Tag Archives: Rutan Long Ez

Oil Cooler Replacement

I mentioned in the last post that after getting the wheel pants on Betty, the airplane was ALMOST ready to fly. The reason it wasn’t fully ready was during the wheel pant installation I removed the cowl. When I removed the cowl, I found this floating around inside the bottom cowl.

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When I initially found it, I couldn’t figure out where it was from. So I set it aside, and knew that I was going to have to figure out where it was from. After thinking about it on and off for a few days, the type of aluminum and shape reminded me of the oil cooler attach flanges. Sure enough, the forward upper oil cooler flange had cracked through.

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It certainly didn’t do all of that in the last flight. So this problem serves as a reminder to spend more time and be more thorough inspecting. With the forward flange cracked, the oil cooler found a new “home.” The new place the oil cooler wanted to be was about 1/8″ off the top forward mounting location. This said to us that there was some slight misalignment in the mounting bracketry  for the oil cooler. This placed the flanges under pre-load. The flanges are very soft aluminum and when under pre-load are prone to cracking.

After consulting with Greg, Pacific Oil Coolers, and a few other folks, the plan for the fix was to eliminate the pre-load and also to add cross tube supports between then flanges of the oil cooler. These cross tubes make each pair of flanges a unit and will prevent the flanges from “working” under vibration and engine operation. To eliminate the pre-load we added a spacer in the mounting brackets that took up the 1/8″ gap. The spacer is made out of baffle seal material (silicone) and has some give. Hopefully this will also provide some vibration isolation.

With Oshkosh coming up quickly, I decided to buy a new oil cooler to expedite Betty’s return to the air. Then I would send in the broken one and have Pacific Oil Coolers repair the flange. This way I have a spare, and if the fix proves successful, I can either use the repaired oil cooler on my next airplane, or sell it. Then again, having spare parts is always nice too… I have to note that Wayne at Pacific Oil Cooler really treated me well for all of this. After all, the problem was my fault, but they went out of their way. Terrific customer service.

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The oil cooler installation will be a watch item over now. It will require more frequent inspection to verify that we have appropriately fixed the misalignment and that the flanges are no longer prone to cracking.

Wheel Pants

A lot has happened over the last few months since my last post, and I didn’t have a lot of time to write about it. I will try to catch the blog up in the next few days.

I got quite a ration of crap over the first 6 months of flying Betty. People were always shocked at the audacity of taking Betty around the country without any pants on. So the goal was to get Betty some pants before the AirVenture Cup and Oshkosh. Greg and I were both installing wheel pants on our airplanes, and we pretty much used the method that Wayne Hicks wrote about on his web page. His website is a great resource so I won’t try to recreate the directions here. Go to his site if you are needing the directions. But I will show photos of the installation/process.

First, I should take a step back. I was getting some very uneven wear on the tires. The outboard side of the tires were wearing way too quickly. I did a tire rotation at 45 hours, and by 90 hours on the airplane, the tires needed to be replaced.

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After talking with some folks, I decided that I needed to realign the wheel axels. As they were, they had too much camber which caused the excessive wear on the outboard 1/3 of the tires. When I was measuring the axels, I also found that the toe in was different between left and right. I used chalk lines, squares, and lasers to measure this. I should also note that I am changing to the Lamb tires. Which are smaller diameter and wear more quickly. Getting the axel alignment will be crucial to getting decent life out of the tires.

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Once the axels were re-alligned, it was time to start on the pants. First is putting the two wheel pant shells per wheel together so they align straight to each other. Then cleco them together.

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Then we made full scale drawings to get an idea of where the initial cuts will be for both the tire protrusion and to allow the wheel pants to fit over the gear strut.

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Then was the painstaking task of trim, fit, mark, trim, repeat. Taking off a little at a time to get the pants to fit into position without conflict with the tire or gear strut.

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Once the wheel pant could fit in place, we used a wheel pant holding jig so that we could get the longitudinal axis aligned with the airplane. During this process the airplane was set at the high speed deck angle on jacks and saw horses. This will give us the lowest drag installation.

