Build-a-plane journal: Adventures in teaming up, dreaming big and having fun
Thomas D. Letts, Functional Analyst, Jeppesen Technology Services
Jeppesen supports the need to get students interested in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) related careers. As a former chairman of the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA), Mark Van Tine is very familiar with the GAMA and Build-a-Plane national aviation design competition for high school students, and this year he and Thomas Letts, a functional analyst in Product Development, will work alongside the winning students to build a Glasair Sportsman Aircraft. Tom will be providing updates that will be posted on Jeppesen’s Community Blog detailing his experiences. Mark and Tom both have GoPro cameras that will be set up to capture the build using time-lapse photography. Follow along on their adventure here.
T minus three days
Has the anticipation of something you wanted to do been so great that you were not able to sleep? Each day leading up to that event, you found yourself not being able to concentrate on anything but that event?
Well, that is what I am going though, knowing that I was selected to represent Jeppesen and help out the high school winners of the Build-a-Plane national competition. The winners are awarded the opportunity to build an airplane. This year there will be two airplanes built, and I am told the two winning high schools are from Michigan and Minnesota. It will be exciting to work with these talented high school students in an aviation atmosphere. I will be traveling to Arlington, Washington to the Glasair Aviation factory to assist in building two Sportsman Aircraft using the “Two Weeks To Taxi” program training, instruction and build.
There are opportunities in life that only come around once—this being one of them— and I am so excited to be part of this wonderful and life changing experience.
My philosophy in life is simple: I try to see the positive in everything and everyone, along with, I try to squeeze the most out of each day. I look forward to sharing my experience and photos with my friends and colleagues at Jeppesen.
Let the Build begin!
Jeppesen Community Blog: /community/
Jeppesen Facebook Page: http://facebook.com/jeppesen
EAA, GAMA, Build A Plane Sponsor Annual Teachers Day: http://www.airventure.org/news/2013/130425_teachers-day.html
Rivet, rivet, rivet...Day 1
Today began the excitement and adventure of Build-a-Plane. The day started out at 0430, watching the sunrise, with breakfast at 0620 and then a short car ride to the Glasair factory at 0655. We began our building day by going through a safety briefing (how to use building tools 101). Then , we continued with a factory tour that ended with us standing in front of the two planes (that, at this stage, were mainly parts in tubs) that we will be building.
After our tour and safety briefing we all were assigned tasks. It was one adult with one student. We were advised that when students participate, they take a day or two to catch on to the skill sets needed to build an airplane. In our case, the students from Canby High School in Minnesota and Saline High School in Michigan are very talented and jumped right in doing whatever the adults needed them to do.
I was paired with Braden from Canby High School. He showed me how to use a rivet gun, as I was putting a lot of happy faces on the rivets I was riveting--which is not a good thing.
By the end of the day, Braden and I, along with help from the Glasair staff, had finished one wing. With the time left over, I helped Mark Van Tine plumb the hydraulic lines for the brakes on one of the planes, as well as put the wheels together with the tires. It may not sound like a lot, but trust me, a lot of work was accomplished today.
The STEM ( Science Technology Engineering and Math ) programs in these high schools have been a huge success, in great part because of the very talented teachers. Tonight we had the honor of having dinner with the students, and as each student explained to the rest of the group what fueled their passion for aviation, we found a common thread--the STEM program played an important role in their passion. If today was any indication of what these students are capable of, both planes will be finished early.
What a great first day at Build a Plane.
Start your engines...Day 2
Day two started off where day one ended. All the students were energized to continue to work on the two BAP ( Build-a-Plane ) airplanes. After a quick breakfast at the hotel we all headed off to work at 0650 and started work promptly at 0700.
The great thing about the staff at Glasair is they want to teach the students new skills each day. Today’s topic was drill bits, and boy, did we learn a lot about drill bits. Did you know that the bigger the drill bit the slower you want to the RPM to be as you are drilling?
Once we finished our lesson for the day, we all paired up with different people. Today, I was paired up with Mark...wait he's not a student! But that didn’t mean we didn’t have a lot of fun.
Mark and I worked on mounting the tail wheel on his plane (a task that normally takes between 8-10 hours). We learned about the types of fiberglass and how to lay up fiberglass. We finished up the tail wheel in about 5 hours.
