"Kas Osterbuhr" Avstry #9

Founder of Exosphere3d, Kas created a recreation of the US Airway's Flight 1549 Hudson River accident, volunteers as a member of the FAA FAST team and teaches for the Sport Air Workshop.

Published Date: Tue, 02 Oct 2012

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Show Notes

J.R. Warmkessel: Thank you Kas for being with us today. I really appreciate having an opportunity to talk to you. One of the things I always like to start these interviews with is by asking our guest what aviation credentials and licenses they might hold, so maybe you could start by telling us about that.

Kas Osterbuhr: So I am a CFI, instrument also, so CF double I, multi-engine and I have to caveat that. I have the rating, but not current and haven't done a lot of training, but I did pay my dues. I also have an ANP and as far as actual aviation ratings, that's it.

J.R. Warmkessel: Those are pretty good. Those are good ratings. One of the things that, that I know about you is, you have a really interesting job, maybe you could tell us about your, your day job.

Kas Osterbuhr: Basically I spend my day jobs when I do pull in the work doing aircraft accident reconstruction. A lot of people probably have seen, if they are in aviation, my reconstruction of the Hudson River ditching, which was a pretty big effort on my part to market what I do. I took all the data from that famous crash, created an animation showing the timeline and what happened, and really that is the centerpiece of what I do is I show people what went wrong and basically the timeline of events. You know sometimes, sometimes I'll get involved in cases that are much more minutiae we look at little things and get focused on a particular component of the aircraft and stuff.

J.R. Warmkessel: So you take, like the flight data recorder information?

Kas Osterbuhr: Yea.

J.R. Warmkessel: From, from the, the, the black boxes?

Kas Osterbuhr: Yea, the so called black box, which is orange.

J.R. Warmkessel: Okay.

Kas Osterbuhr: And radar data from the airports and other facilities. Anything we can find. Video cameras, you know in the case of the Hudson, we've all seen a couple seconds of the, the video of it actually splashing down, the recordings of the audio. Put all that stuff together in a timeline, and do it as accurately as possible, and just let it tell a story.

J.R. Warmkessel: So then you just take all that information and you create a 3D model of, of the accident, or, or, or the chain of events?

Kas Osterbuhr: Yea, it's all done, it's 3D model on the computer of course, so it's all digital. I create a, an environment that has all the accurate buildings, and terrain, and satellite imagery, and all that stuff. Then I'll put the flight path of the aircraft in there and put it all in a timeline and let it unfold in real time, you hear the pilots talking and the ground people.

J.R. Warmkessel: The, the aircraft maneuvering in, in concert with that conversation.

Kas Osterbuhr: Yea, you see the heading pitch bank, all that good stuff. Frankly I put all that stuff together into an animation. I left on vacation, the computer was rendering for about ten days. Actually I was teaching a sport era up in Primeville and got back from that and some other things and I finally sat down and looked at this animation and was like, wow that's awesome. I actually learned more about the crash and the little nuances of what we see, from putting that in front of people and teaching classes for a couple hours. I'm also on the, the FAA safety team; I'm a fast volunteer rep. So I can go out and teach classes like that and sign people off for wings credit, which is pretty cool. I've done a few of those. I'll just show the animation, sit back and say, what'd you see? I'll have airline pilots, and all sorts of people and they'll make their observations and I say, oh there's another one I have to chalk up to I haven't thought of yet, a lot of cool things.

J.R. Warmkessel: A lot of people see different things from watching the same video. Well fantastic. Is there any, obviously the Hudson River accident, which, which really could have been a real tragedy, and thankfully wasn't. Is there any other real simulations that you've done that really stick out in your mind that we might want to think about, talk about?

Kas Osterbuhr: That's kind of a tough one you know, several of them that I've done, they can't be, I can't share the animation work because for one I used to work for another guy and you know, that's not technically my work product.

J.R. Warmkessel: Sure.

Kas Osterbuhr: I can still talk about a few of em' and a lot of the other things I've done, they simply just aren't out of litigation yet, unfortunately. And you know, that's one of the things, that I learned this from my Hudson River one. I really gambled on that accident and I said, I don't think there's going to be any litigation and I said, I'm just going to go ahead and reconstruct it and make it public. I took the gamble because somebody could have hired me to do it, and paid me. I put in five hundred and fifty some hours on this project, it was huge.

J.R. Warmkessel: Have you considered Pod casting?

Kas Osterbuhr: No thanks. I've done enough volunteer. The real point that I learned is that, I got more reward out of doing this for free. I raked in a little bit of money from licensing it to people and things like that. No where near what I would have made if it was hired work, but.

