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.