Seen at Mojave

Walking the 2017 Mojave Experimental Fly-In ramp

Pre-event publicity for the 2017 Mojave Experimental Fly-In was low-key this year, but that didn’t stop a healthy crop of experimentalists to buzz in for this popular meet-and-greet gathering. Perfectly CAVU, windless weather helped as well.

As always, the 4-hour long MEFI was easy, casual and devoid of commercialism. There’s no public-address system, no aerobatics, no airport closures and no hassles, just a group of aviators ready to check out other’s handiwork and meet the people behind the magazine stories and forum banter.

This year much of the focus was on Bill Beaton and his supercharged Harmon Rocket II. Fresh off our feature story in the May 2017 issue of KITPLANES, Bill, crew chief Ralph Inkster and the red Rocket made the long trip down from western Canada to catch a little warm weather and spread the good word on supercharging Lycoming 540s. Beaton and Inkster have been very open to discussing the details of the supercharged Rocket.

A willingness to de-cowl, standby and answer questions is one reason Bill Beaton’s Rocket got the star treatment at Mojave. With its stock airframe and Vortech supercharged 540 Lycoming the Rocket taxis softly and carries a big stick. The combination qualified at 282 mph last year at Reno; pretty good for having the gear out in the breeze.

 

Bill Beaton spent the day answering questions at Mojave, and with his electronically controlled, supercharged 540 he had plenty to talk about. Here he’s demystifying his CPi ignition controller.
Ralph Inkster crew chiefs Beaton’s Rocket and was on hand at Mojave as well. Instead of squeezing into the Rocket’s rear seat he flew a stock RV-8 he recently helped complete for owner John Cardiff to make it a flight of two.

Distant as Canada may be, Bill and Ralph likely didn’t get the long-distance award. That distinction, while not officially observed, more likely went to Jim Davis who came all the way from Ayden, North Carolina specifically to attended the Mojave gathering. Davis even shipped his project engine, a repurposed 3-cylinder Honda outboard unit, which he’s still developing as a logical replacement for the now defunct Rotax 2-stroke offerings.

The Sanders family (think Reno Unlimited racer Dreadnought) also drew a crowd with their twin RC-jet powered Schweizer.

Even with jet power it’s tough to taxi a Schweizer 1-26B so after a few low passes Tyler Sanders had to walk in his college senior project to the ramp. Along with brother Chad and mainly moral support from dad Brian, Tyler was after a self-launch glider. It gets off the ground in about 600 ft and climbs at 400 fpm; it flies on one engine and full-throttle with both jets is not sustainable because of the glider’s stately 103 mph Vne.

 

Like Jetman Yves Rossy the Sanders’ Schweizer is powered by Jet-Cat P200 RC model engines—but Rossy uses four and the Sanders make do with just two of the $5,000 kero-burners. The engines are angled slightly outward to avoid burning the Schweizer’s tail group with their searing exhaust. The numbers are what you’d expect when running fuel through a siren: 112,000 rpm at full chat, 91,000 rpm cruising and, gulp, 13 gph per engine.

 

Very trick is the all-mechanical engine retraction system the Sander’s developed. Seen here in mid-stroke, the system requires only one lever movement to open the engine door, swing the engine assembly into (or out of) the fuselage and close the door. The spring-assisted operation is simple and fast.

Friday night saw the 3rd Annual Indoor Free-Flight Event sponsored by the Tehachapi Crosswinds RC club and the Mojave Air & Spaceport, not to mention the model airplane kits provided by Brubaker Models for the build-and-fly competition. This is always a fun event with the sort of free-flight model airplane traffic that would give an AirVenture controller hives.

Saturday evening sees the awards dinner in the same spacious Stu Witt Center the model airplanes barnstorm on Friday night. Dick Rutan was the featured speaker, and Andrew Angellotti was named Experimenter of the Year for his Spingarage air data probe (as featured in the October 2016 issue of KITPLANES).

