The wing is coming along nicely

Cody gluing up the tapes on the wing
Cody gluing up the tapes on the wing

We have a stomach bug going around the house. It started with Cody, then progressed to The Princess, and then today it hit Spork who was down for the count for the day, never getting out of bed or very far away from a throw up container. Poor guy.

The weather was epic so we enjoyed a cool day in the shop with a nice breeze provided by the fans. The fabric was already on, but the tapes needed to be done. But before that, the tail wheel shock needed to be finished, which meant fitting the access panel we made to the shock dimensions. Cody knocked that out in no time and we moved onto taping.

As we progress to each portion of the build, I always worry what the next part will be like. Will taping be really hard? What about hanging the engine? What if I mess that up? Or the wiring for the avionics? What if I let the smoke out and ruin the avionics. There is always a little trepidation at each new step that I will come up short on knowledge or talent. Taping was, oddly, one that I was worried about. But with Cody’s help, we got started and found that it was, as promised, decidedly easy. It is tedious, but really it is just an arts and craft project. Lay out some lines, spread some glue, lay out the tape, spread some thinner glue, move on to the next part. It is actually quite enjoyable and begins to make the wing look like an airplane wing.

Of course, the next step is inspection rings. And I’m already worried about them. Even though I’ve already done one once before at an EAA workshop. It has been several years. Plus, what if I put them in the wrong place?!

We’ll get there, and get it done somehow.

Wednesday is our next work day. Hopefully we’ll have everyone healthy and be able to work. We need to flip the wing and tape the other side. Then we’ll tape the edges and the wing will be covered! Then we’ll use the uncovered wing to locate where our inspection holes should be and cut in the holes (scary!) Once the inspection holes are in, we’ll move this wing to another shop bay and start on the next wing. Hopefully we can get this wing done in a much shorter time frame since we now have some experience. I’d like to at least get it wrapped by Friday if possible, maybe even a tape or two in place.

Once the second wing is done, which will probably take about a week, we can move onto covering the fuselage. We are doing that last because I am waiting on avionics to show up and I need to install autopilot servos before covering. There is no provision for an autopilot in the SuperSTOL build so we’ll have to make it up as we go. Should be interesting.

Huge multi day update

Based on the blog, you’d think we haven’t been working on the plane. Quite the opposite is true. We’ve been working nearly every day, with little time left over for documenting the build. When we last left off, Spork had completed the battery box and installed it.

Battery box with cables installed
Battery box with cables installed

We added a simple 24 gauge cable to provide for a battery condition monitor LED, a feature of the EarthX battery. The problem was we didn’t have the correct connector, despite ordering an entire set of connectors for airplane builders. We had every connector in the world, except the one we needed. Luckily Scott bailed us out, again, and got us the connector we needed. Here you see the cable, with a service loop installed.

ELT cable installed, and labeled
ELT cable installed, and labeled

Since we had the correct connectors, and we had our new label maker, we also ran the ELT cable for the cockpit remote switch. We labeled the cable so that when the time comes,  we won’t be wondering which white cable this is.

right wing, ready to break down and start covering
right wing, ready to break down and start covering

We had a lot of false starts on covering our first wing. We had to install the compression tubes for the fuel tank, we had to paint the spoilers three our four times, I lost count, and we had a number of parts we had to go get or special order in. We lost several days due to these issues.

Spoilers sandblasted and prepped for paint
Spoilers sandblasted and prepped for paint

I fretted over whether to sandblast the spoilers for a few days. Luckily I decided to do so because we ended up sand blasting off our paint several times and starting over. We started with an automotive style rattle can primer and paint. When that proved to be too fragile we went to an epoxy based primer, PPG brand from Single Source here in town. While I was at it, I painted the locking collars from the tailwheel, the little circles you see beside the spoilers.

We also used the belt sander to break the corners of the spoilers and the edges. Corners and edges are the first places to loose paint and these things will be sticking up into the wind quite a bit so I wanted to make sure the paint stayed in place. Rounded edges will help quite a bit.

Missing hardware for the flap system
Missing hardware for the flap system

With the compression tubes nearly installed, we came across a problem. We didn’t have a simple little bracket that is installed on the hardware for the fuel tank and holds the flap return spring. We also didn’t have the bolts that held the bracket. I called Amy at Just Aircraft and she had the needed hardware going out the same day, along with a firewall forward kit I’d ordered a few days before from Billy at Plane Fun Aircraft. Everything showed up literally minutes before we ran out of parts and had to stop work. With hardware in hand, we were able to install the flap return spring, the compression tubes, and temporarily mount the fuel tank. Everything went in just like it should, at least after we thinned out some of the shim washers for the fuel tank.

Rivets won't work for the fuel tank
Rivets won’t work for the fuel tank

Once the compression tubes were in the wings I checked with Robby to see how he mounts them. “Some people use screws but I just rivet them in place. They are easy to drill out.”

I liked the idea of riveting them, but looking at the needed dimensions I saw that the CCP-44 rivets were not going to work. In desperation, I went to visit Scott to see what he thought I should do. “Rivnuts” was his answer. We ordered some, along with screws, to be delivered this coming week. With rivnuts in hand, we’ll install them and then install the tanks. These are an even better solution than rivets as we will have simple screws to remove the tank should we need to at some point in the future.

Spork sandblasting the spoilers, again
Spork sandblasting the spoilers, again

As I said, we had several in and outs with the spoilers but it was ok. I needed some practice painting and the spoilers were a good item to practice on. A small mistake could be sand blasted off in a few minutes and the could be repainted with a small amount of materials.

Right wing with covering beginning to be applied
Right wing with covering beginning to be applied

With the several setbacks behind us, we finally started covering the wing. About this time, we had a stomach bug start working its way through the house putting both Cody and Spork on their butts. I spent an entire day working by myself on Saturday and made good progress on the wing.

