Berkut13 Flight Operations 2006
Last updated 12-31-06

Kicking off 2006? (1/5/06): Or not. OK, well...I've been flying a couple of times so far this year but nothing too special to report - the usual cheap fuel trips with Ron Gowan and Doug Bryan and local flights around the lakes. I'm tweaking the cowling air flow mods, oil cooler blocking plate, and a few others but nothing spectacular so far. I'm also putting the full-court press on Scott's Berkut #24 and hope to have it flying this summer. Keep checking in...there is lots to come.

First Gathering of DFW Canards (3/26/06): It was a beautiful, sunny and 70 degree, Saturday afternoon here in Texas! (it was freezing 2 days prior...typical Texas weather) And it just so happened that Sandy's nephew Eric planned a trip to DFW to see a friend and mainly to get a Berkut ride. A bit further away, a German fellow by the name of Kurt also had planned a trip to DFW to meet up with a few canardians. He is in the planning stages of building a Cozy Mk4 back in Germany. My buddy Graham hosted another hangar party for Kurt's sake so he could check out some canard aircraft. It turned out to be a great weather day, so we sent out the call and we all headed over to LNC.

I loaded Eric in the backseat of the Berkut and Scott Carter stopped by and Sandy was GIB for him. This also presented the opportunity to let Sandy shoot some video of MY plane for a change. It was a little bumpy going over there, but by the time we came back it had smoothed out and we got some really outstanding video! (you'll see that footage in upcoming videos) Any-hoo, I didn't get any still pics on the way over since we were filming. Eric was sure in for a treat this day...once we were on the ground, two L-39 jets made a formation low pass right over us. They zipped around some more, then landed and parked near us. Gee, did we step into an air show by accident? ;-) We pulled in line with the rest of the canards, jumped out and started chatting with some locals that saw the arrivals. Graham had put out lots of snacks and drinks and we all dug in. (Thanks, Graham) We had a total of 8 canards show up: Scott Carter (Long-EZ), Jesse Huerta (Cozy MkIV), Me (Berkut), Scott Christensen (Long-EZ), Ron Gowan (Long-EZ), Doug Bryan (Long-EZ), and Bob Sudderth (Long-EZ). Unfortunately, Graham was still in the middle of sorting out a problematic intercom install and his EZ was a little naked. Later, Doug and Scott were going to make a cheap gas run and Eric took the opportunity to see what a Long-EZ was like. He hopped in back of Scott Carter's EZ and went along for the short ride (10 miles away). It was turning out to be a fun day for Eric. Kurt's friend Christian jumped in with Doug and they taxied out. They were followed out my one of the L-39 jets - yippee, more air show for the rest of us. They took off in formation and quickly disappeared. Meanwhile, the rest of us just hung-out and took it easy. A few other non-canard folks also dropped in to say "Hello" to our visiting friends. When Scott got back, he gave Kurt his first canard ride. I had not realized that Kurt had never been in a canard before...I would have given him a ride too. Anyway, Scott gave him a good extended demo and he REALLY enjoyed it! (Good luck with your building endeavors, Kurt!) Once Scott returned, we said our Good-Byes and headed back while shooting some great video. Sandy was again in Scott's plane, and was able to capture some spectacular footage of the Berkut "aggressively maneuvering". Much of the footage of these flights ended up in the One Big Rush video. Here's a sneak peek at some raw footage - maneuvering around the Long-EZ (video). After a bit, we broke off and I gave Eric a chance to actually do some flying. At the controls, he was a little nervous at first, but after only a few minutes was flying like an old pro. Is that a smile?? Humm, it looks like he was enjoying it back there, huh. We "maneuvered" around some more then headed back home to TKI.

While we were zipping around, Sandy and Scott were setting up to video a fast pass back at TKI. The tower set me up for one, but they weren't ready for it so, Scott radioed the tower to ask for another try at it. Oh...gee-wiz...make me do another fast, twist my arm. HA! ;-) The tower guys were fantastic as usual and re-sequenced traffic and gave me plenty of room to setup - they were not busy at the time anyway and enjoy something other than Cessna's droning around the pattern. It had cooled of a little, and the air was smoother too - PERFECT conditions. I gave her full bore this time...and even the tower guys commented that I was "clipping right along" on that one. Unfortunately, the camera was still setup for wide-angle shots, but Sandy got it all on tape. The sound was outstanding, even if the plane is a little hard to see. What a way to end a great flying day...Not sure what was more entertaining, the low-pass or the looks on a couple visiting RV drivers faces as I taxied past them when I landed. ;-) It really was a great day.

I feel the need...the need for speed!! (video).

SouthWest Regional Fly-In - Hondo, Texas (5/06): Well, I got a "kitchen pass" for the first fly-in of the season...and we were not weathered out this time! It was just the "guys" this trip, and we had a good time. We all flew down Friday morning and it was absolutely the best flying day I can remember in the last 2 years - smooth and clear! We got there in short time, landed and asked for camp parking. They must have known we were coming, because they sent us to the FAR OPPOSITE END of the camping area...which was OK by us. We dubbed the area "Canard Corner" and quickly setup camp. The first order of business was to break-out the "beverages". Scott and Ron found some shade and popped a cold one, Doug and I quickly followed. Berkut13 was sporting her new "Pirate Wings" and it seemed rather fitting. Now, I was not kidding about Camp Canard being on the "back 40"...our restroom was the rear corner of the airfield. Cows were literally on the other side of the fence. In fact, they kept waking me up with their munching, snorting and farting - hey, that's Texas 'fer ya. We were also camped close to the RV parking area. Nice folks...they came by and visited for awhile. The power-parachute guys were a hoot! You meet some really good folks when the beer is flowing in's like a 6th sense. One thing that caught me eye over there was a wind sock. It looked a little ragged at first glance, but I was highly entertained when I got a closer look at it. HA! (Well...maybe it's funnier after a few beers) Anyway, as the evening progressed, we had several folks wander through, exchanged stories, and over-all had a good time. Doug and I broke out some MRE's for dinner - they were actually pretty darn good. However, I'll leave out the story of "Scott and the Jalapeno Cheese Spread Incident". ;-) (I have to tell that in person) Anyway, night passes. - cow farts and all.

The next morning, I was the first to rise and seek out caffeine...the power-parachute guys were already buzzing around the skies. We finally made it out to the flight line for the first time this trip. The show was very will attended...who knew! The first thing we saw was the Air Force's T-6 Texan II and I was shocked to see how big the bloody thing is. It was the star of the airshow later in the afternoon, and I have to admit it was a very nice routine. I was also pleased to see that the Air Force as finally gone glass in the trainers. On the down side, just around the corner was a graveyard of old decommissioned Air Force T-3 "Firefly" primary trainers. Nice looking IO-540 powered composite aircraft...but I'm told they had a big problem with vapor lock in the fuel system. Anyway, the only other local I saw was Mike Schipper and his RV-9. There were some other very nicely painted RV's and a few other canards showed up later too (pictures didn't turn out for some reason). Mike Melvill was the star speaker and gave several forums - which we missed entirely. We did get to see his IO-360 powered Long-EZ complete with the long range tanks still attached. I even took a close-up shot of his round the world flight description. There were all kinds of planes on the flight line...some even with a sense of humor. After the airshow completed, it was getting rather hot on the concrete we blasted off as a flight of 4 and headed home. The flight back was hot and hazy...a typical Texas day. A good get-away, for sure!

UPDATE: (9/2006) Remember those Air Force T-3s at Hondo? Well...they are not anymore. What an injustice! There were enough Lyc. IO-540 enignes there to power a whole fleet of Experimental aircraft. What a shame, is right!

