Way back, before I ever started this project, I started going to monthly meetings that our local EAA chapter held in our area. Every month the meeting was held in someones home, shop, or hanger. I loved those meetings. It was fun to see a different project every month, in various stages of completion. As I met the guys and got to know some of them, my own confidence grew to the point that I knew I, too, could do something like this. At the time, I dreamed of my own project and perhaps some day hosting a meeting for my airplane in my shop or garage. Well, today that dream came true! Several months ago I was talking to some of the leaders in our chapter and the subject came up, and the arrangements were made. So here we are! I was amazed at how many people came out on a cold day in January to pack my little garage, even spilling into the kitchen for lack of room.
The organizers in our chapter are great guys. Somone brings food and beverages, and a donation jar is there for everyone to contribute. So I didn't even have to put together food and drinks, yet there was plenty of good stuff for everyone. Our president opens the meeting after a social period of time, and recognizes any new attendees, goes over any announcements, offers a chance for anyone who has a significant milestone or item for sale to talk for a few minutes, and then they give the host the floor.
So I got up on my little soapbox and talked for a while about my project, summarizing some milestones, modifications or upgrades that I have made, and then opened it up for questions. I was surprised that there seemed to be a significant interest in the interior paint I have been using. It was very gratifying to see how much they liked it. So I grabbed my can of JetFlex and showed it to everyone and talked about it for a bit. Also, of course, my fiery red anodized siderails and brake pedals. Those are things not seen before by many who were here. I also had a chance to honor my Dad, 84 years old, who was present. I think I embarrassed him a bit by introducing him, as I talked about how much he has helped me, including riveting the top aft skin on the fuselage not that long ago, while I was lying on a board inside bucking rivets. It was fun. Everything I hoped it would be.
It was truly an honor to have all these great people here. I have looked up to many of them who have completed and are flying their RV's or other aircraft. The combined pool of knowledge, experience, and know-how in this chapter is simply amazing. We just finished celebrating the 50th anniversary of our chapter, so there's a lot of history here, too.
The highlight of the meeting was the sacrifice of my first canopy, the one that I cracked last August 4th. Several months ago, Len Kaufmann approached me and asked if I had plans for it. He wanted to know if he could demonstrate a canopy-cracking tool at one of our meetings, as part of our monthly safety briefing. I wholeheartedly agreed, thinking it would at least come to some useful purpose. And I could thereby get rid of it, because I still get sick every time I look at it and remember how stupid it was and what a costly mistake it was. Yet, I can't bring myself to throw it away! So we eventually planned to do his demonstration here at my house for this meeting. So when the time came, we had 4 men who held each a corner of the canopy, safety glasses on, while Len sat underneath on a makeshift "seat". He talked about his canopy cracking tool, and how it might just save someone who lands in an off-airport landing, flips the aircraft over, or for whatever reason are unable to get the canopy open. It's the last-ditch effort to escape the aircraft in the event of an emergency.
Before he used his orange cracking tool, however, he tried a second one first. This appeared to be a spring-loaded punch of some kind with a sharp point. As he thumped away on the canopy with it, nothing really happened. Later, I looked close and it left some small marks, but obviously not enough to break the plexiglass.
Then everyone watched as he took the orange tool and whacked the canopy from inside. On about the 5th impact, a big crack appeared in the plexiglass, which quickly widened with further blows until an opening big enough for him to crawl through appeared. Success! It was an amazing demonstration. One that I will never forget, and hope to never have to employ out in the field. I have uploaded a short video clip to YouTube of this demonstration. Click the image below to see the video!
I'm not sure I'll ever have a chance to host this meeting again, so this was a night to remember. My thanks to everyone who came, but especially to the leaders of the chapter who made all the arrangements, and to Len Kaufmann for his briefing and remarks.