N0WY-up Old Pilots, New Wings, and the Race to Space

From The South Ramp --Hank Bruckner: 

September 2004

How Old is Too Old?
     Last issue, I wrote that AOPA Insurance Agency (AOPAIA) had refused to write a policy to John Gleeson because he is an Octogenarian, and labeled that age discrimination.  AOPIA’s general manager, Gregory Sterling, responded to the article, making the point that AOPAIA is not an insurance company, but rather, a brokerage firm.  As such, they do not write the policies, nor set the conditions under which the policies are written.  Please read the attached letter from Mr. Sterling.
    Flying in this country would be far different—and far worse—were it not for AOPA and its tireless efforts on all our behalf. AOPA has built a solid reputation and whatever activity AOPA chooses to associate with carries along the good name of AOPA and with it, higher expectations.  Some people do not differentiate between AOPA, the organization, and an associated activity such as AOPAIA.  The universal calculus applies: one aw shucks is worth 1,000 attaboys. Rightly or wrongly, any perceived negative aspect of that activity reflects on AOPA, and that is exactly what transpired with the too-old-to-insure issue. I trust that AOPA will continue to use its considerable influence to get insurance companies it deals with to eliminate such discriminatory practices.

    We are closing fast on a singular opportunity for Hawai'i ’s aviators-participate in the centennial of powered flight celebrations.  The Hawai’i Aviation Celebration will culminate the weekend of December 13th and 14th with static and flying displays at Kalaeloa and a commemorative program on the 17th at Kapiolani Park, followed by a fly-by with as many aircraft as we can get.  An aviation-themed motion picture will be shown at the Kapolei Fairgrounds each night under the banner of “Sunset on the Planes”.

    SpaceShipOne was carried to 47,000 feet in the skies above Mojave by the White Knight jet, piloted by Brian Binnie, at which time flight engineer Matt Steinemetz released the space ship.  Melvill ignited the rocket engine, which took it to 2.9 Mach and 180,000’ under power, and then coasted to apogee, earning Mike 3 ½ minutes of weightlessness, his astronaut wings and a coveted spot in history as the world’s first commercial astronaut.  An apparent glitch in the primary pitch trim system caused a slight change in the trajectory and the craft didn’t go quite as high as planned.  Switching to the backup trim, Melvill completed the mission, enduring some 5+Gz on re-entry.  Interestingly, Mike Melvill, at 63 is too old to fly transport-category aircraft under Part 121.

    Rutan’s program, Tier One, is part of the Ansari X-Prize—a challenge that began eight years ago, in which the first party to fly to the 100km/62mi. altitude twice within two weeks gets $10 million.  Each flight has to be piloted and, in addition to the pilot, carry the weight equivalent of two other passengers. The entrants must be privately funded.  Currently, there are about 26 competing groups.  American Mojave Aerospace Ventures, LLC, the partnership between Paul Allen and Burt Rutan, has announced September 29th as the date for the first formal X-Prize flight, with a second flight by October 13th.

    Possibly the closest competitor, the Canadian da Vinci Project Team of Toronto, is scheduled to roll out their Wild Fire space vehicle on August 5th.  It will involve riding up to 80,000’ on an unmanned balloon before rocketing to space.

    Burt Rutan and his talented crew have already earned a bright star in history, and the future for this most exciting adventure is wide open.  Let the race begin!

Kaneohe Air Show
    The skies above Marine Corps Base Kaneohe will be shredded by the Blue Angels and several other performers on October 9 and 10.  Not only will the Blues fly, but we also get an F-15 demo and Patty Wagstaff in her Extra, Greg Poe in his Zivko Edge 540, Eric Beard in a YAK-54, and, hopefully, Clint Churchill in his Extra and me in the CAP-10C.   In addition to the flying events, there will be static displays and a plethora of things to do and see. The Marine Corps is going all out for this one and it should be a memorable event.  Don’t miss it!