J.R. Warmkessel: But there's a love of doing it.

Kas Osterbuhr: I got more reward out of doing something that; nobody can keep that from being shared. That's free to the world on YouTube right now, everybody learns from it and I've had people from nuclear industry, have contacted me they said, we need to take what were learning from aviation and apply it to the nuclear industry. Same with health industry, these people have called me and said, we want to license your video and use it for training and that's been really, really rewarding because this accident can teach people a lot of stuff. Had this been done for litigation, all my work would have been wrapped up and not used.

J.R. Warmkessel: Sure.

Kas Osterbuhr: And that's very unfortunate about some of this stuff.

J.R. Warmkessel: So, what are the, what are the take-away's that, that maybe someone watching the video, a pilot, or maybe even a non-pilot could, could take away from, from what you've done, you know, is there anything that stands out in your mind, specifically with this accident, with this issue?

Kas Osterbuhr: Calmness, well I've seen some accidents that don't turn out so good obviously. One of them, which I really can't talk a lot about, was I was involved with the flight 587 crash reconstruction. And just, you know, anybody can go and look at what happened in that case, all the public data and you would see just from the information, not even that I might be privy to. Go look at that and you'll see a really stark difference in the NTSB report when you read through that, and you look at the transcript of that, compared to Sully and Jeff, you know, Sully and Jeff you got two people who have never flown together. They hop in a plane, they're absolute professionals, they didn't even really think much of it when it was done. In the flight 587, you got two people that are, they just don't seem at that level. I don't know how else to say it without really talking about all this stuff I've learned, but you know, it's really hard, let's just look at Sully's decision to ditch in the river. Especially an experimentals we have an emotional attachment to the aircraft.

J.R. Warmkessel: Right.

Kas Osterbuhr: Sully, and any other airline pilot, probably has, at some level in their minds, a duty to save the aircraft.

J.R. Warmkessel: Sure.

Kas Osterbuhr: We can all talk about the, the person that just, you know, the hangar pilot that says, aw, I can ditch a plane and I don't care about it, but no matter how you say it, that's gonna be a little bit on your mind. And for him to, just to go through with the decision of hittin the river, and not have that instinct that a lot of pilots have, to put that sucker in a tight turn and head back.

J.R. Warmkessel: Sure. That's a very dangerous thing to do.

Kas Osterbuhr: It can be yeah.

J.R. Warmkessel: Yeah. Often times an airplane taking off, if there's an accident, or an issue on takeoff, there's not actually enough energy in the system, you just don't have enough energy to turn around and make it back to where you came from.

Kas Osterbuhr: Yup.

J.R. Warmkessel: There are some exceptions, if you are a very small aircraft in a very long runway.

Kas Osterbuhr: Yeah, of course.

J.R. Warmkessel: But it really comes down to energy. One of the other things that really struck me about Sully is that, he flew the airplane all the way to the ground.

Kas Osterbuhr: Yeah.

J.R. Warmkessel: And going back to that professionalism that you're talking about, it's very difficult to have an issue start to try to work through your checklists to get the issue solved, in this case obviously they couldn't fix it, but at least they were running their checklists, but he flew, he and Jeff, flew that airplane all the way from the takeoff, to the incident, I guess arguably an accident, to the river, until there was no more, until there was no more motion.

Kas Osterbuhr: Yeah.

J.R. Warmkessel: And he flew it all the way to the ground and that to me was really amazing and actually I saw that in your video, it was very clear that, that airplane was under positive control the entire time.

Kas Osterbuhr: Well I'll tell you a couple of things here, first of all a lot of people don't know who Jeff Skiles is cause, you know, Sully's the captain, he get's some credit.

J.R. Warmkessel: The glory.

Kas Osterbuhr: Naturally. If a person takes time to go back and look at the cockpit audio transcript and start at the bird's strke. Look at the positive exchange of the control. Look at all the work that Jeff does that's not flying.

J.R. Warmkessel : Right.

Kas Osterbuhr : You know they take these roles instantly. Pilot flying. And then Jeff, he goes right into the checklist and what's really cool like at the end they're putting out flaps and getting configured and Jeff calling out airspeed, he's doing all that stuff that lot of people, I mean I guess in aviation, it's probably been studied a little more than general public. But lot of people don't realize what he did by not flying.

J.R. Warmkessel : Taken the load off the captain, so that the captain focuses on flying the airplane and the airplane was configured as the captain needed it to be.

