The Wings and Tail are on the Airplane

With help from my friend, Jim V. and my Dad, we got the tail installed. There is still a little bit of work: wiring the tail light, wiring the yaw trim motor, and connecting the rudder cables. The tail actually turned out to be more effort than the wings.

There was a very slight interference between the rudder and the top of the vertical stabilizer. With a bit of sanding the interference is gone.

I had my friends Charlie and John (and my Dad) help me with the wings. Both wings took a total of about 1.5 hours from start to finish. The left wing was a little more difficult than the right wing (which only took about 10 minutes). I need to do the final torquing of the 9 bolts in each wing root. I also still need to do a bunch of wiring and plumbing.

John and I also installed the comm antennas on the belly of the airplane.

Upcoming tasks: realign main gear to remove some of the toe in. Install the TP-59 temperature sensor in the left wing. Connect several wires in each wing (mostly just connecting the CPC connectors).

I feel like we might be able to run the engine for the first time next weekend.

20 hours.

The Airplane is Safely at the Airport

We did minor work on the airplane this morning. Unfortunately, I managed to install the rubber baffle seals incorrectly and spent about twice as much time fixing my mistake as I did doing it. I blame it on unclear plans. $40 order to Spruce for more rivets and stuff.

We also did some sanding on the top cowl air ramps. I need to use some expoxy with microballoons to clean them up and make the transitions as smooth as possible.

My Dad did a great job of cleaning the garage around the airplane in anticipation of moving it.

Jay Crawford (and family) came down for a visit and to help me with the airplane move. Very much appreciated.

The guys from Ronnie’s Wrecker Service were great. They handled the airplane with care and were awesome to work with. The actual trip to the airport was easy. I was following the truck and have to admit that had a mini-heart attack when he hit a bump at the intersection of Hull Street and Courthouse Road. The airplane bounced up and down a little but was fine.

The airplane looks transparent, but that is just the reflection of the hangar walls. It’s all there.

The goal will be to get the wings on the airplane one night this week (Wednesday?). I also want to get the tail onto the airplane this week. Then next weekend, if possible I want to get most of my punch list done.

10 hours (2 people x 5 hours).

Miscellaneous Stuff

The move to the airport will be tomorrow (Sunday). I decided to hire a towing company with a roll back truck to do the transport. The cost was reasonable ($150) and I thought it would be safer and easier to do it that way.

In the mean time we continue to work on small tasks like the air inlet ramps. We trimmed them to a specific shape and then glued them to the inside of the upper cowling using resin and flox. After they set up, we will use resin with micro-balloons to smooth all the edges to ensure the airflow into the engine compartment is as smooth as possible.

The air dams cleco’d in place prior to putting the epoxy/flox “glue” on them.
The air dams on the top cowl with a bunch of old tools on top of it while the fiberglass sets up.

We also coated the inside of both cowlings with a generous amount of resin. This is supposed to make it easier to clean and easier to detect any leaks in the engine compartment.

The resin takes about a day to cure (well technically it is five days, but it will be dry to the touch in 24 hours).

We also worked on the fairing for the nose gear leg. Unfortunately, my first attempt at installing the hinge that closes the fairing around the gear leg was a bust. I will attempt to redo it soon.

Other miscellaneous tasks coming up: re-aligning the main gear to remove some of the toe in, installing the rubber seals for the engine baffles and finishing minor plumbing and wiring tasks in the engine compartment.

Hopefully, the wings will go on in the next week or so!

One other note: I started working on the registration paperwork this week. I had reserved the N Number several months ago. I mistakenly assumed the rest of the paper work would take a few hours. I was sadly mistaken. It looks like it could take 3 or 4 weeks to get through the process which could impact when I get it inspected.

16 hours (2 people x 8 hours).

The Move to the Airport Begins

We spent most of the day moving airplane parts. I did manage to knock a couple items off the punch list (and seemingly add exactly the same number). The goal today was to move the wings from the hanger in Williamsburg up to my hanger in Chesterfield. I am cautiously hopeful that we can move the fuselage from the garage to the Chesterfield airport next weekend and install the wings soon there after.

More Engine Work including the Half Raven

We worked on more of the firewall forward tasks today. We had intended to fit the lower canopy around the exhaust but got side-tracked by the Half Raven kit. It doesn’t look too hard but it took the better part of a day to complete it.

The hoses from AS Flight Lines were perfect (again). Steve also helped me to figure out how to install the entire setup despite being on a camping trip.

The white canister is the Half Raven. It has an internal ball that covers and uncovers two ports inside the unit. Oil that would leak out of the breather tube on top of the engine (especially if you do inverted manuevers) now is mostly recycled and returned to the engine. The big orange hose goes to the oil sump .

We installed the Sniffle Valve. It took way longer to figure out where it goes then it does to install it.

The sniffle valve looks like something you would buy at Lowes for about $8. Nope, $120.

We installed the oil dip stick. Short, easy job.

We gapped and installed all the sparkplugs (after I searched high and low for the 18mm to 14 mm adapters. I finally found them upstairs by my desk. Glad I did, replacing them would be $100.

Tomorrow is moving day. We will be going to get the wings which have been in storage in Williamsburg and bring them to my hanger. I will also bring the tail too. If I get really ambitious I will bring the whole project to the hanger (30% likelihood).

16 hours (2 people x 8 hours).

Cowl Done, Exhaust System Nearly Done, Misc.

After a one week holiday at the lake, I am back to work on the airplane project.

The cowling is done with the exception of the fasteners across the bottom of the firewall. I will also have to make additional trim cuts on the bottom cowling to accommodate the Vetterman exhaust system.