Pacific Aviation Museum Pearl Harbor
      The Military Aviation Museum of the Pacific has a new name and is well on its way to becoming a reality.  As noted recently in the press, the museum is to receive some significant start-up funds in the FY 05 budget, and things should start moving quickly.  The annual benefit dinner will be held on December 2nd at the Hickam Officers Open Mess, and none less than BGen Chuck Yeager will be the keynote speaker.  Mark your calendars and save the date now.   For further info, contact Allan Palmer at 836-7747, or me, for that matter.

Wings Day
     Two days before SpaceShipOne’s momentous flight, Kalaeloa hosted the HNL FSDO’s annual Wings Day Fly In Breakfast.  The HCC/UND facility served as the venue as has become tradition, and a host of speakers and presenters informed and enthralled the 84 or so folks who attended.  The 99’s provided a great pancakes and eggs and fruit breakfast.  I always learn at least something new at this kind of event (and usually something that I used to know but…) and this was no exception. 

     Dr. Dave Youngblood talked about flying and diving, and had some eye-opening info to share, especially regarding how long you should wait after diving before you fly.  The recommendations in the AIM (8-1-2d) should be considered absolute minimum guidelines to avoid decompression sickness. The AIM recommends waiting 12 hours after any dive which has not required a decompression stop on the way up before flying below 8,000 feet, and 24 hours before flying above 8,000 feet for any dive. Dave has extensive experience both as a diver and an MD, including running a hyperbaric chamber.

     The full agenda included Steven Bobko Hillenaar on Angel Flight, Jim Pratt on IFR awareness in VFR, Jim Tang on talking with ATC, Nicole Charnin about NTSB investigations, Bryon Koki on pilot/owner maintenance, Neal Kurosaki from the HNL Control Facility and Ray Simpson from the JRF tower.  I gave a pitch on recovering from unusual attitudes.

     Jim Hein, the Aviation Safety Program Manager at the HNL FSDO put it all together, with the help of Ralph Hyatt and Lisa Olson of HCC/UND and some of the Safety Counselors. Mahalo to all.  Incidentally, Jim is looking for nominations for Flight Instructor of the Year and Aviation Maintenance Technician of the Year.  You can call him at 837-8335 for more info.

Return to the Sky!
    It all began with a piece of paper, and ended, after a full year, with another one.  The first, an Airworthiness Directive, mandated an inspection for cracks in the area where the CAP-10Bs landing gear mounting blocks interface with the wing spar.  If cracks were found, repairs were mandatory.  Sure enough, we found some cracks, the aircraft grounded and the odyssey began.  My options were to attempt to repair the wing by replacing the mounting blocks or fit a new wing.  To repair the old wing would require extensive work to de-skin a portion of the wing, remove the landing gear and the old blocks, and replace the blocks—all the time hoping that there was no damage to the underlying wing spar. All in all, a fairly extensive and expensive proposition.      The other alternative was to replace the wing with either another old wing that had been inspected and found airworthy or fit a new CAP-10C wing.  Continuing with a –B wing, whether my original one or someone else’s, would require continued inspections. 

     The –C wing, on the other hand, has carbon fiber integrated into the spar, making it considerably stronger than the original. Because of that, the aerobatic gross weight of the aircraft is increased by over 60 pounds.  Moreover, the landing gear mounting system is different and more robust, and the gear was redesigned with Cleveland wheels and brakes.  Did I mention the new ailerons?  Ah.  Well, the designers managed to keep the same beautiful elliptical planform and identical span, but increase the area of the ailerons considerably, also adding dual spades to each aileron. The result is an improvement in roll of about 30%.  The down side?  Well, the new wing is expensive.  It currently lists at 37,000 Euros.  By the time you add in crating and shipping and installation…well, you get the idea. 

     Last July, at Oshkosh, APEX, the builder of the CAP-series aircraft (as well as the Robin), assured me that FAA certification of the –C wing was imminent, and after weighing the advantages and disadvantages of the options open to me, we elected to order a new wing in September, 2003.
The CAP-10 is not a cookie-cutter airplane.  It is largely hand-built, and I was given November 2003, as the time to expect my new wing to be ready to ship. November became January, which became February, and the wing was finally ready to be crated and shipped in March.  Not so much crated as bubble-wrapped, actually, and fastened to the floor of a 40-foot container (the wing spans 26’6”, and won’t fit in a 24’ container). Shipping took a full month and another hunk of euros and dollars, and the wing arrived at the end of April.  Three more days, and another bagful of dough, and the wing was delivered to me at the hangar in early May 2004.

