Saturday, January 28, 2012


I used 48 airfields in 14 states, and was welcomed into every one.

I was really overwhelmed by the friendly reception and welcome I received from all Americans.
Maybe the airfield bunch is extra special, but it was truly overwhelming!
Aussies are just as welcoming but a bit more reserved, whereas the Americans just front right up and say, ":...Hey, that's 'cool' what you're doin', come and have a coffee, and can we help you in any way...."

It's become one of the fondest and most memorable features of the whole trip!
Thanks to everyone.

Dec 2012

It was such a great adventure that I did it again for three more summers.
The stories of those adventures are here:

Friday, January 27, 2012

Selling the aircraft and trailer combo.

After finding out at Shasta California that I was now an illegal alien, I went to Carson City, Nevada because I really like it there, and listed the aircraft and trailer on Barnstormers.  I had the story and photos of this weblog linked in the Barnstormers advert, so figured that someone else would jump at the opportunity of such a flying rig all ready to go on further adventures.....  Then waited for a phone call and watched the email constantly, but very little response.....  Got a couple of leads in California, and obligingly took the rig to each, but all were duds....  Hunted out several airfields with ultralight flyers, hoping to interest one of them, but no success.....  Far too much driving around California, with far too much traffic and too many people, so getting real restless.....  Then the Kolb Homecoming was coming up next week, so decided to go there and see what that exposure would do.  It was in Kentucky, so only 5 days driving with the shortening days that time of year....  Then in Oklahoma got a call from a very keen fella near Ft Worth, Texas.  That wouldn't be too much out of the way so turned and went down to see him.  Turns out he was 87 and hadn't really flown before....  But he was so keen for adventure that he was ready to buy it right away!  But I thought we should unload and set up the aircraft first, so he could see what was involved.  Then it was fairly obvious that it was going to be too much for him to tackle, especially since he knew no other ultralight flyers who could help with all the new challenges and complexities that we experienced flyers take for granted.  I felt really sorry for him, cause he had the spirit in heaps, but not the physical capability any more....  So we had dinner together and became good friends.  Then he insisted on giving me $250 for my diversion; a real genuine Texas gentleman!

A quick visit to Joe in northern Mississippi again, then on to the Kolb Homecoming gathering.

Labhart Field, near London, Kentucky.
Home of the Kolb factory at that time.

Wild country around there.....

The Kolb factory.

Travis on banjo, Bryan on ketchup.
Travis is an incredible banjo player, and has been on the Grand Old Opry show.

On the way out there I got a call from Edy in Florida.  She had arranged for the guys at Kolb to inspect the aircraft for her.  It passed inspection, so then back on the road to Florida.

So finally sold the aircraft and trailer to Jim and Edy in Florida.
I wish them well with it.
Forgot to take any photographs there....

The Road Trip

Road Trip

The USA is such a great country for a road trip.  Such spectacular scenery, and such a variety of scenery. And a great interstate highway system, so easy to drive and cover lots of ground without effort.  I guess all that enormous population and dynamic commerce makes it affordable, just be prepared for a whole lot of trucks moving all those goods around....  But really good drivers, both trucks and private cars; and lots more courteous and considerate than Aussie traffic, I must admit...  Even in the cities, I found enormous 40 acre parking lots to turn that rig around.  But of course that was a small rig compared to those enormous motorhomes with a car in tow, that American campers think they need....

The area I love the most is northern Arizona and New Mexico, and southern Utah and Colorado, but there’s lots more.  Spectacular rock formations everywhere, whether from erosion or from volcanic activity.  I’m really intrigued by the volcanic cinder cones and lava flows that you come across frequently.  The low rainfall means that the formations aren’t eroded, and no trees to cover it all up.....  It’s not just the famous and touristy Monument Valley and Grand Canyon, it’s everywhere and ever-changing as you roll over the next rise....  I guess I should be a truck driver there, cause I could drive those roads day after day.....