Spork gluing up the fabric to prep for cutting out the spoiler slots
Spork gluing up the fabric to prep for cutting out the spoiler slots
Taught fabric and holes burned through for rivets
Taught fabric and holes burned through for rivets

When the fabric is installed, we burn holes through the ribs in spots pre-drilled. These allow us to install large headed rivets for holding the fabric in place. This is fun because it is so easy, and terrifying because one wrong move and you burn a hole through your fabric. Scary!

The paint shows up, Superflite's system
The paint shows up, Superflite’s system

While we were doing all this work, our paint showed up for the airplane. These few cans of paint is what $3000 worth of paint looks like. Good thing I’m a master painter and won’t make any mistakes. Yeah right.

To do list from the past two days
To do list from the past two days

This is a bit of a disjointed update. Lots was done but it was all given short shrift in this multi day post. We’ve been going from can to can’t these past few weeks, trying to get as much done on the plane as possible, while still maintaining a farm, having two renters move out the same month, and still doing work at the Civil Air Patrol. It has been fun. Our status today is the right wing is covered, minus the final heat shrink and tapes. Once those tapes are done, we’ll move the wing to the next bay over and cover it to protect it from the sun. Then we’ll start on the left wing and wash, rinse, repeat. Once the left wing is done, hopefully this week, we’ll move that wing out and we’ll have room for the paint booth to be built while we start covering the fuselage. When everything is covered, it will be time to paint, sand, paint, sand, etc.

Once the painting is over, we’ll bring all the pieces together and remount the wings and take the fuselage off the stands for good, putting the plane on its gear. With wings and gear, we’ll hang the engine which should be here by then, and then it is time for the avionics.

Then it is time for final assembly! That will probably take two months but whatever, it is something to dream about.

Our shop pet, a little frog
Our shop pet, a little frog

Hopefully our perennial pet, Mr. Frog, will still be around by then so he can see our creation come to life.

 

The battery box is done

Today was the day of the Spork. Almost all of our projects for the day revolved around finishing the battery box. I did small things around the shop and a few small things to the airplane such as tidying up the ELT antennae.

ELT antennae with holder in place
ELT antennae with holder in place

I had some surgical tubing hanging around the shop from a sling shot project we’d done years ago. It is soft rubber that combined with a zip tie gives a good vibration friendly hold of the top of the antennae keeping it from whacking into things in the tail during flight.

Milling the slot in the battery tray
Milling the slot in the battery tray

I also added a small contribution to the battery box by milling the slot in the tray for the hold down straps. Not because Spork couldn’t do it but it was a good division of labor at the moment so I knocked it out.

Spork with his masterpiece, a completed battery box
Spork with his masterpiece, a completed battery box

But other than milling the slot and a sometimes helpful bit of advice here or there, this battery box was entirely Spork’s creation, from concept to template to fruition. He even did all the installation in the airplane. And it fit perfectly! Just the right amount of hold down tension, perfect brakes on the metal. It looks really good and he learned a lot.

Battery box and battery installed in the airplane
Battery box and battery permanently installed in the airplane

You don’t really notice it there, but the ground cable is complete and laying against the bulkhead. The hot lead is hooked up to the battery and the ground is bolted to the airframe but not connected to the battery, keeping the angry pixies from flowing and creating any sparks.

The weight savings for this battery vs. a normal battery is amazing. I have pretty much the same battery in a traditional lead acid battery and it weighs probably 30 pounds. This one weighs about 3-4 pounds? When you pick it up, it feels like an inert sample battery like you’d see on display. The shell is there, but none of the guts. It is kinda weird.  And it has slightly more amperage and higher voltage than the other battery I have on hand. It does cost about 4 times as much, so there is that, but when every pound counts, this is a huge weight savings. It also means we could make the battery box out of lighter material as well, saving weight there as well as work since thinner metal is easier to work.

Battery cable run to the front of the airplane
Battery cable run to the front of the airplane (its the white thing running towards the camera)

With the battery installed, we could proceed onto other battery related items like running the power cable to the front of the airplane. This was a simple run as the wings have been removed and the fuselage is back on the rotating stands in prep for covering. So it was a simple matter of running the cable to the front, measuring the length we needed, and cutting off the extra (which became the ground lead). Then I taped the last terminal to the end of the cable so when it is time to start working in the cockpit, we will mount the master relay, then terminate this battery cable and attach. Voila! Instant power to the cockpit.

The cargo door, with all the hardware removed
The cargo door, with all the hardware removed

While I was snapping pictures, I realized that I really didn’t have a good picture of the cargo door we made once everything was finalized. Here you can see the frame within a frame that we made, plus the holes drilled for the hinge and for the drip guard. The bottom looks a bit green because it is. I had to file down a bit of the metal to get the Hysol filed smooth. So that is primer to protect the exposed metal. Once I get the painting equipment setup, I’ll go back and primer the entire door frame as there are nicks and bumps here and there from our work. This will be an area that gets banged a lot so it will need some extra protection.

To do list from 6-24
Now that is how a to do list should look!

Technically this is the to do list from the 23rd. That is the day we called an audible and did the butt ribs instead.

With the box completed and installed, we knocked out making and running the cables. I also adjusted the tailwheel lock so it works much better now.

Today I’m supposed to receive a box of aviation grade electrical terminals. Those should allow me to install the battery condition cable which basically blinks a light on the panel to alert you to the battery state. I’ll also be able to install the ELT cable as there are some terminals I need for that. Once those cables are installed and everything zip tied in place, it will be a once over of the fuselage to inspect for any dinged powder coat and a thorough cleaning. With everything touched up and clean, the fuselage will officially be ready for covering. I guess I should enjoy this to do list because the next one will say “cover airplane” and be the same for about a month. Not really, but close enough.