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From there it was a matter of adding the axel mounting points and the fairing between the gear leg and the wheel pant. We called those the “bonnets.” The axel mounting points were phenolic spacers mounted to the wheel pants. Screws go through those into the axels and a nut plate on the inboard side of the gear leg. The bonnets also have screws and nut plates which prevent the wheel pant from rotating. The bonnets were formed using clay, then waxed for mold release and laid up with fiberglass.

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Once the bonnets were laid up we did some work on finishing. First was to add micro to the bonnets. While doing that we also did a one inch area of micro on the wheel pant itself to get rid of the step created by the bonnet.

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I was starting to run out of time to get things done before Oshkosh at this point, so we did put primer on, but we skipped the epoxy wipe stage. As such, there are many pin holes and a bit of finishing work still to do, but the installation is airworthy, and looks ok from 30 feet.

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It was almost 2 months of work with my limited off time to install the wheel pants, but finally the airplane was back off jacks and ready for flight… almost. I will talk about why it wasn’t quite ready in another post. I am very happy with how the wheel pant installation went, and it really makes a difference in the look of the airplane. Not to mention a huge difference in the performance. It has not scientifically been tested yet, but a short non-scientific test flight showed 14 KTAS increase, lower CHTs, and an additional 150 RPM at WOT.

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Garaggio EZ Victory Tour – Phoenix – Denver – St. Paul

Wednesday I finished with work early, so I was able to start Betty’s trek back home to the twin cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul. The high level plan for the trip was to fly to Denver and spend the night with my buddy Lance. Then the next day make it all the way to South St. Paul airport.

Unfortunately, I was on call until 10:00 AM so an early start wasn’t going to happen. That was a pity because in Phoenix it starts to heat up, and in the mountains near Denver, the weather generally deteriorates in the afternoon. None the less, the weather was forecast to be good along my route and at my destination, so I launched. Knowing that weather will change I had many plans of where I could stop if need be.

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The route of flight was not going to be direct. There is some very high terrain along that route, airports become few and further between, and worse yet there is no place to make forced landings if you need to. So I planned my route to be from Phoenix to Albuquerque, NM where there is some lower terrain and a couple of mountain passes to fly though. Then from there to Las Vegas, NM and finally up the front range past Colorado Springs and into Denver Front Range Airport (KFTG).

Not far outside Phoenix is the Mogollon Rim and just past that near St. Johns there was a fire burning at the base of a mountain. No one had called it in yet, and the airplane just ahead of me along this route called it in to air traffic patrol so they could let the authorities know.

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The flight was pretty nice up to this point but then it got a bit bumpy between here and Albuquerque. About 70 or so miles before ABQ, there was some interesting sights on the ground. A bunch of circular depressions in the ground that looked like they could be meteorite impact areas. They were pretty small, but cool to see from the air.

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Flying through the mountain pass just south of ABQ proved uneventful. But gave me a view of the weather ahead. Of course, I do have onboard ADSB weather and had known that there was something brewing on the weather radar, but seeing it in person really lets you know what is going on. Sometimes the green returns on the ADSB are very high clouds that contain moisture that can be easily flown under. In my case, it was obvious this wasn’t the case and that there were localized areas of showers. However the gaps were wide enough to fly through safely, and I could see to the horizon through the gaps.

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Unfortunately I got to a place where the gaps in the rain was closing and I could no longer see to the horizon in the distance. I was still VFR and the area behind me was clear so I could have done a 180 turn and gone back the way I came, so I started looking for a place to land to let the rain pass. Since airports are a bit sparse in this area too, I picked the very next one I came upon. Weather can change quickly, especially in this area, and I didn’t want to be in the position of passing up a good diversion airport and then not being able to get to the next airport. So I landed at Spanish Peaks, Colorado. It proved a nice little country airport, much like the place that I learned to fly. Though Spanish Peaks has fewer cracks in the runway than where I got my private pilots license.