Americans were crying about fuel at $3.80/gal, “Oh, it’s going to ruin the economy, etc...”  But we’re already used to about $6/gal in Australia, and our economy is going pretty well....   We don’t drive the same enormous fuel hogs, but still get around to do all we need to do....  I didn't notice the Americans making any moves to use less fuel.   Anyhow, I don’t let it stop me going where I want to go, so just fill up and then cringe when the credit card statement comes in.....   I drove about 24,000 miles (40,000 km).  I didn’t keep track of the fuel cost, and don’t really want to know, but probably about $7000. But that’s for the trip of a lifetime, and really worth it.

But one thing that’s immediately confronting for an overseas visitor, is that you must pay for fuel before starting fill!  In Australia they trust us to fill up and then go in and pay.


I seldom went to RV parks (why should I pay to sleep in my own bed...), so I camped at many Walmart parking lots.  They stock everything  you could ever need, from groceries to hardware to camping goods to electronics to tires, so it's real convenient for shopping, which of course is just why Walmart encourages such camping.  The stores are so huge that you can get all the exercise you need just walking around the place,in air conditioned comfort.  You have to get used to lots of bright flood lights in the parking lots, and security patrols, but that makes it safe.  They open at 6am and many are open 24hrs, and no objection to using the restrooms.   Thank you Walmart for all that hospitality.....

There are enormous truck stops, now called 'Travel Centers', everywhere.  One night I counted 80 trucks in the one I was in, and right across the highway another of equal size.  There's always lots of food around, and not only Maccas and Subways, but good restaurants as well.

I often camped on country airfields, and my favorite of course was camping alone in the desert.

No shower in the camper, but two bowls of water and two wash clothes, one soapy and one for rinse, does the job at the right price and only a quart of water.  But there is a technique to make it work well.  Start with only a cup of water in the soapy bowl and the rinse bowl full.  Always dip the  rinse cloth in the rinse bowl and then wring it out into the soapy bowl, so that the rinse water stays clean.  Finish with a vigorous rubdown with a rough towel, and feel really refreshed.  Of course there are showers at truck stops, called 'Travel Centers'  these days, but cost $10-12, sometimes have to wait a long time for your turn, and a strong chance of catching foot fungus from all those who've gone before.  I prefer to do it my way.  Laundry on the go was a 5 gallon pail with a tight lid.  Add clothes, detergent and water, clamp lid and secure the pail, then it gets shaken around while driving all day, rinse out and it’s done, once again at the right price, and no need to hang around laundromats.....  Ala, John Steinbeck, 'Travels with Charlie'......

I called this my 'doghouse'
Like a dog, all I need is some basic food and a dry bed.

With always a free bed, and all the low cost food available in the US, living costs were low.  A foot-long Subway for $5 is two light meals for me, just as healthy meals should be.  A little bit of meat and lots of fresh salad stuff, and low fat.  I ate so many Subs that I should have had shares in the company....  It's good to see the success of Subway and others offering light, healthy food, and now they're everywhere.  (It appears that a lot of both Aussies and Gringos would be healthier with smaller meals, but of course it’s hard when restaurants compete to serve up such large plates of luscious stuff.  Some even offer, “...all you can eat...”, now that’s a really gross concept....)  In sit-down restaurants the servings were so large that I could usually carry away a second meal in a doggy box.  Sometimes for a change, a salad at Taco Bell, or the deli section of a supermarket, and for special occasions BBQ ribs!  Always kept a good supply of Campbells ‘Chunky’ soups on hand.  More like a stew really, some meat and lots of vegetables, lots of varieties that mostly taste the same but good enough.  With some bread, that makes an easy meal for me any time.  Once again at the right price, and no need for refrigeration, and in hot weather don't even feel like heating it, just eat from the can.  I like to keep it simple.....  That diet kept me lean and fit and healthy.  And despite mixing with so many strangers with so many possible new viruses, I never caught even a cold, so my immune system must have been fed well enough.....

A typical dinner in the desert.
Not a fan of Fosters, but OK for a change....

 They say you should have variety in your diet, eh...
This was a potent brew!