Velocity Symposium - Sherman, Texas (5/06):When my Velocity buddies told me that the Velocity Symposium was going to be held in Sherman (about a 10min flight North), I knew that the EZ-boys would have to crash the party. ;-) Actually, I just wanted to go look at some pretty canard airplanes. So, that's what ended up happening...besides, we needed a good excuse to burn some fuel. So the three of us (minus Scott Carter who had to work) flew as a "gaggle" over to Sherman. 2 Longs and the Berkut came rolling up in trail and made a nice impression as we parked and shutdown all together. Rich Guerra was busy showing off "Race 24" to the other builder/flyers. We were also actively recruiting planes for this year's AirVenture Cup race...and many of them did participate!! Yeah! Anyway, we all mingled around the airplanes and shared information about them all. Actually, we were very well received for just having "dropped by" un-invited. The Velocity folks even invited us to the BBQ later that night - very nice! We all had to get back, but the offer with much appreciated. The Rocket Racing League was there (sans the rocket engines) with a Velocity all painted up for show. I guess that idea is moving forward, although I think there will need to be alot of re-design on the Velocity to make its Vne high enough to meet their performance expectations. Ah, just a small matter of engineering and implementation. ;-) We'll have to see what they come up with as this thing moves past just a paint job. There were plenty of nicely painted Velocities but most of the planes had already headed home. I liked the swoops on this canard. In all, we had a fun time milling about...and flying there and back. Thanks for the hospitality guys!

AirVenture and AirVenture Cup Race 2006 (7/06):

Yippie! It's Oshkosh and Race time again and Sandy and I are jazzed. I spent the preceding two weeks getting ready for the trip. First-off I had to build a new spinner - as I melted the original spinner during last year's AirVenture Cup race. This time, the spinner has more plies of carbon, has a more heat stable epoxy system, and was heated during every stage of the build - this one is NOT going to melt. Once I had the new spinner installed, I also had to have a new dynamic propeller balance performed. Pat Pennington provided that service again, and we were able to get the balance down from .6 to .025 ...which is 50% better than we did last time! While I had the cowls off, I pulled the plugs, changed the oil, and inspected the engine. Now, the Berkut was ready to rumble!

Below is a "Berkut 13" centric write-up, but I highly recommend that you check out these other sites to get a better feel for the AirVenture Cup Race itself and some of the great folks who participate in it:

SATURDAY: The plan was the same for this year as last - head for Dayton for the race, race to Oshkosh on Sunday, enjoy Oshkosh for the week and come home. So, Sandy and I blasted off for Dayton, OH about 7:30am on a beautiful Saturday morning. The previous day's weather moved through the area and was no longer a factor anywhere along the line of flight. The flight itself to Dayton was beautiful - clear with pretty cloud cover below at points. We could tell that the early morning fight was a good idea because as the day went on, small pop-up storms were developing along the route. None were a real factor at 12K feet and no deviations were required. We made it there in good time - just over 3 hours (710nm). We quickly secured the plane and headed for race registration. Even though we arrived pretty early (11:30am local) the place was already full of racers! We were parked on a row of RVs and just down from a bunch of SX-300s. While I was looking around, Chris Esselstyn arrived in his highly modified Cozy MkIV RG - man, is that a nice bird! Very fast too. He ended up getting a "Outstanding Workmanship Award" at Oshkosh this year (although, I feel he really deserved a Lindy for his innovations). I snapped one more pic of the racers and it was time to cram into the shuttle van and head to the hotel to dump the stuff at the room. That's about all the time we had before heading back out to the airport for the race briefing. The briefing itself seemed like a repeat of last year...and it was. Rich Guerra and I were trading blackmail shots and killing some time while some weather delayed races ran across the ramp to the briefing. During the wait, we did manage to get a good picture or two. Eric Whyte gave a good briefing and by the end, we were ALL ready to eat. The schedule was a little different this year as the pre-race dinner was being held at the Air Force Museum!!

All the racers piled into charter buses and headed for the museum. Oh man, I was looking forward to this. My parents brought me here some 30+ years ago and I couldn't wait to see what was new. What I found out was, it was ALL new - new buildings, new displays, new planes, etc.etc. So, wide-eyed...we went in. They really knew how to treat the first thing we encountered was a cash-bar! With "beverage" in hand, we were direct to a room with all kinds of displays. We were even instantly transported to the control tower at LAX...well, at least it seemed like it - a very good illusion. They had all kinds of informational kiosks, active experiments and all kinds of other stuff to do. After happy-hour, we all moved into the mail hall to have dinner....under the wings of a B-52 ...and a whole bunch of other history changing aircraft. Directly over heads were the prototypes for the Global Hawk UAV, Predator UAV, Boeing's stealth UAV and a few others. Just to the right of the stage, the F-22 Raptor Prototype was on display along with an example of the remarkable power plant and nozzle system. Rich and his father were all smiles as we had great food, great company, and great atmosphere for the event. After dinner, members of the race staff thanks our hosts and the sponsors and we were let loose on the museum for 3 hours. For me, I was a kid in the candy store! Even Sandy enjoyed learning about the various and sometimes weird looking aircraft. There was even a F-82B on display...a very odd melding of two P-51 Mustang fuselages to make a whole new aircraft. Here are details if you are interested. Over in one of the other buildings I found the O-2 FAC aircraft that my dad flew in Vietnam. Further back, in yet another building, there were examples of the SR-71, U-2, B-56 Hustler, B-1, and even a B-2 Stealth Bomber. The one plane I wanted to see that was not there was the X-15. I guess there are not that many to go around. Oh was still outstanding! They bused us back to the hotel at about 10pm - time for some well needed sleep.

SUNDAY (Race Day): Race day starts early...5:45am kind of early. That gives you an hour to get ready, pack, check-out of the hotel and catch the first shuttle van to the airport. This year, the outstanding folks at Commander Aero provided a wonderful breakfast at the airport! Thanks guys, that was a great addition this year. So, we packed up the airplane with all our stuff, ate some breakfast and attended the "follow-up" race briefing. The good news was that forcasted rain and scattered storms near Rockford (one of the pylon turns) were not happening, at least not until after we were through there. With the race course clear, we were a "GO" for the 10am blast off. T-30mins now...time to head to the airplanes. It was at this time, I made my first and only really mistake of the day. Steve Wolpin and his EZ was parked next to me on the ramp. While the racers were beginning to stage for starting position, I still had a few minutes to prep for the race. Steve (a long time EZ driver and racer) suggested I tape up the wing/strake intersection gaps for a little more speed. I figured, and I quote my brain, "Sure...what could it hurt"...proceeded to tape things up. MISTAKE! OK, for those newbie’s out there, there is a cardinal rule of thumb in racing - NEVER make untested mods to the vehicle before a race! You'll see why in a paragraph or two. So, we're all taped up, fuel caps double and triple checked, pre-flight complete (twice), GPS programmed, XM weather downloaded, and all strapped in. I see Chris go taxiing by in his Cozy so I start up and head out to get in line.

