This post marks the end of our summer build. Spork and I have worked pretty much every day we could, from the last day of May till yesterday. I’d say we averaged about 5.5 days per week working on the airplane. Usually from about 7am till about 5pm, with a break for lunch, a trip to Lowes, a trip to the airport, etc thrown in there. We missed a few weeks here and there, for a trip to Grenada, the kids going to the beach with mom, summer camp, and things like that. All in we got about 6.5 weeks of work this summer. We also had cousin Cody over for a couple of weeks this summer.
If I add up all the hours we’ve spent this summer, it comes up to over 700 hours of time spent. Since we already had a few hundred hours under our belt from our time at Robby’s, we should be just about done with the airplane. Maybe 100 hours to go towards our 1000 hour build time. Apparently we are slow because we still have some covering left to do. Paint. Wiring. Hang the engine. Avionics. Rigging. I’d say we have 500 hours left but maybe it’ll go faster than I think.
Today, school starts. We will be dropping back from 5.5 days per week, 10-12 hours per day, to 2-3 days per week, 4 hours per day. If we can maintain the new pace and not hit any snags, we should be finishing up the airplane by late fall. That would suit me perfectly as it would give nice fall weather for test flights and all winter to work out the bugs before trying to make our planned trip to Sun N Fun 2019 in April. We’ll see. For now, what have we gotten done?
Step one was to prep the fuselage for covering. We aren’t done with the left wing yet, but until the new magnetometer showed up, we couldn’t do any more work on the wing. All the work on this airplane has been done in our barn. We’ve worked hard to keep things clean and less barny but no matter what we do, we still have to deal with flies getting in on occasion. Both Spork and I are kinda crazy about stopping and killing any fly that we see, and the picture above is why. The flies land on the fuselage, and then poop. They leave little black dots everywhere. We spent a solid hour just wiping the fuselage down with acetone, cleaning everything off. That was a good time to inspect every last little corner as well since after this part was done, the fuselage would be no longer accessible. We found a few places that needed to be repaired, mostly on the tail but one on in the cockpit as well.
This place was on the co-pilot side of the airplane, at the rear of the cockpit. Somewhere along the way the powder coat had been scratched and rust was starting to appear. Spork caught this one and I sat about getting it ready to repair.
There is a lot of masking off just to paint a little spot.
I mixed up some epoxy based primer, the same stuff I used on the spoilers when I painted them. It is grey, but not the same grey as the fuselage. It should be close enough though since it will all be covered anyway.
Since we were painting anyway, it was time to primer the baggage door. It is just raw aluminum stock so it can use all the help it can get. Again it was a large masking job for a small amount of painting.
The final bit of painting was to paint the bottom of the tail. This is where the plane has been either sitting on the trailer or attached to the tail stand. There were numerous small places that needed to be sanded, etched, and painted. Now all the fuselage was covered in either grey powder coat or grey epoxy primer. Nowhere for rust to get started on this thing.
There was a tip in this past month’s EAA magazine for a product called Sugru. It is a moldable putty like Play-Do but after setting it overnight, it turns into a glue/silicon thing. Soft but solid, heat and cold resistant. It is really a household repair thing but according to the EAA author it works excellent for airplanes. I already had an area in mind that needed some attention and that was the fuel line coming from the fuel selector and towards the firewall. There is a bend as the rubber hose makes the transition and I could see where over time it compresses the bend and kinks at some point, which is bad. With Sugru I was able to attach the line to the frame and hold it in position so it won’t kink, without having to use a zip tie which has its own issues. Pretty good stuff.
If I thought the wings were a big covering job, the fuselage is a whole new level. Several feet longer, with lots of places to cut around, get fitted, etc. There is a lot less glue to spread so that parts goes quicker. We had an issue with some big wrinkles on the left wing so we took extra time getting this fabric on just right before starting any attachments or cutting. Once everything was looking good, we trimmed off the excess and did an initial shrink to tighten the fabric. It came out perfectly!
It is exciting to see the covering going onto the airplane. To the layman, the airplane looks exactly like it did when we picked it up. A grey structure of tubes.
They don’t see all the work of all the fiddly bits that we’ve installed over these hundreds of hours. But when the fabric goes on, it suddenly starts to look like an airplane. Plus when the covering is complete, that will mean that paint is next and then it will really start to look like an airplane. I’m excited for that part to be done.
I think the part I’m most excited for is having the airplane on its landing gear finally. The stands are awesome for working, but until the fuselage is rolling around on its own tires it just doesn’t seem like a real airplane. Plus a fellow EAA member had some extra tires he gave me a deal on (Hi Brian!) so once initial testing is over, I can take off my normal airplane tires and install these 26″ Alaska Bushwheels. Then the plane will look like a proper plane.