great example of it on the floor of our planes at work. It is thin, easy to clean, and super durable. It gets the foot traffic of lots of people, every other hour or so, every day, all day, and lasts years under those conditions. I asked a few of the mechanics about where it comes from, but they don’t know. Even if I could find who makes it, chances are good that it would not be available in the small quanitity and price that I would like to have.

A similar product is available for household floors, but it is 1/8″ thick and extremely heavy (pounds per square foot).

One of the email list members suggested that I try products intended for boat floors. This was a good lead, and soon I found Nautolux Decco Dot flooring. It has all of the good qualities that I like, and it is very light weight. I think that the entire floor would be under 5 pounds, perhaps even less. The bad news about the Nautolux is that it is a little bit too thin, such that it needs to be glued down to stay flat. It also doesn’t have much in the way of vibration dampening. I ordered a sample piece to try some burn testing on.

The whole idea of burn testing is a little bit silly in some ways. At first it seems like a really good idea to make sure that the interior materials have good qualities with regard to flamability. The unfortunate reality is that since the rest of the interior is made of aircraft fabric, the huge wall sections are certainly the weakest link. Having said that, I’m planning to burn a small piece of each proposed interior material, just to see if it is at least acceptable. Burn tests aren’t legally required for experimental airplanes of course.

Since the Nautolux is so thin, I figured that I could try to find some 1/8″ closed cell foam to use between it and the floor. This would help dampen vibration and noise, and also not add too much weight.

Decco Dot Sample Piece

I took the above piece and stuck it in the propane heater for an unscientific test. It started to burn, and when I took it away from the heater, the flame died down. That’s convincing enough for me, since it didn’t continue to burn brighter.

Allowing for Headrests

I should add some background information here about why I would want to mess up a perfectly good set of Avipro seats. In my research about how to make safe seats, I read about how important headrests are. Most pilots and builders that I talk with about this disagree. They say that most impacts in airplanes are down and forward, and that headrests are included in cars for rear-end protection. Others seem to approach crash safety from the point of view that seems to imply that they really don’t care, since they probably aren’t going to crash, and if they do, then they probably aren’t going to survive.

The whole safety discussion is one to approach with care. The way to make any airplane as safe as possible is of course to not fly it. This extreme end of a spectrum can be juxtaposed with the other end of the same spectrum, which is something like the latter pilot opinion above. The middle ground has several optional stopping points, and the end decision is a compromise between improving the odds of survival in an unplanned acceleration and being able to operate a useful and affordable airplane. While it’s easy to set out to build the safest airplane possible, each proposed safety feature has at least four costs: weight, expense, building time, and impact to useful operation. The final airplane configuration certainly reflects the builder’s willingness to pay on those four counts, and coincides with his understanding of the cost/benefit ratio of each feature.

For me, there are several safety features that I’m choosing not to incorporate, simply because the 4 costs above don’t outweigh the potential gain. One example is a Ballistic Recovery System, like the parachutes on Cirrus airplanes. Including a BRS would require redesigning the fuselage, spending tens of thousands of dollars on the equipment, and adding weight and recurring maintenance tasks to the finished airplane. In the event of a mid-air collision or structural failure, a BRS would certainly be nice to have, but for me the odds of those events happening are slim enough that the potential benefit of a BRS isn’t high enough to justify all of the costs.

One safety feature that I do plan to incorporate is 5-point seat belts for all 4 passengers. Some people feel the same way about seat belts as I do about a BRS; I think it’s interesting to see how other builders position themselves on this spectrum of safety. I know of one builder who feels fine with a single lap belt for both rear passengers to share- and he is a very informed and experienced airplane builder and pilot. My point of view is certainly influenced by my own past experiences, which include surviving (without serious injury) a forced landing and two serious car wrecks, among numerous other less notable but similar events. I believe that it takes first-hand experience of the kind of accelerations involved in an event like that to really appreciate the forces and the complete inadequacy of the occupant to do much of anything about restraining himself with his own strength or actions. I’m convinced for sure, so for me the seat belts are an easy decision. I don’t want to imply that another builder is wrong because he finds himself in a different place on the spectrum, but I might take all of that into account before I ask for a ride in his airplane.

