Falco at Ground Zero. When the big earthquake hit
Los Angeles in January, the epicenter was in the San Fernando
Valley, four blocks from Rick Fitzwater's house.
Rick reports: "Boy! What an ass-kicker! I
am glad to report that my family is fine, except for several
cuts caused by running through broken glass barefoot in a pitch
dark house, and my wife Pat has a nice goose-egg on her head
caused from some unknown flying projectile. Our house received
no structural damage I am happy to say. The Falco received substantial
damage to the left wing, which was ready to skin. I had
a full sheet of drywall and two full sheets of three-quarter-inch
plywood stacked near the wing which fell over onto the outer
third of the wing. Since the wing is not skinned, it is still
very flexible. The wing tip flexed back about 18 inches and popped
every glue joint holding the ribs to the spars. The spar held
up well however and supported the full weight. It will take some
time, but it is repairable. The empennage and fuselage is fine,
although my elevator (also unskinned) flew off the wall and sustained
damage. The skinned horizontal stabilizer is stronger-the lumber
rack behind it emptied itself onto this section of the airframe
but it sustained no damage whatsoever. We are still getting aftershocks.
It's like sitting on a bowl of Jello!"
The "Swing-Wing Falco" article in the April Kitplanes suckered more people in than any other April-fools article in
recent memory. At the peak, we were getting two calls a day from
breathless believers -- "65% more speed, wow!" -- and
the same number were calling Jonas direct.
Ominously, most are working on their own composite designs
and want to incorporate the swing-wing mechanism in their designs.
Jonas reports that a local pilot burst into his hangar looking
for the Swing-Wing Falco. "There it is!" he exclaimed
as he saw Jonas's Falco, and rushed at it. "Well, this is
a Falco all right, and it looks just like the one in the article,
but this one doesn't have the swing-wing mechanism. They've probably
got the swing-wing version hidden in a hangar somewhere."
Even the BIC razor blade company was suckered and called Jonas
so they could send Gando some razor blades. At press time, Jonas
was fabricating a lever control arm to put in the right map pocket
for display at the Lakeland air show.
Penquinos into production. Flight International magazine reports that Stelio Frati's General Avia company has
delivered the first two production models of the F.22 aircraft
to Italian aero clubs and has completed another eight aircraft
to be delivered in Europe and Thailand. Production plans are
to produce 50 F.22s in 1994, 150 in 1995, and 300 a year in 1996
The magazine also confirms earlier reports that
Russia's Sokol manufacturing plant, which produces Mikoyan MiG-29
and MiG-31 fighters plans to build the Frati-designed F.15F Delphino
four-seat light aircraft in a joint venture with the Italian
Procaer company, which owns the design.
|Remember all the
hoorah about simplified certification and how many people came
to see FAA certification as an impossible hurdle? Consider this,
General Avia certified the F.22A last May. The F.22B was certified
in December. The F.22R and F.22C Sprint will be certified in
April. Thus, in an eleven-month period, Stelio Frati and his
tiny company has certified four separate aircraft with
the RAI and FAA.
Making a sow's ear from a silk purse. Sukhoi has
announced that it plans to produce an agricultural version
of its Su-29 aerobatic machine. They're going to take the reigning
ultimate aerobatic aircraft, capable of phenomenal roll rates
and impossible maneuvers, and turn it into a spray plane. The
new Su-38 will have a new, larger wing with winglets, an underwing
spray bar, and a raised rear cockpit. How're you gonna keep them
in Paree once they've been down on the farm?
Telling it like it is. "It's a bird! It's a plane! It's
a flop!" screams the headline of an article in the May 2
issue of Fortune wherein Alan Farnham says what no aviation
writer has (or is permitted to by the publisher).
