John's Plane Week13
Shakedown and Flyaway Home

So, the last you heard was “She flies.” That she does. John’s Plane, “Captain America III” as Mark dubbed her is a beautiful flier. As of November 18, I have logged 29 hours on the tach and I guess what is to tell is how it was logged.


As per Mark’s instructions I logged an hour and half on the engine just taxiing and crowhopping. Jerry Halstead, Jean Taylor and Tom Philio all flew (rode is the better word) with me during those flights. Finally, I asked Mark to check out the plane and on the first flight he advised adding a couple of degrees of pitch to the prop. This increased the prop setting to about 11 degrees, very close to what Mark’s trainer was pitched at, and give me a top speed of almost 65 MPH, depending on the size of the two pilots. Stall speed ranges from 33 MPH to 38 MPH. I am using that pitch setting still, though I may add a degree to see if I can get that same speed at a lower rpm.


Steve Gould flew with me a lot during the next ten hours of the break-in period and I have followed up on a number of his suggestions. First of all, I kept having to reinsert ribs, not just the end ribs which Quicksilver style planes often have the problem with, but ribs up and down the wing. Steve suggested I custom make ribs and replace the ribs that were popping out. Mark agreed it was a good idea and said it would be okay if necessary to make individual ribs of whatever length it took to get a tight fit. I spent one morning cutting and bending new ribs and then installing them. The sails are now very tight and at 28 hours, not one rb has popped out. I increased most of the rib lengths by a quarter inch. Mark figures the qualifier sails can take a rib slightly larger than MX stock and is considering cutting the sail slightly shorter so the stock rib will be a tighter fit than they were on mine.


I learned early on the water temperature was not coming up and the cooler the air became toward evening, the less likely I would get a water temp above 115 degrees, even in a climbout. Eventually I will replace the thermostat but in the meantime I am using the old piece of cardboard trick. I am now flying with a high tech piece of cardboard ( a divider removed from a case of oil) covering about two thirds of the radiator area. That gives me 150 degrees of coolant temperature during these cool fall days. Some day this winter I will install a new thermostat.


Steve and I flew early one morning south of Evansville and over the Ohio River bridge. The plane was performing beautifully, the colors were gorgeous, and we just kept flying. Steve pointed out the border between Kentucky and Indiana and told me how it had changed over the years. We could look across the river and see Henderson, Kentucky, and then we flew back over Ellis Park and headed home. Steve spotted a road crew and we circled and waved touched down on the newly paved surface behind them. By the time we returned to Mark’s strip we had just enough fuel in the top tank to feel safe. The 582 is burning from five to five and a half gallon of fuel at cruise. With a six gallon tank I can fly for an hour and know I have a large safety margin.


During one shakedown period Steve and I learned the tubeless tires slip off the rim in a sharp turn unless they are properly aired. I had aired the tires to about 12 pounds psi, a good pressure for a break-in period. It works fine in straight taxiing and, as Mark has said in many of his discussions and written in his articles, helps to cushion hard landings. The tire is rated at 30 psi so after I lost a tire for the second time, I aired the tires to 20 psi and the tires are staying on.

At Brazil/Clay County where I am hangared, the tires squeak sharply during anything but a greaser landing when they kiss the paved runway. At first I told myself, the tires were simply protesting being spanked into motion as they hit the asphalt surface. But with more practice and improved landings, I realize the asphalt is just less forgiving than grass. Landing on asphalt, you can feel the slightest divergence from tracking at touchdown.


I guess it would be unreasonable to expect no leaks from a new system. From the exhaust gas manifolds I spotted several drips of oil running down the side of the engine. Solution was to tighten the six allen screws in the exhaust manifold . During the break in we had filled the fuel tank with a mix of oil and fuel, just in case the oil injector did not kick in. The injector worked from the start and the too rich fuel made a leak likely. The tightening did the trick and the outside of the engine is still clean at 28 hours.

Another small problem showed up when Steve and I spotted coolant on the rear of the engine after a flight. We traced it to the water temperature sender which was not screwed down tightly into the top of the engine. I removed the 3/ 8 inch threaded sender, applied a layer of Teflon tape to the threads and tightened it down. No problems since.


