Build-a-plane journal part II: Ready to fly
We hope you have had the chance to follow along with Jeppesen's Tom Letts as he blogs about his experience with helping the winners of the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA) and Build-a-plane Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) aviation design challenge competition as they assembled two Glasair Sportsman aircraft at Glasair Aviation in Arlington, Washington.
After the planes were built, the students went home and Jeppesen CEO Mark Van Tine, who will own one of the airplanes, and Tom Letts, a functional analyst at Jeppesen, took a break to come back to Jeppesen's headquarters in Denver.
Now, we invite you to follow along as Tom describes the experience of taking N76VT up in the air as they fly hours off the plane. The FAA requires that this type of experimental aircraft be airborn tested for at least 40 hours, within a certain number of miles of it's home airport, before the flight restrictions are removed.
Tom will continue to blog about the progress of the planes -- both the BAP plane and Mark’s plane -- as they fly the required hours off. After the hours are flown off, N76VT, built by eight high-school students and a few of their adult friends, will take off for EAA AirVenture in 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.
Prop swap...and not a cloud in the sky
Today was an early start for me, with my alarm going off at 0300. My flight left Denver at 0600 with a connection in Las Vegas on my way to Arlington Washington to start flying N76VT. I had a choice of connecting cities of either Salt Lake City or Las Vegas, I thought it would be fun, starting my vacation by going through Las Vegas. As soon as I got off the plane in Vegas, I found the nearest one armed bandit and put five bucks in it. Well, after the third bet I was up to 20 bucks worth of winnings, so I decided to stop and head toward my connecting flight.
I made it Arlington Washington around 1300 today and immediately started working on N76VT. I thought it was going to fly today, but we had to do a prop swap. We also had to set the windscreen and the caulking needs a minimum of 24-hours to set before we can fly the plane.
On the bright side, the weather is wonderful up here, with the temperature around 75 degrees and not a cloud in the sky.
Tomorrow will be a big day, so until then I am going to try to get some sleep.
Looking backward...at flying forward
I woke up this morning in the great state of Washington, excited to see a plane that so many people worked so hard on, fly today. Due to being so tired from the early wakeup call yesterday, I missed my alarm and slept in until 0630, which made me late getting to the plane today
I worked all morning getting the inspection plates on the plane (I even dimpled the plate screw holes and used flush screws...It looks nicer than the round head screws). I also helped weigh the plane (she came lighter than normal at 1,416 lbs empty weight), which is an FAA requirement.
The day was "flying" by and I kept working hard to get the plane ready to fly, but sadly, we did not get all we needed to get done today, so N76VT did not fly. In life, we deal with schedules we believe are realistic, and yet, they often go way off course. When building an airplane, time can be consumed by the simplest tasks, and that is what happened today.
One of the highlights for today, was when we towed the plane over to the fuel pumps. I rode in the plane, but I rode in the back seat of the plane. For, you see, the backseat of this airplane faces aft, and I wanted to see what is was like facing aft (IT WAS AWESOME!). It must have been a funny sight to see -- a 6-foot-3 man in the back seat of a plane that was not running but being towed. I was happy to provide the entertainment for the Glasair staff today.
The other bit of good news was, after putting some fuel in the plane, I fired up the engine and taxied the plane back to the hanger, which was so much fun!!! What is that famous quote from Top Gun? “I feel the need...the need for speed.”
I am ready to FLY N76VT...the time is here...so tomorrow, as long as we have good weather, WE FLY !
Until then, have a great night.
SHE FLEW...SHE FLEW
Yep! N76VT flew for the very first time today. She was up in the air for just about an hour before she came back to the airport.
After trouble shooting a few squawks it was finally my turn to fly. I enjoyed a 75-minute flight in this beautiful plane.
After the second flight, we pulled the cowling off to check for any leaks or anything wrong with the engine or engine compartment. We found no leaks, but we did find a small issue with the propeller spinner, so we grounded the plane for the rest of the day and worked on putting a new spinner on.
While she was down we wanted to see what she would look like with adult passengers in the back seat so I provided a picture of that as well.
I was able to capture this historic moment via my iPhone and onboard the plane with a GOPRO video camera. What a great day...and, in the infamous words of Forest Gump...“That’s all I have to say about that" for now that is.