So to get back to headrests, the issue isn’t trying to protect the occupant from the primary collision- though it would be possible to have an impact similar to being rear-ended, the odds would be infinitesimally small. The protection is for the secondary impact that comes when the occupant bounces off of the shoulder harnesses and back into his seat. The headrest has a relatively small investment of cost, weight, and building complexity. As for operational impact, I’d argue that it actually improves operations (depending on the design). My primary area of concern for operational impact is the space that the headrest takes up in the cabin. I didn’t really want it to stick up above the seat, since it would be in the way at times. In the back seat, the headrest would actually protrude into the baggage area somewhat. While I was pondering these points, I found myself riding in a minivan- it was a late model dodge caravan. Here is what the back seat headrests look like:

Headrest Extended

Here is a poor picture of the headrest in the extended position. Note how the vertical posts attach at the top of the headrest instead of the bottom.


Headrest Collapsed

Headrest Collapsed


The only thing better than coming up with a good idea is copying someone else’s great idea, so I called the local junkyards to start looking for a set of 4 late model caravan headrests. Everyone that I spoke with wasn’t interested in selling just a headrest, since they want to hold out and sell the whole seat instead. This issue combined with the desire on my part to keep the weight down led me to just plan on new fabrication instead.

I started by ordering some 4130 tubes. The vertical supporting tubes have a 1/2″ inner diameter (or so), so the 1/2″ OD tubes that make up the headrests themselves can fit in there with a little bit of wiggle. In retrospect, I wish I’d chosen a thinner diameter tube for the vertical, realizing that a little bit more clearance between the telescoping tubes wouldn’t have been a big problem.

Here is the result of some time with a plumbing-style tube cutter – not pictured: sore wrists:

Pile o tubes

Since there are 4 seats, there are 8 vertical posts of each size for a total of 16. The horizontal tube in the seat is 3/4\

Having watched Tinman’s awesome videos about welding, I had been told that the easiest way to cut the fishmouth shape in the tubes was to use a bench grinder and an eyeball. The grinder is for shaping the tube, and the eyeball is for knowing when it is right. I was sold on the idea, though when I talk to people who haven’t built with tubing before, they think that they will certainly need some sort of tube cutting tool. I guess the whole idea of having to make the curved cuts is very intimidating, with further evidence being the money that some builders spend on CNC cut tubes. I figured that this would be a great way to try out the grinder/eyeball combination, since neither the vertical headrest supports nor the receiving tubes were length-critical. In fact, I had left both intentionally long with plans to cut them later. If I needed to start over with a new fishmouth, it wouldn’t be an issue.

The truth is that after one or two tubes, I felt like I had it down. I would just grind it until it looked about right, then test fit, then grind a bit more if necessary. Something that makes it easier is that the welding process can certainly tolerate a 1/16″ gap, so the pieces don’t really have to fit together with CNC accuracy. Level 2 of difficulty was to cut the horizontal tubes that go between the original seat verticals, since the fishmouths have to be cut not just to a 3/4″ diameter, but they must also be cut parallel to each other and positioned to account for the distance between the seats. I did have to redo one of these pieces, simply because I cut the fishmouth 90 degrees off. In the videos they said that I would do that before too long.

To locate the vertical tubes, I found and marked the left-right center of the tube that makes up the top of the seat back. This was a little bit tricky, since the tube has such a nice big radius. Working out from the centerline, I marked the holes for the receiving tubes at 6″ center to center. I drilled with a small pilot hole first, as you can see below. This hole was sort of high stress emotionally, since it was the point of no return on some pretty expensive parts.

Pilot Hole

After some careful measuring, here is a pilot hole for the receiving tube.

A little bit bigger

Here's a little bit bigger hole, large enough to start on the step-drill.

Two big holes!

Now these seats are really ruined! I did get a little bit overzealous with the unibit on one of the holes. The 3/4 inch diameter on the tube means that you have a section town below that needs to be opened up to final size with a file, and you have to stop with the drill when you get to the desired diameter on the top of the tube.

Test-fit Vertical

After a little bit of filing, the vertical finally fits in.

View from Below

It is important to remember to drill these holes before you put in a horizontal, since the unibit has to come up from the bottom on these holes. These tubes are way too thin to use a conventional twist drill on.

Fish mouths

Here are the tubes all lined up after fishmouth grinding.

Back Seat Horizontal

Here is the horizontal for the back seat.

This was an enjoyable process, but it was getting too cold to weld in the hangar. Since the 4130 tubing has to cool at just the right rate, a cold workshop creates undesirably hardened welds that can be subject to cracking. I don’t really have any way to warm up the hangar, so I took the tanks and all of these parts home so that I could weld them in the smaller workspace there.


Posted on
Hours Logged This Session: 6
Total Hours: 1883.75

New Goodies

Today I spent an additional 1.5 hours on the wingtip, but the more exciting news is that an order came in from Wicks.

