Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Latest Update

Hello folks,

My Pterodactyl is coming along. By the end of this month it should no longer be a Pterodactyl Fledge, but a Pterodactyl Ascender. I have just about all the work that can be done with what I have right now before I get my latest order of parts. Once I get these parts I'll be able to put on the noseboom and replace the wheels, get new fiberglass gear, new sling seat, fuel tank and more.

Earlier today I opened up the wing and replaced some rusty rivets in the spar. At the same time I was pleasantly surprised that I won't have to replace the flying wires.

Just a quick update from me. The winter is around the corner and at least I'll have something to keep me occupied.


Friday, September 19, 2008

Pterodactyl Update

I wanted to inform you with a quick update of the status of my Pterodactyl Fledge.

The two fuel tanks attached to my aircraft were split down the sides so they had to go. I've decided that the landing gear wires, wheels, sling/seat, and a lot of rusty hardware needs to be replaced as well. I could probably get away with keeping the old tires, but I would like my aircraft to look sharp and crisp. At the moment, the tires are faded and ugly.

I've decided to get steerable nosegear which will make taxing much easier. I understand the risk that it holds, but I'm willing to take reasonable actions to manage that particular risk. I've thought about creating a mechanism which locks the nosewheel for takeoff and landing, but am not really sure about how that would work.

Despite the temptation to keep one of the two engines that came with my place, I will soon put them up for sale. That's as soon as I figure out how to remove the massive bolts (suggestions appreciated) which cling on to the engine mount. I will be replacing those Cayuna engines with a Rotax 277.

I've built, covered, and painted the canard. One of my friends asked me if he could touch it because the paint still looked wet. I took that as a compliment as that's exactly what I wanted it to look like. After painting I had difficulty finding the control post hole, but thanks to the Pterodactyl
Yahoo group, I was able to locate it. At this moment, the canard is one-hundred percent complete.

Currently, I've been working on adding the noseboom, changing the control stick and attaching the canard to the airframe. Much more news to come. Perhaps even a video. At the moment, my Pterodactyl is still a Fledge, but soon it will be transformed into an Ascender!

Cody Nelson's First Time Into The Air

I would like to share a story with you that I'm sure you'll enjoy. It's a story about how a little bit of effort and motivation can change someones life. This is the story of Cody Nelson who contacted me after watching my Youtube videos. He was interested in flight, but didn't know where to go. After I pointed out that his local airport had a flight school that would be happy to take him up for an introductory flight, he quickly signed the dotted line. Cody didn't realize that his signature in this instance would change him forever.

The following is directly from Cody. I hope you enjoy it:

"This year so far has been a year of firsts. But they are all good in one way or another.
I’ve never been so nervous in my life when I climbed into a Cessna 172 for the time of my flying career. With airplanes it seems like seeing is believing. My instructor and I fought our selves into the cockpit with our big winter coats on because after all it was January after all. The cold winter air made it hard for the old girl to start up. After pre-flight we started the plane up and radioed in our clearance for our taxi to our runway, “Cessna three eight one ready for taxi for straight out departure on runway two four” after a while we got the reply “Cessna three eight one, you are clear for taxi on general aviation taxi way, taxi to and hold short of runway two four”. After all the radio work was done for a while we got in line for our departure. After doing another pre-flight we radioed into the tower, “Ann Arbor Tower this is Cessna three eight one ready for take off at runway two four”, then after a few seconds we passed “Cessna three one eight you are cleared for take off on runway two four”, then the fun began.
We ram the throttle into the dash for full throttle on the old girl. Then right when we hit sixty eight miles an hour and we both pulled back on the yoke and we were off. I didn’t notice or realize how much of my fear of heights was until we got up into our altitude of one thousand eight hundred feet and began to look around some. I couldn’t see my house but I did find my high school and when I say that it wasn’t bad for its view. But since I was afraid of heights I actually focused on the plane a lot more than view. But after flying for an hour we were ready to take back down. Before I knew it we were radioing our transmissions “Cessna three eight one cleared for full stop lading on runway two four, Ann Arbor Tower”. After a nice and soft lading we taxied back to the lady’s (the plane’s) hangar while I was saying thanks to the tower for a great afternoon flight in the sky.
You know I find it like it’s magic that an invisible force that we all breathe everyday and every minuet of the day and make a one thousand three hundred ninety six pound aircraft fly into the wind like it’s weightless."

Cody has plans to become a hang glider pilot next year. After that I have no doubt that he will move into powered ultralights, Light Sport Aircraft, and then General Aviation aircraft. His career might even involve aviation.

My work was simple. I only answered his questions and pointed him in the right direction. By doing those two simple things I converted a landlubber into a future pilot. We need more pilots and If you do those two simple things I am confident that the pilot population will expand. Creating a pilot is not only good for the aviation industry, but is great for the individual person. That person will be changed forever.

Go out to the airport, find those people who have their fingers in the airport fence and change their lives! We need more pilots.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

It's Here

The full story to come.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Domain Name Purchased

In the past, you would have to type in "flightdream.blogspot.com" in order to get to my blog. Now all you have to do is go to pFlying.com. I'm amazed that pFlying.com was still available.

