Tailcone – Part 8

September has been a VERY busy month and I haven’t had as much time to work on the airplane as I had hoped.  Some of this was due to the fact that I finally got to a point where I needed a second person to help rivet a few areas.  Just about every weekend in September was booked with family, or personal events so didn’t really have a lot of time to spend in the garage. (See previous post about the B-17)

One thing that stood out in the timelapse was how many times I drilled out rivets that I wasn’t happy with.  Honestly, drilling out rivets is no big deal and something that doesn’t get me nervous anymore.  I’m sure I didn’t need to drill them all out, but if I was at all questioning a rivet I just drilled it out and replaced it.

Basically got as much solo riveting done as I could before I got one of my old College buddies to come over to help out.  At least now I can say I had an Aerospace Engineer help build my plane!   Even had to enlist my wife to help me out for some of the last rivets.  She was a good sport, but doesn’t really find it enjoyable.

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Flying a B-17

As a member of the EAA 186 Chapter out of Manassas VA, I had the opportunity to volunteer while Aluminum Overcast was in town.  I spend the better part of 2 days providing ground support for the B-17 as it was doing paid tours.  Mostly crowd management and making sure people didn’t wander off the ramp.

Sunday afternoon I was told that there was a seat available for me on the B-17 as it was being re-positioned from Manassas VA, to Hickory NC on Monday 10/2.  Easy decision, and I informed work and my family I was going to be on the road.

Some of the photos from the weekend (including my daughters helping cleaning oil off the horizontal stabilizer.

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Tailcone – Part 7

Into the fray we go.  Time to start final assembly and riveting the tailcone together.  I know there are all kinds of opinions on the “right” way to rivet, but I elected to backrivet the tailcone where I could.  This was pretty easy honestly and just required me to cut a slot in my carpet to allow me to mount my back-rivet plate on my benchtop.  Only hazard is making sure you don’t try to backrivet off the end of the plate!  With that in mind I did take things slowly.

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Tailcone – Part 6 – Dimpling

So not a lot I can say about dimpling other than there is a lot of it on the tailcone.  Doing this solo was slightly challenging as I tried a few different ways to get access to all of the holes.

In the grand scheme of things, this was pretty straightforward. (I did use the substructure dimples on the bulkheads and ribs but not where the sinks overlapped.)  Take your time and don’t make an oops like I did.  Seems that only once did my attention wander and I ended up making a new hole in my skin.   Somewhat crushing, but not the end of the world.  I was able to drill the holes out to fit a 5- Rivet and ordered some assorted 426 flush head rivets.  My Rivet gun should be able to set it just fine, and I’m having a technical counselor come over to take a look at all my potential mistakes.  I’ll share the completed image of my “fix” in a future update. Read more

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.

Tailcone – Part 5

Now it’s time to take everything apart and start to get ready for primer and final assembly.  Oh how fun.  Honestly it’s amazing how long it takes to put everything together and how quickly you can pull it apart.   Anyway, I pull the top skins off and get the rear shoulder harness anchors cleaned up and drilled into the longerons.  I do a little bit of cleanup in the garage, then start disassembling all the parts by the aft deck (marking parts as I go).  I keep the plans open so I can make sure I write the correct part number on everything.  On a few parts, I make some orientation marks to ensure I put it back the way it was initially assembled.   Read more

Tailcone – Part 4

Starting off on page 10-10 and installing the Aft deck on the tailcone.  Initially I was having some issues trying to get the skins to line up correctly with the aft deck, and realized this was a self-inflicted issue.  I initially cut F-1010B a bit long due to my previous issues with the J-stiffeners being too short.  Even so it appeared that with the F-1010B being long it wasn’t an issue (see photo below)

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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