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

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.