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The Wright brothers were first with powered flight. But who supplied the power? Without Charlie Taylor, 1903 would have been just another year of glider flying.

Taylor was hired by Orville and Wilbur as a machinist and almost immediately was put to work making their engine. He started by sketching the crankshaft onto a slab of steel, drilled along the line, and then with hammer and chisel removed the excess material. Their only other power tool, a 14-inch lathe, was used to cut the bearing surfaces and clean up the rough edges.

When "the boys," as he called them, took their airplane to Europe, Taylor was frequently referred to as "the third Wright brother."

Today, Taylor is memorialized by many nations in a variety of ways. In the U.S., the highest award the FAA can bestow upon our cadre of A&Ps; is the Charles Taylor award.

Watch for "The Home Machinist" in KITPLANES for the story of the man who built the first aluminum-block engine with only a lathe and a drill press.

Video: Lancair Evolution Makes First Flight

Lancair International sent us this video of the first flight of the turboprop Evolution, which took place on Friday, March 21. Well-known test pilot Len Fox was at the controls, who proclaimed it "a successful first flight." The 40-minute flight originated from Roberts Field in Redmond, Oregon, where Lancair is based.


Amy's RV-10: Is This Builder's Remorse?

Was he just contemplating his work, I wondered, as I walked toward my husband, who was sitting catatonic in a green plastic chair in the hangar. He was staring at the nearly, but not quite complete, RV-10 in front of him, and the look on his face was anything but awe. Exhaustion? Maybe. Not quite despair. Bewilderment?

Yes, after nearly four years, that was it. "We should have bought one, complete," he sighed and looked me straight in the eye. "We'd have been flying since last year." And ours is a quickbuild kit.

Well, it's hard to argue about the flying point. There are more than 100 RV-10s flying, and it is common knowledge, even to the FAA types, that some of them were farmed out to builder-assist programs that did most of the construction for the builders. A few were built by individuals purely for resale. That's not hearsay, that's fact. And the problem is that it is tempting for any builders who got into the process because they really want to fly.

"It probably would have cost us what?" I counter, trying to give my husband, the tired builder, something to hang on thousands of construction hours in this hangar.

"Oh, $50,000, maybe a little more," he sighs.

"Hey, that's a year of college, maybe two!" I reply. With two children due to depart the nest this autumn, that seems significant. It sure beats the usual pep talk about building for the adventure of it, or to be able to say it is all yours. He's an A&P.; Even if he had not built it, he could work on it.

He waves his arm in a big arc at the hangar, the airplane, now with all its parts attached and nearly everything hooked up. "This was four years of my spare time..." he trails off.

"And it's almost done," I tell him. "You should be extremely proud of that. Come on, let's go get a beer," I smile, and caress his shoulder.

"In a minute," he replies, pushing himself out of the chair and climbing back up onto the wing and into the still raw cockpit. "I've just got a couple little details to clean up here."

That's how I know he'll finish. Putting a date on it might be premature, but that conglomeration of fiberglass, aluminum, wire and steel will fly like the finely tuned machine it was meant to be, and sometime soon.

Marc's Sportsman: The Second “Annual” Begins

I snuck out to the hangar in late February to make a simple modification to my Glastar Sportsman and inadvertently began the annual condition inspection. (OK. I know the proper term is "condition inspection" for Experimentals, and that it is required every 12 months; but I’m going to just call it the annual.)

The modification was straightforward. Sportsman aircraft of this vintage (circa 2006) have a simple fuel system; two inboard tanks of 15 gallons each and two outboard tanks right at the end of the wing holding 10 gallons each. Vents for both tanks terminate in tubes hanging below the wingtip at about mid chord. Works great.

Except for the tip tanks, which have a nasty tendency to urinate fuel when they’re full and you’ve made any kind of turn. The turning force sends the fuel outboard, and it’s just a short jump from the vent to the tarmac; the inboards will do the same thing, but it takes a Formula 1-like turn to do it.

There are many solutions out there, including rerouting the vents from end to end: That is, have the right tank’s vent line exit the right wing tip, and vice versa. Too big a job for an already flying airplane.

So I did what Cessna has done: Install check valves in the vent line. But not just any check valves, sorry to say. (Yet another day without having to go to the McMaster-Carr website...sigh.) These valves must admit air to the tank when it’s being emptied, not allow raw fuel to go back the other way (overboard), but must also have bleed orifices so that if you fill the tank, park in the sun, the fuel has somewhere to go when it heats up. Ballooning an aluminum tank is not desirable. I had also considered a DIY version of this valve, with a one-way valve tee'd into a secondary loop with some kind of restrictor. But with a ready-made solution in hand, I decided to go store-bought instead.

Andair makes valves specifically for this purpose, so out of the annual budget came $45 each, payable in full to Aircraft Spruce. The valves arrived a day or two later, and they’re beautiful, as is everything I’ve seen from Andair. They come in a variety of configurations, but I chose the ones with -4 nipples on each end. A few minutes with the 1/4-inch tubing, cutter and bender...and Bob’s your uncle. I tried to place the valve as level as possible, with as much of a run back to the tank as there was room in the wingtip.

Testing them out: On the next flight, I filled the tip tanks and made a number of sharp turns heading back out to the runway. While the vents will still dribble a bit of fuel like this, it’s nothing like the torrent of precious fuel that used to come out. I consider this a success, and to finish the testing I ran the airplane with just one of the valves installed and timed the transfer of fuel from outboards to inboards. They took within a minute of each other, which has proven to be typical of the airplane over the last 300-plus hours.

How does this relate to the annual? Well, while I was in there, I took a few minutes to poke around the tip, look for loose items, inspect the aileron counterweight, and commit a few more annual-checklist items. With the tips back on—in fact, installation of these check valves took place over two weekends—I was one step closer to having the annual done.

RANS Chaos and Sakota Aerobats Are Back

Due to popular demand, the RANS S-9 Chaos and S-10 Sakota midwing one- and two-place aerobatic kit aircraft are back in production, the company says. Deliveries will begin in June.

The two kits were discontinued about a year ago, and will be offered in their original form. “We are happy that the planes have commanded such strong response,” says Randy Schlitter, RANS CEO, “and will strive to supply the same top notch quality [customers] have come to expect in our kits.”

The original decision to discontinue production of the kits was made with mixed emotion, Schlitter says, because he has enjoyed many hours honing his aerobatic skills in the aircraft. “Bringing them back brings us great joy,” he said, “ and is a terrific testimony to the design and the loyalty of our customer base.”

For more information, visit RANS Aircraft.

FAA Issues Emergency AD on Precision Fuel Injection Systems—Experimental Pilots Should Check Anyway

The FAA on Wednesday announced an Emergency Airworthiness Directive on certain Precision Airmotive RSA-5 and RSA-10 fuel injection servos to be inspected before further flight. Two recent incidents have been blamed on a loose servo plug. According to the AD, the servo plug gasket is thought to have shrunk with engine heat, which causes it to lose torque against the servo housing. These plugs have been found loose as well as completely separated from their threaded housings. Loss of the plug could cause a lean condition.

The gasket part number is 365533, and has been used in new and factory overhauled servos since August 22, 2006. This plug-and-gasket combination is found in both the certified and Experimental-class SilverHawk injection system. Pilots are urged to check the security of the main hex by hand. If the hex moves at all, it is loose.

For more information, visit Precision Airmotive.