Today I received my very first airspace waiver to cover the test flying of the aeroplane. A huge.. I mean HUGE step forward and a weight off my mind. OK I'm not appoved for everything but I have at least proved the system works and that I understand it.
Also.. I was struggling how to pack the engine for shipping. Bryn took one look and told me the best way, which now seems bloody obvious but I didn't see it. Another weight off my mind.
The annual is all done so now the plane nervously awaits its dismantling.
Shipping is sorted through Tauranga.. avoid the Auckland mess !
Carnet applied for
its getting down to the business end.
for the rest of the blogs I am moving to a different system. It will make life a lot easier since the new method is available from my iPad or iPhone.
So if you want to follow, be sure to bookmark..
So after much toing and froing I think we've settled on a Carnet being sufficient so last week I applied for one..
So I wait and see (Nervous bit part 1)
But by far the most uncertainty so far is today being the day to apply for my first international waiver. I logged in, made an account and entered all the details in. Robert Baker of EAA chapter 92 graciously allowed be to use him as the contact person so I have entered everything for processing.
Now I VERY NERVOUSLY await a reply.
Fingers crossed !
Man what a week !! I thought I had pretty much everything sorted. So this week I started down the track of organising the ATA Carnet.
In the process I needed to get the contact details of the agent in the USA so I contacted my shipper (new one now since the original one was not particularly helpful) and he said they don't usually accept a Carnet in the USA. Added to this.. the bank won't secure enough deposit since our house is worth too much !! (WTF?).
As I look further into this it looks like the way to do it is with a TIB (temporary import bond) in the USA. It will work out better since the bond will only be for a shorter time period but it needs confirming.
So now I wait to hear from the shipper.
All this was brought about by the first shipper who, now it seems, didn't know what he was doing and wasnt really interested.
I'll be glad to get through this bit. The clock is ticking.
Last year some time I was looking over the possible tracks and realised we would be operating out of some very high airfields. This coupled with high temperatures meant that some density altitudes would be up over 9000 feet. I haven't operated anything like this so it would be new territory for me.
While pondering this it became apparent that weight would be a concern. At the very least, something would have to go. Fuel is one option. We could shorten the legs but they were already pretty short so I didn't really want to reduce fuel more than necessary.
The best option by far was to reduce the weight of the pilot. When I considered this I was 97 kg. I had over the years slowly gained weight and I really wasn't keen to cross the 100kg boundry so I decided to make the effort to get rid of some unwanted load.
As of this writing I have shed 12kg and I'm at my goal weight. Its healthier, I feel great and now I have room for an extra half hour fuel.
It makes people laugh when I tell them why I lost weight but hey.. who cares.. its a win-win for me and I actually found it quite easy. Its funny what you can do when you put your mind to it !
So today I learnt that I need to protect 48-50 days prior to the aeroplane's arrival in USA.
What that means is that I now have a date. 12th April 2012 ZK-SMR needs to be inside a container and hitting the road for the US of A !
Now I can put dates on all those todo's and start getting the ball rolling.
Today I had a bit of a win with money conversion.
Air New Zealand recently came out with a frequent flyer card called the onesmart card. Its really good and has some fantastic features.
On the face of it, it looks like a mastercard. In fact it is to a degree. Its actually a debit card. While you can do lots of fancy things with airpoints etc the one that was REALLY good for me it the fact that you can have your funds in different 'wallets' in different funds. So today, while the exchange rate for the USD is very favourable, I converted all the money I'm going to need to ship this thing, into US dollars at a great rate. Its saved me a considerable amount of money. Thanks AirNZ ! What a great thing !
I think I now have a handle on what the TSA requires. I finally found a NOTAM that applies. The FAA system for this isn't great. NOTAMS in this area seem to get superceded all the time with no real trace if which ones have. I was trying to find an old NOTAM mentioned on the TSA and FAA website that had been deleted despite the reference stil existing. It seems they are about 4 or 5 updates further on but havent changed their references. Added to this, it seems not many US pilots understand this part of their own rules. I guess it isn't suprising but its funny how many said the don't read this "crap". It might bite them one day!
Anyhow, while the end result isn't quite how I would like it, I think I should now be ble to get it to work well enough. It just means I'm going to need to have my flight plans organised well in advance. Not ideal for VFR but that will have to do. I'm sure Derwood and I can make it work.
With the new year starting the whole project has taken on a new air of urgency for me. I know there are a few things I need to wait just a little bit longer for but over the next few months it will start to ramp up.
This month so far has seen both successes and confusion.
