The Propeller under the Bed: Getting Closer to Release

The books have been printed and I got my first author’s copy in the mail on Monday! I promptly repackaged it and sent it to my father so he would have the honor of seeing it first since, without him, there would have been no book. Here’s a photo of that first book:

Propeller Book Photo

The Book in Final Form

Yesterday (Saturday) nine more copies arrived for me and I noticed that Amazon moved up their shipping date from 13 April to 16 March. I’m not exactly sure what that means, but I hope it means that those of you who pre-ordered will be getting your books soon! Barnes & Noble has always showed a shipping date of 21 March.

So what’s next? I had been thinking about having a book launch party in April, but with the possibility of a March release now, that might be a moot point. Whatever happens with the launch, I’m planning to have a book signing at Harvey Field on 6 May, from 11:00 am until 3:00 pm, so mark your calendars! I’ll give a short presentation at about noon and Arnold will be there also to talk and answer questions. There will also be some light refreshments. More details to follow as it gets closer. I’m hoping to do other book signings as well, in Washington State, at Oshkosh and in the DC area (I moved back to northern Virginia in mid-February of this year), but nothing firm has been set up yet.

Writing a book has been a lifelong dream for me, but I never expected that it would turn into a project about my family and the dreams of thousands of other amateur aircraft homebuilders throughout the world. During my research, I gained a much better understanding of not only the history of aviation in the United States but also learned much about my own parents and other relatives. I feel very fortunate to have had this opportunity to document all of this for future generations to enjoy.

Many thanks to all of you who have helped me on this journey that began in September 2012 with a vague idea about writing a book using my mother’s idea for a title. Knowing people out there cared about this project was encouraging in itself, but many of you also provided feedback on my early drafts and I always appreciated the “Likes” and encouraging comments you made on the blog. The blog itself produced occasional surprises–I’ve lost track of the number of people who were stationed at Foster AFB in the 1950s who have contacted me! So thank you again for all your support and I hope to see you at a book signing!

Book Release Update

Last Saturday, the Spring 2017 University of Washington Press Catalog arrived in my mailbox, and what a nice surprise: Propeller is on page 6! Here’s a scan of the page:

Propeller's Page in Spring 2017 UW Press catalog

Propeller’s Page in Spring 2017 UW Press catalog

I finished the index on Tuesday and sent it in, so now there’s nothing to do but wait for the presses to do their thing. Assuming I did the index right of course–this was my first index, so I wouldn’t be surprised if it gets kicked back for some edits. Even with my dubious indexing skills, everything appears to be on track for pre-release copies in February and the full release in April. In the meantime, here’s a link to a “book trailer” if you’d like to check it out:

The E-1 Moves to Oshkosh

Last Tuesday, October 18, was a big day for Arnold and the E-1! Several helpers loaded the disassembled E-1 onto a truck for transport to the EAA Museum at Oshkosh. I just got word that the E-1 arrived safely in Oshkosh two days ago (October 25). The current plan is for the museum to put the E-1 on display in a few months.

When I was at AirVenture, we discussed the possibility of the E-1 being displayed along with Ed Lesher’s Teal, the aircraft that held the C-1a straight-line distance record from 1975 until Gary Hertzler broke it in 1984. Gary is still flying his VariEze, but maybe it will be in the museum someday also (don’t worry, Gary, I’m not trying to rush you).

The other homebuilt aircraft to hold the record (set in 1957), Juhanni Heinonen’s HK-1, is in the Finnish Aviation Museum near Helsinki; it is still the only Finnish aircraft to ever set a world record. But back to the E-1!

Here are some pictures of the loading at Harvey Field in Snohomish (all photos are courtesy of my sister, Kelly Mercier). First, lift the fuselage out of the hangar and load it.

Fuselage loading

Picking up the fuselage with a forklift

Next, lift the wings and load them:

Loading the wings

Loading the wings

Will they fit?

Will they fit?

Will they fit?

No sweat!

No sweat

Wings and fuselage in the container — not even close!

Next, tie everything down and add padding where the parts might contact the sides of the container. Say goodbye to airplane. Sob!

