Lock the welder

E-Fab West Coast Facility

I am back in frozen CT after another CA adventure. This latest trip lasted a little over a month, and culminated with finding a great shop space. The move west will happen as soon as I settle some business here, and pack up the critical tools and furniture from the current shop. Once again, this latest scouting mission would not have been possible without the help of a few good people, namely John, Brooke, Agatha, Steg, and of course Candice and my dad. Without their generosity and input, this move would not have been possible. From storing the bikes, giving Fre and I places to stay, educating us on the ins and outs of LA, and holding down the CT shop while I was gone, I owe them a huge thanks.

Here are a few random shots from the trip:





The trusty "Interceptor" was my chosen transportation out there. I rode it relentlessly, and it performed perfectly.



Getting used to the riding in LA is somewhat terrifying. I don't think I have ever ridden in a place with such bad drivers. Maybe bad isn't the right word, more like intentionally careless. I witnessed at least 5 accidents, all of which occurred right around me! Not bad ones, but slow, casual smash ups. People out there drive as if cars are disposable, and as if occasionally wrecking your car is just a way of life. The average speed is not really any faster than other cities, but the awareness just isn't there. I phones are looked at more than windshields, literally. Riding a high powered bike through the mess is an exercise in restraint for me. Its hard to exploit the occasional stretch of open road, because at every intersection there is some brain-dead housewife or teenager just waiting to ambush you. Making direct eye contact as you approach does seemingly nothing. On a bike, you just don't exist in Los Angeles.

The good news (at least from an east coast perspective) is that you have quite a few privileges that cars don't, namely being able to park almost anywhere, ride between cars, and cut to the front of traffic lines. Come to think of it, I was amazed by how few people were riding bikes, despite the weather being above 60 every single day.

Luckily motorcycles were not the only vehicle I got to play with during my visit. My friend Jackson invited Fre and I go flying with him in a helicopter, specifically an "R44 Raven 2". It is a cool little amalgamation of aluminum, plastic, and a fuel injected flat 4. We flew out of an airstrip in Camarillo, and just flew around the surrounding area for about an hour. Jackson practiced landings, which was probably the most entertaining part for me.  here is captain-jackson giving her once-over.


Fre looked a bit skeptical....


I also spent an entire day exploring the "Angeles National Forest", a great spot not far from the new shop location. The main road that winds through it is amazing; an endless series of smooth turns and switchbacks. Unfortunately the "Interceptor" lacked the range necessary to get from one end to the other, so I made a decision a ways in to turn back. I little extra fuel in a jug should get me through it next time.

Thats all for now. Next up: the drive out

Random Cool

an 800 horsepower all carbon fiber race plane... 800 hp all composit race plane


A gorgeous Mazda engine of some kind....

mazda engine


And a Britten. If anyone hasn't seen "One Mans Dream", buy it and watch. It is a lesson in humility for bike builders



B29 Superfortress

While I was waiting for some parts for the new bike, I visited the New England Air Museum to get some inspiration. I met up with my friend Jason who works there, and he allowed me to see the inside of their B29. There are very few of these amazing bombers left. In fact only one, named "Fifi", is still flying today. A little history on the "Superfortress": The concept for this plane was, of course, a better bomber to help the WWII effort. Requirements were more of everything: range, altitude, bomb-load and armament. Boing was given the task. Its name is a result of its predesessor, the b-17 "Flying Fortress", first flown in 1938. By 1942, this monster was having the final touches put on it.

b 29 crowd

Here are some basic stats:

Length: 99 feet

Power: 4 Wright radials, each with 18 cylinders. Turbocharged, carburated. Each producing 2,200 horsepower.

Bomb-load: 20,000 pounds

defensive armament: 12 .50 caliber machine guns, some controlled remotely, 1 20mm cannon.

crew: 10 (pilot, copilot, navigator, engineer, bombardier, radio man, 3 gunners and gun commander)

b29 art

Of the 2,766 that were produced, only 22 are preserved in museums. Luckily for me the New England Air Museum is one of them. When I first saw it, I was amazed by the sheer size of it. This is one huge plane!

b 29 tail

Inside, there are 2 main compartments, connected by a long tube that goes over the bomb bay, through which a man could crawl. This was so that the huge bomb bay could open at high altitudes, and not de-pressurize the entire plane. Imagine crawling through here when the plane was airborn- not for the claustrophobic.

b 29 tube

Here I am in the main rearward compartment:

me and generator 1

The confused look on my face is because the on board generator (used to start the massive main engines) is a little v twin! It looked like a panhead.  Someone was ahead of Harley in the rocker box game...