Thursday, October 22, nine people involved in the project planned to meet at The Tumbleweed Restaurant in University Plaza on SR 62 west of Evansville to celebrate the completion of the project.

Since the weather was moderately good, Jean Taylor, my flying buddy and host at Evansville, and I headed to Mark’s airstrip to fly a bit before the dinner. Jerry Halstead showed up at the strip to begin the celebration early, too, and by 6:30 PM it was dark and we had returned the plane to the hangar.

I had invited everyone I recalled as having helped with the project and didn’t know who would show up for sure. It was great to see Mark Smith, the designer and chief builder; Steve Gould, chief test pilot; Dan Grimm, decked out in his fire captain’s uniform, who gave me several suggestions, particularly about my control panel; Lester Morrison, who helped me install the gear box and prop, all the way down from Linton; Jerry Halstead of Newburg and Jean Taylor both of whom flew early on in the break in period with me and who took an interest throughout the building period; and Tom Smith of Smitty’s Fabrication who helped me install the seats he made. Tom also flew several hours during the break-in period.

We enjoyed excellent service and good food. In a short thanks to everybody who helped, I recalled my intentions back in April before I retired from my teaching job. I had asked Mark to build me a plane and give me 15 hours of dual required for my BFI. Basically he refused, but gave me something far better, the experience of building my own plane while hanging around a bunch of great pilots and builders and flying during the whole summer to get my fifteen hours. The ground school part of my BFI training with Mark was continuous over the 12 weeks I was there. Thanks again to all who read this and to Mark and his friends for taking me in as just another flier. On November 4, I met with AFI Phil Larsh at his flightpark and took my BFI written and oral tests. I completed the written portion of the test in about 45 minutes and Phil immediately graded it. I passed!

Most of the questions I missed were about the exemption itself, even though I did know it pretty well, I read a couple of questions carelessly and a couple I simply did not know. Phil went over each missed question and made sure I understood the concepts. I personally feel the USUA test was a more realistic test on instruction than the FAA Fundamentals of Instruction test I took earlier in the summer.

Phil then questioned me about teaching ultralight flying. “How would you explain to your student” or “How would you teach your student” preceded almost every question. Phil would pose scenarios and have me take my student through the learning experience.

We completed the orals about 6:30 that evening! I enjoyed the experience, talking and having someone listen intently to my answers. And I learned a great deal from discussing the concepts of teaching and flying with Phil further than my own limited experience would take me. On reflection, the BFI testing by an AFI is not merely testing but a continuation of the BFI training you begin with your BFI instructor, in my case Mark Smith.


Saturday morning, October 24, was beautiful. The skies were sunny, some few thin clouds hung way up in the sky and the wind was out of the southwest at about 5 miles per hour. Couldn’t ask for better weather. The GPS I borrowed said Brazil was 99.8 miles to the north on a bearing of 20 degrees.

Jerry Halstead and Jean Taylor, who would alternately fly with me or drive the car from point to point, and I met for breakfast at Bob Evans in Evansville. At Posey patch by 10 AM, I had changed the plugs and gassed the plane. Mark showed up to get parts for another project, wished us well but left before we took off.

By about 10:45 with Jean Taylor in the left seat, we departed Posey Patch and headed for Patoka Airport, a private strip adjacent to US 41 and the Patoka river. Both Jean and I were novices to the GPS and long distance flight, but we knew the area and we also carried a sectional. We arrived at Patoka only minutes before Jerry pulled up in the car carrying the gas can we didn’t really need.

A young father and his 8 year old boy had seen us in the pattern and came over excited to see the ultralight. We told him all about it and how he could get some training. He seemed as enthusiastic as we were, even though he lives near the airport where several small GA planes are tied down are hangared and he must see them flying often.