We’ll actually cover the wings first, because we need them done and out of the way so the paint booth can be constructed. I should pick up some box fans for that as well, now that I think about it. Done, gotta love Amazon. With the wings covered, we can then go to work on the covering the fuselage. Once that is done then it is time to start painting, something I know very little about. Oh well, this is supposed to be a learning experience. I’m sure it will be.

 

A short day yields major unexpected progress

To do list for 6-23
How we start each day in the shop

Each morning I try to take the supplies we have, the supplies we need, the instructions I’ve read, the parts that are ready to install, and the page of the manual I happen to be on at the moment and condense it down into a to do list for the day. We never get the entire to do list done in a day. That isn’t the point. The point is we both, or if Cody is here, all three of us know what is on the agenda and if you don’t know what you are doing, then refer to the list.

Today when we got up, it was battery day. Finish the battery tray. Make up the cables. Install the battery tray, etc, etc. The battery had been all over the to do list for the past several days, so today was our day to get it finished.

Spork breaking metal for the battery tray
Spork breaking metal for the battery tray

Spork had been working on the battery tray for several days off and on and today was the day to start braking metal. 

As with most plans, the template didn’t exactly fit in the brake so there were a few last minute adjustments.

With the tray itself made, we were discussing making the straps that will secure the battery into the tray when a combination of events and available personnel allowed us to call an audible. We bagged the battery tray and instead elected to work on the butt ribs. Getting the butt ribs done would put us back to plan A, which meant getting the wings off the airplane and onto the stands for covering. This would allow us have much better access to the fuselage for the rest of the work we were doing to the battery and other things like the ELT. It would also allow us to split our duties, with someone beginning to work on the wings.

With all hands on deck, including the girls in the store, we switched gears and did a mad dash to get all the butt rib work done prior to rolling the airplane outside. That included taking a couple of read throughs through the instructions on how to do it. Once everything was ready, we took the airplane outside and unfolded the wings.

Slat and boot rib taped in place
Slat and boot rib taped in place

It is amazing how simple something goes when you have lots of help and all the prep work has been done. It took us about two hours to go from rolling the airplane outside to rolling it back inside with the ribs fully installed. We had not one mistake and everything went relatively smoothly.

Dan drilling out the butt ribs standoffs
Your author actually getting in a picture for once.

Once the butt ribs were squared away, we removed the wings and put them on the stands. We then rolled the airplane back inside and shut the door. It was beginning to get a bit hot by this point so there was a celebratory watermelon cut open (thanks Miguel!) and everyone got a few pieces.

Spork eating watermelon and cooling off
Spork eating watermelon and cooling off

We needed to go swap some battery terminals out for the correct ones, and we needed some odds and ends from the hardware store. By this time it was 2pm, hot, and we’d been at it since 6am. We decided to spend the afternoon running errands and cleaning up and getting ready for church instead of working on the battery.

To do list for 6-23

It was a relatively short day, but I’d planned on getting the butt ribs done on Monday so technically we are a couple of days ahead of schedule. We should be able to knock out the rest of the to do list tomorrow and be onto covering starting on Monday. That is at least one day ahead of plan, possibly two.

Technically we only crossed two things off the list today. Install magnetic catch on the shop door and install butt ribs. But in reality we’ve nearly finished the battery tray and the rest of those battery related items should go quickly. We picked up a battery terminal crimper yesterday at Agri Supply so making the cables should go easy enough.

I also found out that we don’t need to run the wingtip lights now and we can wait till after covering and painting so that item will get moved off the list. Also the gauge for the LED light has been determined. It is 24 gauge which I already have on hand.

My terminal kit should be here Monday so I can hook up the LED light cable, zip tie everything together, and put the tail of the fuselage back onto a rotating stand. At that point, we are ready to start covering. While I’m waiting on the terminal kit to arrive, we can start prepping the wings so Monday should be a busy day.

Haste makes waste

Messing up, especially for a type A, pilot type, is devastating. All you can hope is that no one noticed. Unfortunately (actually fortunately) I have Spork (and in this case Cody) alongside to see me mess up. But at least they are family so we’ll keep it quiet.

Except trying to be an example to Spork in my blog post timeliness, I’ve also blogged pretty much every day on the build. Yes I’m supposed to blog every day, but I don’t always do it the same day or the next day. There is some time between the action and the post so I have time to learn a bit and maybe edit out the worst of my mistakes. But in this case, I blogged the same day, documenting for to the world my mess up. Yesterday it all came to light.

I’d blogged previously about trying to install the butt ribs, and what a pain in the butt that turned out to be. The root cause of that failure was that I thought we were simply taping the slats in place, not actually installing the slats. So we’d pulled the airplane outside, on a day forecast to reach 100 degrees, with the idea that we’d tape the slats in place, knock out the butt ribs, and be back inside before it got hot.

When I found out that we actually had to install the slats, not just tape them in place, I didn’t want to take the time to go find the section of the manual that explained how to install the slats. I figured it was just temporary anyway, I can get them in quickly. Plus the slat section was buried in the wing build section. Since I didn’t build the wing, I really don’t know my way around that section as well. Time was a wasting and I had two boys standing there ready to work. I didn’t want to spent the next 30 minutes reading. So we went straight to work.

Then the bolts didn’t easily fit into the bearings that hold the control arms on the slats. Hmm, odd. But having to press a bolt/pin into a bearing is normal. You want the bearing to spin, not the bearing on the bolt itself, that causes wear and eventually failure. So we pressed in the bolts which was a pain and later caused me to use a slide hammer to remove one. Finding out the slats were labeled wrong was simply the icing on the cake the caused the entire day to go sideways.

