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Operation Rubidoux Sundown XVIII Victory!

Flabob open house

By Russ "Erbman" Erb, EAA Chapter 1000 Newsletter Editor, Operation Rubidoux Sundown XVIII Kommander

Russ Erb is the Newsletter Editor of EAA Chapter 1000 (Edwards Air Force Base, California). His writing style is very entertaining as is his perspective of EAA Chapter One’s open house on-goings that took place on the last Saturday of September at the historic Flabob Airport in Rubidoux, California.

As advertised, on September 25, 2010, the Flabobians of EAA Chapter One lowered their defenses and allowed unrestricted access to the Flabob fortress to all comers. Of course, this was a perfect time for the Project Police of EAA Chapter 1000 to perform our annual inspection of the Flabobians.
 
Attending the EAA Chapter One Open House is a long-standing tradition for EAA Chapter 1000. Back in 1992 the newly formed EAA Chapter 1000 hosted an airport barbecue and invited EAAers from miles around to join in the fun. A contingent of Flabobians from EAA Chapter One attended the event, stating that they were there “to see what those crazy people up in the desert were up to.” The next February, the newly organized Project Police of Chapter 1000 traveled the 70 or so miles to Flabob Airport to return the favor. During the banquet featuring Ray Stits and Paul Poberezny, many of the members of other chapters stood up and said where they were from and what they were famous for.

When it was our turn to speak, an unnamed Project Police officer (PPO) proudly proclaimed that Chapter 1000 has more zeros in it than any other chapter in EAA. Hyuck, hyuck. The following year, the trip to Flabob was officially named Operation Rubidoux Sundown, and though attendance hasn’t been possible each year, the number at the event has continued to be incremented. With the only difference between our two chapters being three zeros, and zeros are nothing, this pseudo-rivalry has been looked forward to each year.

Planning for this year’s operation was proceeding very well until someone realized that the crews of four of the five available assault aircraft were otherwise scheduled that day. The sole remaining Project Police Aerial Assault Vehicle left on the manifest was the RB-4 Combat Bearhawk, call sign Three Sigma, or, if you prefer, 3σ. Three Sigma was rousted by her crew from her cozy hangar at Storm Central around 0700 into the rising sun.

Flabob

After a brief breakfast of 100LL for Three Sigma, the crew took off and headed toward Flabob Airport (KRIR). Since there was no need to rendezvous with other Project Police Aerial Assault Vehicles, the staging stop at nearby Apple Valley Airport (KAPV) was deleted from the flight plan. A brief conversation with SoCal Approach followed, then Three Sigma was granted access to Flabobian airspace. We arrived fairly early and found a surprising lack of aircraft in the pattern, at least at first. As soon as we made our initial call for entering the pattern, the previously quiet radio woke up with at least three other aircraft all seeming to try to arrive at the pattern at the same time we did. Flabobian fighters? Who knows. One Bonanza did get on our six close enough that he had to go around because he didn’t leave enough time for us to get off the runway.

Flabob

After an adequate demonstration of landing technique by pilot in command (PIC) Erbman (including multiple touchdowns to count as additional DOE trials), the crew, consisting of Russ “Erbman” Erb, Satoka “Tuki” Hanaoka, and Tim “Tim” Brien, followed proper Project Police protocol by assembling in front of the airplane to have their photo taken.

Flabob

In fine coordinated Project Police fashion, reinforcements for the aerial assault crew were brought in by Project Police Ground Assault Vehicle carrying Hellmuth Steinlin, fresh off his trip EAA AirVenture Oshkosh with Clay Lacy in the DC-2.

Flabob

Three Sigma was originally parked next to the Caudron Racer, giving it a very cool spot. However, before we got the chocks fully in place they decided to move us across the taxiway to make room for the de Havilland DH.88 Comet. Oh, well. At least we got to park with other taildraggers.

Flabob

EAA Chapter One had the famous Chapter Hangar (no airplanes allowed) open for forums, including several automobile engine conversions hosted by Pat Panzera of CONTACT! Magazine, as well as Paul Lipps, renowned propeller designer.

Flabob
The Flabobians still haven’t gotten around to removing our brick from their Pioneer Plaza memorial. They must still be in dread. That or they think we’re really cool.

