Copyright © Damon Meyer. All rights reserved.
We're emerging from the brutality that is winter in New England, and I'm happy to say we made productive use of the time in the heated hangar this winter. The plane has been to Florida and back twice, Oshkosh once, California, and Raleigh many times. Along the way I've replaced the rubber oil cooler hoses with stainless steel integral fire-sleeved hoses that should last the life of the airplane, put new main gear tires on, and worked with Marc Zeitlin at Burnside Aerospace to fix a loose main gear bow with new bushings. After fighting wiring and signal interference issues with the previous HF implementation - with all wires running through a common path out the spar to the wing pylon - Izzy is fabricating a self-contained HF system in the pod slung under the right wing, with only a single remote cable running to the wing the faceplate of the ICOM 706 MKII radio to the radio chassis itself, which is installed in the wing pylon close to the antenna and ground plane connections. I'm hoping to flight test the new pod and get successful radio check with ATC in April, and set up for Hawaii in May/June to break records and gain experience.
Hi, Izzy again! On a trip to the UK this month I had the wonderful opportunity to meet with some of our Canard friends, including WORLD FAMOUS Linda and Patrick Elliott (G-LGEZ) at their home airfield in Dunsfold on Saturday January 21. You might recognize the airfield from the TV show Top Gear since it served as a race course, much to the chagrin of the local pilots. Anyway, the point of this blog entry is to mention a meeting between Pat, Damon and myself. While sitting next to Pat's airplane we called Damon in the USA on speakerphone to discuss the HF Radio design. Pat shared some information about Steve Sorenson's Defiant HF installation he used on a flight to Australia. Pat told us that Steve reported a lot of interference trying to transmit on the HF Radio. HF transmissions cased systems problems, including somewhat scary things like autopilot disconnects and navigation systems being impacted. As a result, we decided to modify our own HF the design significantly and move all the components out to the pylon and out of the cockpit. This poses some new engineering challenges we're working through.
Hi, it's Izzy here with an update on "The Wheel", the Cozy Mark IV project nearing completion. I'll use "The Wheel" to accompany Damon in his flight around the world if I'm successful in getting it finished in time and it passes all the safety, reliability and performance testing. This winter, we're preparing for the first start of the Lycosaur-ish IO-360 C1E6 Angle Valve engine and continuing testing and development of the never ending HF Radio system. Vertical Power sent a VPX Pro to establish the electrical buss for the Cozy IV. Also on order is a Dual Plasma Lightspeed III Electronic Ignition system. After my positive experience with Klaus' Plasma ignition on my Continental Engine on the VariEze, I have the confidence to move forward with a full dual electronic ignition system, ditching the magneto. And to watch over the engine, an EI MVP-50 acquisition is in progress. Electronics International performed well in the sales and support process, and the reliability of their CGR-30P installed in the VariEze convinced me to install EI's larger MVP-50 system in the Cozy IV. I've spoken with some others about possibly using an integrated Garmin or Dynon Engine Monitoring system, but elected to keep the design isolated from the other avionics and communications equipment for now. It's a cheaper option and will get me to an engine start quicker than if I waited to save up the money for a fully integrated system. The EFIS, Autopilot etc is still a ways down the road but it's looking like Garmin is leading the charge in that area with Dynon as a close second. I've been debating extensively whether it's worth the money to invest in a GWX-70, which would also require a Garmin GTN 750 or G500/600 to get the advanced Doppler features. Voyager used a Narco's KWX 58 Color Radar for that trip. There are some of those types of systems on the market but the power requirements may exceed my ship's ability to support it. Damon and our chief engineer are not convinced we need such expensive equipment, and I'm listening hard to that advice. The final decision will probably come down to budget and time. I'm looking forward to springtime and doing some more formation flight practice with Damon using the VariEze. In the meantime, Damon is keeping Skippydood (VariEze N9091A) in good shape by flying her every two or three weeks for 30 minutes or more to keep things in good working order.