I headed off to install the firewall on Marks plane, while Mark worked on mounting the wings (the wings were on just long enough to get the dihedral correct). After that, Mark received a box with a brand new Lycoming 210 hp IO-390 engine. Believe it or not, it took him a good amount of time just to uncrate the engine. They sure do pack those engines well.
The students finished up both wings for the BAP plane (putting in the fuel tanks and finishing the trailing edge of the wings), they finished prepping the engine and then mounted the engine on the BAP plane. The big treat for the students today was the demo ride in the factory sportsman aircraft. What a great day of aviation.
Wednesday looks like we will be finishing up on the firewall and mounting the engine on Mark’s plane. We will also be working on finishing up one of the two wings for Mark’s plane. These students really know how to drive rivets.
On a side note, one of the students told me during lunch today, that they all wanted to stay up and watch a movie the night before, but within 5 minutes all 8 of them were sound asleep. It ‘s good to know that these two planes got the best of all of us yesterday, because the adults were just as tired.
Wired for safety...Day 4
We are now in a routine here at Build-a-Plane. Yep, we are up at 0530, eating breakfast at 0615, starting work at 0700 and pretty much done for the day at 1730.
Today ended up being another great day for the BAP team. We started the day with a lesson on safety wiring. Safety wiring is an art form (Ok not, really art, but to be good at it, your works looks like art) where you take a piece of fine wire and thread it though a hole that is in the head of a bolt and then twist the wire. After twisting the wire so there are 7-10 twists-per-inch, you thread the same wire through the pin hole in the head of a different bolt in such a way that the two bolts play tug-of-war with each other. If one bolt wants to loosen up, the wire is attached to the other bolt head in such a way that it will tighten the other bolt. It is a safety system that has worked extremely well in aviation for a very long time.
Today was also a great day in that all eight students had the opportunity to sign the inside of a wing of Mark’s Sportsman aircraft. Mark thought it would be a great way to honor each student and had the student sign the wing before the top skin was riveted on.
It was a very moving moment for everyone there, the pride in workmanship that these students have shown can be seen in very part of each plane being built.
What did we accomplish today? Well, we finished all the prep work on Mark’s engine, finished up the main gear on Mark’s plane that enabled us to move the plane from the jig and place it on the ground for the first time (Someone said it will be the softest landing that the plane will ever have! Ha! Ha!).
We finished the firewall on Mark’s plane and attached the engine mount. All the communications antennas were fibreglassed into the fuselage of the aircraft.
Mark fabricated his own fuel lines that feed the outboard tanks to the inboard fuel tanks. We finished the BAP wings, which will be attached tomorrow.
All the communications antennas were also put in the BAP plane as well and the horizontal stabilizer. All of the engine baffling was fabricated and installed today for the BAP plane. Last but not least we finished the dry fitting on the rudders for both. What a great day!
I am looking forward to tomorrow, when we will be attaching the wings on the BAP plane. Until then thanks for reading the blog.
Time to torque it out...Day 3
Today we had a new instructor to guide us through our day. Meet Ted.
Ted has been at Glasair for a very long time and thus has great stories to tell. In our training session today, we focused on bolts. Did you know there are all kinds of bolts, but the most common ones used in aviation are AN ( Army Navy ) bolts or MS ( Military “Mil” Spe) bolts.
As well, we learned about the four different types of nuts used in aviation that go onto the bolts. There are normal, Nylon locking, compression, and castle (they look like a castle where cotter Pins go through). We also learned from Ted that some bolts require torqueing to a certain tightness, that specific pressure is called foot-pounds (ft lb). Torqueing is done to keep the integrity of the bolt so it doesn’t fail.
We were not short on accomplishments today. On the BAP plane, the wings and struts were attached, the fuel lines were plumbed and the cowling was fitted.
On Mark's plane, the engine was mounted (how many people does it take to mount a engine?), all the baffling around the engine was completed, the fuel lines were finished and the upper wing skins were finished (at least for the top wing skins).
One of the highlights of today was when Ted told his aviation stories. As he told of his many adventures in aviation, the students were glued to his every word. At the end of the day all the kids--young and old--gathered around Ted as he told of his harrowing tale of landing one of the first Glasair aircraft. Ted made today one of those days that you will cherish forever, due in part to his wonderful story telling.
