Copperstate 1997 Fly-In

Russ Erb

Originally published December 1997

The forces of Air-Zona thought that they had come up with a fool-proof plan to protect themselves from the scourge of the Project Police. They arranged for high winds and low clouds in the Rosamond and Fox Field areas, thinking that this would keep the Project Police on the ground with their tails between their legs. While this plan was generally successful, they did not account for three Project Police officers sneaking out early at different times and by different means of transportation to forward operating locations (FOL).

Jim Piavis, along with Carolina Leonard, had deployed into the target area via United Air Mobility Command. P5 (Project Police and Previous President Pelletier) had moved a few months earlier to Tucson under the cover story of an Air Force PCS. On Friday, 10 October, your newsletter editor deployed the Project Police Paddywagon to Tucson to the home operating base of Harry Whiting, a sworn confidant of the Project Police. At 0800 on 11 October, Operation Copperstate was launched, with the linkup of P5, Erbman, and Hairy. Taking a tactically disguised Ford pickup, we drove to Avra Valley Airport (E14), where the 1955 Cessna FC-180 Fighting Skywagon was stored. This airport was also reportedly the practice location of aerobatic superstar Patty Wagstaff, although we did not take the time to verify this. A quick trip through the local FBO to check out the plumbing facilities in little rooms with no windows verified their support of the Project Police as we sampled their excellent chocolate chip cookies. Hairy confirmed that these high-fructose snacks were available on a regular basis.

Infiltration plans were in hand, having been acquired by the intelligence network code-named World-Wide Web. These plans called for invasions from our sector to report an initial fix over Rittenhouse AF. We found Rittenhouse to have been closed for so long that it was essentially invisible. A golf course close by would have made a much better visual fix, even if it wasn't on the sectional. We landed on the center runway while listening to the results of buffoonery in a Beaver on the adjacent runway.

Our infiltration secured, the forces of Air-Zona made one last attempt to thwart us. Even though we displayed the appropriate "ACC" placard for the Antique/Classic parking area, they claimed it was full and directed us to the non-showplane general aviation parking area. We didn't feel too bad after we saw a Glasair II parked in the same area.

Realizing that we were there and there was nothing they could do about it, we were shuttled as heroes to the registration booth, where we willingly paid the small tribute to the organizers in appreciation of their making this operation possible. In our official black PPTAF uniform T-shirts, we then set out to scour the flight line.

While my original plan had been to spend the day looking at airplanes and engines, I ended up spending the day meeting many people face-to-face whom I had only heard of before. Our first target was the Poly-Fiber tent, which was cleverly located close to the registration booth. This seemed like a likely location to find Jon Goldenbaum, head dude at Poly-Fiber and recent new member of Chapter 1000. We quickly ferreted him out, finding him in a red Poly-Fiber shirt and a wide-brimmed black hat (apparently he was getting into the whole Project Police thing while still representing his fine company. We picked up a copy of his handout on the new water-borne composite finishing system, and he donated a copy of his book "How to Cover An Aircraft" to the Chapter 1000 Library. This is an outstanding book, with plain language instructions and humor worthy of the Project Police. He also stated that he would be happy to present a program for a Chapter 1000 meeting, and even put on a 2-day covering workshop for the chapter. All we need to do is supply a reasonable number of people willing to attend for both days. Contact Russ Erb if you think you would be interested.

Helping out in the Poly-Fiber booth was Murle Williams, who's award winning Kitfox (see June 1997 Sport Aviation) was parked in front of the booth. Noting that his airplane was equipped with the adjustable rudder pedals, I introduced myself, handed him a Chapter 1000 business card, and asked him to explain how the pedals were mechanized, which he then explained to me.

Eventually I decided to leave the comfortable confines of the Poly-Fiber booth and venture out to inspect the rest of the Fly-In. I stopped briefly by a tent where TIG welding was being demonstrated. I found it interesting that a 3-sided dark plastic (glass?) shield had been placed around the welding bench so that observers and passers-by could watch the demonstration without each having to don a set of welder's goggles. An excellent safety device.

I then wandered into a forum where vendor (who's card I can't find right now) was discussing Temperfoam for aircraft seats. Temperfoam was developed for astronaut couches, and has the unique characteristic of conforming to your body shape without bottoming out like regular foam. Thus, instead of carving your seat to match your posterior, you can put in a flat 3" pad of Temperfoam (three laminated layers of 1" each soft, medium, and hard densities) and your seat will be wonderfully comfortable to anyone. As a demonstration, he threw a key ring on a pad and invited you to sit on them. Amazingly, you could barely tell the keys were there. This stuff is also recommended by none other than Tony Bingelis.

