Our Eyes in the Skies

The need to coordinate the arrival of thousands of aircraft, to manage the airshow flow, and maintain separation on the Lake Parker arrivals demands a lot of preparation and attention by pilots as well as the skills of dozens of our friendly aviation agency's top performers, the men and women of the Air Traffic Service. Every year they excel at soothing the nerves of anxious aviators, hand-holding those short-sighted souls who, for whatever reasons, fail to obtain and use the Sun 'n Fun NOTAM, and generally making life as easy as possible given the high-density nature of the flow and the extreme mix of performance ranges of the machines soaring into the Lakeland airspace.

We thought it worth it to show a few of them in a relaxed moment and say, "Thanks." So, well, thanks! As the event draws to a close, we can attest to another job well done.

There's a New Four-Blade CS Prop for Warbird Replicas

Dave Hansen of Vari-Prop is pretty excited about the company’s newest product, a four-blade, variable-pitch propeller for warbird replicas that will bolt on to basically any engine that can turn it, no matter whether the crankshaft is hollow or solid.

Vari-Prop can do that because all of its constant-speed propellers are operated by a master hydraulic cylinder run by an electric motor controlled by a circuit board, as opposed to the traditional constant-speed props, which use engine oil regulated by a governor.

The Vari-Prop hydraulic master cylinder and electronic rpm sensor, which only weighs 3.5 lbs, can be mounted anywhere on the airplane, Hansen says. “And our ground-adjusting system for setting takeoff pitch is so simple. Just turn one bolt to change all the blades’ pitch at once. Tighten the bolt to set and then go fly.”

Vari-Prop blades are lightweight wood covered with composite and embedded with leading-edge protection. “We’ve worked hard to make the four-blade prop look authentic,” says Hansen.

For more information email dhansending@aol.com.

Wing-Heating System for High-Performance Kit Aircraft

If your kit is meant to fly high and fast, and especially if you’ve designed the machine to fly well in the clouds, then you owe it to yourself to consider some kind of de-ice or anti-ice system.

Most systems designed for light aircraft include complicated pneumatic pumps, ugly rubber boots or expensive titanium leading edge cuffs. None of these are good solutions for clean, fast, high fliers such as Lancairs or RV-10s. RDD Enterprises, LLC, in cooperation with Kelly Aerospace Systems, has ported some technology developed for the Cessna 350s and 400s to the Experimental market with its Therm-X graphite foil wing-heating system.

Therm-X is an ultrathin graphite foil laminate applied to the leading edge of the wing and horizontal stabilizer. Embedded electrical buses no thicker than duct tape, connected to a dedicated alternator, control invisibly thin heating elements capable of warming the leading edge of an aircraft from near freezing to 120° in 1.5 seconds—and they do so automatically upon sensing the outside air temperature approaching the freezing zone.

“The really brilliant part of this system is how it sheds the ice,” says Matt Verdieck, who works in Operations for RDD. “The immediate edge, we call it the 'part zone,' is always warmed, but the product allows ice to accrete in a 'shed zone.' Then the system cycles on and off through six different shed zones very quickly, melting the ice just at the bond, so that it sheds off in chunks and does not melt and roll back and refreeze on the cold wing area behind the graphite laminate."

It’s not inexpensive protection, with complete systems for Lancairs running $18,000, but for that price you get installation, manuals, and a flight-tested (on your individual airplane) system, as well as a warranty. If you plan on flying your airplane in all weather, it’s a system that, the moment you need it, will seem priced just right.

Up, Up and Away

Not all that flies at Sun 'n Fun roars like a radial, buzzes like a hornet or spews smoke during low passes. The traditional Saturday-morning balloon launch provided an uncharacteristic bit of hushed flying for thousands willing to crawl out of their bunks and camps to witness the spectacle of color.

For others the quiet of the dawn hours provided an opportunity to reposition an aerobatic aircraft in preparation for the afternoon airshow.

And in case anyone is wondering, yes, that largest balloon is the largest dog the Sun 'n Fun spectators ever remember seeing. No word on what you feed a hound of that size, but we're pretty sure it's not your standard pet-store kibble.

Continuing Evolution, Corvair Style

I finally got a chance on Friday to catch up with William Wynne of FlyCorvair.com to see if there had been much in the way of improvements to the Corvair conversion since mine first flew about a year and a half ago. At that time, I was the proud recipient of the latest and greatest in Corvair technology. Unfortunately (for me), William's been quite busy since then.

The highly modified Corvair engine on the stand featured quite a few improvements, and this was my first glance at them up close and personal like. The most obvious to me was the new single piece gold anodized propeller hub, replacing its black two-piece forerunner. The gold hub features lighter weight, a smaller pulley for better alternator performance, and (of course) is much simpler than its two part, bolt together predecessor.

A new oil filter arrangement, also gold anodized and simplified, now attaches directly to the engine instead of the old method which required the circuitous routing of oil hoses to a mount on the firewall. Once glance told me that this new oil filter system also saves weight, is much cleaner, and (once again) gets the most out of simplicity.

William also had the new gold anodized, CNC machined oil pan that replaces the slightly "Frankenstein-esque" hand welded one. And just to top it all off, a matching gold anodized top engine plate was also on display. With all of these new gold parts on the display engine, the Corvair is starting to look like something you might find in the Tiffany catalogue.

Perhaps the most significant improvement is the new 5th crankshaft bearing, tucked in nicely behind the ring gear and the engine block. The need for a fifth bearing to absorb asymmetric side loads from out of balance prop/spinner/extension combinations or the stresses created by sudden yanking and banking became known when a few cases of crankshaft cracks and separations behind the last journal were reported. The first assault on the problem was to strongly suggest the nitriding of all crankshafts, and the second was the development of the fifth bearing.

I really was planning to leave my own Corvair engine in my Zodiac alone for the time being, but now that I've seen the sum total of all of the improvements, I'm reconsidering. Besides, all those beautifully machined gold parts would really set off the engine compartment, eh? Check out the latest in Corvair improvements at FlyCorvair.com.Link

You Don't Need A Wing If Your Ship's Got That Swing...

Sun 'n Fun's Chopper Town provided a graphic reminder Friday that you don't need a wing if your ship's got that swing, as a turbine chopper and a Butterfly gyro amply demonstrate.

A Mosquito on floats—FAR 103 legal, by the way —hangs in a hover as the pilot concentrates on showing off the little ship's nimble handling.

The pilot of another FAR 103 version of the Mosquito waits for clearance from Chopper Town Tower as its float-equipped kin descends for a low pass.

Chopper Town serves as the rotorcraft equivalent of the Paradise City light-plane area, with steady flying entertainment every morning and evening for those willing to trek to the far east end of the Sun 'n Fun grounds.