Sunday, April 20, 2008

The Field of Dreams

There are moments when all you can do is smile at your good fortune. And there are days when you feel guilty for jamming so many moments into a day.

I spent most of the day working on the RV out at the hangar I rent at Fleming Field in South St. Paul (KSGS). I spent most of the day smiling.

I've read an occasional builder log online where the builder complains that people kept stopping by the hangar to see his project, so he couldn't get anything done. I didn't get that much done today, but I'm not going to complain. As the RV continues to grow, each dream is being realized; one of them was to have a project in a hangar, and have people stop by to introduce themselves, and to sit and watch planes in their native environment.

After a day of scratching my head yesterday over the various configurations that could spring out of the very, very poor Van's instructions for the brake and wheel pants bracket on the 7A landing gear, I called up Walter Tondu's excellent site (See landing gear info here) and within a couple of minutes, I had all the answers. Walter is one of the truly good people in the RV community and although I've pulled back from the online forums, exchanging the occasional e-mail and story with builders is always inspiring. It was a pleasure meeting him at the RV BBQ at Oshkosh I put on (but am taking the year off putting on this year; maybe next year).

And so today, I headed back out to the hangar and when I turned the corner on Cessna Lane, I knew I was in for a good day. An RV-9A was sitting outside, waiting for its owner to take it for its first ride of the spring. The morning 40 degree temperatures and clouds were clearing, so I opened up the door on the hangar.

As the RV-9A came taxiing by, and the owner looked inside, then braked and shut off his engine. He and I had the same reaction about each other's plane: "An RV!!"

His name is Bruce and he moved up from Iowa, and just picked this airport out of his hat to house his plane. He was on his way down to Airlake and asked if I wanted a ride. I did, but I also needed to do some work. I gave him a tour of the project and then Vince drove up. Vince is building a QB RV-7 and he needed to look at my rollbar again to see how something works. Imagine that, people are looking at my work to see how something is done. You can't beat that with a stick.

After a half hour or so of standing out in the "street," talking RVs, I announced I had to get back to work. Bruce had to get down to Lakeville, Vince had to go wrestle a rollbar, and I had to get some bearings packed with grease.

One of the smartest moves I ever made was putting one of those EAA Chapter 1000 workbenches on casters, so I could move it out near the door and work while watching planes take off and land. What an inspiration it is to hear and see planes while working. Why didn't I do this years ago? (Answer: because of the $220 a month rent!).

I plugged in the iPod and sang along, as usual, to the steady stream of Sprinsgteen, Clapton, Norah Jones, B.B. King, ZZ Top and AC/DC. They're the soundtrack of my project.

Wipaire's Facility
As I started dispensing grease, I thought I heard something and looked up and "Ray" was driving by in his van on his way to the hangar. I met Ray yesterday. "Hi Bob," I heard him say over "Hard Times" by Clapton, as he waved. "Hey, Ray," I said. Hmmm, Bob and Ray. I like meeting my neighbors and this is becoming the best place in the world to spend a beautiful Sunday afternoon.

As I finished packing a bearing, I realized I'm now the old guy with a greasy rag hanging out the back of his jeans. Cool, I always wanted to be that guy; the guy with a plane in a hangar at an airport, while watching planes, and talking to people passing by.

One of Wipaire's big amphibs came roaring over. Is he on a upwind leg? Then I saw the wind had shifted slightly and a Cessna was landing opposite him. He must've gone around. Fun times at an uncontrolled field.

SGS Terminal
And so it went all afternoon, all sorts of planes to watch, plus the base-to-final turn for MSP is directly overhead. Can it get any better?

South St. Paul is a cool, little airport. It's not one of the Metropolitan Airports Commission relievers. It's a former Navy field (George Bush the elder learned to fly here) that was deeded to the city in exchange for keeping it an airport. Wipaire has a nice facility here, partly in old World War II hangars. Ballistic Recovery Systems, the Cirrus parachute people, are also on the field. They're building a big new facility nearby, too. The Commemorative Air Force is here and there's a couple of really cool turbo prop firefighting antiques. I don't know what they are (see picture) but they roar like a Mustang on floats.

We have a nice little terminal with wireless on those rare occasions when I feel like doing some work (I have to actually go to work to work, mostly).

I Packed the bearings, got the wheel put together and the tube put in the tire. Hey I've got a wheel!! Whoo hoo. I mounted the wheel and dragged the whole contraption around the hangar; then spun in circles pretending it was taking off... airborne for a second, and then landing. Man, that makes me dizzy.

I started on the left side and realized I needed some 1/4" washers. I know I've got some stuck somewhere, but Wipaire has a parts counter that's open on Sunday, so I walked over and saw Linda, the woman who loves soaring. She set me up with some washers and some Torque seal and I walked in the warm sunshine back to work.

I was having so much fun, watching airplane, singing to myself and occasionally talking to folks, that I had to call home. I felt guilty having so much fun watching airplanes, singing to myself and occasionally talking. My wife told me to get back at it. I went back at it, occasionally laughing like James Earl Jones as he entered the corn field in Field of Dreams.

By 5 I reached my self-imposed 'quittin' time,' so I picked up and swept up after deciding repacking another bearing can wait to another day.

I can't wait.

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