Incredibly, my plane was smashed by a runaway (driverless!) pickup truck on the ramp at KRDU June 28, and the last 4 weeks have been consumed with repairs and transportation of a wing about 1600 miles, ferrying the plane to NH for remaining repairs, etc. INSTEAD OF finishing the antenna pod and HF installation. Thus, Hawaii will have to wait until some time after OSH. Speaking of Oshkosh, I will be flying there tomorrow and Wednesday, and I hope to see some friends and fellow aviators at the Cozy Forum Thursday evening, where Marc Zeitlin has graciously offered me the floor for a 45 minute presentation and Q&A on this Round the World project!
Much progress over the past month, and many thousands more miles on the plane! We've acquired a Tarheel HF antenna for the left winglet, and Izzy will be fabricating a faired mount for it next week. This antenna is more compact that a trailing wire setup, and will give us down to 2.5MHz up to 26 MHz, covering all the aviation HF frequencies we'll need with the possible exception of the lowest frequencies (longest wavelengths). This will necessitate painting a 20 square foot copper ground plane on the bottom of the wing as well. I now have my Switlik "U-Zip-It" custom fit long duration wear survival dry suit, compact wearable strobe light, inflatable life vest, and a PLB (personal locator beacon). The raft goes out for recertification/repacking tomorrow. After corresponding with Bill Swears, who had to ditch his Cozy III heading east to the mainland from Hawaii in 2003 (and has been extremely helpful sharing advice from his experience) I decided to make sure I am self sufficient with all critical items in or attached to the flight suit. This means life jacket, water, food bars, radio, InReach beacon, PLB, and Leatherman Skeletool. Six weeks from tonight I'll be heading for the west coast to launch for the Hawaii records!
I flew N22AZ to south Florida last weekend, and after a visit with my Grandpa (95 year old WWII veteran, B-17 bombardier), I stopped into Merritt Island and discussed the project with Wes Whitley, an HF radio expert referred by Patrick and Linda Elliott. Wes and I went through the plane looking at antenna, tuner, and transceiver installation possibilities and believe we have settled on a solid plan for a dipole, trailing wire antenna. Izzy has purchased an ICOM 706MkII transceiver for use in testing and the actual voyage. We'll install it in my plane over the next 6 weeks, and test it out with the help of ham radio friends that we're planning to make very soon. I've also been having some luck generating interest from companies - including some in Maine - in partnering with us financially in exchange for brand exposure on our aircraft, uniforms, and in any press events. Ideally we have the HF radio installed and tested for late June, when I plan to beat the current world speed record from Monterey to Hilo, and Hilo to San Jose. I still need to purchase my Mustang survival suit and get my life raft repacked after testing it in the Atlantic in early June. Other than those items - ready to go to Hawaii!
Things are heating up! Izzy Briggs, composite materials fabricator and pilot extraordinaire, as well as Cozy IV builder, has signed on the project as wingman on the Big Trip! Izzy is based in Concord, NH, has restored a prior award winning Varieze to a pristine state, and is completing his Cozy IV specifically for this project. Exciting to have another top notch member of the team, and flying two planes around the world together is a great boost. Some of the most skilled and respected pilots - Dick Rutan and Mike Melvill - did exactly that in 1997. Their trip inspires and informs ours.
Kanab was great - met Linda and Patrick Elliot, a wonderful British couple who fly all over the globe in their Long-EZ. They gave me contacts to help decipher the challenge of HF radio installations in a composite pusher airplane! I also purchased and mounted a Dual XGPS170 ADS-B in receiver for in-flight weather and traffic displayed on my iPad. In addition, I installed a Dynon ADS-B transponder to get me closer to 2020 ADS-B compliance. Just need a certified WAAS GPS in the next 3 years and I'll have that knocked.
