AirCam Country—Past and Future?

The AirCam has been for sale not quite since I got it, but almost. Let’s face it: In the competition for least practical airplane out there, the AirCam gets a bye in the first four rounds. But that’s not really why it’s been for sale. I got it at a government auction, and the plan was to give it what it needed, enjoy it for a year or two, then sell it. But I wasn’t prepared for what I was to find.

What I discovered is that the AirCam is absolutely the world’s best airplane for giving rides. People just go crazy after flying in it. Of course, it helped that I had a magnificent canned route in the hills of northern Arizona. Right after takeoff, no more than 3 seconds–clock it–I’d start pulling back the power and turning downwind, level with the top of an adjacent hill. We’d soon be on downwind at 50 feet, looking for pronghorn antelope on the start of an hour-long flight.

Then we’d go around the shoulder of Mingus Mountain, then up the canyon of the Verde River, maybe 400 feet deep and spectacular by AirCam, then fly up Granite Creek to Prescott Airport, elevation 5040 feet. Once when I was on a two-mile base, along Granite Creek, tower asked me my altitude: 4900.

Now I'm in Iowa, and for at least six months of the year, this is definitely not AirCam country. But finally, two weeks ago, I got started putting a new panel in the AirCam. No surprise, there were enough mistakes in the first version of the replacement panel that it made sense to have a new one laser cut. Then came the phone call, out of the blue: a sale by word of mouth.

Bottom line, his mechanic is coming tomorrow for a pre-purchase inspection and a flight, so we went from no panel (top photo) to significant progress (middle photo showing my respectful assistant) in an hour and a half, and an hour later (bottom photo) back to the original panel. It helped that when we took the original panel out the first time, we cleaned up a bunch of wiring, and that made the restoration much easier.

I just got laid off, and hope that I'm not selling the AirCam six weeks before I move back to AirCam country. Who knows? But, assuming that the sale goes through, my buddy Colin will join me on the delivery flight to the East Coast. We won’t see any pronghorn, and we won’t fly at 50 feet like we could safely and legally in Arizona, but we’ll have a great time. More to come.

New Product: Viper’s Next Gen Aircraft

Viper Aircraft has added a new design to its lineup, the Viper FanJet, which offers greater range, higher fuel efficiency and expanded cargo capacity, according to Viper.

Increasing the size of the aircraft by 17%, the designers created a spacious, climate-controlled cockpit able to accommodate pilots over 6-foot-5. The larger fuselage translates to 25 cubic feet of cargo space with accessibility from exterior luggage doors and behind the aft seat. Using the Pratt & Whitney JT-15-4D turbofan engine, maximum range for the Viper FanJet is estimated at 1500 n.m., the company says.

Product innovation has extended beyond design into the manufacturing process. Viper simplified its parts manufacturing through enhancements in the tooling process. These refinements will reduce customer build times by more than 25%, according to the company.

For more information, contact Viper Aircraft.

Marc’s Sportsman: Wrapping Up the Annual

When we last left N30KP’s annual inspection, the pitot-static check had been completed and I was beginning work on the rest of the airframe. By that time, I’d been through the major systems, checking cable tensions, lubricating hinges and ball ends and generally tidying up from the firewall back. I can’t say I found much.

For a time, I had noticed that the Ray Allen LCD trim indicator was acting up. Sometimes it would not give a reliable pitch-trim indication, and other times the display was just simply dead. As with anything electrical, it’s worth thinking methodically through the process, and checking your work as you go. I started at the tail; the trim servo cover was already off as was the tailcone fairing. It was a simple matter to check the wiring for breaks and loose connectors. None was found.

The RAC trim indication system is straightforward. The panel unit receives 12 volts from the avionics bus, converts it to 5 volts and sends that back to the servo itself. Inside the servo is a linear potentiometer; three wires connect the panel unit to the servo. I checked continuity on all and then discovered that the signal voltage was not present at the servo. Working forward, I discovered that the display unit had bus voltage but was not putting out the excitation voltage. Hmmm.

The quick fix was just that: bypass the panel indicator and use one of the open general-purpose inputs on the Dynon EMS-D120. Two wires from the harness at the RAC panel display jumpered over to the D120, a few minutes in the setup menu...and I have a working trim indicator on the EMS. Cool.

(Shortly before this episode and throughout the flights just after the annual, I discovered other trim-system issues—all electrical—that should have a solution this week. Stand by for that saga.)

This was the annual when I replaced the original McCreary tires. I could have salvaged another half season from the originals had I turned them around; typically, the outboard edges were more worn than the inboards. But I didn’t catch them in time and someone—couldn’t have been me—flat spotted the left tire. So I put on a fresh set of McCrearys; yep, these are the least expensive tires around, but two years and 300 hours seemed like decent bang for the buck. I’ll remember to flop them on the wheels at the next annual.

Because all the heat, noise and mayhem occur ahead of the firewall, I spent most of the annual working there. The Barrett-built IO-390 passed its compression checks with 78s or 79s, the oil filter was free of harmful debris, and the oil analysis from Blackstone Labs was returned with the usual comments about this being an unusually “clean” engine.