     Although the factory literature speaks of a day’s work to fit the new wing, this one took over a week.  The new wing fit almost perfectly.  Trouble is, “almost” just won’t do, and a fair amount of extra work and fabrication was required to bring the CAP’s body and soul together.  It is a one-piece wing, and the procedure is to lift the fuselage off the old wing, position it over the new one, lower it, fasten the fore and aft spar attachments, hook up the wiring for lights and flaps (did I mention the new wing has electric flaps?).  If the wing doesn’t exactly fit, you have a group of folks stuck holding a heavy fuselage at chest-level or higher, trying to move it up, down, and sideways in tiny increments, wondering what Plan B is, and trying desperately to not drop it.  Fortunately, we have some very good folks here, to whom I’ll be forever in debt for their pain, discomfort, and willingness to tough it out.

     Wing mounted, annual completed, and ready to fly! Not quite.  First, we have to reweigh the airplane. Weighing an airplane is a technically unchallenging process in which you put a scale under each wheel, note the arm for each wheel, and total the weight and work out the center of gravity.  In most US small aircraft, the CG is expressed in inches from the datum. In most large aircraft, and the CAP, it is expressed as a percentage of the Mean Aerodynamic Chord. Technically unchallenging, perhaps, but not simple, it turned out. My original AFM was written in 1983, in English, using English units—pounds, feet, inches, gallons, quarts.  The new weight and balance form, of course, was metric.  The scales read in pounds, so we used the original arms from the AFM and got some interesting and perplexing results.  The airplane, with the new wing was only six pounds heavier, but well forward of the CG envelope.  After much head scratching, I converted the metric arms on the new form to English and found out that the original conversions done by the factory in my AFM were incorrect.  The arm to the tail wheel was off by about a meter!  Considering that the airplane was built in 1983 (I’ve owned it since ’96), it has flown for a long time with incorrect weight and balance data, and I suspect that on many occasions the CG was aft of the allowable range.  It’s a testament to the design that it never exhibited any of the adverse flight characteristics that might be expected with an aft CG.  Obviously, the CG envelopes for both acrobatic and utility flight were defined very conservatively from the design’s inception, which is a good thing.

     OK, then.  Weight and balance issues solved and ready to fly!  Well, not so fast.  FAA approval was still not in hand.  Jeff Pierson, the APEX Airworthiness Guy was in near constant communication with the FAA’s Small Aircraft Directorate.  Rather than a Supplemental Type Certificate (STC) to cover the modification, the FAA and APEX decided to modify the CAP-10s original Type Certificate Data Sheet, and new maintenance manuals had to be written, as well as a new AFM.  Written, translated, and approved.  Bear in mind, the only significant difference between the CAP-10B and CAP-10C is the wing (including landing gear).  In fact, the –C designation is just a trade name. The type certificate data sheet still lists it as a CAP-10B.

     Nearly two months after the aircraft was truly ready to fly, I was still waiting for FAA approval.  One morning, I got an email from Jeff at APEX, saying that he had just gotten off the phone with the FAA guy in Kansas and that the FAA guy was faxing my approval to the HNL FSDO and me within minutes.  At last!  I excitedly drove in, opened my office, looked in the fax bin, and there it was!  A fax from the FAA telling some guy in Italy that the increased gross weight for his Piaggio P-180 was approved.  I guess I should have been happy for the guy in Italy, but the letdown was too much.

     The FAA Small Aircraft people assured me that my approval was coming.  Well, maybe, after yet another bit of documentation from France. 
Finally, at 10:44 Hawai’i time, on the morning of July 1, 2004, the faxed approval arrived from the FAA.  Odyssey over, time to fly.  N10WY took to the air for the first time since July 17, 2003.  The first flight after a major modification is a test flight, and the intent was to explore its overall handling, and, especially its stall and slow flight characteristics.  So, what was the first thing I did after reaching the practice area and clearing for traffic?  A roll or two, and then all the other stuff.

