Monday, May 28, 2012

Poly-Fiber - Flabob

As I mentioned in a prior post, late last year I was able to spend a few hours with some friends at Flabob. One of them was John Goldenbaum of Poly-Fiber. Having always wanted to see the  campus of the world famous aircaft covering system, we talked him into giving us the tour.

If you don’t know John, he is somewhat of a humble man and his words are measured . Therefore, our tour turned out to be a little bipolar. It was really quite funny. Despite commanding 75% – 80% of the aircraft fabric covering market, John was constantly downplaying the operation with his typical sense of humor while I expressed how it was the coolest thing I had seen in ages. So, there you had John standing in the middle of one building joking about the need for a bus to handle the demand for tours (there’s just one building), while I’m looking at the majority of all the Poly-Fiber in the world and acting like a kid in a candy store. John would say “This is it; not much to it” and I would answer “Hey, this stuff keeps my kind of flying in the air; this is great”. And that’s how it continued all the way to the end of our tour.

If you ever end up with a need for a recover job, I highly recommend Poly-Fiber. It’s a proven system and they offer unbeatable customer service with an unbeatable record. And if you ever find yourself near Flabob, drop in for the tour. You’ll enjoy it.

AeroCraftsman - Flabob

Late last year I went on a trip with a friend to deliver his Travel Air Project to AeroCraftsman, a restoration shop at Flabob. While there we spent some time with some old friends and finally met, in person, some fellow vintage aviation nuts with which we had previously only exchanged emails or phone calls. All in all it was a good trip.

