Canopy Skirt Seal

Time: 2 Hours

Earlier on in the canopy build I installed a felt strip running along the inside bottom edge of the canopy skirt. This was supposed to help seal the gap between the skirt and fuselage when the canopy was closed and reduce wind infiltration. After the canopy was all done I wasn’t happy with the end result, at least how it looked. So while I had the canopy off to Pro-Seal the aft end I decided this would be a good time to fix it. So I worked for 1.5 Hours pulling the felt off, rubbing and using Goo-Gone to get all the 3M adhesive off. I worked slowly so I wouldn’t damage the paint while I removed it. After I cleaned the skirt up and had all the residue removed I replaced the felt with a adhesives backed 1/8” x 1/2” foam strip. Here is what it looks like now and I’ll see how it seals when I replace the canopy back on the fuselage.

The nice thing about this stuff is that it will be easy to replace when needed.

Pro-Sealing

Time: 3 Hours

I removed the canopy structure and flipped it over into the cradle. I have a slight “squeak” when the aft section of skirt moves. It sounds like it’s the fiberglass skirt rubbing or moving ever so slightly on the canopy. So I decided that I would fill the gap between the skirt/canopy and the canopy/frame with pro-seal. I taped it all off to protect the areas that I didn’t want to get a mess on. I also taped of the inside of the forward baggage area were the top skin meets the firewall for sealing that gap while I was gonna have the pro-seal out.

I bought the premeasured type from Aircraft Spruce that fits in the special gun.

After the required mixing I went to it making sure I had all the required items out for clean up including the MEK and tons of rags…this stuff is messy!

With a quick pull of the tape while it was still wet I had nice clean lines. Hopefully the squeak will be gone once this cures in a few days.

More Wheel Pant Work

Time: 6 Hours

I repeated the syringe process for the the forward bracket on both sides with the same great results. After those had cured I marked the bottom of the pant for an even edge distance from the tire so that I could trim them. Vans gives you a minimum of 5/8″ space between the tire and the edge of the fiberglass but I have read that you need more like 3/4″ to an inch to allow side loads on the tire which would hit the fiberglass if the gap is too small. 

After getting both trimmed I moved on to the valve stem doors. Normally in order to check the tire pressure or inflate them you would have to remove the forward half of the wheel pants. I decided that I wanted to put in a 1″ doing loaded door so that I could do these tasks with removing a single screw. I ordered mine from Wicks Aircraft Supply but they are available from various shops. I rolled the fuselage around slightly to get the valve stem on the aft side of the tire and at a equal distance from the ground, about 6 1/8″ for mine. I then chocked the tires to hold that position and used my cross hair laser to mark the center of the stem. I then put the pants back on and drilled a hole on the cross hair. After I had the initial hole drilled I removed the pants and opened the hole up to 1″. I tried several different locations on how I wanted the door to swing, as seen with the different drill holes. Not sure why I decided on the top ones but it just looked better to me. 

I used some Super Fill to smooth out the edges of the areas that I built up for the brackets and sanded those after they cured. I also sanded the inside edge where the nutplates would go and riveted them in place.   I also riveted the outboard bracket in place. 

 Now that the nutplates were in place I could put the pants on and have them perfectly in their final place versus with just cleckos which have a little play. 

Now I could work on the seam and the transition between the forward half and the aft half.  After I sanded the edges I added some white electrical tape to the edge of the forward half of the pants so that epoxy/flox won’t stick to that edge. 

I then covered the white tape with clear packing tape. The electrical tape should leave a nice even gap after removed for a nice seam. It will need to be opened up a little down the road by the painter for the paint thickness. I mixed up some epoxy/flox and filled the seam as well as low spots on the aft section of the pants. After curing I will sand the edges down flush to make a nice transition between the two halves. 

In between work on the pants I had added a light layer of epoxy/fairing filler to smooth the transition from the side skirts and the glass I put over the rivets. After that was sanded I put three coats of UV Smooth Prime to fill any pin holes. 

More Fiberglass

Time: 4 Hours

I removed the peel ply from the canopy skirt to reveal nice layups over the horizontal rivet lines. So I repeated the process for the three vertical rows on each side. 

I then removed the ply peel from the gear leg fairings and sanded them down to prep for pin hole filling. 

After that I went on to the wheel pants. As I discussed in my last post I filled the uneven space between the bracket and the pant with epoxy/flox. That was pretty easy with the outboard bracket since it attaches close to the opening and I could get my hands in there. Now the inboard bracket is another story as there isn’t room for me to get my hands in there. I did a little research online and saw another builders idea and figured I would follow suit. The idea is to drill several extra holes around the screw holes in the pants. Then put the pants into position securing them with cleko’s on the put board and wood blocks at the aft end of the pants to keep the inboard holes aligned and not moving. Then with the same mixture of epoxy/flox use a syringe to inject the mixture in the holes and fill the void. 

This worked really well and I will repeat this process with the forward half of the pants. I finished up the day by putting a coat of UV smooth prime on the gear leg fairings. Tomorrow will be a sanding day. 

Fiberglass Items

Time: 6 Hours

After I finished up the last little bit of the windscreen fairing and finished admiring my work I set out to do some fiberglass work. First was to add two layers of fiberglass tape to the rivet lines on the gear leg fairings. I covered the tape with ply peel and will get to sanding these after cure. 

Next up was to check on a task I did last night and that was a flox/epoxy spacer I made to get a good fit between the wheel pant and the bracket that it gets attached to. The idea is that the screws that attach the pants to the brackets will deform the pants if the mating of the bracket/pant isn’t perfect. That would look bad after the pants are painted. So I carefully filled the space between the bracket and pant with epoxy/flox to make them fit perfect. 

I sanded the flox all around and cleaned up the edges. This is gonna work perfect so I did the upper holes of this bracket and the lower holes of the other side. 

Next up was removing the primer on the canopy skirts and add two layers of fiberglass over the rivet holes. I’m doing this as I have found that my filler that I put over the rivets was starting to crack under the flexing during opening and closing the canopy. This took several hours to get accomplished and I still have the vertical rows to do. 

I only saw cracking on the lower few rivets towards the forward edge but I though I better do all of them as that would have been the right thing to do in the first place. This means that once I’m finished with this I will have to fill and smooth these out all over again but that’s the way it goes when you have no idea what you are doing. Luckily this stuff is forgiving and can easily be fixed. In between these tasks I started putting in all the carpet pieces and trimming as needed to fit around the forward stick boot and fuel pump. 

I love days like these as I feel like I was really productive.