ISON Tandem AirBike Builder's Log

December, 2001
I'm baaaaack...


First, apologies for being incommunicado for so long. There's no airplane building to report, as most of the free time I've been able to set aside for aviation-related pursuits was spent enjoying the new hang glider. Except, of course, for a few weeks when all air traffic in the US -- yes, even hang gliding -- was grounded because of the 9/11 attacks. Sadly, recreational flying is one of the many liberties we enjoy that now seem frighteningly vulnerable to our new era of (sometimes extreme) security measures.

Notes about contacting me

I want to start off with a message to all those who have e-mailed me with questions about AirBikes and Ragwing Aircampers, or those who are thinking about writing me. When a person publishes web pages like mine to help fill information voids about somewhat obscure topics, no little light bulb goes off in your head that says "I'm about to get more e-mail than I can handle." I know that in my case there was no light bulb for a long time, but I'm here to tell you that I've seen the light. I think part of the reason I publish these pages is to put my knowledge out there for whomever comes along, so I won't have to answer so many redundant e-mail questions... but apparently it's a self-perpetuating cycle. While I'm happy that these two aircraft I'm familiar with are attracting as much attention as they are, and I'd really like to help others with the same interests, I'm simply not the kinda guy that has enough time on his hands to act as a clearing house for disseminating information about them. I already receive an average of 150-200 e-mails/day related to a community web site I run, plus several aviation-related mailing lists, plus... So please forgive me for all the recent queries that have had to go unanswered. I appreciate the letters, and wish I had the time to answer all of them.

If you have general questions about the Tandem AirBike that are not answered in this site, here are your best options:

  • Post your queries to my Tandem Talk discussion group (I'll participate when I have time and/or something to add)
  • Visit the East Tennessee Lonesome Buzzards forum. You'll find lots of builders and enthusiasts of ISON products, and they're usually pretty resourceful about answering your questions.

If you have questions about the Ragwing Aircamper, you should know that I am out of the loop regarding plans availability, changes made to the design since I built mine, etc. I was the first or second builder to complete the Ultra-Piet, and I found numerous concerns about the design and made improvements that seemed warranted. I don't have time to answer Ragwing questions anymore, but if you are serious about building one I can forward you a bunch of old e-mails that I wrote to other builders/prospects in the past. I suggest cruising the sites in the Ragwing WebRing to find other builders and ask them any questions regarding Ragwing designs.

But please, don't take this message to mean that no one should ever contact me. If you're a Tandem AirBike owner, builder or prospect, if you live near me (in the mid-west), or whatever, I would like to hear from you. Posting to Tandem Talk might be best, e-mail would be OK, just forgive me if I don't reply right away. Messages tend to get lost in my inbox, and I sometimes reply to e-mail 6+ months after I receive it. e-mail: doug at question gravity dot com


Since I have no Tandem building to report at this time, I decided to take this opportunity to post what I know about painting aircraft with latex "house" paint. I've had a lot of requests for information about the "latex process," so I'll pass on what I know. In the spring of 1995 I completed the Ragwing Aircamper (3/4 scale Pietenpol) ultralight shown above, using Sherwin-Williams Acrylic Latex over bare Stits Polyfiber fabric. Part 1 discusses UV resistance, my unscientific accelerated aging test, and latex pros & cons. Part 2 describes my experience with the latex application process.

The good news from here is that I've just cleaned up my shop and rescued it from months of neglect and abuse. After a couple hours of cleaning, I could see ribs and spars emerging from the heap, and after another hour I could actually see the top of my work table again! What got me going was working on an unrelated project in the shop a few days ago, and having a powerful moment when I realized how much I missed being in the shop. And beyond that, I was struck hard by the feeling "airplane building is one of the things that I live for, and I've let other activities get in the way for too long." So, it's good to be back. I really want to get those aluminum flaperons done, but the rust on the Tandem's fuselage isn't light and spotty anymore -- it's now getting to the point where I can't ignore it any longer.


The sooner you fall behind, the more time you'll have to catch up.