Well, I’ve been a busy boy these past three weeks. But this time, I’ve got pictures!
This will hopefully be the last of the ‘here’s what I ate for lunch today’ entries — there’s lots of serious writing to do — but I thought some of the Tragically Bored out there might be interested in my
cat airplane pictures.
Sun n Fun is the first major experimental fly-in of the year. This was my fourth time, but the first time I attended as an airplane (parts) owner, and I’ll be damned if there aren’t a whole lot of airplane parts for sale out there, at prices not much greater than a small house. You know that $1.00 / bottle drinking water we all guzzle? Well, if that were AVIATION GRADE water you might expect to pay $349.95 for it.
Here I stand with Surly Gatekeeper and Very Old Friend Steve, aka Great Hairy Silverback, in front of one of his favorite airplanes, the new Adams A500 — the nose gear on this airplane costs more than my Long EZ (my Long EZ — ahhhhhhhhhhh…)
Now as it turns out, Big Wheels are turning behind the curtain, back where we NeoCons plan and execute our World Domination conspiracies. I can’t go into any more detail without tracking down and killing every last one of you, but suffice it to say that Your Author may be spending some Quality Time in one of these:
This is a Velocity, a four-seat canard much like my Long EZ and much unlike it as well, in that it seats four people (or five jockeys). Two lashed together might be able to haul certain gravitationally-challenged ‘documentary’ filmmakers (must…STOP…this pettiness…)
Hey, speaking of honor-free anti-American douchebags… there wasn’t one in attendance at the entire show. How do I know? Because I saw a lot of people getting all misty-eyed when they saw this:
Both the Air Force and Navy have been doing a bunch of these lately, and a Damn Good Thing it is, too. It’s called a Legacy Flight. That’s a P-51 Mustang ahead by a nose — the fighter that sealed the deal in Europe: an agile, deadly, long-range fighter escort. Together with it’s older, bigger, meaner cousin, the P-47, it turned the entire country into one giant Target of Opportunity. (Luftwaffe chieftain Hermann Goering said as soon as he heard there were fighter escorts over Berlin he knew the war was lost. He was right!)
Below the Mustang is a Korean-war vintage F-86 Sabre. Not quite the first US operational jet fighter (that distinction belongs to the F-80 Shooting Star), but it was the jet that gave the US Air Force about a 12:1 victory ratio in MiG Alley, and began the USAF’s reputation as “the largest distributor of MiG parts in the world.”
On top — and flying damn near as slow as it can — is the F-16 Fighting Falcon. The USAF ran a Falcon Demo on both days I was there. Folks, when that bad boy rolls in on a high speed pass, 650 knots+, just under the speed of sound — well, it’s just eerie. Eerie because it is absolutely silent, since it is almost outflying it’s own sound waves.
Not so damn eerie now, by God!! That bastard just rips the air molecules to shreds. It’s a visceral, mind-blowing, jaw-dangling noise, like the velcro that holds the sky up being ripped open right before your eyes. GHS taps me on the shoulder:
“Sound of freedom, baby!”
I reply with, “WHAT?” Looking around, I see about 60,000 people wiping tears from their eyes. Steve nailed it: Sound of freedom, baby!
Keeping one eye on the Falcon ripping holes in the atmosphere, I scream back:
“I hope this is the last sound those murdering sons of bitches heard down in those caves at Tora Bora!”
Steve shouts, “WHAT?”
So I do a little driving on the exciting and challenging Alligator Alley after a day visiting the nephew and then fishing with other brother Steve. A night in Ft. Lauderdale with my sister and my Dear Old Mum, then it’s up the equally challenging and exciting I-95 to Melbourne, FL and MY DINNER WITH FRANK J.
I had arranged to meet Frank in an out-of-the-way little barbeque place where neither of us would be recognized. Nothing — nothing ruins a nice meal like an endless stream of “will you sign this Mr. Whittle?” or “Oh my God! It’s him! It’s him!”
As I was watching my Sweet Tea crystalize around my straw, I heard the sound of a World War I artillery barrage out in the parking lot! It was Frank J! He arrived in a chopped, Jet-black ’57 T-Bird — and when I say chopped, I mean he had taken a chain saw to the top half of the body from grille to trunk lock. It came a-thunderin’ in shooting ten-foot high blasts of flame from the 12 cylinder Merlin engine he had mounted from a Reno Air Race Mustang that had fallen on hard times. The windows blew in all down the side of the restaurant.
