A month of craziness

I’m writing this post in arrears. As I sit here typing, the story has effectively ended. But no sense telling the end here at this stage.

When we last left off, if was early June, and we were making progress on the airplane. I had a cute little list of things to get done, and it looked possible to make our goal of finishing, flying off our 40 hours, and making it Oshkosh. Oh how young and naive I was back then.

From June till July 14th, we worked on the airplane literally every day. I think I gave Carter 2 days off in there somewhere. He is only 15 and he had some other stuff to do. I had zero days off, and on days where he couldn’t work, I pulled 20 hour days to try to make up some time.

We normally started at the crack of dawn, and finished somewhere after dinner. Effectively, we averaged 80 hours per week, every week, from June till July, except for the week of vacation we had, thanks to Grandma, where I spent the week going over the paperwork to get ready for our inspection.

That tells the story of how the month went, and explains why there were no updates on the build log during that time. We were only home to eat and sleep, and eating didn’t really happen all that often. In fact, I lost 5 pounds during the last week, simply from skipping meals trying to get the airplane ready. I also didn’t take a lot of pictures, or keep much in the way of notes, since I was too busy just getting the work done. But over a month you do get a few pics so here is what I have.

Aircraft panel, just installed
The panel, version 3.0, on its initial install
SuperSTOL Aircraft panel with avionics
The same panel, but now with the avionics installed
SuperSTOL Panel with most stuff installed
With starter button and some labeling done. We still had to add a number of items after this.
Engine page on EFIS after installation
Engine page on EFIS
Mocking up the cowlings
Mocking up and fitting the cowlings. This was not the funnest part of the build. I was covered in itchy fiberglass for 3 days.
Text for tail number from EAA manual
We stopped by the sign shop and had our graphics ordered, including the tail number.

We used EAA’s how to register your aircraft packet that they sell. Actually its called “Step by step certification kit.” Whatever, it was invaluable and anyone registering a new homebuilt should absolutely buy it. The lettering for the N number is very specific. Having the page pictured above took all the guess work out of it.

Installing the trim panels in the wing
Installing the trim panels in the wing. We just added rivnuts around each panel, after making sure that everything was secured with the proper hardware of course. 
Flap tracks on superstol
We worked on the flap tracks quite a bit. Polishing, greasing, adjusting. Nothing annoying, just time spent smoothing things out.
Dan and Carter in the Citabria flying to the Outer Banks
Trip to the Outer Banks of NC to visit Robby to look at his airplane

We knew we’d need to go to the Outer Banks to look at Robby’s plane one last time. This allowed us to see the final product in person again, answering questions we still had. We knew we’d need to go at some point, but we were pushing so hard to be ready for Oshkosh we could never find a day. Finally it was going to be 100 degrees one day so I figured that would be the day to go. When we left it was severe clear. Except there was a thunderstorm sitting over the airport at Manteo. But in the hour plus  it would take in the Citabria to get there, that storm would have moved off.

Except when we arrived the cell was still sitting over the airport. We diverted to Kitty Hawk but as we passed Manteo I could see the airport through the clouds. I called back to Spork to see if he was ok sneaking into Manteo through the break and the gusty winds.

Spork asleep in the Citabria
My copilot, hard at work

The boy will have to be a pilot. He never sleeps anywhere as soundly as he does in an airplane. In his defense, I’m a terrible Captain as I pretty much fly the entire time so there isn’t really anything for him to do.

We visited Robby and Jenny, took 100 more pictures of his airplane, grabbed some lunch, and headed back home. We had to divert around thunderstorms again. Plus there was some huge fire that had the entire area covered in smoke. Plus our Stratus was accidentally left on so we were running of battery for the ADS-B. It was a bit intense.

Spork asleep in the Citabria
Spork asleep on the way home

Not so intense for the co-pilot. He was asleep before Manteo was out of sight.

Our working list for O flights at JNX
Our working list for O flights at JNX

During the craziness of the final push, we had to stop and have O flights for our Civil Air Patrol squadron. It was a crazy busy day, and we were short one aircraft of the 5 we needed. But considering we had literally every airplane in the wing that was flyable, plus the Wing Chief of Staff onsite flying for us, it was definitely a maximum effort.

Kids tour at the airport
Kids tour at the airport

It was really fun being at the airport full-time. It was the first time in my career that I was able to really plug into the airport scene. I was able to get to know everyone and spend time with them. We also became part of the tour whenever there was someone visiting. Either from the airport board, or from a local school. It was fun.

TF-51 at HRJ
TF-51 at HRJ

We also were on hand whenever something cool landed at the airport. Most of the time it is a boring Cessna or Piper, but often it was something cool to break up the traffic. It was fun to go out and meet the crews/pilots and talk airplanes. Often they were more excited about our SuperSTOL build than they were about their own awesome airplanes.

These are just some of the cool aircraft we saw. These are all from just one week.

Stearman at HRJ
Stearman at HRJ
Blackhawk at HRJ
Blackhawk at HRJ
Apache practicing at HRJ
Apache practicing at HRJ
Russian helicopter at HRJ
Russian helicopter at HRJ
V-22 Osprey practicing at HRJ
V-22 Osprey practicing at HRJ
Sean safety wiring the oil drain plug
We had friends stop and help when they could. Here Sean is safety wiring our drain plug on the oil tank while Carter works on something or other.

With all the required items checked off the list, and our inspection scheduled and approaching, we got out of complete it mode and settled into get it ready for inspection mode. The difference is cleaning up instead of making messes.

Aircraft ready for inspection, with cowling off.
Aircraft ready for inspection, with cowling off.
Hobbes in the pilots seat, ready for inspection
Hobbes in the pilot’s seat, ready for inspection

Hobbes has been part of the build since day one and has been in and around the airplane every step of the way. Here he sits, ready to fly, waiting on inspection. Oshkosh 2017 wind sock in place, and Oshkosh 2019 NOTAM on the seat, ready to go. The inspection was the next day, but that is another post.

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