Seven months later, I was deleting old photos on my phone and came across a few from this trip. That got me thinking and this in turn led me to email Mark Lightsey to see if he would tell me the story of his restoration business. What follows is word for word what he sent.  Ordinarily I don't do that but it was such a good basic autobiography of his journey in aviation, and it since it included some great information about his current projects, I asked him if I could and he said yes.
"I don’t remember when or where I got interested in airplanes, it’s just something that’s always been there. I grew up in Southern California which has always been an aviation hot spot. I had neighbors and teachers that were pilots. I also got a ride in the Goodyear Blimp as a little kid. No matter where it came from, it’s just always been there. Balsa and tissue models led to control line, which led to R/C and so on.
I used money saved from paper routes, pet departments and pizza deliveries to pay for flying lessons at Long Beach airport. Right after getting my Private license, I started making the trek to Santa Paula airport where taildraggers were available for checkout and rental. I learned some acro and had a chance to fly Cubs, Decathlons, Great Lakes, etc. After flying, I’d usually grab a soda and wander around the airport to see what was going on. There was hangar right behind the FBO where an old guy was usually working away on some project or another. He wasn’t real chatty, but he’d let you watch if you didn’t bug him. I later found out it was Jim Dewey. Anyway, standing there watching this guy building and restoring antique planes, it struck as about the coolest thing a guy could do.
In the interim, I did the normal stuff. Went to school, had a series of “real” jobs, got married, bought houses, etc, but aviation was always there and I was always reading, learning, trying to soak it up. I bought flew and sold a variety of older planes including a J-3 and a Bellanca Cruisair that I used to commute to work for several years. I also build a Corben Super Ace from the 1934 Popular Aviation articles. If you own and build these types of planes, you start learning a lot of new skills. After a while, I started to become the “go to” guy at the field in Hemet where I was located.
After a while, my wife suggested that I make a go of it as a full time occupation. She agreed to be 100% supportive as long as I was successful. With an offer like that, how can you refuse, so I left The Gas Company and started doing this for real. First with a partner who was already in the restoration business, and about a year later on my own when he left for other opportunities.
Maybe I’m just lucky, but each project led to others. Decathlon, Stearman, TravelAir, TravelAir, Commandaire, etc….
About the time I was trying to finish the re-restoration and recover of Bob Lock’s Commandaire, I was approached by Jon Goldenbaum, the president of PolyFiber. Jon had been operating a restoration arm of PolyFiber, but his main guy was moving out of the area. After some discussion, I agreed to move my operation to Flabob to take over the projects being left behind. These included the Caudron C.460 racer replica and a 1937 Waco YKS-7. To get the Commandaire finished in time for Barnstormer’s Air Tour, I had the Mendoza brothers, Hualdo and Nando come out to Hemet to lend a hand. They were a couple of young guys working for PolyFiber learning the trade. With their help, we got the airplane finished and out the door just ahead of the deadline.
After moving to Flabob, I talked with the owners of the Flabob projects as well as the projects I was bringing from Hemet and we established some timelines and expectations. I didn’t want to jump into too many projects at once; it’s better to finish one thing before starting another, so we set the projects in order and got to work. At Flabob, I was able to tap into a lot of local expertise when needed to keep the projects moving along. It’s a lot different than being a one man shop.
Two of the standout projects are the previously mentioned Cabin Waco and a TravelAir speedwing.
The TravelAir is owned by Richard and Dan. About 15 years ago, they got the bug for an antique biplane and after researching all the designs, settled on TravelAir. Rather than just restoring one airplane, they decided that the economies of scale would more make sense to restore 7 airplanes at once. Fast forward a decade plus, and I met Richard and Dan through Bill Hill who had done the majority of the restoration over the years. The economic realities of a large project like this had caused several stops and starts along the way, but they were now ready to get at least one ship finished and in the air.
At that point, most of the structural work for ship number one was complete, but it still needed wiring, plumbing, sheet metal work, cowling and of course fabric and paint. The paint scheme was not a simple one, but it was certainly a challenge to layout and install. At this point, we’re just a couple of weeks away from final assembly and rigging. Licensing will be another hurdle since the airplane was previously a duster and was in Restricted category, but we’re planning to get it back into Standard category.
The Cabin Waco is owned by Jerry. He’s a great guy grew up in the Riverside area and took his first airplane ride here at Flabob. Jerry has had a number of interesting airplanes over the years and found this Waco at an Auction. He fell in love with it and considered flying it home, but wisely decided to take it apart and truck it back to California. For Jerry, one of the compelling aspects of the project was the chance to use the project as an opportunity for the Mendoza brothers to further develop their skills, so this project had been started by the previous Flabob restoration shop. Unfortunately, much of the disassembly work started by that shop wasn’t well documented and most of the original woodwork was lost. Add that to the fact that this poor airplane was flat worn out and you have the recipe for a challenging project. In any case, the guys have had the chance to up their game on this project and then some. When it came time to choose a paint scheme and theme for this airplane, Jerry wanted something a little more custom. We worked with Jim Bruni the designer of the TravelAir scheme to come up with some options for the Waco. I think the final design strikes a nice balance between custom and traditional. We used the Waco logo to develop the winged design on the fuselage and wings and used Jerry’s company logo as a medallion on the front. We were trying to capture the look of a corporate airplane from the era and the end result is quite stunning.
Both of these airplanes are very close to being finished and we have a couple more TravelAir projects in storage, patiently waiting their turns.
It’s been a bunch of years since I was a teenage kid, standing outside that Santa Paula hangar, yet here I am, doing exactly the same thing, and you know what? It is the coolest thing in the world."
Take a look at Mark's website to see more of the projects he and his crew are restoring.  They have some amazing machines going together.

Our Friends at Peach State Aerodrome

You may recognize that DC-3 from several of our events.
If you live in the Atlanta area, be sure to visit the Vintage Days event at Peach State Aerodrome this weekend. The following is from their website.
"Step back in time to the 1920's" is the motto for the upcoming Vintage Days at the Candler Field Museum in Williamson, Ga on Saturday, June 2nd. Admission is free for everyone. There will be a $2 parking fee per car to assist in offsetting expenses. The activities include vintage aeroplanes and cars on display, people in period costumes, biplane rides, food, music and more. Gates open from 9 AM until 4 PM.”
The folks at Peach State Aerodrome have always supported us so be sure to show your support for them if you are in the area.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Weather or Not

