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Arlington Fly-In Has That Summer Feeling

A great show with something for everyone

By Patrick Panzera, EAA 555743, ppanzera@eaa.org

If the success of this year’s annual Arlington Fly-In is any indication of what we might expect at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh, all I can say is hold on to your socks! It should be one great show!

This is the first event I’ve ever attended where it seems that the aircraft outnumbered the pedestrian traffic, and the aircraft parking seemed to be at capacity! I’m sure the numbers will prove my estimation to be grossly inaccurate, but it just had that feeling. Maybe it’s the infrastructure; maybe it’s that there were so many cool and diverse planes to see that I didn’t notice the people. The parking lot sure indicated good foot traffic.

Arlington

As with many fly-in reports, the weather always seems to be part of the headline, a lot of the time the report being negative. But I can’t see how the weather could have been any better for this year’s event. Looking in the dictionary under “severe clear,” you would find a photo of the 2010 Arlington Fly-In. If I could find fault with the weather at all, perhaps it could have been a few degrees cooler and the sun could have been less bright. The four little ventilation holes in my ball cap let in enough sun to burn four little spots on top of my bald head! Heat or sun aside, for flying in, it was about perfect. Departing Sunday morning was another story. As Saturday advanced, it started getting a little overcast with some high stratus clouds. By the next morning, the ceilings kept a few on the ground for several hours after their planned departure, but by noon it was back to clear skies.

Arlington
The deep blue sky was almost blinding, but it made for an awesome canvas to be written on with smoke from the air show planes.

The fine people who work hard to bring us this event year after year, administrators and volunteers alike, need to be applauded for creating a very diverse collection of attractions melded well enough that experimental aviation still remains king. Entering the gate, attendees were met with an array of light-sport aircraft, ultralights, and light experimentals.

Arlington

Arlington

Arlington

Those who chose to head east at the fork found themselves with the warbirds, starting first with the Replica Fighters Association displaying a Titan T-51 and a scale Nieuport or two, and ending up in a World War II camp with all forms of military vehicles and associated hardware, including an impressive display of small munitions.

Arlington
A beautiful example of a Thunder Mustang, built and piloted by Thomas Gaston and powered by a Falconer V-12, was on display at the Replica Fighters Association headquarters.

Arlington
Who’d thunk one could find WMDs at a fly-in?

Headlining the warbird area was a menacing Consolidated Vultee PBY-6A with its two Pratt & Whitney R-2600 “Twin Cyclone” engines towering above onlookers. At first glance it seemed clear that in addition to their main purpose of providing massive amounts of thrust, their secondary job was to sling oil on everything within the propeller arc, and when not running, to drip gallons of oil on unsuspecting individuals who neglected to notice droplets collecting into puddles on the ground below.

Arlington
A Consolidated Vultee PBY-6A Catalina with twin P&W R-2600 engines towered above Arlington attendees.

Those who went north at the fork were met by the homebuilts and show-worthy certifieds, which appeared to be dominated by canard aircraft since they had reserved group parking. There’s no doubt that despite those appearances, the RVs still remained king, but between the Sportsmans and the Glasairs, Glasair Aviation also made a fine showing. Which is to be expected since Arlington’s airport is home to this homebuilding cornerstone.

Arlington
The north as viewed about midfield, looking toward the entrance.

It was nice that the attendees could get close to the planes, but aircraft were still roped off to where they couldn’t inadvertently be damaged. I’m sure that owners appreciated being able to camp with their display aircraft.

Taking center stage and anchored by the newly constructed Red Barn museum was a dozen or so beautifully restored antique aircraft with a good complement of antique automobiles from the same era. From the way EAA Manager of Field Relations Ron Wagner described the project, it’s EAA through and through. “One person cut down the trees from his land, and a portable milling machine was brought in to cut the boards,” he said. “Then they were dried with fans. Volunteers put it together in four different sections. Since it’s located on airport property, the sections make it easier to move before and after the event. It’s really neat – all built by volunteers at little cost to the fly-in.”

Arlington
The outside of the barn is only part of the story. In addition to being a suitable landmark for this grassroots aviation gathering, its main function is to act as a museum of our aviation heritage, including homebuilding.

Arlington
A Pietenpol fuselage nestling along one wall of the Red Barn was a great example of both vintage construction methods and homebuilding at its finest.

Arlington
Early homebuilding almost always included automobile conversions. This Sessions Ford conversion was just one example.