I'vebeen unbelievably busy at my new day job, but not so busy that I couldn't fly to California on a Friday night, check out the plane mods and calibrate the fuel tank senders on a Saturday, and fly N22AZ back to the east coast nonstop the following day, setting a world record between KONT and KPWM in the process. 13h 18m, pending certification by the NAA, currently underway. Gear leg fairings gave me three additional knots at slow cruise, where I'll be spending a lot of time on the RTW trip. The strake tank fuel senders work great, so now I can see my total fuel situation on the Dynon Skyview right up front. Marc Z. did a great job on the brakes lines - no more concerns about 20-year-old Nylaflo plastic lines cracking or popping. Next up: a few trips to New Jersey and Raleigh-Durham over the next two weeks, then off to the Kanab (UT) fly-in on September 11. Latest favorite RTW route is:
KPWM LPAZ LGKR OMAD VECC RPLL PGUM PKMJ PHTO KMHV KLAL KPWM
Had a great flight to California via Oklahoma (to stay south of weather) last Saturday. Plane performed great - went well up into the flight levels to better see and avoid convective buildups enroute (no shortage of those all the way to Nevada! Must be an El Nino year) I changed the oil and brake pads after I got there, greased main gear wheel bearings using a very cool bearing greaser tool in Marc's collection, removed aux tanks, opened the plane up for the Condition Inspection and other work. We jacked the plane up and set it at 2.5 degrees nose up so Marc can align the to-be-constructed gear leg fairings with the airflow in cruise flight. I called the Ontario, California control tower manager today - very nice guy - and will be sending him the particulars for certifying a takeoff time for the world record between Ontario (KONT) and Portland, Maine (KPWM). That attempt will start around 3:00 AM on either Sunday 7/12, or Monday 7/13 after the work is done on the plane. The trip out to California was also the inaugural trip for the Delorme InReach Explorer, a GPS tracking device that also functions as a text relay device that I can use to send and receive texts (albeit with a lag between 1 and 20 minutes) from my iPhone worldwide, especially useful for the transoceanic legs. The tracking website is share.delorme.com/damonmeyer .
May 10, 2015
I've been flying the heck out of the airplane lately for personal travel between Maine, Pennsylvania, and Raleigh Durham, but did take the time last weekend to install the tanks, put the plane into phase 1 flight testing, and fly it through the usual maneuvers at 2000 lb. gross weight. I also gathered lots of fuel burn data between 4,000' and 14,000' density altitudes. Results are very good - most mid-to-high altitudes I can run at full throttle, lean of peak mixture, and get numbers yielding a 3000 nm ultimate range. That should allow a decent reserve on trip legs up to 2400nm. On or about June 11th I'll starting bringing the plane to Tehachapi, CA for more modifications and work by Marc Zeitlin at Burnside Aerospace. Those include main gear leg fairings, electronic fuel quantity probes in the strake tanks (since I really can't see the sight gauges with the auxiliary tanks installed), metal brake lines to replace the 20-year old NylaFlow nylon lines, and the annual Condition Inspection (CI). The Dynon servos are working fine now, so I have full autopilot which is really nice for enroute fatigure mitigation. Between the oxygen bottle, the relief tube, the temperfoam seat cushions, and the autopilot I think I'll be relatively comfortable flying the plane for 13-14 hours at a stretch when I bring along enough food and water.
Happy New Year! I have a new Dynon servo and a replacement (or repaired) remote compass for the backup D6 "6 pack" instrument arriving in a couple days, and will install this weekend. I went up for some airwork to stay fresh on the airplane last weekend, and will probably go up again this weekend if I get the servo installed (and it works this time), and if it's not brutally cold. I'll also be starting to schedule the summer activities - fundraising, speed mods including gear leg fairings, CI, perhaps Oshkosh attendance - and changing the oil. I'll take advantage of low density altitudes this months to gather some performance numbers "on the deck".
It's been a long process, and I won't bore anyone with the grisly details, but N22AZ now has modernized operating limitations (for those not familiar with Experimental Amateur Built aircraft, "op limits" are part of the Airworthiness Certificate and must be carried in the plane at all times while flying). I can now make "major changes" to the airplane, without invalidating the newly revised AC. Still troubleshooting the Dynon roll servo issue - installed a replacement from Dynon last week, calibrated, and when testing the calibration the servo just slams to "full right roll" position and chatters away, trying to go past the limit stops. Not good; awaiting yet another call back from Dynon on that. I'll be using December-January to collect more fuel burn data at lower altitudes (1000'-10,000') - in the event my RTW flight profile requires flight "down there in the weeds", I'll need to know exact endurance with optimized leaning at various speeds at, above, and below Carson Speed (1.32*CLmax, or 1.32*92=121 KIAS for a Cozy III).