Seat Foam

Seat Foam and Invisible Cat

I ordered some 5052 Aluminum to make fuel lines out of, along with some foam for the seats. My plan for the seats is to use tempur foam for the bottom layer for its shock absorption, then to use regular seat foam for the rest. Wicks had the best price that I could find on a 1″ thick green cushion that was big enough for the seats.

Here our quality assurance department verifies the alloy of the aluminum fuel tubing by smell.

I also got some rivets for the doors. They are made of aluminum and have a nice large head to help spread the load evenly. I’m planning to use these AN fittings for the fuel quantity gauges. They have Flared ends on both sides, and one side has a bulkhead attachment. My plan (for now at least) is to set up the fuel quantity sight gauges outboard of the fuselage frame, on the inboard side of the root rib. This will eliminate the need for any flexible tubing.

Rivets and AN Fittings

The Wicks price was pretty good on aluminum pull rivets for the door and window skins. The 90 degree AN fitting is for the fuel quantity gauge.

I didn’t want to use tempur foam for the entire seat cushions for a couple of reasons. Cost and weight were two factors, since the tempur foam had more of each. Another reason was the recommendation of a professional interior guy that gave a presentation about how to build seats. Another Bearhawk builder named Dave Lenart recommended Rochford Supply for the foam. The higher density option is 4526, with the softer 3319. The 1″ thick harder stuff goes over the tempur foam, then the softer 2″ thick stuff goes on top of that. The seat back is 2″ 3319 by itself.

Seat Foam

The seat foam cushions came from Rochford Supply

Cinnamon Roll

Foam Cinnamon Roll


Posted on
Hours Logged This Session: 1.5
Total Hours: 1883.75

Visit to Bob’s Again

Today I made a trip up to Fincastle to Bob’s. We’re going to be taking over the Bearhawk logo shirts and hats and the trip was to pick up Bill’s inventory. While I was there I asked Bob a few questions and took some pictures of his airplanes.

Bob's hard brake line attached to caliper.  I asked him about this and he said that a flex hose of some type might be better.

Bob's hard brake line attached to caliper. I asked him about this and he said that a flex hose of some type might be better.

Here's the top of Bob's instrument panel.  I was wondering about how he addressed the sharp edge that the top piece makes if you let it overhang.

Here's the top of Bob's instrument panel. I was wondering about how he addressed the sharp edge that the top piece makes if you let it overhang.

I took this picture so I could put the ends on the tail struts, which I'm going to have to make.

I took this picture so I could put the ends on the tail struts, which I'm going to have to make.

Here's the top end of the strut

Here's the top end of the strut

This picture is to document the location of the latch that holds the window open

This picture is to document the location of the latch that holds the window open

This picture is to document Bob's rivet spacing on the wing tip.

This picture is to document Bob's rivet spacing on the wing tip.

These pictures are for documenting the access panels in the tail.

These pictures are for documenting the access panels in the tail.

Here Bob is assembling the crankcase halves on a 360, not unlike ours.

Here Bob is assembling the crankcase halves on a 360, not unlike ours.

Lycoming 360 Crankcase Half

Lycoming 360 Crankcase Half

Bob just recently added this wing strut fairing to his Patrol.  He said that he could see the skin vibrating just aft of the attach point because of the turbulence.

Bob just recently added this wing strut fairing to his Patrol. He said that he could see the skin vibrating just aft of the attach point because of the turbulence.

Here is the front view of the faring.  Bob made it by forming a modeling clay shape on the airplane and then adding fiberglass around that.

Here is the front view of the faring. Bob made it by forming a modeling clay shape on the airplane and then adding fiberglass around that.

After the fiberglass was cured he removed the modeling clay.

After the fiberglass was cured he removed the modeling clay.



I’m glad to live within a 3-hour drive so that I can make it up to visit every now and then.

Exhaust Tunnel and Barts RV

I only had a few minutes to work today, but I got the exhaust tunnel attached and the little pieces clecoed. Last night we went to visit Bart’s RV-8 Project. He had the whole EAA chapter over and cooked some burgers.

Brandon and Wesley look over the people hole while Wade looks over the luggage compartment.

Brandon and Wesley look over the people hole while Wade looks over the luggage compartment.

Bart explains the technical aspects of the flex-titanium jingle converter and other gadgets.

Bart explains the technical aspects of the flex-titanium jingle converter and other gadgets.

Page says that there are too many TV screens in there.

Page says that there are too many TV screens in there.

Jerry looks over Bart's RV

Jerry looks over Bart's RV




Bart’s project is coming along nicely and he’s going to put the engine on pretty soon.