Mantra for the Mojave Experimental Fly-In is Design. Build. Test. with awards for each category. The Beaton/Inkster duo took the Design award for their supercharged Harmon Rocket effort while Brian, Tyler and Chad Sanders made the Build award a family affair for the jet-powered Schweizer 1-26 glider. The Test award was given to Jake Riley for work with his Danger Jet L-29 Delfin Reflight. There’s also an Effort award as the MEFI culture celebrates initiative and effort, even when the results disproved the stated goal or for works-in-progress. This year Effort went to Jim Davis for his Honda Outboard Motor conversion.

Jim Davis makes a point regarding his Honda BF50-based 3-cylinder engine conversion. Still in development, Jim is aiming at 60 hp and 130 lbs including the belt-drive reduction to give 2-stroke Rotax owners and LSA builders a new engine alternative. He’s added dry sump oiling, a Toyota Prius electric water pump and “a Weber carb for simplicity.” The Honda redlines at 6300 rpm with Jim specifying 6000 take-off rpm and a 5500 rpm cruise. These are the same numbers the engine runs in a boat—it comes from an outboard. See Jim’s Honda Outboard Motor Conversion on Facebook for more.

 

Tom Siegler is a MEFI regular and previous award winner for his Cosmic Wind restoration project, but with that project on hold, he’s distracting himself with this 215 Oldsmobile V-8-powered Wittman W-10 Tailwind he picked up for something to fly. He reports, “cooling, carb and ignition are all new fields of endeavor” so he’s been logging plenty of shop time. The direct-drive V-8 clocks 185 mph at 3100 rpm; cruise is more like 175 mph.

 

Now this is high desert experimenting: scrap wood and duct tape. It’s also darn effective. Siegler says his Tailwind gained 14 mph with just the addition of these quickie gear leg fairings. Note that in the photo the lower portion of the fairing is missing due to recent work.

 

We didn’t meet the owner of this bright Tailwind, but thought the combination of dozer yellow paint and limo-dark window tint somehow appropriate as we squinted under the mid-day Mojave sun. The windless, warm weather was ideal.

 

There’s precious little stock on the Mojave ramp, including old Piper Cherokee 140s. This one toils at the Mojave-based Test Pilots School where it demonstrates other-than-aileron roll control thanks to a forest of yaw-inducing panels and spoilers. The tufts no doubt lend visual witness to what’s going on.

 

Things are so low-key at the MEFI it’s tough to know where the money comes from, although this banner in front of the Controller airport café identifies many around the Mojave Air & Space Port as the good guys.

 

Canards may be the national bird of Mojave but Mike Clearance cruised in his Marquart Charger so we wouldn’t be the only biplane at MEFI. Clearance has owned the Charger three years; we’ve owned the blue Starduster in the background five times longer but still don’t have it half as nice as the Charger.

 

Dave Anders, king of speed to the RV-4, was on hand, although we missed talking to him to find out what’s new.

 

Patrick Fagan did a stint dropping retardant so he comes by the paint on his Bearhawk honestly. Hopping over from nearby Pearblossom, the Bearhawk is 540-powered and was Grand Champion at the Copperstate Fly-In in 2003.

 

If there was a stand-out type at Mojave this year it was the Harmon Rocket. A veritable squadron of the speedsters graced the Mojave ramp; this is just a few of those attending.

 

Speed is a strong undercurrent at the MEFI—as it should be—and the Doublered LLC registered Legacy certainly looked the part.

 

No doubt feeling the proximity of Hollywood, the Doublered Legacy has taken the registry obligation to the limits of creativity. The illusion is particularly effective in person and from a slight distance.

Tom Wilson

Tom Wilson is a professional magazine writer and nurtures an ongoing affair with all things internal combustion. His writing is most often found in automotive magazines, but aviation is his first love. Working as a line boy, he learned to fly while in high school, but still hasn't mastered the art of keeping a paper chart in an open cockpit.

One Reply to “Seen at Mojave”

  1. Was fun to visit Mohave and showcase our mods to the Rocket, but our prime reason for attending was to nominate and make presentation of the many recent innovations introduced in the SDS fuel injection/ignition systems and CPi ignition system (both utilized in Bill's Rocket). So we were happy to receive the 'Best Design of the Year' award on behalf of Ross & Barry of RACETECH INC (SDS manufacturers) of Calgary, Alberta, for their outstanding products & service.

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