Friday, January 21, 2011

Where to Learn More

By the search paths that lead many of you here, you want to know more about how to repair your airplane, or for information on the plumbing, sheetmetal work, woodworking, or fabric work of building your own plane.

First, go to the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA). If you don't already know who EAA is, I cannot recommend them highly enough - this is the repository of over 50 years of homebuilding experience, tens of thousands of aircraft and their designers, builder groups, mechanic and owners who fix 'em, and the pilots who fly them. They're not just experimental aircraft people, either - they help support the classic and antique aircraft, not only coming up with better repairs and help with restoration, but also modern technological modifications and improvements.
Whether you are a member or not, you can watch their Hints For Homebuilders videos on sheetmetal, tube/fabric, and composite planes (including electrical!) Warning: their links do auto-play the first video on the channel. I wish they were on youtube or vimeo, but the proprietary player is worth the hassle: good production values, knowledgeable people, and reliable, handy information.

Next off, for more in depth instruction still accessible at your home, check out SmartFlix. They're like NetFlix, but for DIY and instructional videos. Check the ratings before renting, as instructional videos in general range from lively and informative to highly informative but insomnia curing (I'm looking at you, Poly-Fiber covering!), to two guys who are banging out a product on a home video camera with little to no explanation and terrible video work. You'll have to check around the site more, as almost nothing's under "aircraft" - but the sheetmetal videos for making a motorcycle fairing work just the same on an aircraft fairing, and fiberglass layups for a boat will teach you how to lay up a Rutan-designed VariEze fuselage and wings.

(Side note - there are people out there currently calling for a boycott of this company because the owner blogs at TJIC, and had the stones to make a "First, kill all the lawyers"-style comment after the latest leftist nutbag went after a nearby congresscritter. These are the same people who are preening about how wonderful it is that the government decided to deny his second amendment rights and seize personal property with no charges and no arrest, because he exercised his first amendment right to offensive speech. I may or may not agree with what he has to say on any given post, but I'll damn well defend his right to say it! He's a good man, and runs a good company.)

Now for the away-from-computer solutions. First, EAA holds workshops around the country, so you can move from theoretical to practical knowledge, hands-on, with tools and guidance. If none of those are taking place near you, or soon enough, check out your local EAA chapter. There's almost always someone who's building something going on, and usually you can learn more, see more, and try more by talking to these folks. If you have your eye on a specific plane, it probably has an owner's group, and that owner's group probably has an email list, a forum, a newsletter, fly-ins, and nearby members who can show you a thing or five.

Most importantly, don't discount your local airport. Years ago, I screwed up my courage and talked to an A&P IA who owns his own shop on the field - and he has become a good friend, and a mentor beyond compare. That man is not just worth his weight in gold, but in gem-grade diamond! He has helped me not only with purchasing a project and restoring it, but with life, with maturing into a better person, with shooting, with coping with my fiance having a heart attack while I was thousands of miles away... Words fail in expressing how much he means to me. Videos and internet opinions can only take you so far - if you find a mentor to work beside, you will be worlds ahead and on your way.


  1. It's not a boycott of Smartflix, it's a BUYCOTT, TJIC is a dealer for them. And yes EAA is one hell of a good organization.

  2. neat neat!

    and IA is awwwwwwwesome. :)

  3. I saw this on another forum. It'll be useful when you bring your bird south through the Northern ADIZ.