Moving Day!

Today was moving day.  My dad, brother and a bunch of friends came over to help me move everything.  We ran one load down to the airport with almost everything but the fuselage then came back for that.  The liftgate was not wide enough to get the gear completely on, so we laid a piece of plywood over it to give us a little margin of error.

Here’s the fuselage all strapped down for the ride.  It worked well and arrived unscathed.

Here’s some of the moving crew.  Thanks to all of you for your help!

Several of the guys (including one local pilot who stopped by when he saw the moving truck) stayed around until evening and we got both wings mounted (but not torqued) and the horizontal stabilizer installed.  Thanks guys!

Unfortunately, when hammering in the bolts on the left side, I ended up bending the gusset that ties the spar to the lower longeron.  It’s a fairly gentle bend, so I’m going to try and bend it back before ordering a replacement.  Fortunately, this part is fairly easy to remove.  It would be a serious pain to damage a part that is permanently installed or hard to access.

Update: On the advice of another builder who follows my site, I called Van’s about this and spoke with Joe Blank.  He said that as long as the piece wasn’t bent back and forth until it work hardened, it would be fine.  Although this is exactly what I expected them to say, it was good to have some further piece of mind.

Last Night at Home

I stopped by the airport this morning and signed the lease on the hangar at the South County airport (E16).  This is so much nicer than our Bonanza hangar at Reid Hillview (KRHV).  It is exactly what I was hoping for, a north facing hangar on a row with lots of other RVs.  I’ll be moving in tomorrow!

Anyway, back to work.  The overall shape of the canopy fairing is great, but there were a couple of low spots and some holes.  I mixed up another small batch of filler and took care of those.

After the filler cured, I sanded it down.  Since the shape of the fairing is now set, I pulled off the yellow electrical tape.  I also pulled the rest of the plastic covering to take a look at the canopy.  There are a few spots with overspray on it and some other bits of adhesive residue that needs to be cleaned off, but overall it looks great.

I pulled off the tail since it won’t fit in the truck with the tail on.  While I had the horizontal stabilizer off, I added four more nutplates where the lower empennage fairing attaches to the longeron.

I added a couple of bolts in the tail so that any loads on the tailwheel are transferred into the structure during the ride to the airport.  Without this, any vertical loads on the tailwheel would be applied to the bottom edge of this bulkhead.

I spent most of the day trying to get everything ready for the move tomorrow.  The plane is off the wheel dollies, all of the tools are in the toolboxes and I’ve cleaned out underneath the airplane.  I still need to get some stuff off the shelves, but everything else is ready to go.

Canopy Fairing, Cowling Hinge Covers and Move Prep

I sanded down the filler I applied yesterday.

As expected, there are some low spots, so I’ll need another coat or two, but the overall shape is getting very close.

I mixed up another coat and squeegeed it on.

The cowl has these covers over the holes to access the side hinge pins.  I decided to fasten the hinge pins to the covers, so I ground a groove in the back of the cover and mixed up some JB Weld and glued them together.  You can see the back side of the cover in the mirror above the cover.

I’ve had these vinyl letters for quite a while, but I finally took a few minutes and put them on the vertical stabilizer.  There is another one on the other side.

In preparation for my imminent move to the airport, I went through all of my tools and pulled out everything that needed to go to the hangar.  I also picked up a bunch of new tools (wrenches, socket set, screwdrivers, etc.).

I also put all of my metal working tools in a tool bag since I shouldn’t need any of them anymore.  This bag is ridiculously heavy (70-80 lbs at least).

The second coat of filler I applied this morning has cured, so I sanded it down most of the way.  The middle section is nearly perfect, but the sides still need some work.

GoPro Camera Mount, Canopy Fairing, Reversed Vacuum Valve

I added a couple of rivnuts in the bottom of the roll bar, spaced for a RAM diamond mount (RAP-B-238).

Here’s the GoPro mounted.  It’s just to the right of the center line to clear the canopy latch.  You can also see the live preview on my phone.  I can capture the entire instrument panel, the sides of both people’s heads and a great view outside.

I mixed up some filler and applied a layer to the fairing and shaped it with a piece of aluminum that I cut to match the curve of the sanding block I’m using.

While I had some filler mixed up, I added a little more to the sides of the upper cowling to match the curve of the fuselage.

Here’s the other side.  I’ll sand this completely flush tomorrow.

One of the readers of my site noticed that I had mounted the air/oil separator’s vacuum valve backward. Fortunately, there was room to turn the valve around without interfering with anything.

I zip-tied the breather tube to the fuel line and oil line to keep it from rubbing.

The breather line nicely clears the firewall, oil filter and prop governor bracket.

I’m no longer using the nutplate on the firewall that used to secure the breather line, so I filled it with an AN525-10R6 screw to keep the firewall sealed.

Finished Rear Window and Fiberglassed Leading Edge of Canopy

I came out this morning and pulled all of the spacers holding the rear window in place.  I closed the canopy to check the fit and I’m super happy with the fit.  I needed to apply sealant to both the front and back of the joint, so I climbed into the baggage area.  This was a huge pain, and I’m not looking forward to having to do this in the future for maintenance.  Since Jenn was entertained by my discomfort, she caught another picture of me.

Here’s the finished bead of Sikflex.  The rear window is officially done!

With all the adhesive work done, I can start putting some of the interior in place.  I can’t install everything since I’ll still need access to do the final assembly, but I can go ahead and install some things that won’t need to come out.  First up is the seat belts.