Until tomorrow, have a great day.
This instrument panel will really sing...Day 5
Today was the best day so far at BAP… Ok, maybe I am being a bit biased since today was Jeppesen t-shirt day.
Our educational lesson today was about washers. Did you know that dissimilar metals do not like each other and the result can cause rust? I learned that a lot of times the reason we use washers on bolts and screws is to either protect the metal from corroding or to protect a beautiful paint scheme.
Once our lesson was over, Chris, the factory pilot, took me flying. Glasair Aviation has two factory demonstration aircraft. One is all black with a bit of red in it and her name is “Black Beauty.” The other factory plane is all white and the Glasair staff named her “Snow White.” Due to the fairly low clouds, Chris had us stay in the pattern, so we just did two touch and gos.
Wow, can a Sportsman aircraft ever perform! We were off the ground in about 350 feet, and by the time we turned downwind we were at pattern altitude. The performance of the plane was better than any production plane I have flown in that category and class. I can hardly wait to go flying again!
Just before lunch a big crate was delivered by FedEx and it was the instrument panel for the BAP plane. Wow, what a panel -- something that any 777 pilot would love to fly with! This panel has everything a well-seasoned pilot would ever want. So the task for the afternoon was to dry-fit the panel in the aircraft and install as many engine sensors as we could.
We finished up the wing attachment on the BAP plane to the point that we now can fold the wings back against the fuselage. For both planes we finished up the horizontal stabilizer and elevator. On Mark’s plane the wings are almost done being fitted for the “coves,” where the flaps and ailerons fit into on the trailing edge of the wing.
Once again, it doesn’t sound like a lot, but just those few things added up to 56 man hours for the day. The BAP plane should be finished mid-week next week and Mark’s plane should be done by the end of next week, that is if we get his panel on time.
The students did an outstanding job again today--even the staff at Glasair Aviation has been impressed with these students.
I took a walk around the whole airport, and it ended up being a 5.5 mile walk. Tomorrow we have another full day of building, so this is all for now.
Have a great weekend everyone.
Wires and coolers and rudders, oh my...Day 6
For most of us, today would be a day off but not at “BAP” team. We did get to sleep an extra hour since it is Saturday. So off to work on the planes at 0800 instead of 0700. We started our day as we have the previous 5 days with a lesson on another skill set.
Our lesson for today was all about wiring. We learned a lot about what electrifies an airplane, and we found out that there is actually a lot of low-voltage circuits that open up higher voltage paths. A great example of this is the master power switch, which is really a low voltage switch that opens up a relay to allow more voltage to other parts of the plane, like the starter. We also learned how to strip wires properly, crimp wire, and how to use heat-shrink protective coverings correctly. What a great education these students are getting.
The sound of airplanes filled the air today, and that is the best music to work by ever! Because it was sunny today there were a lot of different types of planes flying at the airport -- vintage biplanes, gliders, powered parachutes, a formation flight of RV aircraft and a lot of Cessna and Piper aircraft. A few of the students and their teachers were given a ride in a vintage Stinson aircraft.
I was looking for Mark to get his help on a part on his plane, and I found him talking to one of the students (he was supporting himself with one hand on the propeller of one of the Sportsman aircraft), so you tell me if he was looking like the vintage Capt Jeppesen?
We worked on the BAP plane and continued with all the wiring that comes with a very advanced instrument panel. We also put on a lot of the parts on the engine, starter, alternator, flywheel and engine sensors. Both planes received their rudders today. The biggest progress accomplished today were the wings for Mark's Sportsman -- they got attached to the plane today -- YES!!!
We fitted the oil cooler on Mark's plane as well as hooking up the tail wheel to the rudder. It was a great day for both planes.
Tomorrow we get a day off, so we are going to the Boeing Aircraft factory for the grand tour, followed by a tour of the SeaTac Tower, then onto the Museum of Flight. We are hoping to see Superman tomorrow night.
Hope you all are having a great weekend.
Boeing, SeaTac Airport and the Museum of Flight...Day 7
Today is Sunday and a day off from building. We slept in until 0730, had breakfast, then off we went for a full day of touring.
