Empennage Fairing

Time: 4 Hours

I started the empennage fairing modification which is a big challenge for me since I have no idea what I’m doing when it comes to fiberglass. I watched a bunch of videos and read several blogs to get the idea of what I needed to do. The plan is to add to the stick fairing so that it extends under the HS and reduces the need for all the screws to hold it in place. So after watching and reading up on the subject I went for it. The plan was to tape off the area with packing tape, create a mold with modeling clay and cover it with wax as a release agent. Then I modified the stock fairing at the leading edge to accept the new fiber glass. I also trimmed up all the edges to the final shape, that’s a dusty job! 

To hold the faring in place I match drilled to the nutplates underneath using a flashlight to help guide.

I then marked off a leading edge for the cut to help make the transition.

While at it I marked off the aft end for its trimming as well.

With everything done and trimmed I mixed up some epoxy and coated four pre-cut strips of fabric for the layup. After applying those I added ply peel to help keep it smooth after curing.

So that needed to cure for 12 hours and it looked like a mess! It’s gonna take a lot of work to make it look really nice. While that was curing I moved on to some fun stuff, avionics! I had ordered one Dynon back up battery, I will need two, but only need one to mark out the attach screw holes. I then drilled all four and attached the battery. 

I then added my second COM radio and powered it up. 

Next up was the coolest part, the 10″ Dynon Skyview Touch screen. I have been waiting for this for a long time. I will also have a matching 7″ but that will come later. 

There are just six screws to hold it in place. I connected the 37 pin connector and a 9 pin network connector. 

So with a flip of the battery master switch it came to life. 

There is still a lot of configuration that needs to be done as well as add the attitude & heading reference modules (ADAHRS) so that it knows it position with reference to level and the GPS antanae so it knows where the heck it is. I will also be able to customize the screen and where items will be. I also bought some travel chocks to hold the RV still now that it is on its wheels. 

So that’s it for now, we will see how the fairing turns out. 

Empennage Fairing Work

Time: 2 Hours

I got a couple hours in the shop tonight and since I’m at a standstill on the canopy waiting for parts I decided to move on to another step. The empennage fairing that Van’s sends covers the space left between the horizontal stabilizer and the vertical stabilizer creating a nice aerodynamic and clean look. The stock fairing only covers the top and a gasket filled the bottom side. The fairing is supposed to be held in place by serveral screws on the VS and the HS. I found that these tend to cause the fairing to “pucker” at each screw and doesn’t look good. I decided to follow Glenn’s lead as well as other builder and add on to the stock fairing so that it covers the top and bottom, basically creating a U shape that slides over the leading edge of the HS. I’ll get more detail on the actuall fairing later. One thing that this allows is for only a few screws to be needed to hold the fairing in place at the rear. There will be two screws on the top, one on the HS & one on the VS. The bottom will have five total screws. Tonight’s task was to drill out several of the skin rivets and replace them with nutplates. 

They went pretty smooth and the hardest part was getting my hand in between the parts with a bucking bar. The last aft screw on the lower side will be in the very aft portion of the longeron. I don’t have room to put a nutplate there and a nut was just too tight. So I tapped this hole so that a #8 screw would fit. This isn’t structural and is just helping to hold the fairing on.  The one just forward of it will allow the screw to go through the inspection plate as well. 

I received a package from SteinAir with my Dynon #2 COM radio, one back up battery (so I can drill the attach holes) and my 10″ SkyView Touch screen! I will install these tomorrow in between my fiberglass work on the fairing. 

Even just two hours in the shop is a good thing and is progress! 

Canopy Work

Time: 10 Hours

Yesterday and today started my canopy/frame work. The first thing to do is get the canopy tweaked by bending and stretching so that the side rails and canopy fit just right. This was a long process as I put the frame on and look then removed it to bend a little followed by putting it back on. This happened a bunch of time to get it just right. I was able to do all this since my buddy Glenn let me borrow his frame rollers and slider block from his frame since mine are still back ordered. There are several measurements you need to adhere to but overall you need the sides of the frame to match up to the fuselage sides so the canopy fiberglass skirts will match up nice. 

Once I had the the frame almost perfect I clamped down the side rails and checked to make sure all the measurements between the left and right side, keeping the spacing equal. Once I had them set I drilled the holes followed by a screw and nut. 

