Empannage Done!

Time: 6 Hours

Today I had one goal, to finish the elevators and essentially finishing the empannage. All that remained was to roll the leading edges of the left and right elevators. So I started by setting up the pipe rolling jig that I used for the rudder. I decided, based on the results from the rudder, to go up to a 1″ diameter conduit from the 3/4″ I used for the rudder.

I also decided to try a different approach at where I taped the pipe to the skin. On the rudder I taped the pipe right along the edge of the skin. When the bend was done I had a small gap between the skin at the top of the rudder getting wider as you got to the bottom. On the first elevator I taped the pipe at the outboard even with the skin. I then took a measurement from the spar to the pipe. I matched this measurement at the inboard section. This angled the pipe in a little at the inboard section compared to the outboard. I then rolled the skin giving me a really nice roll.

I then flipped the elevator over at set up for the opposite skin.

By taping the pipe at a equal distance on the entire length of the skin the gap that resulted was pretty much equal for the entire length. I had to massage the skin a little in the middle section to get it to lay perfectly flat.

I then I matched drilled the holes and pop riveted as per the plans.

I repeated the process with the right elevator.

I then placed the electric trim in the left elevator and hooked the linkage to keep the trim tab from flipping around.

With those leading edges done the major building points of the empannage are done. The only pieces left are the fiberglass tips which are really finishing parts.

You can wait to do these parts when you finish the aircraft or any point I between. I think that I will start the elevators and the top of the rudder. The bottom will have a light in the tail section and I will work on that later in the build. So now I have around six weeks before the wings get here to study up on fiberglass and the techniques. So I cleaned up elevators and brought them into the house for safe keeping and to be on display.

Big accomplishment for me! Next up learning to fiberglass.

Trim Tab

Time: 5 Hours

The task for yesterday was to finish up the trim tab. The first order of business was to figure the exact placement of the hinge on both the tab and the elevator. The plans give you the measurement on the outboard edge of the trim tab side, 3/8″ outward from the last hole on the skin/spar. So I lined up the edge to see how the barrels of the hinge lined up.

Once I established the length and placement of the hinge I drew a line 3/16″ from the straight edge of the hinge. This was the center point of the flange of the hinge and a marking point for match drilling.

Then I marked the inboard edge of the tab side hinge to make it the shape match that of the skin and spar.

Once I had the shape right I clekoed the hinge to the tab and matched it up to the elevator. I had two goals: keep the inboard edge of the tab in alignment with the elevator and keep the trailing edge of the tab in alignment with the trailing edge of the elevator. According to Van’s they are both important but the trailing edge is the most. Once I had both of those goals lined up I drilled the two end holes of the elevator side hinge.

With the two edges in perfect alignment the outboard edge was not, this was due to the cut I made being out if square with the leading edge of the tab.

The plans call for a minimum gap between the outboard edge of the trim tab and the inboard edge of the elevator of 3/32″. The forward edge of the tab had a gap of 7/64″ so I measured the same at the trailing edge of the trim tab. I then removed the trim tab from the hinge and checked the line I just made and it ended up perfectly square with the leading edge of the tab. So I took the tab to my Scotch-Bright wheel and worked the edge to the line on the top and bottom of the tab.

The gap is now perfect and even. I rechecked the trailing edge alignment with a straight edge and it matches perfectly.

A couple of nights I wrote about the hole that I figure 8’d on one of the riblets. After a good night sleep I decided that a small doubler would be a better solution for this problem. This would sandwich the bad hole between two good pieces of metal. It just worked out that there where two holes, one forward and one aft of the bad hole. I measured the length giving me good edge distance and the width. I then cut the doubler from some scrap sheet that Van’s supplied with the empannage. I matched drilled it to all three holes and all looks good.

Now that those tasks are done I could now disassemble the tab to take care of the edges, dimple and scuff all the parts. The dimples in the riblets were a lot of fun but made easier by using the pop rivet dimple dies. The top edge of the tab spar needs to be countersunk rather than dimpled like the matching spar in the elevator. This is so that the hinge could sit flat on the spar which it couldn’t do if the spar was dimpled. I rolled up the carpet on the work bench and used the matched drilled holes and countersunk the flange.