Step 1: A Hangar

This summer we worked on a place to work on the Bearhawk.  Since there is an airport that is very close to our house, we decided to locate the project there.  This is what the hangar looked like before:

It was a bit of a mess

It was a bit of a mess

And here is the “after”:

Almost Finished

Almost Finished

Patrick and Bradley came to help us move the airplane from the trailer to the hangar.

We gave it a nice run up the runway to see if it would fly.  No Luck.

We gave it a nice run up the runway to see if it would fly. No Luck.

To get the Fuselage out of the trailer we stationed one person on each main landing gear wheel, and Patrick on the bottom front cross tube.  We had no problem carrying the weight out far enough to set down the main wheels while the tailwheel was still in the trailer.  From that point it was easy to roll the main wheels on the ground for the rest of the adventure, including lowering the tailwheel down to the ground.
Patrick and the Wings

Patrick and the Wings

When it was time to carry the wings out we set out the packaging styrofoam and stationed people accordingly.  It would have been possible with two but was much easier with four. 
Tabitha, Bradley, and Patrick

Tabitha, Bradley, and Patrick

To carry them on the trailer we stacked some wooden pallets under a sheet of foam.  This helped the wing clear the trailer fenders.  Since we were only going a short distance and were not going on the raod it worked fine.

Now we just need to straighten up the hangar a bit and get started on the fun!

Ordering the Engine

Since most engine companies require some lead-time, my first goal after securing the purchase of the kit was to start deciding on an engine.  I knew that we wanted a Lycoming 4-cylinder, but that only narrows it down to a few hundred variants.  I also knew that we didn’t want fuel injection, and that we wanted to be able to burn 100LL without the lead, which would have an octane rating of around 94.  Those decisions, along with the elimination of the helicopter, aerobatic, and left-rotating options narrowed the field a bit.  There were still several choices, so I started reasearching.  I read the Beartracks articles about deciding on an engine, and did some online reasearch.  Neither of those steps provided any great insight, other than that I knew that I wanted to choose a builder that I could trust to do a good job and support his work after the fact. 

I spoke with Mark at Avipro to see what kind of OEM discounts he could get from Lycoming.  He pointed out that there were basically three options that seemed popular among other builders.  He could get a new 360 to sell me with the OEM pricing, I could buy an engine from an individual, or I could have Bob build one.  He also noted that another builder had decided to sell a 390, and that the price was around $30,000.  The new lycoming would be around $25k.  The 390 is certainly attractive, since it has the same footprint of the 360, but has more power.  I did more research about the compression ratio and octane requirements.  It seems that the Lycomings have low compression cylinders that can run with the octane ratings of pump auto fuel, normal cylinders, and high compression cylinders that can only run on 100LL.  Of course, the higher compression ratios produce more power, but are more likely to detonate on inferior fuel.  I learned that the normal 8.5:1 cylinders can run on 93 octane or so, which is on par with premium auto fuel, and more importantly, with a version of current AVGAS without the lead.  I’m personally betting that if 100LL ever goes away or becomes super-expensive, that the infrastructure will provide a clean, high quality fuel that has all of the good traits of 100LL (such as the long shelf-life and lack of ethanol and other goofy stuff).  I think that this change will happen before we reach TBO on our Bearhawk, so I wanted to be sure not to paint ourselves into a corner that would require us to use leaded fuel.

Before long, I started to realize that even if I spent a year researching the 360 line of engines, I would still not know as much as an expert does about them.  I was in the unique situation of having access not only to an expert on Lycoming engines, but also an expert on the Bearhawk- the guy who designed it.  I called Bob and asked him a few questions.  What was the current lead time?  9 months.  What about the warranty?  If it was our fault, we will fix it.  What will the price be?  Somewhere around $16k.  Wow, that sounds pretty good to me. 

I thought about it for another day or two, then realized that if I was going to put my faith in Bob to build an engine, I might as well go ahead and move forward with the order.  I didn’t have any reservations about trusting his work, so I called him back the next day and learned about how his ordering process works.  He wanted for me to prepare a written order and send it to him in the mail.  This sounds like a great method, since it gives him a paper trail to follow.  The trouble with such a process is that I didn’t know how to write the letter- but he knew that too of course.  We spoke for about 15 or 20 minutes, and it went something like this.