All tied down

All tied down and saying one last goodbye

Wave goodbye. Now I think my father must know how my mother felt when she waved goodbye at Sky Harbor Airport in Phoenix as he left for Vietnam in 1968.

Truck leaving for Oshkosh

Onward to Oshkosh!

I should be getting the proofs for the book in the next couple of weeks. More work, but I’m really looking forward to this last stage of the production process. I’m also working on a book trailer and will give you a peek at that once it’s respectable (many thanks to my niece, Mary Skomerza, for her help on that).

Editing, Editing

As I type this, Arnold is getting the E-1 ready to ship to Oshkosh, where it will become part of the collection in the EAA Museum. He had originally planned to fly the E-1 back to Wisconsin, but he’s been having some engine problems, so he decided to ship it instead. It will have to be disassembled for shipping, so I’ll try to get some pictures for posting!

I had a great time at Oshkosh in July, as usual (I can’t imagine NOT having a great time at Oshkosh). About thirty people showed up for my presentation on the history of homebuilt aircraft, and they seemed to really like it. Please let me know if you are interested in a presentation for your organization (e.g., EAA chapter or anyone interested in aviation). I can easily do something in Ohio or Washington State, and with some advance notice, I can travel to other places as well. The presentation is about 45 minutes long, but I can adjust to fit other time requirements.

I’ve been working with Propeller‘s copyeditor for the past couple of weeks and am down to the last three chapters. I hope to have everything completed by the end of next week so I can enjoy my long Labor Day weekend!

The next step in the process will be to review the proofs, which is the first time I’ll see what the book is going to really look like. If everything goes right, that should happen in November.

From there, I have to prepare an index. I’ve never done an index before, so that might be a bit of an adventure! Fortunately, I got some guidance from UW Press and I also found a book about preparing an index. I had no idea that preparing an index would be popular enough to warrant a book. These days, it seems there is a book on just about everything!

Across the Continent in a Homebuilt

The Air & Space/Smithsonian article at the link below is a mini-version of “The Propeller Under the Bed.” The article describes Arnold’s record, along with the previous records set by Juhani Heinonen, Ed Lesher, and Gary Hertzler.

Click here to read the article: http://www.airspacemag.com/history-of-flight/across-continent-homebuilt-distance-180957787/

The print version of the magazine should be available in stores next week!

Visiting an F-8

What does the F-8 have to do with “The Propeller under the Bed?” The Navy F-8 was a contemporary of the F-100s that Arnold used to fly, and the two airplanes used the same engine, the Pratt and Whitney J57. The F-8 was quite a bit faster in level flight than the F-100, and the F-8 set several speed records in the 1950s (which the Air Force snatched back as quickly as possible, of course).

The F-8 had an impressive record in Vietnam, racking up 19 MiG air-to-air kills compared to only three F-8 losses.

I’ve been doing some research on the F-8 for another project I’m working on, and I had a chance to see the very first F-8, designated the XF8U-1, which is being restored by Craig Wall for the Museum of Flight in Seattle. The work is being done at the MoF Restoration Center at Paine Field in Everett, so that made it easy to see it. Here’s two pictures of the aircraft, now repainted exactly as it was during its first flight in March 1955:

First prototype F-8, restored to paint scheme used during first flight in March 1955 (Eileen Bjorkman photo)

First prototype F-8, restored to paint scheme used during first flight in March 1955 (Eileen Bjorkman photo)

First prototype F-8, designated the XF8U-1 at the time (Eileen Bjorkman photo)

First prototype F-8, designated the XF8U-1 at the time (Eileen Bjorkman photo)

I think you can agree that Craig is doing an outstanding job. Interestingly, he’s a retired Air Force mechanic who knew nothing about the F-8 before he started working on it. You can see him in the above photo on the left (he and Arnold are behind the wing of another aircraft).

Arnold went along with me, and he just couldn’t resist climbing into the cockpit to check it out:

Arnold in the XF8U-1 cockpit at the Museum of Flight Restoration Center (Eileen Bjorkman photo)

Arnold in the XF8U-1 cockpit at the Museum of Flight Restoration Center (Eileen Bjorkman photo)

I’m trying to get another “Amazing Aviation Tale” churned out in the next couple of weeks. Talk to you then!

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.”

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!