A local farmer was here a few days ago to cut our hay. While on his way in he stopped to talk. That’s when the subject of the forecast came up. He was about to cut hay but the forecast for the next day was predicting rain and according to him his wife would not be happy if she knew he was doing so.
If you’ve never been involved with the hay cutting process, from the time you cut it to the time you bale it, you want it to be drying. Rain is not good. Yet, when our friendly local farmer finished his prediction about what his wife would do to him, he said, “Oh well, they always say it’s going to rain”. Three days later he bailed it having had no trace of rain.
This conversation led to the discussion about productivity and accurate weather forecasts. The farmer’s implication was that if we waited for a perfect forecast, we’d never get anything done. Therefore, I wonder, is it possible modern weather prediction actually decreases productivity? Here’s how; people see a chance rain in the forecast then they put off work that could be done, or at least partially done, on a day with a better forecast? I think there’s a pretty good chance this is much more prevalent that we know.
So how does this relate to aviation?
I have long lamented all the reasons people have today for not flying. The one that gets me more than any is the weather. I may be old fashioned but I remember when pilots were taught the difference between a cirrus cloud and a tornado. Remember when pilots could distinguish hail from dandelion seeds floating through the air of a warm spring day? What happened to our aviators?
I’ll tell you what I think happened. Our pilot group fell hook, line, and sinker for the notion of safety and planning. Yeah, I said it; safety and planning is killing aviation and our alphabet groups aren’t helping. In fact, they are the pushers who move this stuff into the shady neighborhoods of aviation where spineless pilots wear helmets when they bike and eagerly inject this garbage into their bloodstream for a quick excuse not to fly.
Delivered directly to the nervous system via light waves, iPads, smart phones, and even TVs are killing aviation with the notion they are making it easier. Don’t believe me? How many people do you think would fly from the East Coast to the West Coast without a GPS? Very few today would yet there was a time when even kids did it. Yep, flying is expensive yet nobody can live without their pricey gadgets that could easily be replaced with fifteen dollar charts.
I know what you’re thinking; live weather radar helps. And you know what, you’d be right if people knew how to read it and use it to fly instead of not to. I’ll give you a good example.
See the red dot in the middle of this radar picture above? The pin is on Louisville. Northeast of there you will see a vertical band of two shades of green surrounded by a thin blue outline. Immediately to the right of that, where the Ohio River runs North/South, is where Lee Bottom is located. What kind of weather do you think that is?
The next photo was taken immediately after the radar screen shot. It is an actual image of what that weather radar screen shot looked like from the ground. As you can see, or I hope you can, the green blob from the radar is actually an area best described as a high altitude area of high humidity. This was the same day the farmer cut his hay and it never rained.
If you had been east of Lee Bottom wanting to go west, would you have done so?
Ultimately, today’s weather technology is so good it's quite possibly too good. For as long as most of us can remember, rain or weather was displayed as green. Now though green, and several shades of it, most often represent a level of moisture that at one time could not be detected by weather devices. Back then pilots looked to the sky, observed the color, felt the moisture, read the thermometer, and went flying. Today, they turn on some gadget, see green, and stay home.
What do these people do with their spare time? They read books about the freedom, romanticism, and daring of flight.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Another WACO Takes to the Air

Our friends up at Poplar Grove are always up to something fun. This video is a window into some of it.  The caption, "Sean Soare restores, repairs and flies his 1937 Waco YKS-7 at the Poplar Grove Airport (C77) with the first flight on the 75th birthday of the Waco!" says it all.  If you have fourteen minutes to spare, sit back and watch this version of what goes into such a project.
The moral of this video:  Celebrate every step of the process and there will always be a reason to keep working.
Congratulations to Sean and the team.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Tragedy at Toowoomba

Those damn cameras; always there to catch the most painful moments.  Here's to a speedy recovery.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Shoot to Kill Authorized Over Chicago?

Why would they risk asking a pilot to shoot down one of his own?  Drone Operators are experienced with such things.  Just like camera bravery, when looking through a lens or at a screen it doesn't seem as real.
News has been swirling wildly about the upcoming NATO Summit in Chicago and the accompanying “No Fly Zone”. What has everyone all worked up?  The word, or implied wording, “shoot to kill”. That may come as a shock to some of you but others have asked “Is this really any different than the usual TFR?”
Here’s what I have found. This link for a Standard TFR over Chicago is for things like sporting events; a typical TFR. Read it and you will not see any wording of shoot to kill or use of force. But, if you look at this link to the “TFR” over Chicago for the NATO Summit, you will clearly see the words “deadly force against the airborne aircraft” on the first page.
It seems it really is different from a Standard TFR and it also does seem to include the authorization to "shoot and kill" any stray airplanes.  What I can't seem to find is if there is anything similar for vehicles or people on the ground.  Maybe someone out there can lead me to it.
Whatever the case, don't be flying around Chicago during the summit held May 19-21, 2012. 