I have spent more time on the exhaust then I thought I would. The Vetterman exhaust is very well designed and fits the engine very well. It’s all the little stuff that takes a significant amount of time. Fabricating the hangers, doing the heat muffs and scat tubing, installing and wiring the EGT probes, installing the heat shields to protect hoses and the FT-60 etc. With the exception of connecting the wires, that is all done now.

My Dad and I knocked out the oil door on the top cowling today.

As of now the “to do list” stands at about 50 items.

Here is the final paint scheme design:

24 hours (2 people x 12 hours)

Cowling Continued

The cowling is now at about 80% complete. My Dad and I worked diligently on the Skybolt installation. Once you get how they work (and Chris Moon helps you) it makes a lot of sense. They probably do not save you tons of time on the installation, but are a nice addition to the airplane.

I have a couple more Skybolts to install and I have to add additional rivets on the sides to strengthen the connection between the top and bottom cowling. I also need to finish the hinges on the bottom cowling on the firewall.

Meanwhile Jonathan McCormick at PlaneSchemer provided several designs for my consideration. The plan is to bring the airplane to his facility in northern Alabama in February for painting. Here are his designs. Marianne and I have already picked one, but I am interested in any input from others who may be reading this.

Engine, Cowling and Miscellaneous

Jim Van Laak stopped by to assist on the engine work. We did the final fit and attachment of the snorkel, attached the mixture and throttle cables, safety wired the propeller and the primary alternator and began working on the cowling.

I am using the Skybolt fastener system for the top cowling and using the Van’s hinge system on the firewall side of the lower cowling. I have to say the Skybolt hardware is very nice — their documentation not so much. I am pretty sure I would never have figured it out without Chris Moon and Jim’s assistance. My father and I have nearly completed all the Skybolt fasteners on the aft edge of the top cowling. Still need to adjust each fastener so they lock down flush (easy adjustment).

A few key things I have learned:

  • you can’t preinstall the Skybolt receivers into the flanges because you need the hole open to scribe the line up on the inside of the cowling.
  • the receivers have a small pin that you remove after you make final adjustments. This pin needs to face away from the firewall for easy access.

My niece, Sarah, graciously helped by climbing into the airplane and installing a couple washers and nuts that I couldn’t get to (my hands are too big).

I am hoping to finish most of the cowling work this week. Then the exhaust system will be the last big thing to work on. Maybe even move the airplane to the hanger on Saturday.

20 hours.

Snorkel Continued and Miscellaneous

My Dad and I worked on the snorkel some more. We used flox to secure the snorkel to the filter flange. We built the alternate air door and floxxed and riveted it in place. We also decided to build up the bottom edge of the face of the snorkel that attaches to the fuel servo. The snorkel is essentially done now.

Fiberglass work is a bit like arts and crafts day at the cub scouts. It ain’t beautiful, but I think it came out pretty good. You can see the alternate air door here.

We re-torqued the propeller bolts to 65 ft-lbs using the $70 wrench from Anti-splat.

My $70 wrench. Banana for scale.

We adjusted the prop governor. We had to move the bolts attaching the control head over one hole to be able to add the prop governor bracket for the control cable. We also had to re-clock the actuator arm about 180 degrees so it is on the bottom rather than on the top. That was where the fun began. The Van’s plans call for using an AN3-10A bolt and a particular washer stack. We did that and found that it was impossible to tighten the nut tight enough to align the cotter key hole in the bolt with the castle nut. If you wrench on the nut, the bolt will sheer off right at the cotter key hole (ask me how I know). We then tried an AN3-11A bolt and found that it was too long if installed as called for by the plans and hits the body of the governor. Finally ended up using the longer bolt and putting it in from the outside which gives much better clearance (this will be the first of two times that I had to go off the plans to make something work today).

The plans call for the bolt to come from the inside to the outside. Due to the thicker arm on the governor arm it was necessary to use a longer bolt (which doesn’t fit going left to right). I checked the motion and all looks good.

Next up, the spinner back plate. The Whirlwind uses a different style two piece back plate compared to the one in the Van’s plans. You don’t have to build it (nice!). The manufacturer’s plans say to put the bolts in from the back and put the nut on the front side of the back plate. There is simply no way to do this, so I put the bolts through from the front side and put the nuts on the back side. This should be safe and secure.

We began fitting the top cowl onto the airplane. We immediately realized that the spinner backplate on the Whirlwind is significantly different than the one Van’s calls out. This mean trimming a lot more off the cowling near the spinner. We have it close now. There is definitely more trimming and sanding in our near future though.

14 hours (2 people x 7 hours)

Baffles and the Snorkel

We have been working on the baffles for a few days now. There are a lot of connection points for the baffles. Some are easy to install and some are a real bear. On each “corner” of the engine there is a floating connector that a bolt threads into. They are in a difficult spot to get to and you have to get them lined up properly to get the bolt in. A bit of grease helps to keep them in place while you tighten the bolt.

The next un-fun step is to fabricate the rods that connect the bottom of the baffles together. I needed to borrow a 6-32 die to thread the rods – which is actually hard work.

The good news is that the baffles are 98% done (one bolt is giving me a hard time).

We also began working on the snorkel. As several people have pointed out you will likely spend 20 hours thinking about a task that takes 3 hours. We have it mostly cut to the correct size now. I need to glass up the corners of the snorkel where it goes into the filter holder. Then I need to cut the hole for the alternate air source.

The key here is to make four vertical cuts (one at each corner) on the snorkel. Each cut should be about 3 inches long. This will allow the snorkel to slide up into the filter frame. After I attach the snorkel to the frame, I will “repair” the corners.

I may modify the fuel servo end of the snorkel to make the hole size more closely match the FM 150 inlet. I know people that have done this and others that have left it as is.

Meanwhile, we have some final electrical connections to make, and will need to start on the exhaust soon.