So yesterday I sit down before work begins and open the manual. Lets see what it says about installing slats….

Slat installation instructions
The paragraph that could have saved an entire day

I’ll save you the squinting. Sentence two says, “The AN 3-20 bolts will have to have the cad plating removed to fit into the bearings properly, the head of the bolt should bottom out on the bearing without putting any pressure on it.”

Sigh

It never occurred to me to remove the protective cad plating, since its, um, protective. I took a small set of bolts, pressed the bearings back off with the hydraulic press, and took them to the belt grinder where I Scotch brited off the cad plating. They fit better. I worked them a bit more, the bearing slid on smoothly but didn’t seat on the head as described in the instructions. I moved to the small belt sander and a fine belt, touching up the area around the head. Butter.

Now I could install the slats with relative ease, inserting and removing the bolts as needed. With now proper hardware, I installed the slat I’d relabeled the day before and prepared to move forward. Except it was the wrong side! How could that be?!

I didn’t have the slats labeled wrong, I had the sets wrong. I thought we had inboard and outboard as sets, No, we had left, and right as sets. Which meant that the label I’d so carefully checked to make sure was wrong, was actually correct. Those were the left wing slats, inboard and outboard. I’d just installed one on the right wing.

Sigh

All of this had been for nothing, because I was in a hurry to beat the heat.

So, after much swapping around and grousing, I installed, along with the help of Spork, both inboard slat sections, and taped them in place. I then made sure to label the outboard slats and put them away. What has taken two days should take about an hour next time. Lesson learned, it’s better to stop and understand what you are doing rather than press on (pun intended).

Wings spread as best we can in the shop
Wings spread as best we can in the shop

Had we beaten the heat that day, we’d have pulled the wings off and put them back on their rotating stands. Now we have to work around the wings in place. Spork came up with the idea to spread them partially like in the picture. We bubble wrapped the wing tips and tied off the wings to each side so we have access to the fuselage. It is much better than working around the wings in their stowed position. Good call Spork!

The ELT antennae mounted in it's final postion
The ELT antennae mounted in its final position

After checking with Scott to verify that this antennae does indeed ned to be grounded, I switched up my plan and went back to the method suggested in the manual for this antennae. My concern was the tip of the antennae is going to rub the fabric or bang against the fuselage members, but with some careful planning I was able to get it to fit very well and not bother anything. I hope.

Spork mocking up the battery box
Spork mocking up the battery box

Spork spent the day, and I mean the entire day, working on a battery box. I’d forgotten to order one, so no problem. We’ll just make it!

Making a template and then transferring it to metal is a new skill for him. He worked very diligently and very hard. He also was not accepting of any errors or mistakes. The end result is after nearly a full days work, he is still making the template and hasn’t cut the first piece of metal yet. He’s getting close, but by about 3:30pm (we started at 6am) I could see he was wearing out on this one job.

We took some time yesterday to run some errands and do non-building stuff. We went to Angie’s for lunch, stopped by Loop Road Auto Parts and Lowes to get some supplies and even stopped and picked up some salt for the pool. By the afternoon we were both wearing out a bit. I sent Spork home to unload the 600 lbs of salt from the truck and then to work on his blog post in the A/C. I went upstairs and turned on the A/C myself in order to work on the ELT plug wiring. I spent about 2 hours going over the schematic, getting my work area ready, and then soldering. The end result?

Wired D Sub connector
My very first D-sub connector, perhaps even wired correctly

This was tedious work. The connectors are VERY small, so small I have trouble seeing them. But I think I was able to get them wired correctly and the heat shrink all looks good. A little finish work and this connector will be closed up and plugged into the ELT so we can run the wire to the cockpit. Another task to complete before covering. 

So despite the setbacks the past few days, we are actually making good progress. Many of the items on this list revolve around getting the battery box made and the battery wiring installed. You can see Cody written by a number of the items on the list. Those are things we are waiting for Cody to come back for, although if we make enough progress we may coerce Miguel to help us and then we’ll tackle the butt ribs ourselves on one of these cooler days coming up. We have about 5-6 work days before Cody shows back up, so yeah, we’ll need to get the butt ribs installed before he gets here, and then remove the wings and get them prepped for covering.

I also want to look at what it would take to make a bike mount for the wings.

Bikes mounted to wings
It isn’t as crazy as it looks

A bush plane, that lands pretty much anywhere, with a couple of mountain bikes slung underneath, makes for a pretty useful critter. Even if all you are doing is going to a fly in. Word is it only costs a couple MPH and they ride under there deceptively well. We’ll see. Up to this point, I’ve not wanted to make any changes to the kit. And I probably won’t now, but I’d at least like to investigate what it would take to do the work before I cover the wings. That will go on today’s list.

Butt ribs are a pain in the…

Today was butt ribs day. It is suggested in the manual that once you attach the wings, you take that opportunity to attach the butt ribs to the fuselage. These ribs basically trim out the transition from the wing to the fuselage. They aren’t structural so it is really just a matter of lining things up and putting them in place permanently.

The instructions were, “Install inboard slats and tape them in place. Open wing slightly, mark where butt ribs go, cut, drill, rivet. Done. Since it was supposed to be 100 degrees (in June?!) we got to work about 6:30am. That was fine for me because I’d already been up several hours. For the boys, there was some pain associated but they never uttered a complaint.

We rolled the airplane outside, then decided to take the rear stand off so the plane could roll on the newly installed tailwheel. It rolls really nicely, as in I can imagine myself taxing this thing and I’m excited. The locking pin isn’t unlocking as I’d like but I’ll see if I can tweak that. We unfolded the wings and then rolled the plane under a large willow oak tree in the yard.