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Lyme Disease - Could You Get It?

This is a little off topic but we wanted to pass it along to our friends. Lyme Disease is real and isn’t rare despite what your doctor may tell you. How do we know? Our dog Bair, Ginger, and our friend Larry Hagen have all recently been diagnosed with it. We mention Bair because were it not for him being diagnosed with it first, Ginger’s doctor indicated that she would have initially run other tests.
Why are many doctors hesitant to give the blood test to patients? Well, it’s hard to say but the number one reason we’ve heard is that most doctors don’t think it is common or even something people in their area get. Unfortunately, that just isn’t the case.  Without question, it is in our area and many other areas of the US and also other countries. Yet, Lyme disease symptoms do resemble many other disease symptoms and therefore diagnosing Lyme Disease may seem to a doctor to be a shot in the dark.
Like I said, Lyme Disease symptoms are often similar to other health issues. If a patient doesn’t remember being bitten, as is usually the case, a doctor will most likely feel the need to run heart tests, joint scans, and everything else because other things are more common and could potentially be more serious in the short term. In the long term though, Lyme Disease is something you don’t want to live with undiagnosed. If you don’t catch it early, it can be severely debilitating.
There are several things you should know about Lyme Disease. First, it is the tiny Deer Tick that carries and transmits the disease. They are usually reddish in color and they are about the size of a head of a large pin. They have to be attached to your skin for at least 24 hrs to transmit the disease but watch the area, and yourself, for symptoms of the disease should you remove one you believe has been on you less than 24 hrs. Many places say 70-80% of people with Lyme Disease get the bulls-eye rash but other more recent studies indicate as few as 30% get it. Therefore, don’t assume you don’t have it if you do not get the rash. Ginger did not get a rash. This is why it is important to look for symptoms. Here’s a site that covers them all. It also gives you a checklist. If you circle 20 or more symptoms you need to be tested.
The prescribed way to kill the bacteria that causes Lyme Disease is with antibiotics. The sooner you get the antibiotics into your system, the better your chances of getting rid of the disease without any long term health problems. But there is a problem with antibiotics. For so long, antibiotics were prescribed for so many things and so often that it began to cause a problem of super bacteria. In turn, there has been a huge movement to limit the use of antibiotics. Therefore, it now seems the pendulum has often swung too far the other way to the point doctors are hesitant to prescribe them when they would help. This leaves many physicians extra-cautious about diagnosing Lyme Disease.
If you are a doctor, feel free to add your thoughts on this subject. We are going only from what we have learned and the stories of others who have told us of their experience with this disease. Ginger was fortunate in that she had a great doctor who actively listened and obviously wanted to make sure she got the correct diagnosis. Thanks Dr. Jett.
Oh, I almost forgot, there is something very important for you to know. Studies have shown that taking 200mg of Doxycycline after a severe tick bite works like a morning after pill and keeps you from getting the disease. The problem is that you don’t want to take one of these pills every time you get a tick bite. You want to know or feel very sure the tick has been in your skin for over 24 hours. Unfortunately, over 50% of people who get Lyme Disease never knew they were bitten because the ticks are so small. Ginger was lucky because she knew of the bite. When she began to get the symptoms, she had a doctor that listened to her story and symptoms and made the decision to test for Lyme immediately. That made a huge difference.
Today, Ginger is feeling much better. Her symptoms came on during the tornado clean up and so she thought she was just worn out from all that was going on. Then she began to sleep all day and stated that she felt like she was in a fog. We remembered the bite and she went to the doctor. The diagnosis came within six weeks of the bite and thanks to that it appears she will come out the other side with no lasting issues.  Even with that though, it often takes up to six months for someone like her to get over all the symptoms.