Tailcone – Part 3

So I’ll start off saying that I had a lot of camera issues this that are leading some some funky transitions due to lost footage or the camera turning off without me noticing.

Anyway, Starting off I got some help from my wife in flipping the tailcone over and getting it positioned in the garage so I could continue mounting the parts and pieces for the second side skin.  I keep “double-checking” how some of the parts overlap to make sure I am doing it correctly.  While mounting a few of the rear-ribs/bulkheads, I realize that a few of my J-channel stiffeners are actually just a little short of where they should be (edge distance in the images below). This was a bit crushing and required me to contact VANS support for advice.  I actually also did some searches on VAF and was glad I wasn’t the first one to make the same mistake :).   Read more

Tailcone – Part 2

First step in this video is the bending of the longerons.  I was worried about how this work work and was pretty cautious on how hard I was hitting them with the mallet.  HA!  I ended up really beating on these things pretty hard to get the “slight” bend that was necessary.  Give it 3-5 good hits with the rubber mallet while pre-loading the end of the channel, then take it out of the clamp and test fit it against the side skins.  Honestly after getting more aggressive I did get the proper bend in both of the longerons.  (Later on I was quite happy that when I installed the longeron and it fit perfectly!) Read more

EAA Sportair Composite class

So I had wanted to take one of the SportAir workshops prior to starting my project, but I was unable to make any of the local ones, and didn’t have the ability to travel for a weekend class.  Ended up getting the training kits from Vans and figured it out as best as I could.  I did make sure I stopped by the workshop area and visited with some experts at SunNFun to make sure I wasn’t too far off and walked away with an axle wrench project.  🙂

Today I got an e-mail that there are going to be a few workshops at Manassas Airport (KHEF) in early September.  Perfect!  While I would love to take the sheet metal class just to reassure myself, I honestly think my time (and money) would be better spent on the Composite class.  I did the 1 hour workshops at SunNFun, but looks like this will be much more detailed and helpful as I look at the fiberglass work in the near future.  Excited to learn more skills that I can use on my airplane and hope to make some new friends along the way!


Tailcone – Part 1

Started fabricating the parts and sub-assemblies for the Tailcone.  I elected to just purchased the pre-tapped tie-down stock from Cleaveland tool as it was cheaper than buying the actual tap (also didn’t know anyone that had a tap I could borrow).  Then I begin to cut the parts necessary for the bulkheads.  I will admit that in my excitement, I grabbed the incorrect 3/4 x 3/4 stock bar and cut the wrong piece.  Didn’t realize that till a bit later but already ordered and received a replacement piece.  This is a lot of measuring, marking, drilling, and making sure you don’t screw it up like I tend to do. Read more

Elevator – Part 9

Finally getting caught up with some video!  This is the final bits for Section 9.

Once again I was jumping around a little bit and decided to assemble and drill the hinge for one of the trim tabs.  This was more to keep me motivated than anything else as seeing the parts put together just makes me happy.

After I take a moment to enjoy my progress, I move on to riveting the trailing edge of the Elevators.  I decided not to alternate my rivets like I did on the rudder, and things went together quite nicely.  Below are a few pictures of the bucking bar I used to get the rivets near the trailing edge.

Next I begin rolling the leading edge of the elevators.  I quickly remember a post on VAF about using a socket inside JB Welded in the ends of a PVC pipe to assist with rolling the edge.   A quick trip to the Home Depot aviation department and I tried it out.  My first JB weld attempt failed on both sockets (you can see me re-do my work in the videos) however once I sanded the sockets and PVC pipe, the JB weld did a great job.  It really did make life a LOT easier rolling the edge by myself.

On to attaching the counterbalance weights and cleaning up a few missed rivets / making sure I didn’t miss anything else.  When I did get to the part where I needed to rivet the hinge onto the elevator and trim tab my squeezer and yokes were just not working.  I didn’t have enough clearance between the yoke and the eyelets of the hinge to squeeze the rivets without crushing / moving the eyelets.  Did some searches that were not really helpful, and decided I needed to modify my yoke slightly.  After some consideration, I decided to cut a small piece off my flat iron stock and JB weld it to the tip of my 4″ no hole squeezer.  Based on my recent experience with the sockets, compressing the JB weld would be fine, but a shearing force would allow me to remove the piece.  This worked perfectly and allowed me to quickly set these rivets.  (I saved the piece in case I need to repeat this again in the future.)