Wandering out onto the flight line, I finally saw a familiar face that didn't arrive with me, namely Victoria and then Paul Rosales, known friends of the Project Police, builder of an RV-6A, and secretary of Chapter 49. They had come in via the heavy iron and were staying with friends in Phoenix. At that time they were perusing (big surprise) the RV row. Paul pointed me toward Rich and Karol Hansen of Pleasanton, CA, who had an RV-6A who were interested in flying in to the Edwards Open House (yea, sure…who isn't…). Then he mentioned that their airplane was a recipient of an Oshkosh Outstanding Workmanship award. NOW he had my attention…I talked to them, gave them my card, and told them how to contact Chris Reeder. It was a good move--their airplane was named Copperstate Grand Champion the next day! Read on to hear how we treated them when they arrived at Edwards...

I then moved on to inspect the Berkut on display, which had been painted to resemble the test support fleet at Edwards, namely white with orange tail flashes. Norm Howell has reportedly selected an N-number that will allow him to paint his aircraft similarly and the number will fit in seamlessly.

Proceeding on down and back the "left" side of the fly-in showed nothing else spectacular, other than running into our own Jim Piavis. I then returned to the center of the fly-in, intent on testing the acceptability of the Barbecue sandwiches being sold. However, I was greeted by a line long enough to make even Project Police Officer Gary Aldrich reconsider. As it was the prime lunch hour, I decided to continue on to the exhibit hangar, in hopes the line would recede with time.

On the way there, I found Gerry Curtis, the man behind the Flight of the Eagles trips to Sun-N-Fun and Oshkosh each year. He had been out to help us at the Fox Field National Air Races last year, and was so impressed with my stylish PPTAF uniform shirt that it finally convinced him to join us in Chapter 1000 (welcome, Gerry!). He also introduced me to the official EAA rep from Oshkosh, but I've since forgotten who it was. Oh, well.

In the exhibit hangar, I was able to confirm with a rep of Aircraft Spruce and Specialty that they have completed their move from Fullerton to the Corona airport. The correct address is shown on the 1997-1998 catalog. Take note of this if you happen to be headed down to Will Call to pick up that 25 foot 4130 steel tube.

Next I found Richard Finch, who had written a new book on welding called Performance Welding. You can pick up a copy from for about $16.50, plus shipping and handling. I was able to get it direct from him at an airshow special price of $15. It was highly recommended by some of the guys on the Bearhawk e-mail list, and looks very interesting based on a cursory glance through it. Richard Finch recommends that you buy this book and not his Welding Handbook, which he claims was so heavily edited years ago so as not to upset any suppliers that it reads like you would expect a watered-down book to read. Performance Welding was edited for grammar and spelling, but the thoughts left intact, so you get the straight scoop from him on what he says works and what doesn't. Keep an eye out--he's also working on a design for a relatively low-cost four-place low-wing aircraft. If it does well, maybe Van will finally design a four-place RV…

The Averys of Avery Tools were there selling their wares, so I took a moment to tell them how much I liked doing business with them (1-800-OK-AVERY).

Continuing on through the exhibit hangar I found a Kitplanes booth, where they were running an airshow special--two years for the price of one. I couldn't pass that up, so I added another two years onto my subscription.

Heading back out of the hangar, I stopped to look at the Hobbyair breathing aparatus. Jon Goldenbaum walked through and told me that I need the HVLP unit that was on display. I told him that I already had an air compressor (the Bearhawk has an aluminum wing) and spray gun. A gentleman standing next to me then read my name tag and realizing who I was, introduced himself. It was Vance Jaqua, an honorary chapter member and big wig engineer for Tri-R Composites. You may recall a couple of articles he submitted to The Leading Edge a few months back.

It was now a little after 2 pm, and since I was starting to get hungry, I went back to check on the Barbecue line. While it wasn't short, it wasn't nearly as long as before. I queued up, and soon had a very tasty BBQ pork sandwich in my hands. No sides, as the potato salad and the beans were sold out, and all that was left was cole slaw. The hazards of eating late...

After lunch, P5 and I sashayed back onto the flight line, looking to investigate the "right" half of the show. Seeing the booth for Contact!, I stopped in and inquired if Mick Myal, honorary chapter member and Contact! Publisher, was around. He was pointed out to me and P5 and I introduced ourselves. As I was handing him one of our stylish Chapter 1000 business cards, two other gentleman of EAA Chapter 20, one of which was George Mendonca, walked up, so I handed them cards too. George saw that we were from Edwards, he quipped that he was coming down to our Open House the next weekend. Noting that he was with Chapter 20 (San Francisco area), I asked him if he knew Ed Dutreaux. "That's who I'm flying in with." I was taken aback for a moment, and then told him, standing there in the middle of Air-Zona, "You're staying at my house!"

P5 and I then wandered down the line to inspect the Thunder Mustang, which had the cowling open to show the engine. We were whelmed. Looked just like it did in the magazines. It's just tough to get excited about an airplane that I could never even approach affording.

As we were on our way out, we saw Don Thompson, President and Newsletter Editor of Chapter 7. We discussed various matters of chapter business, and confirmed their allegiance to the Project Police.

We loaded back into the FC-180 Fighting Skywagon, having had a highly successful day, and had an uneventful trip back. The next day Harry and I went to the Pima Air Museum, where we determined that they have WAY too many airplanes. Highly recommended.

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Revised -- 26 July 1998