Flabob

We found world-famous EAAer Ray Stits, designer of the Stits Playboy, inventor of Poly-Fiber, instigator of the EAA Chapter program, and all-around good guy. He immediately proceeded to lay into Erbman about how his Chapter 1000 newsletter always arrived mangled by the Postal Service. He told us of how they turned the address page of the Chapter One newsletter upside down and that changed how the Postal Service handled it.

Flabob
Honorary Project Police Officer Ray Stits consented to being photographed with the Project Police Tactical Assault Force.

Flabob
Dr. Sam Puma taking a gander at Three Sigma

One of the forum speakers for the fly-in was Dr. Sam Puma, a former head of flight medicine at Eddy Air Patch and the inventor of the Puma Method for controlling motion sickness. Since he’s the proud owner of a Bearhawk kit, he took a few moments before his presentation to quiz Erbman about Three Sigma. Oddly enough, he admitted to having about three other homebuilt aircraft projects in progress at the same time.

Flabob

The Flabobians were doling out a pancake breakfast, so we partook of it to ensure they wouldn’t think their efforts were wasted. We were sitting in the shade because the temperatures were already north of 90 degrees on Mr. Fahrenheit’s scale.

Flabob

Apparently the Flabobians decided they would need some fighter support to suppress the all-powerful Project Police. Snoopy wasn’t available since he has a long-standing gig at Knott’s Berry Farm. Therefore they called in the Red Baron, or a Red Baron wannabee, with a Fokker Dr.1 (Dreidecker) triplane, presumably a replica, nicely built by Chuck Wentworth. It came with a radial engine in place of the rotary engine, nonauthentic brakes on both main gears, and tail wheel in place of the skid. (I’d make the same mods if it were mine.) I always find it entertaining on these triplanes the use of ax handles as skids under the wingtips, attesting to the horrible ground-handling qualities with the narrow landing gear on grass fields.

Flabob
The very nicely done cockpit of the Fokker triplane, complete with simulated machine guns.

Flabob
Tail of the triplane, with the very flat and rather large horizontal tail and the very small rudder with no vertical stabilizer. Apparently Reinhold Platz hadn’t figured out that directional stability thing yet back in 1917.

Flabob

This was an interesting case of a Lancair that appeared to have been fully painted and presumably flying at one time, but now the paint on the nose section and wing leading edges had been sanded off down to the fiberglass. No explanation for this was given. My first guess would be to repair some sort of extensive damage.

Flabob

The Flabob Express, a Douglas DC-3, was on display and open for tours for a small donation. According to an article by PPO Jon Goldenbaum in the EAA Chapter One WingNut newsletter, this plane was one of the 98 aircraft recently flown in to the Flight Test Nation Fly-In on Rosamond Lakebed at Eddy Air Patch.

A Few of the Other Planes Seen at Flabob

Flabob
This very nice Cub or Cub replica was sitting in front of the Chapter One hangar and next to the eating area.

Flabob
The aforementioned Cub came complete with period-correct cream-faced instruments. Wonder why those went out of fashion?

Flabob
On another Cub, Tuki pointed to what appeared to be drag-producing devices – little tufts of cord neatly tied to the step, serving no apparent purpose unless they were some sort of weird angle of attack gauge. This begs the question, could you notice the incremental drag of these cords on a Cub? Seems like it would be in the measurement noise.

Flabob

Since the Kommandant, PIC of the Fightin’ Skywagon, wasn’t with us, we filled in for him by drooling over this 1956 Cessna 180 which looked like it had just come from Wichita, Kansas, through a time warp.

Flabob
The panel of the 180 had been restored to look as good or better than new.

Flabob

Most interesting about this 180 were the brake fairings installed on the landing gear. The Kommandant insists that no Skywagon driver worth his avgas would be seen putting “wheel panties” over his tires. I wonder if these fairings are acceptable. I don’t know how many knots of cruise speed these add, but I bet the airplane feels faster!

Flabob

The Los Angeles American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) has moved its Wright Flyer project to a hangar on Flabob. I couldn’t really tell how close it is to being flyable, but most of the main parts seemed to be in place, including the destabilizing canard.

Flabob
This appeared to be a mockup for the propulsion system, complete with all of the bicycle chains.

Flabob
The engine in the propulsion mockup was most certainly not a replica of the original 1903 Wright engine. It looked a lot more like a Ferdinand Porsche VW engine. In any case, I’m guessing it has a little more than the Wright engine’s original 12 hp.

