Bleriot Medal Winners

I’m almost done with another Amazing Aviation Tale, but in the meantime, here’s a picture I took tonight of Arnold along with another Bleriot Medal winner, Norm Howell, at our Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) Chapter 84 meeting. Since only 62 people have ever been awarded the Bleriot Medal, having two awardees in the same place at once is quite unusual (although it did also happen last summer when Gary Hertzler and Arnold gave their presentations at AirVenture in Oshkosh).

Norm Howell and Arnold Ebneter, Bleriot Medal Awardees (Eileen Bjorkman photo)

Norm Howell and Arnold Ebneter, Bleriot Medal Awardees (Eileen Bjorkman photo)

Norm is a test pilot at Boeing, and I’ve known him since the early 90s at Edwards AFB. He received his Bleriot medal in 1987 for straight-line distance in a 300 kg “Quickie” airplane. According to the FAI website, Norm has held thirteen aviation world records at one time or another, and he currently holds seven records, including one which has been retired by rule changes (meaning it will never be broken).

The Louis Bleriot Medal was established in 1936 in memory of Louis Bleriot, who was the first to cross the English Channel in an airplane and was also a former Vice-President of the FAI. Three Medals may be awarded each year to the respective holders of the highest records for speed, altitude and distance in a straight line for airplanes weighing less than 1000 kg. The medal is not awarded every year; in fact, the medal awarded in 2014 to William Yates for an altitude record is the first one since Arnold and Richard Young received theirs in 2010 (Arnold for distance and Richard Young for speed).

You can also read more of Arnold’s F-100 adventures in the March 2015 issue of Aviation History (available in stores now). Unfortunately, the article isn’t available online — sorry! The article starts on p.54 and is called “Cold War Airpower Laboratory.”

Amazing Aviation Tales: The Lead Bombing

I’ve been talking with a friend for a while about starting another blog called, “Amazing Aviation Tales.” I’ve got the domain name, but I thought I’d post a few items on this blog to see how it goes before I activate the other website.

The idea is to tell true stories of amazing things that have happened in airplanes that people have lived to tell about. The stories will be kept as generic as possible to protect both the innocent and the guilty. If anyone has a story they would like to submit, please contact me at eabjorkman@aol.com. You can either write the story yourself (and I will give you credit if you want your name used) or you can provide me the details and I’ll do the actual write up.

So here we go for the first story, which is in two categories: “Things falling off of airplanes” and “I’d rather be lucky than good!”

Two test pilots were flying a bomber on a mission to do what’s known as “flutter and loads” testing – basically, taking the airplane to its speed and g limits to make sure the wings (or other parts of the airplane) don’t fall off. We’ll call the pilot in command Major Paul.

For the test, the bomber had 1,500 pounds of lead ballast inside the rear fuselage to simulate ammunition normally carried in the tail. The airplane also carried a dozen missiles attached on the wings.

The test points required the pilots to make abrupt, full deflection control inputs that rattled the airplane and pilots like a freight train, especially when using the rudder. Another pilot also flew in a chase airplane to watch the bomber during each test point and check for damage after each maneuver.

During one test point, Major Paul dove the bomber from 27,000 feet to 22,000 feet to get the airplane to its airspeed limit and then abruptly moved the yoke and rudder as required. As he finished the maneuver, the chase pilot called on the radio, “A panel just fell off back by the tail.”

“Which panel?” asked the bomber co-pilot.

“I don’t know. I’m not familiar with your airplane.”

Major Paul called the test director in the control room on the ground, “Any idea what just fell off?”

“Negative. We’re baffled too.”

Major Paul started a slow turn back to the base to set up for a landing. The two airplanes remained at 20,000 feet as the chase pilot continued to describe what he saw and added, “It looks like there are some wires hanging from the opening.”

Major Paul flew over the housing area at the base and turned the plane towards the east. Just as he finished his turn, the chase pilot called out, “Whoa! Something big just fell out!”

At that instant, Major Paul realized that 1,500 pounds of lead was heading for the ground.

People at the base working outside said the ballast sounded like a bomb as it came down and smashed into the ground, spraying up a 100-foot tall mushroom dust cloud.

The “bomb” had landed right next to the center taxiway, narrowly missing a pilot in a fighter airplane taxiing in from a mission.

The wing commander met our heroes, but they weren’t in trouble. Instead, the contractor that built the airplane was. They had to go back and redesign the rack holding the lead in the tail so it wouldn’t fall off again!