I hope to be flying all day tomorrow and I will update you with, what I hope to be, beautiful pictures of the Cascade Mountains. Until then, just remember that “SHE FLEW, she really did!!!"
Change of oil...change of scenary
Today was a very good day. I flew N76VT three times today and now she has 7.4 hours on her. In order to fly her Oshkosh we need to have 40 plus hours on the N76VT. We are almost a ¼ the way there, and my hope is to fly her after she gets an oil change tomorrow (I am told with a new engine you want to change the oil change in the first 10 hours to make sure all the impurities are out of the engine). We did get all the aerodynamic issues fixed today. The squawk list is getting shorter and shorter, but like anything we build there will always be ongoing maintenance.
A lot of you have asked me what it has been like building an airplane, and then flying what you build. I am going to equate it to going out to dinner. Knowing I was going to help build two planes with a bunch of high school students was like getting a appetizer. The main course of the meal would be actually building the plane. But the desert...yes the desert...well that is something we all look forward to, and for me, the desert of this project is getting to fly the plane that we all built. Words cannot describe how I am feeling, so I hope the pictures do justice on how I feel about this project as a whole.
The first few flights today were just burning holes in the sky by the airport, but as the plane gets more hours on her, the distance from home base will increase as well. I cannot wait for each day to come just so I can go flying. All of this flying has allowed me to do a bit of work for our mobile team at Jeppesen..
All of the Jeppesen mobile apps will be getting a great airborne test done on them.
Well, TGIF everyone.
Head in the clouds...eyes on the horizon
Today was an exciting day. It started off really cloudy so we worked on the plane. I did an oil change and changed the oil plug with a quick drain valve, We worked on adding steps to the plane so it is not a huge leap to get into it.
By noon, the low clouds burned off and it was a great day to go flying. I flew for a little bit over six hours today. I flew N76VT past some awe-inspiring peaks of the Cascade mountain range and they about took my breath away, they were so amazing. I made a point to fly over Arlington airport, the biggest airport around these parts for GA traffic, at 5000 feet above the ground.
I flew south to check out a few small airports, since the engine now has a few hours on her. I was able to start touch and go’s as well today and I did pretty good with the landings. Tail wheel flying is like going from a automatic car to a six speed manual transmisttion car. It is very different on how you land a tail wheel airplane versus a nose wheel airplane. Not that hard to do, but it does take practice.
Since I was doing laps around these very majestic mountains today, I started to use the new VFR-only app that we will be launching for North America soon. This app has great potential and it is a lot of fun to use. I used the VFR app to plan the routes I wanted to fly today. I also did a bit of testing on Mobile FD 2.1 today, but I had an old build so tomorrow I will be taking up the most recent build and running it through its paces.
The plane now has 13.6 hours on her and she is strong and healthy. Aerodynamically she is very sound, we are still working through a few radio issues, but I believe those will be resolved on Monday.
Have a great weekend everyone
Cheers from the great Northwest.
She flies true...like beauty and the beast
I believe we are now into the fall weather pattern, foggy in the morning, and then around noon the fog burns off and the rest of the day it is really nice. So it is now becoming challenging to get the plane’s hours flown off. I am now doing all my personal work in the morning and flying in the afternoon. The plane is still flying great and it is just a matter of putting the hours on the plane. There are a few more items we will be working on in the foggy portions of the day, but for the most part, N76VT is very sound.
I have always wondered what type of person it takes to trust your life to what you made, and yet I can tell you that I feel safer in this plane than most production planes I have flown. I know this plane better than any other plane I have flown. She flies true--she can be a beast and out run most planes at the airport or she can be very lady-like and just sip on the fuel and let the world pass by at a very slow speed.
Today I did a bit of island hopping just to the west of Arlington. There is a great little airport on an island called Friday Harbor, that can only be accessed by plane or by boat. I have added a few pictures of the views I am seeing at 5000 feet.
I hope you all had a great Saturday, I hope you all have a blessed Sunday
Fog, fog and...more fog
Today started off just like the rest of the days this week. Foggy in the morning, then around 1 p.m the fog burns off and the weather was delightfully flyable. When flying off the required hours, you become very creative where you go when flying.