It was a good thing I landed because as I was parking it started to rain a bit and visibility decreased, though still VFR. In my haste to get the airplane flying, I haven’t installed any weather/gap seals on any of the hatches or the canopy. I carry a roll of masking tape with me, and it proved useful to tape of the gaps to prevent the rain from getting on any of the electronics.

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There was NOBODY at the airport. But I did find that they leave the building open during the days for transient pilots, their fridge was stocked with soda and water, and they had snacks for purchase. After a while the airport manager, Gary, stopped in to check on the airport. He was a welcome sight, and we got to talking. Turns out he is retired from Air Wisconsin Airlines, and we had plenty to chat about as the light rain came down. He gave me some local knowledge on the routing from there up to Denver and told some stories about flying in the area. He was one of those neat guys you get to meet when your plans don’t go, well according to plan, and you get the pleasure of diverting to somewhere you would otherwise have no earthly reason to visit.

Somewhere amidst his stories it cleared up and it looked like I had a weather window up to Denver. To be a good guest, I did buy a little bit of fuel. These small airports generally need the business, and their prices on fuel are usually lower than bigger cities.

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After takeoff, I set off towards Colorado Springs. As I was nearing, there was a strong storm building just east of the Springs. It treated me to the first of many rainbows for the flight.

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But to the west, it was pretty nice.

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Colorado Springs Approach alerted me that many airplanes were diverting from Denver to other places, and asked my intentions. I commented that the weather changed quickly from what I saw on the radar 15 minutes ago before takeoff. Approach called up to Denver for me, and ATC said that they thought I would be able to make it in to Front Range Airport. So I pressed on. The storms were widely scattered and there was always an out, even if I didn’t end up at my intended destination.

It turned out that there was a small but intense cell of a storm in between me and Front Range. But the airport was still in the clear, just windy. So I deviated east around the storm and came into the airport from the north east. Initially they were using 26, but the winds were 190 at 12 gusting to 20. I gave it a try, knowing that unless I arrived at a lull in the wind the crosswind would exceed what I could handle with the airplane. It turned out that 26 wouldn’t work. I went around and asked for 17, and had an uneventful landing. I did get treated to a nice double rainbow from the offending storm just south, and now south east of the airport. By the time I could take a photo it was a single rainbow, but pretty none the less.

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Made it to Denver after a little under 4 hours of total flying time. My buddy Lance was there to meet me. It was time for a nice time in Denver catching up with Lance and getting some food and local brews.

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Lance and I had a very nice time. I would have liked to stay longer and hang out, or see some of my other Denver friends, but other obligations dictated that I had to head for home the next day, Thursday. But not without getting Lance a ride in Betty first. It was his first ride in an experimental.

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I think he liked it. He flies the Boeing 737 for work, and made the comment, “See, even Boeing pilots can fly a side stick!”

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Then it was time to head off for home. I had done some flight planning the night before and decided to take the scenic route. I have always wanted to see Mt. Rushmore, but never have. My flight planning told me that it would only add 30 minutes and about 90 miles to my flight home, so I decided to go check it out. Until next time, Denver.

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So out of Denver, it was basically straight north to just south west of Rapid City, SD. As you go up that way, you head over some plains areas and eventually it gets hillier and you arrive at the Black Hills. This is some of the interesting terrain as you get closer to Rapid City.

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Nearing Mt. Rushmore, Ellsworth Approach advised me that the airspace limitations on “the Monument” was a minimum altitude of 7,700 feet and 1/2 mile from the monument. Between those limitations and the gusty winds and turbulence, I didn’t get really good photos of Mt. Rushmore. However, it was really cool to see in person. The photos don’t do it justice. If you are flying anywhere near here, it is certainly worth doing the tour. In this photo, you can just barely make out the monument, just above the visitors center and parking lot.

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Here it is zoomed in. Sorry for the quality. iPhone photo from a distance.

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From there it was nearly straight east to home. I got some pretty good tailwinds along the way. I was able to make it without stopping. 4:20 minutes of flight time, and Betty is home. Thanks for another fantastic, safe adventure Betty. Kevin and Greg were there to greet us. Kevin even got a video of my approach.