Plane outside under a shade tree, ready to be worked on
Plane outside under a shade tree, ready to be worked on

The boys took all the previously removed tail feathers and swapped them for the slats that had been tucked away since coming back from Robby’s. Once we figured out which slats were inboard and which were outboard, we went outside to tape them to the wings.

As soon as I got to the wing, my stupidity was obvious. I’d read the instructions to tape the slats to the wings as in, hold them in place, put some tape on them, install the butt ribs. When what it meant was, fully install the slats on their dual bearing, hard to install, needs a hydraulic press to press the bolts in, hardware. The pressure was on to get the slats installed before it got too hot. That way we could get the butt ribs installed, then remove the wings and carry the entire project back inside where it would stay for the next month or two.

The slats are specific to where they go, so there is a left and a right, and an inboard and an outboard. We set about fitting out all the hardware and then installed the right slat. The slats were already helpfully labeled by somebody left and right and we’d already figured out the outboard and inboard. With the first slat installed, I tightened down the hardware, fully seating the bearings in place. Then I tried to fold the slat into its stowed position. Nope. What?! I looked at the backside of the slat to see what was hitting. What was labeled as the right slat was actually, and now obviously, the left. I looked down at the one labeled left and saw it only fit the right side. Argh! They had been mislabeled!

The hardware was next to impossible to get in place and now we had to remove it. What ensued was a break for the boys while I went as far as driving to the machine shop to get ideas. Fire, ice, welding, all the normal things were suggested. I had to keep telling them that this wasn’t a tractor, we couldn’t do stuff like that. Eventually we circled around to slide hammers (I own one) and using vice grips to grab the head of the bolt and using the slide hammer to grab the vice grips and pull the whole thing out. I drove back home, setup as suggested, and with Spork’s help and some banging, we removed the offending bolt so we could get the hardware all back in one complete set (they are matched to each side). We ruined the AN4 20A bolt in the process but that was a small price to pay.

With the slat now removed, and the temperature around 95 degrees, we folded the wings and rolled the whole project back inside, defeated, to await another day.

So what do you do with two boys on a 100 degree day when they are supposed to be doing airplane stuff?

Boys washing the Citabria
Boys washing the Citabria

You take them to the airport to wash an airplane, that’s what. We pulled the Citabria out of the hanger and wheeled it over to a patch of grass where we could kick off our shoes and have some fun. It isn’t a big airplane and it doesn’t take that long to clean. Plus it was covered in bugs from the last few flights that I had taken (one with Cody on his first flight!) so I had some ownership of its condition. There was a bit of spraying each other and general horseplay. The plane looked shiny new when we got done in about 30 minutes. Everyone was pleasantly damp and we hopped back in the truck to take Cody to meet his dad for a trip they have this week.

Wednesday will be a no airplane day and then Spork and I will be back on it on Thursday. We have a lot to do, ELT installation including mounting the antennae, making a battery box from scratch and then installing it. Installing the battery itself and it’s wiring, getting the slats mounted, correctly this time, installing the fuel lines, and finishing painting the spoilers. The idea is to have the airplane ready to install the butt ribs when Cody gets back, then start on the fabric covering. That way we’ll hopefully roll through the fabric covering over the next several weeks, getting the plane basically covered. Once that is done, it is onto painting. Somewhere in that process the avionics will show up, meaning it is time to install the instrument panel and do all the associated wiring.

I’ve also ordered the shocks and engine, meaning once the fuselage comes off the stands after covering and painting, it will go onto the tires and stay there. A covered, painted, roll around airplane is deceptively close to being a ready to fly airplane.

With both boys helping, things are moving quickly and I hope covering goes well. We could be painting in a few weeks at this pace.

When I first looked at this project, I was daunted by the amount of work needed to complete an airplane. Now I’m looking at the number of projects left, all of which are significant, and thinking yeah, we’ll be done ahead of schedule. Sun N Fun 2019 is April 2-7th next year and our goal is to be there with this airplane. That is completed and the 40 hours Phase 1 time period flown off. Since I normally fly about 150-200 hours per year, that is a large amount of time to fly. We’ll see.

 

The wings get attached for the first time

Target dimensions for head rack
Target dimensions for head rack

After finding out that we needed to hand fit the head rack to the wings, I set about getting it done. Step one was to measure everything, being extra careful to not mix up left and right, or front spar and rear spar. Once I had everything measured and written down carefully, I turned my paper over to hide the results and then asked Spork to do the exact same thing. He spent some time measuring and then we compared notes. On the front spars we were within a thousandth of one another, on the rear spars we were off.

So back to the snap gauges and calipers again to find that we had a bit of taper on the rear spar doublers. Depending on where you measured, you got a different result. Once we dialed in where our critical dimensions were, I went to each head rack and did what you see pictured above, writing down my target dimension. I think Spork thought I was being overly cautious but we talked about how easy it was to transpose a number, and how hard it would be to weld the metal back on what is arguably the most critical part of the airplane, the part that holds the wing in position.

The tools for adjusting the head rack to fitThe tools for adjusting the head rack to fit
The tools for adjusting the head rack to fit

This is all it took to dial in the dimensions. A big file for hogging out metal, a small file for breaking edges and fine work. And it took about 45 minutes and some elbow grease. No biggie. I put a bit of a wedge shape to the top part of the head rack, and a bit of a rounded edge on the bottom part. However I left the overall shape of the bottom relatively round, leaving us a bit of material to do the final fit up.