Before, you had to type in twenty characters before the .com. Now you only have to type in seven!

The Pterodactyl will arrive this weekend(8/9-10/08) if all goes well. I'm amazingly excited.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Pterodactyl Pre-Purchase Inspection and More

Greetings aviators and enthusiasts,

Not too long ago I traveled up to Red Bluff to do a pre-purchase inspection on a Pterodactyl. The ride there was very quick and crop dusters kept my head on a swivel. I think I counted four of them on the way up there.

As planned, Bob and his wife Cynthia were waiting outside of the gate. They swept their card and the gate opened up. Bob pointed us (my mom and I) towards his hangar and sure enough it looked like there was a Pterodactyl in there. Out on the hangar driveway was Bob's 80 hp Sonex. It had bullet holes and rip marks stickered on. I thought it added a lot to the plane.

Bob asked me how I "got bit" and I explained how I fell in love. He shared his love story as well and before we had much time to chat, he looked at my mom and said something like "Before it gets too hot, would you mind If I took mark up in my plane." This completely knocked me off my feet. I hadn't expected this at all. Bob said something like "You had to have known." I guess I came blindfolded.

In all the other planes I'd flown in, I had memorized all the v-speeds. I do this so that if my pilot were to become unable to fly I would have a better idea how to land. This time I'd be leaving the ground without that information.

We taxied to the hold short line of runway 15 and did the pre-takeoff checklist. Both mags were good, carburetor heat was working and everything else told us that it was time to fly. I was dying from the heat that the bubble canopy was giving us so I was very eager to get airborne. We then checked for traffic, made our radio call and crept out onto the runway. Bob brought up the flaps and applied full power ahead.

Soon enough we were moving into the third dimension and my flying withdrawals were overcome. I was amazed at how it handled in the air. No Cessna will ever be like it. If I was blindfolded and put into this plane, I would have guessed that I was flying in an Extra 300. We were doing 40 degree turns, descending turns, sharp climbs, etc. I'd never felt as much G in my entire life.

When Bob handed me the controls at first, I was amazed at how responsive the plane was. No wonder why it felt like an Extra 300. After a second or two, I was able to hold altitude while turning but it certainly wasn't as easy as it was in the two Quicksilvers I'd flown in. Since I didn't have all the v-speeds memorized, I asked if I could stall it and Bob had no problems with that. At least I knew the stall speed.

If everyone had the chance to fly in a Sonex, we'd all have one and airport congestion would actually be a problem for the General Aviation and Sport Pilot guys. Flying faster than a Cessna 150 and burning only 4 gallons per hour is impressive. At 8,000 feet it gets 37.5 miles to the gallon. At sea level it gets 32.5 miles to the gallon. People, this thing probably gets better fuel economy than your car!!! Why aren't you flying!!!

Sonex is probably really happy with me right now and since I'm not getting payed, I'll stop giving them a free advertisement. The flight was amazing to say the least.

After getting out Bob and I checked out the Piper Cub that had just landed from a flight. It was beautifully maintained. I'd probably say that it was in better condition than the day it rolled out of Piper's factory. I'll have to get myself a ride in one of those one day. The pilot had flown ultralights back in the 80s, so we had something to relate to. The Cub was another thing that I hadn't expected to see that day.

We finally moved over towards the Pterodactyl. I was amazed at how light the hang cage was. I could easily lift it. Granted, the wing wasn't attached but it was still impressive. Bob immediately pointed out that it would need new gas tanks and new wheels. Overall, it was in better condition than I expected it to be. I noticed a few rusty nuts here and there, but there were no major surprises. What a contrast from the last Pterodactyl I looked at.

Bob and I got out the wing and unzipped and unrolled it from it's bag. The bag had seen it's time, but the wing was beautifully colorful. I attempted to push a hole through the fabric and did a good job of hurting my finger. The sails were in fantastic condition. There were some mud dauber nests in the bag, but they had done no damage to the sail. Bob explained that they appeared during his possession. The previous owner, a Pterodactyl dealer, had kept it in it's bag, inside a heated room.

Oh...and did I forget to tell you? Bob's throwing in a pair of floats! They do need some repair work though. The flight with Dennis and his Quicksilver was nothing but pure fun! Eventually I'll probably get some extra training and do some float flying! I'm not really sure where I will fly it though. The only two places I can think of is the delta where I flew with Dennis and Folsom Lake.

After putting the wing back away, Bob and I spent about an hour sitting down going through the manuals, receipts, float information, etc. He wanted to make sure I knew what I'll be getting myself into if I decide to take on this project. We also went through a box full of extra stuff which contained a strange altimeter, tie downs, the float hardware, a control stick, bicycle brakes, a throttle, and some other miscellaneous hardware.

Bob gave me a leather briefcase full of Pterodactyl information, a box full of aviation magazines, and the large box of extra stuff to go through. He told me to go through it and get a good understanding of what I need to do to it before it's flyable. He doesn't want me to end up with a project that I'll get lost in the middle of, resulting in discouragement in aviation.