The article is filled with wonderful quotes: "If the
American Marketing Assocation were ever to carve up a mountain,
Rushmore-like, commemorating misbegotten things, Starship would
be there, next to New Coke and the Edsel." "Because
aviation writers are polite, and because they know Beech deserves
great credit for having faced so daunting a challenge, trade
magazines have hesitated to say how Starship -- as merchandise
-- has fared. Let me help: It's a dud. A fiasco. A Little Bighorn
On the airplane's weight, which "spiraled upward, gaining
On the cost, claimed to be $350 million, "If Beech, instead
of fabricating Starship from advanced composite materials, had
instead used $1,000 bills laminated three-ply, it literally could
have built all 53 airplanes for $300 million and still had $50
million left over for monogramming, ashtrays, and a lifetime
supply of in-flight nuts." Others say the cost is more like
Consider the glass panel. "This instrument panel, developed
at a cost of $25 million, uses 14 TV screens in place of mechanical
gauges to display information in a palette of colors that includes
magenta. Imagine yourself flying an Amana Radar Range, and you've
"Starship will be remembered as, if nothing else, aviation's
version of No new taxes."
The perfect life for airheads. Steve Wilkinson
was recently in the Bahamas, doing an article for one of the
boating magazines on a brand of inflatable rubber boats. Because
they were also shooting some photography for some advertisements,
there were a couple of models along. One morning, Steve was having
breakfast with one of these young lovelies, and in such circumstances
he always mentions that he is married. Steve mentioned that Susan
is a fanatic about working out. To which the model batted her
eyes and said, "Ah, in the perfect life, all I would ever
do is work out and groom."
fault. Three years ago, a Christen Eagle crashed into one of
the lakes outside Las Vegas. According to the accident reports,
it appeared to be a couple of guys flying in hot-and-high air.
They were doing aerobatics over the lake and managed to fly it
into the lake while coming out of a loop, hitting the water at
a 30-degree nose-down angle and killing both men on board. The
accident investigation revealed nothing wrong with the plane
at the time of the crash. However, the other day one of the relatives
filed a suit against Christen Industries (now a shell corporation)
and Lycoming blaming the accident on, if you can believe this,
"unspecified design defects". Nah, that's not irresponsible
The FAA has announced its intention to crack down
on the numerous 'co-build' shops that have sprung up recently
to assist 'builders' of high-performance aircraft, where in fact
the aircraft are simply custom-built for a fee. The first aircraft
to be affected will be the BD-10 jet, where the Nevada company
Fox 10 has ten BD-10 kits under construction. This is actually
nothing new with the FAA; there have always been builders who
hire assistants and no one has ever gotten excited about that,
but any time you set up a shop that starts to look like an assembly
line, the FAA is going to put you out of business. This happened
a number of years ago with a shop multi-building Midget Mustangs,
and it's going to happen now with shops turning out BD-10, Questairs,
and the big-iron Lancairs and Glasairs.
Plastic bashing from the sea. Looking for another reason to
hate plastic? According to an article in the New York Times,
most of the 14 fiberglass boats in the 32,000-mile Whitbread
Round the World race have experienced an "insidious threat-weakened
hulls that start flexing like the sides of a child's swimming
The race is being called the "delamination derby"
because of problems with the hull materials with many of the
yachts. Famed yacht designer Olin Stephens says there is always
an "ignorance factor. The materials change all the time,
and the way they're put together makes a difference."
Much of the problems are being caused by cracks in the foam
core, and when the problems set in, the crews improvise by tearing
apart their bunks, salvaging bed pipe frames to brace the interior
walls of the boat. We're talking about million-dollar boats here,
being sailed with pipes and frying pans bracing the hulls.
One year ago Dr. Ing. Alfredo Scoti caught holy
hell from the Glasair folks for his article, "Lite Engineering
and the Myth of Simplified Certification", in which he questioned
the amount of engineering that goes into a typical kitplane.
Scoti recommends reading "Flight Instructor's
Nightmare" in the June 1 issue of The Aviation Consumer,
dealing with the failure of the AN-4 (1/4") axle retention
bolts on the Glasair III, about how qualified engineers agree
that the bolts will fail at a landing impact of approximately
3 Gs -- a typical dining-room chair is stronger than that --
and that Stoddard-Hamilton has a "new structural analysis"
which indicates a redesign.
