7 January 2004 Images, plus some more recent updates.

18 January 2004

Thumbnails of 7 January 2004 images are posted below. Click on a thumbnail to see the high resolution version, file sizes as shown. As you can see, many are essentially just duplicates, but with minor exposure variations.

Most of the snow and ice has melted now, and the wings have recovered to their original dihedral and position, with no signs of damage from the snow and ice storm. The left strut recovered too - it rose back to about 35% extension. PV=nRT as we all know. T fell to a lower value, and the pressure was unusually high due to the very heavy load. So physics demanded a substantial decrease in V, resulting in compression of the strut during the storm. And recovery afterward.

8 January 2004, updated 18 January 2004:

The railroad tie pillars used to raise the left wing for reattachment are still in place except for the top few layers, so that I can later use them for personal access to complete some final work and cleanups inside the wing tank. But they don't touch the wing - both wings are hanging completely free, and, due to the very heavy snow and ice buildup, are successfully supporting a great deal of weight even though the perimeter welding hasn't been performed. Image number 48 illustrates this load particularly well. Keep in mind that what you see there isn't just snow, but rather heavy wet snow with a top layer of solid ice so thick that it doesn't break when walked on. It was a very heavy load. At the peak of the snow load, the wing tip dropped to within three or four inches of a tree stump as you can see in the image. I sighted along the leading edge of the right wing, which had the heaviest load, from the tip toward the root (the fuselage), to see if I could spot any 'kink' like bending at the splice location. But I couldn't see any - the wing was drooping due to the very heavy load, but it looked completely natural, as if the wing had never been cut. The ice storms thoroughly demonstrated the considerable strength margin of the wing splices, eliminating any concern about their integrity. But that doesn't mean I won't weld the cut lines - that's still on the agenda.

30 December 2003:

Post it and it will change: A relatively heavy snowfall did the job - the extra weight on the right wing broke the static friction in the right strut, and it settled into a nice position at roughly 35% of it's full extension. I'd prefer 50%, but it's perfectly fine for now, and much better than before. Jumping up and down on the wing tip might have done the job if I had more personal mass than a pillow, but since I don't, it didn't. Snow proved more powerful...

24 December 2003:

The left wing has been bolted back onto the aircraft and is hanging free, using the same mechanical reconstruction method used for the right wing long ago. Neither wing nor the tail has been welded yet, nor will they near term due to very tight financial constraints which prevent the purchase of suitable welding equipment, as well as many other activities, most notably the design and construction of the concrete pillars for the landing gear to rest on (to replace the temporary railroad tie and foam panel pillars currently supporting the aircraft). The left wing still needs some basic cleanup work, including pressure washing of the tank areas associated with the cut line, and resolution of an alignment mismatch at the leading edge area which shows up only when the wing hangs free, as it now does. That mismatch is odd - I don't know what's causing it, and it didn't occur on the right wing, which uses the same splicing system. I suspect that welding will eliminate the problem, but I'd like to study it in the meantime (when the weather improves) to see if I can discover the underlying cause and correct it short term. It doesn't cause a structural weakness, but it's visually obvious, and it's a mystery. I don't like mysteries...

There are problems with both of the main landing gear struts now, and addressing them is first on my agenda, with the left near term, and the right when the weather improves. They're important concerns, and don't require funding, but just personal time. The left strut leaks now, which is a new glitch, and seems to have developed spontaneously. I don't know why - it hasn't been stressed to my knowledge, and there's no evidence of leakage of hydraulic fluid. It's possible that I simply didn't fully secure the Schrader valve last time I inflated that strut (it was inflated and deflated a few times to help lift the left wing into reattachment position), so this might be a trivial problem. We'll see. In the meantime the aircraft is tilting substantially to the left, and not just because the left main strut is fully deflated - the right main strut is stuck in nearly fully extended position, even though I've released some nitrogen, and this is a more substantial problem. It's not that I can't deflate it - I can, but not smoothly. The drain bolt was ripped out of the bottom of that strut about three years ago, and I've only partially repaired it. I should complete repairs this spring or summer, but in the meantime the strut contains only a tiny amount of residual hydraulic oil, and is thus very sticky. When I raise or lower it, it generally won't budge until the pressure differential is substantial, and then jumps about 2/3 of it's travel or more. For now, I'd rather it stay almost fully extended (this is earthquake country) than completely deflate it, and correct the aircraft's tilt by almost fully extending the left strut, and, hopefully, correcting it's leak. At the moment my nitrogen tank is empty, but I'll replace it soon, reinflate the left strut, and try to discover and correct the source of the leak.

