December, 2007

I would say the pilot and copilot are ready, but I'm just not so sure about that mechanic. N180JG, getting closer to test flying.

"Old Paint" snorts again!

I just watched Don O'Rourke's video of his initial engine startup in the Celerity he purchased from Beverly Glencross after Jim's death. It's a thrill to see N180JG come to life again, the only sad part being that Jim isn't here to take part in it. He would be proud. Don has been "going through" Jim's Celerity since he brought it home, cleaning out the cobwebs, fixing anything that needed it, repaint-ing the belly, and now trouble shooting all the electrical that was disconnected. After checking everything over, tying down the tail, turning on the ignition and opening the fuel valve, Don said that the engine fired right up and the constant speed prop cycled just fine with no visible leaks at this time. Further tests are necessary of course, but so far so good. Here is what Don had to say about his recent progress. (And I believe that I can sense some of the anticipation starting to build up on this project!) Email from Don O'Rourke: So is this Celerity going to be a blast to fly, or what? Don will love honing his new skills in this airplane. The advantage he will have is a whole bunch of flight instruction completed shortly before he begins flying the airplane. Usually it's the other way around, where a builder has spent so much time completing the project that in many cases he hasn't had any recent dual time. Celerity is not tricky at all to fly or land. The hardest part is just getting used to the fantastic performance that's offered and basically staying ahead of the airplane. It takes just a light touch, none of that ham-fisted stuff please! I have often told the story of my leaving Klamath Falls airport in a very lightly loaded Bonanza, and just a few minutes later having Larry Burton pull up beside me, grinning in his Celerity, at just a few thousand feet AGL. He had taken off after me, but the Celerity had easily outclimbed and outcruised the Bonanza, which was no slouch in the perform-ance department with just yours truly on board! Celerity. Positively thrilling. Good luck as you continue your familiarity with N180JG, Don. You will definitely gain an appreciation of this fine flying airplane!
Don O'Rourke will soon be experiencing the same delight Jim Glencross felt, landing his beautiful Celerity on this day! Who will be next?

Next? Who's next?

With a "first flight" once again approaching for the Glencross Celerity, the only question now is naturally, "Who's next?" I know there are several projects out there, Celerity and Marathon alike, that are getting closer and closer to their test flights. Gary Rene's and Mike Toft's airplanes come to mind, also Tom Allison's and Mike/Susan Patterson's, plus a few others here and overseas. The only thing is, I haven't heard any recent tantalizing predictions yet as to a date, or even a season, when we'll expect to hear the good news. And with winter slowing things down in the Northern Hemisphere where most of our builders reside, it begins to look like it will be awhile before another prop is turning. The problem is, as we all know, "When you're 90 per cent finished, you still have 90 per cent to go!" It seems the last 10 per cent goes so agoniz-ingly slow because everything appears to take about ten times as long as it should! We're all guilty of misplaced anticipation and an equal measure of over-optimism, I'm sure! Anyway--Keep the rest of us posted on your project's progress. We would love to have some more good news from you for the rest of our builders out there.


FAA may disallow those "too easy" kit airplanes!

Will new rulings send more builders to the wood shop? Or will they hurt homebuilding overall?

It looks like the FAA (our "Friendly Aircraft Administration") has finally seen the light and decided that "Enough is enough!" Furthermore they plan to do something about it, and I can't say that I blame them. Read on... In recent news releases, the FAA has made it clear they believe there are many "experimental" aircraft around that did NOT have 51 per cent of the work done by the builder. Contending that there have been, and still are, providers of fast-build designs who are circum-venting the intent of the regulations, FAA says many of today's fast-build kits simply flunk the homebuilt aircraft 51 per cent rule. Accordingly, the FAA has formed an Aviation Rulemaking Committee or "ARC," announced at the 2007 Oshkosh EAA Fly-In, who are tasked with evaluating the heart of our amateur built aircraft rules that allow us to build our own planes. I predict that, even if the rules themselves are not changed, either the interpretations will be changed, or (in my opinion) the rules will simply be enforced at long last!

Is anyone really surprised?