It's been a week since my visit and I've spent all my time going through every word of every document relating to the Pterodactyl. What's my final decision? You'll have to find out next time on the hyperbole channel.

Safe, fun flying folks,
Mark Zinkel

Monday, June 16, 2008


I've recently fallen in love with the Pterodactyl line of ultralights. I've always loved canard aircraft, so it's only natural that I'd find a Pterodactyl. About a month ago I traveled out to purchase a Pterodactyl. I cannot believe the amount of money I have saved up over five years. Now is the time to find a plane!

I had written a whole post about my experience spending 11 hours on the road with an ultralight in "excelent condition" on my mind. I deleted it because it offended the seller (sorry seller). To put things short, I went back home with a $150 dent in my back pocket.

Here's a picture of the Pterodactyl Ascender in "excelent condition."

There is hope though. When I was digging up information trying to find design flaws, weak parts, and flying characteristics, I came across a man who was wanting to get rid of his Pterodactyl. It's not an Ascender, but he has the canard kit which will make it one. My plans with it is to install the canard, add brakes and a steerable nosegear. There are steerable nosegear kits available these days, so I'll definitely purchase one of those. Someone else has engineered a really lightweight brake setup, so I think I'll copy them with that. The canard kit should be a breeze since all you have to do is follow the directions and use common sense.

Lightweight Brake Setup

The seller has sent me some pictures earlier today and it looks like it's in very nice condition. Right now, I'm getting zero red flags from this guy. He sounds like he's a really honest guy. We probably spent a half hour to an hour on the phone hangar flying. Most of that chat wasn't even about his sale. The only thing that I'm a bit worried about is the wing. If I remember correctly, the guy hasn't opened it up himself. We will zip it out of it's bag and open it up together next Saturday and see how it looks.

The Pterodactyl Without Wing

If all goes well, I might have myself my first airplane!

"Find out next time on the hyperbole channel!"
-Scott P. Fletcher

Happy Flying,
Mark Zinkel

Friday, February 22, 2008

Money Makes the World Go Around

"Money makes the world go around." It's true. The more and more I become involved in light aviation, the more I get excited. I'm constantly surrounded by people who want an airplane that does everything. I agree that a Quicksilver with a Rotax 912, brakes, fairings, wheel pants and a windshield is amazing. At the end of the day though, all those accessories are unneeded.

I've realized that you will never get everything you want because what you want never ends. It's like a highway to death. At the same time, you should be allowed to follow your passions and discover where they take you. There's a significant difference between getting what you want and following your dreams. The vector which takes you towards your passion points to happiness, while getting what you want leads people to a state of ignorance.

Right now, I'm looking for a safe, used, and cheep ultralight. Progress of the Skypup has stopped for now. Again, another deadline is coming up and this time I'm not going to put myself at risk of making poor decisions (thanks to everyone who let me know last time). This deadline is the ELSA training deadline which doesn't allow training in ELSA aircraft after January 31, 2010 unless you own the aircraft. I understand that there are ways around the rule (by design), but why allow more problems to fall through the holes.

The Skypup will continue, but for now I'm looking for something that won't take 500 hours to put together. I'm completely willing to buy an airplane without an engine or something that's a little bit damaged. Ultralights are simple and easy to fix. For now, I'll be happy with what I get. It will be a significant step towards my passion and with that, I'm happy.

Money doesn't have to make the world go around,
Mark Zinkel

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Foam, Foam, Everywhere

Most people freak when they hear me talking about building a Styrofoam airplane. I typically get responses like "Are you talking about a real airplane?" When I reply, I'll typically get responses like "I wouldn't get in an airplane made of Styrofoam." I even had one guy who told me that I'm sixteen years old, with no flying experience, no building experience, and certainly no airplane building experience and because of those ridiculous reasons I'm building a flying coffin. It's hard not to laugh at these poorly informed people. It's really discouraging the way mainstream media like FOX and CNN spins everything in a way that keeps them making money and the people entertained. Where's the responsibility?

I've noticed that If I use the term "high density foam," people don't ask questions. That's why I don't use the term. Keeping people excited and a tad bit shocked of the pure magic of the Skypup is what I like doing.

Anyways, all of the above is just a rant. What I really came here to talk about is that I finally got myself blue dow Styrofoam! The Skypup mainly consists of that stuff, so therefore, having access to this stuff is major progress. I've been searching around for several months thinking that it was safest to purchase the foam in the thicknesses called out in the plans. Boy was I wrong. I've found that it's actually perfectly safe to get thick sheets, then splice it down into smaller sheets when needed. In most aspects, it's more convenient since there's less surface area to get damaged in storage.

I called a 50 mile radius from my house, looking for foam in the 3/4 inch thickness. In the end, the place where I purchased my foam wasn't even two miles away! I ended up purchasing the thickest stuff that Dow makes for my desired sheet size (2x8). Oh the joys of being properly informed!

I just saved a lot of money from switching my foam thickness to four inches! I'm a happy man!

(Pictures to come!)