BUILDER'S BOOKSHELF (Dave Martin, Kitplanes Magazine, August 1996)

The AR-5 Tapes 3 and 4: "Moldless, Low Drag Wheelpants" and "Making Fiberglass Molds"

Produced by The Arnold Company, 1203 Wanda Street, Crockett, CA 94525; VHS Video Tapes, 73 and 66 minutes respectively; $29.95 each ($5 off each tape over one).

More than two years ago we reviewed Mike Arnold's tapes 1 and 2 about designing and flying his record-setting, extremely low-drag AR-5 composite airplane. His new Tape 3, "Moldless, Low Drag Wheelpants", follows Arnold as he designs and builds a set of replacement wheelpants for the AR-5 after a landing incident destroyed the first set. Starting with a fineness ratio recommended by Hoerner, Arnold's process shows how to design and make your own landing gear fairings and wheelpants.

Every step, process and material used is covered in detail, and the final product is a pair of custom pants that weigh just 2.35 pounds each: half the weight of mass-produced pants and obviously lower drag than you can buy. At tape's end, Arnold tells why he abandoned his original plan to retrofit the AR-5 with retractable gear. The answer is that he believes that his fixed gear offers lower drag -- not to mention less complexity, weight, and cost -- than he could achieve with the best-devisable retractable system.

Tape 4, "Making Fiberglass Molds" is a similar step-by-step tutorial on the process of turning out highest-quality identical composite parts. The example is a complex six-part underwing cargo carrier that fits precisely on an RV-4 or RV-6. Beginning with a sketch, followed by a full scale drawing, templates, carved foam plug, and a series of female and male molds that incorporate joggles and all necessary details, this is a complicated process that would logically be attempted by a company, an EAA chapter or other building group that expects/needs a considerable number of copies of the final product. It's obviously no weekend project to produce professional-quality production molds. But the video covers every step in enough detail that you could emulate the process.

Both tapes are of top professional quality including excellent photography, well-planned running commentary by Arnold plus occasional asides by a narrator and a few clarifying sketches. I even liked the wide variety of noncontinuous, subtle background music that seemed appropriate to the level of concentration and skill required by some of the steps.

Beginners in composite construction should check out these tapes if only to see and hear a master composite craftsman (who is also a record-setting designer and pilot) at work. Mike Arnold's video documentaries are downright inspirational! --Dave Martin

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