We had a grand tour of the double-aisle aircraft building facility by the president of Boeing Business Jet (BBJ) , Mr. Steve Taylor. Some very cool facts about Steve are, not only did he get a degree in business, he has a degree in aeronautical engineering as well. He has type ratings in every commercial plane that Boeing builds, so when he makes a BBJ sale , it is not uncommon for him to be the one that delivers the BBJ to the customer.
The facility that we toured is the world’s largest building. This building is so big--how big is it Tom?-- that it can produce its own weather inside the building. This building is not heated or air conditioned. The heat comes from all the body heat that is generated from the people that work there, and when the building gets too hot they just open up the massive doors on both ends of the building to cool it down. To get around the building, Boeing uses electric cars and golf carts, as well as a whole lot of bicycles --that is one big building. On the tour, we saw 747-800s, 777-300ER and a whole lot of 787s in different phases of building. For the students, this was great to see that Boeing uses the same techniques to build a big plane as they are using to build the Sportsman aircraft.
Next we traveled to SeaTac International airport. While there, we toured the Ground Tower, War Room (ok, not really war--more like a disaster recovery room), the Security room (yes, they are watching you, more than you think!). We toured the active ramp and saw how fuel is uplifted to an aircraft, as well as the fuel trucks they use to fuel up cargo aircraft (it takes 4 trucks full of fuel and 1.5 hours to fill up a 747-800 freighter).
The airport operations folks also took us to the west side of the airport where they showed us a wall that was 80-100 feet tall. In order to build a new runway SeaTac had to buy out hundreds of homes and build a wall in order to make the new runway level. It was a massive engineering feat and a work of art as well. The BAP students were exposed to the various jobs at a major international airport, and what it takes to get into those careers.
Our last stop of the day was the Museum of Flight, where the “Red Barn” is (the Red Barn is where Bill Boeing started building airplanes). We had a guided tour of the museum.
Mark VanTine shed some light on one particular aircraft that is in the museum when he told us about how one specific flight that Captain Jeppesen flew (remember, these were the early days of flying the mail so the planes were not very comfortable), he made a stop in Rock Springs, Wyoming, to pick up some passengers. He was a bit late getting there, and it was getting dark, so a pickup truck drove to the far end of the field to light up the end of the runway. Capt Jepp made it off the ground and successfully navigated his way to Salt Lake City that night. The folks that Capt Jepp flew that night were none other than Mr. & Mrs. Bill Boeing.
On a side note, the airport that the Museum of Flight is on, is the same field that Boeing does all the deliveries for the B737. While we were there we saw one of the remaining B-17 flying fortresses fly along with a B-25.
On the way home from a very busy day, most everyone slept. I never thought that having fun would be so tiring, but it is. Well, it is off to bed early tonight, because we have another busy build day ahead of us tomorrow.
Have a great weekend everyone!
Cables, pulleys and all that tension...Day 8
It is hard to believe it is Monday already, the weekend went by so fast. Since it is Monday, we are back on our 0700 start time building the two Sportsman aircraft. I can tell that the students had way to much fun last night because they were the last to breakfast today and they were slow to start working this morning (I was pretty tired, too).
Today’s educational lesson was all about control cables and pulleys. All of the control surfaces on the Sportsman aircraft are controlled by cables. It was stressed to us that these cables are made out of stainless steel and could lift a small car, so these cables have to withstand all the tension that is put on them (up to 60-70 pounds of pressure). We also learned what to look for in a pulley that is wearing incorrectly: too much pressure on the pulley and a groove is worn in; at the wrong angle and one side is worn; or the pulley could freeze up as well.
A lot was accomplished on both planes today. On Mark’s plane, we installed the flaps (but have not hooked up to the flap handle yet), ailerons were hung, horizontal stabilizer and elevator were installed, and we started to work on the wing tips (strobes, and landing lights).
On the BAP plane, we installed most to the antennas and GPS pucks, horizontal stabilizer and rudder, both wing tips (landing lights as well as position lights and strobes) and we hooked up the flaps to the flap handle, as well as the ailerons. All three doors were finished today as well, as a lot of the engine works was finished up.
I am told we are looking like Wednesday or Thursday at the latest to taxi the BAP plane.
This past Saturday, Brian Kennedy from the Wilsonville office came to visit the build, and today Mark's son joined us for a few days to help out with the build. It is a lot of fun to show off the handy work from all the students to the visitors. Speaking of visitors, tomorrow I am told we will have a very special visitor (no, you have to wait until tomorrow to find out who it is).