Betty safe and sound back in the hangar.

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Victory Tour Summary to Date
|  KSGS KOSH KSGS KSLN 0TX1 KCNM KDVT 57AZ KDVT
KIWA KDVT KCNO KMHV KDVT 4V1 KFTG KSGS |
|  3,283 Nautical Miles  |

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2016 Victory Tour – Mojave Experimental Fly In – Sunday

Sunday was go home day. We woke up, checked out of the hotel and had one last meal at the Voyager Cafe. Then we launched as a two ship back to Phoenix. Again the flight was very enjoyable. Abeam Deer Valley, Ben and I split off from each other and he continued home to Falcon Field, and Craig and I landed at Deer Valley.

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Betty got us back to Deer Valley from Mojave in a little over two hours. Craig and I tucked her into the hangar and thanked her for another safe and enjoyable trip. Its amazing what adventure this airplane has already provided me. So many awesome places we’ve already visited, so much awesome scenery we’ve seen, and so many awesome people we have gotten to spend time with and meet.  For those of you still building, keep going, its totally worth it.

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Oh and to add an extra serving of icing on the cake. We got to add to our aviation filled weekend with rides in the Swift, Courtesy of Hayden Newhouse.

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Plus Betty and I got to take Mark Foster for his first canard ride.

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But that’s not all. Mark took me for a ride in his newly acquired Eclipse. Neat little airplane, can’t wait to fly it.

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2016 Victory Tour – Mojave Experimental Fly In -Saturday

Saturday was the main event for the MEFI. There must have been around 100 airplanes there and 1,000 people. There were all kinds of cool things there. Most of them rare. Elliot Seguin’s twin engine jet powered Quickie, the ARES, White Knight II, an airplane called the Shirocko, and tons of other stuff.

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Unfortunately, I didn’t get a lot of time to go and peruse. I was standing by Betty most of the time answering questions about the mods on the airplane and the winglets. I met some very interesting people, and it was so humbling and flattering to have so many people interested in the airplane.

I was asked by Justin and Elliot to have the airplane judged. I wasn’t planning on it. In my eyes, Betty isn’t nearly done yet. I hadn’t even cleaned her since flying all the way from Phoenix. But I agreed to have her judged.

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The judges were very impressive in their backgrounds. All of them were homebuilders, or engineers, or very experienced with experimental airplanes. I spent probably 45 minutes to an hour talking with them about Betty. We discussed all of the modifications I made, why I made them, the engineering behind them, and how they were carried out. None of the judges were concerned with why the interior wasn’t painted, or the fact that i didn’t have a $30K paint job on the outside. They were interested in the experimental part of the homebuilt airplane.

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The judges kept notes and scores on three areas that follow the Scaled Composites methodology for projects: design, build, test. So as I was giving them the discussion on the airplane, I was sure to discuss things in those terms. There were five awards up for grabs. They were, Best Build, Best Test, Best Design, Experimenter of the Year, and Best Attempt. You can read more about those here. http://www.mojaveflyin.com/p/awards-description.html

While I was talking about my airplane with other folks, Dick Rutan pulled in and parked right next to Betty. Its not every day that your airplane gets to graze with Dick’s airplane. For those of you who don’t know, Dick is a very famous and accomplished pilot, most well know for flying the Voyager around the world un-refueld, non-stop over the course of 9 days.

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After I got done chatting with people, I did get a bit of time to look around. As the fly-in was drawing to a close and most people were heading out, Ben and I each offered two of the Van’s Aircraft employees EZ rides. Neither had ever been in a canard airplane. I kept teasing Rian Johnson that he was defecting to the enemy, and so I had to get a photo of him with his Van’s staff shirt in the airplane.

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And of course, he has to sign the guest book.

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The evenings schedule was a banquet and then the awards ceremony. The speaker at the banquet was James Brown, the world’s highest time F-117 Stealth Fighter pilot. He was a test pilot for Lockheed on both the 117 and the F22. It was a very interesting talk. One of the most interesting pieces of information he told us was that the F117 was so unstable that if the flight control computers “went stupid,” in his terms, the time to double amplitude divergent oscillation was .2 seconds. Completely unflyable without computers.