From here on out through the race, I didn't take many pictures as I was a bit busy with flying the plane and all...go figure. Anyway, the launch this year was thankfully un-eventful for us this year. We popped up in ground effect, stayed low, sucked the gear up while accelerating, and zipped though the timing gate at the opposite end of the runway. By the way, I heard that EAA radio (and over the Internet) was broadcasting the audio of the race start, enroute, and finish...anyone know if that happened or not? (sure would like a sound bite or two if anyone has it recorded) Any-hoo, Race 13 was on her way. The race course runs from Dayton, OH to Sterling Rock Falls, IL to Rockford, IL to a private airstrip just south of Fond Du Lac, WI (a few miles south of Oshkosh). The first long leg runs Northwest directly into the prevailing winds. This year, we had a 15-20kt headwind the whole way - no matter what altitude was chosen (it got worse the higher you went). However, this year, it was NOT 103 degrees and we were NOT in constant moderate/occasional severe turbulence the entire fact, it was quite enjoyable. I tried good...let her accelerate back down to 2500ft...better...then let her stabilize at about 2200ft (comfortably above the 1000ft AGL hard deck for the race and the highest obstacles in the area). Race 13 was running smoothly at "race power" and we were making great speed despite the head winds. However, at about the T+15 minute mark, I started to notice a lite vibration and high frequency noise but I couldn't identify it. It was faint, so I decided to just ear-mark it for further observation. I DID notice that the right outboard gear door was being pulled open slightly. I had had this problem with the left one during high speed testing in Phase I, but never with the right. I tried a partial hydraulic re-cycle, but it remained slightly open (about 1/8"). Grrrr! I knew what had happened...the Matco brakes use safety wire to secure the cap screws that hold the rotor disk in three points. One of those points was facing straight down when the wheel came to a stop and the safety wire was now contacting the outer gear door near the hinge. On VERY RARE occasion, this prevents the gear door from closing securely and allows the slipstream to pull it open slightly. No way to resolve this without rotating the wheel (landing), and ya gotta just live with it - but this time it was costing me speed during a race...irritating, but benign. Knowing that sound from before...this was not the "new" vibration we were experiencing. As I kept looked around, I saw that the friggin' speed tape that we put on was now starting to peel off and flap in the wind!!!! Damn it! Looked at the other side - same thing....Double Damn it! Oh, and not just peeling off from the front to the back....but in the MIDDLE, forming a wonderful little air-scoop. Geez! I looked down at the EFIS and sure enough, I was loosing true air speed - (green number in the upper left corner) down to 219ktas from a normal 225+ktas!! Bloody hell...that "speed mod" and cracked open gear door is now costing me 6kts or more! Oh well...that's race'n and there not a damn thing I can do about it now - so, we pressed on.

Another "slowing" factor was the deviation around "Skydive Chicago". It's a small airstrip that is DIRECTLY on the race course line. Those idiots decided to ignore the notams (if they even read them), ignore the fact that the race was a FAA waivered event, and chose to drop jumpers DURING the race! For God sake! What the hell are these people thinking? Lets see...we have 60 very high speed, low flying aircraft that will be coming directly over the field at a KNOWN time and date and these idiots are dropping paying customers out of their planes at 12K feet over the field...and not telling them a thing? Holy meatballs from heaven, Batman! So, here I am...5nm from the field, and I hear the moron skydive plane announce their drop. GREAT! Fifteen, 190lb., 300mph meatballs inbound for intercept...just what I needed. So, a hard right brake (you know why they call it a "brake" not a turn, right?) put us a few miles north of the landing zone and off the race course. Sandy and I never saw a canopy and were quite happy to put that area behind us. Damage to our race speed? Unknown, but since I had to deviate significantly, it added at least a couple miles to my course...thus reducing my average speed. (sigh) And to think...the whole dangerous situation could have been avoided if they had complied with notams and just waited an hour while we all safely passed. So, all you folks thinking about going there for Skydiving thrills...think again. (Gets my blood pressure up just writing this)

Sandy and I chatted with the other racers, watched the engine performance, and ate a snack to pass the time, and before we knew it...the first pylon turn was coming up. I maneuvered Race 13 to be lined up with the turn point just upon arrival, made the radio calls, and started the diving turn. A few seconds before the turn's perigee, I saw a large brown streak in the corner of my left eye. In about the time it takes to move an eye-ball to that position, my brain snapped an image of a contorted bird desperately trying to avoid the inevitable. Milliseconds later, I head and felt the "KAA...BAAP" on the left side of the Berkut. BIRD STRIKE! I announced on the radio as I passed through the pylon gate and headed for more altitude that I would have normally (slowing me down, of course). Dick Kyte (owner of the currently injured Pollen Special race plane) was the pylon judge and came back with "Everything OK?" response, "Give me a second to figure that out.". There was no vibration so I knew the prop was intact, I kept the throttle in and saw that the temperatures were OK - bird parts not in the cooling ducts, looked out at the strake and wing and saw nothing...all good things. I called back announcing "no known damage" and pressed on to the next turn. During most of this, Sandy was shooting video and didn't see or feel the impact so I let her know what happened and that we were still 100% and pressing on, knowing how strongly built the Berkut really is. Hey, at least I got a confirmed kill out of the deal. ;-) So, after that pulse raising event, I was happy that the rest of the race was un-eventful. We passed the Seawind (a beautiful airplane) off his right, and didn't see anyone pass, that was kinda nice. We deviated around some tall towers and passed by about the only landmark in the area. We crossed the finish line, completing the 500mile race in 2:01:27 for an average speed of 232.36mph. I was hoping for more, but not too bad given the "issues" along the way. After all, that was at least 5mph faster than last year with no mods to the airplane - BUT 7mph slower off my normal max cruise speed (gear door and tape drag)!! Here is the full listing of this year's results: 2006 AirVenture Cup Race Results For grins, if I put that 7mph BACK into my time - I would have placed at least 3rd.

A few cooling circles later and we headed over to Fond Du Lac for landing. Chris, in his "speed demon" 540 powered Cozy RG was already parked but we were the next canard to arrive. While cleaning the bugs off the airplane, I inspected for the bird strike. The bird hit the bottom leading edge of the canard (picture didn't turn out) and almost immediately hit the left strake leaving a large bloody mark. As you can see, the birds trajectory put it right through the prop arc so we were very lucky that it did not hit one of the blades spinning at 2900+rpm or end up in the cooling scoop. The unlimiteds were already on the ground as well and the rest of the racers trickled in by basic race category. My competition all arrived within about a 10 minute window. It was a bit busy at the airport as many racers arrived all about the same time. OK...plane's all cleaned up...time for some food! So, we headed over to the consession stand and ate some lunch under the wing and watched the racers land.

After lunch, Eric and the race staff held the "Mass Arrival" briefing. In my opinion, the briefing was going fine until one guy stood up and tried to "add" to the briefing - make things much more complicated than they needed to be. (sigh) Eric did his best to be polite about it, but this guy's "butt-in" involvement was totally uncalled for...and should have been silenced immediately - there should be ONE and only ONE "master of the brief". So, Eric was now left to clear the now muddied waters and the briefing took much longer than it should have. We did get some good information from the Tower Guy's perspective (pink shirt). In the end, the information was briefed, received and acknowledged by the racers...with one minor hitch - the DELAY. You see, while the racers were staging at Fond Du Lac, Oshkosh was having a really bad day. There were 2 incidents that happened that afternoon (one fatal) that closed the Oshkosh runways for a few hours. This then caused the arriving planes to have to hold over the Fisk arrival point for HOURS - some reportedly for 2.5+ hours. More and more planes kept piling up at the hold, and now OSH ATC had to deal with a huge backlog. What that translated for us was a 3 hour delay in departing Fond Du Lac. So, all the racers lined up by race class on the taxiway and waited. Sandy and I were right next to Chris and Cass. I have to admit, our two canard race planes look pretty nice side-by-side. Of course, Race 13 sticks out in a crowd of canards with it's jet-fighter style canopies. As we waited, we had time to walk the line, pose for some pictures, eat a snack, and take a nap under the wing...or just in the airplane. Finally, it was time to go...and this year, the mass arrival went off without a major hitch - mainly since we didn't have a 20-25kt direct crosswind to deal with this time and the fact that everyone was already lined up! The sequencing issues in the video below were caused by the ground guy (pink shirt) giving us the "launch" sign while the tower was saying "racers, do not launch until I clear you". The question became...which "I" is doing the clearing? Oh well...just spacing biggie. Nothing that a burst of power from these mighty race-planes won't fix!