Have a great day everyone.
Break for lake landing...Day 9
Today at BAP we were focused on our work assignments. Although we did not get through as many tasks as we wanted to, we did move both planes ahead to the point we are still ahead of schedule.
In our educational lesson today, we learned about the Lycoming IO-390 engine that is being used in both planes. The “I” stands for fuel injected, the “O” stands for ”horizontally opposed” cylinders, the 390 is the cubic inches (really it is 389 but they round to 390) and it is a 210 hp engine. During normal operations, the engine burns around 10-12 gallons an hour of 100LL fuel, and yet during the break-in we will be burning about double that per hour. During the break-in time we will be using mineral oil because it allows the rings to seat on the cylinders better.
The first flight will be three hours long and will be flown right over the airport (it will be fun to watch all the happenings on the airport from 3000 feet above the airport). Once the engine is broken in, it will stop consuming oil at such a high rate, and, at this point, we will switch from mineral oil to ashless dispersant (AD) Oil. All aircraft-use engine oils are mineral oils. Some of mineral oils have additives that aid in collecting debris and carrying it to the filter or screen. These are called ashless dispersant (AD) oils. Without the additive, they are referred to as mineral oils. The AD types of oil are better for the engine once the rings have seated.
As I explained earlier, we did not get as much as we wanted to done today, in part because the students had a photo session with a professional photographer from AOPA. They had so much fun posing for pictures while working on the planes. After that we had a special visitor, a staff member from Senator Maria Cantwell’s office visited us today. Sen. Cantwell represents the great state of Washington and she understands the importance a project such as Build-a-Plane and the positive impact it has had on these students. I was reminded today that there are many of these great organizations that are working out there to help mentor and motivate our youth to become actively engaged in STEM curriculum. If you find yourself with some extra time, please think about donating your time and talent to mentor a student. The reward you get is priceless.
Today the students also had an opportunity to fly in a Sportsman aircraft on floats. All the students landed on a lake near the Arlington Airport, then flew back to Arlington to land on wheels that were stored inside the floats. They all came back with the “Sportsman” grin. All the chaperones today were treated to a ride in the factory demonstrator. Yes, this is the same one I few with the big tundra tires on it.
As you can see, the students had a lot of fun today in addition to working on the two airplanes! On Mark’s plane we put together and installed all the hardware on all three doors (they still need window glass), we worked on the wing tips and fitted the engine cowling to the fuselage. On the BAP plan, we continued working on the instrument panel (Do you know how many wires there are with an all glass panel? A gazillion, that’s how many). We then finished up the engine compartment and finished up the wing tips as well.
I can tell you that my body is getting sore -- this is much harder than the brochure talked about.
Have a great Wednesday everyone.
Water and fuel don't mix...Day 10
Have you ever seen the movie “Ground Hog Day?” The movie is about reliving the same day over and over again. Building a plane in two weeks is kind of like that movie. I feel like we are reliving each day over and over again, but the difference is at the end of the day, when we clean up the hangar, you can see that progress is being made on each airplane.
Today’s lesson was in two parts. In the first part we talked about the fuel system. Starting with the outboard tank (10 gallons), then moving inboard to the main tanks (15 gallons), then to the fuel staging area (about a half gallon), then to the electric fuel pump, then on to the gascolator, then to the fuel controller, and finally to fuel injectors. In all, there are nine fuel drains and nine fuel filters (mainly screens). It is a complex and yet very simple system.
We talked about the grade of fuel, 100LL, that the plane will be using and the fact that the color of the fuel is blue. We were shown what water looks like in fuel and how water is heavier than the 100LL fuel is, so it sinks to the bottom the fuel tester.
The second part today’s lesson was all about how strong and easy fiberglass is to work with and to repair. We had a student try to use a hammer to pound through the fiberglass but could not, then another student was given an ax to chop through the fiberglass and after a few good whacks at the fiberglass she was able to go all the way through the material. Then we were shown how to repair the fiberglass with a patch that is as strong as the original. This patch, we were told, could take as little as two hours to apply.
After lunch, all the students were given a group oral quiz (kind of like Jeopardy) encompassing all of the aspects that each lesson taught the students about building a plane. It was heartwarming to see how these students remembered almost everything they were taught over the past few week.