The  cab of that truck became my office and living room for all those months, and worked pretty well that way.  Seats were comfortable, and already there so nothing more to carry around.  Installed several 12v outlets to power the GPS, laptop, wi-fi router, fan, and chargers for phone and iPad.  Started out with just the iPad on AT&T 3G, but later got a Verizon Jetpack for wi-fi.  Between the two carriers, I nearly always found a signal, but neither one had signal everywhere.

When the truck was parked I had no air conditioning, and it was mid-summer in some pretty hot places.  I put one of those reflective barriers OUTSIDE the windshield. so that the heat is reflected away before passing through the glass. If the reflective barrier is inside, the sunlight passes through the glass and heats it up then is reflected back through the glass heating it even more. Try placing the barrier inside and slip your hand between the barrier and the glass and feel the temperature of the glass; it will be very hot and passing that heat into the van by conduction. Then placd the barrier outside and fell the glass again; it will be only air temperature. Then draped shade cloth over the cab, so that it hung down the sides so that I could leave doors open on both sides for any cross draft.  That kept the sun off the metal and glass, so that the heat didn’t build up, and it was dark enough inside to see the computer screen.  That worked really well and made it liveable.  (I noticed that shade cloth isn’t used nearly as much in the US as it is in Australia.  In hot bare desert areas with no shade trees, a shade cloth ‘veranda’ all around the building keeps the soil and rocks from soaking up the heat and radiating it into the house, and makes a heck of a difference for comfort, and a shade cloth fence really breaks that annoying wind, whether hot or cold, into a gentle breeze.  It’s low cost, easy to rig, and lasts a long time, in both sun and wind.) 

For really hot days and nights I had a ‘Swampy’ evaporative cooler.  It’s a great device, small, portable, low current drain, and really effective.  I got the optional hoses with mine, and set the Swampy behind the seat and ran the hoses underneath the seat and up between my legs, blowing up into an extra large lightweight shirt that billowed out like a balloon and kept me in a bubble of cool air that exhausted through the arm holes and up my neck.  It was really cool!  At night I set the Swampy on the floor at the foot of my bed and fed the hoses under a lightweight sheet.  The sheet billowed up so that I was lying in a bubble of cool air.  And it’s a very gentle airflow, not annoying like the blast from a fan.  And current drain so low that a battery easily lasts all night.  Of course evaporative cooling works best in low humidity where I measured 20 degree drop in temp, but even in high humidity I measured 7 degrees drop, and that’s well worthwhile.  I highly recommend the Swampy for anyone living in a camper vehicle.  I value it enough that I packed that one home with me to Australia.

Seems to me that excessive air conditioning use has conditioned most folks to expect ice-box temps all the time, so they think they can't tolerate a bit of sweat.  If our fore bearers who settled this land could live without a/c then so can I......  I only have a small air conditioner at home in OZ, and then only turn it on when the room temperature gets over 30C (86F).  

I didn’t have a refrigerator and can’t be bothered with ice in a cooler, so sometimes had to drink warm beer.  Takes a bit of practice, but once you get used to it it’s OK.....  In Walmart parking lots it’s easy, cause there’s real big cans of Red Bud right handy in there; but don’t drink in the cab of the vehicle, even if you’re parked for the night, cause you can get done by the police for having an open alcoholic beverage, and in some places that’s a real serious offence!  If I was planning to camp in the desert, then at the last gas station I’d get a cold six-pack and wrap it up in my sleeping bag to keep it cold.  The way I’ve been going on you’d think that I drink a lot of beer....  Not so, but it sure is nice to have a cold one (or even a warm one), or two but no more, after a long day in the dry heat.....   No real pubs over there, but beer is sold in all gas stations and supermarkets, at less than $7 for a six-pack.

Early morning in Walmart parking lots you often see sleep-tousled characters shuffling (and sometimes rushing) to get to the restrooms.  There’s likely to be a que at those restrooms at the front of the store, but remember that most stores also have another restroom way at the back....  To cope for real emergencies I also carry one of those plastic bag toilets from Walmart or any camping store.  I don’t like disposing that way, and only used it a couple of times, but when you need it you really need it.....  Small airfields usually leave toilets unlocked, but not always....  For desert camping I just dig a hole and cover it well.... 