The standard starting price for a 360 is $13,800, so start with that.  What kind of engine mount are you using?  The case for the conical is a little bit cheaper, the Dynafocal type 1 is $500 more.  I would tell him what I wanted, or if I wasn’t sure, ask him about the merrits of the options.  Once we came to a decision, he told me what to write and how much to add to the price.  Here is a list that starts after the one listed above:

Constant speed capable crankshaft: Add $100

Prop governor drive on accessory case: Add $350

Vaccum Pump drive (for an alternator of course): Add $200

Skytec Lightweight Starter: Add $380

Flywheel for starter (while Bob probably silently remembers that his 360 Bearhawk didn’t have no stinkin electrical system at all) : $300

Angle Valve cylinders: $300

This modification is one that Eric also had on his engine, and Bob has done several like this.  The angle-valve cylinders have larger valves and more metal in the head, which makes for better cooling, and will probably be the one modification that will be most different from other 360s.

The following options were important to note, but didn’t add to the base price:  No preference for narrow or wide deck, carburetor, rear-entry oil pan and elbow to turn 90 degrees (moves the carburetor aft), overhauled cam and lifters, overhauled Bendix mags, overhauled ECI Cermanil cylinders, and the normal compression cylinders.  Total price: $15,930.  I sent the letter along with a $200 deposit, then followed up with a phone call a week or so later.  That’s all there was to it!  Will I end up regretting the choice to go with Bob or the options above?  Perhaps, but probably not.  That’s what I think anyway.

Posted on
Hours Logged This Session:
Total Hours: 1883.75

A Change in Plans

The paper version of my building log was progressing nicely for a while.  I made a form block, ordered some aluminum, made a few MDF router templates, and other such fun things.  I was just about ready to start cutting out some nose ribs when we went to Sun-N-Fun.  We had a good time duing the usual Sun-N-Fun things, and my wife pointed out that it might be worth buying someone else’s project.  This was a reference to this past fall when we spoke via email with the owner of an Avipro kit.  In that case, the kit was in Washington, so just getting it home would have been a major undertaking.  Additionally, it didn’t look like we were even in the same price ballpark.

She suggested that I call him to see if he had ever sold his kit.  Her point was that if we could buy an Avipro kit second-hand, we could see a substantial price advantage to buying a new kit.  In fact, even compared to scratch building, the price could be attractive.  There are a few scratch-built projects that come up for sale from time to time, but the problem with those is that there isn’t much guarantee about the quality of work so far.  At least with a kit, you know that the factory work was good.  That means straight wings and good welding for example.

When we set out on this building adventure, the whole idea was to scratch build for the fun and experience, not as much for the financial savings.  I wanted to be able to turn a coil of aluminum into a bunch of ribs, and steel into a fuselage, etc.  I was expecting to spend 10 years or so, based on my estimations and research.  Tabitha pointed out that by buying someone else’s kit, we would still have plenty of work to do, and we’d be flying much sooner and enjoying the airplane more.

I didn’t hear back from Washington, but I saw an ad for another Avipro kit on Barnstormers.  The price was a little higher than I was interested in, but the ad mentioned some extras.  The best part was the location.  Just outside of Atlanta, it was about a 5-hour drive from our house.  I sent an email to the owner and waited for a response.  I got a reply early in the morning on Wednesday.  The list of extras was longer than I had expected it to be, which made the higher price seem more reasonable, and the pictures that he had looked good.  I arranged a meeting on the shortest timeline possible, which was on Saturday of that same week. 

I spent the next several days working on all of the research that such an adventure would require.  I spoke with Mark at Avipro to see if he would provide support to a kit after a sale to someone like me.  He said he would.  I spoke with NAFCO (since I had just met them at SNF) about financing.  I also spoke with my bank and a couple of insurance companies.  I checked on the pricing for a truck and for a place to store most of an airplane.  Even if the seller would have been able to meet before Saturday, I wouldn’t have been able to get all of my own ducks in a row by then.

We left on Friday afternoon to arrive in Atlanta on Friday evening.  Since it was Jamie B’s birthday, we met up with him and had some nachos.  Then we spent the night at George and Susan’s house, which was a huge help.  They were just a few minutes from the seller’s house.  On Saturday morning we woke up early, just as Tabitha’s parents were arriving.  They live just on the other side of town, which in Atlanta means an hour or two of driving.  Don and I went to the seller (Richard’s) house.  Richard was very polite and had great answers to all of the questions that I was able to think of.  We rode together over to his airport (KVPC) and took a look at the wings.  We agreed to a price and I left a deposit, along with a promise to come back and pick up the airplane in a week or two.

The first step was to call NAFCO and start the process of the loan.  To fund the loan, they wanted for me to reserve an N-number so that they could place a lien on it.  This didn’t make much sense to me, since there wasn’t an airplane associated with the number.  Somehow it all works out, and so I put in the request.  Kevin at NAFCO seemed to think it would take a couple of days, meaning that we might have been able to pick up the airplane after just one week.  It actually took the FAA 10 days to process the request!  As always, they move at the blazing speed of government.  At this point we also met with Claude, the manager of the airport that is very close to our house.  We worked out our plans with him for building a hangar and for temporary storage for the airplane.

