I try to keep my blogs like the proverbial box of chocolates “You never know what you’re going to get.” So, after the last posting’s polemic social comment here’s something much different.
Aviation has been a cornerstone of my life. One of my favourite all-time airplanes is the de Havilland DHC2 otherwise known simply as the Beaver. Once while I was using a payphone on a Gulf Island dock a Beaver began it’s takeoff from the harbour. The usual ear-splitting snarl filled the air and awestruck, the person on the phone, from Southern California, asked what the noise was. I replied casually that it was just a Beaver. “Oh my Gawd” was the stunned response. I left the magic in the air and did not explain further that this beaver was an airplane.
Famous around the globe in an amazing variety of roles, this aircraft design is almost seventy-five years old. It is famous along this coast and is synonymous with the word float plane. There are books written about all its accomplishments and I could produce another. I love its raw, rugged simplicity and see this machine as an ultimate piece of Canadian technology.
It’s engine, the Pratt& Whitney R985 of 450 horsepower is little-changed since its inception in 1935. It still runs beautifully and dependably without computers and despite being archaic WWII technology it will be clattering through the sky for many years to come. As time wore on some Beavers were re-powered with the incredible PT6 turbine. This cut engine weight drastically and increased power by almost fifty percent. This engine has been one of the best improvements to aviation ever, powering a fantastic array of aircraft and is incredibly reliable. It made the Beaver into a whole new airplane.
Now there has been yet another upchange. Harbour Air, a local schedule and charter float plane service, with over 40 aircraft and 500,000 passengers annually, has just flown its first electric Beaver. Powered with a magniX 750 hp electric engine, this new generation of Beaver will currently have a range, plus reserve, to safely fly across the Strait Of Georgia and back. The batteries are NASA-approved lithium (An environmental conundrum) and as they are improved, will allow electric aviation to advance. Even a new style of propeller has been fitted and that lovely old Beaver banshee take-off howl may one day no longer echo between shorelines. There are skeptics, there are bugs, but it’s a giant step in a wonderful new direction. It is not so long ago that electric model airplanes were novel. I muse at the following scenario as a pilot makes this announcement. “Ladies and gentlemen, you will have noticed the recent jolt as we came to the end of our extension cord. However….!”
Sadly, as I wrote the word “thonk” beneath my caption about the photo of the little bird in my last blog, a similar but much louder and sickening din occurred on the beach of nearby Gabriola Island. A local and highly seasoned pilot augered his twin-engined Piper Aerostar onto a vacant woodlot between two homes. He and two passengers died after an apparent instrument failure during dark and foggy conditions only a few minutes from the safety of the end of the runway at nearby Cassidy Airport. The flight had started in Mexico with one stop for fuel in California, a long and tiring trek in a single day for a single pilot. It is a huge local tragedy yet also a miracle that no-one on the ground was taken as well.
As a former pilot I can tell you about the day of advanced flight training when you are put “under the hood.” It is a contraption that looks a bit like a welding helmet and prevents the student from seeing outside the cockpit. The flight instruments are carded over and then you are to maintain level flight simply by instinct and the feelings in the seat of your pants. After a few very long and sweaty moments the hood is removed and you are horrified to see that you have put the airplane into a flight attitude which is rapidly about to become catastrophic. I remember wondering why the engine revs were running away and then I saw! It is a very memorable event, both humbling and sobering. The lesson is simple: “ALWAYS TRUST YOUR INSTRUMENTS.” Eventually you learn to control the aircraft while wearing the hood despite what you instincts are shouting at you. It is very, very hard to do at times and flying under real instrument conditions regularly is a necessary practice. Regular proficiency exams are mandatory to maintain a valid IFR rating. Commercial aircraft have back-up systems and crew. I won’t speculate and leave that to the armchair aviation experts who rear their lofty views as always at such times.
Now for some new home-spun creativity. I’ll let the pictures do the talking.
This is how it all began. I bought this little work trailer, removed its metal sides and converted it to carry my inflatable boat. It worked well.
It has evolved. I built the toolbox at the front to fit the back of an RV and is big enough to even hold a twenty pound bottle of propane as well as all the tools I should need. It fits the trailer as if I’d planned it that way. The plywood was purchased new, but much of the project has used recycled parts and hardware. I re-installed the axle beneath the springs for more ground clearance and to allow room for bigger wheels and heavier tires which desert roads will demand.
Who’da thunk? The upper back part slips out and the sides fold down onto a removable support for travel. A friend donated the locking door handle and upper windows. Thanks Jimmy. The lower window was found in a sailor’s garage sale and has waited years to find its place. The top is coated with a special HD deck paint found for sale at half-price. The sides are treated with Cetol, a marine wood oil which I happened to have. It will be easy to repair if scratched along the trail. Hardware is from second-hand shops or out of salvage boxes I’ve stowed away for years.
With standing headroom inside at the back This will provide a snug shelter where I can sleep warm and dry or sit and write when the weather is harsh. I could even cook in there if necessary. The top, when laying flat, is an excellent platform for photography and shooting video. I MADE IT!
I’m calling this my “Hobbit Box. ” The flooring came from a ‘Restore’ The bed base unclips and folds out of the way. The trailer will hold my outboard motor and rolled-up inflatable boat, a bicycle or small motorcycle, generator, compressor, chainsaw, gas and water containers or accomodate one or two friendly people. The bunk is 36″ wide folded down. I still need to acquire a custom-made mattress and finish insulating the top and sides. My generator will easily run a small electric heater and charge other batteries at the same time.
Once a sailor, always one. The cables and turnbuckles hold the lid down securely in the up and down positions. Beneath the corner brace, a sturdy bracket holds an outboard motor in place, handy to the door and yet safely upright.
So how many Hobbit Boxes have a porch? Now all I need is a rocking chair and a banjo! A friend provided the two jack stands. Thanks Niels! They’ll be handy for many things, including roasting wild game over a campfire. This hinged ramp will double as a work table and the trailer can be a cargo transporter, a workshop, a camper and general storage box. What about a taco stand?”Fred’s Mexican Curries.”Tha, tha, thaz all folks! With the hinged ramp locked in the up position we also have a bear trap/ paddy wagon. The section of pvc pipe is intended to facilitate loading kayaks and other gear on top. It has proven to also be an excellent rain catcher! The closest ideas to this trailer were on Russian YouTube videos. Hopefully the next photos of the Hobbit Box will have cacti in the background.
“The Supreme Court has ruled that they cannot have a nativity scene in Washington, D.C. This wasn’t for any religious reasons. They couldn’t find three wise men and a virgin.” …Jay Leno