I was impressed!
Frank vaulted from the T-bird with easy grace, kissed the 17-year-old Barely Legal Quintuplets once each, deeply, on the lips, and strode into the restaurant like Marshall Dillon on a bad hemmorhoid day. Awesome! It’s not easy to walk with a 40mm Bofors Anti-Aircraft Gun in a hidden carry holster and a running chain saw strapped to your right hand like Ash in Army of Darkness, but Frank J. makes it look natural. He is a God among men, that much is obvious immediately.
After a wire-fu spinning entry through the front door and over the partition, Frank joined me at the table with a grunt of acknowledgement and the barest suggestion of a nod. A stunning group of bikini models two tables down started to get up and approach him for autographs; he stopped them in their tracks with a growl like a machine gun chewing through steel pipe.
“Can’t let these bitches think they own ya,” he muttered, and revved the chainsaw for good measure.
Frank was silent throughout the entire meal. The only sound was of him digging the chainsaw into a half-side of roast suckling pig. He let the blades idle just long enough to rip shreds of meat off the chain with his teeth.
During the entire time, I kept wondering what it was Frank had wanted to say to me. But I was constantly disappointed, as all he did was tear into the pork, drink moonshine from a silver flask that appeared to have a bullet hole plugged with a silver dollar, and smoke and eventually eat a large number of unfiltered Turkish cigarettes. But as for conversation…nothing.
Disappointed, confused, I watched as he finished the meal in silence, shattering a jug of water as he cleaned his chainsaw and leapt, in a single move too fast for the human eye to follow, up onto the table and out the window, into the parking lot.
He motioned me to follow with a sneer.
He snapped the fingers on his bear-like paw, and instantly the T-Bird exploded into fire-breathing fury. Just as I thought he was going to hop in and drive away in a cloud of flame and acrid rubber smoke, he turned to me and whispered:
“Got a karaoke Elvis, there, flyboy?”
I stood there a moment, and as I silently straightened back up to a normal standing position, I saw a single tear slide down Frank’s cheek, under his welder’s sunglasses. His lip curled into a sneer, but it was quivering, ever so slightly…
“No matter what ah do…” he muttered, “no mattah how hahd ah try…”
He paused, trying to regain control of his breathing. He stabbed at the tear, leaving a horrible gash on his cheek.
“You’n yer website make me’n my website look like a god-damn PUSSY!“
And with that, he lept into his car, burned rubber, and was gone.
I stood there for a long time, listening to the ever-decreasing roar and choked-back sobbing.
A long time.
Truth be told, I did exaggerate a little on the Frank Story.
Fact is, I really didn’t wait too long at all after he drove away. As a matter of fact, I had called to get a demo ride in the aforementioned Velocity, which was conveniently only one exit south on I-95. I called GHS in Orlando, and he met me in Sebastian for what turned into a great afternoon.
The Velocity is a blast to fly. Great performance, and a whole lot of room. Plus, there’s something cool about the view with the canard out front and the swept wing and winglet behind. Old GHS took the following from the back seat:
Scott Swing, the Demo Pilot, gave me the controls on the climb out. We got to 4k in no time, and the aircraft will do a very nice turn with rudder only, and hold it, too. Sweet! Scott then rolled the damned thing! Awesome! Like rolling a BMW sedan — only with a happy ending. He gave me the plane again, and I pulled the power back to idle. I’m here to tell you, with that glide ratio, you need a deck of cards to pass the time after an engine failure. Very nice. And the glass cockpit looks like it should — right out of the Enterprise.
So it was south down the coast for a while at 160 kts, then a nice steep turn and back north at 300 ft., with a climbing chandelle at the inlet! Yeah, yeah! More of that!
Guys like me have this look pasted on our mugs after a flight like that:
GHS, meanwhile, is pondering whether or not to leave his position as World’s Greatest Sim Pilot and join the rest of us punters in the real world of crosswinds and really, really high frame rates, even with the scenery set to HUMONGOUS:
Peanut Gallery to Great Hairy Silverback: The answer is GO FOR IT.