Cody hanging the spoilers for paint
Cody hanging the spoilers for paint

While I was working on the head rack, I had the boys start work on the spoilers. As best I can tell, once these spoilers are mounted in the wing, and the wing is covered and painted, we won’t be removing them without a lot of grief. Since these spoilers are going to be effectively permanent, and since they pop out of the top of the wing anytime you roll the aircraft, they are going to get a lot of wind abrasion. That means I don’t want the paint coming off anytime soon so the boys spent some extra time doing a good scotch brite etch. Then Cody shot about 4 coats of primer, followed by 3 coats of enamel.  Hopefully these will stay nice and black for the life of the airplane.

Spork hanging spoilers to be ready to paint
Spork hanging spoilers to be ready to paint
Cody finishes the tunnel for the push tube
Cody finishes the tunnel for the push tube

Cody had worked on the tunnel fit up for a couple of days and today was the day to finally get it screwed in and installed. The servos for the autopilot should be in the tail and this push tube should stay covered until it is time for the annual inspection. I hope. It is always hugely satisfying to install something for the last time.

Fitting the wings to the fuselage, the last attempt
Fitting the wings to the fuselage, the last attempt

Now this was a job for using your head. We rolled the airplane outside on its stands again, and then walked the first wing over to the airplane to see how the fit was. For both wings, the fit was just a touch too tight. They would start to go on, but the holes wouldn’t line up. That was exactly what I’d hoped for. With the small file I gave them a quick touch up and the wings slid right on. We attached the lift struts and boom, our little wire frame project was suddenly an airplane.

Now it is starting to look like something
Now it is starting to look like something

The board was the closest thing we could find to brace the wing up. Sitting on stands, with one wing attached, the whole thing tries to flop over and lay on the ground. That would obviously be a bad thing so an impromptu brace solved the problem.

We rolled the airplane back in the shop and then my friend Rick stopped by. I was beginning my wiring of the airplane, starting with the ELT data cable. I wanted someone to look over my setup and help me get started on the right foot. Rick has wired his RV panel, twice, so he has a wealth of experience that I don’t have in aviation wiring. We spent about an hour at the bench going over wiring. With some suggestions to ask our A&P friend, and some suggestions on tooling and a place to order electrical supplies, he pronounced me ready to go to work.

Supplies picked up from HRJ
Supplies picked up from HRJ

With the wings on, folded, and the airplane safely tucked back inside the barn and Rick about to leave, I told the boys to head back to the house while I drove down to Harnett County Airport to meet my A&P buddy, Scott, who’d ordered in some supplies for me. A battery, wingtip lights, battery cable, starting solenoid, fuel hose, and even some fluting pliers to straightening the butt ribs we’d be working on next. Those I borrowed.

We had made really good progress, and tomorrow looked like a busy day, even if it was going to be 100 degrees!

To do list from 6-18-18
To do list from 6-18-18

Missing instructions stop progress for the day, but Robby bails us out

We started off with a pretty simple plan for today. Get the wings ready to install and get the tail wheel finished. I started on the tailwheel by pulling it back off the plane and removing the stinger. I then set it up to polish with the barrel spinner and the belt sander running a Scotch Brite belt. With a quick shine established, I tried some of our new etching primer which worked very well.

Stinger primered and ready to paint
Stinger primered and ready to paint

Once the primer dried, I put three coats of flat black automotive enamel on the stinger and the reinstalled it. The part of the stinger that fit into the yoke slid in and lined up perfectly. The part that slid into the tailwheel itself was uber tight. I worked it back and forth to get it on and watched the fresh paint peel right off, along with the primer down to the shiny metal . It was that tight, but with a bit of L Bow grease I was able to get it on and bolted into place.

With the tail wheel back in place and finished (Yeah!) the boys and I wheeled the airplane outside into the sunshine. This was a rather momentous occasion, the first time the plan had been outside since arriving here in March. And it was going to spread its wings!

We bolted a lift strut onto the left wing and walked the entire assembly outside to mate it up to the airplane. This was simply a test fit, but the factory test fits everything at the factory and according to the instructions we simply slid the wing in place and put the bolts in. We’d already reamed everything and had all the hardware on hand so it should be easy peasy. With all three of us working, we lined up the first spar.

And

It

Didn’t

Fit!

Argh! What the heck? We pushed, we pulled, we maybe even cursed a bit. No way was this thing going to fit.

Trying to get the spar onto the head rack of the fuselage, to no avail
Trying to get the spar onto the head rack of the fuselage, to no avail

It looked like the wing would have fit had we not added the doublers from a previous work day. Did I do something wrong? Were the doublers supposed to be on the outside? No, they weren’t on the other planes I looked at. We hauled everything back inside and I started pouring over the manual and my pics of various airplanes. Nope, we’d done it correctly. I admitted defeat and told the boys we’d work on something else instead, but not before I took some measurements.

Measuring the head rack on the fuselage
Measuring the head rack on the fuselage

The head rack was about .075 bigger than the space in the spar. There was no way this thing was going to fit. I shot Robby a text and we went to work on the push rod tunnel that protects the push rod in the baggage compartment, while also beginning the process of killing the 75 flies that had flown in the open door during the 15 minutes it had been open.

Eventually Robby called back and I explained our dilemma.

“Oh yeah, there is no way the wing will fit. You have to trim it to fit after you install the wing doublers. Only take the metal off the bottom, leave the top alone, other than to put a slight bevel to it.”

This was great news, because it meant we hadn’t done anything wrong. It was also very frustrating because there was NO MENTION of this step in the instructions, not any of the detail Robby shared about only removing metal from the bottom, putting a slight incline from outboard to inboard on the top, things like that. At least, if it is in there I couldn’t find it in three different readings of the manual. Oh well, we had to call it an early stop anyway because it was fathers day so no harm, no foul. Tomorrow we’ll trim the header rack and then redo trying to attach the wings. If that goes ok, we’ll then pull them back off and get them ready to cover in the stands. My friend Rick is coming by to teach me about wiring our ELT and then we’ll get that installed fully.

