Van's RV-9A in Aurora

The Big Picture

The Big Picture
Flying! 8/28/2011

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

1.2 hrs
Cut the steel cowling hinge pin in half to use for hinge alignment.
Reinstalled the upper cowl with the hinges clecoed on and the pins in place. Dorking with the upper left engine mount bolt had zero effect on the alignment. Put the lower cowl back in place, clamping it tight with a tie down strap. Noted an area on the left upper seam that needs a bit more sanding, and the location for a notch to allow hinge pin clearance.

Took the lower cowl off, sanded a bit, reinstalled. Getting very close. Did another iteration to smooth the mating surfaces where the hinges will be installed, and fine tuned the hinge pin slots.
Reinstalled. Getting very close.
I think it might be ready to drill the lower cowl for the hinges -after a couple iterations, of course. After that, it will be time to start installing the MilSpec fasteners.

Monday, August 30, 2010

1.2 hrs
Since I was wondering about the engine mounting, I lost sleep about it. There are different length bolts for upper and lower mounts, and I started wondering if I installed them wrong somehow. This morning checked the drawings, and measured the bolts, and at first I was afraid I had messed up and swapped upper and lower bolts. At least I was consistent side to side. Eecks, that means they all need to be swapped, which means completely removing the engine.

But tonight I measured again. The top bolts are 4.5" long, the bottoms are 4.75". The drawings say AN7-43 bolts on top, -44's on the bottom. Hmmm. So at least the long ones are on the bottom. Then I remembered there's something odd about the numbering when bolts are over 4". They're alright after all. I did need to install one more washer on one of the upper bolts, so the castle nut will fit better. So got that finally taken care of and installed the cotter pin. Whew! Sure glad I don't have to remove any of those bolts.

After that little episode got back to the cowling. Clamped a hinge half to each side of the upper cowling, drilled and clecoed.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

7 hrs.
Continue fitting cowling.
Scallop upper cowling attach strips. Fit, shape, and deburr all upper strips.
Sand lower cowling to improve fit. After final fit, drill pilot holes on bottom of lower cowl.
Sand horizontal seam on both cowls to improve fit.
Cut, drill, and deburr hinges for cowling horizontal seam.

The Milspec fasteners have arrived.

I'm beginning to wonder if the engine is installed properly. I'm not super happy with the way the cowling fits. It's probably fine, and the errors only show up close, but if the engine wasn't on just right it might explain some of the misalignments.

I forgot to comment on the LT game. The reigning 4A State Champion Lake Travis Cavaliers defeated the Westlake Chaparrals last night, 32-21, in front of 25000 fans. It was 15-10 Chaps at half time. The Cavs just weren't on the field for the first half. All the lucky breaks went to Westlake. LT receivers dropped 8/10 passes. But this was typical. I don't know what the stats really are, but I'd guess LT came from behind when the other team scored first, sometimes twice, in at least a third of the 47 games they've now won. That's 47 wins, 0 losses. The last game they lost was in 2007, to the Chaps. Garrett Gilbert was the LT quarterback.
Westlake has a great team. They came out and played solid fundamental football. And it worked. But then LT got in the groove. They stared owning the line of scrimmage, and 6'5" Griffin Gilbert was matched up against a too short defensive back. Michael Brewer was able to get the ball somewhere near Gilbert, and he won every jump ball in the 2nd half. It was a sight to behold. On the bad side, LT's Conner Floyd suffered a knee injury. I really hope he's alright.

Oh, in further LT/UT news, Cade McCrary is a walk on for the Longhorns. You just watch!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

6 hrs
Finished installing canopy pin hold down blocks. All these canopy tasks take a long time. The canopy now closes nicely. It sticks a bit when opening, but that might be a good thing. I may have to add a small tab on aft skirt to serve as a handle when opening the canopy from the outside. It's very difficult to get the first bit of travel using just the handle from the outside. A small bit of lifting to start the process would help a lot.

Install right side roll bar handle. Decided to install only one right now. My thinking is that you have to get your feet under your butt first, and one hand has to be pushing down to help. The other can be on the handle.

