Originally published July 1994
I don't really know how to start this story so I'll just relate to you what happened last Sunday. I went out to Mojave Airport to help my friend Jim King do a weight and balance on his Pulsar and generally get it ready for flight. Norm Howell was coming over to fly the Pulsar and help Jim transition into the airplane. I was ground support. It was a very windy day and it didn't look like the weather was going to cooperate with the planned mission. Both Jim and I were busying ourselves with the airplane, when all of the sudden, the Project Police showed up in force, sirens wailing, lights flashing, we were up against the wall and spreading them before we knew what hit us.
Numerous questions ensued. I was asked: HAVE YOU FLOWN THIS AIRPLANE? I answered no! Which was the truth, but I could tell that the Project Policeman didn't like that answer. LISTEN TO ME JOCKO, (Jocko?, my name is George, it must be a case of mistaken identity) HAVE YOU FLOWN THE PULSAR?, he yelled, his face inches from mine, struggling to control himself. Well... yes, a few weeks earlier I had flown Harry Jones' Pulsar, but... DON'T BUT ME JOCKO, he responded, YOU LIED TO ME DIDN'T YOU?... DIDN'T YOU?... I tried to respond. SHUT UP, he said, I DON'T WANT TO HEAR ANY OF YOUR LAME EXCUSES. THIS IS HOW I DEAL WITH YOUR TYPE, JOCKO! YOU WILL WRITE AN ARTICLE FOR THE FORTHCOMING CHAPTER 1000 NEWSLETTER. IT WILL BE SUITABLY LONG. IT WILL CONTAIN INFORMATION TO ENLIGHTEN THE MEMBERSHIP. IT WILL ALSO BE VERY ENTERTAINING, JOCKO! IT WILL CAUSE THEM TO WORK LONG AND HARD ON THEIR PROJECTS, WHICH WILL ALLOW US TO INCREASE THE FREQUENCY OF OUR Project Police RAIDS, HAAAA HA HA HA....(where did he get that maniacal laugh). And then they were gone in a cloud of burned rubber, lawn sprinker fragments, and broken transmission parts (and that stupid maniacal laughter).
I have been building a Pulsar for going on 4 years now. It all started with the fuselage kit many moons ago. As I recall I had done a lot of research and finally choose the Pulsar. I begged, borrowed, and stole enough money to cover the check that I had sent to Aero Designs a few weeks earlier and was just itching (I didn't really understand this metaphor until doing some extensive fiberglass work!) to get up to my elbows in resin, catalyst, composite and fiberglass. Then one day about two months later a six wheel stake bed truck rolled up to the house with a plywood box on the back that was 4 ft. wide, 4 ft. tall, and 16 ft. long. And this skinny little guy about 5 ft. 2 in. and 60 years old gets out carrying a clip board. I came running out of the house and met him half way, he says, "Are you George?" I say "Yes." He says, " I got a box for you. Where do you want it?" I say, "Did you bring any help?" He gets this "are you stupid" look on his face and says, "For what?" "To unload the truck", I say, pointing at the box on the truck. He doesn't say anything. I tell him that I would like the box in the back yard in front of the garage, hoping that his age indicates countless years of experience unloading boxes from stake bed trucks. "Driveway's too narrow" he says shaking his head and scratching himself in a place I'd rather not mention. "How about right here in the driveway in front of the house?" I say. "It's your box", he says and starts back to the truck. "How can I help?", I ask, as he is climbing aboard. He doesn't answer but I can see that he's a professional, he knows what he's doing, or so I tell myself. He starts the truck up, and moves up about 8 feet, grinds it into reverse, cranks the wheels hard over and backs up over the curb onto the lawn lining up at an angle of 45 degrees to the driveway, and as he is moving back the bed of the truck begins to rise, clipping the tree in the front yard. I'm rooted to the spot because I can't believe what's going on in front of my eyes. Just as I begin to come out of it and take action, he hits the brakes, this breaks the box loose from its moorings, it slides down the bed and hits the driveway. As soon as the box hits the driveway he grinds it into first and pulls away, KA-BOOM, the box slams onto the concrete. As the dust settles I can see that one end of the box has broken loose and is slowly settling at my feet. I could hear this little voice inside of my head saying, they let this lunatic out of the insane asylum today just so he could come here and make me crazy. I spent the next 3 hours checking each and every article in the box for damage and quantity against the parts list in the manual. You won't believe this, but, every part was there and not a single thing was damaged. I guess the moral to the story here is don't worry about things that you can't control (this is the entertaining and enlightening part of the story).
