Dunham Makes the Most of AirVenture

It’s hard to say who was having more fun at comedian/ventriloquist Jeff Dunham’s show at AirVenture's Theater in the Woods on Wednesday night: Dunham or the overflow audience. Dunham, builder and pilot of several RotorWay helicopters, spent a few days at the show having a bunch of fun in the air.

He had a +8/-3 G session with aerobatic pilot and instructor Eric Tucker on Tuesday, and on Wednesday morning, he rode back seat in a P-51D Mustang piloted by Ed Bowlin during a multi-ship photo shoot. While waiting for the other planes in the formation to finish their photo sessions, he told the audience that he actually managed to catch a 45-minute nap in that classic warbird. “I call it the All-American nap. It was the greatest nap ever.”

Dunham was able to depart from his usual performance by playing to the EAA crowd, drawing laughs as the arm fell off one of his puppets, Achmed the Dead Terrorist. The puppet snapped back at him, “You’ve got duct tape, don’t you? You’re building a freaking helicopter!”

Dunham is the builder and pilot of a 1987 Exec 162, American Might, which is on display outside the RotorWay tent. The arresting paint scheme, designed by Scottsdale, Arizona’s Larry Vela of Dreamcatcher and Primal Fear prominence, depicts Army camo pulled back to reveal a rippling American flag. (The stabilizer features a campaign ad supporting grumpy Walter for President.)

Fascinated by helicopters since childhood, Dunham was hit hard by the building (and flying) bug: He announced to the audience that his next project will be RotorWay International’s new helicopter, the A600 Talon, which debuted at AirVenture 2007. The Talon is a comprehensive redesign of the previous models, incorporating requests from customers such as an all-glass cockpit and a backup FADEC system. The 162’s primary drive chain has been replaced by a heavy-duty cog belt to improve maintenance access and component longevity.

According to RotorWay staff, Dunham is a dedicated craftsman, determined to be the only builder of his new Talon, no matter how long it takes. The holder of the Repairman Certificate for his aircraft, he included his flying experiences in the pre-show video presentation: “You’re going 90 miles an hour 600 feet in the air—there is nothing better than this. When I’m flying, I like to go low. You can see the world passing by you—you can see everything. There’s nothing more fun than this.”

For more information, call 480/961-1001, or visit RotorWay International.

Batteries Not Required - Lightspeed Zulu:P

Lightspeed Aviation announced its newest iteration of the Zulu ANR headset—the Zulu:P. Running from panel power instead of two AA batteries, the Zulu:P uses the same six-pin LEMO connector as the Bose X. The elimination of the battery compartment lightens the headset a little from its original 13 ounces and keeps the "my batteries just died" rumble away. Given the capabilities of the headset, including a Bluetooth connection to cell phones and a wired interface for cell and music devices, consistency in power supply is an important feature.

How did the music demo sound at the booth? Nice. Really nice. The rumble of the hangar's noise pulled back to a blanket of blessed quiet. And the audio quality of Foreigner's "Cold as Ice" courtesy of the company's iPod was crisp and vivid. The headset itself was light and well balanced, with no uncomfortable clamping pressure or hot spots.

What happens if you lose ship's power? According to Lightspeed, the full coverage of the magnesium ear cups provides better passive performance than its plastic counterparts. (They sure look snappy, too.)

Lightspeed's Mark Shepard added that the Zulu:P had been announced before it became widely available, and the $900 headset, which has given the Bose X a run for its money, is available from the company's usual retail distributors such as Aircraft Spruce, Gulf Coast and Pacific Coast Avionics, and Sporty's.

For more information, visit Lightspeed Aviation.

Hangar B, Booths 2028-2032

Jump the Gun on Lightspeed's Trade-up Options

Lightspeed Aviation's upgrade and trade-up options are midway through their 2008 rollout. Option A is a direct rebate program that allows you to upgrade your existing Lightspeed headset for a new Zulu for varying percentages of your original investment.

The 30/3G and 20/3G trade-up program offer, with a cost to you of $350 and $450, respectively, is available when you mail in your original headset. The XL series (25XL, 20XL and 15XL/Mach 1 series) rebate will roll out in October 2008, with a $550+ headset cost. The program for all other Lightspeed headsets will also go live in October, with a $650+ headset price tag. When the rebate form, your check and old headset are received by the company, your new Zulu headset will be shipped.

If you don't want to wait, Option B is available right away. You buy the Zulu headset first, download and fill out the rebate form from the company's web site, and mail a copy of your proof of purchase and your old headset to the company. As the program's launch approaches, they'll contact you with further details. This rebate option applies to any Lightspeed brand headset, with the exception of reconditioned and OEM headsets.

To find out more about the trade-up program, call 800/332-2421 or click here. Visit Lightspeed at Booths 2028-2032 in Hangar B.

What's That Banging? Metal Being Shaped

On my way to the Zenith 701 sheet metal project, I was waylaid by the constant and very loud sound of sheet metal getting the heck pounded out of it. One of the instructors, Jake Hunsinger of Mansfield, Ohio, invited me in to join the fun.

Using the Tuck Puck method, developed by Carey Culpepper last April, the participants set a flat, round piece of sheet metal on a concave puck base, machined from UHMW plastic. (It's available for $30 from TuckPuck.com, as is the $26 instructional DVD.) Also, the TuckPuck can be used to stretch the metal instead of a shotbag. This method is also described on the MetalMeet website.

Hunsinger was introduced to metal shaping in October of 2006, and quickly got involved in the online MetalMeet.com community. While metalshapers work on other applications such as classic cars, aircraft components such as wheel pants and scoops can be shaped as well.