Once again demonstrated that I can't drill straight. Started with a #40 and drilled all the way through the roll bar. This after carefully marking the center of where the handle will attach to the roll bar at two points. Then enlarged all the holes to #19, then #27, then #12. The bolts on the forward side are AN3s, or #10-28 screws. Then enlarged the aft holes to 5/16". The 5/16" holes were just right. But the forward #12's where off by a bit, and this made it a PITA to get the handle bolted on. But finally got it, and tried it out. Had Katrin try it out too.

Then tidied up and rolled it out in the sun for some pictures. Now it's time to get ready for football! LT vs Westlake at DKR Memorial Stadium. The first high school game of the year is being played in a 100K+ seat stadium. That was the only way to deal with the parking, plus these are two of the top teams in the state, with strong ties to the UT football program.

Friday, August 27, 2010

1.3 hrs
Started fitting aft canopy hold down blocks. Drill left C677 to longeron.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

2 hrs

Finish fitting the canopy latch. For a seemingly simple task, this has consumed a lot of time.

Trimmed the latch to try to get a better fit when closed. But might have trimmed too much. May have to order another latch. Fortunately that part doesn't have too much time invested in it.
Drilled and tapped latch handle. Countersunk for 509 screw.

Drilled the handle and latch for retainer spring.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

.8 hrs
Continue fitting canopy latch. Trim latch handle to length.
Drll pilot hole in top handle.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

.9 hrs
Continued fitting the canopy latch. Trimmed the bushing about 1/32 using just a file. It seems almost right now. Then shaped the latch itself. I think it's close, it pulls the canopy bow forward about 1/8" when latch shut. That might be a little too much, so more trimming might be needed. A quick search of VAF forums didn't turn up any ideas. I think I'll start fitting the rear hold down blocks before doing any more work on the latch.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

2.5 hrs
Misc. canopy and cowling work.

Deburr roller brackets, prime.
Start fitting canopy latch. Start cutting canopy handle bushing to length. Did this with the canopy off the fuselage, and used a hacksaw for the initial cut, then a file for fine tuning.

This would be much easier before the canopy is installed, but the final height dimension may not be known at that time.

Trim aft edges of cowling, and upper edges.

Begin marking for roll bar handles.

Sika notes

Wayne suggested I write down the lessons learned from gluing the canopy.
Here they are, so we don't forget.

1. I installed the C-759 strips to provide an edge for glueing and clamping the canopy bottom edges. I think I'd do this again, but would spend a little more time trimming the canopy edges to fit nicely. A bevel or radius could work well.

2. When masking, first lay down the edge of the area to be primed. Then mask the wide area that won't be primed with no overlap of the edge masking. Plan these two sets of masks so the remaining area can be covered quickly with a single pass of wide tape. This allows easy removal of the edge masking without having to disturb the wide area masking.

3. I made corner masking circles by cutting 1" circles in two layers of blue painters tape. But the primer bled under these. Use some other prepared circle masking product.

4. Make spacers of 1/4" squares. Stick them to the frame after painting on the Sika primer, but before it's completely dry.

5. Triple check positioning of the frame as clamps are added, especially along the aft bow. Mine drifted by a 1/16", and I didn't catch it until all the clamps were on and the Sika was beginning to set up.

6. Try to get the clamps right on a spacer. Mine has some waves where the clamp was pressing the canopy in past the level of the spacers.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

5 hrs, 24 rivets

Make nutplate strips for canopy rail attach screws. Final drill and install rails.
Drill slider rail to fuselage, deburr, install screws and threaded rod.
Drill roller brackets to canopy.

Friday, August 20, 2010

2.3 hrs.

Just finished watching "The Aviator", released in 1985, starring very young Christopher Reeve and Rosanna Arquete (who has a song written about her). Based on the novel by Earnest P. Gann. Pure D aviation! A story about defective personalities. Sadly, I can identify with the characters.

Flew to Taylor (T74) this morning in N413ES. Was looking for Bert Brundage. Found his shop, right next to the FBO, but he wasn't there. Did talk with one of his mechanics, Jason. So why was I looking for Bert Brundage? Well....

So I'm reading "Firewall Forward" by Tony Bingelis. THE book on engine installation, if a bit dated. In his acknowledgement section at the start, the first person he thanks is none other than Seth Hancock. Cool! The very same EAA tech counselor and person from whom I bought my engine. The third person Mr. Bingelis thanks is Bert Brundage. I read that paragraph three times. But there's another connection.