The Red Barn is a part of the newly renovated Vintage Area, which features designs dating back to World War I. Vintage Day was Friday, July 9, where in addition to historic aircraft, there were also vintage cars and history reenactors in period costumes. Featured inside are items from the Skagit Aero Education Museum of Concrete, Washington.

Continuing away from the antiques, it seemed fitting that the oldest planes on the field were displayed adjacent to the newest in the light-sport aircraft display.

As usual, Canada was represented well; a good number of aircraft on the field sported “C” registration numbers. Appropriate recognition of our friends to the north was made when Oh, Canada was played with The Star Spangled Banner to open the air shows. Sea planes, tundra tires, and floats were also in abundant supply, including several aircraft vendors offering bush planes or conversions for certified and experimental aircraft.

Arlington
It almost began to seem that if an airplane hung around the Pacific Northwest long enough, someone would either fit it with tundra tires or floats. Nothing seemed off-limits.

Arlington
This Sportsman was on display with the camping gear that could easily fit inside.

Arlington
Turbines and tundra tires. Two items that you normally don’t hear in the same sentence, but at Arlington it seemed right.

Arlington
This poor Carbon Cub will need therapy after spending the week surrounded by planes that were substantially better endowed.

Other than a dozen or so VW engines and the massive V-12, the only automobile engine conversion I found was a Corvair installed in a highly modified KR2-S nicknamed “Goliath” that was decked in a blue camouflage paintjob. I wasn’t able to see all the planes in the general parking area, but I’m sure there were other auto conversions on the field.

Arlington
This scale replica of a Nieuport 11 sports a very clean and simple VW engine installation.

The Dead Grass Award will surely go to Paul Weston’s Sea-Era, a one-off flying boat. While most people have adapted water operations to aircraft, Paul essentially added wings to a boat – a fast boat at that.

Arlington
Paul Weston’s Sea-Era, a one-off flying boat, drew plenty of attention from Arlington visitors and was a leading candidate for the Dead Grass Award.

Arlington

Perhaps the most unique feature of Paul’s creation is the variable angle of incidence (AOI) mechanism he developed to take full advantage of the high stall angle of the lifting body. In short, the center section of the plane produces approximately half the lift, but it stalls at a higher angle of attack (AOA) than the outer wing panels. So at the highest AOA of the wings, the center section is hardly working. Paul’s answer was to lower the AOI of the wing to keep it from stalling while the AOA of the center section is increased. This way, while in slow-flight, the center section can be made to stall before the wings, leaving the ailerons in full control.

Arlington

Note the wing root fairing and the gaps above and below the leading edge. In this photo, the AOI has been lowered several degrees. If the gap above the leading edge was filled, the wing would be in the cruise configuration. If the AOI was lowered so that the leading edge filled the lower portion of the fairing, the wing would be in the landing or slow-flight configuration.

Arlington
The mechanism that makes it happen.

There’s so much to say about this plane that it deserves its own article, which it will get in the near future.

Arlington

Another contender is the BD-5B belonging to its builder and pilot David Mischke. The plane also appears in the What Our Members Are Building section of the current Sport Aviation issue. This is David’s second BD-5 and is powered by a four-stroke Yamaha snowmobile engine. Look forward to a feature article on this plane in a future issue of Experimenter.

The EAA spirit came to a head in one location. EAA Chapter 84 of Snohomish, Washington, unselfishly hosted a hands-on workshop where individual members brought their personal projects, or parts thereof, and worked on them while explaining to interested individuals all about the process.

Arlington

Arlington

Arlington

The various building techniques were well represented, from wood to composites, including aluminum and fabric. We have to tip our hats to these members who helped present homebuilding to those who cling to the other side of the fence, doing so in a relatable manner. The main way this workshop differed from most was that it wasn’t hidden away in the North 40 where only hardcore members who already drank the Kool-Aid could find it, but rather it was center stage where everyone from grandma to those riding on daddy’s shoulders could see that there’s no mystery to building a plane at home.

Making Plans for Next Year
My only real complaint about this event is the timing. With weather being the first concern, the Arlington Fly-In has to take place far enough into the year to make sure that winter is completely over, but not so late as to start getting into fall. This makes it roughly the same time as AirVenture, causing a lot of vendors and pilots to make tough decisions about attending one and not the other since they’re usually only about two weeks apart.

Dates for next year’s Arlington Fly-In are July 6 to 10, 2011.

For a list of Arlington’s award-winning aircraft, click here.

 
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