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Thread: Bob builds an aircraft carrier

  1. #1
    bwilson4web's Avatar
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    Bob builds an aircraft carrier

    Hi,

    I bought a Dragonfly that had been hangared for 20 years and needed to get it from Canton IL to Huntsville AL. A ferry flight was out of the question. The plane has a 20 year old VW that in the 80s has history for prop hub separation, a crank shaft fracture, and aluminum flywheel. Furthermore, there have been 20 years of 'lessons learned' and aviation electronics improvement. I needed ground transportation so I went with a modified, pontoon boat trailer:



    I ordered a trailer without the four alignment posts so I needed to make some simple modifications:

    I laid 2" x 8" x 16' boards between the carpet covered boards but I needed 20'. I cut an 8' board in two and patched it to the 16' boards:

    I turned the board over so the plates are in tension. Then I added 1" shims to hold the flats under the carpeted boards at highway speed and shimmed to avoid vibration:


    So this is how the trailer and tow car looked Friday morning before driving to Canton, IL:

    On the trip up, the empty trailer tow ran 30-33 MPG at 62-63 mph depending upon winds.

    Sad to say, a low pressure center developed while in Canton IL and we had to load the plane in the rain. Then it rained all the way back to Huntsville:



    And in the driveway using the other car:


    On the trip back, the tow came in at 28.6-29.5 MPG at 53-54 mph. The plane was wrapped in plastic wrap that didn't last long at highway speed in the rain. I had some 'road rash' on the end of the wing on the outside with a couple of paint flakes taken off. The canard on the other side has two separate paint splashes suggesting a small rock or pebble hit. But the canopy and fuselage look impact free. Using pink-foam sheets, we padded the cross pieces, wing and canard. The engine was loaded in the hatchback over the folded down, rear passenger seat area. The props and about 50 lbs of builder documentation and left over parts are in the rest of the space.

    I looked at a Uhaul van but rental started at $800 without considering fuel costs and as a rental, I would have to do it again when the plane goes to the airport. A smaller trailer would have significant wing and fuselage over-hang although this 24 ft. trailer was a bit of overkill. I could have gotten by with a 22 ft trailer and saved a hundred or so pounds. Regardless, after the plane is operational, the trailer goes on sale and I'll get back most of the $1,650 trailer cost. My alternate tow vehicle, a Coachman G30 RV gets ~8 MPG at 55 mph by itself. Meanwhile, I've found an affordable, trailer parking spot . . . and there is this area beyond the driveway obscured from the neighborhood. <grins>

    So all in all, I'm reasonably pleased with my aircraft carrier. Fuel costs were reasonable and the open frame made loading fairly easy. Heavy, yes, but obviously the 28 MPG for 626 miles, 21.6 gallons, was affordable. I'm expecting to see 140 mph @4 gal/hr from the Dragonfly.

    Bob Wilson

  2. #2

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    Thanks for posting this!

    First, I was curious to see what you'd work out based on the other thread that mutated to cover transportation.

    Second, it is a brilliant solution that lends itself to some fine idea stealing!
    The opinions and statements of this poster are largely based on facts and portray a possible version of the actual events.

  3. #3
    bookmaker's Avatar
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    I am building a full sized Nieuport 17 and have been considering trailering options. I too came up with the pontoon boat trailer as a basis. Wide, relatively light and many lengths.

    I plan to close mine in in the fashion that Rick Bennett and others have done, with skeleton frame and fabric.

    Since I am not under a time pressure, I am keeping my eyes out for a good used one.

    Dale
    Dale Cavin
    Florida Panhandle

  4. #4

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    This is not a criticism....I don't have room for that.....but I was curious. When I'm listening to guys building an airplane with a fuselage and wing structure orders of magnitude more complicated in design and execution talking about buying a trailer.....I wonder. With me it would be not wanting to add one more project to do but why aren't you guys building the relatively simple trailer? Not throwing darts,..just curious to know why?