1) I finally managed to get hold of the right people at EAA Chapter 92 in Chino so I could book some hangar space. Its meant that I really needed to start now which was a bit more expense than I wanted but at least the way I can be sure that I have something. Ironically Vicki managed to find some other possible backstops but now this is a go so I can check off Hangar space. It is a bit of a problem in that I can't store my packing material there so I still may swap around once I'm there.. we'll see.
2) I applied for, and got my US Visa which is a requirement for flying in the USA. Not really a big issue but its done at least.. check it off.
The TSA and their airspace waiver programme continue to be a source of angst. Trying to get a reply from them, let alone information is like getting blood from stone. The EAA seem to think (while not being certain) that I don't actually need the airspace waiver and point to an old outdated NOTAM. Unfortunately the old NOTAM seems to have been removed from references so I can't read it for myself.
Oh well.. everyone has been very friendly and hasn't minded my stupid questions thus far.
Other progress: I have some more plywood so I'm off to go and start some container packaging.
Other causes of angst: The Auckland warfies labour dispute continues. Hopefully I won't need to take the whole game to Tauranga.
What was I thinking !
I've spent the last few days looking over some WAC charts of the USA... I want to have a general idea of the trip to OSH before I go just to see how I can break it up. I don't want to spend any more than about 2.5 hours in the plane on any one day and want to be well and truely parked up.. preferably in the hotel by mid-day. That will give us the afternoon to look around and the evening to plan the following day or maybe stay an extra day if we really feel like it.
That breaks it up into a 5 day trip which is great so then if we allow 7 we should be very comfortable and have an enjoyable trip.
The trip back will be a bit more fluid. At this stage I'm thinking southerly routing to get to OSH and Northerly to get home.
Also for all the planning I've been trying out various iPad apps. Many need subscriptions so I'm leaving that until October so I will only need to buy one yearly subscription for each app.
I also needed to arrange a DUATS account. I got that today but I think there is either something wrong with the Site or it has security to disallow using the site from overseas which I guess in understandable. I managed to get hold of CSC for that but DTC seem to be uncontactable.. no issue I guess.
The trim would be quite time consuming to disconnect and re-connect so I've added a joint in the middle.
That should mean I won't need to remove any of the cabin seating or consoles..
Pretty simple mod but it all counts.
Also all the electronic cables have connectors except the main battery cables which will need to be removed.. shouldn't be too much drama.
If I get my plane up to Chino successfully and then spend the next 4 weeks putting it together there will be a huge opportunity lost. I simply won't be able to afford a huge amount of time putting it together and pulling it apart again.
So I've embarked on a plan to make it as 'plug and play' as I can.
So far I've re-wired pretty much anything forward of the firewall to reroute it through a mil-spec circular connector. Hopefully this will save a significant amount of time just snapping the connector in and the engine sensors are up and running.
Bryn (hangar next to mine) had just imported a small plane from France which came packed in this crate inside a 20’ container. I figured I need wood so I asked him and he gave it to me. In the process of breaking it down and chatting with him it became apparent I have another hurdle. The wood used for packing is required to be heat treated and certified. Along with this I would need paperwork. I kept the small bits with the stamps proving heat treatment but as for the paperwork? Something else to check on !
Good news though.. I got an email back from sidelifters in CA and they can move my container even though they do get backed up... whew.. a load off my mind
I thought this one would be tricky but with a quick email to Duane in the USA he told me that it is common to purchase fuel with a Visa card since so much choice made a single company's fuel card impractical. Added to this, some companies give a small discount for using Visa.. even better..
Box ticked.. move on!
So the time had come to go to the USA and test the ground for what was to come. Vicki and I had just had our 10th wedding anniversary and she had the need to shop so it was a perfect time to hit the USA.
While Vicki shopped, I hit Chino.
I briefly met up with Ray Hecker, who was busy flying on a young eagles weekend.
WOW, there are some great aviation sites to be seen at that airport. I spent most of the day visiting aeroplane museums but did get an idea of where things were and how my whole adventure might play out.
I also had a meeting with the Riverside FAA FSDO reps. Expecting to just waltz into the building, I was a bit surprised at the security required to get in to what appears to be a fairly unassuming building. Once in though the guys were great, I had been put off balance a little bit by the security but these guys were very friendly and genuinely keen to help me through the process. So it appears that what will happen is that I will need to show them the Falco in the container, this is just to check for no shipping damage. Then they will return when it is together and ready to fly. They then give me a test area over a lake to “shake down” the machine. According to John who said “we aren’t going to kill you with this” it will just be an hour or so. Then I get a “program Letter” which releases me to go flying in the USA to go to Oshkosh etc. The program letter is reasonably specific on destinations but that is fine with me since Oshkosh is my main one.