Kas Osterbuhr : Yeah, he made it so that the captain is looking out for flying the aircraft which is exactly what the captain needed to be doing. You know along those lines if you look also at the transcript, you would find a lot of communication going on, that you don't get any sense of that when you listen to the public audio. Unfortunately we can't hear the cockpit audio but when you listen to the radio conversations it's almost as though they step from this chaos of talking back and forth as soon as he has talked on the radio. It's just exactly what needs to be said, nothing more nothing less.

J.R. Warmkessel : It was obviously a right person at the right position at the right time doing the right thing.

Kas Osterbuhr : And for that matter the air traffic controllers, lot of people haven't listened to the second version of my video, the other timeline that has all the ground communications that you don't hear on most versions of this video. There's so much going on with the tower control, with the departure talking to aproach, talking all these facilities.

J.R. Warmkessel : They were trying to find a place for that airplane to go.

Kas Osterbuhr : Yeah. There's all these communications and all we hear are these few little distinct pieces that go over the air waves.

J.R. Warmkessel : But there is a lot more happening underneath the surface

Kas Osterbuhr : That I'm really curious about, the accident reconstruction cause you go back over that stuff, when you put all the data together and just let it play out the way it does, you see all the nuances and you say "Oh that's why that happened and that's why that happened."

J.R. Warmkessel : And the system worked. I mean, often we see the systems don't work but this is a perfect example of everything worked like it was designed to work. The controllers were there at the time of need. They did a great job. They did everything they could do to support the airplane. Unfortunately there's nothing they could've done or not much they could've done.

Kas Osterbuhr : I'd say there's a good dose of luck too.

J.R. Warmkessel : A good dose of luck.

Kas Osterbuhr : 500 feet lower or 500 feet higher, it would've changed the decision process. Little bit higher would've coaxed him into going back to the airport. Would've been a little more tough to nail that you know. It's great that it played out the way it did.

J.R. Warmkessel : So going back to one thing you mentioned. You talked about a FAA safety program.

Kas Osterbuhr : Yeah.

J.R. Warmkessel : Tell me about that.

Kas Osterbuhr : There's a safety team called FAA safety team. And everybody refers to it as FAAST. FAAST. I signed up for that I believe in 2010. You sign up to be basically a volunteer representative. They do have some paid positions that you know the massive program managers, but in my role I'd say, I'm just going to shoot from the head, there's 50 or 100 of us in Colorado that have my same role. Let's say you're a pilot and you walked in and you said " Oh man I'm having trouble with something with the rigs or I'm just having trouble as a pilot I need some advice, what do I do? I could sit down with you and give you my advice and it might not even be much better than any other pilot. But I can give it to you from the perspective of, you know I'm working on behalf of the safety team and I'll fill out my little anonymous report and just that I helped an airmen. You don't have to give your name or anything and I'll just say basically I'm out there trying to promote safety. That's what it is.

J.R. Warmkessel : You're trying to basically help pilots who maybe have a question or concern or think about whatever their issue is from an FAA perspective and try to give them a safe place where they can talk about their problem, maybe get some solutions, maybe an opportunity for you to feed back to the people above to the kind of problems you're seeing on the ground. And what not. And you also said something about wings credit. What's that?

Kas Osterbuhr : Well the FAA safety team has, they have some online seminars to get wings credit. They also have the thing that the instructors can go and teach and so forth. So the wings program, there is two component. You have to go do some flying with an instructor. Of course I'm an instructor I could do that part too but, you also get credit through doing ground training. And you can substitute completion of little wings what they call a face for a flight review.

J.R. Warmkessel : Ok.

Kas Osterbuhr : In the case of, like I was talking about when I give this speech about the flight 1549, what I can do is through the FAA safety team site, I can organize a seminar, I can send out mailers to every pilot in the 100 miles region. And I can say come to this seminar and sit down for 2 hours. Let's talk about safety. And when you're done, everybody gets credit for doing the ground portion of wings.

J.R. Warmkessel : And then when you get a certain amount of credit, then you, that satisfies the bi annual flight review requirement.

Kas Osterbuhr : Well you take the ground part, and then you go and do some flight training. You out that all together and you get signed off for a phase and then that completes a flight review.

J.R. Warmkessel : Well, fantastic. So that's a, and you get lot of differnt perspectives kind of in there. And how much does that cost?

Kas Osterbuhr : Free.

J.R. Warmkessel : Oh Oh wow.

Kas Osterbuhr : Now there are some places where they organize those where they might have a little bit more of an event within. I mean the ones I do they've all been free.

J.R. Warmkessel : Generally. And you might have to pay for the flight instructor's time for that for that flying portion and airplane.

Kas Osterbuhr : Oh, yeah. So if you are doing the wings program, if you're going to go up and do the air portion obviously somebody has got to pay for the aircraft and the instructor.

