Project Police Blotter -- Secret Project Investigated

Russ Erb

Originally published June 1997

Quartz Hill, 31 May 1997. After a very productive session at Frank Roncelli's Skunk Works using his 8' brake to bend up a whole mess of spars for the Bearhawk, I decided to take action on some taunting threats from one B. Martinez, who had made it known to the Project Police that he had already started work on another secret project. This even while continuing a much publicized flight test program on the Q-200.

Following a stealthy approach, I successfully maneuvered the Project Police Paddywagon, stuffed with newly formed Bearhawk parts, into the empty driveway of the Martinez domicile, cleverly managing to miss all of the sprinkler heads. There was no sign of anyone at home. Later investigation would find that the Martinez family has fallen prey to the propaganda of a currently running Chevron commercial and have actually put a car in the garage! Where did they ever get approval for that? Really, an automobile occupying prime workshop space!

Undaunted, I bypassed the roof stomping step (good move as I had not packed a ladder and none was obviously available) and proceeded to the door. The occupants of the house were summoned by a press of the small normally open push-button switch located by the door. Arlene answered the door, and before I could even read her her rights, she shot back with "He went to Mojave today." As I reeled from this opening shot, she made her first mistake--she invited me in to see the project.

Sten escorted me to the scene of the crime project, where I was greeted with what looked like an oversized canoe and the unmistakable smell of a composite builders workshop. My next impression was that Brian was trying to do Burt Rutan and his Boomerang one better by building a strange fuselage with an obvious bulge on the left side which was not matched by a symmetric bulge on the right. Is this some strange, classified observation bubble, along the lines of a Fiesler Storch? Yes, but no. Sten explained to me that the bulge was the canopy, and I was looking at the mold for the left half of the fuselage which was laying on its side.

It is obvious that Brian and Arlene are raising Sten to be an intelligent, well trained EAA member. In spite of Brian's obvious absence during an unannounced visit of the Project Police, partially excusable only based on his claims that he was working on his other project, he was well represented by Sten. Sten explained the various parts of the project with such aplomb it was as if Brian had been there. He explained how the mold would be used to vacuum bag the actual fuselage. After the two halves are pulled, they will be cocooned while the wings are being built. Brian thinks he should be able to pull at least three parts from each mold, so if you'd like to join him on a project...

Classified sources forwarded Brian's description of the project: "I pulled the left hand female mold off the male plug this morning.........worked out fine! Just a few dry spots on the inner mold surface, but that is just finish work. For an 11 foot long part.....this is the smoothest release that I have ever pulled. I used heavy "turtle wax" with an alcohol based mold release that Aircraft Spruce sells. Worked great. Damn thing slid right off. The female mold, as I told you yesterday is (1) an inner layer of two bi-directional glass layers (8 ounce cloth), (2) core layer of plastic micro-fill in vinyl-ester resin (1/8 - 1/4" thick), and (3) two bi-directional glass layers outside. The resin system for the mold is vinyl-ester because it is cheap and after a room temp cure allows a free standing post cure to a Tg of about 200 deg F (i.e., put in black plastic in the summer sun). This should allow me to step up my elevated temp cure epoxy part to a significant 200 deg F cure followed by a higher free standing post cure a bit higher. The micro-fill core keeps the mold light in the middle where the loads are only 20% as opposed to the surface skins which take 80% of the loads. The Berkut guys mentioned that you could do excellent molds this way. This should be good enough to pull at least 3 - 4 fuselage sides out of."

So what is this secret project? Such information is still CLASSIFIED, but some details were extracted during intense interrogation. Brian has a history of building fiberglass aircraft of the canard type as made popular by Burt Rutan. This aircraft will be a modification of a twin engine aircraft that defies description. Some of the harder edges have been rounded, and he will be using a vacuum bagged molded construction to cut down some of the structural weight.

Arlene is well practiced in dealing with the Project Police. While no chocolate chip cookies were seen, the Project Police were offered a chocolate shake which was currently in production. Due to a state of aggravated dehydration, it was politely refused in preference for a few glasses of wonderful ice water. Brian tells us more about the importance of avoiding dehydration elsewhere in this newsletter.

Overall P23DI rating: A+ (Excellent Water)

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Revised -- 21 December 1997