E-1 Getting an Upgrade

We’re into the rainy season in the Pacific Northwest! The forecast said the fog would burn off by 10 a.m. this morning, but I took the picture below at 10:05:

IMG_0016

Even if it does clear up here, because a valley separates my house and Harvey Field, where I keep my Decathlon and Arnold keeps the E-1 and his other airplanes, it’s not unusual for the weather to be clear over my house but still foggy at the airport.

Fortunately, the Harveys have this nifty weather cam you can use to check the weather (click here for the weather cam). One good thing about days like this is there is no temptation to go fly, so I should be able to get some work done. Unfortunately, I have yet to drive a single rivet on my RV-8 tailkit. But I have managed to do a few things towards setting up my workshop.

In other news, click here for a story of mine that ran in the October issue of Air&Space/Smithsonian. I don’t think Arnold had this same problem on his record-setting flight!

And yes, the E-1 is getting an upgrade to the engine! Arnold has found a modification kit that should make the engine run a bit cooler and take care of the problems that have grounded the E-1 since last summer.

It’s not unusual for experimental aircraft to have problems with the engine overheating. The vast majority of small piston-driven aircraft use air-cooled engines, and getting the cooling right is more art than science. You want the cowl that covers the engine to be as small as possible to reduce drag and weight, but a smaller cowl also means less room for the air to move around.

No word yet on an installation schedule for the modification, but I’ll let you know as soon as I have more details. In the meantime, the E-1 move to the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) Museum in Oshkosh has been rescheduled for next spring.

E-1 Schedule Update

Arnold got the original engine on the E-1 back together again and, after doing some additional engine runs, he thinks the current engine may be okay after all. But given that we are now into late fall, he has decided to wait until next spring to take the E-1 to the EAA Museum in Oshkosh. The E-1 has no heater, and the weather is also getting a little too iffy to launch on a long cross-country flight that has to be made without flying in the clouds. The delay will also give Arnold a chance to do some more troubleshooting on the engine and perhaps make another attempt at the efficiency record, so stay tuned!

In the meantime, here is a link to a short article I wrote about the control tower at Paine Field in Everett, Washington, which was the departure airport for Arnold’s record-breaking flight in 2010: http://www.heraldnet.com/article/20140921/NEWS01/140929877.

I haven’t gotten much more done on the RV-8 — I hope my next post will show a little progress!

Getting Some Tools for My RV-8

But first, the E-1 status update. Arnold got the parts this week for the engine repair, but then he found he needed yet some more parts. He was also looking at some engine operating data from some previous flights, and now he thinks he might have yet another problem, so ….

Long story short, he is reviewing his options, including possibly replacing the engine altogether. I’ll keep you posted!

I’ve been matching my tools and Arnold’s tools against the Van’s recommended list, and I just about have everything I need to start working on my RV-8 kit. I took advantage of an online sale at Grizzly to pick up a 1″ belt sander and some unibits (see picture below — the unibits are in the small box).

My new toy

My new toy

There just happens to be a Grizzly store near me in Bellingham, so this project may require a trip up there to see what other sorts of interesting things I might need (make that want). While I’m at it, maybe I’ll just go ahead and cross the border into Canada and do some Christmas shopping … oh wait, I’m supposed to be building an airplane!

I hope to start setting up my workshop in about two more weeks. Stay tuned!

E-1 Status Update

We are still hoping that Arnold will be able to fly the E-1 back to Oshkosh this fall so it can enter the EAA Museum. However, he is still waiting for an engine part to arrive, so we don’t have a good estimate on when the engine will be repaired. I will keep you posted!

In the meantime, I didn’t have enough to do in my life already, so I decided to start building an airplane. I visited Aurora, Oregon two weeks ago planning to just fly an RV-7 or RV-8 at Van’s Aircraft to help me decide whether to buy a kit. I had so much fun on the demonstration flight that I drove home with an RV-8 empennage kit in my trunk! The empennage consists of the elevator, rudder, horizontal stabilizer and the vertical stabilizer.

The first order of business was to unpack everything and take inventory of all the parts. The picture below shows all the pieces. Some assembly required, but just think of it as a giant piece of IKEA furniture — anyone who has dumped out a bag of 1,000 small parts from an IKEA box knows what I’m talking about!

RV-8 Empennage Kit Unpacked in My Basement

RV-8 Empennage Kit Unpacked in My Basement

The packaging material makes for a good cat toy as well.

Butterball

Next up is to get my workshop set up, make sure I have all the tools I need, and then do a little practice riveting on some scrap sheet metal. With all that, it will probably be at least another month before I actually start doing any real assembly on my RV-8. Wow, it feels good to say “my RV-8!”