After my meeting with Ray I had come to the realization that I needed to get on with some of the organisation myself, so while I was waiting for my return flight I hit the net. What I found was pure delight.
In San Francisco area there is an Expat Kiwi who has started up a swing lift trucking company called Kiwi Container Lifting. OK that is in SFO but on his site he also had a couple of links for a few other small companies doing the same thing and one quoting LA. Great.. that is a huge relief and now the process begins to get a whole lot simpler.
What a great trip !
So with a quick look at the US terminal charts it became fairly clear that I had some learning to do. The layout is quite different from ours and there are lots of coloured lines and shaded areas that made no sense at all to me. Clearly I would need to get this sorted out before taking on such a mission.
So I went back to the internet and ordered some training videos from the people that arguably have made the most impact on pilot training in the USA, John and Martha King.
The videos at first appear a little cheesy but you quickly fit into their relaxed style and compared to most learning I’ve ever done I would say they are the most easy to understand, well paced and enjoyable training systems I’ve ever used.
I didn’t anticipate actually having fun but these made the whole exercise a lot of fun. So much so I’m going to get more. Some of the stuff is fairly basic but its so enjoyable that its fun to have a look back at the basics again.
Step one of the ‘Get the plane ready’ steps was to update the GPS. Truth is that I was going to do this anyway but since the last one was starting to become difficult to get data for, I updated it for a true panel mount aircraft GPS. Here it is mounted in my plane. I haven’t really tried it out much yet but it is step one.
When I go to the USA I can buy USA map data over the internet and load it in via the data card.
Looks pretty cool huh?
It has been a time of frustration to some degree. It was important to find the correct place to send the machine to. I really wanted an airfield that:
a) wasn’t too far from Long Beach port.
b) preferably East of Long beach.
c)was big enough to have services and storage.
d)has accommodation and rental cars nearby along with public transport for later on.
e)has a good EAA chapter for assistance
After struggling with a few places and their contacts, I decided to try a few Falco builders.. I was almost resigned to going to plan B using San Francisco as the entry point (port of Oakland).
I tried Dan Dorr.. he a pilot with Southwest. He’s obviously a busy man. He offered a few suggestions but he is in the SFO area which isn’t my first choice mainly due to Air NZ not flying there as often as LAX.
Then I tried Ray Hecker. He arranges the West Coast fly-in each year. He bought a pre-loved Falco and he is a super keen Falcoholic. I couldn’t have asked for more. overnight I got three info packed emails with lots of helpful advise. He is based at Chino in LA and suggested I launch from there. With help like that I couldn’t say no. I was excited again!
AND.. We’ve got a cat called Cino (pronounced Chino) so I have to.. right?
Well today I had a rude shock !
I thought I’d contact my shipping people just to keep in touch.
The photo above is boring right? Just a picture of a truck with a swing lift. You see them all the time right? Well if you live in the USA this may as well be a time machine because they don’t have them. Eh? Yup.. no such thing up there. If you want to get your cantainer off the back of the truck and onto the ground there are 2 options. 1- you can’t ! or 2- you balance the bloody thing on a huge forklift. YIKES! eh? imagine that.. a 40’ container balancing on a forklift.
What this basically means is that I need to either be in the USA and find a loading bay where I unload the aeroplane from the container while the truckdriver waits ( this apparently is the common method ! - what a mega pain!) or I find somewhere that has a gargantuan forklift that can do the job I need. Both methods are a bloody pain in the rear!
Crikey.. about time the USA learnt a thing or two from us Kiwi’s !
With the falco shipping to the USA I wouldn’t want to spend all of my precious leave from work re-building the plane so I need to make the whole process as painless as possible. The tail will need to be removed in order to get it into the container. That will involve removing the rear fuel tank and disconnecting the rudder and elevator control cables. That becomes an issue getting a duplicate inspection when I reassemble but I should be able to get authority for a local from the EAA to sign that off.
Getting the tank out is a pain and I don’t want to create leaks in the system so I may look for some quick disconnect I can install in the line beforehand. The rest of the wires there should be easy enough to put connectors in the lines. Radio antenna and strobe light cables plus the elt antenna.