I flew N22AZ to Chicago and back from Sanford yesterday - was able to refine the fuel flow calibration to bring it closer to reality over a 10-hr round trip for a business meeting north of the city. Lost two cowl screws somewhere along the way - other than that, no maintenance issues. Used 39 gallons westbound, 30 eastbound, and got a lot of good IFR practice. The distance flown was just over 1600nm, or about 75 percent of the longest legs I'll need to fly on the RTW project. Next project steps are wrangling new op limits from the FAA, and getting 3 Dynon avionics issues fixed: inoperative autopilot roll servo, incorrect heading info from the D6 backup instrument, and the intermittent ARINC Garmin-to-Dynon interface. With the last two functioning, the plane can fly coupled GPS approaches. As you can see from the screen shot here from yesterday's return leg, I can get to 6.5 GPH at 172 knots at 12-13,000' density altitude, which yields an endurance of 16 hours at 170 knots, or 2720nm range.
Been a travel-heavy couple of weeks - between flying back out to Tehachapi to pick up the plane and tanks, calibrating them with actual fuel in them, and returning to Maine, then turning right back around and flying commercially back to CA for business, and then back home...I traveled about 10,000 miles in 9 days, which is right on the pace I need for the RTW flight! The FAA paperwork is hopefully going to be processed later this month - revised operating limits and a test flight area - so I expect to test fly the Phase I hours in either late October or early November. After that, it gets too darn cold to reliably plan for extended flight time. The tanks and plumbing/wiring are first class - Marc Z. does nice work. This weekend I'll be installing a replacement strobe power supply I purchased from Mike Roe in Lake Havasu City on the way back east, and will prep the plane for a probable business trip to Chicago next week.
I flew the plane to Tehachapi, CA over the weekend of 8/23-24 after a marathon Izzie Briggs-assisted right brake repair the night before departure. Spent 11 hours in the cockpit on the 24th, two legs from Madison WI to Tehachapi, and felt fine at the end of that trip. Marc and I built tank baffles 8/25, but the next two days were a bust because we couldn't make the mold concept come out to be any less work than the "standard" method of fabricating the tank out of panels tapes together. While trying to troubleshoot the roll servo late that week, all Dynon peripherals became undetectable to the Skyview. Dynon is letting me keep the two RMA'd servos through the end of September for troubleshooting, which is appearing to be an endless job. The effort it takes to get to a 100% functional 2-axis A/P seems infinite at this point. I've also been talking to the Van Nuys FSDO about getting my operating limitations updated to the current version; the original 1993 op limits for this plane suck, as it states that any major change to the airplane (i.e. higher gross weight with the fuel tanks) "invalidates" the airworthiness certificate. If the FAA moves too slowly to accomplish the permission to flight test in Mojave, I will need to bring the tanks back empty and disconnected when my vacation window runs out 10/5, and finish the paperwork and flight testing on the east coast (probably Portsmouth KPSM for the gross weight test flying). I'm flying back commercially to Tehachapi 9/29 to see where we're at. On the bright side, the original design I sketched out on the back of a napkin has withstood Marc Zeitlin's and Mike Melvill's scrutiny with no major changes - so I'm feeling pretty good about that!
Relief tube installed, iPad bracket installed on copilot side. Both work GREAT! Now my endurance matches the plane's. For bad news, the autopilot servos worked for about 2 flight hours, then stopped being detected by the Skyview again. I took one of the servos I was shipping back to Dynon, put it in the roll servo position, and *boom* the servos were both detected and calibrated. So I bolted THAT one to the firewall, and started everything up - not detected. No amount of fiddling with plugs and wires would make it appear. Pitch servo only. I'm going to ask Dynon for another few weeks with all 4 servos so we can use them in troubleshooting while I'm out working on fuel tanks with west coast crew chief Marc Z. in a couple weeks.