What did we get done today? Well let’s start with the BAP plane. The fuel system was flushed and checked for leaks (there were none), the brake system was flushed and tested (oops, we hooked up our set of rudder pedals incorrectly), and we finished the final prep on the engine, which included pre-oiling the cylinders. We finished the back deck plates for the folding wings, all the glass (plexi-glass that is) went into the doors, we tackled the lion's share of the wiring for the panel that was installed. The propeller was attached, and, at the end of the day, we cranked over the engine (without the spark plugs hooked up) for the very first time. We are looking at tomorrow for first taxi, and Friday to have the DAR inspect the plane, with the first flight being most likely Saturday or Monday at the latest.
Mark’s plane, on the other hand, has been a bit neglected due to the fact that we still do not have a panel for the plane, but we still got a lot done. The wings were pivoted back to the tail, the engine cowling was finished, the wing tips were finished and the glass was put in the doors. We should have Mark's plane done as soon as we get the panel.
Have a great Thursday everyone.
Cheers from the great state of Washington.
Start up and taxi...Day 11
Today was a great day at Build a Plane. Like normal we had our lesson and today it was part two of the three part series on how to repair a fiberglass part. We found out that after the repair is finished the part is as strong if not stronger than its original. We also learned about each system of the engine, starting with the fuel, then air, then the exhaust system. These lessons have been great for the students. I was told by one of the chaperons that in these past two weeks the students have learned more about airplanes then in a full semester of high school. Now that is what I’m talking about OJL (on the job learning).
The Glasair staff we are working with include several Ryan’s, four Ben’s, a Tyler, a Preston, and the story teller, Ted (the staff call him Ted Yoda). As Arnold Schwarzenegger said on Saturday Night Live, “Hear me now or listen to me later,” This build would not have been as much fun if it wasn’t for the talented and patient staff at Glasair Aviation. The Glasair staff have had such a positive impact on these students that I would bet this experience will carry through the rest of their lives. The students have such a strong work ethic that it was fun watching them jump in and do all the tasks needed for these planes to come together.
Speaking of tasks, are you curious how Glasair keeps everything organized? The Two Weeks to Taxi crew puts each task in a container with a manual specific for that task.
Do you want to know the progress we made today on the planes? On the BAP plane, we finished up the instrument panel (very high tech panel with Aspen Avionics, and the new Garmin 750), put the seat pans in, added the control sticks (the only way to fly), put glass in all the doors, trimmed to fit the windshield (we call it the windscreen), and finished up the deck lids (these fit over the back seats). Hummmmmm, did I miss anything? Oh yeah, I almost forgot to tell you…THE BAP PLANE STARTED UP AND TAXIED for the first time today (see the dark picture with the BAP in the background). The pride in everyone that worked on the plane was shown on their faces with an ear to ear grin. Tomorrow the DAR (Designated Airworthiness Representative) will inspect the plane and once that is done we will watch as the Glasair Test Pilot flies her for the first time.
Mark’s plane took a back seat to the BAP plane today as it was all hands to finish the BAP plane before the DAR gets here on Friday. Not to worry, Mark’s Sportsman plane will be bathed in TLC tomorrow and for the next few days. We are shooting for the beginning of next week to have Mark’s plane taxied and inspected and if the stars align and the instrument panel gets here tomorrow, Mark will be flying before the 4th of July.
I will let you know how the inspection goes on the BAP plane. Until then, have a great Friday and weekend.
Cheers from the land of the taxing BAP Sportsman Aircraft!
No squawks on the plane...Day 12
Today was a great day at “Build a Plane”! As with all the other days we started off with a lesson. Today was the last of the three part series on how to fix a hole in fiberglass. We learned that you have to taper the fiberglass where you are adhering the new fiberglass too, and it has to be a 50 to 1 taper to make a strong bond and a smooth finish. Then we had a talk character and how it relates to the airplanes we built these past two weeks. The workmanship that went into the two airplanes is a reflection of how we live our lives. It was a great discussion for the students as they will take this experience and use the lessons learned the rest of their lives.