Today I decided I was going to give the new Jeppesen VFR app a good work out. So I set out to fly along the Canadian / United States border. I wanted to see if the Jeppesen VFR app was showing what the Garmin 750 showed, and it did very well. I followed the boarder along the islands, then I flew inland along the Cascade Mountains south just past Seattle and saw a beautiful waterfall.
I am looking forward to tomorrow when we tackle the remainder of the squawks on the plane and I hope to put the finishing touches on her as well. I am really getting excited to take N76VT to the big dance that we call AirVenture.
Have a great week everyone
From tail wheel...to nose wheel
Today was a day of rest for N76VT. Folks from Wisconsin flew to Arlington to help out with some issues on this very cutting-edge instrument panel. The instrument panel can almost do anything you need it to do but watch an inflight movie...oh wait, we will have an iPad mount on the panel as well, so we could watch a movie.
Due to the fact we are working on all of the instrument panel squawks, we had to take the whole interior out of the plane. while the interior was out we added retractable push bars (this what tail wheel pilots use when they need to move the plane backwards), we added steps to the plane so you can get in and out easier and we changed out the seat belts to inertia real seatbelts. A lot of the avionics squawks were worked on today to get the panel working as it was designed to work.
One fun thing today was to see how a Sportsman aircraft changes from being a tail wheel plane to a nose wheel plane (see the photo where the plane is still in tail wheel configuration but with a nose wheel attached).
I will be back at it tomorrow flying, until then, have a great Tuesday everyone
Cheers from Arlington Washington
Grease the propeller...polish the plane for flight
Wow Day 9 , I cannot believe how time has flown by. Today was a very productive day on N76VT. With the help of RJ ( a very talented avionics guru ), the panel is fully operational now. We also finished up several of the projects, including the steps, the push bar (like a tow bar ), the interior, greased the propeller, worked on speed fairings, and lastly, we added USB ports.
With KOSH coming up so soon, four aircraft are being worked on, as well as another two aircraft in various stages of being built. So, at one point, there were six planes being worked on. I truly felt like we were on an Indy car circuit, deep in the pits getting things ready for the big show.
Tomorrow will be a great day, one in which we will test fly all the electronics. Then, the final flying to get the hours flown off the plane, and finally, we head out Thursday to KOSH. Looking forward to seeing the country from a brand new airplane. I am also excited to use all the very cool Jeppesen apps on the way to KOSH.
Have a great Wednesday everyone.
N76VT checked, double checked...ready for the trip to the big dance
We finally finished up all the small squawks on N76V. She is ready to travel to the big dance. Mark Van Tine drove up from Seattle to fly his completed plane for the first time. I would say he had fun wouldn’t you?
Need to get a great nights rest, so I will blog tomorrow when we start our adventure to AirVenture. Along the way we will be making some fun stops, so keep reading to find out where we traveled to.
Have a great Thursday everyone
Yes, today is the day we started out for AirVenture (Oshkosh). Due to morning layer of marine fog, as well as a few last minute items we wanted to fixed or get done on the two BAP planes, we did not leave Arlington, Washington until almost 1 p.m. Pacific time.
Departing Arlington we climbed to 9500 and traveled over the Cascade mountains. Our first fuel stop -- Billings, Montana. On the way there we flew by Spokane, Washington (Spokane is where I learned to fly. My brother was my flight instructor). Then, we flew past a few huge forest fires near Missoula Montana.
When we landed in Billings it was about 98 degrees, so our shoes were sticking to the ramp pavement -- it even stuck to the tires of the plane ( maybe this is how they re-tread a tire. Haa Haa)! When we took off from Billings we climbed at a slower ascent rate to keep the oil from overheating.
Our next stop was Baker, Montana, and if you wonder where Baker, Montana is, you are not alone. I asked the same question. Well, Baker is on the eastern edge of Montana and it is a small town of 1,000 residents. There is no Wal-Mart or fast food. We ate at a bar/ convention hall/ fancy restaurant / casino, and the food at the restaurant was actually very tasty.
Tomorrow, the three planes will take off together, but after that we will all head in different directions.
One plane bound for Ohio to pick up another plane.
One plane will be going straight to KOSH.
And Mark and I will be traveling tomorrow to Canby, Minnesota, to show off the plane that the students of Canby high school built. I am told that the town of Canby will be having a big BBQ on Saturday and the local radio station will be broadcasting from the event. We hope to take the students and their parents flying if they want. After the event, it will be straight to KOSH for for Mark and I. Mark, N76VT and I will be at KOSH on Saturday afternoon.