The rudimentary shaping that I did started with deburring a round piece of sheet metal (away from the flat file's tang, thank you very much). Once my chances of slicing my hand open with the sharp edges were eliminated, we centered the metal over the puck, and with a long, rounded plastic mallet, I pounded away around the interior circle, drawn on with a Sharpie. A few good whacks resulted in a "tuck" or a "flute" at the outside edge of the metal, which was then stretched and flattened with the long plastic mallet with a rounded end. Round and round I went, until I had a rough bowl-shaped piece of metal where a disc once was.

The real use of the skills became apparent when Hunsinger showed me the wood form for a pair of wheel pants that would be shaped at the workshop. A paper pattern for that part was laid over the wood form, with orienting arrows and reminders to ensure the piece is shaped properly.

Because my bowl was pretty lumpy and uneven, it was time to smooth it out in the English wheel, this one featuring a rounded lower wheel. I was impressed with the emphasis on personal safety during this workshop experience. Not being of large stature, I received quite a bit of advice on which mallet would be easiest for me to handle. There were also a lot of careful eyes on my work on the English wheel, most of it advice on how not to smash my thumbs between the upper and lower wheels.

This was just a quick taste of metal-shaping, and I expect to have a more in-depth experience at AirVenture 2008. Besides, I need another bowl for the matched set.

Volunteer-Built Zenith 701 Headed for Missions of Mercy

At AirVenture 2007, I took the challenge of sampling the builder workshops—specifically sheet metal, composites and fabric—as a clean-sheet newbie. I wanted to see if I could pick up the basic skills necessary for building, and how the instructors and Technical Counselors would do with a rookie. Thanks to their patience, expertise and clarity in explaining the basics, I was indeed able to pick up the basics. (Look for the full report in the June issue of KITPLANES magazine.)

I also developed an affinity for sheet metal work. I liked the substantial nature of working with metal, and really liked working with power tools. OK, the hand-powered Cleco pliers were pretty cool, too.

So, when I saw the request posted by Jim Hoak on the Matronics Zenith email list, calling for builders to assist volunteers in an unusual and worthy project, the metal bug bit again. Hoak is the co-chairman of the Basic Sheet Metal Workshops at Sun 'n Fun, as well as a Zenith 601 XL builder. He was also my instructor at Oshkosh.

The volunteers planned to build a Zenith 701 during the six days of Sun 'n Fun, from a kit purchased by one of the workshop members. When the aircraft is completed (and dubbed Angel 1), it will be donated to a missionary organization. Several tool companies, including Avery, provided some metal-working tools, but the construction is being undertaken by the workshop volunteers and the folks who come to learn basic metal skills—no company participation. The plan is to build as much as possible during the show, and then complete it at the owner's home airport in Mississippi.

The 701 was well underway by the time I wandered into the air-conditioned workshop this morning, with a good portion of the fuselage having been riveted, and with a wing and a horizontal stabilizer laid out on the other tables. Under Hoak's supervision, the horizontal stab has been reworked several times until the measurements were as called out in Zenith's plans—a copy of which was prominent at each work station.

My participation consisted of pulling a long line of blind rivets with a pneumatic rivet puller, with the assistance of a couple of volunteers who made sure the rivets were square to the fuselage skin, and that the interior sheet metal didn't gap. After we pulled the majority of the rivets, out came the Clecoes and in went the rest of the rivets.

Good news for the occasional riveter: Properly instructed, you will remember how to do it, even after eight-plus months. And, yes, it was still fun.

One of the hidden gems of this project was the piece of sheet metal to be stashed inside one of the seats—featuring the signatures of the volunteers who worked on the 701. Hoak anticipates that the sheet will be completely filled by the time the plane is done. Once completed, no one will see our signatures unless they cut the seat open.

But we know it's there.

LightSPEED Aviation Announces Improvements to Zulu ANR Headset

A lot of buzz has surrounded LightSPEED Aviation's newest ANR headset, the Zulu, introduced at AirVenture 2007, with the first sets shipping in September 2007. Featuring Bluetooth connectivity between the headset and your cellphone, MP3 player or other compatible devices, LightSPEED has integrated current (and convenient) technology with the headset's aviation-specific features. It's drawn a natural comparison with Bose's Headset X; however, at $850, it's priced at about $150 less than the Bose.

We caught up with Allan Schrader, president of LightSPEED Aviation, at the LightSPEED booth (Hangar D) to talk about the headset's review featured in the April 2008 issue of sister publication Aviation Consumer. He told us the headsets that were reviewed were produced about 2000 sets prior to the headsets that are currently available. Schrader adds that two of the issues—music muting and noise gating—identified in that review had been brought to LightSPEED's attention in advance of the review, and were corrected in February.

Music muting is the process that brings the volume of the music down when there's an overriding signal such as an ATC call or in-cockpit conversation. Testers had observed that when the voice signal was weak, it would not mute the music sufficiently (for instance, if you're monitoring ATIS 30 miles out). The threshold was lowered to eliminate that issue; the music is now muted about 80%, so low you'd hardly notice it. After the voice signal has stopped, the Zulu will bring the music back up over 5 seconds. Schrader added that this feature is selectable so that a backseat passenger can rock out to Chris Daughtry's latest without the continual interruption from ATC.

Noise gating was added to the headset to mitigate the hiss produced by noisy intercoms, "basically a squelch for audio," explains Schrader. "Noise gating disconnects the audio plug from the intercom until such time as there's a signal on the audio line," such as an in-cockpit conversation or an ATC call. Again, the audio threshold was lowered to prevent a conflict between a weak signal and the headset's noise-gating capability. You can read Schrader's complete response to the April review in the May issue of Aviation Consumer, which will be available within a few weeks.

For more information, visit LightSPEED Aviation.