Anyway, where was I going with this? Oh, yeah, as I've said, I've been working on my Pulsar for going on 4 years and over the course of time I've kind of lost touch with why I'm building it. Let me explain. I was renting airplanes because I loved to go flying, flying is my thing, call me anytime, I'll go flying. But, renting airplanes cost money, lots of money if you like to fly. And buying an airplane costs a whole lot of money, more than I had. So, I decided, if I took the money that I spent on renting and saved it until I could afford to buy parts to build an airplane, eventually I would have an airplane to fly and I would only have to pay for fuel and oil. The trade off was that I wouldn't get to fly very much while I was building it. Well, that's OK because I'm a craftsman, I make things, not only that but I excel at making things (ask my mom if you don't believe me) I could put one of those kits together in NO TIME!! What I found out was..."NO TIME" takes more time than you think. But, you know what? When I started in on my Pulsar it was almost as good as flying. Every time I finished a part I'd stand back and admire it. Each piece added to the next. It started looking more and more like a real airplane. And my imagination would put me into the cockpit and I'd be flying, going to Oshkosh, going cross country.
As I said, almost as good as really flying. And then the law of diminishing returns started to kick in. ("Diminishing Returns" they all say in unison looking at each other with puzzled expressions) Yeah, diminishing returns, like when you have a gallon of 31 flavors Baseball Nut ice-cream (substitute your favorite) and you sit down to eat it, the first spoon full tastes great, the second spoon full tastes almost as good as the first, the third spoon full doesn't taste as good as the second, and so on until a half hour has passed and you are wondering why you are putting this cold stuff into your mouth, because it's just giving you this terrible pain in the forehead. That's the law of diminishing returns (Oooohhhh... they say in unison except for the dull ones who are wondering when they will get their ice-cream).
So, the connection to the building, which is flying, begins to fade, as you are building and not flying, which in turn is what you need to do, the building that is, to get you flying. I think I said that right. Or, in simpler terms, how do I keep myself motivated? As I said way back in the beginning, a few weeks ago Harry Jones gracefully agreed to let me fly his Pulsar (well, from the right seat as he supervised from the left, and not for very long). This was the first time that I was able to fly the airplane that I have been working on all of those lonely nights alone out in the garage. Let me back up a bit.
After doing all of the research and finally deciding to build a Pulsar, the last step in the analysis was to go out to Texas and fly one. So, I managed to find a reason to have Northrop (did I mention that I work for Northrop?...can't tell you on what...I'd have to kill you) fly me out to San Antonio Texas (I'll be darned, the Pulsar factory is there too) on business. I figured that I'd get to fly the Pulsar before I wrote out a check for my kit. I was only there for one day, and it was IFR with lots of rain. I wrote the check anyway, the airplane just looked too good.
Oh, back to the subject (do you think this story is rambling a bit?). Flying Harry's Pulsar was a real blast, it put the connection back into the building part for me. I'm back to spending the day at work solving the previous night's problems, and looking forward to going home to work on the project. If you get an opportunity like this, don't forget to take a camera, and take lots of pictures of the airplane. They will be very useful when you are working on your project and get to a point where the manual isn't as clear as it could be (well, let's see how old Harry did his..). And be sure to tape a few of those pictures up on the wall, they will inspire you and when friends are over you can casually point to them and say, yeah, I flew that airplane (some swelling of the chest is in order also). Another rule that I have adopted is to do something to the airplane every day, even if it's just going out and planning the next step, or deciding what you are going to complete tomorrow. I have been very surprised at how much I get accomplished when I do this. Even when I just force myself to go out there to plan something, one thing leads to another and before I know it I'm solving a problem or finishing a part.
Now I'm wonder how long this latest bit of enthusiasm will last, the laws of diminishing returns are like the laws of physics, they can't be suspended. Someone told me that you need to do this about every six months to stay motivated. With that in mind I have developed a plan, when my enthusiasm starts to fade, I think I'll look up my old pal Jim King and see if I could get a ride in his Pulsar. Say, Jim old buddy, old pal, can we talk...............
Contents of The Leading Edge and these web pages are the viewpoints of the authors. No claim is made and no liability is assumed, expressed or implied as to the technical accuracy or safety of the material presented. The viewpoints expressed are not necessarily those of Chapter 1000 or the Experimental Aircraft Association.
Revised -- 17 June 1997