Good grief. The tension loads on the axle retention
bolts is the simplest sort of calculation that any freshman engineering
student can do in a few minutes. When Dave Thurston designed
the Sequoia 300 landing gear, he used two AN-6 (3/8") and
two AN-5 (5/16") bolts for a two-seat airplane of equal
engine power. This bolt selection, he says, "will take anything
that the axle or wheel will take", and it is considered
a standard installation for aircraft of this class -- indeed,
the brakes come from Cleveland have bolt holes for these size
All this suggests that the engineering was not
simply performed inaccurately, but that it was never performed
In a news conference, the emotional Scoti rapped
on his chest with a clenched right fist and said "It make-a
me very angry to hear about-a this. I don't-a get it. Tell-a
me again why I'm a horrible person for suggesting that there
is lite engineering in the kitplane field."
|Back to the future.
During 1946-49, the Czech company Aero license-built the famous
Bücker Jungmann biplane. They're at it again, producing
brand-new Jungmanns (which they call C-104's) complete with locally-built
inline-four Walter Minor engines. There's also an option for
'firewall aft' airframes for owners who wish to do their own
Yes! Three cheers for the EAA, which has just announced
the EAA Flight Advisor program. Flight Advisors are a corps of
volunteers who will assist aircraft builders and restorers in
conducting adequate self evaluation of their piloting skills
and to develop an appropriate flight test program. This answers
a crying need and addresses a long-time problem where builders
of aircraft feel compelled to fly their own creations, despite
a lack of understanding of the principals of flight testing and
the dangers involved. The accident rate for pilots with less
than ten hours in type is simply gross, and this is a very good
way to address the problem. Fantastic stuff.
|Two years ago,
the Italian gummint instituted a ludicrous tax on aircraft. The
airplanes are taxed by weight alone-age or value has nothing
to do with it. The result is that the annual tax on an old Cessna
320 is $35,000 a year, the same as the value of the plane. How's
general aviation doing in Italy, in a country where avgas goes
for $8.00 a gallon? Well, two years ago there were 352 corporate
jets in Italy. Today there are 27.
OSHA wants you to know. Our own Department of Labor
Occupational Safety and Health Administration has determined
that there is a sufficient workplace safety issue raised by the
presence of certain amounts and types of wood dust that our plywood
suppliers have been required to issue a Material Safety Data
Sheet and a caution label on wood dust. It says, "Sawing,
sanding or machining wood products can produce wood dust which
can cause a flammable or explosive hazard. Wood dust may cause
lung, upper respiratory tract, eye and skin irritation. Some
wood species may cause dermatitis and/or respiratory allergic
|Friends of ours
adopted a girl at the age of two months. Now in the second grade,
the girl is just learning that she's adopted. Riding along a
back road with her mother, she was taking it all in. "So,
I was never in your tummy." "That's right," said
her mother. "Okay, now let me see if I've got this straight",
the little girl said, very carefully and deliberately, "somebody
else had me... but they couldn't afford to keep me... so they
gave me to us."
Jim Baugh's Sequoia 300 was badly damaged in August
after a precautionary landing on a gravel road near Gillete,
Wyoming. Jim reports that he got caught in a squall line and
was unable to find any clear air over the hills to the Sheridan
airport. He landed safely on the gravel road, but a 40-knot crosswind
pushed him into the ditch. The left gear collapsed and then the
airplane spun around, shearing the nose gear axle off and damaging
the right gear, engine mount, propeller and buckling the left
wing. Jim is not sure if the aircraft is repairable or even if
he wants to try.
engine was one of those affected by the Chevron contaminated
fuel incident of this summer. The engine is now back at Lycoming
for a complete rebuild. The incident, which reportedly will cost
Chevron $40 million, is bizarre in that Chevron has, if anything,
gone overboard to take responsibility, meanwhile Melvin Belli
-- to Larry Black's disgust -- is filing a class action lawsuit
Cecil Rives's highly modified removable flightline pass.