Up front the engine will need to come off. Looking at it, I think the best way is to remove the mount and everything attached to it at the four main bolts plus one in the drag link for the nose gear. Then I can retract the mains and the upper drag link without disturbing the gear timing. There are a couple of other feed wires to the alternator and starter that need to come off, a manifold pressure tube, a fuel line and a bunch of electrical items. I figure that if I put circular connectors in the lines for the electrical ancillaries then I can save a bunch of time right there. The biggest pain in the bum is the 4 control cables, namely manifold pressure, Prop and mixture along with cabin heat. I may be able to change the cabin heat method or even remove it just for the trip since it will be summer. I mean it was 39 degrees in Kansas City on the way back this year so I doubt I’ll need heat.
For now I’ll work on the electrical connectors and maybe ideas will pop into my head as I am working in there.
The only other item to remove would be the canopy.. not a big job.. just needs to be handled carefully.
Of course in all this will be the need for other sets of hands.. especially when it comes to rotating the fuselage to fit it in the container and ditto with the tail..
More thinking required but hopefully something will pop into my head.
Now that this thing had my attention I needed to fill in a few blanks. Answer so many questions that had filled my head since this popped in there in the first place.
Could I fit the Falco in a container?
If I could, could I do it reasonably quickly? - it would be no point to have to spend a month or even a week for that matter, putting it back together.
It was going to be expensive.. but just how much?
Would I be allowed to do it?
What paperwork did I need and who do I need to tell?
When would I go?
How much time would I need?
So I needed to make a start I guess so I figured I could set a date. Next year seemed a bit close to get this organised so why not 2012. No good reason why not I guess and I needed something to work toward so tentatively, 2012 it is!
I also spun the idea past Mike and Bryn at Parakai. They didn’t look too strangely at me. I think Mike thought I was a bit nuts but then as Bryn got excited about the idea the brainstorm took hold.
With all the discussion and a bit of web research this was looking more and more doable.
Somewhere along the line the idea came out that I needed to contact the EAA. From all the ideas of people to contact, this seemed like the obvious first point of contact.
That night I put together an email to the EAA information center and within 3 days I had an email back with a lot of the legal info I needed. In fact the reply even involved words like “simple” and “easy” and had references to website instructions and links to forms.
Most of it was based around aircraft flying into the USA such as Canadian private pilots but from what I could read, I fit a lot of these categories and with EAA sponsorship it was all going to be within the realm of possibility.
A few guys at work looked at me as if I was mad but then pilots are famous for being tight.
They way I figured it, people often spend tens of thousands of dollars on holidays with business class upgrades etc. then I can spend that kind of money on my holdiday too, only with a shipping company !. OK.. that still is weird !
“Am I going nuts?” I thought to myself.
The idea of getting my Falco to Oshkosh was new to me but why hasn’t it been done? If it has, why not more often? I must be nuts!
OK so there was no way I wanted to fly my Falco across the Pacific so that is one thing in my favour of mental stability but it still seemed like I was out on a limb. Yes the exercise would be expensive but given the cost of the ‘hobby’ in the first place I would be surprised if money was the only reason that I was 'giving birth' to this idea. An idea that by now seemed so obvious.
I thought I better spin it by someone else.
I felt a bit silly when I first began to air the idea to Darryn but he seemed to pick up the idea with a reasonable amount of enthusiasm himself so surely that was a good sign? Over the next hour or so we started throwing a few ideas back and forth and from then on I knew I had to follow this up.
What a great experience it would be to fly my own creation across the USA to visit the home of the homebuilt. To join in with all the other homebuilders across the USA in such massive numbers seems like it would finally legitimize what I had done by building my own aeroplane in the first place. Maybe after that there would be nothing left to do but what was really exciting was that this has my attention back to how it was when I first started building the Falco. Maybe this is why I did it in the first place but I just didn’t know it.
I can’t let this drop without finding out more.
2010 was the first year I had been to Oshkosh. It had been a long time coming really but for most homebuilders it is a bit of a religious experience. The home of the EAA, most homebuilders visit Oshkosh at some stage.
I enjoyed the meet. I call it a meet rather than an airshow since I feel that is what it is really. The air display is OK but that is all, I’ve seen better.
It was the final day of the meet and the daily show had just finished. The place had already begun to empty out the day prior but once the daily show had ended the floodgates openned and every aeroplane on the field was in a departure queue setting the airfield up to be a ghost town.
In front of me I watched as a woman with two battens controlled taxi flow like some kind of ballet when it hit me.
“I need to get more involved with this”
I didn’t really know what I meant. It was like someone was telling me something that hadn’t been thoroughly explained.
Slowly over the next half hour it dawned on me what I needed to do. I needed to have my Falco at Oshkosh!