What follows is a terribly long invitation to a Livestream I am planning tomorrow where I will gat a first peek at my airplane after an extensive refab and paint. (I know, not much of a pitch.)
OK so this will smack of me being a little self-indulgent. Some of you may recall that my Pitts suffered what could have been a challenging structural failure this time last year. Both longerons were cracked where the aluminum spring landing gear was attached. When the gear was installed many years ago, the required reinforcement at the attach point had not been done, or at least not properly done. How this manifested itself to me was that the right rudder, which is attached above the same area, failed at the anchor welds.
Chapter 58 member Chris Murley, who I will introduce more thoroughly in a second, gave me two options for a fix: one sensible and cheap, the other more involved and expensive. I chose option two! So instead of repairing both longerons and welding a box at the gear attach points, I opted to ditch the gear altogether.
Now a little about Chris Murley. Chris is a young pilot/mechanic/fabricator who quit his job with a company that did turbine conversions on Cessna 206s. He partnered with Matt Griggs, a buddy who got his start at that same company, and together started Griggs aviation. Years later they were able to buy out their previous employer. Later still, Chris took over from Steve Wolf the “Wolf” line of Pitts modifications. One of those mods is an RV-style steel rod gear that bolts to the firewall.
Chris was given the go by me to give ‘er the full monty firewall forward: rod gear, engine mount mod, new carbon fiber cowling, prop spacer, spinner, new gear leg fairings, titanium firewall, new wheel pants and a 4-1 exhaust (powder coated in titanium). We had to wait months for the gear to come in which delayed the project until late Fall. That pushed us into a bunch of other projects the Griggs had on the itinerary. I can’t fly much in the winter anyway so I asked Chris to work at his convenience. But the “convenience” was maybe more mine than his as I added new desires (like the exhaust) during the process.
Over the winter I would stop by from time to time to “help”. Basically I was invited to get in the way. Griggs is an amazing place. They have every machine and paint tool needed to fabricate anything the FAA allows. They are artists. Business got so good that they built a big, new hangar across the runway at Sky Haven, PA. So as you can see, my young friend is busy. Still, he was able to carve out enough time to build an Acrosport IIs (a biplane similar to a Pitts but larger). It is the most beautiful example of the type in existence (as it is the only one I have ever seen my opinion may have limited value. It’s pretty spectacular though!). Chris finished the Acrosport a year ago this month. He started competing with it two months later. He placed 2nd in Sportsman at his first contest and won in that category at his next two contests. Next month he will compete in Intermediate at the Wildwoods Acroblast! — a contest that I am directing and IAC Chapter 58 is hosting.
My plane came together two weeks ago and the paint was completed last week. I have an idea what it will look like because I told them roughly how I wanted it to look. But I also gave Chris a bit of latitude. He refuses to send me photos. He says that he has not been this proud of his work since he finished his plane in May.
Chris is very pumped to see my reaction and you can imagine how excited I am at the prospect of seeing and flying her again. Two days ago I woke up jet lagged in London and had the crazy idea to share the moment with our friends. Why not? It’s like the home improvement shows but better. Houses are boring. Airplanes are anything but.
I’ve never livestreamed before because I have a strong distaste for YouTubers, social media whores and self promoters in general. But now I want to be one! At least I do in this instance because it could be fun experience. More likely it will be boring as hell. Who cares? He and I will enjoy the moment and if others do too, great! If not, nothing lost and no harm done.
I will start streaming from his parking lot starting at around 1100 EST using Facebook Live under
I wish I could do this another way. But YouTube now requires 1000 followers and Periscope is now Twitter, which is hardly any less an invasive social media conglomerate than Facebook.
And that concludes my lengthy explanation of how we got here. All are welcome!