With the rails permanently on I did some final frame tweaking to get everything straight. 

So with the frame done it was time to get the canopy out and get started. 

Before I do anything I needed to mark out a few measurements. First was to draw a centerline on the fuselage at the leading edge and aft edge. Then I needed to draw marks on the canopy marking centerline. These marks will hep as I cut the canopy down in order to keep the canopy straight as I cut. 

I also made some measurements on the fuselage. There is a mark the the forward top skin marking centerline as well as the 3.25″ mark back from the bulkhead giving you a mark for the forward/aft placement of the canopy. I also marked the aft canopy slider for center and marked the top of the canopy frame for center. Now as I remove the canopy I can return it just where I needed. Getting the center line on the top of the canopy proved to be a challenge with the curved surfaces, hopefully it won’t cause any problems. The cutting process is time consuming as you want to really take your time and do small changes. It is tempting to make big cuts as it is needed to get the final shape, however every little change effects the entire shape and how it sits on the frame. So it has been done many times before and I’m following the guidance of other builders as well as my in-house guy, Glenn. To start I made a scribe out of a large popsicle stick drilling a small hole for a fine point sharpie pen at 1/4″ distance from the edge of the popsicle stick. With this scribe I can run the edge along the forward skin and use the sharpie to mark the canopy at the same shape of the skin. So essentially the largest cut you will have a will be 1/4 inch with the rest being less than that all the way to no cut. The idea is to start at the forward edge and cut that down until you have the canopy just touching the roll bar. You can cut just a little bit off the aft end, but you need to be very careful as the aft end will shift as the forward and is cut and lowered.  As the canopy shifts forward the amount needed to be removed at the aft end is reduced. You do need to remove some but with caution. As you get closer to touching the roll bar you can trim the aft end as needed with the goal for the canopy to be supported by the frame and not touching the slider rail anymore at the same time leaving plenty of link for you to work with later. So with the help of Glenn I move the canopy over to a pair of sawhorses outside in the nice warm air to do the initial cut. 

I used Glenn’s air tool with a cut off disk to make the cuts using extreme caution as you do not want to screw this up! After cutting the initial 1/4″ I cleaned off the canopy and we returned it to the frame and aligned all the marks. 

As you trim the front the forward end of the canopy begins to drop. The edges are long on purpose for you to trim later, however as it drops those edges start to touch the canopy frame. These need to be trimmed now so that you can get a good fit and will eventually be trimmed off. So I marked those locations and trimmed with my Dremel drum sander which made easy work of it. 

So this process went on for several hours marking the canopy removing it and cutting it and returning it to check location and fit. Remember how I said earlier that I was hoping my measurements on the top of the canopy wouldn’t cause me issues? Luckily Glenn was in the shop helping me and noticed that I was slowly shifting the canopy to the right side, meaning my canopy was leaning to the right just a hair. We were able to verify this by the factory cut lower edge and making sure the spacing on left and right in reference to a rivet was the same. As we returned to canopy to the center position I found that my initial centerline mark on the canopy was off a 1/4″. Not a major deal at this point and I course corrected and all was well. Thanks to Glenn’s experienced eye I caught it.

So I repeated these steps 8 times for a scribe, mark, remove, cut and replace until I got the forward canopy to touch the roll bar and the aft edge to just be supported by the frame with about a 1/8″ clearance. 

I’ll say that cutting this stuff is messy and nerve racking because the cost of an error on this part is really expensive and it is very unforgiving. So what now? Well it’s time for the “big cut”! That’s where you separate the windshield from the rest of the canopy.  However I can’t do this until I get my backordered parts, as there is a spacer block that will get riveted to the top aft skin receptacle that has a hole in it to accept the pin on the canopy frame as it slides forward. I need this to determine the actual final position of my frame as it slides forward. That’s important for this big cut as I need to cut dead center between the frame and roll bar so I have enough spacing on each side. So I’m done with the canopy for right now and will move on to other stuff this week until parts arrive. Sounds like Van’s is having a supplier issue and it may be a couple weeks. Hopefully sooner rather than later as I need the warm weather for cutting on the canopy or I will have to heat the shop as you definitely don’t want to work on this below 75° as they become very brittle so I have read. 


Time: 8 Hours

Since I have to wait on the canopy project until the backordered parts arrive I decided to move onto the wheels.  First up was to an package the parts I needed, which included the cool looking machined blue anodized axles.

