EAA Sportair Composite class – Debrief

This past weekend was the EAA SportAir Composite class in Manassas VA.  I had posted that I was planning on attending and was excited to become more familiar with the techniques of how to work with Fiberglass (and other composites).  My instructor had a ton of experience was as truly a veteran builder.  Granted he was not really the biggest fan of the Vans line of aircraft, however we all are entitled to our own opinions.  With that said, he presented a lot of information about composites, general construction techniques, and a breakdown of the generally accepted building materials.

After this intro, we got into the hands on portion of the class and started our first few projects.  Starting with the basics, we made a sandwich layup of fiberglass and last-a-foam board that was then vacuum bagged.  This was pretty straightforward, you just need the right materials / tools (vacuum pump, fittings, breather fabric, etc).  Then it was onto some hot-wire to make an airfoil.

While all pretty cool, these were not very “RV Specific” projects.  Yes, there is an RV Composite specific class, but I did not have the ability or time to fly out to Oshkosh to take it.  Maybe in a year or so?

The discussion of humidity and temperature control in your build space when working with composites is very valuable.  As was the discussion on the different epoxy systems.  I know that everyone is a huge fan of “West systems” and we even used it in the class.  Based on the properties, mixing methods, and recommendation of the instructor, I think I’ll be using Aeropoxy for my project.  Also why you use Flox, Micro balloons, or a structural epoxy vs laminating epoxy was priceless.

I think the best project for me was making a fairing for the wheel leg.  This involved using clay to create a contour for the fiberglass.  While not specifically what I was expecting, this was very close to how I was planning to make my modification to the VS fairing.  We’ll see how successful I am.

Anyway, as a primer to fiberglass and techniques on how to work with it, I think this was an excellent class.  I’m absolutely planning on taking the RV composites class as well as the avionics class in the future.

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