J.R. Warmkessel : But most of the ground seminars are free?

Kas Osterbuhr : They are usually free.

J.R. Warmkessel : Fabtastic. So one of the other things that I know about you is that you've built an airplane or two.

Kas Osterbuhr : Yeah I have. Back in about 1999, my brothers and I had a machine shop in South West Kansas. And I was just basically out of college and done some flight training. I think I had my private finished or I was about to when we started this airplane project. We had a friend that built a range S12. It's a high wing. The engine's mounted right on the wing. Kind of a pusher configuration, 80 horse power. Really cool aircraft. He got about I'd say 30 to 40 % into the project, threw his hands up, came to us and said I need some help. And I jumped all over, I said I'd love to build that aircraft. I'll tell you what I'll do that for free if you let me fly it. So it's a perfect scenario. In fact the guy didn't have his rating yet. I took the project into the shop, my brothers and I worked around it. Did our basic machine work that we did and this was, started out on weekends and pretty soon I was full throttle on this thing. And if I remember I ended up putting in like 750 hours into the kit cause I'm real meticulous and I'm sure they probably say a 250 hour build. You know how the kit builders are. So, anyway, go this thing out together. Went up to Jeff co. which is now I guess they call that in Denver, gosh I'd still call it Jeff Co. I'm ashamed to know I don't even know the name of the airport there anymore but, went up there and got some time in the decathlon. Did 10 hours of aerobatics and tail wheel. Changed the way I flew forever. Made me a better pilot. Everybody should go there for aerobatic training. I did that. I literally immersed myself everyday in reading about test flying and everything that could go wrong and here this is a plane that anybody could hop in and fly but I just, I owned it, I loved it. I went and did the first flight on this thing and I was just completely hooked. Ended up putting 400 hours total on it. Felt like my plane even though it wasn't. Helped a guy learn how to fly. Everything worked out and at that point we were kind of having trouble with the machine shop. Just want taking off and paying everybody back and I needed something else to do. Hopped into the car and drove out here to California on a whim. Basically my brother saw a web advertisement for scaled composite. Said they are hiring. So I didn't even call in. I just hopped in the car and said, I'm the perfect fit. I have metallurgy and materials engineering degree. They do composites. I build aircraft and now I can call myself a test pilot, you know.

J.R. Warmkessel : Tell me about what's this thing called scale composites? What do they do?

Kas Osterbuhr : Oh they, well they are now known for spaceship one. The first space flight. So I mean scaled composites, if you look them up, basically they are huge. Burt involved everybody in and experimental aircraft. He basically invented the composites as we know it right now. So I hopped in the car with my girlfriend at the time, we're married now. We drove out here, I showed up at the door. I said I'm, I'd like to talk somebody about a job here. And they said what? You need to come

back and schedule an interview or something. I said well I drove out here from Kansas for this.

J.R. Warmkessel: Here I am!

Kas Osterbuhr: Yeah, here I am! Long story short, that flopped. I didn't even get an interview and I still don't know why. But destitute as we were, we pulled out a trusty traded plane that we happened to bring with Kansas with us, and

started thumbing through and my wife said, oh what you'd like to do in this? Well, I like to build airplanes and I like to fly them. She said okay, well, she's storming through and she came across this ad for aircrafters.

J.R. Warmkessel: Aircrafters? What's that?

Kas Osterbuhr: Ironically its the company just down the street here but Aircrafters, if I remember it right the ad said we build your dreams, or atleast that's what it says now. They are builder systems for people who have kit planes, which is exactly what I'd just done with the Rans, with the family friend, you know I helped him build his plane and he loved it. So we called the Aircrafters, came out and visited them. You know, drove from a highway up here. They weren't even hiring, they just had an ad that said we build experimentals. I called up and said, you know, I'd like to work for you guys. They said we're not hiring but come on by. So I came in, just come back and just spend a week doing this and we'll see if works for everybody and that's what I did. I think about a month later I came out for week. California was kind of intimidating at first. I came out here, I didn't know anybody but got in

the Aircrafters and that was what I knew and loved and, man! I just got in there and all I could do was just build planes, I loved it.

J.R. Warmkessel: So what kind of punches you work on right there?

Kas Osterbuhr: First one I worked on was a Rotorway 162 helicopter and boy, Lancair 4P was my huge project that I was responsible for. Glastar and Glasair, so did a little bit of work on those. Lancair Legacy, with some composite

works on, worked on those. RVs, I ended up kind of becoming the avionic guru which is kind of strange. I didn't know anything about avionics but it just kind of fell into the role. This is weird.

