Vol. 5 November 2007
Velocity's Quarterly Whenever-We-Get-Around-To-It Newsletter
This is a ListBox

Building an Engine From Scratch
Andy Millin

The AirVenture Cup Air Race
Craig Woolston

AVCup Adventure!
Rich Guerra

Oshkosh Cook-Out
Andy Millin

Adopted Member of the Family
Ken "Lucky" Mishler

Adopted Member of the Family
Ken "Lucky" Mishler

Finally arriving home after a long summer of travel, both with and without my Velocity SUV. Working, Playing, and Family vacations consumed all but three weeks since mid May. It felt great to be home, getting things back to normal was first on the agenda. Working on my XLRG-5 in the garage was also very high on the list. I made it to Sun-N-Fun and the AirVenture Cup into Oshkosh this year, so picking up the building pace, for what I hope is a show winning airframe, was a goal for my time.

Watching the Internet for Velocity items is also a fun pastime for me. I saw that Tom Martino in Denver Co. had a gear up landing shortly after takeoff in the middle of August. I always feel bad at the misfortune of other Velocity owners, as I did this time. When Tom had his plane painted, I remember waiting for the next picture to hit the web site, looking for the newest color that had been splashed-on.  The pictures of her sitting in a field, looking sad, just not right.  A friend and business associate of mine, called me up and asked if I had talked to Tom yet. I heard that Tom was now going to sell his baby and moving on to greener pastures. I contacted Tom and struck a deal almost immediately. I sent tools ahead and flew commercially to arrive the following Monday from Vero Beach Florida. We knew what made the engine shut down but the cause was a little illusive. Dual electronic ignition systems are great for performance and they work well for many, but when the electrons stop moving, so does the engine. Bad things tend to follow. I gathered a care package from Don George Aircraft in Orlando Florida containing a magneto and all the parts necessary for the installation and sent them to Denver ahead of me, having made the decision to install these parts before I ever left home. Finding a diode broken off of the Power Guard board that ran both ignition systems was thought to be the problem. Note to builders: Don’t mount the Power Guard where someone can break it. The Power Guard was not the culprit. Turns out the board just went to the backup battery like it was supposed to do. I bypassed the board completely so that the only electronic ignition system and the backup EFIS would not be affected. Replacing the propeller, repairing one nose gear door, removing the lower winglets, and eliminating the damaged speed brake was basically all the work that needed to be done to throw her back into the sky. The project was started on Monday afternoon and was on hold by midday Friday waiting for a propeller. Scott Baker from the factory found and shipped a MT Propeller to me within the week. Thank you, Scott and Ken Baker. (Editor's Note: You're welcome. -KB)

She went airborne Saturday morning for test flights. With the final instructions and goodbyes from Tom, I loaded her Saturday evening with all the tools, luggage and fuel that she needed for her first leg to Florida on Sunday morning. Everything worked except the auto pilot. The GNX80 radio/GPS was unfamiliar to me but I was VFR and happy to be flying her to her new home. Checking the fuel caps after takeoff has always been a mental check for me and also checking the fuel sight gauges for quantity. Everything normal, I was headed to Texas to take care of some business along the way and knew there was an Aviation Day/Show at the destination airport. With that in mind I found that one rain cloud to wash the plane under along the way. In the middle of this huge downpour, I remembered that there are no door seals, as the rain is getting everything wet in the front seats. Out of the storm and onto the show. She sure does attract attention; it was supposed to be a stop and go. When she lands the people come and you can’t leave. After the extended stay, I refueled and headed east. Not topping the tanks off on a new unfamiliar airplane is not the best idea, but I was more worried about density altitude and runway length, which turned out to be a nonissue. Knowing I could not get to Florida because of storms, I was going to try to get as far east as possible. At 1,000 feet AGL I did my post takeoff check of the caps and fuel level and found the right tank down about four inches. It should have read higher than that, and eventually did, but made me a little leery of the gauge itself. Not toping off the tanks seemed a little more important now. I continued on at 11,500 feet without any ill effects from this new plane. Temperatures and pressures were perfect, a nice solid bird. I was getting into Alabama and decided to make my stop in Birmingham. With three GPS’s and a laptop on board. I wrote down all of the pertinent information needed to get into BHM. I started a descent through a hole in the clouds and contacted BHM approach at 5,000 feet and 70 miles out, still descending. I received a squawk code and realized the unfamiliarity of entering it into the GNX80. Approach was already telling me that they were not getting the code by the time I finally got it in there. I am still in a descent at the same time the fuel warning from the Blue Mountain EFIS is going off, and I hear a last transmission from another plane talking to approach asking for a visual into BHM and the response was “good luck on that”. I am IFR rated but there was no way I was going to do it in this new, to me, plane. I leveled off at 1,500 feet AGL and never had another radio communication with approach---not that I didn’t try. I announced on the radio I was squawking 1200 and going to Tuscaloosa, with no response, and changed frequencies. Trying to get the new information for a different-than-expected airport when the radio may be inoperative, the fuel warning alarms going off, in the rain, with water coming in, flying an unfamiliar airplane, in unknown territory is not a comforting situation, but as the sage advice goes, just fly the plane.

Of course, managing the flight without the auto pilot working was a handful, to say the least. With visibility down to six miles, I could not find the runway from five miles out. Finally, I caught glimpses of the airfield, entered downwind and dropped the gear.  Seeing the green lights was not unexpected, but a relief. Beautiful landing and I thought the day was over.

“Where do you want to go” queried the Tower. “The FBO on the left” was my response. “That’s the terminal, we have two FBO’s---which one”. Well I saw one on the right with a blue roof so I said “ The one with the blue roof”. Response was “They both have blue roofs, which one” (just not my day). “The one on the right”, received clearance and finally put her away for the night. Another great day of flying. I called Tom to give him an update, He asked how the flight went and I answered “Perfect, it was uneventful!” Except for the fuel gauge.

She made it home the next day and has now been adopted by my family. There are several little things to fix and the new airbrush artist is on speed dial. My wife did inform me that there are 2.5 Velocities in the family and 1.0 pilots.  The choices are more pilots or fewer planes? Once she gets back to tip-top shape, as she deserves, I’ll probably be looking for an appreciative new home for her (the plane, not my wife). Let me know if you have any ideas.

The postmortem inspection of the electronic ignition failure was diagnosed as a single wire failure powering both ignition systems. A wire had backed out of a multi-pin connector and starved the control boxes of the power they need to run. In my opinion, the lesson learned is that electronic ignition is great, but back it up with a completely separate and different system, such as an electronic ignition on one side and magneto on the other. Your life may, and does, depend on it!  We may not always have the good fortune of a nearby field and the piloting skills of Tom to put the plane down safely.

I’d like to comment that artistically and aesthetically, the plane represents a remarkable personalized signature by Tom. Initially, I wasn’t sure the paint scheme was to my taste, as I did my own bird in a couple minimalist, stylized swoops along the fuselage.  But Tom’s design grows on you and on the ramp with dozens of planes, there is only one that draws a lot of attention---Tom’s creation.  I’m working to get her back into the tip-top shape Tom designed her to be.  Tom’s future may be occupied with family, his other aircrafts, his radio personality profession, and his Fox 31 News TV appearances, but he can take comfort and satisfaction in knowing that he brought to life an excellent craft of unique design. 

-Ken Mishler