My really basic RV camping is so different from all those enormous, lumbering, motorhomes and fifth-wheelers, equipped with everything, that are everywhere on the US highways.  It must cost a heap to buy and equip and run those machines, just to drag around all that 'luxury'. )But of course if you're with a wife you might need all that room....)  I've been able to afford to travel all over the world by learning to live simply and frugally, and love the freedom that lifestyle gives.  Keep it simple I reckon, and then it's easily affordable.....  
 Each to their own I guess, 
and they can't get to camping spots like this.....

My last camp site on this great road trip!
In the desert in NE New Mexico, with only a cinder cone for company.....


I don't pretend to be a photographer; I just try to take good snapshots.  
I'm always trying to show the geographic and geologic features as they really appear from up there, so that others can 'come along on the ride'.   Not interested in artistic light and shade compositions.

I just use a basic Cannon SLR, nothing fancy.  I know that the quality of photographs has little to do with the cost of the equipment.  It's the lighting and composition that really makes the difference.  In that regard, I try to make photos feel as much like the view that I see from the aircraft as possible.  I use an 18-55mm zoom lens.  18mm full wide seems to me to give the grand panorama and perspective feeling that I love so much up there.  None of the photos are retouched at all.  Modern digital cameras produce colors and contrast pretty close to the real life, so I don't use any processing to boost saturation or contrast to make pictures even more dramatic than real life, (as is done all too much these days since it's become so easy). I only straighten some of the horizons, cause 'rocking and rolling' in a light aircraft makes it hard to compose exactly..... I use a polarizing filter almost all the time (maybe too much).

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Flying the Kolb FireFly

Flying Characteristics of the Kolb FireFly:

The FireFly is the 'sports car' of ultralights.  The short wings and very positive three-axis controls make it handle like a true sports car, especially compared to the usual large wing, high drag, traditional ultralights.  The short wings allow it to handle turbulence much better than the other ultralights.  Still some bumps and rock-and-roll, but just fly though it and always have instant control to correct.  So different from the other ultralights that get thrown around so violently in thermals.

Slow cruise is 50mph, fast cruise 60mph, top speed with 447 is secret......

The aircraft flies really well.  I had expected that the short (22') wing span to be a bit touchy in roll, but not so, it's quite docile, and hands off it stays level.  I've flown as much as 20 miles in a gentle descent from 10,000 ft without touching the stick at all, just a bit of rudder to keep the course.  It's also well balanced in trim.  Let go the stick, and at cruise power it stabilizes at about 65mph in a shallow descent, at idle power it stabilizes in a glide at about 50mph, the speed that's best for approach.  It's dynamically stable and won't go into an increasing dive or nose up.  I didn't expect a high thrust-line pusher to  be so stable.  The glide at idle power is very stable, with good control response right down to touchdown.  With the VGs, stall is pretty much nonexistent, just a descending mush, still with aileron control.

Landing characteristics:

The short wing makes for a higher landing speed, but this does have advantages on good airstrips.  It gives very crisp and positive control response right down to touchdown, and less influenced by turbulent winds than at slower speed.  Due to the flat stance on the landing gear you can't do a full stall landing, it's more of a fly-it-on at about 42mph.  This is a characteristic of Kolb design, to make it safer for beginning fliers.  Approach is very stable at 50mph, no less.  Due to low momentum it'll lose speed quickly after round-out, so it's best to apply 4000rpm on late approach, then it's a very gradual descent with lots of time to get stable and set up real close to the ground and then just let it settle on by itself.  Don't try to hold off for a full stall landing, or the tailwheel will touch first while the mains are still  a couple for feet in the air, and then they'll will come down with a thump....  And don't try to deliberately plant it on the ground, just hold it straight and level and let it land itself.  Then stick right back and be lively on the pedals to keep it straight.  Don't let it start a swerve or it can quickly get worse....