Today we had the airworthiness inspection on the BAP plane. The DAR (Designated Airworthiness Representative) was so impressed with the quality of the workmanship on the plane that he and his wife waived their fees for conducting the inspection. He told the students that their riveting was some of the best he has seen in many years. The DAR could not find a squawk (an issue or problem) on the airplane. The students were told that when the DAR signed off on the plane, a plane was born, ready to fly. The pictures speak a thousand words and show the pride the students had for these two aircraft. The students will be getting a big surprise tomorrow when they come back from their hike. We will be taking them out to the airport in the late afternoon and the BAP plane will make its first flight. After that, we are going to have a small celebration party for the students. This event, bringing out the students and chaperones to Washington state to build the BAP plane as well as Mark’s plane, would not have happened if it wasn’t for the generosity of the members of GAMA (General Aviation Manufactures Association).
Speaking of Mark’s plane, great news, the panel was received today and was partially installed. We hope to have Mark’s plane done by Monday with the first taxi on Tuesday. The DAR inspection and first flight should be on Wednesday. Once Mark’s plane is born (signed off by the DAR), then we get to fly it. The first few hours of test flying is all about the health of the engine and flying characteristics. As we fly off the forty hours required by the FAA before we can fly it back to Denver, we will be doing a lot of testing and squawk fixing.
For those of you that have enjoyed my blog, I appreciate the opportunity to share this experience with you. This has been life changing to say the least. To take raw materials and some that have been formed and in two weeks have a flying airplane is just inspiring. To top it off, working with eight outstanding young people from Minnesota and Michigan made it that much richer. If you plan to attend KOSH you will see both planes and maybe even meet some of the students. If you cannot attend, Mark’s plane will be used for volunteer events such as Young Eagles, so you will be able to see it then and see the craftsmanship that has gone into it. The Sportsman aircraft is one of the best handling aircraft I have had the privilege to fly.
Lucky number 13...Day 13
Today the students were enjoying their last day in the great state of Washington sightseeing in Seattle and then going on a nine mile hike in the mountains around Arlington. The students travel home tomorrow, so they tried to do as many things as they possibly could while they were here.
Have you ever thought about the number 13? Today was the 13th day of the build, so you would think that only bad things would happen right? I mean think about it, some people go out of their way to avoid the number 13. Some buildings do not have a 13th floor, all cruise ships do not have a 13th deck, and as it relates to aviation, have you ever looked up regulation 91.13? It just so happens that regulation 91.13 talks about being careless and reckless. Pretty darn unlucky if you ask me.
Today the number 13 has been nothing but good luck. I arrived at the airport this morning at 0600 only to find a rainbow. The luck of the Irish says that at the end of a rainbow you will find a pot of gold and I saw a Sportsman aircraft, how lucky is that. Also on this 13th day, the BAP plane flew for the very first time. All the students were brought back to the airport for one last look at the plane they had built. They had no idea that the plane would be flying and it did fly. No better way to end the students’ last day in Arlington, Washington then to see what they crafted into a plane fly. After the flight the test pilot said the plane flew great and the engine was strong and all the vitals of the engine were in the normal range. The plane flew for about 45 minutes before it came back to land. There are still a few items that need to be taken care of before the next flight, but what a thrill to see the plane fly.
We finished this great day with a BBQ. The students presented Pete Bunce from GAMA, Mark Van Tine from Jeppesen, Lyn Freeman from Build a Plane and Ben and Ted from Glasair with a T-shirt with all their signatures. To finish what was such a great day, Ted told another hair-raising story about his adventure and everyone loved it.
Have a good weekend!
A long walk and a movie…Day 14
Today was a day of rest, which equates to no work on the planes. The students and their chaperones left today to go home and it was very quiet without them. I found out today that Mark’s plane will not be ready to fly in the next several days, so I am coming home on July 4th. I will be returning to Washington State on the 15th of July to do the necessary flying to get the 40 hours flown off the plane.
Three great things happened today:
1) First, I took a 9 mile walk (about 18,500 steps for those of you doing Boeing on the Move).
2) Second, I finally saw Man of Steel, the Superman movie. It was a great day for Jeppesen and our products. Our eLink for Windows appears for about 3 to 5 seconds in the movie (go watch it and tell me if you see it).
3) Third, and most likely the best thing of the day, was that Aidan Muir, one of the students, was drafted in the 4th round (113thoverall pick) in the National Hockey League draft by the Edmonton Oilers. I am sure the signature Mark has on his plane has now tripled the value of the plane. Okay, maybe not, but it is very cool that Aidan was drafted.