J.R. Warmkessel: Well, I think its the, you're the right kind of personality for that role.

Kas Osterbuhr: Yeah.

J.R. Warmkessel: Meticulous, detail oriented.

Kas Osterbuhr: Yeah, probably so.

J.R. Warmkessel: Really careful about every wire having through exactly the right spot.

Kas Osterbuhr: Tenacious.

J.R. Warmkessel: Tenacious?

Kas Osterbuhr: To a fault maybe, but that kind of got me into the wiring dealing. Actually at the Aircrafters I'd say probably only thirty to forty percent of my work was wiring. Did a lot of just general construction and fun stuff.

J.R. Warmkessel: So, obviously what happened, it seems like what happened with the Aircrafters is that people get a little kit project and maybe get a little in over their head, or they are stuck somewhere they need a little assistance. What were the kind of problems that you saw as a mechanic helping people finish their dreams, that may be some advice you could pass along to someone who's thinking of buying a kit or just bought a kit, what can you tell them to

maybe help them?

Kas Osterbuhr: Boy, I think the timeline is one that really kills people. They don't realize, we saw so many projects that came in that, we're talking a timeline of completion at the then present rate of ten to fifteen years. It just wouldn't happen and I think a lot of people they get into it thinking I'm gonna work on it every weekend, or do a little bit every night. And what you don't realize is, you sit down one night and you put in an hour and a half or two at work, and that's all you do. Then you come back the next day, you're gonna spend half an hour getting that up to speed. If you wait between weekends, okay, you spend five hours on Saturday and you come back next Saturday and spend five

more, well you spend two more getting right back to where you left off. Its a big project, its complex, anybody can do it. But the real kicker is that timeline thing and the fact is if we all had infinite time we could all build one. We'd all enjoy it but we'd all be eighty. I think that was the big stumbling block.

J.R. Warmkessel: So it takes a lot longer than people anticipate it taking?

Kas Osterbuhr: Yeah. And I think obviously there's going to be technical areas, like me. There's areas that I'd get into that I'd probably go seek a little assistance on, or atleast have some friends over and you know, look at this and give me some feedback. Nobody can know everything, specially with avionics nowadays as we're getting pretty fancy. Paint is a big one, usually everybody has someone else paint. You have somebody else do interior. There's all

these areas, you gotta know the composites, the sheet metal and it can be a big project but its always manageable.

J.R. Warmkessel: One of the things that I also know about you is that you also teach some classes, to help people maybe get started or atleat get them on the, their feet on the right path.

Kas Osterbuhr: Yeah I'm an instructor for the EAA sportair workshops. And this started long before I got going. The first workshop I taught I believe was in probably March of 2004, shortly after I left Aircrafters. And they called me up

and said what are you doing this weekend? We need a instructor for the electrical course. I said well, I know quite a bit about wiring, I'll come do it, and I showed up just kind of out of the blue and taught this course. The other instructor had gotten sick or something. Anyway, I'm still doing it. I do about six to eight of these a year. And when I go teach electrical, there's gonna be at least three other instructors. They'll be doing one for sheet metal, one for fabric covering, and one for composites. So we typically do those four. Here in Watsonville we do it every March. EAA just has me come and do it on the weekends so I'm really not that deeply involved or affiliated with the matter in the workshops.

J.R. Warmkessel: But the classes are weekend class that might take two days. You come down, give us all a flavor so you teach electrical class. So what might a student do here in the two days? What might they learn about?

Kas Osterbuhr: Well we do eight to five on Saturday, and then we do about eight to three thirty on Sunday, so lot of people drive down on Friday or maybe come early on Saturday.We sit down and I'm one of two electrical instructors, so

there's another guy that, he has a little different track but what I do in mine is, we spend the morning on Saturday talking about volts, amps and ohms and, I just generally try to dispel the black looming cloud over electricity that

people don't understand, you know. I always equate it back to hydraulics and try and just get rid of this fear in this massive learning curve that the wires are just pipes. Just learn about how the circuit works. And then once I get

them over that and we dive in we start learning how to do crimping.

J.R. Warmkessel: What's crimping?

Kas Osterbuhr: Crimping is like a wire has to attach to something. It might attach with maybe a little cheap metal pin that goes into a plastic plug, or it might have a little ring on the end that we screw down with a screwdriver. So you take these little terminals and put them in a hand tool and crimp them on at the end of the wire.

J.R. Warmkessel: How's that different than soldering?

Kas Osterbuhr: Soldering would be, you take a wire, maybe bend a hook in it, put it through a hole and just, its kind of like welding. You turn the thing into a chunk of metal.