Once completed, I couldn’t help myself and showed off to the wife and kids how the parts go together.  🙂

Finished up the other Elevator and trim tab and stowed everything on my shelves so I can start working on the tailcone.  At this point my budget won’t allow me to order the wings until closer to November but now that the temp is getting reasonable (and the dehumidifier seems to really be helping make life comfortable in the garage), I have a feeling I’m going to be ramping up my time in the garage.  I’m sure I’ll be done with the tail well before the wings arrive.  The only question becomes where will I be storing all the stuff while I continue to build.  Already looking at where I can store parts (especially the horizontal stabilizer) while I work.  I have a feeling I’m going to have to do some massive cleanup / organization in my garage to make room for all my completed parts.

Elevator – Part 8

It feels like I have already done this once before.  Now that my left elevator has been primed, I can begin to dimple and begin final assembly.  Since I have already done this once, things go pretty quickly.  I don’t even have any issues riveting the skin to the rear spar this time.

All went great until I got to the point where I was ready to apply the proseal to the trailing edge and trim tabs.  I had ordered the 3.5 Oz ProSeal tube from Vans, just like I did for the rudder.  This time, the proseal came in a 6 oz tube, not the 3.5 oz tube I got the last time.  Only reason this is significant is that I have a SEMCO dispenser gun that came with the smaller retaining clip.  To use the dispenser, I had to transfer the mixed proseal into one of my empty smaller tubes.  (Looking back, the smaller tubes are labeled as 2.5oz.  *shrug*)

Either way, I now own the larger adapter so I don’t have to make more of a mess. I really do like the Dispending gun and the control you have in putting Proseal where you want it.

At this point, I now have to take a break for a while while the Proseal cures before I can finish riveting the trailing edge and attaching the trim tabs to the elevators.

Elevator – Part 7

So finally getting back to editing some video and posting updates.   I finish riveting the right elevator and start on the Trim tabs.  I’ll admit that I decided to go a bit off-script here and decided not to use the method described in the manual to bend the trim tabs.  Instead I decided to use my duck-bill pliers to bend the tabs up manually prior to setting the edge crease.  Would I recommend others follow this path?  Maybe not.  At the time it seems like a perfectly good idea, but I’m sure I could have made a much nicer and crisper bend by following the directions in the manual.  I guess if I was going to deviate anywhere the Trim Tabs are the easiest place to try something new out as it’s a small part that can easily be redone if necessary.  Hey, this is my airplane so no reason I can’t do things slightly differently.

Next I have to create a folding jig with some left-over lumber and set the edge of my trim tabs (taking into account I have already folded over the side tabs.)  Honestly it looks fine and I don’t see an issue.  I then make the tool listed earlier in the manual to better refine the edge and make sure the tab is flat.  I plan to have all of my edges checked by an EAA counselor but think I have them properly set.  I ended up spending what seems like a long time trying to get the edges perfect.

Once I was finally satisfied with the edge, I cut the page out of the manual to cut out the foam ribs per the plans.  Then it’s on to Match Drilling followed by marking out the rib locations and scuffing / masking off where the foam ribs will be glued into the trim tabs.  I decided that I was going to do all the Proseal work in one sitting between the elevators and the trim tabs, so I wanted everything ready and done in prep so I didn’t have to use more than a single tube of Proseal.  (more on that later!)  For scuffing / sanding the inside of the trim tab, a pain stir stick with the sand paper wrapped around the end worked perfectly.  and it was just about the correct width!  The paint sticks were also perfect for putting down the painters tape to mask off where the ribs sit.

My only oversight was that I masked off all the way to the edge of the trim tabs, which left me with a small stripe of non-primed skin that I now have to “touch up”.  Just something to think about if you are crazy enough to follow my suggestions.  In addition to getting my trim tabs ready for primer, I’m also shooting the primer on the Left elevator which I didn’t spray earlier.

Once the primer was done and I waited for it to completely dry.  (Don’t dimple / parts until the primer has dried for at least 24 hours if not 48 hours unless you want it to possibly flake off).  I looked ahead at other things I could get done.  I ended up working with the lead counterbalance weights.  *** WARNING  Van’s doesn’t put any warning about Lead in their manual, but make sure you are smart with how you handle the lead!.  It didn’t really show up on the video, but I was using my respirator while cutting the lead, followed by a good cleaning of the area with my Shop Vac.  You do not want to breath in Lead dust.

Once that is all cleaned up, I remember to use my drill press to countersink the appropriate holes in my trim tab spars, and begin to put the trim tabs together.