Busy couple of days - finalizing bill of materials to buy for the aux tanks, discussing fuel tank layup schedules with west coast crew chief Marc Zeitlin, fabricating relief tube, touching up the matte black finish on the removable instrument panel cover, reading up on Majuro (the island in the Pacific nation of Kiribati, between Guam and Hawaii), and reading the plans chapter 3 in preparation for composites practice with technical advisor Izzie Briggs - flying N22AZ to Concord NH this weekend for that. Headed to plane this evening to install relief tube, and start assembly of final "fitting" mock-up of the tanks, as well as take detailed photos of the current fuel routing to determine best place to tie in the auxiliary tanks.
Test flew the autopilot yesterday - in-flight tuning needed was minimal, the OOTB settings seem to work pretty well...once again the plane flies itself better than I can. Now I can nap enroute. Just kidding! Next up: fiddling with transponder antenna, clean up wheel pant(s), make a mount on RH panel for iPad! New favorite route, based on info from clearance company guys, is as follows:
KPWM LPAZ LMML OMAD VECC RPLL PGUM PKMJ PHOG KMHV KGNV KPWM
Apparently Wake Island was a no-go - Avgas unavailable, and no willingness there to import any barrels!
A breakthrough on the mysterious autopilot servo issues - Gary and I spent about 6 hours over the past few nights trying various combinations of the 4 servos I currently have in my possession. "Eenie, meenie, miny, moe...which of you servos has got to go?!?" We've found two servos (one old and one new) that work in the roll and pitch positions - that is to say, they are detected and calibrated by the Skyview. Next step is to hook them up to airframe, re-calibrate, and go flying to do the in-flight calibration (to the extent it is needed) - most likely this Saturday 8/2.
In other news, I Skyped with Peter Steeger in Hokkaido Japan, a nice German fellow who speaks fluent Japanese and is familiar with dealing with their Civil Aeronautics Board (their version of the FAA). Turns out that his handling fee - typical for Japan - is about $1200, but more troubling is the $1000+ estimate to even petition the JCAB for permission to fly an experimental amateur built airplane through their fine country. Sooo...Japan goes into the "last resort" category. My current favorite route is:
More autopilot servo challenges - we hooked up the new ones, which are still detected just fine, but will not calibrate because the AP disconnect button is not prompting the servos to proceed to the next step in calibration. After 4 fruitless hours including a call to Dynon Avionics tech support, they are baffled. The button is working fine - it grounds out the AP disconnect signal wire as it should - but that disconnect alert is not making it back to the Skyview display. Gary and I are of the opinion that these replacement "remanufactured" servos are also bad, but I will put the ones I removed back in to see if they still have their same problem (different from the new ones). If so, that almost certainly means something is bad inside the servos.
In other cool news - my Indiegogo campaign had it's first contributor - huge "thank you!" to Varieze driver, Henry Hallam!
East coast crew chief Gary Traynham and I temporarily hooked up the new pitch and roll servos' power and data cables to the Skyview today - success! Both servos were detected and firmware updated from the Skyview. Next step is to take the servos to a local electronics supply place in Portland for new Molex and DB9 power and data plugs (I'm hoping they can take 10 minutes and crimp the plugs for me so I don't have to buy a $30 tool to install $2 worth of plugs!) and then complete hooking them up to the airframe and controls to run a ground calibration on them. If that passes, then it's time to go fly them - probably Thursday 7/31or Saturday 8/2. After getting the autopilot fully functional again, the next "small" job is lower the transponder antenna through the fuselage skin forward of the copilot footwell. I get anxious controllers about once a flight telling me "N22AZ...radar contact lost...please recycle your transponder" because there is evidently some orientation of the plane where either my body or the engine blocks the signal from the radar site. I used to recycle my transponder, but now I just bank the plane in a few s-turns across my airway, and I always reappear. Last thing I need is an edgy overseas controller losing my data tag on their screen...
I received the replacement autopilot pitch and roll servos from Dynon avionics today, and plan to install them Sunday 7/27 after verifying the Skyview can see and calibrate them properly. Although flying IFR by hand the past 6 months has been outstanding practice, I'd rather not fly around the world without the AP functioning to its peak!