The Bracelet Menace. Once again the dark, storm
clouds of controversy hang over the EAA. Angry voices are heard,
suspicions abound, and members threaten to quit. Some say they'll
never come back to Oshkosh again. Petitions are circulated and
signed by scowling men and then marched into EAA offices and
presented in fierce defiance.
And the cause of all this concern and anger? Why
it's the bracelet, the most horrible and awful of things to descend
on Oshkosh in years. In years past, the flight line pass was
a paper luggage-tag on a string. This year they went to a bracelet
worn on the wrist. The daily pass was a colored paper band. The
weekly pass was a plastic, hospital arm band affair firmly held
on your wrist with a rivet. When the show was over you cut it
What caterwauling there was about this plastic
band! People were threatening to go home and never come back.
Members were threatening to quit the EAA over it. Someone had
a petition that they were circulating, protesting this thing.
One couple reported that they scratched themselves while making
love. Always the clever mechanic, Cecil Rives devised a little
bracelet modification with a ring terminal so he could take it
off at night. Kitplanes editor Dave Martin said he still
had the bracelet on when he got back to California, and the receptionist
at his office said, "My Lord, Dave, what happened to you!"
when she first saw the 'hospital' bracelet.
One woman said the band gave her a rash. This led
to the Bracelet Riots on Friday evening, when a beleaguered Tom
Poberezny was pinned against a wall by the irate crowd and was
heard to say, "Unfortunately we didn't have the luxury of
testing the new bracelet before we put it on the market. We had
to stay in business. We had to keep selling tickets." Just
kidding on that last one, but you actually had grown men with
huge astronaut watches on one arm crying like babies about the
agony of wearing a nearly weightless band on the other arm.
The problem with the tag-on-a-string is that you
can pass it over the fence, something you can't do with a bracelet.
The result is that more people buy tickets and the numbers are
significant. Tom Poberezny says it's hard to pin down exactly
what the bracelets did, but he guesses that the additional revenue
is somewhere in the range of $100,000 to $125,000. Any way you
cut it, that's a significant amount. Tom said that most of the
complaints were in the first few days and all were about the
plastic weekly band that you couldn't take off, (next year, they're
going to issue a series of paper bands) and since Oshkosh he
has received 15-20 letters about the bracelets. "Some people
really lay it on, and it's no fun to stand there and listen to
the complaints, but they deserve to be heard. When people said
that they were going to quit the EAA over this, all I could think
was: Where had we failed them that such a little thing would
push them over the edge?"
Why general aviation is not going to hell. 1993 was an awful
year for everyone in general aviation and kitplanes as well,
but from everything I can see, it all hit bottom back in October
or November. Since then, there's been a significant increase
in plans and kit orders here, and everyone else I've talked to
says the same thing.
The EAA's revenues at Oshkosh were up $700,000 over the previous
year, and everyone reports increased interest in aviation. Product
liability and litigation-a problem for society and not simply
aviation-is now seen by a majority of people as a gross excess,
and I think the tide will turn because of this attitude.
The first good news is the Statute of Repose, just signed
into law and which limits liability for aircraft manufacturers
to 18 years. Cessna's president, Russ Meyer, says it's the most
significant thing for aviation since the Wright Brothers's flight.
He knows the cost of litigation better than anyone else, and
is easily the smartest man in aviation today. Cessna will put
piston singles back into production, and this will spill over
We now have lightweight starters. Unison just introduced a
certified electronic ignition system. Aircraft batteries are
better. New and better oil filters are being introduced. Falcos
and many other high performance kitplanes offer superior performance,
looks and handling over anything we've had before, and you can
work on them yourself.