Today's to do list, with measurements of our header rack and ID on the spars.
Today’s to do list, with measurements of our header rack and ID on the spars.

First day of all hands on deck

Today we had our full work crew for the summer on their first day at work. Spork is back from camp and Cody is here to visit. Just for a few days this week, then a few days off, then we’ll be onto our full summer work schedule of building nearly every day, all day.

Spork had a kid hangover from camp, sleepy and tired, with aches and pains all over. Cody was bright eyed and bushy tailed having been home for a few days with little to do but relax. I was somewhere in between, having not gotten a lot of sleep the night before. I was actually stressed about keeping the work moving and not being the hold up for these guys. They are giving up their summer to work on this plane with me, and I don’t want us standing around because I’m stuck and don’t know what to do.

The boys working on the window frame template
The boys working on the window frame template

After some organizing and quick work on the shop for things like taking out the trash and putting together our new fan we had a sit down briefing on the plans for the day, the week, and the month. With everyone on the same page, we got to work on our to do list.

The boys started on the window template that Crystal had already roughed out. I think they were ready to bash things with hammers and do some real building but arts and crafts came first.

While they were working on the template, I set about removing the tail wheel assembly to finally get it drilled and installed permanently. I’d been warned that it could be tricky to get it all drilled straight so rather than do it when we were at Robby’s with hand drills, I said I’d do it when I got home with my Bridgeport mill. That is about as straight as I can do something.

Truing up the stinger for the tailwheel assembly in a lathe
Truing up the stinger for the tailwheel assembly

When I took the tailwheel apart, I noted that the stinger, the piece that goes from the yoke to the actual tail wheel, was pretty rough. It worked fine but the ends were rough cut and they had a little flare to them which meant they wouldn’t seat properly. Normally it would be a five minute job to true these up on the lathe, but we’ve had a huge painting project ongoing in the shop the past month and there is paint dust and overspray EVERYWHERE. Including all over my lathe. So before I could do anything, I had to set about cleaning up my lathe. It only took about 30 minutes to get the ways clean enough to use the thing. This wasn’t an actual cleaning, just clean enough to use (real machinists are cringing).

With the lathe clean, I chucked up the stinger and quickly trued up the ends and center drilled the ends to hold my barrel spinner so I could polish the stinger as well. However I promptly forgot to polish the stinger when it was time to move over to the mill. Oh well, something for tomorrow.

Boys removing the tail feathers in preparation for covering
Boys removing the tail feathers in preparation for covering

The boys finished the window template and it looked pretty good. Good enough we decided that we are going to make window frames out of aluminum to try to make the lexan less prone to cracking. I don’t think we’ll give up very much visibility and they will look good to boot. Need to add that to do to the list.

Drilling the first holes in the milling machine
Drilling the first holes in the milling machine

With the stinger placed back in the tail wheel yoke I moved over to the mill, which also needed to be cleaned. However the mill was much quicker work, maybe 10 minutes to clean. I setup with a simple V block setup to hold the yoke. I left everything loose and then used the drill bit itself as a guide. With the yoke riding on the drill bit, I clamped everything in place with the vise. Voila! We now have perfect alignment with the existing holes already drilled in the yoke. This was handy because if you look at the picture closely, you’ll see that they are nowhere close to drilled straight, showing a significant angle vs. the vise. Fortunately it was easy to replicate the angle and it won’t matter anyway once everything is bolted up.

Drilling the tailwheel assembly onto the stinger
Drilling the tailwheel assembly onto the stinger

With the stinger temporarily bolted to the yoke, it was time to drill the tailwheel assembly onto the other end of the stinger. No problem, I already had a good setup so it was just a matter of wash, rinse, repeat. Or so I thought.

I mounted the tail wheel in using the same V block, and locked the tailwheel via it’s locking pin. Then I set about finding a way to mark it as straight and level. Then all I’d need to do it level the yoke off of the shock attachment bushing, or better yet, plumb off of the bushing at the swivel point (left most of picture closest to you). After 15 minutes of looking and head scratching, I determined that there was not a single flat plane anywhere on the entire assembly that I could work with.

Eventually, I gave up and went with the tried and true TLAR method (That Looks About Right). I had the Princess and Spork both come and look over my setup, trying to sight down and see if it was straight. After much time and several conversations, everyone concluded that:

  • You can’t see past the vise to see if it is straight or not
  • If you take it out of the vise so you can see, it won’t matter because everything will move while you are putting it back in the vise
  • You indeed cannot find a flat surface to level anything from
  • And sure dad, that looks about right. I guess.

I closed my eyes and drilled the holes. I consoled myself with the fact that I was drilling a $5 piece of aluminum bar that I could probably pick up at the metal store easily. The expensive bits already had their holes drilled.

Once all the chips had flown, I pulled the whole assembly off the mill and sighted down the now visible sightline. Perfect! Whew!

Cody and I reinstalled the tail wheel and the locking cable onto the fuselage while Spork was giving a tour to some customers.

To do list, day one
To do list, day one

With the tail wheel reinstalled on the airplane, we then made up a stiff knee to go in place of the shock that would normally be on the plane. This holds the wheel in place and should we actually get it covered soon, will allow us to sit the plane on its gear.

