The RV-12 fraternity in action

There are a lot of benefits accrued through the building of an airplane, and one of the longer lasting is the friendships built in concert with the plane itself. In the case of any airplane in the Van’s Aircraft fleet, this is even more common due to the popularity of the designs. In my case, I was building an RV-12, which is probably the fastest selling model in the fleet.

The first co-builder to emerge was Kyle; he and his father had been considering building a twelve and asked if they could stop by one evening to see if it appeared to be something achievable for them. I was always willing to have people stop by, although a cold winter night with temperatures in the twenties wasn’t the most conducive environment. It turned out well – I was at a stage that was going to require a few hundred rivets to be pulled, and that is a very easy thing to teach. I showed them how to use the pneumatic puller, then I mostly just sat in front of the propane heater (which I had taken to calling “The Cone of Comfort”) while they riveted the skins onto the entire tail cone.

RVs on ramp
When it comes to RVs, three is just getting started.

Tom Sawyer has nothing on me when it comes to getting other people to do my work.

Having enjoyed the always-riveting experience of, well, riveting, they ordered a kit soon after that and were actually done with their build and in the air long before I was.

The second to show was Jan. He was one of those guys who already had a plane at the airport, but was intrigued by the twelve. He wasn’t all that interested in building one, but he liked the economics of flying at 115-ish knots with a fuel burn less than six gallons per hour. He eventually came across a partially completed kit, which be bought. My plane was done by then, so we paired up for the next 18 months in getting his plane finished, with an occasional assist from Kyle.

Now that we all three have our own airplanes to fly, it’s a simple matter to get the group together for day trips. A recent trip was to a small town on the eastern side of Ohio. Cambridge is near a county airport (KCDI) that has at least one courtesy car, and Kyle knew of a fine diner in town. Knowing my affinity for diners, he thought (correctly) that it would be a nice place to go for lunch.

Theo's diner
A classic $100 hamburger destination – Theo’s.

With Jan and I being co-located, we had the option of pairing up in one or the other of our planes, but that would have defeated the purpose – flying out in loose formation would be a lot more fun. Kyle would just meet us at the airport.

The trip was uneventful, the weather was the perfect antidote to a few months of gloom, and the flying was great. There’s something about flying with a wingman to converse with that seems to heighten the enjoyment even more, so it seemed all too soon to be on the ground and headed out the door of the FBO in search of the courtesy car.

If you ever find yourself at KCDI with the keys to a courtesy car in hand, and those keys fit anything other than the black Vibe, and especially if they fit the silver mini-van, go back inside and get the other keys. We were halfway downtown when we got called back to the airport to exchange cars. Apparently the van isn’t road worthy; we hadn’t noticed anything amiss, but truth be told with your typical airport courtesy car it can be hard to tell the difference.

The Vibe was pretty nice, though.

The focal point of downtown Cambridge has to be the clock tower sitting atop what I guessed to be the district courthouse.

Art store
Exploring downtown Cambridge, Ohio.

Our lunch destination was Theo’s Restaurant, which quite gratifyingly had exactly the kind of menu items you hope to see in a family-owned diner. I opted for the Cabbage Rolls, which I found to be quite satisfying.

Just across the street was an antique shop called The Penny Corner, probably due to to fact that the building began life as a JC Penney store.

Very close by the antique store was a small art gallery, where we found an artist at work. Or evidence thereof, more accurately.

The original plan was to fly back home, but KCDI is only 11nm from I10, the county airport for Noble County, Ohio. It’s an airport in a beautiful location – the runway sits between the two prongs of a lake. It’s just a short walk from the runway down to the lake. The weather was gorgeous, so… why not?

The departure out of I10 was the opposite of uneventful. Just after rotation, the Rotax 912 that powers my RV-12 started running rough, and the unmistakable smell of gasoline started emanating from the other side of the firewall. I knew a number of things immediately:

  • This was indicative of a carburetor float no longer floating
  • There were no suitable areas in front of me to land on should the engine pack it in for the day
  • Even partial power is better than no power, and the roughness had pretty much gone away anyway,
  • So the most expedient thing to do was to fly the pattern back to the departure runway.
Kyle fixing carb
With a little help from my friends…

Once safely back on the ramp, I got out my emergency tools and Tom Sawyer-ed Kyle into removing the top cowl.

Old habits die hard.

The offending carb was easy to find – it incriminated itself by spraying gas out of its overflow tube.

The carbs are due to be disassembled and inspected at 200 hours and my bird was clocking in at just over 181 hours at this point, so it occurred to us that the problem was likely to be a little bit of stickiness on one of the floats. Removing the floats and cleaning them off a bit was easily accomplished and the ensuing engine run-up indicated that the problem was solved, at least for now.

The return flight was again uneventful, but it looks like that 200 hour inspection is going to happen 18 hours early.

It helped a great deal to have Kyle there with me – had we not been able to diagnose and fix the problem, having a ride home sure would have come in handy!

Also, this served to prove yet again that travelling in groups can have enormous benefits.

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