Next, I installed the upper side panels.  The lower panels can’t go in yet since the seat pans have to come out to attach the wings.  I also installed the pilot’s seat so that I could adjust the seat belts.

In addition to sanding the skin in front of the canopy, I sanded the edge of the canopy in preparation for fiberglassing.  Also, the front edge of the canopy was sitting a bit above the canopy frame, so I fabricated three small clips that I pop riveted to the canopy frame to hold the edge down.  I painted the back side of these black so that they won’t show through on the inside.

Here’s a closeup of one of the clips.  The outer two pop rivets are hidden inside by the canopy frame brace, but the center one will show on the inside, so I’ll have to paint it.

I mixed up some dry micro with some black pigment and filled the gap between the leading edge of the canopy and the skin.

I impregnated some 8.9oz satin weave cloth with epoxy and marked strips of widths in 1/4″ increments from 1/2″ to 2″.

Pro-Tip: I really should have added some black pigment to the epoxy used in these strips. The color is very apparent from inside the plane.

I laid the layers of glass from narrowest to widest to create a nice transition from the skin to the canopy.  This will still need a bunch of filler to make the transition have a uniform radius, but this will provide the strength for the fairing.

Installed Rear Window Permanently

I estimated fitting the rear window was going to take me a few hours, but I forgot to take into account how much of a fucking perfectionist I am :-).  After spending most of two days on this, I’m very happy with how it is turning out.  Here’s the window installed for good with all the screws in place.

I adjusted all of the spacers so the window is almost perfectly in line with the canopy when it is latched.

Finally, I put the first batch of Sikaflex in place between the spacers.  I’ll put the final bit of Sikaflex on in the morning and I’ll know for sure how well it turned out.

Started Final Fitting of Rear Window

Today is Christmas, but between our family celebration in the morning and dinner with my dad and step-mom in the evening, I managed to put in 4-5 hours working on the rear window.  I didn’t think fitting this would take so long, but there were several adjustments that had to be made.  I sanded to the line I marked yesterday and then repeated closing the canopy, marking 1/32″ back, and sanding to the line until the canopy could close fully.  I still need to open the gap further, but I could start trying the get the two surfaces to align.

Due to the geometry of the roll bar and canopy, the sides of the rear window were pushed out beyond the sides of the canopy.  The number 2 here is the number of 32nds of an inch that the window side needs to pull in (from 0.124″ to 0.061″).

Here you can easily see how bad the misalignment is with a straightedge held against the rear window.

I masked the inside surface of the rear window the first 8″ or so up the side and sanded down to the required thickness.  This surface will be glued later, so you’ll never see this or likely even notice that the window is thinner here.  I’m also not worried about any strength loss since the whole surface will be glued instead of just a couple of screws through this area.

After sanding, you can now see that the sides line up nicely.  Tomorrow will be opening up the gap and getting the rest of the surfaces as aligned as possible.

Finished Gluing Canopy and Started Rear Window

I removed all of the masking so that I could open the canopy and climb inside to finish applying the adhesive.  Jenn caught a picture of me working.

This is a lousy picture, but I applied a bead of adhesive on both the inside and outside of the canopy frame bow.

After scraping most of the excess adhesive away with an aluminum scraper I fabricated with a small radius, I removed the tape that was defining both sides of the bead.  I used my finger dipped in mineral spirits to create a nice smooth fillet.  It’s not perfect, but I’m happy with it.

I still need to do a final trim of the front edge of the rear window, so I put some masking tape on the roll bar and marked the aft edge of the canopy.

After installing the rear window, I transferred this line to the rear window.  I’ll sand close to this line and then start the final fitting.  Van’s specifies a 1/32″ gap between the canopy and rear window.

Installed Canopy

I fabricated some spacers to hold the canopy frame bow in the correct position relative to the roll bar and then clamped the two together.  I also created some spacers out of some scrap baffle seal material to space the canopy the correct distance from the canopy frame bow.  I then removed the electrical tape that was along the top of the canopy frame bow and primed it with the Sika 209 primer.

I also masked and applied a couple of coats of the Sika 209 primer to the aft edge of the canopy.

I reinstalled the canopy and installed all of the screws along the sides.

I climbed inside through the open back window and applied a preliminary bead of Sikaflex 295 UV adhesive between the spacers.  Once the adhesive sets up, I’ll remove the spacers and apply a single bead across the whole box.  Getting inside this way was tough.  I’m 6’4″, so it was quite the contortion act.  I ended up laying down in the baggage area and slithering under the crossbar.

I added a little bit of weight across the center to hold the canopy down against the spacers.

In preparation for fiberglassing the front edge of the canopy, I sanded the skin with some 80 grit sandpaper.

I then laid up some electrical tape to define the upper edge of the fiberglass fairing.

I laid up two layers of black electrical tape 1″ up from the bottom edge of the plexiglass and then laid up 1 layer of yellow electrical tape slightly back from the edge of the black electrical tape.  This will be more visible through the filler and help me sand uniformly.  I’ll sand the plexiglass below the line and lay up the fiberglass tomorrow.

Installed Canopy Frame and Related Components

After a quick trip to Disneyland with the family, I resumed work installing the canopy components for the last time. Here are the guide blocks installed.

I also installed the canopy lift strut mounts.

I installed some UHMW tape on the canopy latch mounting brackets and then trimmed them flush with the edges.  Punching the bolt holes was a pain, but I got it done.

I got the canopy latch back from the anodizing shop and installed it as well.

Finally, I installed the canopy frame and the lift struts.  I got the bolts in, but am not going to torque them down unless I’m sure the canopy frame will not need to come off again.