Wheel Pants, etc.

Total time: 2700 hours
Wheel pants: 51.9 hours

The wheel pants and gear leg fairings are complete. And this marks the end of the large fiberglass fittings. There’s still some finishing work to be done on the pants and the cowling along with the wing tips. Mostly painting and smoothing out the edges and the like. These things I’ll do here and there at home after the airplane is moved to the hangar. And there’s still the air inlet that has to be done which is some more fiberglass work and the filtered air box. (And the intersection fairings I decided to wait on until the wings are installed.) But nothing like I’ve been doing for the better part of the past year.

The pants and fairings all appear to be aligned well and look pretty good. Some issues came up. The plans continue to be terrible. There are measurements given in the plans which are not correct. For example. A measurement is given from the floor to the center of the wheel. Then another measurement from the floor to the top of a spacer. Problem is a new tire doesn’t match the dimensions assumed in the plans. And if you make the spacer according to the plans you’re wheel pants will be too low. I spoke to Van’s and they told me to make the spacer bigger. That’s what I did. But after the fact when I see how thick the shims need to be to hold the pant to the bracket int he correct position, I have to wonder if it’s the other number that’s right – and my wheel-pants are a bit too high now. Given the choice I’d rather have them a little high than a little low so I’m no longer concerned about that.

Another issue is the front pant. If you measure from the center of the tire backward and align the back end of the pant at that mark, you will need to cut out FAR more at the top middle than the plans show – (like more than an inch more). I just followed the measurements given and that part worked out OK. And the template they provide for trimming the front part of the leg fairing: first of all, how do you use it? The template is flat and the fairing is a very complex curved surface? Well, I just made my best guess and then spent a whole lotta time trimming it to actually fit. And my favorite was where the plans say to set the fairing for a “best fit”… What on earth does this mean? I can make it a best fit against the top of the gear leg? Or I can make it a best fit with regard to aligning it with the airflow? You’d think that going against the brackets would be the “best fit” but that makes the fairing sit way too high – especially since they have you trim the bottom for a good fit before this part. In the end I aligned for airflow and added a liquid shim at the mounting points to prevent them from being squeezed together when the screws are tightened. … It’s all fine in the end. They all look pretty good and are all aligned pretty good with the airflow.

And to make the whole thing work correctly I had to jack the airplane up off the ground. So I bought two $12 jacks from wall-mart. Then Vinny (an all-around expert at many things) came up with a very simple idea for a rock-stable jack platform – much easier and much cheaper than anything I’ve seen others use for the same purpose.


Total: 2648.1
Cowling: 100.0 hours

This was a frustrating step. Seems like every task had some repair associated with it. The plans are very poor in this section (in my opinion) and the quality of the parts provided in the kit are also not that great. To be fair one big mistake was all my own so my problems can’t all be blamed on the plans. I got a great deal more fiberglass experience than intended, to be sure. (And I thought the doors were a challenge. The cowling made the doors look a little easy.)

A lot of details are recorded in the picture captions.

The good news is that the cowling is mostly complete and fits very well. It also come on and off very easily. There are a few things left to do like coat the inside with a thin layer of epoxy and a few areas still need some body work, but nothing significant – the kid of stuff I’ll do while doing something else.

Cabin top finally done

total hours: 2508.6
cabin top this session: 141.5
cabin top total: 280.8

Wow. All the windows are installed, the body work done around the doors and windows, The windscreen fairing and the cabin top is primed. When it goes to the painter there will no doubt be some improvements he’ll be able to make, but it’s not too bad a job if I do say so myself. Took a LOT longer than anticipated, but it does look pretty good. Especially the windscreen fairing. I’m actually surprised with how good that turned out.

There’s still some cosmetics to be dealt with on the windows. And some minor scratches in the side windows to deal with. Yes, with a big box of bran new micr-fiber towels at my feet, right after window install was complete, I proceeded to wipe them down thoroughly with paper-towels. This was at about 1:00 AM when it happened. And now there are a thousand little scratches in these windows. What a dummy. Mercifully I realized my idiocrity before doing the same thing to the windscreen. There’s also a little bit of adhesive smear near the edges of the inside of the windows. I think I’ll be able to fix all these issues with the windows.

On the windows I used Lord adhesive. It required just under two tubes for me. Doing two windows at a time really minimized waste. The window install was actually really easy.

The transition from window to cabin top was very time consuming. I used a 2″ fiber-glass tape thinking this would save me time. It didn’t. There’s just no way to get it to stick reliably to the windscreen. I roughed up the edges of those windows till they were white. The glass tape delaminated everywhere. I tried a few time and in the end just pulled it all off. I used a mixture of flox/micro/cab-o-sil and made the window transitions with that, blending it nicely into the cabin top and leaving an edge the thickness of electrical tape on the window. It came out pretty good. Not perfect in some spots, but pretty good for an amateur doing body work for the first time.

Put conductive aluminum tape on rear of cabin top to form ground plane for top comm antenna. Made sure we got good conductivity with the airframe. Then epoxied it over and primed.

And that’t mostly it. Anything forgotten will be in the pictures. … Oh, and I also installed the seats, That took all of about 10 minutes. See pictures.

Next update should be engine install!

Panel complete and other stuff

Total: 2367.1
wiring: 117
Panel: 2.5
Total wiring & panel: 263.5
Plumbing: 4.5
Total plumbing: 39.5
Firewall forward: 3.0
Total firewall forward: 6.1
Misc: 4.0
Total Misc: 9.7

So many wires. Little wires. Big wires. long wires. short wires. pins and sockets. So many pins and sockets. … The panel wiring is complete. The two main Dynon screens, the GTN650, and the audio panel (PMA-450A) are not yet installed because I don’t yet own them. But I did purchase the connector kits for those screens and have those installed with the trays. So when I do eventually buy these avionics I’ll just slide them in and be done. This was the part of the build I had been looking forward to from the start. It’s the only part so far where there was no learning curve to scale. The reason being that by profession I’m an EE and have plenty of experience with wires and circuits and pins and sockets. This was the easiest part of the build for me. … Now we’ll be back to the tough stuff – like the engine and installing windows and plenty more fiber-glass and body work.

Because of a misunderstanding on how the GD-40 (CO detector) interfaces with the other equipment I decided to drill a couple more holes in the panel and install the button and LED for this sensor. I had thought it just talked directly to the Dynon equipment but it doesn’t. So I added the button and light and the associated labels.

There was this annoying gap in the front fresh-air vents where they came in contact (or rather didn’t come in contact) with the sides of the airplane. I fixed this. The fresh-air vents look pretty good now, if I do say so myself.

All the pitot and static and AOA lines run fore-aft. This is done. The three lines run from their respective points in the tail and wings to the ADAHRS units in the back as well as the D6 in the front. There’s also a static air switch to open the static line to the cabin right on the panel.

I decided to install the remote magnetic compass for the backup instrument (Dynon D6). This is done and sits right under the ADAHRS units in the back.

Firewall forward: got the pass-throughs and a bunch of other stuff in place (almost ready to hang the engine).

Just lots of little things too numerous to mention.


Aft Top Skin

Total: 2236.1 hours
Aft top skin: 9.0 hours

Nothing special here. Rivited on the aft top skin. The fuse is now entirely closed up. This signifies the end to major airframe construction. There’s still a lot more to go. But this feels like a milestone.

Also had some fun at the airport while arranging for our hangar. The girls had a great time for over an hour flying the little airplane in the pictures. Also made a trip to Green Wood Hills Bible camp ground in PA where the girls played on a rocket ship. Also had a fun trip in a rental to Chapel Hill, NC (KIGX) to pick up a friend.

Panel labels

Total: 2227.1 hours
Total Panel and wiring: 144.0 hours
Total Misc: 5.7 hours
Panel since last time: 30.0 hours
Misc: 4.5 hours

Painted and put labels on the instrument panel. This process was more involved than anticipated. But in the end, it looks really good. I used a system called DecalProFx to turn the labels, once designed, into decals. Then when I was happy I clearcoated the whole panel. To design the labels, believe it or not, I used PowerPoint.  The decalPro process is a little involved and took a few hours to get “good” at it. The hardest part turned out being positioning the decals on the panel but I found a process that worked fairly well.

  1. Design the decal with a nice thick boarder (the boarder is required when making the decal anyway)
  2. Print it on regular paper and cut it out
  3. position it on the panel and hold it in place on one side with scotch tape.
  4. carefully cut out the interior with a small pair of scissors and tape down the rest of the boarder.
  5. Make the decal and use the boarders as a guide for positioning. Also on the decal put in a circle for holes in the panel where applicable. Mask the holes when applying the glue to keep them from sticking. The holes make a great guide.

Note that I also learned to mask off everything on the “mylar carrier” but the graphic itself from the glue application. This makes positioning a lot easier since nothing will stick except the graphic itself.

Because I wanted to put a graphic on the pilot side air vent indicating the location of the parking brake, I also created the bracket necessary to hold the brake pull-cable and I went ahead and installed the whole thing. And I also put a graphic on the head of the pull-cable.

Lot’s of time but worth it, I think. The panel labels look very good in my opinion. The labels themselves look professional. The positioning of the labels could be more precise in a few places but I don’t think the positional flaws will be noticeable once the panel is all populated with switches and screens and all.  I would recommend the decalPro kit to anyone doing the same thing. Just note that you’ll need a laser printer and a laminator. And if someone could invent some way to hold the decal for positioning that would make placement much easier.