Seth got my engine from Bert.

I've been meaning to talk to Bert and see what he can tell me about the engine. This engine has no logs, and any info I can find helps fill in the history. About all Seth has told me is it came from a Piper airframe back in East Texas. This engine was used on early Comanches, and Seth thinks it might have come from a TriPacer.

Further, a VAF poster, Dan Reilly, is selling 3/4" blast tube flanges and I wanted to buy some. He's at hanger E6 in Taylor!

So I buzzed up there, but didn't find anybody I was looking for. I guess I'll have to try again.

Back in the garage, I got a bit more done on the cowling. Got the lower cowling trimmed. Final trim on the bottom, the top edges need a bit more work, and ready now to cut the trailing edges. I don't like this cowling task, it doesn't fit well at the start and is prone to many errors. But it might work out OK despite all of the mistakes I'm making.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

.8 hrs
Started making the canopy rail nutplate strips. The plans specify attaching the slider rails to the canopy deck with screws and nuts. But it's a major pain the ass to get up under the deck to install nuts on the end of screws. A common mod is to use a strip with nutplates instead of screws. Once in place, it's vastly easier to work with. Cut it to length, and predrilled #40 holes, and then clecoed it and the rails to the deck.

That in prep for removing all the clamps from the newly glued up canopy and placing the finished product on the airframe for the first time. The width adjustments ended up nearly perfect. The left aft side could be a bit tighter, but everywhere else it's just right. My first canopy isn't perfect. But it looks like it's going to serve just fine.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

1.2 hrs
Trimmed the lower corners of the cowling attach strips. They were just not going to work as is, and will need some bending.
Then refit the lower cowl and upper cowl and marked the lower cowl for the initial cuts. Then drilled the first #40 holes in the upper cowl that should be the center for the fasteners. Oh yeah - ordered a firewall only set of MilSpec fasteners.

The canopy is setup nicely. I'll take all the clamps off tomorrow. This weekend I'll finish the aft canopy details.

And in more news, mailed off the FAA N number 8250-1 form and 15 bucks to start the registration process for N207LT.

Monday, August 16, 2010

1 hr
Masked, primed, and painted inside turtle deck skin. That's the area above the baggage compartment. Now that that's done, I can rivet in the stiffeners.

The canopy looks like it's setting up nicely. I discovered that the frame is off center by about a 1/16. This caused problems in a couple of other areas. I'm probably the only person who will ever notice.

Sunday, August 15, 2010


8 hrs, 40 rivets

An airplane has two sides, left and right. Many items on the plane have a left and right version. Left HS, right HS. Left wing, right wing. Left longeron, right longeron. Because there's two, you learn how to do it on the first, and then second is always better. Notice how I always enumerate from the left? I did that during construction, too. The left side has lots of mistakes, the right side is noticeably better (to me, that is). I'm convinced this plane will only fly in circles!

Then there are items where there's only one. One instrument panel. One engine. You have to get it right the first time. One canopy. Either that or you do a better job on the next plane.

So it happens I glued up the canopy today. I should say We. Wayne came over, bringing with him hundreds of clamps, and we masked, prepped, primed, and ran beads of SikaFlex. In the end, it looks like it will work. But I already know what things to do different next time. So, assuming Wayne has me help with his canopy, Wayne's will be better than mine!

This morning was spent getting ready for the adventure. This meant finishing drilling the 957 attach strips to the canopy frame, countersinking them, and then riveting them. The rivets will be hidden by the skirt.

Then I bent the canopy frame in by a small amount to compensate for the spread that the canopy will cause when it's attached the frame. In my case I needed to bend the frame in another 1/4". To do this I had to compress the deflect the forward and aft bows about 5 inches from their natural state. This is really hard to do by yourself with any accuracy. I cut a 2x2 to length, placed it between the bow where I'm trying to bend, and then put all my weight on the bow until it hits the 2x2. Measure, cut another 1/2" off the 2x2, try again. Eventually I squeezed both the aft and forward bows in by just the right amount. After clamping the canopy in place, it spreads the frame to just the right width for a good fit to the tracks and fuselage.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

5 hrs
Spent some time during the week on the cowling, but didn't log any of it. A busy week on many fronts. But today managed to get some time in the garage, despite the brutal heat index. This morning I was working on the cowling and by 11AM I was completely soaked. The morning sun lights up the garage, and in August it's downright unbearable.
Despite that, got the cowling nose fitting much better, good enough to start fitting the lower cowling. Trimmed too much from the left side of the upper cowling. Epoxy filling will be required.

