Here is the piece we’ve been searching for

When I was growing up, we used to get tractor trailer loads on square bale hay in each summer. Unloading hay out of a pig trailer (they hauled the hay down in pig trailers, and carried pigs back) and then into a barn loft, during the heat of the summer, was a decidedly unpleasant task. But one of the things that kept us going through the process was the eternal search for that one bale of hay.

Pouring sweat, “Have you seen it yet?”


Sticking your face out the small hole in the trailer for a quick breath of clean air, “Is this the bale we’re looking for that I’m standing on?”

“Nah, it is still under here somewhere.”

The bale, the one we always looked for, was the LAST bale. I don’t know why it was funny, but it kept us going during the process. And we always celebrated whoever was the person who grabbed the last bale and unloaded it off the trailer. We’d be drenched in sweat, coughing and hacking from breathing all the hay in a confined space, and covered in hay, but it would be all smiles when that bale came out.

Well, I found the piece of the airplane we’ve been looking for.

The last part of the airplane to get covered, the wing flap
The last part of the airplane to get covered, the wing flap

We finally started working on the last wing flap. By this point, I should know what I’m doing. Covering an entire airplane gives you an opportunity to learn all the skills needed, except rib stitching, which I’m happy to forgo with this project. Unfortunately we had a few issues holding us back.

First, we ran out of material. Now I don’t mean we came up slightly short. I mean we didn’t have close to enough material to cover these flaps. Did we do something wrong in the build? Did we get shorted on the original material? I don’t know. Probably the former. So I reached out to Billy Payne to order more material, which he promptly sent over to me.

When the material arrived, Spork and I got right to work on it, only to discover we weren’t smart enough to figure out how to use it. The material was 15′ long, and 6′ wide. Our flaps are 8′ 3″ long and they require about 3′ 3″ of width. I have to be missing something.

The material isn't quite long enough to wrap the flap
A test strip to make sure that the material isn’t quite long enough to wrap the flap

After talking to Billy (it will fit, you are just looking at it wrong) and then talking to Robby (you aren’t crazy, he probably thinks you have a Highlander which has a smaller flap) and then talking to Billy, (you aren’t crazy, I thought you had a Highlander), we figured out what to do. Billy said to just lay a 2″ strip of finish tape down on the top leading edge. Then pull the fabric to butt up to the tape, filling the gap. Once everything is taped, finished, and painted, it won’t be visible. And with a large leading edge finish tape providing the needed overlap for safety, it will never come off or fail so a good result.

It took some extra time to lay down the tapes and then match up the material so it butted up, but didn’t overlap. But with that done, the flaps could be covered and looked good.

Flap almost wrapped
Flap almost wrapped

I’m at the point of covering where it is fun to cover. I’m comfortable with the process, and more importantly comfortable covering up my mistakes.

Installing fabric rivets in the flap
Installing fabric rivets in the flap

As I said, no rib stitching on this project. The fabric rivets were a bit intimidating at first. Now I’m thankful for how easy they are to put in vs. stitching. Score one for the SuperSTOL.

Pulling fabric rivets
Pulling fabric rivets

Here I am pulling the last rivets. I’m sure we’ll have to put another rivet somewhere on the plane, but I don’t know where it is at this point. All the interior pieces have been test fitted and everything else is paint, assembly, fiberglass, or rigging at this point. Thank you Spork for getting a pic for the last official rivet pulls on this airplane.

With progress on the last flap, I took a day that Spork was in school and took a ride to Grantsboro. When I talked to Robby, he told me that he was selling his place in Grantsboro because he and Jenny were building a house at the Outer Banks. I knew this because when I took my demo ride (way back in the beginning of this) with Robby in his SuperSTOL, we flew over a piece of land that was to be his new home some day. Seems some day had arrived.

But with Grantsboro on the chopping block, I had a problem. In my never ending quest to stupidly always leave something at Robby’s place, I’d left all the seat cushions behind in his hanger. So with a relatively free day, I took the ride to Robby’s, 2 hours away, to pick up my cushions.

Robby's hanger in Grantsboro
Where it all started

This is where this whole project started. Robby’s hanger in Grantsboro is where I took the airplane after I picked it up from the factory. It is where Spork and I spent two weeks getting the first items checked off on the build under Robby’s supervision.  It is also where Spork and I lived in an Alaska style cabin, with no insulation, while it snowed in Greenville. 

There are fond memories of this place.

With my (hopefully) last parts retrieved from Robby’s we finally have everything we need to complete the build.

Myla helping with the final flap
Myla helping with the final flap

I was really happy that Myla decided to stop in the shop and help with the build at this moment. She’d helped a little bit in the past, but with this final part being worked on, I was thankful for her company and assistance as I wrapped this last piece.

The flap, as it sits right now, needs the leading and trailing edge tapes applied. That shouldn’t take long. An hour or so.

Then I have to finish two custom inspection rings and attach them to the fuselage. They are already cut out. They just need some TLC to dress up the rough edges. Then a quick scuff and some glue and tape and they are good to go.

Then it is time to paint! I’m terrified and excited all at the same time. I hope it is something I can do a good job on. Paint is what everyone sees, and it covers up, but also reveals, your mistakes. I won’t know which one will be more prevalent until I start laying it down. Hopefully it hides more than it reveals. I think we did a good job on the covering work we did, but you never know what it will look like till you see the final product. I’m looking forward to getting started.

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