One special thing we decided to do because we had a lot of space on the right side of the panel was to put on a Bible verse. Actually after a family discussion where we all discussed what verse to use, we decided on two. Given the perspective of the creation from an airplane we decided to use Romans 1:20 which says, “For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:” Under it we have 1 John 5:20 which says: “And we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know him that is true, and we are in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life.”

I also spent a little of this time installing a doubler for a GPS antenna in the back between the comm 1 antenna and the ELT antenna. This marks a change to the original plan which has this antenna on the cabin top. After realizing the amount of work for this antenna which requires a ground-plane and if installed on a non-metallic surface, a grounded braid around the RG400 cable, I decided to relocate to a metallic airframe location. This solves both the ground-plane problem and eliminates the need for the special braid. And it meets the spec of more than 2′ away from any other antenna. I don;t anticipate a problem. There was already a spare coax going front to back and in case it doesn’t work out because of proximity to the other antennae, I’m leaving the cable which runs to the cabin top in place.


Doors finished

Total: 2192.6 hours
Total Doors: 191.9 hours
Total Cabin Top: 139.3 hours
Doors this session: 35.8 hours
Cabin top this session: 12.5 hours

Worked to finish up the doors and the inside of the cabin top. This involved prepping and painting. Lots and lots of work involved. The fiberglass had to be sanded and filled and sanded and filled over and over again with a final skim coat of epoxy. The cabin top was filling and smoothing the region where the cabin top joins with the fuse. This had been filled with flox a while ago but now it was time to fill it and smooth out the transition. And I’m very pleased with how it turned out.

There are, of course, a few defects in the paint (aren’t there always?) – but no runs or sags – just a few spots in the doors where it turns out the prep must not have been perfect and a few specs of dust. All in all I’m pretty happy with the doors. And with the installation of the interior door handles I can now say the doors are finished.

The interior of the cabin is getting there. The transitions previously mentioned were painted and the underside of the glare-shield was repainted. I had originally painted it with a nice rust-o-leum gray but it got beat up in the course of events and we decided it would be better and look better for it to be the same color as the rest of the interior so I repainted it with the good stuff (Stewart Systems dawn patrol gray) and it does look a lot better.

Wiring wiring more wiring and plumbing

Total: 2144.3 hours
Wiring since last time: 53.5 hours
Plumbing since last time: 35.0 hours
Total wiring so far: 114.0 hours
Total plumbing: 35.0 hours

Wiring is everything having to do with the panel and getting electricity from the panel to where it needs to be. Plumbing is everything having to do with pitot/static lines and fresh air vents.

Much done. See the pictures (including building a deck for the in-laws which is not airplane related but it helps the kids build up some important skills which we all use for the airplane build).

Of note: Engine and propeller are here.

Issues. Serious issue with the front fresh air vents. The panel which is not stock seriously interferes with the position of the front NACA vents. And it’s impossible to use any standard fitting over both the vent and the NACA inlet. At least 20 of the “plumbing” hours were spent devising a way to get the air to the eye-ball vents and mounting those vents. I am still in the process of making it all pretty but am so far very pleased with the solution which is going to look great. In short, I made some boxes in which to mount the vents. And then had to fabricate a duct from fiberglass to direct the air from the NACA inlets to the vents. In the end because of the very tight space and my self-imposed requirement that the duct and hose must be able to come off and on without removing the panel, in the end I glassed the hose directly into the duct. This was a largely trial and error process so these ducts are quite ugly (ugly indeed). But they’ll do the job (and never be seen) and if I ever have to remake them (or I ever just decide to remake them to avoid that annoying feeling that a monkey could have done better) I’ll be able to make them look nice since I’ll know the final dimensions ahead of time. This was a bear of a job and it’s just time to move on.


Panel/Wiring #1

Total: 2055.8
Schematics and planning: 13.7
Wiring: 46.8

Broke the 2000 hour mark. Should be flying soon (relatively speaking).

While we wait on the engine, it seemed like a good time to get started on the panel. I got the VPX programmed and wrote up some schematics which are mostly finalized. Almost all the panel switches are wired into the VPX. An assortment of power related items are now done or nearly done. Too many little things to mention.any one.

I set myself up a workshop inside the house with an old computer power supply and went to town. I’ll be buying avionics a little here and a little there, holding off on the bigger-ticket items until the end. But I did get the connector kits for the audio panel, the GTN650, and the Dynon screens, so hopefully when I do buy those items it’ll be plug-n-play. That’s the plan.


Seats and pitch trim

Total: 1995.3
Seats and pitch trim: 4.9

Getting engine and prop ordered. Doing some miscellaneous tasks. Got the seat rails installed and though I forgot to get a picture, the front seats slide in and out without issue. I cut off about 3/8″ from the front plastic seat rail guides from the seats themselves and this allows me to remove and install the seats without removing the flap tube access panel.

Also put in the pitch trim mechanism.