We now have two magazines devoted to the care and maintenance
of aircraft by the owners. Tom Poberezny is doing a phenomenal
job of transforming the EAA into a mainstream organization. By
a huge margin, our navigation systems of today are better than
anything we've ever had-today you can buy a hand-held GPS with
a moving-map display for around $1200! -- and the next ten years
will see phenomenal advances in avionics and flight controls.
Yes, things are still expensive and the economy is not yet
booming, but I think we've hit a long-term bottom in general
aviation and things will improve slowly from here on out.
Put down November 5 on your calendar for the 14th
annual World's Only Oyster Fly-In and Gathering of Stelio Frati
Aircraft at Rosegill Farm, Urbanna, Virginia. This year's special
invited guest of honor is none other than Libya's Col. Mu'ammar
Qadhafi, whose air force owns 190 SIAI Marchetti SF.260's. Look
for Col. Qadhafi's tent compound to the side of the runway. Following
dinner on Saturday night, Col. Qadhafi and Al Aitken (who once
bombed Libya-President Reagan made him do it) will have a big
hug and make up.
|What to wear when
you take dollies up for a ride in your Falco. Keep an eye out
for Steve Wilkinson and his Falco in a late January issue of
the Sunday Times magazine, included with the New York
Times newspaper. They're in the Fashion section, where Steve
and four models display the latest in spring fashions in a full
spread photo. Apparently this feature of the Sunday Times magazine is considered to be more important than the cover of Vogue, and models will kill to get in the photo. Steve
said they arrived with a 'location van', a converted bus and
about 20 people were involved in the process of getting the models
made up and their hair done. The entire process took four hours
in bitterly cold weather.
Calendar girl. Get a copy of the EAA's 1995 'World
of Flight' calendar featuring Bjoern Eriksen's Falco. It's the
June airplane, and appropriately so because June 15, 1995 is
the 40th anniversary of the first flight of the Falco.
|Next time you're
tempted to blame everything on lawyers and insurance companies,
consider the plight of the insurance company covering the owner
of the airplane that taxied into Pawel Kwiecinski's Falco. The
elevator and rudder were rebuilt by a shop in Alexandria, Minnesota,
that specializes in wood aircraft repairs. They're right across
from the Bellanca factory, and their work came to $6,000, including
the kit parts purchased from us. No complaint on that from the
insurance company, which is used to paying a premium for one-time
repair work. The problem, however, was about the painting. A
guy did the job at night, and on a time-and-materials basis.
He did a beautiful job, everyone agrees, but there's just this
wee little problem about the cost. In all, it came to 296 hours
of work, all itemized and accounted for, and at $35.00 an hour,
that comes to $12,827. The insurance company is in agony. You
get the idea that someone is getting hosed here?
NASA is always spending money on futuristic things,
few of which ever have any practical use, but then that's not
necessarily the point of it, is it? The latest scheme, being
cooked up jointly between NASA and Stanford University, is a
supersonic flying wing. Imagine a flying saucer stretched to
a long elliptical shape, with a tilting rudder at each end. It's
sort of a surfboard, 400 feet long, that takes off like the average
mad scientist's flying wing, but as it approaches supersonic
speed, it turns to an oblique angle-a one-piece swing-wing where
only the rudders move. The really crazy thing about this thing
is that it's not so crazy after all, being a simple mechanical
design utterly reliant on computer-assisted controls. Who knows
if this thing will ever see production, but at least NASA is
keeping the readers of Popular Science amused.
Urbanna Oyster Festival, authorities reported finding an intoxicated
yellow labrador dog passed out on a curb on Saturday. "Someone
had been feeding him beer. You could smell it on his breath"
reported Sheriff Lewis Jones. The young dog was taken to the
firehouse where he recovered. "We fed him a little bit and
walked him around, and he was all right," said Jones. The
authorities returned the hungover dog to its owner, who said
she hadn't seen him for two days. Also on the Urbanna front,
following the publication of our press release in the local paper
about inviting Col. Qadhafi, there was a minor uproar in town
about inviting undesirables to the area, and some of the citizens
raised the subject at the town council meeting.