     So, was it worth the wait, expense, and frustration? You bet!  The new wing totally transforms the airplane.  The CAP-10B was already one of the nicest-flying airplanes I’d ever had the joy to fly.  The increase in roll rate is significant and very noticeable.  I can now do a full vertical roll with two people aboard and have enough energy left to complete a hammerhead turn.  The best I could manage with two aboard with the original wing was about ½ vertical roll and still have any oomph left over at all.  It isn’t just the increase in rate of roll (from about 180 deg/sec to 230 deg/sec or so), but the acceleration into the roll.  The quicker you can enter a roll, the crisper it will look, which is especially nice doing a hesitation roll such as a four-point or eight-point roll.  That boosted roll entry also makes it much easier to bounce your head off the side of the canopy as you start the roll, which isn’t quite as much fun as it sounds.  This increase in roll performance is due to an increase in the overall area of the aileron by changing the hinge point and making it deeper (and thus larger), and to the addition of dual spades attached to each aileron. 

      The spade is a triangular plate, parallel to the aileron’s chord line, riding on a streamlined stalk slung under the aileron, and it does several cool things.  First, it provides dynamic balance to the control surface, fighting flutter.  Second, it provides a power boost to the aileron by entering the relative air stream at an angle when the control surface is deflected, helping push the control surface in the desired direction—sort of like a trim tab.  And lastly, since it has significant area itself, the spade effectively adds to the overall size of the aileron.   Net result?  The WHEEE!!! factor goes way up.

     The new wing is different enough from the old one that I need to relearn how to fly it, especially with the precision one wants in aerobatics.  Although all the key V-speeds remain the same, it does behave somewhat differently and I’m happily exploring its subtleties.

Be careful out there.



         You are invited to join the Civil Air Patrol Wing Glider Flight.  We are presently reorganizing the CAP Glider Program to benefit more youngsters in the Waialua and Haleiwa area, and furthering the flying opportunities for CAP Cadets already in the program.  Our purpose is to help a youngster develop a career in aviation.

        The CAP Glider Flight operates a new (2002) Blanik LET-23 and a Schweitzer 2-33.  These gliders are available to active Senior Members during the week and most Sundays.  The Blanik can be flown for $20/hr and the Schweitzer fro $15/hr.  However, if you pay $40/month in dues to the Hawai’i Wing Glider Flight, you are allowed unlimited flying each month.  Under this option, you pay three months in advance and the money will be used exclusively to fund CAP Cadet flying and maintenance. CAP Aero Tow is $10 to 1,000 feet, and $15 to 2,000 feet.  There is no charge for Auto Tow when that is in use.

        As soon as you are checked out in CAP gliders and further qualified to be a Cadet Orientation Pilot, you have the privilege of introducing youngsters into the world of soaring.  There is no charge for CAP Orientation Pilots flying CAP Cadets.  CAP Cadet flying will be on Saturdays and occasionally on Sundays. 

        Please contact John Gleeson, OIC at 808 942-1896 for info and to receive your CAP Senior Membership application packet.

     Moore Air is offering a course on flying instrument approaches using the approach certified Garmin 430 GPS.

     The course includes three hours of ground instruction and two hours of flight instruction flying RNAV approaches to Molokai and Honolulu.  The cost, including training materials, is $350.00 plus tax.
     Contact Moore Air at 833-5628 if interested.


     Looking for a good reason to go flying and tired of $100 hamburgers?  Do you want to be of real service to people in need of help?  Here is your opportunity.

     Angel Flight is an organization of volunteer pilots who provide free transportation for medical treatment for people who cannot afford or tolerate public transportation. Angel Flight started operating in Hawai’i last year and is already providing inter-island private air transportation to and from all islands.  We are looking for more pilots with or without their own aircraft to serve as command pilots and mission assistants. If you are interested or just want more information contact Steve Bobko-Hillenaar at 808 334-0856 (Kona) or Stephen@bobko.net.  Additional information is available on the Angel Flight web site:  www.angelflight.org.

Hank’s Ratings:

Alvin Reinauer  CFI Spins
Haruko Kikukawa  CFI Spins
Derek Wheeler  CFI Spins
Tim Thrasher  CFI Spins

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