CHAPTER 69 - Visitors

Since moving out to the airport, I’ve met a number of pilots and mechanics.  It’s been nice to get advice and, as it turns out, vital.  Unfortunately, I seem to be the only RV on the field, so imagine my excitement when I spotted this nice RV-10 on the ramp.  I left my card on the baggage door and the pilot was nice enough to call me when they were going to depart.  Micah (I hope I’ve spelled it right) is based out of the LA area and they were just passing through, but it was a nice bit of information.

The only other active builder on the field has this nearly completed Lancair Propjet.  I’ve helped him install his engine, learning tons about turbo-props, and assisted in all kinds of things from IFR certification to taxi-testing.  He’s turned right around and helped me back; not only are we in a symbiotic building assistance relationship but he’s turned into a good friend off the field too.

Then there’s the kind of person you hope you won’t meet.  I’ve been working on my own so long, I decided to get a Technical Counselor in to look things over.  Now, I know I’ve made mistakes but everyone who’s looked at the plane has been positive, including a former member of Vans prototype shop who made a lot of constructive comments on things I should take care of or do differently. (By the way, I’m not mentioning names until I get permission.  At least one person mentioned will probably never give me that permission, as you’ll see.) So I locate the nearest TC and arrange to have him look at my project.

Well, I should have guessed I had trouble when he arrived.  He’s under the impression that I want help designing my panel and wastes no time informing me that his engineering fees are high.  When we get the misunderstanding straightened out, he heads over to my plane and immediately concentrates on the dinged rivets.  Unacceptable.  What he wants me to do is either cut out an replace the areas with circle patches (requiring tools I cannot get my hands on) or drill out and replace the skins entire.  When pressed, he admits they aren’t structurally a problem but that they show generally bad workmanship.   I’ve tried to include pictures of my generally riveted skins along with some of the problem areas.  It’s difficult to take good pictures of this, but I know that I dinged the skins a few times; when I was learning to rivet I was horrified at the dings but my teacher said they wouldn’t be a problem.  So, you can imagine how this guy’s verdict rocked my confidence.

The next day he called me and said he wanted to have a face-to-face with me, so I drove to his town thinking maybe he’d reconsidered.  Instead, he sat me down, reiterated how bad my work was, said I was “mechanically uninclined”, and advised me to dump the project on Trade-A-Plane.  I asked why no one else had said anything and he guessed no one had wanted to discourage me.  Still, it didn’t feel right.  While most of the people who’d viewed my project weren’t builders themselves and were very casual acquaintances, somebody should have said something.  Despite that, he was supposed to be the expert and I had to be sure.  So I started looking for second opinions.

Fortunately, I was quickly introduced to several A&Ps and builders.  They listened to my story, looked at my project (with me showing them my worst flubs and errors), and unanimously said, “Horseshit!”  At the time of this writing, two builders and five A&Ps have inspected my work.  One, an IA, suggested I fill with Hysol instead of just Bondo, because that would be strengthening to the dinged areas and should prevent any cracking from ever occurring.  As you can see from the last photo, I’ve tried it on the worst spots but I think I’m pretty much over it now.

The real lesson here is that you can’t always trust experts.  Use your own judgment and get a second opinion if it seems reasonable to you.  I haven’t been fishing for people to tell me I’m doing great work (in fact, no one who’s checked my riveting has said that) but if everyone else had agreed with the TC, I’d have had to reassess my project.  Fortunately, I seem to be doing acceptable work and so I can continue despite being scared out of my wits for awhile there.  On the plus side, I’ve learned a lot about riveting and fixing rivet problems.