Right after arrival, a couple of "yellow shirts" with microphones and cameras came walking up to the plane. Turns out they were from the EAA AirVenture Today newspaper and wanted to interview Sandy and me about the race - fine by us. We were happy to talk with them and tell them the story. After all, I spent all these years building this plane for this purpose, now I finally get to tell the world about it. ;-) I actually made the final edit, so you can read the article yourself on the AirVenture Today site itself (while it's still up). In case that's off-line, I saved a copy here you can still read it if the site is down.

OK, so now we are finally parked and secured at AirVenture 2006 and it's getting late. We are here, but only with the overnight bags from Dayton. We still have to get to the campsite and setup. That was not in the cards as the buses to take us to dinner had already shown up. (remember we were delayed getting into OSH in the first place) We herded up the other racers, jumped on the busses and headed for dinner at Wendt's Marina & Restaurant. This is a really kewl place, but was about a 15min drive away. We grabbed a drink from the bar, and sat down at the "canardian's" table for dinner and several rounds of "war stories". Lots of food, and several drinks later, we all headed back to the the dark. Aside from being quite exhausted from the day, it was not that hard to find and setup camp since we knew our way around the place this time and had actually done it before! There was no being social at camp, however...just unpack and crash was the rule for the night. I'm sure you all know the feeling...

MONDAY: We slept in the next day (Opening day) and finally awoke about 10am after some rain showers came through earlier in the morning and cooled things off - that felt good. We got a bite to eat for breakfast and headed for the flight-line. Each day, during the air-show, I put the plane up in "display position" and just like last year we had hundreds of visitors and avid web fans drop by to chat. It was good seeing all you folks! We spent the day chatting with the other racers, looking at unique aircraft like the GP-4 that was in our race class, and even saw a Prescot Pusher a few rows over. Greg Richter's Cozy Jet Kerosene Dreams was on full display. We actually saw it fly in while we were securing the Berkut. A T-58 engine on the tail makes for a snarky ride...but it sure gulps the gas! I hear the thing only has about a 45min range. Not really practical, but it sure is kewl! After the air-show, the Beach Boys were supposed to have an outdoor concert to "open" AirVenture week. That's all fine, but the approaching line of thunderstorms had other plans. The first wave of the front looked mean but didn't carry a punch. So, we stayed for the first half of the concert. The tan guy in the pink shirt is John Stamos - still trying to figure out why he was there...oh, well. About 45mins into the show, round two of the storm was approaching...this time with cold water. At least the Berkut had a canopy cover this time. But, since Sandy and I didn't...we headed back to camp just as the rain started. Good timing on that one. We sought cover in one of the camper trailers while the bulk of the rain passed - no big deal after surviving last year's monster storm. We ate some dinner and called it a day. By the way, the tents in that last picture were part of the "tent city" setup by the South African group. Every year they fly in over 100 folks over for about $2000/ea - and that covers the whole week at OSH, food/drink and entertainment. Those guys party loud, and rather late into the night. All the tents and supplies get packed back up into a permanent shack they have there. Really nice bunch of folks.

TUESDAY: Sandy and I took it easy today - as we did the rest of the week. We got up, had some breakfast and headed into the show. Scott Carter was getting his Long-EZ ready to fly. He was not headed home, but promised a friend's son Eric a ride. I helped them push the plane out to the taxiway, and they were clear to take off only a few minutes later. I'm sure Eric enjoyed his first canard flight! Later that morning, a bunch of RV's took to the skies and performed some really nice formation work. I noticed one in particular as being the infamous "714D" flown by Dan Checkoway. Dan authors a very popular RV-7 website and has a very nice airplane to boot (for a spam-can). ;-) I'm sure you can find out more about this flight on his website. Anyway, they blasted off in groups of four and held their formations well. You can tell they practice together a lot. We spent the rest of the day wandering around the show and checking stuff out. We returned to the plane for the airshow, talked with folks, and lounged under the wing. It really gives the air-show a different perspective. We headed back to camp after the show, took showers (felt human again), ate, and joined the camp-fire circle and visited for awhile - this time we were awake enough to be social.

WEDNESDAY: Basically - more of the same...but wetter. Sandy and I went to some forum presentations for the first time this year. The first one was Mike Melvill filling in for Brian Bennie talking about flying SpaceShipOne. Here is a slide with a comparison between Scaled's and NASA's way of thinking. It's also the main reason that Scaled's program was so successful - keep it simple! I really enjoyed Mike's presentation - he's a great guy and a super pilot! You are one of my hero's, Mike! The airshow was about to start, so we headed on over to the plane. It was getting rather cloudy so I booted up the Garmin 396, and downloaded the latest XM weather for the area. A few minutes later, I saw a line of showers moving in from the Northwest. So, we secured up the Berkut, put on our rain gear and waited under the wing. Sure, enough...the rain hit! We just sat there watching all the people run for cover - it was comical. The first shower let up and we came out to look around but we knew from the 396 that another round was also inbound. We ate some snacks and drinks while we watched the water dribble off the canard. The rain really cooled things off for a little while, but then it cleared and got very muggy and hot. Oh well...all part of the fun. We didn't run back to camp as the Race awards were being held this evening and didn't want to walk all the way back over.

RANT ALERT!!: I'm going to stop here and vent...because this really pisses me off...and it's MY website and I'll say whatever I want. After reading all the above...did you know, that the EAA leadership withdrew all funding and actually cancelled the race this year...back in March...and even took it off the AirVenture website's "Experience It" tab? joke! Their foundation comment? "The race only benefits 60 people and doesn't promote homebuilding". I couldn't believe my ears...but it only makes since if you take into consideration that the EAA has isolated and all but ignored the race for years! The race committee had to battle them just to allow the race to take place - even without ANY support or funding from the EAA. We SELF funded the whole event with the aide of a few key sponsors, had ZERO promotion and advertising, and still had over 60 planes enter the race! YOUR national EAA leadership doesn't seem to understand that builders are also PILOTS and actually WANT TO DO THINGS WITH THE PLANES THEY BUILD! The message they certainly driven home to me is - "we will love and support you as long as you are building, but when you finish - go join AOPA and be off with you". Don't believe me...just look at the so-called "Experience It" tab on the AirVenture website. The AirVenture Cup race IS THE ONLY THING LISTED THAT YOU CAN ACTUALLY PARTICIPATE IN. And THAT is what they picked to shut down? Amazing. Let's "Experience It", it says I can watch other airplanes fly around in the air show, I can be a passenger in someone else's airplane (for a fee), I can listen to someone else speak at a forum, I can visit a Ford car dealer and other non-aviation vendors, I can volunteer (work for free), and I can even participate in a QUILT CONTEST. But the ONLY thing on THEIR OWN "Experience It" LIST I can do with the very thing the EAA exists to promote - they want to cancel?!?!! Man! Some one really needs to hit them with a frying pan so they'll get a clue. You don't need me to tell you where this shows the EAA ain't good. Let it also be known to all - it if was not for the race or something I could "actually experience" with Sandy and the Berkut, I WOULD NOT LIKELY ATTEND AIRVENTURE! It is just not worth the "pedestrian" risk to the airplane and certainly not worth the expense to attend. All you vendors out there take heed - I'm not the only one that feels this way and unless you want to be catering to non-pilot locals, you have a stake in this as well. All of you need to take action and let the EAA know what your feelings are. Do not let them use the "we didn't know" excuse. My hat's off to Eric and the rest of the race committee for fighting, scraping and scrounging to hold this race together! Thanks also to my fellow racers who have proven that it's not about the money or the perks - if it were, none of us would have BUILT an airplane! It IS all about pride in accomplishment, camaraderie, friendly competition and ADVENTURE! I thought that was what the EAA was about too...I guess I'm mistaken. OK, RANT MODE OFF...but I don't feel any better about it.

