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!

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!

The E-1 Gets a New Engine

The E-1 is finally getting its new engine! The replacement Jabiru arrived from Australia in May, and Arnold has been installing it over the past several weeks. Normally, it would have been a relatively simple swap out, but Jabiru has made some modifications (I assume they are improvements) to the engine, and it didn’t quite fit Arnold’s original installation.

The overall engine size is the same, so he didn’t have to make a new cowling, but he had to modify a bracket that holds the oil cooler, among other things. Here’s some pictures:

New engine installation in the E-1 (Photo Credit Kelly Mercier)

New engine installation in the E-1 (Photo Credit Kelly Mercier)

The oil cooler with new "features" (Photo Credit Kelly Mercier)

The oil cooler with new “features” (Photo Credit Kelly Mercier)

On the other hand, the challenge of making things work is some of the fun of homebuilt aircraft, so it looks like Arnold is having a lot of fun!

No word yet on the transport of the E-1 to the museum in Oshkosh — I’ll keep you posted on that. In the meantime, Arnold and I are both planning to be at AirVenture in Oshkosh, especially since an F-100F is scheduled to fly. AirVenture dates this year are July 20-26, a little earlier than normal. My work schedule right now is a bit hectic, so I may only make it for one or two days, but I will be there!

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!

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

Arnold Ebneter and Gary Hertzler to be Featured at AirVenture

If you’re going to AirVenture in Oshkosh this summer, please join us on Friday, August 1, 1000-1145, at the Forum 2 tent for a “World Record Holders Chat” that will feature Arnold along with Gary Hertzler. Gary is the current world record holder for the C-1a closed-course distance record, and he previously held the C-1a straight-line distance world record that Arnold and the E-1 currently hold.

Here is a link to the website for more information about the forum: http://www.eaa.org/eaa/event/World_Record_Holders_Chat?id=184C559A6B8544F48ACBC7049C340336

Both Arnold and Gary will provide short presentations on their respective flights, and then I’ll moderate a discussion in a question and answer format that will include plenty of questions from the audience. The presentation is sure to be both informative and entertaining!

E-1 Selected for EAA Museum at Oshkosh!

On Monday, May 5, Arnold found out that the EAA has chosen to add the E-1 to the collection at the EAA Museum in Oshkosh. The E-1 is still flyable, so that should make the donation process a lot easier than if we had to tow it to Wisconsin!

E-1

The E-1 (Arnold Ebneter personal collection)

We don’t have any details yet on specifics regarding the move of the airplane or when it might be on display — I’ll keep you posted as I learn more!

I think it is very fitting that Arnold learned this good news on May 5 — that day would have been Colleen’s 82nd birthday. I’m sure she is smiling over the news of this wonderful birthday present!

The Vari-Eze and Another World Record

The 1975 Fly-In at Oshkosh took place just a few weeks after Lesher’s world distance record, and Burt Rutan’s new Vari-Eze was the star of the show. Hearts pounded and jaws dropped as delirious pilots proclaimed, “That’s it! That’s what I’ve been waiting for!”

Pilots liked the BD-5, but the Vari-Eze had the two seats desired by many builders and was said to be capable of flying non-stop from California to Illinois for only $30 in fuel. Rutan sold plans for the airplane from his company, Rutan Aircraft Factory.

However, the Vari-Eze didn’t just show up at Oshkosh — it showed off its stuff that week with a new world record for distance over a closed course set by older brother Dick Rutan. For a closed course record, the pilot flies several circuits over a fixed set of points on the ground, landing back at the point of departure – similar to running laps around a racetrack. Dick, a major in the Air Force at the time, required two attempts to break the record – the engine blew up on the first try and he made an emergency landing in Green Bay.

Resourceful helpers back at Oshkosh scrounged a VW engine from another engine, slapped it onto the Vari-Eze, and Dick tried again two days later. This time he made it, breaking the previous closed-course record set by Lesher in his Teal by more than 83 miles. However, the absolute distance set by Lesher on July 2 still stood, and it would be another nine years before that record fell, to another Vari-Eze. In 1986, Dick Rutan, along with co-pilot Jeanna Yeager, set an even bigger record – they were the first to fly any aircraft non-stop around the world, unrefueled, in yet another of Burt’s designs, the Voyager.

In the early 1980s, a pilot named Gary Hertzler tinkered with the Vari-Eze design by redesigning the exhaust system, changing the inlet to the engine, adding a special propeller, and coating the airplane with exceptionally smooth paint. Beginning in 1982, Hertzler won an award for fuel efficiency three years in a row. Just a few weeks after his third win in June 1984, Hertzler flew non-stop from Mojave, California to Martinsburg, West Virginia, for a distance of 2,221 miles, nearly 500 miles further than the original record Arnold had planned to beat.

Click here for pictures and more information about the Vari-Eze.