Last Friday I took delivery of my very first shipment from Van's: the RV-14A Empennage Kit. You probably know the anticipation of tracking the progress of the kit as it traveled from the factory to my home. I was very excited as it made its way from Oregon to the Dallas area. I was hoping to avoid dealing with crate damage, which I know others have experienced and have documented here at VAF. Unfortunately, I was very surprised at the very unusual failure that the crate sustained in shipment.
When the truck driver opened up, I was greeted with this awkward scene, sinking my hopes of a clean shipment:
Two bright red arrows were pointing to the west instead of toward the sky, which I was pretty sure was the packager's intent. I was more than a little miffed that FedEx didn't seem to share my understanding of the meaning of those arrows. The lid of the crate was mostly detached and packing material was visible. I remained as calm as I could. It turns out that the shipper probably oriented the crate the way it did in an effort to preserve the contents, which may have indeed been a good move, but you have to see more of the story to understand.
When the driver went back to the crate to start the process of unloading it, I was further dismayed when he pulled the paper work off the floor beside the crate. You can imagine my surprise when that appeared to be the only stuff that fell out. After some successful manipulation of the crate, he managed to get it where I could take more photos:
From what I could observe, either the crating concept was heavily flawed or the supports were damaged and lost. It appears that the bottom of the crate in the center of the length was elevated by double two-by-fours, ostensibly to provide clearance for a forklift. In fact, the double 2x4 was only on one side of the crate when it arrived, such that the crate not only bowed in the center of the length, but also it was tilted to one side. On the ends, the supporting stock under the crate is 1x4, creating a see-saw configuration, which puts the crate in bending under a load. The bending load failed the side wall of the crate at the location of a giant knot, resulting in a long split of the wood.
If there was a metal band on both ends of the crate when it left the factory (I need to look for evidence of it), it didn't survive. Only one band was on the crate when it arrived.
The miracle is that so far I haven't found any damage to the contents. The top of the crate had two long tail-cone skins that appear to be ok, which is remarkable given that I could see the blue film on the skins from several feet away. There is a lot of wadded shipping paper and some cardboard that appears to have protected the contents fairly well.
I was gone over the Memorial Day weekend (which helps provide perspective -- the cemeteries are full of men who gave their lives for my freedom), so I haven't done much in the way of inventory, yet.
I am considering how to communicate this issue to Van's. I am not certain whether the shipping crate design is the root cause. However, it seems that, unless parts of the crate were damaged by abusive handling, that the shipping crate could be vastly improved for a minor investment of time and money.
I am open to your advice!
This is not the "announcement" that I'd hoped to issue for my first substantive post, but I am very excited to be starting the journey. Like a lot of people, I wish I had more space and more time, but I am going to methodically go through the process and do the best job that I can. I am sure I'll be needing your help and advice along the way.