My first plan for storage was a shipping container.  I thought about buying one and using it as part of the structure of the hangar.  The 40 foot version was going to be about $2300, which was about as much as my hangar budget in total.  I found that I could rent one for $100 per month with $300 delivery.  Just before delivery, I learned that my local friend in the trucking business (Tommy) could rent me a trailer for the same rate with no delivery fee.  The trailer would be higher off the ground, but the same height as the Penske truck that I was using to move the airplane.  It was also 53 feet long instead of 40 feet, which was even more room to spread out in.  Tommy worked out the trailer delivery, and we processed all of the loan paperwork. 

The best insurance price was with AVEMCO, and they had flexible terms for a project under construction.  With the insurance scheduled to start on Friday at midnight, we finished the wire transfers on Friday afternoon.  This was one day less than 2 weeks after our last trip to Marietta.  On Saturday, we started early at NC27 for the Lenoir Aviation Club work day.  We left there at about lunch time and made it to Greenville SC at about 2:00pm.  We picked the truck up in Greenville because it was much cheaper than the Atlanta area.  The other problem that we had was that most Penske offices close early on Friday, so by picking the truck up half way, we were able to leave later in the day.  We saved about $150 off of the truck rate, and burned about $50 in fuel to drive the truck from Greenville to Marietta.

We made it to the VPC airport at about 6:00, and I had a bit of a headache.  As that headache soon deterioated into nausea and such, it occured to me that I hadn’t had much to eat.  After a mountain dew and a few minutes of digestion, I was back on track.  We met Tabitha’s parents there, and loaded the wings into the truck.

Bearhawk WingsLoaded Up

I don’t have a picture of just the wings in the truck, so above you can see one of the whole load.  It was a 22 foot truck, and there was plenty of room.  We used the original Avipro styrofoam to pad between the leading edge and the floor.  We used two straps to hold each wing to the side of the truck, and it worked well.  We also put foam between the wing and the wall.

Loading the Fuselage

We made it to Richard’s house at around 8:00pm, which was an hour behind our original schedule.  We had a couple of cousins from the area there to help, and they were very helpful.  Richard and his wife Sharon also helped with packaging and padding everything.  As it was assembled, two people could hold the front of the fuselage up comfortably.  Since there are stringers on the bottom of the fuselage, it can’t sit on the ground.  We had Tabitha take the wooden sawhorse support up to the front of the truck, and we put two people in the truck to receive the fuselage.  We let the tailwheel roll and had Richard doing the steering.  We had the firewall almost against the bulkhead in the truck, and used a total of 8 straps to secure the fuselage in place.  We didn’t actually set the aft 4 straps until the very end, which allowed us to keep loading things into the cabin area.  The wingtips, flaps, ailerons, front seats, and lots of other stuff went into the cabin.  The control surfaces and other flat pieces went into a pile behind the fuselage.  I used a series of wood screws to secure the strap hooks to the wooden truck floor (and to secure the front sawhorse to the floor).   It took two straps to hold that stack down, and then another two straps to hold the main landing gear in place.  The goal was to be sure that nothing would be able to move inside the truck, either to damage itself or to damage any other parts (like the wings).  We were finally ready to go at around 10:30 pm, and after a meal with Richard and Sharon at the Mexican place we were ready to go to sleep.

Truck Height

We slept at George and Susan’s again (thanks!) and left the next morning at around 9:00am.  I made it to the airport with minimal stops and was able to back it up directly to the storage trailer.  Not a bad parking job if you ask me!  Unloading the Penske was no big deal, since it was just a matter of transporting the items across a small gap.  The wings and fuselage required some help, and Wesley, Danny, Patrick, and Richard (another Richard) all helped.  With all of the Bearhawk parts in hibernation, it was nice to take a relaxing deep breath and let it all sink in.  It had been quite an adventurous 2 weeks!

Now we just have to tear down the remains of the old hangar that’s in our spot, and build our own.  Nothing to it!

Posted on
Hours Logged This Session: 0
Total Hours: 1883.75

Visiting Eric Newton and the MS Mudbug

 

On March 15th 2009, Tabitha and I went to the Mississippi Coast to visit Eric Newton and his Miss’ippi Mudbug.  I had seen a few completed Bearhawks, but Tabitha had not been able to sit in one yet.  On this particular visit, I was going to be in Gulfport for work, and my Dad (who also lives on the MS coast) was available to go with us. 