In order to work on the wheels I needed to raise the fuselage about 12 inches so that the gear legs her off the ground and have clearance for the wheels to be put on and off. 

With the axels temporarily installed I was able to check for either toe-in or toe-out conditions. That means the tires are both in line with the centerline of the fuselage. I did this by running a fishing line across both axels and checking the spacing between the axels and the line. All was perfect which meant I could move on and don’t need any shims at this time. First up I needed to drill the holes for the wheel pant attachment brackets. 

After I drilled the holes I cleaned up the parts and primed them before riveting the nutplates on. 

I opened up the Mattco box that had the wheels and brakes in it. They sure a good looking and a shame that them will be covered up with the wheel pants. 

I had to separate all the parts so that I could mount the tire and tube. 

Once apart I prepped the tire and inner tube with talcum powder (baby powder) and coated the inside of the tire and all over the tube. I put in a bunch inside the tire to help the tube move around during installation as well during landing/taking off as the tires get side loads. 

I then installed the tube and aligned the valve stem with the red dot on the tire. I inflated the tube to around 25psi just to give it shape and prevent the tube from getting pinched when I put the wheel together. 

I put the two halves of the wheels together aligning the notch for the valve stem. As I slowly aligned the parts I put the three bolts in and started the nuts to hold everything together. 

You can see the tire isn’t set on the bead or put to the edge of the wheel yet. I’ll be able to do that with air pressure. Before I do that I need to finish up the bolts on the wheel but I need to make sure the tube isn’t getting pinched with a small mirror. 

With the tube good and the bolts torqued I inflated the tire to 40psi and set the beads. 

After the beads are set I deflated the tire so that I could remove the bolts and add the brake disk to the inside of the wheel. I re-installed the bolts and re-torqued them. 

The wheels rotate on a set of bearings that come ungreased. 

I had purchased a bearing greasing tool that I needed to used to push some Aeroshell 22 grease inside the bearings. The idea is you load up the cup with the grease then slide a plunger inside the cup. The plunge has holes in the center area for grease to come up through as the plunger is pressed. There is a top to the plunger that seals the top of the bearing as you push down forcing the grease to go into the bearing and out of all the openings. 

I found that it was pretty difficult to push by hand with enough force to squeeze the thick grease. Based on a review I tried putting the greaser sideways in a bench vise which worked like a charm. With the bearings done it was time to install all the parts on the gear legs. First I needed to separate the two brake pads so I could install the brake caliper before the wheel. 

I grabbed the wheel pan bracket and put two of the bolts troughs them, the gear leg and the axel. 

Then the brake caliper get slid on over the axel and bolts. 

The last two bolts get installed but in the opposite direction as they have clearance issues with the wheel pants the plans say. So with the bolts torqued the axels at on for good. I the slide on a wheel spacer and put the wheel on. After the wheel was in place I bolted on the second brake pad. 

There is another spacer on the outside of the wheel followed by a large axle nut. This nut get snugged down to the point where the wheel just rotates freely. At that point you drill through existing holes in the nut down through the axel. Once the holes are drilled you put in a large cotter pin to secure the nut. I didn’t drill yet as I want Glenn to look and the amount free spin I have first. 

With all the bolts torqued I added torque seal to all the bolts/nuts to signal later if they come loose. 

So there they are, my beautiful legs :-)!

Seat Heat Wiring

Time: 2 Hours

Before I moved on to the wheels I wanted to finish one last electrical task and that was to run the power and ground wires for the pilot and passenger seat heat. Classic Aero Designs was nice to enough to send me the wiring harnesses for both seats including the switches so that I could pre-wire them prior to ordering my seats. If you remember I decided not to run the seat heat through the Vertical Power VP-X as the draw fluctuates too much and could cause issues. So I’m using a fuse block specifically for these two seats and that’s where I ran my red power lines from to the general area where the seats will be along with two black ground wires from my ground block.

I then had to tweet the hole for the pilot switch a little to get a good fit and installed the switch. The passenger switch will get installed later in the panel that will house the control stick and eyeball vent.

So I believe that I’m done running wires from the fuselage up through the gear towers to the instrument panel. That means I can now rivet the floors in whenever I want and rivet the top skin I place as well. I think I will hold off on those tasks for a while just to make sure, you never know!