So, now you know the real reason why we had a very very low budget this year's race. There was barely enough money for the 1st-3rd place trophies and the rest only got paper certificates, there were no T-shirts, and several of the "perks" we had last year were gone. But none of that stopped ANY of us from enjoying and taking pride in the awards program. Sandy and I were beaming with pride as we accepted out were all of the racers! A hearty round of applause for us all! So, off to eat, socialize, and know the drill.

THURSDAY/FRIDAY: More of the same...but much hotter! We enjoyed Mike's session so much, we attend his other presentation on SpaceShipOne. He went is to much more detail and showed pictures that he took out the windows. It was very inspirational - I want a RIDE!!! Later, we saw my local canard buddy Rich Guerra and his dad off on their trip back home. (Rich provided some of the pictures used here too - see more on his Velocity website) More air-show...warbirds, big military hardware...going fast...and stopping fast too! The most impressive thing I saw this trip was the F-22 Raptor demo - OH MY GOD! I was in such a state of "AWE" that I forgot to take any pictures. I can't even begin to put in writing the maneuvers that I witnessed those planes do. I've been going over and over it in my head, and I can't figure out how they were able to do some of those things - even with vectored thrust. WOW! After the show it was the typical - shower/eat/campfire(beer)/sleep drill.

SATURDAY: Sandy and I tried something different - we took an excursion to the Sea Plane Base. This was a real treat...if you have not been - I highly recommend that you spend some time there. You have to take a bus or car since it's at least 15mins from the airfield. Once you park, you're in the forest and you walk down a cleared path past the camping area and down to the base harbor. It's well sheltered from Lake Winnebago and kinda resembles a state park atmosphere. It's very laid-back, but there's activity as planes come and go. By stark contrast, there is only one food vendor and a shaded picnic area, and only a few seaplane vendors. Are we still at Oshkosh? Neat-o! I get the idea these folks know how to party too...and keep the beer cart very close by. If you are brave, you can go out on the pier for a better look, but I'd rather stay close and look at the float planes. Back on the other shore, we noticed they were giving boat tours of the area. So, we took the next boat out. Most of the planes had already gone home, but there were still many to look at. We even got to watch a couple take off - I had never seen a water take-off in person before. It took a bit, but he got off pretty well. We grabbed a bit to eat, and headed back to protect the Berkut during the airshow. By this point, the air-show was getting a little old and repetitive, but I did spot something that brightened my day. This was the most entertaining thing I had seen all week. This guy will never know how he made my day...but he did! Same drill for evening...

SUNDAY: We were packing up camp on Sun morning when a T-storm came through. We hid in one of the camp RVs for an hour until the worst of the rain and lightning passed. As we looked for a break in the weather, we continued to pack things up in the lite rain (it rained off-and-on all morning). Finally, about noon it was breaking up, so we threw the soaking wet tent and the rest of the camping stuff into the boxes and took them to the UPS tent and shipped them home. Hey, it looked like we were going to make it out after all. NOT!

As we approached the airplane, we saw several emergency vehicles grouped together about 50ft away. As we go closer, we also noticed the large roped-off area, surrounded with security people, and the Berkut right in the middle of it! As we came to learn, it was a major taxi-way accident where a Grumman TBM Avenger warbird taxied over a Canadian RV-6 from behind, shredding the RV with it's propeller, killing the passenger (Ottawa's EAA Chapter 245 President). Amazingly, the pilot of the RV in the left seat didn't have a scratch on him. Fire, Rescue, Medical, FAA, NTSB, EAA Security, local law enforcement, and just about anything else with flashing lights was there on scene. They wisely put up tarps between the vehicles to keep the area as private as possible - good move, as I heard later that "debris" was scattered all over the area. We didn't see the accident ourselves, and a good thing too...something like that would have been rather traumatic. It took them about 3 hours to clear the scene. God be with the survivors, their families and friends...and tail-winds to heaven for the passenger/pilot gone west. (Aircraft only accident scene photos: side view, front view)

So, no getting to the airplane, and no getting the airplane out of there any time soon. (sigh) They delayed the air show an hour as they cleared the wreckage. Once completed, they closed the field and airspace, took down the barriers, and immediately started the air show. Thus, sharply closing our departure window - we were stuck at OSH for another day...but without any camping gear or supplies. We could get to the airplane now, but it didn't was not going anywhere. And, due to the show's delayed start time, there was absolutely no chance to get back to Dallas before dark if we departed immediately after the show. So, back to camp we went to see who was left. Lucky for us, Scott and Dave's trailer was still there and un-locked...but it was the ONLY thing there. Scott Carter was nice enough to forget to take his Lunchables in his mad rush to get out of there, so Sandy and I had some lunch while the camper aired-out. (Thanks, Scott) Things were not too terrible, we at least had a place to sleep and call "home base".

We hooked up with Eric Whyte (AirVenture Cup Race Chairman) a bit later. He offered us a place to sleep, some "adult beverages" and an invite to the volunteer dinner that evening. Wow! Again, OSH proved to be the best possible place to have "problems" as the people and resources available are truly amazing! Since we had the sleeping arrangements taken care of, we graciously declined the first generous offer, but took him up on the last two. (For those readers that may not know, the second the air show ends on the last day - ALL, and I mean ALL, the vendors shut down - including food/water) So, with the bare essentials covered, Sandy and I were able to enjoy the rest of the day and evening with good company, good food, good "beverages", and had a GREAT time! (Thank you, Eric!) The only regret was that we were too exhausted to join the "piratical" air race crew (another long story) back at the camp for a little after party action. Sorry guys, but next year we might even camp with ya!

MONDAY: The next morning, we secured the trailer and headed to the airplane. Not surprisingly, we were just about the only aircraft in the parking area and I was able to get this kewl shot of Berkut 13 all alone at OSH. But, as we were about to find out, the adventure is never over until the plane is parked in the hangar at home. I knew the plane had sunk into the ground due to the week of heavy rains, so I recruited some help and we pushed it a few feet forward out of it's moorings. Loaded up, started up, got taxi instructions, and applied power to taxi...full power! The Berkut must not have had it's caffeine this morning, since even at full power we were not moving an inch. The ground was so soft that we sunk in again. (sigh) So, we hopped out, and didn't even have to recruit some help - we had 6 FAA folks (that were really there to HELP me) and about 5 more folks that were just watching us. With that many folks, we could have lifted the plane and carried it over to the runway. I guess we must have looked rather funny...all by ourselves, full power, nose bowing down under the load, making lots of noise, and going nowhere fast! This time, we pushed the plane all the way to the hardened dirt and began the taxi successfully from there. Yeah, we were finally on the way back home!

The actual flight home was beautiful - no weather to deviate around, smooth, cool...but a wicked head wind certainly slowed us down. Eh...I didn't really mind, the Berkut was humming right along, Sandy was taking a little nap, and I was rocking to XM radio. With that 38kt headwind and according to the Garmin 396, it took us about 4.4 hours to make it home (non-stop) with a sluggish 167kt groundspeed. Staying low ate some extra fuel as did the wind, but I still had about 7 gallons in the tanks on touchdown. We taxied back to the hangar, put the plane away, and headed to the house with another Oshkosh adventure under our belts! ...Can't wait till next year!