He also talked about the patent for the F117 and how it was originally filed as “the vehicle.” The reason for the facetted shape of the airplane was that they had a computer program that could predict the radar signature of the airplane. But due to limited computing power back in the day it was designed, they had to bound the computer simulations to smaller shapes. Hence the small facets that the computers could reasonably handle. Cool Stuff.

Here I am holding a piece of a F117 that was scrapped. Jim had time in the airplane this came from.

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Then it was time for the main event. The awards ceremony. I am honored and humbled to say that Betty and I won an award. The award we won was for Best Build. The description for this award from the MEFI website is as follows: “Best Build: This award is for the best craftsmanship mod of the year, corresponding to the build quality (aesthetics, schedule, build difficulty) of the mod.”

Not only does the caliber of the judges but also the quality of folks that won the other awards makes it even more humbling for me. I was rubbing elbows on the awards stage with Kevin Eldridge. He won best design for the Lancair Evolution with the Lycoming IE2 installation. Kevin is an accomplished Reno racer and has been involved in many aviation business pursuits including the Nemisis NXT, Superior Engines, and ACE-Performance engines.

Then there was Andrew Findlay. He races the Stihl sponsored Lancair Legacy at Reno. He has done some amazing aerodynamic, turbocharging, and cooling projects on his airplane. He won Experimenter of the Year.

Rian Johnson won Best Test on behalf of Vans Aircraft for the RV14 test program. Rian and his team at Vans tested and developed the RV14 which is now available as a kit. If you get a chance, YouTube the RV14 and you can see some of the testing they put the airplane through including the drop tests to FAR part 23 standards for landing gear design.

An additional award this year, Best Attempt, was won by Tom Siegler for the project he is still working on but has not yet gotten flying. The award description says “for a achievement or project development that has not yet reached their goal, but is noteworthy nonetheless. He is restoring a very historic racer, the Cosmic Wind. He trucked the project to the MEFI so it could be on display in progress. That in and of itself is pretty awesome.

Taking the time to introduce you to the caliber and scope of the 2016 MEFI award winners makes me question my belonging on that stage. But I can certainly tell you one thing, I have a renewed energy to prove and/or earn that belonging.

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Left to Right, Elliot Seguin, Dick Rutan, Kevin Eldridge, Andrew Findlay, Rian Johnson, Tom Siegler, Joe Coraggio, James Brown, and Justin Gillen.

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Some good coverage of the awards can be found on Kitplanes.

After the awards were handed out, we got the opportunity to chat with both James Brown and Dick Rutan. James talked about the F117 and F22 with us and Dick talked about my airplane and had questions for me. Then we got to talk about the Voyager flight. While I was talking with Dick, I found out that he took a photo of my winglets and texted them to Burt. How cool is that!

2016 Victory Tour – Mojave Experimental Fly In – Friday

The second major reason for taking the Garaggio Ez out west was to be pre-positioned for the Mojave Experimental Fly In which was April 15-17. Ever since they shortened the day to 24 hours on me, I have had a hard time keeping up with blogging, much less flying the airplane 1600 miles in one shot. So having the airplane within a 2 hour flight of Mojave was a way of increasing my chances of being able to attend.

Before I tell you about our experience, I want to first put a plug in for the Mojave Experimental Fly In (MEFI). It is organized by Elliot Seguin and Justin Gillen, and they do a fantastic job. It is without a doubt one of the most fun fly-ins that I have ever been to. In fact the whole weekend is probably up there with the best aviation weekends of my life. If I was somehow limited to one fly in a year, I would alternate this one and Oshkosh every other year. The coolest thing about MEFI is that there is so much variety of airplane type and a ton of true experimenters with something new, different, and exciting. For more information, visit their website. http://www.mojaveflyin.com

As with just about any flying adventure it is more fun to do it as a group. Craig Henry was my back seater. Also, a friend and fellow EZ driver (who I hadn’t met before but had talked to a bunch online) and I had arranged to rendezvous at the Deer Valley airport and fly out to Mojave as a two ship. His name is Ben, and he invited his cousin Michael along in his back seat.

