More Work on Empennage Fairings

I’m going to start working on my gear leg fairings and wheel pants soon, but I need to get the plane up in the air in a level flight attitude to do that.  I could use the plane jacks I made, but those jack behind the CG, so you need to hold the tail down when jacking.  Any screw up here could tip the plane onto its nose.  Instead, I picked up a shop crane from Harbor Freight so that I can lift the front of the plane by the engine mount and then jack up the aft end of the plane using one of my plane jacks.  This required some assembly, so I knocked that out tonight.

While unscrewing one of my lower empennage fairings, the Click Bond nutplate I was using popped loose from the inside of the horizontal stabilizer skin.  I managed to fish it out using the hook on the end of my inspection camera.  Unfortunately, this is not made of a ferrous metal or I could have just used a magnet.  I’m going to replace this with a rivnut which should be much more secure.

The left side lower empennage fairing was still sitting a little bit below the level of the upper fairing, so I added a bit more glass.  Once it’s really close, I’ll use some filler on both pieces to make a totally smooth joint.

First Flight!

I just had a couple of things to do this morning before the plane was ready for first flight.  I installed the cowl inlet seals and then installed the cowl.  I also reinstalled the lower empennage fairings.  Finally, I got the GoPro cameras ready and changed into my Nomex flight suit.  Jenn grabbed this picture of me for posterity.

Several people wanted to get some last minute pictures before the flight.

Here is a video of the first flight.  The flight itself was a non-event.  Everything went beautifully and the plane flew hands off.  My buddy Greg flew chase in his Bonanza and we were able to check airspeeds and altitudes.  My buddy Andre and Jenn manned radios on the ground.  Thanks to everyone who came out for this momentous milestone.


After the flight, Jenn grabbed another picture of me to prove I survived.

I did a very thorough post-flight inspection and found a couple of minor things to change.  The silicone wrap I used here had rubbed through, so I used a layer of spiral wrap and some electrical tape to provide a wear layer here.

There was a missing tie-wrap here.  Not sure if it broke or I had just missed it.

My oil pressure was high.  I swapped the oil pressure regulator and have it turned all the way down, so I was starting to suspect the sender.  I rigged up a secondary gauge and confirmed the sender is correct.

Second Flight

I wrapped up the inspection from yesterday and turned the oil pressure regulator all the way down.  I pulled the plane out and took it for its second flight.  This was mostly a duplicate of the first flight to get a little more confidence in the engine and other systems, but I stayed up for nearly an hour instead of 30 minutes.  I kept the power up over 75% for most of the flight, but slowed down to do a few more stalls and a couple of power on stalls (both in the video below).  You can see the power on stall by how high the nose is above the horizon.

I also had a chance to test the autopilot a bit.  Since I was mostly flying racetrack patterns around the airport, I engaged the altitude hold mode at 5,000′ and used the heading bug to drive the plane around.  I also tested the vertical speed hold mode and altitude intercept, and everything worked beautifully.  On the descent, I tested the roll hold mode which keeps a constant bank angle.  This was great for spiraling down to pattern altitude.

The plane ran great, and the oil pressure is down a bit, but I’m still getting over 95 psi at takeoff.  This is the red line that AeroSport recommended I set, but Lycoming allows up to 115 psi for takeoff.  I’m running about 85 psi in cruise, so I may be just fine.

I also had a chance to test my oil cooler butterfly valve effectiveness, and I’m very pleased with how well it works.  In cruise, I was running 185º F with the valve wide open.  I closed the valve and the temp climbed up to 223º F within just a couple of minutes.  It was still climbing, but the engine monitor was complaining about the high oil temp, so I opened the valve back up.  The temp rapidly dropped back to 185º F.  This should be really useful in cold temps to keep my oil temperature up.

I remembered to turn on the forward facing GoPro camera in the cockpit, and I also hooked up a camera under the tailwheel spring.  That provides a nice view of the main wheels during takeoff and landing.

Continued Transition Training

Today was a full day of training, and we each got 2 flights in.  Although the weather was forecast to be better in the afternoon, it was actually worse with some really low clouds through the hills that we need to fly over between Vernonia and Scappoose.  Fortunately, Mike knows the terrain like the back of his hand, so we were able to scud run between the hills and the low-level clouds and get through.  We did have to try a couple of valleys before we found one where we could make it through though.

The first flight in the morning was mostly takeoff and landing practice like yesterday with stop and go, three-point landings.  I still bounced a few, but I’m quickly getting the hang of landing the plane.  During the second flight, we moved on to wheel landings and power off approaches.  The wheel landings are a little more sensitive than the Decathlon I’ve been flying, but two out of the three I tried were pretty good.  Power off approaches were interesting as the descent angle is very steep at 85 MPH, full flaps, and no power.  We started our base turn abeam the touchdown point and that worked out well.  I was able to nail all of those without a problem.

