December 2013 Archives

I skim coated most of the empennage fairings with straight epoxy to fill the pinholes and scratches from the sandpaper.



I then started prepping the canopy frame for painting.  First up is to rivet the canopy bow to the side channel.  I then bolted the canopy latches in place so that all of the hardware will get painted.



I masked off the areas that shouldn't get any paint, then scotchbrited everything that needed paint.



I riveted the roll bar support channel onto the roll bar, then scotchbrited the whole thing.  I used the scotchbrite disc in the die grinder to make all of the rivets completely flush to the surface to make sure they can't scratch the canopy.



I finish sanded the horizontal stabilizer fairings to 180 grit, so they're ready for a coat of primer.



I temporarily bolted the horizontal stabilizer back in place and then added the upper empennage fairing so that I could begin positioning the lower empennage fairing.



I masked off the tops of both the roll bar and canopy frame where the Sikaflex will bond and gave everything a coat of primer. 



I also primed the roll bar support channel cover, mounting brackets and the bolts that attach the mounting brackets to the roll bar.



I riveted the mounting angles that hold the canopy latch handle as well as the lock.  I removed the lock's cam so that it doesn't get painted since it would just immediately get scratched up.  Afterward, I primed this area with some self-etching primer.



I also drilled the lower empennage fairing to the fuselage and horizontal stabilizer.  The two holes in the fuselage go through the longeron and replace a couple of rivets.  I'll add standard nutplates here just like the forward holes in the the upper empennage fairing.  The rear nutplate in the horizontal stabilizer goes through the flange of the rear spar, and I can use a standard nutplate there as well.  The forward hole just goes into the horizontal stabilizer skin, and the inner rib would make it a pain to install a nutplate there.  My plan is to order a couple of Click Bond adhesive mounted nutplates to install here.

Unfortunately, the fairing doesn't fit perfectly.  The vertical flange fits nice and tight against the side of the fuselage, but there's a fairly large gap in the middle between the fairing and the horinzontal stabilizer.  I'm going to spend some time with a heat gun to see if I can reshape it to fit better.



I thought I still had some interior paint left over, but it had gone bad in the can.  I called yesterday and had to have a quart overnighted to me.  It came today, so I wrapped up the painting.  Here's the inside of the cabin where the sidewall will be visible behind the interior panel.



Here's a bunch of the smaller parts with final paint.  I might end up having to reshoot the roll bar support channel cover since I think some dust settled on it.



Here's the canopy frame.  The red stripe along the arch is some electrical tape that is masking off where the Sikaflex primer will go.



Here's the roll back and support channel.



I also mixed up some epoxy and skim coated the final parts of the empennage.  Here's the rudder bottom fairing.



And here's the top of the vertical stabilizer.



4 Hours for 4 Ounces

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I've tried to take every opportunity to shed weight out of the airplane.  The canopy latch was a solid bar of aluminum that is 5/8" thick, so it was fairly heavy (nearly 10oz).  I stopped by the TechShop to try to lighten the part a bit.  You can see here that I machined out most of the structure. It's now under 6 oz, so I saved about 1/4 lb. This is the bottom side, so the top looks untouched.



I was having a hard time keeping the latch handle clamped down since it's such an awkward shape.  While machining the inside edge, the part shifted and I almost cut through one of the most visible faces.  It took nearly 4 hours to do this, almost half of which was spent trying various methods to clamp the parts down to keep them from moving.  1 oz per hour is easily the most time I've spent trying to save weight on any part on the airplane.



I also masked off around part of the floor that needs to be painted to match the carpet since parts of it is visible around the seats.  I'll paint this first thing in the morning..



Well, this sucks.  The replacement can of paint doesn't remotely match the original color they sent me.  I'm going to have to call them tomorrow and probably send a sample down for them to match.  I was hoping to start installing the canopy today, but this probably delays that a week.  Oh well, I have plenty of other things to work on.



I painted the floor a dark color that pretty closely matches the carpet.  It doesn't have to match exactly since you only see tiny bits of it.



I finished sanding all of the control surface fairings.  These are ready for a coat of primer.



Finally, I drilled the right side lower empennage fairing to the horizontal stabilizer and fuselage.



Primed Empennage Tips

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I shot a fairly thick coat of epoxy primer on the empennage tip fairings.  This should hopefully fill all the scratches from the previous sanding and smooth things out nicely.  Here's the left horizontal stabilizer tip.



And here are the elevator tips.



This is the top of the rudder.



...and here is the bottom.



Finally, the top of the vertical stabilizer.



I sanded down all of the primer to level the surfaces of the empennage tip fairings.  I'm reasonably happy with how these turned out, but they could definitely use some more sanding and filling to be perfectly flat.  I may leave that for the painter though (assuming they will do that).



You can see some of the filler and gel coat color through the thin spots in some of the coats where I had to sand fairly aggressively to remove the scratches.



The rudder stop needed a bit of trimming to allow the rudder to reach maximum deflection.  The stop is made of some sort of plastic that is tough to trim, but I finally stumbled on using my oscillating multifunction tool with a sanding pad attachment.  This made quick work of the stops and I can now swing the rudder 35º each side of center.



35º results in 1 1/8" clearance between the rudder and the end of the elevator.



Now that I had the full rudder swing, I could measure for and fabricate the steel links that connect the rudder pedals to the rudder cables.  I needed 5" on the right, so I started with fabricating two of those and installed them.



Next, I clamped the rudder in trail with the vertical stabilizer and then clamped the rudder pedals together so that they were aligned.  I then measured the left side at 4 7/8".  I only had enough steel to fabricate one of the two pieces, so I'll have to pick up some more.  I'm going to have to adjust the pedal geometry.  Right now, the brake pedals are too far back and it would be hard to avoid hitting the brakes when using the rudder.  Fortunately, the Grove master cylinders are somewhat adjustable, so I'm hopeful that I can find a geometry that works.



My buddy Andre stopped by this morning and helped me finish riveting the final skin on the aircraft.  I had left the edge of this skin unriveted so that I could easily get the canopy pins in and out during the final canopy fitting, but that's done now.



I adjusted the brake master cylinders as far as they will go, but it wasn't enough to prevent inadvertent brake activation.  I had another problem too that I didn't realize last night.  With either of the rudder pedals all the way forward, the inner pedals hit the center heat box.  They don't hit it square, but instead rub along the side.  That's clearly unacceptable, so I decided to fabricate shorter links.



I took 1 3/8" out of each link which pulls the pedals back just far enough that they don't contact the heat box.  This helped with the brake geometry as well since the rudder pedals are more tipped back (relative to my feet) with the shorter links.  I spent some time in the plane after making this change and I think this will work well.  Ignore the fact that there is only one link here.  There will be one on each side of the weldment flange and cable fitting to avoid introducing twisting forces into either one, but I just fabricated on per side for the trial fitting.



I finished fabricating the rudder pedal links and then powder coated them matte black.  Here they are in my small toaster oven curing.



Finally, I installed these for good and cotter-pinned them.  I didn't get a picture of it, but I also reinstalled the cotter pins in the top mounting bolts of the brake master cylinders and tightened the jam nuts.



Here's the right side.  I tightened the rear bolt tight enough that the links won't pivot relative to the cable fitting, so the only pivot point is at the rudder pedals.  Otherwise, the weight of the links and bolt would cause the aft joint to sag which would make it more likely to catch on something.  This way, it's essentially just an extension of the cable fitting.



Before wrapping up for the evening, I installed the adel clamps that anchor the fuel tank vent lines to the bracket that ties the firewall angle to the longerons.  You can see the adel clamp in the lower left corner of this picture.  Getting these on was more of a pain than I expected.  I had to remove almost all of the padding on the footwell floor and lay across the spar on my back with my head pressed into the rudder pedals.  It took me nearly 30 minutes to install these two screws!



Sanded Canopy Components

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I received the correct paint color from Stewart Systems (I hope), so I sanded down all of the components I previously painted.  Some of the components had some dust or overspray on them anyway since I sprayed them flat, so I'm glad I'm repainting them anyway.



The canopy frame was the worst to sand because there are so many nooks and crannies.  I still need to wipe everything down with solvent before spraying, and I'm sure I'll need to put on at least a couple of coats, so painting is going to have to wait until tomorrow night.



I painted a bunch of screws although I later realized there are still a few more I need to paint.



I also repainted the upper canopy latch.



Here's the roll bar.



And here's the cover for the roll bar support.  I painted it vertically this time to keep the dust off and it turned out much better.



Finally, here's the canopy frame.



Installed Roll Bar

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I installed the roll bar for good tonight.



Remember to install the AN509-10R10 screws that are hidden behind this skin before installing the roll bar.  I only installed the lower AN509-8R8 screw completely since I need to be able to flex this skin back to install the rear window.



There are a bunch of fasteners to install inside the roll bar.  It's a pain to reach in here, but I managed to get everything in place without too much trouble.



I also shot and bucked the rivets that attach the roll bar support channel to the aft fuselage.  There are 8 AN426AD4-7 rivets tying the top skin, baggage aft wall bulkhead and roll bar support channel together as well as a few more AN470AD4-4 rivets tying the channel to the bulkhead.



Finally, I installed the canopy support channel cover for good.  I need to paint a few of these AN509-8R8 (or shorter) screws and replace these at some point, but that can wait for now.



After a quick trip to Disneyland with the family, I resumed work installing the canopy components for the last time. Here are the guide blocks installed.



I also installed the canopy lift strut mounts.



I installed some UHMW tape on the canopy latch mounting brackets and then trimmed them flush with the edges.  Punching the bolt holes was a pain, but I got it done.



I got the canopy latch back from the anodizer and installed it as well.



Finally, I installed the canopy frame and the lift struts.  I got the bolts in, but am not going to torque them down unless I'm sure the canopy frame will not need to come off again.



Installed Canopy

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I fabricated some spacers to hold the canopy frame bow in the correct position relative to the roll bar and then clamped the two together.  I also created some spacers out of some scrap baffle seal material to space the canopy the correct distance from the canopy frame bow.  I then removed the electrical tape that was along the top of the canopy frame bow and primed it with the Sika 209 primer.



I also masked and applied a couple of coats of the Sika 209 primer to the aft edge of the canopy.



I reinstalled the canopy and installed all of the screws along the sides.



I climbed inside through the open back window and applied a preliminary bead of Sikaflex 295 UV adhesive between the spacers.  Once the adhesive sets up, I'll remove the spacers and apply a single bead across the whole box.  Getting inside this way was tough.  I'm 6'4", so it was quite the contortion act.  I ended up laying down in the baggage area and slithering under the cross bar.



I added a little bit of weight across the center to hold the canopy down against the spacers.



In preparation for fiberglassing the front edge of the canopy, I sanded the skin with some 80 grit sandpaper.



I then laid up some electrical tape to define the upper edge of the fiberglass fairing.



I laid up two layers of black electrical tape 1" up from the bottom edge of the plexiglass and then laid up 1 layer of yellow electrical tape slightly back from the edge of the black electrical tape.  This will be more visible through the filler and help me sand uniformly.  I'll sand the plexiglass below the line and lay up the fiberglass tomorrow.



I removed all of the masking so that I could open the canopy and climb inside to finish applying the adhesive.  Jenn caught a picture of me working.



This is a lousy picture, but I applied a bead of adhesive on both the inside and outside of the canopy frame bow.



After scraping most of the excess adhesive away with an aluminum scraper I fabricated with a small radius, I removed the tape that was defining both sides of the bead.  I used my finger dipped in mineral spirits to create a nice smooth fillet.  It's not perfect, but I'm happy with it.



I still need to do a final trim of the front edge of the rear window, so I put some masking tape on the roll bar and marked the aft edge of the canopy.



After installing the rear window, I transferred this line to the rear window.  I'll sand close to this line and then start the final fitting.  Van's specifies a 1/32" gap between the canopy and rear window.



Today is Christmas, but between our family celebration in the morning and dinner with my dad and step-mom in the evening, I managed to put in 4-5 hours working on the rear window.  I didn't think fitting this would take so long, but there were several adjustments that had to be made.  I sanded to the line I marked yesterday and then repeated closing the canopy, marking 1/32" back, and sanding to the line until the canopy could close fully.  I still need to open the gap further, but I could start trying the get the two surfaces to align.



Due to the geometry of the roll bar and canopy, the sides of the rear window were pushed out beyond the sides of the canopy.  The number 2 here is the number of 32nds of an inch that the window side needs to pull in (from 0.124" to 0.061").



Here you can easily see how bad the misalignment is with a straightedge held against the rear window.



I masked the inside surface of the rear window the first 8" or so up the side and sanded down to the required thickness.  This surface will be glued later, so you'll never see this or likely even notice that the window is thinner here.  I'm also not worried about any strength loss since the whole surface will be glued instead of just a couple of screws through this area.



After sanding, you can now see that the sides line up nicely.  Tomorrow will be opening up the gap and getting the rest of the surfaces as aligned as possible.



I estimated fitting the rear window was going to take me a few hours, but I forgot to take into account how much of a fucking perfectionist I am :-).  After spending most of two days on this, I'm very happy with how it is turning out.  Here's the window installed for good with all the screws in place.



I adjusted all of the spacers so the window is almost perfectly in line with the canopy when it is latched.



Finally, I put the first batch of Sikaflex in place between the spacers.  I'll put the final bit of Sikaflex on in the morning and I'll know for sure how well it turned out.



I came out this morning and pulled all of the spacers holding the rear window in place.  I closed the canopy to check the fit and I'm super happy with the fit.  I needed to apply sealant to both the front and back of the joint, so I climbed into the baggage area.  This was a huge pain, and I'm not looking forward to having to do this in the future for maintenance.  Since Jenn was entertained by my discomfort, she caught another picture of me.



Here's the finished bead of Sikflex.  The rear window is officially done!



With all the adhesive work done, I can start putting some of the interior in place.  I can't install everything since I'll still need access to do the final assembly, but I can go ahead and install some things that won't need to come out.  First up is the seat belts.



Next, I installed the upper side panels.  The lower panels can't go in yet since the seat pans have to come out to attach the wings.  I also installed the pilot's seat so that I could adjust the seat belts.



In addition to sanding the skin in front of the canopy, I sanded the edge of the canopy in preparation for fiberglassing.  Also, the front edge of the canopy was sitting a bit above the canopy frame, so I fabricated three small clips that I pop riveted to the canopy frame to hold the edge down.  I painted the back side of these black so that they won't show through on the inside.



Here's a closeup of one of the clips.  The outer two pop rivets are hidden inside by the canopy frame brace, but the center one will show on the inside, so I'll have to paint it.



I mixed up some dry micro with some black pigment and filled the gap between the leading edge of the canopy and the skin.



I impregnated some 8.9oz satin weave cloth with epoxy and marked strips of widths in 1/4" increments from 1/2" to 2".



I laid the layers of glass from narrowest to widest to create a nice transition from the skin to the canopy.  This will still need a bunch of filler to make the transition have a uniform radius, but this will provide the strength for the fairing.



I added a couple of rivnuts in the bottom of the roll bar, spaced for a RAM diamond mount (RAP-B-238).



Here's the GoPro mounted.  It's just to the right of the center line to clear the canopy latch.  You can also see the live preview on my phone.  I can capture the entire instrument panel, the sides of both people's heads and a great view outside.



I mixed up some filler and applied a layer to the fairing and shaped it with a piece of aluminum that I cut to match the curve of the sanding block I'm using.



While I had some filler mixed up, I added a little more to the sides of the upper cowling to match the curve of the fuselage.



Here's the other side.  I'll sand this completely flush tomorrow.



One of the readers of my site noticed that I had mounted the air/oil separator's vacuum valve backward. Fortunately, there was room to turn the valve around without interfering with anything.



I zip-tied the breather tube to the fuel line and oil line to keep it from rubbing.



The breather line nicely clears the firewall, oil filter and prop governor bracket.



I'm no longer using the nutplate on the firewall that used to secure the breather line, so I filled it with an AN525-10R6 screw to keep the firewall sealed.



I sanded down the filler I applied yesterday.



As expected, there are some low spots, so I'll need another coat or two, but the overall shape is getting very close.



I mixed up another coat and squeegeed it on. 



The cowl has these covers over the holes to access the side hinge pins.  I decided to fasten the hinge pins to the covers, so I ground a groove in the back of the cover and mixed up some JB Weld and glued them together.  You can see the back side of the cover in the mirror above the cover.



I've had these vinyl letters for quite a while, but I finally took a few minutes and put them on the vertical stabilizer.  There is another one on the other side.



In preparation for my imminent move to the airport, I went through all of my tools and pulled out everything that needed to go to the hangar.  I also picked up a bunch of new tools (wrenches, socket set, screwdrivers, etc.).



I also put all of my metal working tools in a tool bag since I shouldn't need any of them any more.  This bag is ridiculously heavy (70-80 lbs at least).



The second coat of filler I applied this morning has cured, so I sanded it down most of the way.  The middle section is nearly perfect, but the sides still need some work.



Last Night at Home

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I stopped by the airport this morning and signed the lease on the hangar at the South County airport (E16).  This is so much nicer than our Bonanza hangar at Reid Hillview (KRHV).  It is exactly what I was hoping for, a north facing hangar on a row with lots of other RVs.  I'll be moving in tomorrow!



Anyway, back to work.  The overall shape of the canopy fairing is great, but there were a couple of low spots and some holes.  I mixed up another small batch of filler and took care of those.



After the filler cured, I sanded it down.  Since the shape of the fairing is now set, I pulled off the yellow electrical tape.  I also pulled the rest of the plastic covering to take a look at the canopy.  There are a few spots with overspray on it and some other bits of adhesive residue that needs to be cleaned off, but overall it looks great.



I pulled off the tail since it won't fit in the truck with the tail on.  While I had the horizontal stabilizer off, I added four more nutplates where the lower empennage fairing attaches to the longeron.



I added a couple of bolts in the tail so that any loads on the tailwheel are transferred into the structure better during the ride to the airport.  Without this, any vertical loads on the tailwheel would be applied to the bottom edge of this bulkhead.



I spent most of the day trying to get everything ready for the move tomorrow.  The plane is off the wheel dollies, all of the tools are in the tool boxes and I've cleaned out underneath the airplane.  I still need to get some stuff off the shelves, but everything else is ready to go.



Moving Day!

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Today was moving day.  My dad, brother and a bunch of friends came over to help me move everything.  We ran one load down to the airport with almost everything but the fuselage, then came back for that.  The lift gate was not wide enough to get the gear completely on, so we laid a piece of plywood over it to give us a little margin of error.



Here's the fuselage all strapped down for the ride.  It worked well and arrived unscathed.



Here's some of the moving crew.  Thanks to all of you for your help!



Several of the guys (including one local pilot who stopped by when he saw the moving truck) stayed around until evening and we got both wings mounted (but not torqued) and the horizontal stabilizer installed.  Thanks guys!



Unfortunately, when hammering in the bolts on the left side, I ended up bending the gusset that ties the spar to the lower longeron.  It's a fairly gentle bend, so I'm going to try and bend it back before ordering a replacement.  Fortunately, this part is fairly easy to remove.  It would be a serious pain to damage a part that is permanently installed or hard to access.

Update: On the advice of another builder who follows my site, I called Van's about this and spoke with Joe Blank.  He said that as long as the piece wasn't bent back and forth until it work hardened, it would be fine.  Although this is exactly what I expected them to say, it was good to have some further piece of mind.



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