A Week at Pecan: Mods, cool people, and public speaking

Note: I am behind in blogging from the last 2 weeks. I apologize to those who don’t follow me on Facebook as you are getting this news a bit delayed. I hope to be caught up in the next few days, we have had some exciting experiences the last few days.

In the last post, I introduced the Garaggio EZ Victory Tour and our first stop, Pecan Plantation southwest of Ft. Worth, TX. The reason for this being the first stop was twofold. One, to visit with my friend and mentor, Dick Keyt. Secondly, Dick generously invited me to come to his workshop and he would help me to modify my roll over structure. The goal being to make the back seat more spacious and comfortable.

Dick was the first person to ride in Betty’s back seat, albeit only for a taxi test. As such he was well aware that my original roll over design impinged on the leg room for the back seater. For those of you who have ridden in the back seat of the Long Ez, you know that the space is already quite small. So my design was in need of re-thinking.


I won’t go through all the details of our decision making process, but we talked about many different ways of modifying the structure. Eventually we settled on bracing the main roll over hoop with tubes coming off the forward side. This would maximize the back seat space since now the limiting factor would be the pilot’s seat back. Of course, like anything else in building airplanes, deciding to make this one change had a domino effect. The pilot shoulder harness as well as the canopy hold open stay (pneumatic cylinder) integrate into the roll over structure. As such they needed to be modified as well. And while we were doing that, we also had to move the composite cross brace in the canopy forward so that the hold open stay had a place to mount.


The majority of the work was cutting, fitting, and welding steel tube. Something I have covered a few times on this blog. There are many resources available for that online as well. But I do want to mention the shoulder harnesses. One of the major improvements, after the increase in comfort for the back seat, was that we changed the angle for the pilot’s shoulder harnesses. My original design had the shoulder harnesses coming down off my shoulders to anchor to the roll over structure. Dick pointed out that in an accident, this arrangement would tend to compress the pilot’s spine in an accident causing further injury. Instead we added a horizontal bar to realign the angle. The goal is to have the shoulder harness come off the pilot between level and 15 degrees up. We were able to accomplish that. So now not only did we improve the back seat comfort but also the safety for the pilot.


The end result of the modification for the back seater is that there is an additional 4.75 inches of leg/knee room. It is a huge difference. That is a testament to how poorly thought out the original design was and how better planning gave us a much improved design. Here you can see the increased space by looking at the distance between the old and new canopy cross brace.


Now, I am one of the luckiest people I know. The greatest fortune that I have amassed thus far is a long list of people I am lucky to call friends. Many of these people, like Dick Keyt, have a great deal of knowledge and are willing to share it as well as put in work with me to improve the Garaggio Ez. Paul Poberezny (Experimental Aircraft Association founder) always said, “I am a millionaire, through aviation I have made a million friends.” I used to think that since he was a well known figurehead in our industry he has had the opportunity to meet many people who then became friends. But I have come to interpret it differently now.

The fraternity of people in aviation are cut from much the same cloth. As such, most of us are already fast friends through mutual interest and a shared desire to assist and take part in each other’s aviation pursuits. I’m not sure if it is the kind of people that aviation attracts, or if aviation instills these traits in its disciples. What came first, the smoke or the fire? But I am sure that aviators have a high concentration of good, generous people, and I have experienced and benefitted from it first hand. This trip to Pecan being my latest good fortune.

Not only did Dick help me, but his neighbors did too. That is one of the coolest parts of Pecan Plantation, the community. Living along side a bunch of like minded people with similar interest is pretty neat. Two neighbors in particular were huge helps.

I had met and worked with Howard Sigler previously during one of the pre-Oshkosh pushes to get Dick Keyt’s Polen Special ready for a race. During that week we became friends and I was witness to Howards benevolent, helpful nature. So it was no surprise to me that when Howard found out I was in town he came over and offered his help on my project. He worked on Betty with us nearly every day I was at Pecan. In fact, both he and his wife Rhonda stayed in the workshop until well after midnight one night to get a composite layup done.

The second neighbor that helped was Doug Green. Until the day he started working with us on Betty, I had never met him before. But he saw that we had work to do before my vacation was over, that he had the skills to be of help, and he dove in. He spent a few hours each day, over 3 or 4 days, to help. He came up with a design and fabricated the majority of a stick adapter that allowed us to mount the rear seat stick grip. (If you recall the rear seat stick grip had been previously mounted but caused conflicts. The stick grip limited the range of motion of the flight controls and was removed. Re-designing was deferred when we were working on getting the airplane airworthy. The adaptor moved the stick slightly inboard and forward to remove any conflicts.)


I am still in awe of their generosity, and certainly appreciative. I know that this happens a lot at Pecan Plantation, people helping people. I have seen it many times while we were working on Dick’s airplane. But for this kind of generosity to happen for the benefit of a visiting stranger is humbling. Now, I experienced this kind of thing happening throughout the aviation community in other places, but never to this extent.

In between the main projects, we also got an oil change in and we are no longer running mineral oil. I also rotated the tires. The gear stance and my heavy weight wears the tires on the outside, so with rotating them we can get another 50+ hours out of them.

While we were at Pecan, Betty and I made our first public speaking appearance as well. I was volun-told that I was going to be the guest speaker at their EAA Chapter meeting. I was notified of this fact about 24 hours before I was to speak. I threw together a presentation and talked about the airplane and the major modifications. I spent the most time on the blended winglets, the big engine, and the custom cowling/cooling/induction. The presentation went well, and everyone seemed to enjoy it. Chapter 983 meets in a hangar on the airpark and as such their setup was pretty neat. We were able to have Betty inside the meeting hangar front and center right behind the podium.  During my talk, I could walk over to the airplane and point things out as I was talking about them. Regrettably we didn’t get any photos of the setup, but Betty enjoyed being on display and getting talked about. I think we will have to do more EAA chapter talks. As a thank you, EAA Chapter 983 gave us a certificate and a hat.


We certainly enjoyed our vacation and time at Pecan Plantation. A lot of work got done and Betty is all the better for it. I ran out of time to give rides, but have promised to return and will the next time I am there. With only a day left of vacation, it was time to continue on the next legs of the victory tour so I could be in position for work the next day.

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