This compartment also housed the remote gun stations, and access to several of the guns themselves. It also had a little toilet, a shitload of random electrical and mechanical components, and another tunnel that lead to the tailgunners compartment. Here I am at the entrance to it:

b29 blurry

The compartment the tailgunner lived in was barely big enough for 1 man to fit in standing up. It had all he needed to defend the rear of the plane, including a little seat he would strap into, headset jacks,  gun controls, and some thick bulletproof glass.

b 29 tailgun outside

Here is one of the tailgun sub-assemblies being made back in the 40's:

b29 tailgun made

The front compartment housed the navigator, pilots, bombadier, and engineer. It is arranged like a office, everyone sitting at their own little desk doing their jobs. I am sitting in one of the pilots seats here, and you can see some of the other stations in the background:

b 29 cocpit 2

Looking forward, you have a giant glass bubble that gives both the pilots and the bombardier a clear view. The bombardier sits in front of, and below the pilots, right in the very nose of the plane. He has a high tech (for the time), bomb-sight he looks through, and a bomb release button he can hold and activate with his thumb. This is me looking through the scope, pretending the floor was a target far below..

b29 cockpit

I find many aspects of this plane amazing, but the one that ran through my head while I was on board was the sheer simplicity of it. Despite its enormous size, the controls are still cable operated, all with little pulleys and linkages running everywhere. While partially pressurized, it was still un-insulated. The walls are just paper thin aluminum, unlike the plush interiors on a modern airliner. The noise and cold must have been excruciating. This plane did everything we needed it to do and nothing else!

Here are a few more random b29 pics:

b 29 vintage

The famous "Fifi", the only b29 still flying today.

fifi start

There was a lot the pilots had to keep track of, gauge wise...

Boeing B-29

A .50 caliber turret


Dropping a bomb load.

b 29 dropping

Heres a video, a little campy but has some good flying shots:


More to come!

The Wide World of Sea Planes

I have always had an interest in seaplanes, as they are the combination of two separate vehicles I like on their own. There are so many types that have been experimented with, in one form or another, that it would take a lifetime to report on them all. Here are a few noteworthy examples that give some idea to the variety. The most popular type of recreational seaplane, and the type you see the most frequently today. This one is made by Cessna. It is essentially just a regular Cessna fitted with pontoons. It has wheels in the pontoons so it can roll as well.

cessna seaplane

Of course, there are some much cooler ones, such as this; the Grumman Goose, first being flown in 1947. It is considered a flying boat, because the hull itself is the flotation, not pontoons. It was originally designed as a commuter aircraft for the Long Island/ CT/ NYC area!

grumman goose

Back in 1934, an Italian by the name of Francesco Agello flew his Macchi MC-72 to a world speed record of 440 mph. It used two Fiat engines, both liquid cooled, turning counter to each other, driving a coaxial prop. Each engine made 3000 hp, being fed by turbochargers and 8 carbs.

Macchi MC 72

Of course seaplanes could be great weapons, so military's around the world did  a lot of experimenting. Some of the more interesting examples are as follows:

The Convair "Sea Dart", a potential jet fighter, here in 1953.


Doesn't look like it would work, does it? Watch this; its long but you get the idea:


Here is something a bit more ambitious. This is a large flying boat developed as a bomber. The strategic advantages of a plane that can land on water are obvious  and an elaborate system of ships and submarines was devised for supplying and refueling. In the cold war era, any way to get a leg up on the enemy was considered. A seaplane that could drop nuclear weapons would have been a great asset...This is the Martin "Seamaster", shown here in 1955.


It was jet powered, could fly at just under mach 1, and had a range of 2000 miles, and could carry 30,000 pounds of bombs! This thing was huge.


Still not impressed?  This is a flying boat that uses the "ground effect" to its advantage. The ground effect is the extra lift an aircraft experiences when it is close to landing. Have you ever felt that very smooth, steady feeling when a commercial airliner almost touches down on landing? that's it. With that in mind, many designers thought that simply staying near the ground was better than flying high. The extra lift provided can maximize the efficiency and therefore increase range.

The Russians made the undisputed heavyweight king, nicknamed the "Caspian Sea Monster". Apparently funding ran out for this thing, but look at the size of it!

caspain 1

caspian 2

There were several variations of the basic design. Here is one in action. It weighs 5000 tons, is more than 300 feet long- and it can fly!


More to come....


Falklands Bombing Story

This is an amazing documentary about the Falklands conflict. The people involved are all so typically British- kinda makes me proud! [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=40knj0qg_Us]

Want to Fly a Corsair?

I have an instructional video for you. Seems fairly straightforward... http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=5J0BYq3yevs

Then you and your friends can go fly together like this...