Oshkosh Report

If you’ve ever attended AirVenture at Oshkosh, you know it has a way of increasing any addiction you might already have to aviation. This year I just couldn’t stand to not have a homebuilt aircraft any longer, and I’ve decided to start building an airplane as soon as possible! I started to build a “One Design” aerobatic aircraft many years ago, but after ten years of constant moving and only producing two ailerons, I gave up.

This time around, I’ve decided to build something a bit less ambitious than the One Design, and I’ve pretty much settled on a Van’s RV-8; I should make my final decision by the end of September. I’ll keep you posted on my progress!

Arnold and I stopped at Felts Field in Spokane to deliver the set of BD-5 plans I mentioned in my last blog post. Clark Taylor met us there to take the plans and show us around. Here’s a picture of Clark with the partially-finished BD-5 that he hopes to fly some day!

Clark Taylor of EAA Chapter 79 with his partially assembled BD-5

Clark Taylor of EAA Chapter 79 with his partially assembled BD-5

Some of you might remember that Arnold owned a BD-5 kit at one time, and he used one of the bulkheads to form the fuselage of the E-1. Here’s a picture of that bulkhead as installed in Clark’s airplane.

The BD-5 bulkhead that was used in the E-1 (as installed in a BD-5)

The BD-5 bulkhead that was used in the E-1 (as installed in a BD-5)

Clark also gave us a full tour of the EAA Chapter 79 Chapter House. I’ve been a member of many EAA chapters over the years, and this chapter has the nicest facilities I’ve ever seen, complete with large hangar, meeting room, and place to hang out for watching movies, airplanes, or even model railroads. If you’re in the Spokane area, be sure to stop by and give Chapter 79 a visit!

EAA Chapter 79 Chapter House, Felts Field, Spokane Valley, WA

EAA Chapter 79 Chapter House, Felts Field, Spokane Valley, WA

Heading to AirVenture at Oshkosh!

Arnold and I will be heading to Oshkosh and AirVenture Thursday morning. We’re going to be driving this year, so I hope I find something really heavy to buy and drag home!

We’re going to be stopping by Felts Field near Spokane to deliver Arnold’s BD-5 plans to Clark Taylor, who acquired a used kit with no plans.

Arnold and Gary Hertzler, who holds the current closed course distance world record for C-1a aircraft and formerly held the world record that Arnold now holds, will be talking about their records at an AirVenture Forum on Friday, August 1 at 1000. I’ll be attempting to moderate the conversation, if that’s possible. If you’ll be at AirVenture, please stop by for what should be a very interesting conversation with lots of time for questions and answers!

Also, I’ve posted all the material from my manuscript that I planned to, so I’m going to scale back on my posts to about once every two weeks. I’m planning to provide posts about other record setters and general aviation topics of interest. Also, if anyone has anything specific they would like to ask Arnold, please leave a comment or send me an email at eabjorkman@aol.com and I’ll post the answer in a future blog post.

Arnold Ebneter Awarded Bleriot Medal in 2011

In 2011, the FAI awarded Arnold the Louis Bleriot Medal for his 2010 distance record. Gary Hertzler, Edgar Lesher, and Junni Heinonen, the previous holders of Arnold’s record are also Bleriot Medal recipients for their respective flights.

Here’s a picture of the awards ceremony in Southern California in November 2011:

Bleriot Medal

Bleriot Medal Award Ceremony (Eileen Bjorkman personal collection)

The ceremony took place at the Flight Path Learning Center and Museum near LAX, which explains the flight attendant statue in the background!

Many EAA members have received Bleriot medals, so Arnold is in good company. In addition to Hertzler and Lesher, some of the EAA members include Dick Rutan, Robert L. “Hoot” Gibson, Brian Bohannon, Jon Sharp, Norm Howell, and Steve Wittman (this is by no means an exhaustive list)!

E-1 World Record Selected as NAA Notable Record for 2010!

In January 2010, the NAA selected Arnold’s feat as one of the “Ten Most Notable Aviation Awards of 2010,” and he attended an awards banquet on March 15, 2011, in Arlington, Virginia, along with my sister Kate and me. Here’s a picture:

 

NAA Ceremony DC

NAA Ceremony in Arlington, VA, 2011 (Eileen Bjorkman personal collection)

Richard Truly, a retired navy admiral, retired astronaut, and former head of NASA, was also feted at the event. Normally, my dad would have hung back, hoping for an opportunity to meet someone like Truly, but instead, when the event was over, Truly marched over to our table, introduced himself and said, “Wow, that was quite a feat you did!”