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EAA Experimenter

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From the Editor

Letters to the Editor

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

Pat Panzerz

In each issue of EAA’s Experimenter, we ask that you take a survey and tell us how we’re doing. There are three questions that ask what did you like about the issue, what did you not like about the issue, and how can we make things better. We use this information to tailor Experimenter to the reader’s wants and needs. In this month’s editorial, Pat Panzera addresses several of the more interesting comments.

The first question in the survey reads, “Was there anything in particular you liked about this issue of Experimenter?” The following is a short list of some very nice things said, all of which I’m very appreciative.

  • I enjoy the variety of subjects you cover on experimental aviation. Many times they offer affordable aircraft/systems or tools for the homebuilder. Thank you for a well-worth publication! 
  • I did not stop reading it until I finished every article in it. It’s one of those publications you want to read.
  • I like the detailed explanations of the items covered and the ability to pick and choose what I want to read more about. 
  • Addressing hot topic issues, such as (for instance) the impossible turn and the auto conversion engines.
  • Pat’s article on the construction of an intake and the Thatcher CX4 articles. 
  • 180-turn article – thought provoking and didn’t just repeat the same ol’ rubbish.
  • I was glad to see the use of the original EAA logo. Does this signify a return to something that “wasn’t broke”? 
  • …it was a nice mix of piloting technique, construction tips, individual projects, and some of the offbeat (the gorgeous scale model engines).
  • The Dragonfly rebuild. I like articles with what people are doing differently, not the same as everyone else. 

Okay, enough back-patting. Now onto the second question, “Was there anything in particular you disliked about this issue of Experimenter?”

  • It seems that Experimenter is designed around and for GA pilots only. 

Our primary focus is experimental aviation. Although people involved with Part 103 ultralights, powered parachutes, powered paragliders, etc., are all a part of experimental aviation, they would be better served subscribing to EAA’s Light Plane World newsletter. It’s everything Experimenter is, except the focus is more on Part 103, special light-sport aircraft (S-LSA), and all the light stuff not normally found in Experimenter. But in all reality, I try to bring something light to every issue – submissions are welcomed and encouraged!

  • Not enough articles!

I know! I feel your pain. It’s been difficult scrounging for the articles we’ve published. We just need the material. If the readers would just send us stuff, we’d be happy to publish it! But remember too, CONTACT! Magazine is a source of a lot of Experimenter content. Subscribing to CONTACT! would be an excellent way to read more about cutting-edge experimental aviation.

  • L$A and E-L$A are all too expensive for traditional EAAers. Experimenter used to be for Part 103 ultralights and budget experimentals. I built a JDT Mini-Max for under $3k. Nothing turns me off more than Experimenter pushing notions of $16k Lycomings, carbon composites, fast glass, GPS, and all the latest electronic gadgets that dumb down proper piloting skills. 

As previously stated, the lighter side of experimental is covered in Light Plane World, so in effect, the Experimenter of old has been splintered into two different e-publications, each serving very different aspects of experimental aviation. Those who opt to embrace the higher-priced (yet still affordable when compared to certificated aircraft) side of experimental aviation, who like to take advantage of the newest, lightest stuff around, are still experimenters.

The costs of building an aircraft can be a rather broad range. Builders spending $3,000 to $300,000 – we’re all cut from the same cloth. And as long as the plane was completely built by the builder for his own personal education and recreation (and not built by hired guns) and he brings some uniqueness to the process, offering something we can learn from, it’s fodder for Experimenter.

And along those lines, we’d love to publish an article on your $3,000 plane. If in today’s e-mail I receive an article on a Chevrolet LS1-powered RV-10, but I don’t receive one on a JDT Mini-Max, can anyone blame me for publishing the RV-10 article?

  • Too commercialized, like Sun ’n Fun. Go back and read some old issues! Tell more about scratchbuilts and homebuilts, even kits. Meet people that are scrounging; money’s funny nowadays. You better get used to it. There will be a lot of builders with not much to work with. 

I take a little offense to this one, as it almost seems that the reader didn’t read the issue. All the planes in the February issue (and every issue for that matter) are homebuilts. The majority of the featured planes in the surveyed issue are scratchbuilt, and all of them use automobile engines, or at least the designer supports auto conversions. Plus we featured a reprint of an entire back issue of Experimenter in that issue.