F35B Ship Testing

Is this the end of the steam catapult method of carrier takeoff? Think about it, they could mobilize an entire group of these simultaneously, rather than having each one wait its turn for the catapults. Also,  less crew members to manage the launching and arresting gear... [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=Ki86x1WKPmE]

Doug Races Notcher

You old timers will remember a movie made in 1986 called Iron Eagle. This movie, along with Conan and Alien helped make me the grown up I am today. In this scene, Doug races his local redneck biker Notcher in a Cessna vs. XR350 race, while his friends fly overhead. The catch is, Doug cant climb above 150 feet and it goes through a canyon. Its almost viable....  Doug also has an awesome thigh mounted tape deck to keep him in the zone... [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=Nrq31J6RbgU]

Tomcat Gun Run

Skip to 1:45 in... An F14 Tomcat lets its General Electric 20mm rip. That short blip  was approximately 200 rounds fired. The M61Vulcan rotary cannon fires 6000 rounds per minute. That was about a two second burst Id say? [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=n81pIulraxY#t=109s]

P47 Thunderbolt

Another piece of fine American craftsmanship. This aircraft was one large fighter. In fact it was the largest, most expensive, and heaviest fighter powered by a single  propeller. It was nicknamed the "Jug", short for Juggernaut, because it was such a monster. It weighed up to 8 tons fully loaded. This plane came towards the end of WW2, and laid a serious amount of smack down on both the Japanese and Germans.

It was powered by the Pratt and Whitney "double Wasp" radial (the same engine to power my favorite, the Corsair). The engine itself went through many versions, but the one that ended up in the Jug was by far the most advanced version, producing close to 3000 horsepower! It was turbocharged, inter-cooled, oil cooled and water injected. The motor was mounted in the nose and the cooling, air induction and carburation behind the cockpit, linked by a complicated array of plumbing.

Weaponry consisted of 8 Browning 50 cals, 4 in each wing. Other options were up to 2,500 pounds of bombs, and up to 10 unguided rockets.


The cockpit was considered very luxurious for the time. It had a large, comfortable seat and even air conditioning. If you want to see one up close, head to the New England Air Museum at Bradley Airport in CT!

Watch this video, it is a reminder of how complex these machines were. People think my bikes are hard to operate because of kickstarting, handshifting, priming, etc. Try memorizing this start procedure!





New England Air Museum

More pics from my second home. Kully in front of the GAU8 Avenger gatling gun, the weapon housed in the nose of the A10 Thunderbolt 2, aka the Warthog.

F14 Tomcat- an amazing carrier based fighter. The plane made famous in "Top Gun".

The indestructible Bell "Huey" chopper. Made famous in every Vietnam movie made. Reminds me of my favorite Jedi Mind Tricks line: "special opp, huey chop, gun ship, run shit, gook run when the minigun spit, wont miss, kill shit, spit 4000 bullets a minute, charlie, hit the trigger hit it, I'm in it to win it ".

The original Thunderbolt, ww2 era. Check out the Harley flathead too.


Hellcat 2

More info on this awesome plane... It was armed with 6 browning .50 cal machine guns, 3 in each wing. Some models replaced 2 of the .50's with 2 20mm cannons. It also had the capability of carrying a 150 gallon auxiliary fuel tank under the center fuselage. It could be used up during flight to the target area then dropped to reduce drag, or whenever enemies were encountered and the plane needed more agility. 6 unguided rockets could be fitted, 3 under each wing. It had over 200 pounds of armor around the cockpit and the oil tank and cooler, making it extremely tough. In addition it had self sealing fuel tanks. They were made of a high density rubber that could be pierced, but then spring back to essentially seal the entry point. The hot lead would often times not ignite the fuel surprisingly. Some later versions of the plane supercharged the already powerful r2800 radial engine, with a top (level) speed of 417mph.

Grumman f6f Hellcat

This aircraft was the second version of a basic carrier based navy airframe design. Its predecessor was the f4f Wildcat, considered a good all around fighter but lacking in power. The Japanese fighters of the time (WW2) were more agile and had much higher power to weight ratios. The Wildcat held its own in air to air combat with these more advanced fighters primarily because of its heavy armor and firepower (6 Browning .50 cals). The Hellcat was the solution to the power issue. The first prototype of the Hellcat was in 1941, but it did not enter service until July 30 1942. Several new engines were tried but the Pratt and Whitney R 2800 "Double Wasp" was settled on. This is the same engine that powered the legendary f4u corsair (my all time favorite prop plane). It is a double radial 18 cylinder, air cooled engine producing 2000 hp. A lot of you might be thinking "2000 hp, that's not that much". Keep in mind that, unlike a drag racing car that makes 2000 hp for 5 seconds, this engine makes 2000 hp ALL DAY. In addition, it does it in a marine environment, with corrosive salt air, spray from waves, high altitude, and under positive and negative g forces. It never idles or comes to a stop light...its at almost full boar the entire time.

This new powerplant gave the Hellcat a boost from the 1200 hp the Wildcat. With this upgrade the Hellcat could easily match the Japanese fighters as well as being much stronger and more heavily armed. There have even been accounts of mid-air collisions between the Hellcat and the Zero, the Hellcat remaining intact while the Zero being ripped apart instantly!

There will be more coming. Here are a few pics: