Hours: 1.5
Assembly 24.5

Finished the modification to allow the lower rudder fairing to be removable.  The plans call for pop rivets but I decided to follow what some other builders did and install nut-plates in this fairing so that it can be easily removed.  I don’t think I’ll do the same thing with the other fairings in the tail, but this one needs to have a light installed in it later.  Now it can be removed easily and reinstalled which will allow the light to installed and maintained more easily.

I had some help in this from both Daniel and Zachary.  One helped me trim the fairing to fit and the other helped with riveting the nut-plates in place.
I’ve now done all I’m going to do on the tail section before we get into a hangar (several years from now).


Hours: 9.5
Assembly: 23.0

Several little things here.  First, the wiring for the electric trim-tab servo is now complete and waiting for a cable to be plugged into it.  This of course will happen a very long time from now when the airplane is almost complete.  But I took some time to make it easy on myself later.  I bought some nice locking connectors, soldered the wires in place and mounted the connector in a spot which will make it “easy” to reach when the trim tab servo is mounted.  One thing I learned is that in the future, I’m going to get a wire crimper and connectors that take crimped pins rather than the solder cups.  Once the wires are soldered to the cups, it’s not possible to get the heat-shrink tubing around it.  This wasn’t a problem here since I slid the heat-shrink tubing on before soldering, but in the end, I could have used longer tubing for a better look and then another, larger diameter heat shrink tube over that whole thing to give it some more strain-relief.  This one is fine, but in the future, I’ll be crimping instead of soldering.

Also included the pin-out right here in this blog so that I’ll always be able to find it when I need it.  I do have the sheet I took the picture of in my airplane folder, but just in case I lose it, it’ll be here too.

Then Scott and I got the elevators fully attached to the horizontal stabilizer.  This was described in a previous post.  It was more of the same.  But now the job is finished.  Both elevators are aligned and had holes drilled into the control horns, etc.  They’re ready to go when we’re ready to go.  One thing I had to do was figure out how many turns the bearings could be backed out and still be safe.  I found out that they need to be fully engaged to the nut-plate that they screw into.  That means that all the threads have to be in play, so to speak.  I found this position by counting threads.  There are 6 full revolutions of threads in the nut plate.  This means that after 6 full revolutions of the bearing, all threads are in play.  This is the point at which the bearing can’t be backed out any further.  I then turned them in and counted the turns until the starting spot as indicated by the plans were reached.  I counted 1.5 turns.  To get the elevator to swing freely over the full range prescribed in the plans (30 degrees up and 25 degrees down) we pretty much had to back all but one of the bearings out that 1.5 turns.  When I checked up on this, I discovered that many of the other builders had the same experience.

Finally, I got back to the trim-tab anchors.  The plans call for these to be riveted to the cover plate.  But long ago, I decided to buy better anchors (it is agreed by most everyone that the anchors supplied in the kit are pitiful – just a nut welded to a flat piece of metal).  And apparently with these anchors, it’s very difficult to install the trim tab cables.  So others have done similar things to what I did.  I bought some self-locking pem-nuts (actually, I got them as samples from the manufacturer) and made little nut-plates to fit over the holes in the anchors.  I wanted to press the pem-nuts right to the anchor, but the hole required would have been too close to the edge of the anchor, so I made nut-plates with scrap aluminum and the pems.  Then I riveted these nut-plates to the anchors and voila, I have removable anchors.

Then I’m about to put the lower fairing on the rudder.  Because I want to put some navigation lights back here, I don’t want to permanently install the fairing with pop-rivets.  I found some people on-line who used nut-plates installed on the fairing in order to make it removable.   I have all the parts and will be doing that probably over the weekend.  Then it’s just build a cradle for the wings and wait for the wing kit to arrive.


Hours: 13.5
Assembly 13.5

Because I still have a month before the wings arrived, I decided to go through the remainder of the plans and do whatever I can of the assembly.  I wish I could simply assemble the entire tailcone with the HS and VS, etc.  But if I do, I’ll have a real problem getting it out of the garage, so I’m just going to do whatever I can.
The first step was to store the tailcone.  It’s an inch too wide to get in through any door in the house so storing it in the airplane room just isn’t an option (not a surprise, by the way).  One option was to build a loft in the garage to store it, another was to hang it from the ceiling.  In the end, I asked my father-in-law to build a nice little platform which he did, and we stood the tailcone up on the platform with its front side down and pushed it into a quiet corner of the garage.  The platform is necessary because part of the skin extends forward (and therefore down off the side of the platform).  Without the platform, this wedge of skin would have to bend from the weight.

Next, I fabricated some parts that will be used in the final assembly of the tailcone and the HS.  I also had to fabricate a couple of brackets for the trim servo brackets.  The annoying thing about this job was that I bought the brackets pre-made from several months ago for $12.00 and they not only had holes in the wrong position, but were also made from cheap aluminum angle!  I didn’t realize this until they were riveted in place.  As a result, I had to remove the brackets and fabricate my own from the angle provided in the kit to do the job.  Thankfully, I had no issues in the end.  My version of the brackets turned out just shy of perfect.  I’ll definitely think twice before buying anything from that company again.  I even wrote an email about it and big surprise, I got no answer.

As mentioned, I also put together the bracket and mounting structure for the electric trim tab servo.  This will be wired to equipment in the cockpit for controlling the position of the trim tabs.  This part was a lot of fun because I was able to attach it to a battery to test the motion and do some preliminary adjustments on the cables.   I’ve finally seen something move!
Next was getting the elevators mounted to the horizontal stabilizer.  At the moment, the left elevator is almost finished being connected.  Not an easy job, as it turns out.  Scott came out and was a very big help on that.  It goes on and comes off for adjustment and then back on and off for adjustment and then back on and off for adjustment many times.  I expect over the next several days he’ll be helping me finish the job on the left elevator and then get the right side on there as well.  In the process, we needed to buy some new tool from Sears and some of the kids (Zach and Scott to be specific) decided to play a little “Three Stooges.”  The stooges are actually one of their favorite things to watch on TV these days.  As I was looking at something I heard behind me something that sounded a whole lot like Curly saying, “oh, oh, oh, oh, oh” and turned to find the last picture in this series.  Building an airplane is fun!


Hours: 2.5
Tailcone: 99.3
After getting some advice about access not being a big problem and realizing I would need as many 3/32 clecos as possible for the wing kit, I decided to finish the last pieces of the tailcone that I said in the last post I would wait until assembly to do. That means that the aft top skin is now riveted in place and after I get some more primer shipped here, I’ll get the battery and bell-crank bolted in place.  Next steps will be to find a place to store the tailcone.  It’s not going to fit through the door to get into the “airplane room” where all the other pieces are waiting.  I’m thinking I’ll either build a loft in the garage to store it or stand it up on its fat end on a platform in a corner.  We’ll see.
Other than that, I am happy to report that we have ordered the wing kit and expect it sometime in early to mid August.  Until then, I may do some things like buy and install the static air ports, maybe install a NACA vent, maybe order an autopilot servo bracket and install it, an external battery port.  Or maybe I’ll do nothing.  Time will tell.


Hours: 5.0
Tailcone: 96.8  —  Complete**
We’re going to call the tailcone complete at this point.  Technically, the aft top skin still needs to be riveted on and some parts bolted to the frame, so according to the plans, I’m not quite finished with the tailcone.  However, the forward top skin is intentionally left off until we’re ready to attach the tailcone to the fuselage (according to the plans) and I’ve decided to also leave off the aft top skin for the time being to allow better access for things which will be mounted back there later.  For example, there are some sensors for the avionics which will go back there and some wire runs for lights, etc.
In other news, I mentioned in an earlier post about a spot I dented in one of the stiffeners.  I decided to reinforce this portion of the stiffener and there are pictures of before and after.
I’ve also had an inspection from an EAA Tech. Counselor.  Ralph Hoover of EAA chapter 186 (among other places) came to the house and spent a couple of hours looking over my build so far.  His comment was that it was above average workmanship and that he wishes he saw more work of my quality.  That made me feel good.  I’d prefer “excellent” workmanship, of course, but considering I’m a first-time airplane builder, I’ll gratefully accept “above average”.
One of my concerns was the “oil-canning” in one spot in one of my elevators (that’s the cha-chunk sound like when you squeeze an oil can) but he thought nothing of it.  I suppose even I knew it was fairly mild.  And that corroborates the comments I was given from the Van’s tech support people (Van’s are the people who make the kit).  Another concern I had was that the trim tabs aren’t perfect because some of the hinge joints are not perfectly aligned.  This causes a little squeaking on one side and a little movement where normally there shouldn’t be.  Ralph felt that it was fine, that I should just pull the hinge pins and do what I can to straighten any of the joints and to just keep my eye on those joints after we’re flying to make sure no cracks develop.  He didn’t seem to think they would develop cracks, rather, he said after I start flying, in time they would wear a little and loosen up naturally, but just to be aware and keep an eye on them.
Then he invited us all to the airport for a bar-b-que and so I brought Zach, Daniel and Audra with me.  While there, Ralph showed us his RV-7a (which has been flying for a few years).  It’s a real nice airplane, too.  Zach took a real interest in the engine area (the cowling was off) and asked a ton of questions, which Ralph very patiently and enthusiastically answered.  It was a lot of fun.  Scott and Laura were on a weekend trip, so they missed out.
At this point then, what I need to do is order the wing kit which I’m planning to do this week (or maybe next week, probably) and then start researching some of the options available.  Several things get mounted in the wings like auto-pilot servos and pitot tubes and landing lights, etc, so I have to know what those things are and in some cases have them in hand when I start building the wings.


Hours: 8.5
Tailcone: 91.8
Making progress toward closing up the tailcone.  The tail section where the empennage attaches is just about complete.  Some tough sections in there getting a bucking bar into tight places.
And just a few extra pictures.  One of Audra wearing my shoes and the other of Audra preparing for when the pool gets set up (which it now is).  She doesn’t like getting her face wet so thought she’d practice in a big bowl of water.


05/28/2011 – 05/30/2011
Hours: 7.2
Tailcone: 83.3
Got the side stiffeners all riveted to the sides along with the bottom stiffeners to the bottom.  Also got the sides riveted to the frames and bulkheads.  I got Scott to help and in about 15 minutes he was able to buck rivets as well as I can do it.  It took me quite a bit longer to learn this art.  In the past, I always did the bucking while he managed the gun, but he wanted to try bucking so, anticipating the future where someone will have to crawl inside the airplane to do the bucking, I figured now was a really good time for Scott to learn how to do it.  Guess who’s going to be crawling into tight spots to buck rivets from now on?
One serious issue I ran into while riveting one of the side stiffeners was in four places the bucking bar slipped and dented the stiffener.  (These were areas where I was bucking and riveting by myself before I got Scott to help.)  In three of these cases, the damage was very minor.  But in one, it was a little worse than I’m comfortable with.  I’ve smoothed all the damaged areas out with the little scotch bright wheel and I’m going to drill out a few inches worth of rivets on either side of the worst damaged spot and put a J-Channel doubler right over the original J-Channel stiffener.  When the EAA Tech. councilor comes by, I’ll be sure to point it out to him for a closer inspection, but from my research, I believe this is a very appropriate step to take in order to prevent cracking or buckling in this area when we eventually get this thing flying.