*We don't update the web site very often. We get complaints about this. We know it is frustrating. Here's why we don't do it: the guy who updates the web page is also working on the prototype. He is working on the proto 7 days a week. At the end of any given day he has a choice of sleeping or updating the web site. Sleeping wins.
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In order to make this page load better, updates from previous years have been archived to their respective pages below.
Update Part I: Oshkosh 2011
We give ourselves a 3 day departure window each year; the Friday, Saturday and Sunday before the show. As one might expect, the determining factor for any of the the 3 days is weather. Friday was pretty nice and the forecast for both Sat and Sunday was also nice, so there was no sense of urgency. As we ate breakfast on Saturday morning we watched the weather radar--there was a big red and yellow line slowly moving into the area. We headed out to the airport thinking that we had enough time to launch in front of the line and be well away before it was an issue (it was coming from the west and we fly east). We underestimated the speed of the weather line--it beat us to the airport by a wide margin. We decided to fart around the airport and see what the backside of the line might look like.
As the day went by the weather remained in a state that we call "sucky." The line fell apart but individual cells were still bouncing around. As the day warmed up new cells were popping up and the line between home and Osh was never fully clear. Finally the day got late enough that we punted. That evening we sent Lars and Bob ahead in the van with the booth stuff (this turned out to be a great thing).
Sunday morning had low ceilings but otherwise favorable weather. We launched and had a fine time. One neat addition was Steve M's iPad 2 with ForeFlight loaded. Steve M has the 3G option which allowed him to access live weather and radar as we progressed. This was really, really useful. As we got close to Oshkosh there were small showers and areas of virga. Using the iPad we could easily tell the best way to fly around the showers. A two-person team--one to fly and one to run the iPad--is a tough combination to beat.
We arrived at the Ripon IP and figured out our place in line. We got in line behind a SeaBee and a flight of 3 RV's. This is an area where the big field of view in our plane is really nice--we have a very easy time spotting other traffic without having to do clearing turns or lifting/dipping a wing to see around it. Fisk Ground was relaxed and unpressured so they were letting folks choose between 27 and 36L. 36L is ideal for us, so we asked for that and slid right down the pipe to Osh. Easy peasy.
After shut down we got yelled at for few seconds (they had wanted us to pull further ahead than we understood). We towed the plane over to our already set-up booth (good decision to send the ground guys the day before!) tied it down and we were done.
The show itself was great. We only had two bits of bad weather (one rain and one wind) and we had lots of friendly folks to talk to. According to EAA, the north display area is getting reorganized and our location is likely to move. Getting a new booth assignment is a little nervous-making (there are good spots and bad spots, but they cost the same). We spent some money making the booth a little nicer than previous years, flags and banners and large photos, etc. and we had some fun with that.
Speaking of making things look nice, one of the most noticeable things we did was put graphic film on the wings. Until now the wings were just bare aluminum, which can look nice by itself but clashed with the rest of the plane. As some folks know the idea of using graphic wrap on planes has been accelerating over the last several years. The idea actually started with the heavy commercial guys and trickled down to us. Properly done graphic wrap weighs less than paint and is much faster and cheaper to use. It also allows nearly infinite design possibilities as the wrap is printed on a large format printer and then installed. Anything that can be done on a computer screen can be put on the wrap, then on the vehicle. Very cool, very fun.
Update Part II: Updates and mods to the plane
As we move along our program the prototype is of course the test bed for every mod we want to try. Very few of these mods are externally visible--for example we made a major change to the fuel system, but it is totally hidden inside the plane. One mod that IS very visible was to cut the ventral fins off the vertical tails. The plane originally had relatively large ventral fins projecting below the boom line. The purpose of the fins was two-fold; 1) was to protect against a prop strike due to over-rotation and 2) was to provide extra yaw stability in high AOA flight.
Flight testing revealed that neither was going to be a big deal. Over-rotating enough to hit the prop is almost impossible and there is so much yaw stability that removing the ventrals isn't detectable. The rule in aviation is that if you don't need it, get rid of it. So we cut off the ventrals (a very tense day in the shop) and thereby removed a full 10 pounds from the tail. We are on a merciless quest to cut weight, and a 10 pound reduction in one fell swoop is close to a miracle.
Removing the ventrals allowed us to make nice looking rudder boots to accommodate the rudder counter mass and attach the control cables. The second photo of our departure (below) shows what the new tail looks like. The whole process also made the tail look less massive, especially from a distance, thus we now have to endure fewer comments about fat backsides.
The other externally obvious change is the belly scoop. In previous years we have had a simple box-type enclosure mounting the radiator below the engine compartment. This was always understood to be temporary, but as so often happens "temporary" stretched out for about a year and a half. The plan was always to have a nice looking belly scoop that was reminiscent of an F-16 or P-51. This took a bit of head scratching and several iterations of drawing on the solid model, but finally we had a nice looking scoop with the correct dimensions. We nearly had it done in time for last year's Oshkosh but finish and paint never seem to magically happen on their own, no matter how hard we wish otherwise. Osh this year was the first time most folks got to see the new scoop and the reaction was very, very positive. We're all nuts-and-bolts type folks and we shouldn't get excited about something as simple as an air scoop, but it does look pretty cool and folks get excited.
Super quick September update
This isn't a huge update filled with nuts-and-bolts technical details or interesting stories. It is an opportunity to post two photos. The photo on the left is presented just because it's cool. The photo on the right is presented because it happens to do a good job of highlighting the back-seater's elevation over the front seat. Thanks to Jeremy Dando for the neat shots.
As can be seen in the first two photos below, one of the main things we have been quietly working on is a revised nose. This new nose accomplishes several things; some of them are improvements and some are fixes to problems we created ourselves. The really nice F-16-style belly scoop that we made last year worked like a charm to feed the radiator, but it slowed us down much more than we anticipated, so it had to go. Thus one of the chief things the new nose buys us is a decrease in drag. With the radiator in the nose we can now use exit air for cabin heat, and bypass air for cabin cooling. The weight of the radiator/fan unit moves forward almost 12 feet, which is helpful from a W&B point of view. People kept walking into the nose-mounted pitot, so that moved back to the vertical stab and is now safely out of the way.
Oshkosh 2012 was incredibly hot, so we spent considerable time in the pool behind the house we rent for the show. We had a nice shirt give-away for members of our Yahoo group who came to the booth and said the code phrase "John has a long moustache." We gave away over 20 shirts, although we only remembered to take photos of 4.
A massive gust front totally flattened our tent on the 4th day, kinking the poles and tearing the grommets completely out of the tent fabric. Thankfully we had triple-secured the plane 24 hours before hand due to a weather alert that was a false alarm at the time, but later turned out to be extremely fortuitous.
The new booth location increased our foot traffic by a factor of 10, and we had the nice benefit of being right on the flight line. We had visitors one one side and the air show on the other--wonderful.