Tomorrow, weather permitting, we’ll wrap up with short and soft field takeoffs and landings and maybe a bit more air work.

Finished Transition Training

Greg and I wrapped up our transition training today.  We each got between 8-9 hours total, and I’m feeling pretty comfortable in the airplane.

We did a little more air work today including more slow flight and stalls.  We also did some power off landings as well as short and soft field landings.  The weather was substantially better than yesterday, so we were able to climb a bit higher and do some acro.  Thanks to Mike’s excellent instruction, I’m ready for first flight.

Transition Training with Mike Seager

My buddy Greg and I flew up to Portland, OR early this morning and made it over to Vernonia, OR a little after 10 am to start our transition training with Mike Seager.  Here’s a little intro video about Mike:

We spent about an hour and a half going through ground instruction which covered the various V speeds for the airplane and then talked about the speeds and configs for the various parts of the traffic pattern. Many of the speeds are similar to the Bonanzas we fly, so that will make it a little easier to transition between them.Afterward, we grabbed lunch in town and then came back out to start flying.

Despite the rain and low clouds, we each got 1.8 hours of flight time in the plane. The flight started with a takeoff from his soggy grass strip and then a flight out to the practice area underneath the overcast. I got a chance to play with the controls and learn how sensitive they are. The plane is far more responsive than anything I’ve ever flown, but it’s not twitchy. You do have to be careful because it’s really easy to over control the plane.Once we got to the practice area, we slowed the plane down and did some slow flight at 80 and 70 MPH. Although the controls were mushy, there is still far more control authority even at this speed than most planes have in any configuration.

Once we finished slow flight, we moved on to power off and power on stalls. The power off stall break is rather abrupt with little warning but has little tendency to drop a wing as long as the ball is relatively close to center. The power on stalls were even more docile, but they were at a ridiculously high pitch attitude. Even at only 23 squared, the break happened at over 30º nose up. A full power stall would be at a truly extreme angle even in his 160 hp RV-7. In our nearly 200 hp RVs, the angle will be even higher.

After we wrapped up the air work, we headed over to the Scappoose airport for some pattern work. We did half a dozen stop and go landings, and I was starting to get a pretty good feel for the handling and site picture near the end. This is the first taildragger I’ve flown where I can’t see the far end of the runway over the nose in the flare. His technique is to look down the side of the cowl and sight the far left corner of the runway. I still need to practice his technique to make it more automatic. Assuming the weather holds, we’ll get a few more flights in over the next couple of days, so I should be feeling pretty solid by Friday.

Polished Canopy

I spent an hour or so polishing the canopy.  I’ll probably spend some more time on it later to get every last mark off of it, but it looks fantastic now.  I cleaned it inside and out with some Plexus, so it’s ready for flight.

I then trimmed and sanded the glasswork that I did on the lower empennage fairings.  I think they’re ready for filler, but I’m going to fly with them like they are now and deal with that later.

Full Power Engine Run

I didn’t get any pictures, but I did the first full power engine run today.  I’ve been having an issue with high oil pressure even though the adjustment screw is backed all the way out.  The main thing I wanted to determine was where the pressure would top out.  It turns out that with the oil pressure regulator turned all the way down, it peaked at 103 PSI at 1800 RPM and stayed there all the way up to 2700 RPM.  AeroSport power said the red line should be at 95 PSI, so it’s clearly too high.  I’ll call them tomorrow to see what I should do about this.

I also started adding some glass to the lower empennage fairings to make them line up with the upper fairing.  I needed to stiffen up the leading edge so that I could add some lightweight filler without it cracking due to the fairing being so flexible.

Finally, I spent some time using the MicroMesh kit on the canopy to remove a few spots of paint overspray and some minor scratches.  I worked all the way down to the 6000 grit sandpaper.  I’ll use the polish tomorrow.

Fabricated Tow Bar

I picked about $10 worth of electrical conduit and fittings and welded up a tow bar down at the TechShop.  The crosspiece that you see in the center can slide up and down the tubes to apply the clamping force that will keep the tow bar attached to the tailwheel bolt.  This should be super simple to attach and remove.  Basically, you just line up the fittings with the bolt and squeeze the tubes together.  The crosspiece will automatically slide down the tubes and lock the tow bar in place.  To release, just pull back on the cross piece and the fittings will pop off.  I made the tow bar 5′ long because a shorter tow bar tends to hit the bottom of the rudder.  Hopefully 5′ will be long enough to avoid that.

Primed Cowling

I cleaned off the cowl and shot a few coats of primer.  There are a couple of runs since I was trying to go heavy to make this a fill coat.  This will all get sanded down before any finish coat is applied.  Here’s the upper cowl.

Here is the oil door.  I elected to paint the latches; I hope that will not be a mistake.

Here’s the bottom cowl.  Although I skimmed coated this with raw epoxy several times, I still have a few pinholes to deal with.  It’s way better than it was when I started though.