  5. #5

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    Quote Originally Posted by gpugh View Post
    This is not a criticism....I don't have room for that.....but I was curious. When I'm listening to guys building an airplane with a fuselage and wing structure orders of magnitude more complicated in design and execution talking about buying a trailer.....I wonder. With me it would be not wanting to add one more project to do but why aren't you guys building the relatively simple trailer? Not throwing darts,..just curious to know why?

    Wow,Also, no criticism intended in any way. But, I didn't understand the gist of this post at all (words & wording). Maybe, put it in simple English.

    Marshall Alexander

  6. #6
    CarlOrton's Avatar
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    I read it this way: Hey! You guys are great at figuring out how to build airplanes; why not build a trailer as well, instead of buying one?

    Carl Orton
    Sonex #1170
    http://mykitlog.com/corton

  7. #7
    Eric Witherspoon's Avatar
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    Reasons why not to custom fabricate a road trailer:

    1. I spend my time building an airplane that isn't like anyone else's. Trailers are available nearly everywhere. It doesn't give me any satisfaction to build a trailer that isn't like anyone else's. The hobby is ultimately to go to pancake fly-ins and air shows, not trailer shows.

    2. I have proficiency with riveted sheet metal construction. Not so much with welding steel, which is the quick/cheap way to build a trailer.

    3. I only have to move my airplane to the airport once. The airplane I intend to keep for a while. So in my case, I just borrowed a trailer for part of a day. But even if I wanted to keep a trailer around, no point taking another year (or x months or whatever) to build one when they are so easily available.

    4. A homebuilt airplane is usually obligated to an x-hour flight-test program before being released for more general use. I don't want to do a road-test program for my homebuilt trailer before loading it for a one-time 15-minute trip. On the other side, I don't want an unknown, un-tested trailer to have some sort of major failure with my years-in-the-making one-of-a-kind airplane project on board.

    5. Airplanes are optimized for certain missions. As in, we put in a lot of time to reduce drag and weight. Neither is all that important in a trailer, so the fact that the originator of this thread bought an off-the-lot trailer and did a few minor mods to it to adapt it to carrying the airplane doesn't cost a whole lot in terms of "performance". You don't give up much with an off-the-lot trailer. Obviously, we think we DO give up too much with "off the lot" airplanes or we wouldn't bother building them.

    Now, if you would be using the trailer as the long-term storage place for the airplane, or if you need to move the airplane before/after all flights, more customization may be of more value.
    Murphy's 13th: Every solution breeds new problems...

    http://www.spoonworld.com

  8. #8
    bwilson4web's Avatar
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    My interest is my airplane and the trailer is just a means for getting it to where I can work on it. There was no perfect solution but compared to the alternatives, this was 'good enough.' GOOD, FAST, CHEAP, pick two of three and in this case, GOOD+FAST. Cheap will happen when the plane is flying and I sell the trailer. Since I hadn't seen much discussion about the subject, I thought I'd share this approach as others may face similar problems in the future. The fact that many of us have a high opinion of our skills, enough to tackle building a plane, doesn't mean we are compelled to build everything and every tool we use. Bob Wilson
    Last edited by bwilson4web; 12-15-2011 at 08:20 PM.

  9. #9

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    I like your approach Bob. I spent lots of time building a trailer for my fuel tank (110 gal) to haul and pump gasoline into my airplane. And it started out as a boat trailer also. I might have been able to buy one cheaper, but it was sort of fun modifying/building my own.

    Marshall Alexander

  10. #10
    bwilson4web's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by malexander View Post
    I like your approach Bob. I spent lots of time building a trailer for my fuel tank (110 gal) to haul and pump gasoline into my airplane. And it started out as a boat trailer also. I might have been able to buy one cheaper, but it was sort of fun modifying/building my own.
    I had not considered making it into a fuel carrier. Did you run into any vehicle regulations or limitations?

    It is a lot more attractive to carry gas on a trailer instead of in the trunk or hatchback of the car. My plane has a 15 gallon capacity and lugging around a bunch of 5 gallon cans is not my idea of 'fun' nor safe.

    Bob Wilson
    Last edited by bwilson4web; 12-16-2011 at 10:45 AM.

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