I can already hear the howls of those who are going to be affected by declarations that their fast-build aircraft are not "experimental." After all, many of these folks have been led down the proverbial garden path by companies who have knowingly made it too easy for their builders to complete an airplane without putting in the requisite effort, right? But whoa there! I also believe that many builders out there have purchased their fast-build kits with a full understanding that all of the really hard (time-consuming) work has already been completed on their kit. There's no way to sugar-coat that one. There are many builders and companies who, according to the FAA, are working in collusion. Before this is over we'll probably hear plenty of complaints, especially from those companies whose fortunes were built on playing loose with the rules. However, some (many?) builders are also going to end up suffering for their sins right along with the fast-build merchants. For example, what do you suppose is going to happen when the poor guy (no pun intended) who has about $100K sunk into his fast-build kit suddenly finds out it can't be licensed as an Experimental Aircraft? With the huge amounts of money involved, I bet we'll see some lawsuits. And I really hate that since we homebuilt airplane types generally enjoy the reputation of being a non-litigious lot. What's really scary is to contemplate the fallout if (horrors!) various airplanes out there, some all ready for their airworthiness inspections, cannot be approved because they have neither been built under a Type Certificate (like Cessnas et al), nor are they truly "amateur-built" per the FAA's rules. How will those be handled? Now this is where the Aviation Rulemaking Committee will earn its keep, by figuring out how to transition from the existing mess to a more orderly scenario. Adding to the morass is the fact that the FAA has some complicity in all this for not doing their job in the first place, by not enforcing the regulations that are already on the books. Why did they look they look the other way for so long, as the situation grew worse and worse?

Now what was that question?

At the lead-in to this article I posed two questions: "Will new rulings send more builders to the wood shop? Or will they hurt home-building overall?" Not knowing yet the fallout from the ARC's deliberations it is of course impossible to make any accurate predictions. But the FAA has already gone on record stating that some folks are trying to get around the rules, and the agency is now (finally) upset about it. Upset enough to state that they'll publish a notice in the Federal Register in early 2008 requesting comments on (I assume) how they plan to calculate the amount of construction that's being done by the builder after purchasing the kit and opening the carton, among other issues. In the meantime, I expect that both of my questions will be answered in the affirmative. Yes, I think there will be a slight increase in the number of builders headed for the wood shop. Those who are not comfortable with their builder skills are more likely to have had experience with woodwork than with the other construction methods. And to the second question I reluctantly have to say "Yes" again. The ranks of homebuilders overall will probably decrease by roughly the number of builders who are not willing to put forth an honest 51 per cent effort to build an aircraft, whether it's made of wood or anything else. In fact, depending on how "severe" the FAA interprets and enforces its rules, there could be a dramatic impact on the homebuilt aircraft movement overall, not just a little tremor.

"We" brought it on ourselves...

Over time it's been a snowball effect where a tacit understanding between thousands of too-eager builders and their too-accommodating kit providers has finally gotten to the point where it's attracting unwanted attention. (Doesn't that happen with almost every cool idea eventually?) Currently a "builder" can pay tens of thousands of dollars for a mostly-built airplane kit, and may even go to the "factory" for a couple of weeks to get a whole bunch of (compensated) help jump-starting his project. Or, the kit buyer might hire somebody else to build it for him and then claim that he is the actual builder. In either case, whatever is brought home on the trailer is something that you and I, your basically virtuous plans-built wood aircraft buffs, would have spent at least a year or two crafting in our shops. Let's face it. In the final analysis there's a real tiny percentage of flyers that actually has the capability to build an airplane. There's sort of a built-in cap on this thing--the only thing is, it's being screwed down tighter.

Please comment if you have something to say

The FAA, in announcing the planned pro-posed rulemaking in the Federal Register, indicated they will request comments. That's your (our) opportunity to make some input and hopefully bring reasoned thinking to this rulemaking. But think it through before you comment. After all, the entire topic of fast-build kits has some interesting aspects that we all should think about before we send in our comments. For instance, what about the 51 per cent rule? Where did that come from? Is the 51 per cent rule a good thing in today's homebuilding environment, or is it a negative? Should the number be 30 per cent, or some other number? Certainly a case can be made that the more an airplane is fabricated by professionals in well-equipped factories, the more likely there will be uniform, good quality construction overall making the resulting product safer and stronger. But then again if it's too easy for the builder, how can that builder actually know enough about the airplane's workings and construction to entitle him or her to the Repairman's Certificate so they can do their own maintenance and annual condition inspections? In any case when the Federal Register notice comes out there will be limited opportunity for comment. I urge you to check the EAA's web site ( at least weekly starting in January to stay abreast of developments. Read the proposed rule, especially the part where FAA says they are inviting comments. Then you can decide whether or not you want to become a commenter. Please remember to comment specifically on what the FAA requests--they generally ignore extraneous comments. Good luck!

A stupid December prediction:

"We hope that Professor Langley will not put his substantial greatness as a scientist in further peril by continuing to waste his time and the money involved in further airship experiments. "Life is short, and he is capable of services to humanity incomparably greater than can be expected to result from trying to fly. "For students and investigators of the Langley type, there are more useful employments."
(Comment from the New York Times editorial page of December 10, 1903, just one week before the successful flight at Kitty Hawk by the Wright Brothers!)