I serviced the plugs as well, which is a surprisingly therapeutic endeavor. Yes, it’s first-season A&P; mechanic make-work, but the simple process of cleaning, testing, gapping and reinstalling the plugs can be calming in a weird sort of way. (Oh, and why is one plug missing from the "just removed" tray? I dropped it. Flew right out of my paw. Stupid me… The plug is in the trash: Don’t even think about reusing a plug that’s been dropped.)

I did find a few items worth repairing while up there, however. A crack had started at a relief hole in the thin aluminum forward baffle, just ahead of the injection servo. I stop-drilled it with a more generous hole and RTV’d the front side to block the leak. It'll be something to watch over the next few hours of service. A few of the AN3 bolts on the injection servo had become loose. I had to work a combination of thick and thin washers to be sure the cotter-pin hole was in the right place; that and some ACF-50, and they were good to go.

While I had the exhaust system off, I took the opportunity to create a bit more clearance behind the four-into-one collector by grinding the edge of the nosewheel attach brace. This lip is outboard of the reinforcing rib and so not structural. I also replaced an EGT probe that was showing signs of failure. Remember, these are consumable items.

Finally, approximately four weeks after I’d begun the inspection, N30KP was buttoned up (but still uncowled) and pulled out between the hangars for a quick systems check and low-power runup. Everything looked good, so on a bright Saturday morning I finished installing the cowling and took it for a short hop “around the hill,” as we who are based at Torrance call the Palos Verdes range. Much to my delight, the Sportsman flew beautifully—I had survived another annual without ma
king anything worse, or breaking anything new. That’s beating the odds.

Cub Crafters Introduces Carbon Cub Kit

In a utility airplane, the power-to-weight ratio reigns supreme, which is why Cub Crafters is making a big deal about its new Carbon Cub kit. Said to weigh 200 pounds less than traditional Super Cubs, the Carbon Cub is designed to accept powerplants from the 100-hp Continental O-200 to the 180-hp Lycoming IO-360.

Cub Crafters says a 160-hp version, certified in the Experimental/Amateur-Built category, can weigh as little as 925 pounds empty. An ELSA version, with the O-200, can weigh as little as 845 pounds empty, according to the company, leaving 475 pounds for people, things and fuel. Select use of composite materials and a simplified wing structure—with half as many parts as the original Piper design—contribute to the weight savings, the company says. A modern cowl design along with a streamlined fuselage also improve performance to "130 mph or more" in cruise.

The kit prices start at $19,995 for the standard fuselage kit plus $19,995 for the standard wing kit and $19,995 for the standard finishing kit. These subkits complete the airplane save for engine, avionics, paint and interior. Additional options include ready-to-cover quickbuild wing and fuselage kits (add $3000 to the wing kit and $4000 to the fuselage kit) as well as a Deluxe finishing kit (add $4000). Cub Crafters can provide the components painted for additional cost. Finally, there is an optional High Gross Kit ($4995) that takes the non-LSA version from 1430 to 1650 pounds maximum gross weight.

With all the quickbuild options, the Carbon Cub will be ready to cover in 120 hours, the company says.

New Products: Bosch Jigsaw Kit

The Bosch 18-volt cordless jigsaw has been added to Aircraft Spruce’s line of Bosch power tools. The 6-pound jigsaw has a One-Touch system that allows for easy blade change and ejection of hot or broken blades with one lever. The Bosch also features blade retention and a three-way grip that maintains the blade position and allows for precise cuts. An adjustable dust blower keeps the cutting line clear.

Other features include a Bosch-built motor and magnesium gear housing, a die-cast aluminum foot for stability and guidance, a variable speed trigger with an easily accessible lock-off switch, and an ergonomic soft grip handle with multiple positions.

The kit includes the battery, charger, carrying bag, two blades and a no-mar overshoe.

The price is $169.95, and the product may be purchased at Aircraft Spruce & Specialty.

New Product: Jeppesen Manuals Now Available in Print or Electronic Versions

KITPLANES Bookstore, the leader in electronic distribution (e-books) in the aviation industry, now sells Jeppesen maintenance and pilot training manuals in e-book format as well as standard printed format.

KITPLANES Bookstore’s e-books give customers a choice in how they receive content. Many will prefer a printed book, but the e-book format offers many advantages, the first of which is free and instantaneous shipping, a significant savings for international customers. International customers also incur no VAT tax, import or brokerage fees.

E-books are delivered as single, high quality Adobe PDF files, are fully searchable, printable and environmentally friendly. You can access hundreds of manuals with a typical laptop, making your complete reference needs easily available in the classroom, for personal study or in the shop.

E-books come with a complete customer satisfaction guarantee regarding both the content of the book and the ability to successfully download and use the material. Tech support is available during business hours to assist with downloads. There is also a free sample e-Book, which may be downloaded at the KITPLANES Bookstore.