J.R. Warmkessel: Now, someone told me that with aircraft you generally don't want to solder.

Kas Osterbuhr: This is an interesting question. There's lot to be said about solder versus crimp. Soldering is not bad, crimping is not bad. They both have advantages, disadvantages. Soldering on an aircraft is bad if you do a poor job of strain relief. So when you solder a wire, what you're doing is taking a strand of wire that's very flexible. The solder wicks into there and solidifies the wire. Now, if it's got any vibration and strain on it, this wire's going to crack, and that's where probably soldering has got its bad rap. There's places for it, and if it's done right and you have strain relief, it's good.

J.R. Warmkessel: So what about crimping? What are the disadvantages or the advantages of crimping?

Kas Osterbuhr: Crimping, usually when you're putting terminals on or splicing or something like that, the crimp terminals are going to build up the bulk of the wire, for one. It's fast though. You put it in a tool, squeeze it. Crimping, if you don't have the right tools and don't know what you're doing, you can do a whole bunch of crimps and they look good from an average distance, but when you get down to it, they're way wrong. You know, a soldered joint, it's pretty hard to completely botch it, but with a crimped on terminal, it's not that hard to crimp on that people think looks good, yet it's not.

J.R. Warmkessel: Not airworthy.

Kas Osterbuhr: Right.

J.R. Warmkessel: So, anyway, you started with volts, amps, and ohms, went on to crimping, and that was kind of the first day.

Kas Osterbuhr: Well, at the end of the first we spent about two-and-a-half hours...I get the students started about 2:00 on a project where we wire up an intercom wiring harness. We've actually got the intercom box, and we power it up and they take the plug and put in a headphone and mic jacks and wire this little harness up. It's actually pretty exciting for them even though it's simple, and they wire it all up, plug it in, and put a headset on and they talk to themselves.

J.R. Warmkessel: And you can hear the feedback? You could hear the microphone voice in your headset?

Kas Osterbuhr: Yeah, it's like sitting in an aircraft and turning on aircraft radios. You can transmit or anything, but you turn it on. It actually gets a lot of people over a stumbling block, and some of them it's so rewarding to look, and you just see that lightbulb come on. The instant they hear that thing power on and they realize, "Wow, it wasn't that bad," then that makes it worth it for me.

J.R. Warmkessel: Cool. So that was the first day, so what happens on the second day?

Kas Osterbuhr: Second day we come in and talk about some antennas, and I do that for an hour-and-a-half or so and questions from yesterday. Then I like to spend until about lunchtime, we'll just go over questions, whatever they want to talk about. We'll put up a bunch of wire diagrams and, you know, "Here's example diagrams. What does this do? How's that work?" and go through some exercises looking at catalogs, how to find parts and so forth. Then that gets us to lunchtime, and I launch them on the grand finale project, which is this little crude, sheet metal box with some things stuck to it. It's got a couple of light bulbs, a AA battery holder, and it's, again, it's very simple, but it's a rewarding thing in that they all take a lot of pride in it. It's one of those things that you got to get in there and just do one. You can read all the books you want, think about it, watch videos, and you feel smart, but until you get in there and screw some stuff up, you haven't learned. I think that's what the class is about. I love to see mistakes. If you don't make mistakes in a class you're not learning.

J.R. Warmkessel: Right, so the box has some lights, and some switches, and some dials on it, and you kind of wire it all up, simulating what the kind of connections might be in an aircraft.

Kas Osterbuhr: Yeah, generally it just lets you look at a diagram, interpret a diagram. You do some soldering, some crimping. One of the things that I like to do when it's all done, I really encourage all the students to take time with the multimeter and, "Let's look at this lightbulb. Let's measure its voltage, measure the amperage, and let's take home a couple tools in our tool box so that we're not scared of this next time."

J.R. Warmkessel: That's fantastic. So you really kind of start from the very beginning. You work your way through how electricity flows, kind of the design of pipes or wires, do some hands-on projects, and kind of, at the end, you have a project that you've completed that has kind of lots of examples of the things that you're going to find in an airplane, or would expect to find, and even have a little bit of learning how to measure things and understand the relationships of them.

Kas Osterbuhr: Yeah. I'll tell you what, I'm not advertising for Sportair, but I think the cost is 289 or something if you're a member. If I could turn back the clock knowing what I know now and give myself the wisdom, when I first started the Rans or, especially when I first started at RV, I would have died to have taken my class. Just the exposure to the tools. When I started working on the Lancer 4P project at AirCrafters, I was still stripping wires with a razor blade.

J.R. Warmkessel: Oh, my.