I've never had a ground loop with the bigger tailwheel, despite landing in strong crosswinds.  With the original factory 'pizza cutter' wheel I did run off narrow strips a couple of times, with that narrow wheel plowing in soft dirt, or skipping on stony asphalt, but still never a full ground loop.  That flat stance on the ground, short wing, and low dihedral, is also very good at preventing a cross-wind from getting under a wing and lifting it, as can happen all to often to other ultralights.  The roll-out is longer than slower landing ultralights, but is easily controllable, and hey, this is a 'sports car', not a '4wd'.....

But I really needed a' 4wd' aircraft instead of a 'sports car' so it didn't suit my needs as well as I would have liked, but it's the only ultralight that folds and transports so well.  I was able to make it do the job, but it was often somewhat like taking a sports car off-road - must do it carefully, and avoid really rough ground.  That very open view from the front seat was excellent for photography, but felt quite exposed when I looked down at the rough country that I would have to ditch into if the single ignition two-stroke behind me decided to quit.  I had already tipped it on it's nose when braking heavily in a tight spot, so no doubt if the mains hit obstacles or heavy foliage at that high landing speed, it would go right up on it's nose and over on it's back, which would put my face in the dirt......  Sure would have liked to have some sturdy pilot protection overhead and down in front.....  But that ridiculous weight limit of 254 lb (115 kg) for this Part 103 category just barely makes a flyable aircraft and doesn't allow much provision for pilot protection....

Pilot protection is a big issue for me because some years ago I hooked the wheels of a much modified Beaver aircraft in a power line and hit the ground vertical nose down, really hard.....  Hopped away with only a broken ankle due to the considerable pilot protection structure that I had built into that aircraft....  So I know that with a sufficient pilot cage around you, you can survive just about anything in these slow, low-momentum ultralights.  The little FireFly doesn't have any such protection, so should always stay in reach of a good landing site.  I couldn't always be confined like that, cause I wanted to explore farther afield, but it was often with an uncomfortable feeling as I looked down at a lack of suitable outlanding options......  Don't like pine forests at all....  This was compounded by the fact that I couldn't get medical insurance to fly an ultralight over there.....  From what we hear of the medical system in the US, if I  ended up in hospital for a couple of weeks with a broken leg in traction, that would clean out all my retirement savings.......  So I jokingly commented that I would try to crash near a road and then crawl up on it and pretend to be road kill....

Even with engine off, prop stopped, the glide is stable and good control.  The glide slope is pretty steep, but easy to maintain the critical 50mph right to the round-out.  The round-out and hold off must be right close to the ground because the speed will decay very quickly without power.  I had an engine stoppage while on downwind at Moab UT airport.  As always, I was on a close-in downwind with plenty of height, so it was easy to do a dead stick landing onto the runway, just as smooth you please!

It's been a great  little aircraft for aerial photography, never has the tendency to get into trouble while I'm distracted in the viewfinder.  To do the photography that I wanted, I often had to fly in less than favorable conditions, and sometimes come back to land in really difficult conditions, but it handled all that really well.


I found that having a folding ultralight in a trailer/hangar works very well with 103 ultralights.  With that limitation of only 5 gallons of fuel, there’s very limited range.  I kept meeting Part 103 ultralight flyers who were really bored from just flying around the circuit and to a couple of neighbouring airfields and swapping the same stories with the same fellas.  If they could trailer their aircraft then they could move to a different airfield once in awhile, and fly with different company and hear some different b/s stories.  Don’t have to go chasing all around the country like I did, but surely that gets pretty tempting when you have the mobility that a trailer/hangar gives, and you have the possibility for the views that I saw....  San Andreas Fault, the Arizona meteorite crater, Moab, etc,etc... 

So I was surprised at how difficult it was to find a buyer for the rig.  The Barnstormers ad included a link to this weblog, and I would have thought that would excite others who wanted to do the same.  But not so.....  

