November 11, 2009
July 26 - "Dude, I'm goin' to Oshkosh ... Can't believe it ... never been there ... heard about it, all right, but never been there. Now I'm flying in! In AOPA's Sweepstakes Bonanza! Can't be-lieve it, dude!"
No, that's not Tom Horne talking. Maybe 30 years ago my vocabulary would go something like that. Now I'm a 20-time veteran of EAA's AirVenture in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. I went to Oshkosh before they renamed it "AirVenture." So now maybe I'm a little more sedate about AirVenture. I think. At least right now I am. Things could change any moment, though.
No, this effusiveness is coming from the right seat of N2001B, where sits Lance Rudman. Lance is an installation mechanic at AS&T (Aerospace Systems and Technology), the company that fitted out N2001B with its TKS weeping-wing ice protection system. And it's only fitting that Rudman rides shotgun - heck, he's N2001B's first passenger! - on this flight. For the past couple of weeks Rudman, lead mechanic Tim Werner, and installation manager Jerry Davis have been slaving away on our V-tail, fitting it out with the TKS system's plumbing and laser-drilled titanium leading edge panels. The system's glycol-based fluid is pumped through those tiny laser-holes and the other external components of the system - a windshield spraybar and a propeller slinger ring.
No, this particular system doesn't confer known-icing certification on our coveted airplane (that would require a backup pump, and that would require a 28-volt electrical system, and this system is a vintage 12-volt setup) but it will give you some flexibility in the escape department should there be an inadvertent foray into icing conditions.
Anyway, after the weeks of installation came a mass of paperwork, most of which was completed in the 24 hours before departure. When it seemed reasonably certain that the airplane was imminently legal and the weather appropriate to our current, VFR-only status, Rudman was getting worked up, right there in the hangar. The 106-degree hangar, I should add. Heat index: 126 degrees.
"Oshkosh ... Oh, man." Things like that. So I sidled up to him and said something I'm sure he thought incredibly cocky, bold beyond imagination: "So why don't you ask your boss if you can fly up in the Bonanza?"
"Really? I mean, is it OK if I go - er, you wouldn't mind if I went with you?"
"Nope. Welcome to fly along. Go ask him. He may say yes, you know. And if he says no, well, you'll still go to Oshkosh, but in the company pickup truck, and it will take 12 hours!!" No, I didn't really say that last part, but within an hour old Lance had his answer.
Yes!!! "Oh, dude. This is great!" he beams from every pore. Then, "Oh, my wife'll kill me." He gets on the phone to his wife and starts telling her things designed to soften the cruel, unemotional aspect of a sudden, unanticipated departure for a week-long trip. I can't make it all out, but he's telling her about where some money is, thanks her all over the place, says more stuff, on and on, and when he hangs up it's Yes! She understands!!
Rudman packs in an hour and soon we lift off from the Salina airport's hideous heat, bound for cooler weather in Oshkosh.
We level off at 11,500 feet and I floor the thing, just like you're supposed to. Manifold pressure at 29 inches, 2,500 rpm, and a fuel flow of 15.1 gph. I'm running at 50 or so degrees lean of peak TIT (turbine inlet temperature), the CHTs are running a cool 360 degrees or so, and our groundspeed is 203 knots. We'll cover about 540 nautical miles and make Oshkosh in three hours flat.
"Let's try the TKS," I say.
"Sure, let 'er rip."
I hit the spraybar's pushbutton switch to prime the plumbing, then turn on the pump. Soon, fluid oozes out the wing and tail leading edges, then runs back.
"Neat. First time I've seen it work in flight," says Rudman, who's so accustomed to ground checks.
We had to cross a warm front on our way north. The Stormscope overlay on the Garmin 530/430's display screens kept us advised of some pretty awful-looking cells off our left side. Deviations were minor and by northeast Iowa we were on the cooler side of the front. No more 126 degrees for us.
In short order we're cleared to land on Oshkosh's Runway 36, and the Bonanza is tied down in its display area. If you're going to Oshkosh - er, AirVenture - or are already there, AOPA's booth and N2001B are in front of Hangar A on the west ramp, in spaces 164 through 166. It's the space with the red-and-white V-tail Bonanza out front, of course!
If you're at AirVenture, please do come by. We'll talk Bonanzas, lean-of-peak operations, Garmins, P2 warning voices, paint jobs, titanium leading edges, and panels. You'll be able to see the Sweeps Bonanza (that's what we call it around the office) and gawk at will.
Some of you already have. After several hours manning the Bonanza, I have seen the range of reactions. Some stare silently, as though the Bonanza might have extraterrestrial origins, or was a religious object. Others talk a blue streak - about Bonanzas they've owned, why'd we do this or that, you name it.
And in case you were wondering, the honors for the most often-uttered comments go to:
"Take care of my airplane."
"You can give it to me now."
"Where can I pick it up?" (At which point an adjacent gawker yells, "Waxhaw, Indiana, 'cause that's where I'm based!" But we'll deliver it to the lucky winner.)
And, "What do I have to do to win it?" The answer to that one is easy - just be a current member.
Before you ask, the answer is - no, that's not the final interior! The next step in the Sweeps Bonanza's refurbishment is a trip to Air Mod at the Clermont County Airport in Batavia, Ohio (also home of Sporty's Pilot Shop). There, the tattered, vintage interior will be ripped out and replaced with plush leather seating and other luxo touches.
I have to sign off now. My sunburn is getting pretty bad. This year I got the back of my legs really good, and I have to find my hat. Also, I have to help Lance buy a fan, a couple bags of ice, and 200 feet of extension cord. Then he can cool his tent in style. Daytime temperatures have reached the low 90s. That's no 126-degree heat index, but TITs (tent interior temperatures) can still get fairly uncomfortable. Not that Lance seems to care. I don't think he's come down from a low hover since we got here.
So until we meet at AirVenture - or in the next installation of these cyber-travelogs - I bid you farewell and safe flying.
Tom Horne Editor at Large AOPA Pilot magazine
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There is always more to see (and do) at EAA AirVenture than any one person can manage in a week.
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