So I get back from Florida, go to work for two days, and then the real adventure starts…
Okay, now try to follow the dots here:
This is XCOR:
They are the rocket scientists I wrote about in TRINITY. If you are one of the thousands of multi-millionaires who read Eject! Eject! Eject! with your morning coffee, you need to write them a big fat check RIGHT NOW because they build the rocket engines that can get us into space for less than the cost of a night at the movies for a family of four. Think that’s just big talk, hombres? Well then, have a look at this, homeslice:
This is the EZ ROCKET:
It goes straight up, in the words of it’s pilot, “like a scalded-ass ape.” I’ve seen it. And all you rich capitalists out there who would like to see this country continue to lead the world in space and technology ought to set aside $24.95 for a book on patriotic essays, and then send anything you have leftover to these fellow capitalists who want to make you rich AND famous.
Now here, in a very rare, undated photo, are the Three Living Legends of Aviation:
On the left, Dick Rutan, pilot of the EZ Rocket, and before that, the Voyager which back in ’86 was cleared from Mojave, CA to Mojave, CA — nonstop, unrefueled, around the world. Combat pilot, non-stop circumnavigation pilot, experimental rocket pilot.
On the right, Burt Rutan: designer of the Voyager, designer of the Global Flyer, designer of what looks to be the world’s first private manned space program, and not least, designer of not only the EZ Rocket but also, as a crown jewel, the designer of Bill Whittle’s Long EZ.
Center, Bill Whittle, holder of the prestigious FAA private pilot rating.
So I don’t think it’s any exaggeration to say that the three of us hold the future of manned spaceflight, if not the fate of the very nation, in our hands.
(I actually had the honor to fly backseat with Dick Rutan a few months ago. I was taking turnpoint photos in the back of Dick’s blue Long EZ for my Xcor buddies. Dick scowled at me! ME!! I haven’t washed my face since then and I don’t intend to, either.)
All right, back to the point:
Here is Dan DeLong, Lead XCor Rocket Scientist, standing next to the one-of-a-kind trailer used to transport the EZ ROCKET:
And now, after much ado, here is a picture of me and my other very old friend Fritz, with my Long EZ on the Xcor trailer, somewhere in the middle of goddam Utah on the infernal I-70:
I agree, it looks like a Long EZ came apart in midair and crash-landed on the trailer (never once happened — thanks, Burt!). And towing the trailer 1000 miles there, and the trailer and airplane 1000 miles back, over the unspeakably brutal and beautiful 11,600 foot summit outside of Denver, in a wheezing six-cylinder 1986 Astro Van with 187,000 miles on it… I have decided to name my adventure 1000 miles at 33 knots: Bill’s Long EZ comes home.
And may she never move so slowly again.
So that whole dog-and-pony show was just my way of saying thank you, THANK YOU to those generous and brave souls at XCOR who loaned me, free of charge, their precious, preciousssssssss trailer… the only one in the world built to trailer a Long EZ without 1. Removing the Landing Gear or 2. Applying for a wide load permit.
Thank you thank you thank you.
Here’s my Long after unloading at the hangar at Fullerton. The shocked look is due to the realization that I have spent all the money I have in the world on a hollow piece of fiberglass much closer to a large terrarium or planter than an actual airplane:
My friend Fritz has a deep historical passion. (Check out, if you dare, his Warhorse and Militaria Foundation [website design by Yours Truly]) I say this because he seems to think we will have a rear gunner position, as they did in the old WWI biplanes:
We will not be needing a rear gunner position, due to the extensive missile armament I plan to put on the plane.
Finally, here it is all tucked away:
The man in the photo is happy, exhausted, and terrified. There is SO MUCH WORK TO DO!
It’s a long way from that, to this:
Yes, it’s highly modified, and yes, I have top-flight aerodynamicist and canard builder friends who have and will put the brakes on anything Dangerous (hey Barnaby!) or Terribly Stupid (Richard — how’s it goin’?)
…but we live in an amazing country where dreams come true, don’t we?
And out here, under that big sky… a big leap, a lot of hard work…who knows how far you can go?
Thanks to all who made it possible. You know who you are.