Mid Fuselage Bulkhead – Part 3

Finishing up the Mid Fuselage Bulkheads, I continue by locating all the parts for the next bulkheads. I clean up and deburr all the parts on the ScotchBright wheel. Next I start the process of assembling and match drilling all of the holes called out in the plans.

With the improving weather, I was able to finish preparing the final parts for chapter 25 and get them primed without too much fuss. Once the primer has had time to cure, I’m able to begin the final assembly of the last two bulkheads.

Nothing too difficult on the Rear Spar Bulkhead. Just about all of the rivets are easy enough to set (only a few of the rivets on the gussets were slightly difficult to access). The only item that gave me pause was the nutplate holes in the F-1005A spar. Plans had me drill #40 and #19 those holes, but wanted to verify I shouldn’t countersink. Took a few mins of going through the plans to verify – leave them alone for now.

With that done, I move onto the Fuselage Bulkhead assembly. Very straightforward and easy to rivet. (I probably could have used the squeezer, but was already rocking it with the rivet gun at this point.)

With these bulkheads done, I putting them aside and backtracking to the last few items on the wings. Need to finish up the ailerons, flaps, tanks, and mount the pitot mast. Worried if I don’t do these items now, then they will be on the back burner for a long time as space will become an issue. LOTS to do, just need to buckle down while the weather is nice!

Mid Fuselage Bulkhead – Part 2

Continuing on with Section 25, I begin to work on the aft center section bulkhead. This is mostly a repeat of the forward center section.

I begin by collecting all the parts for this assembly, then final drilling as appropriate with my reamer. Not much to comment on and very few surprises as I began the process. Once completed, I disassemble and deburr. The weather has been nice the last few days and I was able to get all the parts primed without too much trouble.

After waiting 24 hours for the primer to cure, I begin final assembly of the forward center section. Install the blots per plans. I elected to put the rivets for the seat stiffeners in with the mfg head on the spar as I really didn’t want to use my offset rivet set. For the other areas where I could get a straight rivet set in, I put the mfg head on the primed parts. Honestly do whatever makes the most sense for you.

With the fwd section done, I begin to work on the aft section. Basically another repeat of the fwd section, just make sure you don’t rivet in those areas called out in the plans. Every now and then I would put a smiley into a few of the universal head rivets. No big deal, but I would drill the rivet out and replace. When you replace the rivet twice, that is a good clue to take a break and come back in a bit.

With both the fwd and aft center sections completed, I stored them inside temporarily to give me a little more space. I’ll probably finish off this chapter then go back and look at finishing up my tanks, flaps and ailerons just so I can get those parts off my shelves and attached to the wing stand.

Two years into the build!

Wow, I’m surprised that it was only 2 years ago that I took delivery of the Empennage kit. Seems like I have been working on this project for longer than that! It’s hard to picture my garage without all the airplane stuff in it. Overall I’m still quite happy with my progress even if the wings really challenged my sanity!

At this point I have the empennage done, wings mostly done (still have a few items to finish up), and making progress on the Fuselage. I’m getting towards the part where I’m getting budget limited vs time limited. Parts and upgrades are starting to get more expensive and I’m constantly wondering when I’m no long going to be able to pay for things in “cash”. Engine and avionics will require some sort of loan, or the project is going to sit in the garage for a few years as I save up.

I still don’t have a hangar yet, but did put my name on the waiting list at Manassas Airport (KHEF). There is talk that construction is going to begin shortly that will demolish a good portion of the T-hangars on the field and rebuild new ones further back to allow some upgrades to the runways. They can only delay so long before their environmental studies have to be redone so it sounds like things will be a little crazy in the near future. This is also going to impact our local EAA chapter and build hangar/clubhouse.

I decided to skip Sun N Fun this year and instead head to Oshkosh. Planning to drive just in case I find some good deals (Not opposed to flying if someone has an extra seat however!). Also planning to camp there as I don’t want to deal with finding a hotel / driving back and forth to the grounds. (If needed I can sleep in the trunk of my SUV to stay dry). I’m hoping that by the end of the year, I’ll be close to having a fuselage I can sit in / working on the fiberglass parts. I have a little extra vacation time saved up so I’m sure I’ll be taking time off to work on the airplane.

The one thing that is suffering is my flying. I’m maintaining my currency, but not my profeciency. Somewhat of a deliberate choice as my funds are really dedicated to building. Granted maintaining IFR currency is a lot easier and cheaper with the updated rules. 2 hours of sim time every few months – easy! When I’m ready to start flying beyond some pattern work, I’ll grab a local CFI and get all the rust knocked off. Then find someone to get me some transition training.

Mid Fuselage Bulkhead – Part 1

With the Fuse delivered I wanted a break from working on the wings. Flipping to chapter 25, I start to work on the fuselage!

Starting off I have to fabricate some stiffener brackets out of angle aluminum. Looking at the stock sent in the kit it I attempt to figure out what length of angle to cut. Since I ordered an extra 6 foot section “just in case” I go ahead and use one of the 3 foot sections for these parts as it looks like they include extra length anyway.

Once that’s done, I make the appropriate marks, match drill the stiffeners, then jump into making the seat brackets. Lots of final drilling of parts as this is a pretty beefy structure. I may have overdone it a bit by taking parts off after drilling them to deburr, only to have to re-install them again to drill something else. Nothing wasted by my time, so it’s fine.

Looks like the more recent kits from Vans already have the appropriate cutouts on the spar (25-3: Steps 1-3), so that was nice. Then it was on to prepping the landing gear supports for attaching to the spar. I had to deburr and fiddle with the drill busing called out in step 4 to allow my drill bit to sit nicely in it, but that wasn’t too bad. Used plenty of BoeLube to keep the drill bit cool as I drilled the larger holes.

Once done (off camera) I made sure everything was labeled and then disassembled and deburred so I could prime.

Fuselage Delivery


I’m just a little excited for the fuselage to be delivered. Communication from VANS leaves a bit to be desired. They sent all the paperwork with a crate date of Feb 18th so I was still under the impression that my date had not slipped. But when I didn’t hear anything from them by Feb 28th, I sent a nice message asking if they could send me the shipping info. That’s when I find out that they were really busy getting these orders out and mine hadn’t been started yet. Maybe another week or two at that point.

Luckily I did get notified on March 5th that my crate was ready for pickup by the shipper. I was able to track it and it was scheduled for delivery on March 15th. (Small note, I was actually charged less for the shipping than what VANS indicated on their paperwork. Not that I’m going to argue!)

Truck arrived around 4pm and was able to easily get the crate offloaded. Shipping dimensions were spot on so I was able to clear sufficient space to put it in the garage while I unboxed everything. Pleasantly surprised that I have NO DAMAGE on my crate this time.

My goal was to get the cabin top out of the box and hung from the ceiling as well as getting the crate broken down as much as possible as quickly as possible. (I really only had Friday as I had lots of family obligations for Sat and Sunday!)

While the kids played outside, I easily unpacked most of the items in the crate. Had to get some assistance from my wife to remove the cabin top, then get it in position to lift using our bicycle hoists. Not perfect, but secure enough for a few months. Bikes are stored in the shed as we really weren’t using them much anyway.

Ended up taking another day off mid-week to inventory everything and store everything in the garage. I’ll say this, VANS did a great job on packing the kit and all the sub-components. Nothing was damaged or poorly packed, and I was only missing three items. (Two ribs and one nut). HUGH improvement on what was missing from previous kits.