The trailer also makes a secure hangar when storms blow through.  At Shelby MT the official recording of a storm front was 67 mph.  No way this light kite would have survived that blast, but I had it safely inside the trailer.  Several other times I had to load quickly to get safe from dust devils and hail storms. Must always remember to fold-and-load before the wind hits, cause it’s very risky to unbolt and handle a wing once its blowing hard....  And it must be easy and quick to do for one person.  The Kolb took 15 minutes to fold/unfold, and 15 minutes more to load and secure.

The Argosy still looked like a travel trailer, which caused a problem once.  I was unhitching to leave the trailer at an airfield near Mendocino CA, when the sheriff stopped and said that I couldn’t camp there.  (They’re very fussy about transients camping around that upmarket coast...)  When he looked inside he got a surprise, and when he didn’t see a bed in there he drove away again.  Then I drove the truck around behind some bushes and camped there out of sight.

Loading the Aircraft

Finished the flying, and ready to move on.

The Kolb folding system for the tail works really well.

I found it easiest to remove the struts when folding the wings by myself.
That only takes a couple of minutes using a ratchet wrench.
It's necessary to support the wingtip to prevent the innermost rib binding on the airframe.
A fuel can with a foam pad zip tied to the handle works well.

This is the removable wing support that came with this aircraft.
There's a reinforced plate with a hole inside the wing.
Just swing the wing back and slide it onto the support rod.

Aileron locks slide on and secure the ailerons.
A bungy cord holds the wingtip onto that support.

The front of the wing is secured by this removable link that I made up.
It's essential, for securing the wing in a stable position while trailering.
It's also essential for securing the wing while folding in windy conditions.
It works very well, and is well worth doing.
Folded and ready to load.
15 minutes to this point.
A pulley is clipped onto the aircraft, and gives enough mechanical advantage to make the pull easy.
This tail boom support must lie down to allow the aircraft to enter over it.
Once inside, the tail is lifted and the support is pulled up by the attached rope.
When the tailboom is secure in the yoke, the wings are moved off the support rods and settled in the padded supports on the floor and held down with rubber straps.
Then the support rod is removed so that it can't punch a hole in the fabric, if a wing should get loose....
Tie the tailboom unto the yoke.
This lever is necessary to be able to lift the tail easily to set it in the yoke, especially after the wings are folded back and the tail becomes heavier.

The shaft is 1"x1" hollow square steel with a reinforcement of 1"x1/8" flat steel welded to the underside.
The shaft needs to be notched out to fit over the tail spring.
The U-shaped strap attaches/detaches with a through bolt.

These are the wheel chocks that hold the mains from rolling.

Tied down so the wheels can't bounce out, but leave a bit of slat to allow the soft tires to absorb bumps.  

All loaded and ready to close.

There are two of these hinge pins mounted on the back of the main frame.

These hinge tangs on the tail section hook over those hinge pins.

Then just pull the aft section closed with the block and tackle.
Then six bolts secure the two sections.

Those dolly wheels are designed such that the tail end is at the point of balance when it's tipped back.
Then it rolls away easily, controlled by those handles up the back.

Then the wheels are stowed up for the road.
15 minutes more to load.
So half an hour to fold and load.
Ready to hit the road and find a new adventure!

The Trailer

Mar 23, 2012

 While still in Australia I went on the internet looking for lightweight trailers, all I could find were heavy duty car haulers.  Then on Craigslist, friend Bruce in Nevada, found an old Airstream Argosy travel trailer that someone had bought to restore, but then he found that the floor was all rotten so had to remove all the furniture and fittings to get at the floor. Then he gave up, and I bought it unseen, and arranged for it to go in storage in Rio Rancho, New Mexico.

Several months later I arrived at Rio Rancho on a Friday afternoon, just in time to get the trailer out of storage before the weekend.  Looks pretty sad inside, with no floor, and just a bunch of left-over junk.  Wiring totally disrupted and hanging….  Electrical plug doesn’t match the van socket.  Hitch doesn’t fit due to bumper clearance.  Lots to do before I can roll with this rig…...  Saturday morning, but I luckily found an ornamental iron-worker who just happened to be open, and he thankfully agreed to grind the bumper to fit the hitch.  Then I spent several frustrating hours figuring out the wiring connections......