Then got back to work on the canopy. Ordered SikaFlex and it came in Thursday. So today I fit the 957 canopy trim strips. Drilled them to the frame, to #40. Need to drill to #33 for the MK-319BS pop rivets. After that, I'll check the canopy spread adjustments again. Decided to use some clear 1/16" thick plastic tubing as a spacer. Will have to do some slight bending on the frame to account for spreading, and should be ready for SikaFlex sometime tomorrow.

During the week placed orders for the canopy handles, carbon fiber and epoxy tools from AC Spruce, and forward deck liner from Cleavland.

Looking at fabric swatches from Classic Aero. Decided on colors for the seats, and need to get that order started. With a 15 week lead time, it should be here before I need it.

Monday, August 9, 2010

1.4 hrs
Trimming on the upper cowl with sandpaper, it's as close as I can get it now without having the lower cowl in place.

Finished the nose gear cutout on the lower cowl and did a preliminary placement.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

2 hrs
Placed the order for SikaFlex on Friday from Merritt Supply. Almost nothing to do on the canopy until that gets here.
Started cutting the upper cowling. Blocked it up, set the gap to the spinner to a reasonable amount, marked the cowling, and then let into it with the cutoff wheel. Much easier than the canopy. After the canopy, where sanding with large grits barely makes a dent, I discovered that sandpaper really will take some meat off the canopy edge. So there's no need to finese the line with the cutoff wheel on the canopy. Just break out the 100 grit sandpaper and you'll soon have the edge just right.
Still a bit more to go, mainly recovering from cutting too aggressively with the cutoff wheel.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

3 hrs
Trim windscreen to final size.
Make PVC spacers for fitting spinner.

Did a trial fit of the top cowling. It's all coming together, but there's still a lot to do.

For Friday, August 6
2 hrs
Fit aft canopy to frame and trim to final length.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

.7 hrs
Bought a new garden hose at home depot, then proceeded to cut it up for spacers between the canopy bubble and the frame. When glueing with sikaflex, a small gap is required. Then clamped the plexi to the frame and marked the final cut on the aft slider canopy. Looks like I need to bend the canopy frame forward bow in about an eigth inch to account for canopy spreading. This is much less than other builders report and I wonder if I've got something wrong (starting with my measurement technique). After making these cuts, the plans call for drilling a bunch of holes to pop rivet the plexi to the frame. I will skip that, but now I need to order some expensive glue!

While goofing around with the canopy tonight, the FedEx truck pulls up. It has a weird shaped box on it. The driver knew what it was, because he's seen the project already!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

1.2 hrs
Cleaned up the windscreen aft edge and started fitting it to the plane. Looks like the aft canopy really needs to be done and in place to get the windscreen right.

The spinner finally arrived from Catto props.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The Big Cut!

1.3 hrs
Today I passed a major milestone on the build - I cut the canopy into two pieces! The plexiglass canopy comes in one large, fragile, expensive piece that can be used to make either a sliding or tip-up canopy. It has to be trimmed in different ways for each, but both require a major cut right across the middle of it. It's nerve wracking in the days before making the cut, but when done properly it's just another task (sez he, after completing his).
There's lots more work to do on the canopy, including more trimming, but that sort of marks the transition into the final stretch of the build.

The cut is made!

If there was any doubt....

A good storage place!

Monday 8/2
.5 hrs
Mark the canopy for the separation cut.

Ready to make the cut.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

5 hrs
Continued cutting the canopy. Used a unibit to cut the latch handle hole, and made the final aft trim cut. Left about an inch hanging over in the back. When I put the canopy back on the airframe, the canopy/aft deck transition is very pleasing.

Also got some FWF/electrical work done. Finished up the alternator power feed and started clamping it in place. I need to use sump/air plenum bolts as clamp points for both the alternator and starter power cables. Need to do some research on this.