At this point I had read the first two of Eric’s construction books, so it was great to see the famous Mudbug in person.  I had not yet read the third book, though I have read it since then.  Eric was a great host, and I found myself wondering if he ever gets tired of answering the same questions over and over again.  Who knows, maybe that’s part of why he wrote the books!

He offered to take us on a flight, which we didn’t expect but were glad to accept.  You can see from the pictures above who got to ride shotgun!  Actually he even stopped and let us switch seats so that I could fly some too.  Getting to ride in Eric’s Bearhawk was a hugely important step in our decision process.  Since his has a “Bob” O-360 and a fixed pitch prop, it represents the “lean and mean” side of the Bearhawk, as opposed to the “just mean, not lean” versions that have 540s.  The runway was soft, and Eric said that his takeoff performance was usually much better, but we were still impressed.  The runway was so soft that it actually led to some mud splattering on the bottom of the wing.

Since I was in the back seat for the first bit of flying, I was able to spend some time evaluating the view and the sight pictures of the various phases of flight.  Our first impression in this area is that the horizon sits much higher in the forward-looking picture than it does in most of the other single engine airplanes that I have flown.  Tabitha and I both agreed that this was a plus- it makes the windscreen feel more like a picture window and less like a skylight.

Another important observation from Eric’s ride was the prop RPM.  Back when I used to work on airplanes in my college days, I was always sure that I didn’t want to own an airplane with a constant speed prop.  The expense, weight, failure possibility, and maintenance were my reasons.  When I first started talking with Bob about the requirements for the BH, he said that it really can benefit from a constant-speed prop.  To paraphrase, he said that while most 2-place airplanes don’t see enough of a gain from the CS, it makes a difference on the 4-place. (I’m not sure about what the number of seats has to do with it, but I think he was referring more to the total weight of the airplane)  He did say though that it would still operate just fine with a fixed pitch prop.  A comment like that doesn’t sound very convincing unless it comes from someone like Bob- since he seems to have equally large aversions to weight gain and dollar expenditure.  If his answer was “I really don’t see why you would need it,” then I would have know that a constant speed prop would be an unneccesary luxury.  But since he seemed to be pro-constant speed (or perhaps just not anti-constant speed?), that made me start thinking about it.  Those who have spoken to Bob about such decisions will know what I mean.

Flying with Eric was perhaps the final selling point that convinced me to go the constant-speed route.  The climb performance was great, but it was very easy to get to redline RPM in cruise speeds.  This meant reducing the throttle to keep the prop speed down, which of course means slower cruise speed.  The mudbug is still a great machine with amazing performance, but it has a very broad speed envelope, and as such it requires quite a bit of compromise to keep a single fixed-pitch prop well-suited to the entire range.

Eric took us south to show us his neighborhood and the coast, and he let Tabitha do some flying.  At the time she had only had one or two recent instruction flights, so she was still very new to flying.  She first noticed how much more responsive the BH is when compared to the Skyhawk that she had been flying.  The ailerons and pitch are much more crisp, and the rudder won’t let you forget that it’s there.  I would compare the feel of the controls more to something like the Luscombe or Taylorcraft that I have flown in the past.  When we switched seats, Eric let me do some slow flight and stalls.  He has not been able to extend the flaps to the 50-degree setting, simply because it is too dificult to get the lever to that position.  Eric’s not built as a weak type of guy, so that should tell you something about how much effort is required!  In fact, he had a good point when he said that he’s reluctant to try too hard to get the flaps to that position, since if he is successful, he may not be able to retract them.  So we deployed the flaps to 40 degrees (which is still an extreme amount of deflection), added power, and watched the pitch angle climb as the speed went down.  Holding altitude during this transition was easy for me, even on the first try.  I was surprised by the responsiveness of the controls even at such low speeds.  We just plowed along at low speed for a little while, making some turns.  The airplane flew well at those speeds, though it was a hand-foot affair, just as it was at higher speeds.  The stall itself was a non-event, just as others have described it.  I wasn’t sure if I could believe Budd’s hype about the low-speed handling characteristics of the BH, but let me tell you, it’s true. 