After about 20 minutes, Jerry and I buckled up in the plane and headed for Lester Morrison’s strip just south of Linton, Indiana. We climbed to 1500 feet to get the smoothest air and for a longer view. This trip would be about 50 miles over territory that Jerry knew fairly well, though neither of us had flown over the southern two thirds of it before. Jerry was happy to leave the GPS in the car and navigate with his sectional. Jerry correctly called every town we flew by, and southeast of Vincennes, made a small course correction to the east since we were over the western most tower of three towers he was navigating by. As we approached the next landmark town, we checked the water tower to confirm his call that the town was Bicknell.

The small towns I I was familiar with looked bigger from the air than I had imagined. As I drive through them, I am seeing only what I have seen for thirty or forty years. But from the air I see housing developments, the big stores and their huge parking lots, and a factory here and there, and I realize even small town America has increased in population.

By this time I was relaxed enough to truly enjoy the fall colors. Anyone who has been up there knows how useless it is to try to catch it up in words. I believe we hit the fall colors at their best. We had thought we might see the prison at Carlisle off to our left but no sign of it. As we flew north we did notice it getting chillier. My engine water temp dropped about 5 degrees and Jerry started shivering about 10 minutes before we arrived at Lester’s.

From Bicknell, we flew up SR59 straight north to Lester’s strip. We spotted it way out and noted the two towers on either side of the north end of the strip. Wind was still from the south so I flew across Lester’s strip to alert him and came in from the north. I touched down on the level north end then rolled downhill and right into his yard. Lester and his wife greeted us and gave us a tour of their pretty country place. Lester has a single place hangared with his son John’s MX II.

Mark had been telling Lester how well the MX II climbed with the 582 pushing it, so I felt bound to let Lester feel my plane climb out. We flew about fifteen minutes, making a big circle with Lester pointing out the distant landmarks such as the powerplant smoke stacks to the west and landed, once again passing between the twin towers.

I must comment on how nice it was to see a pilot’s wife so supportive as Lester’s better half was. She was as interested in my plane as Lester was, and made us all feel at home, never once hinting that we were all just boys playing with expensive toys, but recognizing the creative nature of our love of flying.

Here is a picture Lester's wife took of the three cross country flyers. On the left is Gene Tayor of Evansville, IN, I am standing in the middle, and on the right is Jerry Halstead of Newburgh, IN.

Finally the last leg to Brazil. Jean flew with me on this one and since I was in my home territory, we didn’t even need a map. We would fly up SR 59 right to the Brazil airport. We saw Clay City almost as soon as we reached our 1500 foot altitude but still felt glad to read the sign CLAY CITY on the newly painted water tower.

I circled the home of another flyer just before I entered the pattern for Brazil’s runway 27. We touched down with a squeak of the tires on the newly surfaced runway.

None of my Terre Haute buddies were there to greet me so I felt a bit of a letdown, but two great friends, Jean and Jerry congratulated me and we went to eat at the Jade Garden Chinese restaurant in Terre Haute before driving back to Evansville and Posey Patch.

What a trip this has been, from April to October, I mean. I am pleased with and proud of my new plane. Maybe some of you readers of this saga will fly with me after I get my check ride and my BFI certificate.

Happy flying from yours truly, John Seifert.


Sorry about the long delay. I now have logged 38 hours on my trainer. I completed my check ride for my BFI with AFI Phil Larsh of Colfax, Indiana, in mid-December. I am ready to teach when the weather breaks.

I returned to Mt VernonThursday, February 4, 1999, to visit with the guys and enjoy lunch at Lucky Linda's. The special for today was fried pork chops. Goooood. And since I had caught a little flack from a reader or two about no final episode, to install this final chapter. Here are a couple of pics we took at lunch.

The first is Linda collecting for someone's lunch.

The second shows us at lunch. John Seifert (That's me, folks) on the left, then Mark about to bite into his pork chop, Steve Gould standing in the back, and Chicagoans Tom Nedbal and his wife, who were shopping for parts for Tom's MXL.

Thanks to everyone who has read my story. Some of you have e-mailed me of your interest and that is really gratifying. My e-mall address is  
My thanks to Mark Smith for teaching me so much about building planes and about flying.


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