I then cleaned all the parts for priming and started that process. While the parts where drying I riveted the elevator side hinge. This was a little difficult to get to the shop head but I had several different size flush heads for the squeezer that worked.

Riveting the tab was pretty easy, I just had to do a little thinking at the sequence of rivets as my tab was a little different from the plans. The inboard edge I had the skin, riblet, the two trim horns and the doubler to deal with. Some of the rivets for the horns were inside of the riblet and some were on the outside of it. So a little planning was in order. Once I had the plan it went pretty quick. I then lined up the hinge and inserted the pin. All the edges looked great and the motion was perfect.

Next up, rolling the leading edges of the left and right elevators.

More Left Elevator

Time: 1 Hour

Got home last night from another fun day of dodging and weaving around thunderstorms. Was feeling a little tired but wanted to get a little time in the hangar. First task was to countersink the top flange of the trim tab after my mistake if dimpling it. Then I wanted to get all of the understructure primed so that I could get some riveting done today. No pictures of last nights work since you have seen a ton of parts being primed! 🙂

Left Elevator Work

Time: 3 Hours

After a busy morning dodging thunderstorms both in Chicago and Omaha I got in the hangar for some work. I knew I would only have a few hours between office work out at the airport and game six of the Stanley Cup (let’s go Hawks). I had the left elevator all assembled and matched drilled a few days ago. So next was to disassemble it all and treat the edges, deburr all the holes, scuff the surfaces and dimple/countersink where required. All those tasks were completed except for the countersinking of the trim tab spar.

That spar has dimples on the bottom flange and countersinking on the top flange. That’s due to the trim tab hinge being attached to the bottom side of the top flange of the spar. This is a sandwich of sorts, the skin on top, the spar flange in the middle and the hinge on the bottom. If you dimple the flange they would not allow the hinge to sit flat. Unfortunately I didn’t realize this until I read ahead. But at that point I was mr. speedy working with my pneumatic squeezer and had already dimpled both the top and bottom flanges of the trim tab spar. So I thought I would be ordering a new part from Van’s. So I grabbed the MacBook and loaded up www.vansairforce.net and did a search for the trim tab spar. What do you know I’m not the only novice builder that has made that mistake! After a little bit of reading I found that it would be perfectly acceptable to use my pneumatic squeezer and my no hole yoke/flush set and flatten the dimples. You can do this once without to much distortion of the metal. So I figured this would be a great time to call it a day, after making a mistake(and a severe thunderstorm warning rolling through my area). So I cleaned up the hangar and pulled the truck inside. While cleaning up I decided to drill a couple of holes in the workbench to hold the trim tab spar. The spar is fairly thin metal and when you countersink thin metal the hole gets enlarged a little. That larger hole will now let the guide, which is the size of the rivet, wander causing chattering and a bad countersunk hole. To prevent this I’m going to use wood as a backer on the flange of the spar. I will drill holes through the holes of the flange into the wood matching all the holes on the spar. This will allow a hole for the countersink guide to stay centered and make a nice countersink.

So that’s all for today, I fly a day trip to Minnesota tomorrow and will get some time in tomorrow night.

Right Elevator Skin

Time: 2 Hours

Got out in the hangar this morning to do a little work. The task for today was to rivet the rest of the right elevator skin. Pretty easy task with the pneumatic squeezer. Just three different rivet sizes, AN4263-3.5, 4 and 4.5. Those are 3/32 diameter flush heads and three different lengths based on how many pieces if material you are going through. So the right elevator is done minus the rolled leading edge which I will wait for the left side to be ready for that step as I have to set the jig up for that. Then the fiberglass tips which I will wait for the empannage to be finished so that I can work on all the fiberglass at the same time. Next up the left elevator.

Too nice of a day to not take the Harley out for a ride. I have two day trips on Monday and Tuesday so I will have a good week to play in the hangar!