Kas Osterbuhr: Yeah, not good. I flat out hadn't been exposed. I was a great craftsman, take a lot of pride in my work, very meticulous. I just simply, I didn't even know automatic wire strippers existed. I just didn't know.

J.R. Warmkessel: What's the problem with using a razor blade? I mean, obviously it works, but what are disadvantages?

Kas Osterbuhr: Well the problem with that, and any tool that's not made for the job or that you don't use properly, is you can do a lot of damage, like with a razor blade stripping wire, or even the wrong wire strip tool. If you do the work wrong, you're going to start pulling off strands underneath, nicking wires, and what I always tell my students, "It's like a cancer," because this is s problem that, it's not like you just mess up one connection. This problem is pervasive, and you have the wrong technique or the wrong tool and it affects all the work that you do, in the end you have subpar crimped on joints or soldered joints and they'll start failing.

J.R. Warmkessel: All throughout the aircraft.

Kas Osterbuhr: Right.

J.R. Warmkessel: So now there's similar classes for doing metal work? For sheet metal work?

Kas Osterbuhr: Yes.

J.R. Warmkessel: And for fabric?

Kas Osterbuhr: Yup.

J.R. Warmkessel: And for composite materials? And they all have kind of similar types of projects where you get some instruction, do some hands-on, a little more instruction, a little more hands-on?

Kas Osterbuhr: I would say of all of them, I don't know if I'm proud of this or ashamed, but mine's a lot more theory than the others, but I think it's a necessary evil with mine, but all the classes your'e going to sit down and basically get over the scariness of whatever you're working with. They also have a welding class, which I don't know what it is about how the classes fall. When they come out on the west coast and basically I do everything Denver and west, and another instructor does the east coast. I've never been where we've done a welding one. They have actually two sheet metal ones. One's called an intro and another one is specifically geared for RVs, so that's really good to get the RV builders going. I think there's another class or two, but...

J.R. Warmkessel: More coming online all the time.

Kas Osterbuhr: Yeah.

J.R. Warmkessel: Oh, fantastic. Literally it sounds like EA is providing a lot of support for people who want to build aircraft, which is maybe one of their missions, so I'm really heartened to see that.

Kas Osterbuhr: I think one of the better things that happens here, as sad as this sounds, is I have some people that take the class and, some of them haven't even started building, so they'll take the class and maybe even the rest of them, and they'll say, "You know what? It's not for me. I'm biting off more than I can chew." So that's kind of a sad outcome, but it's also good because you don't end up with a community of people that are, you know, disillusioned about what they're doing, and another thing is, like I said before, you've got all these technical areas that you've got to be good at, sheet metal, composite, all this stuff. You might come here...if you're building an RV you might come here and do the composite class to learn how to do some glass and stuff and just realize you have no business doing that. Now you know exactly what you need help with. It helps you get focused.

J.R. Warmkessel: One of the things, actually, that...reflections on taking your class was that your class is one of those versatile classes in that sense that, you know, I've used the skills that you taught me to work on my truck, to work on, I don't have a boat but if I had a boat I could use those same type of skills on a boat. You know, even in my house there's electrical connections, there's these kind of things all over the place and the theory that you teach is not specific to aviation, I mean, these are very general, basic principles.

Kas Osterbuhr: I think that would apply to all the other classes except for fabric. I can't think of many other things that you do fabric covering on, but there's plenty of places where you do, if you own a boat, the composite class would be handy.

J.R. Warmkessel: Yeah, maybe, but you don't do a lot of sheet metal. Most people don't do a lot of sheet metal work.

Kas Osterbuhr: That's true, yeah.

J.R. Warmkessel: I mean, there's value, not to say that they're not good classes. That's not my intention at all, but, you know, the skills you learn here are just so pervasive in the world we live in, the modern era, that I think that there's a lot of hidden value. Even soldering, you know?

Kas Osterbuhr: Yeah.

J.R. Warmkessel: I love to solder and I build lots of little kits, and if you've never soldered before, this is a great place to get your fingers burnt.

Kas Osterbuhr: Yeah.

J.R. Warmkessel: Or wet. That one.

Kas Osterbuhr: I remember one of my first 'wiring projects'. That's when we had our machine shop. I was a college graduate, mind you. So, had an old jeep and I put a vacuum gauge on there to kind of diagnose what was going on with the fuel economy and stumbling engine and all that sort of stuff. This simple little vacuum gauge of course has a hose going up to the carburetor. And the electrical aspect of it was one wire. It's grounded by virtue of bolting to my instrument panel. Once wire that goes through a demur, very very crude and simple, but kind of one of the first things I started and wired up myself. And I'll never forget just, kind of sitting there at the end of the day in the shop with the lights off and had a couple of beers and just sat the light on a stupid vacuum gauge. And I see that in my class when they wire up the intercom or the box that we do on the second day. I mean I could do those in my sleep. But especially cause I teach the class all the time and.... But I look at that when they do that and I see that same spark I feel like wow, I did it.