Rough River, KY - Gathering of Canards 2006 (9/06):

Well, it must be Fall because the canards are migrating to Rough River again...and so did Berkut 13! Yep, it was time again, so Sandy and I loaded up the plane and blasted off into the blue. It was a beautiful day and we made good time to Falls of Rough, KY - the home of the largest canard fly-in in the country. Winds were favorable up at a cruising altitude of 11,500ft, and although we were not in economy cruise, we were getting descent economy given our speed. This was the first long cross-country that I have taken since installing the Trio Avionics EZ-2 altitude hold unit. I used it to climb at 600 ft/min up to 11,500ft, leveled out and pressed the green "Alt Hold" button. I never touched the plane again, until out arrival into Rough River. I tell you, the thing didn't deviate more than 15 ft. the entire trip!! It's an outstanding unit - I highly recommend it! Sandy and I entertained ourselves by listening to the XM radio, and chatting on the radio with the other DFW canard that were on the way as well. We arrived at 2I3 some 561nm later with a flight time of 2 hours and 40 minutes. Of course, we had to do some low approaches to announce our arrival. I maneuvered into local traffic with lots of spacing and came zooming in for the "kill". I guess I was a little too fast for the camera guy as we passed by a little out of frame. However, Jim Price caught this good pic of us. I circled us around over the field to fall in behind more traffic (it was getting a little busy) and came around for a slower photo pass. This time, with some better results. The pattern was now full of canards and a Cessna 152 thrown in for fun. We all lined up on the extended final and brought them in for a positive short-field landing. Jim Price snapped some good pics of us on final and getting closer and then even closer. AirVenture Cup racer #66, Rob Martinson, in his Vari-EZE was the last in the string to land - which was a good thing as the waiting area at the runway's end was getting quite full. He turned around and we all taxied back to the main ramp and looked for a place to park. Yeah, we were's the restroom?!? ;-)

We parked the Berkut and headed to the lodge to check in and eat lunch. Our room was even better than late year - it was lake facing but had a wonder view out the window (left, center, right). After dumping our stuff off, we headed back to the airport. As we rounded the corner, we noticed that significantly more canards had arrived. Right out of the gate, we ran into some fellow AirVenture Cup racers Kerry Fritz #99 and Herb Rutter #41! We bummed around for a while and mingled with many folks. One thing I noticed this year was that several more Velocities attend this year than in the past - Velocity 1, Velocity 2, Velocity 3, and even this monster motor Velocity. Even AirVenture Cup racer Jack Sheehan in Velocity #55 came in a little later in the day too. We spent the rest of Friday just walking around and talking with folks. Scott Carter was itching to fly, so he took a few lucky passengers up for a ride. The sun set quickly, so Sandy and I hooked up with the DFW bunch and hung out at the camp site until dinner. The weather and temperatures were great, and we really enjoyed the "Fall-ish" conditions. But THAT was about to change.

The next morning, we awoke to sunny and clear skies...however, as soon as I took the first step out the door, it began to rain. Although others were beginning to venture forth, Sandy and I were not to ready to get wet. We waited for the heavy part of the rain to stop and headed to the lodge for some coffee. When we made it out to the flight line, we knew it was going to be a soggy day. As it were...there was only one plane there that was prepared for the kind of weather that was approaching. ;-) I bumped into fellow Berkut builder Larry Anderson who had flown his new fire-breathing toy in for the day. It was a very nice, IO-540 powered RV-8. It was not a canard, but it was a very nice looking aircraft - I'm sure it was a kick to fly too. I made my way to the "Brit-Camp" and found my buddy Graham Shevlin's EZ and Bill Allen's recently US registered international bird. I didn't want to disturb him as he was bending Gary Hertzler's ear about some aerodynamic secrets. Not too long after that, the weather went to the dogs. No really went to the dogs! There were lots of them this year...small ones, medium sized ones, and big ones. They were all having a ball with the cold, wet climate.

Steve Wright and his Stagger-EZ was again a star attraction and always drew a crowd. Dispite the off-and-on-again rains, he gave multiple rides to interested folks. AirVenture Cup Racers Chris Esselstyn his wife Cass (Race #54), and their Cozy 540 RG made their second journey to Rough River. He flys quite a bit of IFR in his Cozy and was un-daunted by the rain, giving several people a ride - including Scott Carter. It won't be too long before we see Scott's 540 powered version of an RG Cozy. Did I mention last year that Chris' bird is wicked FAST too! Otherwise, most of the day was spent just mingling with many of the RR regulars and checking out Ken Brimmer's EZ sporting a new Catto prop. Bruce Vinniola and his E-Racer made it for the first time this year - I'm sure he'll be back for more fun next year. I was also thankful for the great cover that Dorothiemarie Dickie made for me - it worked perfectly in the pouring rain. - didn't have to bail the nose out this time. Hey...yet another AirVenture Cup racer parked next to me - it was none other than #93 Tim Trainer. Ahh...I have to say the two race planes look good together...ah, man...more rain! My buddy Ron Gowan camped next to his EZ and even managed to stay dry this year. In between some morning rain showers, DFW native Bill James launched his Vari-EZE and headed back home (he made it OK). As did my buddy Graham Shevlin who left early to visit a friend further out east...into the rain of course. The rain did let up just long enough for the Cozy group to fire up the grills and provide us all a nice little lunch. Thanks guys! Then, I was back to the ramp to look at more planes. This year, we even had a little Quickie drop by for a visit. Just about the time I made it to the end of the row...again with the rain...this time, complete with lightening. shelter. My buddy Doug Bryan and I chilled out under the terminal building's awning while the little shower passed. Except, it never really just kept getting heavier. Now, everyone was huddled in the terminal building so we just took the opportunity to chat with folks and watch the rain. It was really coming down now and starting to flood a little. One last down-pour...and it was done...just like that. We all checked out planes and tents, then came back for the CSA meeting back at the terminal. After that, we all went to dinner back at the lodge, sat around the camp sites and told stories and then called it a night. What was really cool was after dinner, a dense fog had rolled in. The runway and PAPI lights were really neat looking and all the winglets sticking up in the fog was quite a sight! No way to capture that in a photo...too bad. Overall, there sure was not as much going on this year because of the weather...but, you know...everyone I talked to had a great time anyway. That is simply the sprit of Rough River. Great stuff, huh.

Sunday started with that same dense one was going anywhere for a few hours, so many chose to sleep in - that included Sandy and I. ;-) When we finally made it out to the ramp, it was already bustling with activity. I pulled the Berkut in line for fuel and watched planes take-off while I waited. Scott Carter and Doug Bryan took off in formation and came back around for a surprise tight formation pass. Vance Atkinson and his wife Lynn also headed back before us. Packed up and fueled up, we waited for our turn to take off. I coordinated a few photo passed with Don Jones and blasted off. We circled around and made 3 low passes for the video-op...and I hope to have that footage posted here soon. On the last pass, we made a climbing right turn onto course, and headed home. It was a beautiful day and Sandy was enjoying the view...while letting her tummy re-set after those passes and steep pull-ups. ;-) One thing that we saw that was odd (for us Texans, anyway), was the flooding around the Mississippi river. Those are not lakes...those are fields down there. Now we know where all our rain has been going to. Wow! Another great Rough River trip under our belt. We're already looking forward to next year!

A special thanks to Bruce Layne, Dave Philipsen and Jim Price for some of the pictures used in the section above.