Here are a few other observations that I remember from flying with Eric.  First, the BH seems to be the kind of airplane that will take an hour or two to get used to before I become graceful with the coordination of aileron and rudder inputs.  I felt the same way about the lighter classics that I have mentioned above.  Riding in the back seat with the windows open gets pretty windy.  In the front seat, it’s loud but nice at putt-around speeds.  The cockpit visibility is excellent, and the BH will make a great occasional aerial photography platform.  The stick-time handling of the BH is good enough to enjoy the flying just for the sake of flying.  I wouldn’t say the same thing about any Cessna product that I have flown, though I would say the same thing about the Citabria and Beechcraft airplanes that I have flown.  The cockpit is very roomy and not cramped at all.  The noise level of Eric’s straight pipes and no noise insulation is still acceptable, at least for the short time that we flew.  10 hours per day of cross country might change my mind.  The 360 is plenty of power. 

We were very greatful for a chance to get to see the Bearhawk in action!  This was just another example of Eric’s great generosity and promotion of the Bearhawk.  He’s a great asset to the homebuilding world!

Posted on
Hours Logged This Session:
Total Hours: 1883.75

Visiting Patrick’s RV

My good friend Patrick is just starting to build an RV, and he gave us a tour of his shop and progress.

jy~DSC_1445

 Here, Patrick is lurking in the inky shadows.  Since the flash feature is broken on my camera, and since the shiny new aluminum skin was reflecting bright sunlight, you can’t see him very well.  He is building the RV-7, which of course has a much different mission than the Bearhawk.  The wing construction is still very similar though.

 

Work Table

You can see that he has some nice carpet squares to pad the bench around his C-frame dimple/rivet station.

 

Apart, together 1; Apart, together 2; Apart, together...

Apart, together 1; Apart, together 2; Apart, together...

Patrick says that airplane building involves a lot of putting things together and taking them back apart again.  Sort of like those exercises we used to do in elementary school.  Here he’s building up the spar for the horizantal stabilizer.

 

Plans and Motivation

Here is a view in the plans of the completed RV-7, conveniently posted for motivation and reference.

 

Detailed Plans

You can see that the RV plans are much more detailed than the Bearhawk plans.  The RV has a step-by-step assembly process that is laid out clearly by the manufacturer.  The Bearhawk is a bit more of a puzzle, and part of the challenge of building it is filling in the blanks.  This is another major difference between Patrick’s project and mine.  I wouldn’t say that one philosophy is necessarily better than the other, but rather just that they are quite different.

 

Emily and Tabitha Too

Here he’s telling Tabitha about how his fingers are sore from using a 1/4″ drill bit for hole deburring.  Emily had been studying when we arrived, and we came on very short notice!  Hopefully one day we can fly both airplanes to Oshkosh.  Patrick can take Emily, and we can take all of their stuff.  They’ll have to wait for us at the fuel stops though!

First Log Entry – Prerequisites

Books!

Books!

Each project has to start somewhere, and this one has started as a pile of books.  My wife told me that the traditional gift for a first wedding anniversary is something made of paper; so my gift came as an order from the EAA bookstore.  They included the four Tony Bingelis books, the EAA welding book, Richard Finch’s welding manual, and AC 43.13 1b. 

My first introduction to the Bearhawk was at the Kissimmee Airport on the Monday before the 2008 Sun-N-Fun fly-in.  Avipro was hosting the event at Jim Clevenger’s Hangar, and I got to talk with Bob Barrows (the designer), Budd Davisson (representing Avipro), Wayne Massey (a scratch builder), and several others.  You can see pictures at http://jaredyates.com/pages/bhkism/bhkism.shtml of the whole day.

Before Oshksosh in 2008, I was interested in the Bearhawk, but faced a bit of a dilemma.  I didn’t want to find the money to buy an Avipro kit, and I didn’t have the skills or knowledge to scratch build one.  The educational resources at Oshkosh changed all of that.  I didn’t know how one could possibly form ribs, until I went to a seminar about forming ribs.  Then, it sounded pretty easy.  I wasn’t sure about welding, until I spent some more time in the welding workshop.  One by one, my mastery of the various skills became a bit more realistic.  I wouldn’t begin to say that I had mastered them at that point- rather, I just learned that I could certainly be able to master them in the future.  You can read all about my 2008 Oshkosh experience here: http://jaredyates.com/pages/oshkosh08/oshkosh08.shtml

We had a bit of travelling to do just after Oshkosh, but I was convinced that I wanted to try scratch building a Bearhawk.  Just about that time, Jeff Walin put his Bearhawk materials on Ebay.  I purchased his plans, a copy of Russ Erb’s CD, and Eric Newton’s first 2 manuals all as a single package.  I opened the box on the day that we got back from a month of traveling, and the fun had begun.

Bearhawk Plans!

The time elapsed from the picture immediately above until the picture at the top of this entry was about 3 months.  This phase was one of information gathering, where I was still reassuring myself that I really wanted to undertake such a project.  All together, that process has almost taken a year.