Shakedown and Flyaway Home
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.
GETTING THE PITCH RIGHT
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.
A NEW SET OF RIBS
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.
LOW WATER TEMPERATURE
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.
KEEPING THE TIRES ON
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
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
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
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.
FLYING HOME: FROM POSEY PATCH TO BRAZIL
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
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.
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
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 email@example.com My
thanks to Mark Smith for teaching me so much about building
planes and about flying.