Lunch Run in my buddy's RV-7A (10/07/06):

The weather was very nice again the weekend after getting back from Rough River. So, I headed out to the airport to fly the Berkut up to Sherman, TX for some cheap fuel ($2.65/gal.) and do some aerobatics practice. When I got to the airport, all the local guys were just about to launch for a lunch run to Sulphur Springs, TX for lunch. I didn't have time to fly up to Sherman first, and I was not about to pay $4.69/gal from the, Tom Moore offered me a ride in his RV-7A. I had given Tom a Berkut ride a few weeks earlier, and I this would be "return in kind" ride. Kewl! I've never been in a RV-7A...just RV-6 and 6As so far, so I was looking forward to this. I stepped in, buckled up, and then Tom got in. The bird has a nice VFR panel with some nice gear. (Tom just upgraded to a Garmin 496 but had not yet installed it) Visibility over the nose was pretty good on take off. But, what caught me by surprise was the leap off the ground that happened at rotation. I've gotten used to the canard lifting, and then the main wing flying a second or two later...these high aspect wings were happy to fly immediately. My right hand view was quite nice as I watched the hangars and tower go zipping past. Left side view...not so good as can be expected in a side-by-side configuration. In cruise, the forward visibility was good, as was the right side. However, the wing was right there block the scenery as you looked down. Oh Tom pointed out, if you want to look straight down, just roll the plane over. ;-) Before we knew it, we were approaching our destination (hey, what's that black thing in the picture?) and entered a traffic pattern over the lake. Turning final I realized something a little different...we were going to be very high. Oh yeah...flaps! That's something else I have become very used to not using. With the barn-doors hanging out and making plenty of drag, we floated right down to the numbers for a very nice cross-wind landing. We taxied up to the terminal and joined the others for some burgers across the street. I got to fly on the way back, so I didn't take any pictures. Tom built a very straight and stable airplane that is fun to fly. It was very lite on the controls and needed no rudder or cross-correction to remain straight and true. Good job, Tom! In all, I was a fun flight and I enjoyed it. I can't wait to do a little formation work and "fun" flying with Tom in the future.

Awsome evening flight on Friday the 13th!!! (10/13/06):

Those of you that fly on a regular basis know first hand what I'm about to describe...the "perfect weather flying day". The handful of days per year that were just made for flying. It just so happens that one of those days fell on Friday the 13th...and I was not about to miss it. I left work a little early and headed directly to the airport...because I KNEW what I was in for a real treat. Not only was it almost a requirement for me to fly Berkut 13 on Friday the 13th, but on a day like this there is no stopping me! It was calm, absolutely no clouds, unrestricted visibility (40mi plus), and just a little bit cool. I pulled the plane out, blasted off...and flipped on the XM radio. I had nowhere to be except up in the sky keeping the sunset company...doing whatever I wanted. I flew over the house to wing-wag at Sandy, then off over the lake for some "fun". Just as the sun was dipping under the horizon, I heard Tom Moore (the RV builder/pilot from the above section) and a few of the others coming back from an early dinner. Tom and I formed up over the lake and did a little formation work as dusk fell. Of course, I have no pictures as I was busy holding formation...but the images are forever imprinted in my head. The sight of his RV just a few feet away, silhouetted on the multi-color horizon, with the reflections coming up from the water and mixing with the city lights was breathtaking. I wished I had a backseater with a camera on this flight as these images were meant to be shared - I feel very selfish having to keep them to myself. Word just don't do it justice, but even for me - it was a just a fleeting moment as the sun's light faded. Tom called us in as a flight of two and we headed back to TKI in tight formation. Two perfect night landings later and we were having "beverages" back at the hangar to celebrate. I have to say, this was one of the best Friday the 13th. experiences I have ever had.

Lunch Run to the "Blue Pig" in Ardmore, OK (10/14/06): The weather here in Texas has been very dry, but it's making for some GREAT flying days. The temps have fallen off into the upper 70's which has cut down the thermals quite a bit - making for a cool, smooth ride in the Berkut. Yippee! So...the stage is set for a "typical" weekend at the hangar. I headed to the airport a little bit earlier than usual this morning to see what was going on. As it turns out, I was just in time for the "lunch run" - a regular occurrence around here. My flying has increased sharply since moving to the new hangar as I'm now "local" to all the activities. I needed to get some fuel first, so while I blasted off for Sherman (cheap fuel), the others headed for the "Blue Pig BBQ". Even with Berkut speed, I still arrived a little late and parked along side Jeff's Tiger. I was shocked to see that there were only 6 of us on the ramp, including myself. I had heard this place was usually hopping on the weekends - I guess there was a football game or something else going on. While I was securing the Berkut, I watched the local C-130 guys practicing cargo drops over the far runway - something I don't see everyday. Anyway, I answered a few questions about the Berkut that the locals had, then headed on in to the pig (note the blue pig sign in the window). I found the rest of the gang already chowing down. I had a pulled-pork sandwich that was absolutely fantastic...and by the time I finished, more folks had come in for lunch. I guess we just beat the crowd. It's a great place to eat - I highly recommend it! Pleasantly stuffed, we all headed back to our airplanes. Gary was all ready to go, as were Dave and Hop and Andy and Sue. Myself, Tom and Jeff and Dick were in no rush and took our time getting back. The flight home was fun. I was the last to take off, and quickly caught up with Tom and Jeff's Grumman Tiger. I called them up on air-to-air and asked to form up with them - I needed the intercept practice. They said "SURE", so I began to slow down and tried to bleed off the 100+kt closure rate and fall right into right-wing position. usual, I couldn't get down to 110kts as fast as I planned, so I had to pull-up...slow-up...then settle into position. While I was getting some good slower speed formation time, they were enjoying the view. Unfortunately, I didn't have the video cam setup and no back-seater to take pictures...and they didn't have a camera either. Oh well...have to do it again sometime. After a few minutes, we were coming up on Lake Texoma - a huge lake on the Red River border between Texas and Oklahoma...and it was calling my name! So, I announced my peel away, rolled into a dive, and headed for the drink. I S-turned aggressively to get drop the altitude and keep the speed under control and started at one end of the lake and wound my way around the shoreline to the other end. Jeff was watching from above and asked if I was getting wet...but I assured him I was maintaining legal distances. ;-) I circled some sail boats and party craft with groups if waving folks on board, echoed the maneuvers of some jet-skis from above, popped up over bridges (more separation needed), and zigzagged my way to the south end. I full-power "pop-up" later, and I was back up on course for home. What was kinda funny was that after all that sight-seeing, I was now overtaking Gary (who was even ahead of Tom and Jeff). I called him on air-to-air and told him to "check six" and look right...he waved as I blew by at 225kts. Man, I love this airplane! Needless to say, I beat them all back to the hangars and I was already cleaning the bugs off when they came taxing up. Thus is a typical weekend lunch run. ;-)

Just after I rolled the Berkut back in out of the sun, Doug called and said he was on his way over from Denton to meet a friend. Kewl! He showed up a few minutes later and parked in the shade. A friend of his from work was dropping by to take her first Long-EZ ride. I thought about going along, but I ended up with some Golf Cart maintenance that had to be completed. Oh well. Doug got Amy all strapped in and ready to go. They taxied out and lifted off in short order, bound for the wild blue yonder. Actually, they were bound for Sherman for some cheap gas...but tell you that would have ruined the mood. Amy really enjoyed the ride, and even hanging out with the "guys" at the hangar. Of course, we had to teach her the finer points of "hangar etiquette" ...or the lack there-of , rather. Me? Well...I had my hands full of golf cart. You know the drill...the one where a seeming simple fix turns into needing a new wheel, tire, brake drum, brake shoes and a brake return spring. (sigh) Grrrr. Oh least now I'll have brakes that actually work. ;-)

