Aussie Project Police

Russ Erb

Originally published August 1997

You may have thought it was just a cool hat that Gretchen Lund was sporting for Operation Rubidoux Sundown V as reported in the March 1997 issue of The Leading Edge. But it's true--there is an Australian Project Police!

As forewarned in last month's newsletter, Graham Byass of Perth, Australia (that's on the South-Western coast of Australia for the geographically impaired, and about as far South of the Equator as we are North) was here to visit us in the Antelope Valley on 26 July 1997 while on his way to Oshkosh, the Zenith Aircraft factory in Mexico, Missouri, England, and back "Down Under." Graham found out about Chapter 1000 while surfin' the web where he found our Chapter 1000 Web Site.

Graham works for a big telecommunications company and is building a Zenith Zodiac, or at least trying to find time to when he's not running off to China to help them set up an international car rally event. He is a member of EAA, and also of the Sport Aircraft Association of Australia (SAAA), an organization with similar goals to EAA. He brought us copies of Air Sport, the SAAA magazine, and Western Flyer, the Western Australia Division of SAAA newsletter.

A couple of exciting developments are taking place in Australia. It looks like they will very soon have a certification category identical to our Experimental Amateur Built category. Currently their system is more restrictive (I keep hearing from other countries that we Yanks don't know how good we have it).

The other development is on the small engine front. Dan Falbe mentioned seeing the 4-cylinder Jabiru 2200 80 hp engine in England. The Jabiru is built in Bundaberg, Queensland in Australia, and should be giving the Rotax 912 a run for its money. In the issue of Western Flyer left with us is preliminary information on a 6-cylinder Jabiru 3300 (i.e. just add two more cylinders) of 120 hp! Maybe going after the Continental IO-240? At 146 lbs, it is nearly the same weight as an 1835cc VW conversion of only 70 hp!

You may have read in the August 1996 Kitplanes about a big fly-in where about 120 aircraft flew into Langley Park in downtown Perth. Langley Park is a big grass field downtown next to the river which is normally used for sporting events. Long before that, it was the site of Perth's first airport. Every three years, the SAAA is allowed to have a fly-in there. The approaches are rather exciting, with trees, power lines, and high rise buildings at either end of the park. The grass strip is 2700 feet long. Graham shot the photo of the fly-in shown below from a superbly restored Bell 47 helicopter. You can see the skid in the lower right corner. He left us an actual 6 x 8.5 photographic print of this famous picture.

Back to the Antelope Valley, Graham started his round of Project Policing by inspecting the Bearhawk progress. We then proceeded to the Edwards Flight Test Museum, and to the outdoor aircraft displays. We also determined that the NASA gift shop IS closed on Saturdays, much as we had suspected. After a quick lunch, we proceeded to Mojave airport. Mike Melville and Dick Rutan had stopped at Serpentine Airport, about 3 km from Graham's house, during their round the world flight. Unfortunately, they did it while Graham was in China. To correct this hideous offense, Project Police operatives had secretly convince Kelly Hall to arrange a big party for all local EAAers to come to the Hansen's hangar under the "official" reason of welcoming Mike and Dick home, and to schedule it on the day when Graham would be here. There we saw fellow Project Police officers Norm Howell, Gretchen Lund, Bob Waldmiller, Ron Verderame, Roy and Violetta Bailets, and several Chapter 49 members known to be friendly to the Project Police. We inspected the aircraft there, finding Dick Rutan's "Old Blue" to still be equipped with the wing tanks, extra fuel tank in the rear seat, and HF radio installation. Mike Melville's Long EZ still had the wing tanks, but the rear cockpit had been returned to its normal configuration. We were then treated to a wonderful Tri-Tip barbecue and Dick and Mike spoke about their experiences.

Upon departure, we caught a glimpse of the Hansen's newly acquired PBY Catalina. Since it was sitting outside their hangar, you would be correct in guessing that it is the amphibious version. It currently does not have the rear gun blisters, but they should be in soon. (Gretchen--we need to get them to fly the Catalina in for the Fox Field Air Races--it's an impressive aircraft)

From Mojave, we proceeded to the Flying Snake Ranch, where we inspected progress on the Excalibur and Bob's recently converted Cherokee 140 glider, which is reported to have a severe aft-cg problem. Bob is doing a great job cleaning up and polishing the engine compartment. By the time you read this, the engine should be back from overhaul.

After an enjoyable evening at the ranch talking about many aviation related subjects, this file for this raid was stamped CLOSED.

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Revised -- 8 April 1998