Saturday, October 12, 2013

September 2013 Factory Visit

Dennis Yeomans and I traveled to Prague and then on to Usti nad Orlici to visit the Phoenix Air factory.  Dennis keeps his Phoenix in Hawaii and also has an ASH-26E in Tehachapi, CA.  He flew from Cal to JFK where we met and hopped our Delta ride across the pond to Prague.

 Jetlagged but wanting to stay up until dark to reset our internal clocks, we boarded the subway from the Alpin Hotel into the old town section of Prague.
 Staromesjske Nameste (Old Town Square)
 Vltava River view from the Charles Bridge
 After our rest day and night in Prague, Dennis and I made the 2 hour drive to Usti to see Martin and the boys at the Phoenix shop.  First stop, the relatively new final assembly building which I had not seen before.  In an effort to speed up production, they moved into this building to provide more room and a clean uncluttered area to assemble the planes and mount instruments and engines.  This building is across the street from the airport.

 However, Dennis and I did an admirable job of completely stopping production by asking hundreds of questions.  I also had my list of minor changes I would like to see instituted.  Here, Martin explains to Radek and Peter one of my ideas.  Radek doesn't look too happy to have me upsetting his apple cart.  But really, they are very willing to hear about our special needs in the US and do everything they can to help us out as long as it does not slow production!

 Then it was off across town to visit the "old" shop, where the laminations take place.  Phoenix Air and Schempp Hirth jointly rent the huge building, and share much of the floor space, such as the paint room, ovens, wet sanding room, machine shop, and more.  And then each company has it's own dedicated floor space and employees.  This is a shot of a wing lamination which is almost complete.  The wing has not been removed from the upper half of the wing mold yet, which it sits in.

 Another shot of the wing sitting in the mold
 The finish wet sanding for both companies is in the same room.  This Phoenix fuselage (30/U15) gets the masking and wet sanding treatment, while a Duo Discus fuselage gets the same treatment nearby.

 Fuselage 31/U15 has the initial lamination done, next step are bulkheads, fittings, and the joining of the two halves.
 31/U15 inside the fuselage mold.  Martin, Dennis, and I would have a meal, a meeting, and then go to one or the other of the shops to look as specific items about the planes and have more discussions.  Then off to another café, and more meetings with an internet connection available.  We spent a week with this routine, and Martin was very gracious and never acted like he couldn't wait until we left!
 Then we drove back to Prague, and ran into our host, Nikola Chudozilov about to depart his Alpin Hotel for some helicopter training.  He invited Dennis and I to go on a tour of Prague and the surrounding area in his Cirrus SR22 afterwards.  He drove this BMW motocycle to the southern tip of South America, and has flown his Zenith 701 (which I certified in the US for him) from Florida to Oshkosh to San Diego and back to Florida.  Quite the adventurer!

 Dennis, Nikola, Suzanna, and I had a nice hour flight, landing at dusk, and then out to dinner.  So ended our great trip.  Dennis and I caught our flight home the next day.
 Ok, so I got home, and received an email from Nikola.  He took a business trip in his Cirrus to Switzerland, Germany, and Italy after our visit.  He was on an IFR flight plan when his alternator gave up, leaving him without any power.  Since he suddenly disappeared from the radar screens in various countries, the Swiss and Germans sent up their air forces to find out what was going on.  Here is the German Typhoon taking the first looksee off of Nikola's wingtip!  Look at that angle of attack while he flies at 150kts to match the Cirrus!  I think the Typhoon's stall speed is around 110kts with leading edge slats deployed.

 Not to be outdone, the Swiss Gryphon pilot moves in for a look too!
Well, that upped the ante, and it was the German's "kill", so he moved back in Real Close! just so everyone knew who's boss!
(It all ended well).


  1. Gosh Jim don't you wish you were in that Cirrus? Good Post. I didn't know you could fly the Phoenix at nite? I guess my Lambada restriction is an Experimental restriction. Making contact with Dennis for a possible visit while in Hawaii on the way to NZ and Sydney in Feb/Mar. Hope you and Cathy are well and you are dealing OK with your loss... Steve Chase N24PV....

  2. What kind of improvements are you asking for in the Phoenix?