Flabob
The Wrights had apparently used the page from the Aircraft Spruce and Specialty catalog with the aircraft cable on it to wrap up a customer’s order, as all of the bracing wires and control wires on the aircraft are hard, rigid wires. Since hard wires don’t go around pulleys very well, they used a sprocket as a pulley and a short piece of bicycle chain to get around the corner.

Flabob
This is the recently completed Caudron racer, the latest to come out of the racer replica specialists at Flabob. Ray Stits told us this aircraft had recently been to France (source of the original racer) where it created quite a stir among aviation enthusiasts. The airplane looks very nice from the outside but is extremely simple inside. There’s not even a seat cushion for the pilot. Presumably this was one of those aircraft that the pilot wore a seat-pack parachute, not so much for safety as for a seat cushion.

Flabob
The Caudron landing gear door had a section at the bottom that folded up on the ground to give ground clearance. Upon inspection the actuation system was found to be incredibly simple. With the gear down, a torsion spring around the hinge holds the door open. Air loads probably help keep it open, too.

Flabob
As the oleo extends with weight-off wheels, the lower landing gear door moves down with the wheel. A cable attached to the upper gear door then pulls on the lower door flap, causing it to move to the closed position. Very clever and very lightweight.

Flabob
Other replica racers on display included the Schoenfeldt Firecracker. Famous Lockheed Test Pilot Tony LeVier flew the original.

Flabob
Tom “Mr. Flabob” Wathen’s de Havilland DH.88 Comet replica was towed out of its resting place and put on display. We suspect that it hasn’t been flying for a while as there was a definite lack of propellers under the spinners. Maybe that was so it would look like the engines were running as is done on some plastic models.

Flabob
Rob “the Tumbling Bear” Harrison had his custom Zlin aerobatic plane on display. He also hosted a forum about aerobatics.

Flabob
Skydive Perris brought out this Ercoupe-ish fuselage mounted on some sort of tricycle chassis. This sort of thing always look so cool in parades and a fly-ins, but the one thing that keeps me from designing and building one – where do you keep it the rest of the year?

Flabob
The interior of the Ercoupe-ish vehicle included a steering yoke (cleverly operable from either seat), a VOR receiver, and an AM/FM cassette deck. Also shown are a bunch of switches (some of which probably work) and fuse holders. No word if the microphone is hooked up to anything or actually works.

Around 1100 or so, we had seen pretty much all there was to see and determined that since they weren’t planning to flip burgers or anything for lunch, this seemed like a good time to depart. So we pulled the Combat Bearhawk out of its parking spot onto the hard surface and climbed aboard. As we were taxiing past the Flabobians, I glanced over at the OAT showing 100°F, which had something to do with why we were leaving (along with no wind). At this time, I realized I was about to execute another test point – I had never taken off and climbed at that high of an OAT, and it was already a challenge keeping this tightly cowled engine from overheating.

We took off and climbed about 2,000 feet, and the hottest cylinder head temperature was already up to about 440°F; I don’t like it approaching 435°F. Fortunately, at this point I had to stop climbing before I reached the bottom of the Ontario Class C airspace, since I hadn’t been able to contact SoCal Approach yet. I throttled back to hold level flight at reduced speed and this gave the engine time to cool down. By the time I had SoCal Approach on the horn, I was almost out from under the Ontario Class C and started climbing for the Cajon Pass.

Since the Flabobians weren’t serving lunch, our new plan was to fly up to Apple Valley (KAPV) and drop in to the airport restaurant. I tuned the radio to KAPV’s frequency about 1200, and before I could say anything, we heard a transmission stating that Apple Valley Airport was now open but would be closed again at 1230. I inquired as to why the airport would be closed. I was told that there was an air show in progress, and it was in the NOTAMs (notices to airmen), so I should have known that. Sure enough, it was in the NOTAMs, but I hadn’t looked at those since I didn’t expect to go to Apple Valley that day. While we could have landed in the window, I didn’t know how long the air show would go on, and I didn’t want to be stuck there until 1700 or something. Therefore, with a big left turn, we set course for Rosamond.

After another surprisingly adequate landing, we put Three Sigma back into the hangar. “Victory!” was declared, and Operation Rubidoux Sundown XVIII was closed out.

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