Tales from the DAR Side
This year’s EAA convention at Oshkosh was memorable on a number of levels. First and foremost, of course, was the weather situation. Record rainfall in July made for some very unusual conditions all over the convention grounds. From airplane parking to camping to auto parking to vendors, everyone had difficult situations to deal with. But in the true EAA spirit, everyone pulled together and made the convention a great success. Thanks to all the amazing volunteers who went above and beyond in dealing with the challenging conditions. Without the volunteers, the EAA convention would not happen.
One of the major new features for homebuilders at AirVenture was the Homebuilders’ Hangar. This was located in what used to be the NASA building, now remodeled and rededicated as the new centerpiece of the homebuilder community at the convention. The hangar was used for a number of different functions, including the new “Homebuilts in Review,” in which an aircraft was actually brought into the hangar and the builder, designer, or other person related to the aircraft would talk about the homebuilt and then take questions from the audience. The Homebuilders’ Hangar also hosted a number of homebuilt-related forums and live presentations of Hints for Homebuilders, which proved to be very popular. The Homebuilders’ Hangar is the first of several changes you’ll see in the homebuilt area of the convention grounds. Stay tuned for more exciting changes at future EAA conventions.
The Homebuilders’ Hangar was my main focus during convention, so I didn’t have a lot of time to go out and look at aircraft. But, of course, when I did look at aircraft, I always had my DAR hat at least partially perched on my head. As I’m sure the DARs and EAA Technical Counselors reading this can attest, you just can’t look at an aircraft without your “inspector’s eye” catching anything that isn’t quite right.
One of the items that always catch my eye when they’re “not quite right” is N numbers. Whether you’re at the EAA convention, a regional fly-in, or your local airport ramp, you don’t have to look very to find aircraft displaying N numbers that don’t meet the specifications called out in 14 CFR Part 45, including some newly-manufactured aircraft. For some reason this particular part of the regulations gets overlooked by just about everyone, including our own U.S. government, as evidenced by the N numbers displayed on the brand new Quest Kodiak that belongs to the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.
While Part 45 does allow the N number to be displayed vertically on the vertical tail surfaces, this is definitely not what the regulation refers to. I could fill up my camera’s memory card with similar examples of non-compliant N numbers. What happens in the field when airplanes are painted or repainted is not within the DAR’s control, but a word to the wise, make sure your N number is within the regulation when the DAR or FAA inspector comes to perform your airworthiness inspection. You don’t want to have something as simple as that hold up your certification.
One thing that always shines through in the homebuilt area of convention is individual ingenuity, imagination, and craftsmanship. The quality of the aircraft displayed in the homebuilt area is generally outstanding, and there are some really neat ideas to be found. Builders are always stretching the envelope with new ideas. One “out of the box” idea that appeared at this year’s convention was the roadable Glasair Sportsman being displayed by Trey Johnson and his firm, Plane Driven. This is not a “flying car,” but rather an airplane that can be occasionally driven on the road. Here’s what the plane looks like in flying mode.
Notice the large pod between the main landing gear. Also notice the tracks that extent from that pod bad toward the tail. This is the heart of the ability to convert the airplane for road use. Here’s what it looks like in “road mode.”
As you can see, the pod (including the main landing gear) has been moved to the rear of the aircraft. Inside the pod is a small engine and transmission that powers the main wheels while on the road. The wings fold back and the outer portions of the horizontal tail fold inward. The control stick is removed and a steering wheel installed and, voila!, you have an airplane ready to be driven on the road. The plane is licensed as a motorcycle in the state of Washington, and has been tested both in flight and on the ground. Like I said, it’s always amazing to see what can spring from the inventive minds of the EAA homebuilders!
I’d like to thank each and every one of you who braved the very unusual conditions at this year’s EAA convention and flew your homebuilt to Oshkosh. Further, I want to thank all of our dedicated volunteers for their efforts. The event could not happen without those who fly their aircraft here and those who selflessly volunteer their time. Your fellow EAA members appreciate you all!
Planning is already underway for next year’s convention, and in the homebuilt area, we’ll continue to build on the success of the Homebuilders’ Hangar with more improvements and additions in the years to come. Hope to see you in Oshkosh for AirVenture 2011!