It was a grand day for sure!!
Rivets and fiberglass…Day 15
Wow, what a difference a day makes. After getting a good night’s rest, I awakened to a beautiful sunrise. The breakfast area in the hotel today was like a ghost town. Then, showing up at Glasair this morning was a bit sad without the students. Our lessons stopped since there are no students. Wait, I am a student building an aircraft, doesn’t that count? We worked on both planes today. The BAP plane needed some small details worked on that were not finished before first flight. Mark’s plane received some TLC and was very happy with all the attention we gave her.
So what did we get done on Mark’s plane? We put the exhaust system on and I am 82.6 percent done with the deck covers that allow the plane’s wings to swing open and closed. We continued work on the panel while we are waiting for the Aspen Avionics folks to show up to help us finish it. The battery box was made along with the radio rack that sits in the tail of the plane. The BAP plane flew for the sixth time today and the pilot told us the new prop is incredible, with better climb performance and faster cruise speeds.
On a side note, I am still not very good at riveting, but I am loving fiberglass. I have made some pretty cool things with it with a few more to come.
Have a great Tuesday!
The Longest Day…Day 16
Today ended up being a very long day. We started working on the plane at 0700 and finished at 2120 (9:30 pm). I am tuckered out!
Some very cool things happened today. The second flight of the BAP plane was this morning. The excitement was all about the plane’s ability to climb. By the time the plane made it over head from where I was standing (about 3500 feet down the runway), the Sportsman was already at pattern altitude (1000 feet above the ground). That plane climbs like a home sick angel. It was so AWESOME to watch her fly.
After each flight there are a few non-safety related squawks that we need to address. For example, the fuel gauge on the BAP plane was not reading correctly so we drained all the fuel and then headed to the self-serve fuel pumps and calibrated the fuel levels by adding specific amounts of fuel until the fuel tanks were full. After this was done, it was time for Pete Bunce of GAMA to take controls of this great plane. After he landed he had that Sportsman grin.
Mark’s plane got some well deserved TLC today. There were more things to do on his plane than met the eye. In order for the plane to be ready for tomorrow’s DAR inspection, we needed to do a lot of work. There were plenty of squawks, but none were airworthiness related. Tomorrow we will do a pre-oil of the engine - getting the oil to all the parts before starting the engine for the very first time and then finishing up any lose ends.
I am truly looking forward to tomorrow when we taxi N76VT (Mark’s N number – tail number). It will be fun to see the second plane born into general aviation service. You got me; I really, really want to fly the plane.
Until tomorrow, you all have a great day!
N76VT is born…Day 17
Today is that day! You know, the day that you work towards and sometimes feel like it will never come. Today is that day, the day we get the plane inspected by the DAR (Designated Airworthiness Representative). Today was also a day of firsts; it was the first time that N76VT was started up and it was the first time N76VT was taxied.
Also today, N76VT passed her DAR inspection and became an experimental aircraft. There are several small squawks (issues) that need to be finished up before the first flight including: not enough air in the tire, the landing light is burned out, the engine runs rough, and a screw is missing (hey now, I am not talking about me, I am the plane crazy guy LOL)
All the squawks will be addressed after the long 4th of July weekend and then sometime during the week of July 8, “6VT” will have her first flight. To my misfortune, I will be in Denver working when the first flight happens.
I will be taking a break from blogging while I am in Denver. When I return to Arlington, Washington on vacation the week of July 15, I plan on helping to fly the hours off the plane. This is a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) requirement. I plan on blogging again to keep you informed of the progress of the planes, both the BAP plane and Mark’s plane, as we fly the required hours off. After the hours are flown off, this wonderful little airplane that was built by eight high school students will be lofting me to new heights and taking me to Oshkosh (KOSH) where it will be on display at the GAMA tent. If you plan on attending the 2013 AirVenture show, please stop by the GAMA tent and check out the planes.
What a great 4th of July knowing what was accomplished over the past 16 days. I think I can speak for Mark when I say our feet may not touch the ground for a very long time. This experience was truly life changing in so many ways. Both Mark and I now have a stronger appreciation for how planes are made. The lessons we learned will help us in all that we do.