And the final question (and the one with the most interesting answers) in our monthly survey reads, “Are there any topics or articles that you would like to see in future issues of Experimenter?”

  • Well, you could always use more Sonex articles.

Interestingly, the Sonex article featured in the February issue wasn’t read by very many. EAA has a way to track how many times an article is read, and I’m assuming that the Sonex has become so mainstream and so well reported on that it’s lost its uniqueness. So unless the builder has modified his plane to stand out from the crowd in some way other than paint, upholstery, or panel, I don’t think that another Sonex article is what our readers really want to see in Experimenter. We’ll have to wait for the first Onex builder to report on his project before we feature another Sonex, I suppose.

Maybe there is a way you could help us with some of these requests. If so, please don’t hesitate to contact me at ppanzera@eaa.org.

  • Affordable flying, new technology, materials and designs, how-to articles with tips and tricks and homemade tools, what people are building, practical suggestions for rank-and-file EAAers on simple things we can all do to grow aviation. Overall a great online publication so far. Keep up the good work. 
  • Articles on minor fiberglass repair.
  • Continue to focus on homebuilding and the large amount of products available. I would say that not all can afford some of the popular kits and exotic support components. Keep up the good work and focus to keeping things relatively simple for the average person. 
  • All the finished experimental aircrafts are nice to see, but I really would like to see is much more building tips and more discussion on the performance of different homebuilts, comparisons of different instruments, glass panels, autopilots, props, batteries, should we stick with avgas or go with auto gas? I think you get the picture.
  • I would like to see an article on dead designs or near-dead designs for both plans-builts and kits. I think that would be interesting for new builders to know the difference and varying degrees of builder support. Also, an article on assuming another builder’s project or selling yours would be very interesting as well. 

The Mystery Plane feature each month is designed to showcase those “dead designs” (I prefer to call them “forgotten”) with the hope of bringing renewed interest to them.

  • How about an article about cheap aerobatic aircraft? Something you could fly Sportsman or maybe Intermediate, without mortgaging the house. 
  • Ultralight and sport pilot for the home builder.

Each month, we try to feature something that qualifies under light-sport rule, but it’s not easy to find ultralight material. Don’t forget to subscribe to EAA’s Light Plane World for your LSA fix.

  • More replica projects. 
  • Comparisons of kits that qualify LSA, Zodiac versus Sonex for example.
  • Pietenpols…the Gathering at Brodhead, Wisconsin 
  • More stories about projects under construction or in design.
  • I would like to see some new propeller designs. I am sure that some people have made some new designs for maximum speed and efficiency. 
  • More in-depth problem-solving issues. As an experimenter I like to see how other people solve their issues, to be able to learn different paths to solve problems.
  • Traditional homebuilts that made EAA great: Bowers Fly Baby, Pietenpol, Evans Volksplane, Heath, Smith, Pober. Perhaps articles on newer (post-1960s) designs such as Fisher, Team-Ison-JDT, Roger Mann’s RagWing series, etc. 
  • I’d like to see articles pertaining to aircraft for us taller individuals or how a homebuilt might be modified safely for larger and bigger pilots.
  • I would like to see articles on wooden construction.  
  • More about auto conversion, building techniques and hints, safety tips.
  • Motorglider and glider articles. 
  • More “how to” or “how it was done” articles. It is still an excellent e-magazine.
  • Setting and installing a basic VFR instrument panel. 
  • Reliability history of converted auto engines and propellers.
  • Electronic ignition – how to. Also converting auto fuel injection to aircraft engine – how to. 
  • Aluminum tube and gusset construction,  more on fabric, two-cycle engines, VW conversions, simple electric systems, information on strength of aluminum tube spars.

So there we go; you’ve spoken and we’re listening. But we can’t fill this order without some help from our readers. If you’ll notice, a lot of what’s being asked for is something that only those who are out there doing it can respond to – in other words, you.

So help us help your fellow builders. Write that article and send it in. If you can’t or won’t write, but maybe know where we can find those unique projects or other educational resources, let me know. Maybe you’d like to write but need some help? Just let me know!

Thanks!

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