What a fantastic way to travel to one of the biggest airshows of the year...exciting times for sure.
Have a great Friday everyone.
Into the great white north...clouds, that is
Today we all flew from Baker, Montana to Canby, Minnesota. We flew formation along the flight to Canby -- it was so much fun I didn’t want it to end! Flying along at 5,500 feet, you can sure tell when you enter the Midwest! Everything greens up and there is a ton of water everywhere.
So yesterday, Mark flew from the right seat and studied the Garmin 750. Today, Mark flew from the left seat and really learned the Aspen avionics and the JPI engine monitoring as well as the L3 back up PFD. Mark also did a majority of the flying today while I took pictures and text everyone -- hey, I wasn’t the one flying!
Today, we gave the new VFR app that Jeppesen will be selling at KOSH a very hard work out. This app is a very basic VFR app that is driven by Jeppesen data. It is a solid and useful app for the VFR pilot and I feel it will give the competition a run for its money.
Tomorrow, we will be giving the Canby High School students that participated in the BAP program a ride in the plane that they built for Mark. This is a big event for a small town in Minnesota and I am excited to be part of it. After that, Mark and I will be heading over to KOSH for the big dance.
Have a great weekend everyone.
Small town party...big time smiles
We made it...yes, indeed, we made it to the big dance. I never get tired of hearing the words, “High Wing Turn Right, Monitor Tower and Welcome to Oshkosh." What a great day we had today.
It started off in Canby, Minnesota, when Mark and I awoke to a chilly morning. The temperature must have been in the low 40s at best and I was cold.
We headed out to Canby in the “Blues Brothers” Airport car to meet up with everyone to go flying and have a BBQ. While Mark explained to all who attended about the great work the students did on his plane, I had the great fortune to take the four BAP plane students and their teacher and principle from Canby High School flying.
At the end of flying, the students presented Mark and I a very nice autographed photograph of the BAP plane build. It was a true honor to receive this picture that all the students signed.
One young man asked if Mark and I would autograph his hat...they say everyone gets 3 minutes of fame...well, I believe that was mine.
There was a great turn out from the town of Canby to see what these amazing high school students achieved.
The big question of the day for me was from the grandparents of one of the students. They asked me if I was afraid to fly in the plane that their granddaughter help to build? I was proud to tell them what I have been telling you all, and that was, not only was I happy to fly the plane, the plane is more solid than a lot of planes I fly back in Denver.
After a quick bite to eat, Mark and I refueled the plane and gave handshakes and hugs goodbye, then we departed Canby for AirVenture.
On our way to Oshkosh we traveled under a few showers (darn, I wanted the bugs cleaned off the windscreen and it didn’t rain hard enough). We found ourselves navigating around restricted airspace on the way to KOSH. Two point seven hours later, with Mark at the controls of N76VT, we landed on the yellow dot at KOSH.
My intention was to get a lot of pictures and movies of this event, but in reality Mark and I were too busy to take pictures on our way in. We saw a steady stream of planes making their way into KOSH as well and it took both of us to maintain visual separation of the other aircraft.
N76VT is tucked away for the show and has a new rain cover to protect her from the nasty rain that KOSH always gets.
What a trip!!! You always dream about doing a big trip or something on your bucket list, and yet a lot of times life gets in the way. Well this has truly been a life changing event for me. To see some high school students from a small town in Western Minnesota build a beautiful airplane, then have the opportunity to fly off the hours to get it ready for KOSH and finally, have the opportunity to fly with Mr. Mark Van Tine all the way to KOSH...it just doesn’t get any better.
We had amazing help along the way from Wipaire, Glasair, Aspen Avionics, L3, JPI, Garmin, and all the other vendors who supported this event, including our Jeppesen family. Most of all, I believe I speak for Mark and I, that without the support from our loving families this would not of happened. Thank you all for making Build a Plane such a hugh success !!!
If you plan on attending Oshkosh this year, please stop by the Jeppesen tent then just head south from the Jeppesen tent and check out the two BAP planes.
I am looking forward to showing off all the wonderful apps we have this year at the show. So in the infamous words of performers all around the world...
“ Let the show begin.”