EAA Chapter 1246 Chili Cook-off (10/21/06): The chili banner is flying...that must mean that some good chow is imminent!! I signed up to volunteer for the event this year, so I didn't get many pictures as I was helping with setup, gate patrol, and car parking. Golf Cart #13 sure got a workout zipping around the ramp and ushering cars into the area. It also provided a little shade and a place to sit while I was manning the entry gate. We were expecting quite a few aircraft to arrive, given the beautiful weather - no surprise, that's what we got...and then some, and then some more. It was a great turnout. I didn't get a count of airplanes, but they filled the ramp and wrapped around the corner. The RVs were flying in flights of 2 to 4 at a time. The ramp kinda turned into a RV show. ;-) This year, I didn't even have to taxi the Berkut over - I just opened up the hangar and the visitors just wandered through while Sandy was keeping an eye on things. The cook-off got started at 11am and was enjoyed by all. I must say, I tried almost all of the 20-some-odd Chili’s and they were ALL good. Toward the end of the event, an unexpected visitor showed up - a Ford GT40!! The driver/owner was a friend of one of the locals, and was happy to show off his new $150K+ ride. It was decked out in a custom Gulf Racing color scheme and looked quite mean with the rear engine displayed. However, I did wonder about the rear window defroster...what's the point? The glass is about 3 inches above the hot engine. (shrug) Anyway...a kewl diversion from the ramp full of metal that was now starting to move out. We had a great time. The only down side was they we didn't fly somewhere to do it. ;-) See y'all next year!

EAA Chapter Fly-out to Stephenville, TX (11/06): Our EAA chapter holds an official chapter fly-out every month that doesn't have some other big activity. This month was a trip out to Stephenville, TX and lunch. I was looking forward to this fly-out since I went to college there and had not been back since - it was long past time for a visit! The other fun part to this trip was that I got to fly right over my home town on the way...and that's what I did. I launched a little ahead of the rest of the pack so I could spend some loiter time zipping around over Cleburne and giving the folks some wing-wags. After awhile, some of the faster planes were approaching and called up on the radio. I quickly obtained a visual and formed up with them for the arrival into SEP. Now, something I found interesting was the lack of time spent getting from Cleburne to Stephenville. You see, I also learned to fly at the Stephenville airport, and since the two cities were less than 50nm apart, I was signed off for repeated solo cross countries so I could go home via air to visit the family and friends. In a Cessna 150, that took the Berkut (even in formation with slower aircraft), it took only a few minutes. Man, that was nice. Anyway, the flyovers and formation flight precluded taking pictures, so...I didn't take any until arriving in SEP.

Most of the planes all arrive about the same time and parked together on the ramp. I parked the Berkut next to Dick Flunker's RV, which was appropriate since we flew in together as a 2-ship. I turned around and there it was - the place I learned to fly. A flood of memories came rushing back - ah, the good...and simpler times. It felt like I was completing some sort of circle...from where once a humble C-150 parked, now a sexy hot Berkut now sits. ;-) I was the only canard for a bit - until Jerry from Sherman showed up with his Velocity. After waiting for the rest of the group, we headed out to get some lunch - we just planned to walk the 1/3mi. since it was a nice day. On the way, we passed the Texas National Guard Armory. This was the place where many a college party took place - more great memories! I'm having a great time, and I have not even eaten yet.

Walking a little further we made it to the restaurant - Hard Eight BBQ. Now, this was not your typical BBQ place...this one was a bit different. The first clue was a fenced off area of the parking lot called the Hawg Pen. Now, what was really funny was right when I took that picture, a group of bikers rode up...and parked at the OTHER end of the lot. Weird. Oh well, on to food. You are first greeted with the yummy smoke from the outdoor meet locker. Wow! Look at that spread! At this station, you order your meat by the pound in any combination...just get what you want. Then, you walk inside to pay, have a sandwich built, and pick up the side dishes. One other benefit was the Dublin Dr. Pepper that was ON TAP!! Wow! It's great stuff and tastes nothing like the mass produced version - it's made with pure cane sugar and the original recipe, bottled only in Dublin, TX (a few miles south of Stephenville). Mmmmm, good!

The main group grabbed large table and dug-in. The food was so good, no one even looked up for the picture. A few of the others chose to dine outside on the portch. We even had some RV drivers join us a little later. After stuffing ourselves, we found it a little more difficult to walk back to the airport but we made it. Of course, some cheated and took the golf carts that are made available to shuttle to and from the airport. I noticed a very nice RV parked on the ramp when we returned. As I arrived, so I departed in a 2-ship with Dick's RV. He was able to snap this picture as I was forming up and this one once I was in position. We flew back to McKinney and made a pretty over-head approach with a coordinated circle to land. Several folks on the ground comment on how good it looked...but it really looked good from where I was sitting! ;-)

Typical Saturday Lunch Runs (Lancaster, Sulfur Springs) (12/06): Some of you might be wondering why there are only 10-12 write-ups per that all I fly? Heck, no. I just don't have time to write about all of them. We have quite an active flying community and take small trips at least once a good weather weekend. Food seems to be a common thread to these trips...hey, any excuse is good for me. Anyway, I'll use this section to describe a typical Saturday.

If the weather is good, it's a good bet that folks all start arriving at the airport Saturday early morning. Some even launch at sun-up for breakfast...but not for me...I'm not a morning person! Anyway, we all just mutually decide on a place to go and start pulling out the airplanes. The tower controllers are then bombarded with "taxi requests" and it gets a little crowded at the end of the runway as we all wait for departure clearances. Speaking of controllers, we (the EAA Chapter) always make nice with those guys. They really are GREAT and always try to what they can to make our experience as safe and fun as possible - we really appreciate their good work! This year, the chapter presented them with a gift basket filled with goodies to eat. (Controllers Steve and Brian on the left, me and Dave on the right). Personally, I think we have the best controllers in the area. OK, where was I? Oh yeah... Then we blast off.

As standard practice, I tend to form up with one of the faster planes and get some formation practice in. That's why there are few in-flight pictures unless I have a back-seater. Of course, last time on the trip home, I formed up with Calvin's C-170 rocketing along at 100kts. That was an interesting formation experience - now I know how the F-16 drivers feel when they intercept a small plane in a TFR. ;-) Our group has a wide variety of aircraft - some fast, some slow, and everything in between. Typically, the faster planes arrive first (shocking, huh) and start parking together on the ramp and sit and wait - there is no rush. Today's flight takes us to the most popular of our destinations - Sulfur Springs, TX to eat at the Red Barn. The restaurant is an easy walk across the street from the terminal. After we eat our fill, it's back across the street and a short hop home.

Another popular location is Lancaster, TX that has a cafe right in the terminal. As usual, we gather on the ramp, then head on in for lunch. Sometimes a Long-EZ buddy Graham Shevlin is out at his hangar and joins us. But, after boring holes in the sky and stuffing ourselves, it's always a treat to be safely back home. All in a day's fun!

The Last Flight of 2006 (12/06): As with every year so far, I make it a point to take a short slight on the last day of the year. I take the time to just enjoy the flight, the Berkut and reflect on the other flights during the year. OK, OK...actually this flight took place on 1-1-07 due to bad weather, but you get the point. The mild Texas winters usually result in perfect flying conditions - calm winds, low density altitudes, high performance, and close to unlimited visibility! The Berkut and I love just does not get any better than this. With the crisp horizon, every little wobble during aerobatics is highlighted - good time to practice. Then, at the end of the day, you are treated to a gorgeous sunset. Its been a great year, 2007 will have a hard time topping this one, but I've got my fingers crossed!

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