This is the way it looked inside.......
But I was lucky to find it at the right price.
These Airstream trailers are collector items these days,
and people pay big money to restore them.
The previous owner had bought this one to restore
but then found that the floor was totally rotten
so he had to tear out all the furnishings to get at it
then he wisely gave up.....

Hit the road again next day, and pleased to find that the trailer tows easily, which of course is why I wanted an Airstream.  On across eastern New Mexico and down through Texas, headed for Houston.  Fort Worth/Dallas area freeway traffic was hell (see description of Houston traffic later).

But it was a beautiful ‘change of season’ drive from north Texas to Houston.  In the north it was still very early spring, with the trees still bare.  A bit farther south the trees were just budding out, and more and more new leaves as I went south, until Houston was full summer, with lush growth everywhere, and the first blackberries ready to taste!  That whole change of season in one day.

Found myself on Houston's freeways just at rush hour......  It's a very good freeway system, just as all the highways in Texas.  But the speed!!  75mph, and everyone going that speed or more.  My little old rig couldn't go that fast, so there were big trucks roaring by on both sides and right on my tail.  Trying to follow the instructions from lady in the GPS, but really hard to change lanes with a trailer on tow in those conditions.........  Very stressful for a country boy from 'down under'.....  But survived it all, and then the GPS led me to a swamp east of Houston and declared, "...You have arrived...".  Finally managed to find someone to ask and arrived at JB's place in the dark.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Houston, TX, Modifying the trailer.

Mar 27, 2012
John B's place, Baytown, Texas.

I'd met John Bolding on the internet and then at Oshkosh, through his work on the Legal Eagle.  He builds the fuselages and makes up the kits for the LE.  When he heard what I was planning, he kindly offered his workshop for my use to convert the trailer.  Very welcome.

The trailer sure did look nice and compact and streamlined.  But maybe a bit too compact???   It was advertised as 24ft, and confirmed by the seller in an email as 24ft inside, but when I measured, it turns out that it's a bit less than 20 ft  inside....  The aircraft is reported to measure a bit more than 19’6” so it’s going to be tight….. if it fits at all…..  Also not as high inside as promised, nor as wide between wheel wells….  No chance of finding another trailer so will just have to go with it….. 

So spent the next two weeks modifying the trailer.  Crawling around on rough concrete, in Houston weather, trying to use a stick welder in confined overhead positions, modifying the frame.  Never was a good stick welder.....  Lots of holes burned in my shirt, and lots of fowl language.....  Hot and humid, with sore eyes from sweat running down.....  Reinforced the frame and the shell, then cut off the curved rear portion and hinged it to come down and roll away on wheels, to allow entry of the aircraft.

This is what I started with.
I cut the framework out from under the tail,
and strengthened the back frame of the chassis.

Then made a new framework under the tail.

This is 1" x 1/8" flat steel riveted to the shell of the main body.

Then cut slots in this 1 1/2" x 1 1/2" steel angle so it could bend to fit the contour,
then welded it to the flat steel.
This made a very strong frame to support the shell,
and a strong point to attach the aft portion.

I added this structure to support that frame above.

Then I used an angle grinder with a fine cut-off disc
to cut the tail section away from the main body.
An exciting time!

This is the original frame as pat of the tail section.
The spacer was added to bridge the gap to the new frame on the main section.

Two hinge pins were welded to the back of the main frame

Matching hinge tangs were welded to the tail section framework.
The hinge tangs hook into the hinge pins.
A block and tackle pulls it closed.
Then six bolts hold it secure.

The jockey wheels are positioned such that the tail section
is at the point of balance when tilted back.
It weighs about 200 lbs, but is easy to roll around this way.

The jockey wheels stow like this.

So, all the while, working with doubts that the aircraft might not fit in this space after all this work.......  Just 2" too short would be a real problem........  No way to know until I get to try the aircraft, still in storage in southern Mississippi.....

The good part was lunches with JB and friends; JB knows all the best eating places -  especially Texas BBQ ribs, gulf sea food, etc.