The night before we were supposed to leave, Thursday night, we saw a notice on the MEFI Facebook page that the Friday events (poker run, flower bomb, and spot landing competition) were cancelled due to forecast extreme winds in Mojave. High winds really isn’t that unusual for the Mojave area, but the forecast was up to 50 KTS. That was a bit high for our liking and in the mountains can cause rotors, mountain wave, and all kinds of nasty conditions.

Since we had guests in from out of town, the time off work, and everything set for a fun weekend of committing aviation, we did not want to cancel or delay our trip. So we did what you can only do with the freedom, flexibility, and options available to general aviation pilots. We started looking for places to go with good weather that would be just as fun. After looking at options, we decided to fly to Chino, CA and visit the planes of fame museum. Additionally, some of our AirVenture Cup racers, Paul and Pam Tackabury, have a hangar there and we could visit them. Have I mentioned how awesome it is to have the ability to come up with a plan B on the drop of a hat?

Departure Day – Friday

As planned, Ben and Mike arrived at Deer Valley bright and early. Craig and I got Betty out of the hangar and we rendezvoused by the fuel pump. After introducing ourselves, we did some flight planning and did a briefing. It turned out that we decided to go as more of a gaggle than a formation. Ben didn’t have much formation experience, so it was the safer course of action. Our original plan was to be wheels up by 0800, and we were wheels up by 0820. Not bad for my usual timing.

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The flight over to Chino was very enjoyable. Of course I had to throttle back quite a ways to fly with Ben. I don’t think Betty has had the aft half of the throttle worked so much in her lifetime. He has an O-320 in his airplane. (Sorry Ben, I had to say it.) On our way to Chino, we flew over what looked like a dust storm, which was kind interesting to see from above.

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We did get a bit of moderate turbulence going through the San Gorgonio pass. But it was very short lived and the winds calmed as soon as we were in the LA basin. Navigating around all of the airspace there was a bit of a challenge, but doable with modern avionics.

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When we arrived at Chino, we were all hungry, so we went to the famous Flo’s Airport Cafe. It is right on the airport, and the food is great. Of course, Craig found the pies first and had to order a slice.

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Then it was time for the Planes of Fame museum. Which was fantastic. It also allowed us to do the EAA’s #AVChallenge. Every month they are challenging pilots to do something with their airplane. This month it was to fly to an aviation museum. So we were able to check another thing off the list with this trip.

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While we were there, we got to see the extremely rare Northrop Flying Wing start up and taxi out to go to the March Air Force Base Fly In.

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And a hands on tour of an ME109 German WWII fighter that was undergoing restoration. We were told it was the first airplane flying with slats.

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These are the original wing bolts that used to hold the wings on during WWII. Quite a bit of history those bolts have.

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There were a whole bunch of rare airplanes and neat things to see.

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After the museum, we went and visited Paul and Pam in their hangar. It is almost a museum in and of itself. Paul is a very neat guy with lots of stories. He also does fantastic work. Right now he is working on restoring a Waco RNF2. It is a work of art. The attention to detail is second to none. He even went to the Smithsonian to get original drawings for the airplane to make it authentic.

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The rest of his collection is equally as impressive.

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After our tour, we looked at the weather in Mojave, and decided the weather had calmed enough. So we decided to make the trip over the ridge to Mojave. It was a short 30 or so minute hop. We did get some turbulence over the mountains again, but that was to be expected.

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The only event for the night that didn’t get cancelled was the indoor fly in. It was an event for radio controlled and rubber band powered airplanes in a big auditorium with pizza and beverages. They held a challenge for adults and kids to build a rubber band powered airplane and see who’s can stay aloft the longest. We arrived late, so we only had 30 minutes to build our rubber band powered airplane. So we made it a team event. We didn’t have a long enough time to qualify for the prizes, but it was a ton of fun.

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