J.R. Warmkessel: I did it. Or you even when you make a mistake and you go figure out what's wrong. But these are the kind of problems that you might have in the real world. How are you going to think about solving them. Oh fantastic. This is been absolutely fantastic and I want to thank you. This is a lot of food for thought. I think that many people don't know that the AA has programs like this available to potential builders and they're not that expensive and they don't take a long time. It's not like getting your A+P. It's like a couple of day, two days maybe, per class and they certainly get your feet wet.

Kas Osterbuhr: You know they had one, I don't know if they do it still. At least I haven't seen it in the ones I've been to lately. It's called INTRO. And you go in and do a little bit of wood, a little bit of sheet metal and I think even a little bit of fabric. You do a little bit of it all. That's a real good thing to get your feet wet. They also have a, they call it the, what's involved in home building.

J.R. Warmkessel: Right.

Kas Osterbuhr: And they'll do that on Saturday night when they have the big gathering.

J.R. Warmkessel: Sure. Bring in pizza or something.

Kas Osterbuhr: Yeah. You get pizza and you sit down for two and a half or three hours and talk about what the FARs are about. What does it mean to own an airplane, can I change the oil, can I change the tyre, what if I need a replacement bolt, what's involved with all this and you know this kind of big picture, is that for me.

J.R. Warmkessel: That's just 2 hours and $25 or so.

Kas Osterbuhr: Something like that.

J.R. Warmkessel: Oh, well fantastic. Once again, thank you so much for your time. I appreciate it. In closing, any thoughts that maybe you could pass on to a builder or pilot that might be valuable to their flying or building experiences?

Kas Osterbuhr: Mind that little voice in your head. It says something's wrong, it's usually right.

J.R. Warmkessel: It's usually right, there's something wrong and really you want to solve all of those little voices until there's nothing left.

Kas Osterbuhr: We could do a whole, another series of podcasts about the things that I've screwed up when my mind was trying to tell me don't do this.

J.R. Warmkessel: Don't do this? Yeah. As pilots we make these kind of mistakes or mistakes are made usually against our better judgment but I could imagine that as a builder you had that same kind of scenario where you want to finish a piece. You know dinner's come in and I want to just get these last couple of rivets in or whatever it is and instead of stopping when you should have you continue working in conditions that maybe aren't correct or you're tired or something is wrong.

Kas Osterbuhr: Yes kind of an odd thing if you think about it. In the cockpit you've got seconds or minutes to make decisions and building your aircraft you've got however long you want. But you're right, you still see the same parallels of this little diversion and it gets you going down this path you never intended and you know you're not supposed to be there but here you are and what do you do now?

J.R. Warmkessel: Well, one of the things you can do is you can always call the AA or someone and ask for help. And say, hey, I don't understand, help me, and I've always been out there wanting to, I've always realized that there are support out there. One last thing that we should talk about that maybe not your thing but I can tell you little bit about is the flight advisor and the technical counselor advisor program. Those are two programs that the AA offers. For the flight advisors the first flight of the aircraft and technical counselor is someone who is knowledge about building the aircraft that you can call in. Both programs are absolutely free. You could find out information about those from your local EAA chapter or the EAA corporate headquarters. People will come and they'll come with your project and they'll help you with advice and counsel and say these things are correct and these things are wrong. And there are resources out there, so if you are stuck, if you don't know, as for help.

Kas Osterbuhr: Yeah. And don't be afraid of calling the FAA. Pilots have this fear of authority sometime and they think oh gosh if I call the FAA and ask a question they are going to nail me and write my name down in a book and I'll be banned from aviation for life. But you got to deal with the reality. When you are building a plane, at some point or another they are going to put their signature on it. So get involved with him. Say, look this is the direction I'm headed, am I going down a dead end? You got to work with them.

J.R. Warmkessel: Yeah, and my experience dealing with the FAA, the flight standard, flight safety district office, flights safety and standards district office is they are always there to help you. They are always wanting to do the right thing and they are not punitive. They are not there to take away your license or snatch from you. They are there to help you succeed. Well that's it. Let's go and get some dinner.

Kas Osterbuhr: Ok.

J.R. Warmkessel: Ok. Thank you very much. Bye bye.

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Show Notes