With the tail wheel done, we set about getting the plan for the next day. Crossed off the list today was:

  • Take out the trash
  • Pick the final paint colors for the airplane and communicate them to Robby
  • Screw in the floor panels and rear bulkhead
  • Finish template for window and make sure it fits the window on the other side (it does)
  • Remove the tail feathers in prep for covering
  • Install ELT antennae
  • Tail wheel, drilled and mounted
  • Drip guard for baggage door drilled and cut for final assembly
  • Read through build manual and make sure there is no more prep needed for the wings prior to covering
  • We also made a supply run to Lowes picking up some needed items

Tomorrow, should things go well, should be a big day. We are going test fit the wings to the airplane. We won’t be running any controls or doing anything like that, just putting the wings in place to make sure that everything fits prior to taking them back off and starting on covering. But it should make for some nice pictures should we succeed. While the wings are in place, we’ll also install the butt ribs, aligning them with the slats which will be taped in place.

We also need to polish the stinger and add making the window frames to the to do list.

Also Rick is hopefully going to stop by to give me a quick lesson on wiring so I can get the ELT cable terminated and then installed. That is all after we feed and take care of the farm work and before knocking off early to go to Grandmas. Should be fun.

 

 

Progress without the boy

The kids are all away at camp this week. That has significantly slowed the progress on the airplane since technically I don’t want to do any work to the airplane without the boy here. This is a father and son project.

But there are some things that I can do. For one, I can spend time learning how to do things I don’t have any experience with. Like doing aircraft wiring. I can also read manuals, organize the shop, watch instructional videos, figure out tools that I should be buying, make trips to the supply stores to get needed materials for next week, etc. All of those things have been in process.

ELT, installed and ready to setup
ELT, installed and ready to setup

One of the first things I knocked out was to register the ELT that we installed last work session. It may seem premature, but since I fly with Civil Air Patrol, my worst case scenario is that CAP shows up at my door asking me, a CAP pilot, to please turn off my ELT. I’d never hear the end of it. And since most ELT missions involve someone who removes and ELT from an airplane and has it on the bench, accidentally triggered, I figured I better get mine registered ASAP. That way, I get a phone call first from the Air Force before anyone is dispatched. I can then just reply that yes I’m fine and I’ll go turn it off instead of meeting my CAP brethren on a SAR mission. It took longer to get the picture taken than it did to register.

Panel mockup temporarily in the plane
Panel mockup temporarily in the plane

Then I noted that Crystal was here working. She is staying with her dad and coming to work each day. Since he was busy working, I thought he might enjoy me entertaining her for a bit so I asked her if she’d like to do arts and crafts? Sure!

We set about making a panel mockup out of some cardboard I had on hand for just such a project, and some cutouts I already had printed. I added a few more things for items such as the transponder and the COM radio, the cigarette lighter plug and the ELT. After a bit of playing Tetris with the cutouts, and looking over the restrictions of existing cross members, we came up with what you see above. Some of this is drawn on and didn’t show up very well, and we need to order in some circuit breakers and switches to get actual sizes of those, but this is our rough approximation and it works fairly well. On the left will be the master switch, avionics master, ignition one and two, lights, and starter button. On the right blank space will be the circuit breakers.

The gap on the left, where there is no actual panel and just the exposed cross brace truss, will be a MyGoFlight mount holding an XNaut iPad holder. This will be right in front of the pilot which is fine because my iPad is primary for me anyway. If I need the visibility that the reduced panel size gives me, then I can easily remove or move the iPad in seconds. I wouldn’t need the iPad if I’m putting down in a small field (when I need the extra visibility) anyway so it is the best of both worlds. I hope.

With the panel mocked up, it was time to place the order for my avionics package. After looking at all the choices, I chose the Grand Rapids Technology Sport EX EFIS. When I started on this project, I was convinced that I’d get the Dynon because I’d heard so much about it. But each time I stopped by their booth I couldn’t get anyone to help me. This is over about 4-5 attempts. Sometimes they were simply busy, but once even when I did talk to someone his answer was basically “go read our manual and you’ll figure it out.”

My friend Scott had recommended I look at GRT so I stopped by their booth. They were swamped as well but once I got to a rep, he answered all my questions and wrote up a system that he recommended for me, including suggested products from other manufacturers to fill in the gaps. I did a few months of off and on again research trying to see if I liked a system better than what he suggested, and I did not. So now the avionics are ordered. I have the EX coming, with the remote magnometer and the autopilot package. They have a WAAS GPS/ADS B all in one solution that I ordered as well. My friend Ron at Sparkchasers has some take off Garmin 327s I am going to look at next week for a transponder. Then all I will need is a COM radio and intercom and my avionics purchases are done. I’m seeing Garmin SL40s on ebay but I’m holding out hope, foolishly, for a SL30. I don’t know why because why would I ever shoot an ILS in a SuperSTOL?

Marking out the template for the window
Marking out the template for the window

The next day, Crystal and I spent a few hours working on the template for the rear windows. These are where the turtle deck would have been, but I cut the turtle deck up to make a door.

Drip guard on baggage door
Drip guard on baggage door

But that is ok, I wanted glass instead of weight anyway. Plus I don’t plan on folding the wings on this airplane very often so I’d rather have visibility rather than ease of removal of the turtle deck.

Crystal and I set about making the templates for the window, using the box that the metal that I ordered came in. Waste not, want not.

Crystal trimming up the template
Crystal trimming up the template

The idea for this template is to have a ring or frame around the lexan to help keep it from cracking. Lexan still cracks eventually but maybe I’ll get a few years out of it instead of a year. We finished the outside dimensions of the template. Now we need to test fit to the other side and see if we need two templates or if one will fit both sides. Then we’ll mark the inside dimensions and cut this out into a frame. Once that is done and we are satisfied it is perfect, we’ll use the template to mark the .020 aluminum and then cut out the final piece.

But those steps will involve the boys, who will be home tomorrow. Both Spork and Cody will be here and it will be full speed ahead on building the airplane. If Crystal is here, maybe she can help too. But with the girls back, I think they’ll be playing instead.