Otherwise, most work has come to a halt for the time being. My small business, Hypatia Inc., suffered terribly from the overall business slump and insufficient time allocation on my part for the last five years. This became serious in 2002, when parts inventory was nearly exhausted, and insufficient funds had been set aside to rebuild inventory. And it became critical in 2003, during which the company was unable to ship it's major product for almost the entire second half of the year, due to a profound delay in completing a new circuit board design update, which caused inventory exhaustion of that component. An assembly outsourcing attempt that turned into a bit of a nightmare, and is still not entirely resolved, contributed to the inability to assemble products. Hypatia is my only source of income and my livelihood, so lately I've had no choice but to devote almost all my time, energy and resources into it's revival. In 2003 I invested all resources into inventory purchases, and almost all my time into design update work (as well as normal customer support and, until inventory of the critical raw circuit board was exhausted in June, assembly, which I do personally for the most part, though help is coming on board). Further component inventory purchases are still required, but instruments are shipping again, and orders on the books are very nearly sufficient to fund remaining component purchases to stock inventory that will support at least two years worth of normal production (and income). It's been a long hard grind, hanging by a thread, and it's not over yet. But most of my tiny firm's foundation has been rebuilt, and, unless a glitch develops, I should have much more time and a modest level of income to allocate to the aircraft project by about mid 2004. I'll still be financially constrained in 2004 unless some unforeseen events occur, but not outright broke as has been the case for over a year.

Even in a developed country, for most honest working people, life is like treading water - you can keep your head above the surface most of the time, but sometimes waves overwhelm you, and when they do you just have to hold your breath and devote all your energy to paddling back to the surface. And with every new big wave, you have to repeat the process, indefinitely, until your heart gives out. And mine is a comparatively easy situation - for a great number of the world's people, grinding poverty, tyranny, corruption and crime, disease, famine, and ignorance (especially about the scientific method of finding truth from within the fog of provincial culture) force their heads under water the majority of the time. And it's much harder if you're not a member of our species - for the most part, on this planet, the dominant tool maker utterly fails to respect the sanctity of any other life form, which is tragic beyond words. My problems are daunting, but they pale in comparison to those of most living things. It's almost never easy...

There are issues with the county which are more difficult to describe than I care to attempt today, but they could become serious too (or are becoming serious right now, in the background, for all I know). I hope to resolve them in 2004, but it will be a huge challenge - these are very difficult problems, and it's not at all clear that I'll be able to muster the time or resources to address them to the county's satisfaction. Regardless of my appraisal of the practical rationality of some of the issues, the fundamental threat is resource exhaustion. Some of the county's directives are very resource intensive items, both in funding and time. Since I work for a living (I'm not rich), it may simply be impossible for me to allocate enough time or money to satisfy the county within their scheduling constraints. Personal financial survival has to be my top priority, regardless of other issues - I'm of no use to anyone if I can't minimally support myself*, so even when I'm sternly directed to accomplish certain things, I can't always comply. I'll try to report on this element of the adventure more later.

*(Minimally means minimally - I live very frugally. I don't have health insurance or offspring, I don't heat my derelict quarters in the winter, except to use a small 1.5 KW space heater at my feet when necessary, my vegan diet is very cheap, my rare outings are via my 1986 car, and almost all equipment is second generation at best. No complaints - I'm relatively healthy, relatively free (though constraints on my freedom to rationally assess and address overall personal injury and disease risk factors is more than a little offensive), and happy. But people need to understand that I have real resource limits, and neither denial nor unrealistic demands can change that reality any more than they can modulate gravity.

Aero Controls is another issue that still needs attention, and I hope to get to that in 2004, in an effort to force them to satisfy their contractual obligations, paid for by my hard earned cash in 1998, that they've evidently placed on indefinite deferral. This could also be a substantial time sink, and since it could evolve into a legal battle (hopefully just at the binding arbitration level), it could also become personally draining, or more so than it has already.

I've bailed on holiday obligations, for the most part, again this year due to my high work load. But I do wish everyone the happiest of holidays and a terrific new year. May all you honest, humane and constructive people find joy and wonder during the holidays, and fulfillment during the year ahead.

Regards, Bruce

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