The last week has sucked big time. I had one of the top ten worst colds of my life last week, which put me out of work for two days and down for most of the weekend. The only bright spot was Saturday. A friend from MI was in town and rented a new Corvette, so I loaded up on antihistamines and we went hooning around the desert all afternoon. Sunday was a little better. I was able to temp-install the control column and the left stick so I could hook up the pushrods and check rigging. I’m not sure, but I think my aft push tube is too long. I have the rod-end bearings in almost to the stops, and I think the forward push tube is shy of minimum thread coverage on its bearings. right now, the only way I get stop-to-stop motion from the elevators without hitting the ribs with the control column is to extend the forward push tube bearings as far as they’ll go. They might still have acceptable thread coverage, but I don’t like being on margins if I can belp it. I might wind up shaving 1/4″ or so off the aft tube and redrilling or ordering a new end bearing fitting. This needs to get done, pronto, because I need to do the roll bar and get that out of the way so I can paint like mad and actually start installing systems.
This morning, I spoke to Tony Partain about the finish kit shipment, and Partain Transport will be delivering my finish kit sometime in the next month or so, which means i’ll have to find a home for the canopy, cowls and other fiberglass bits. the good news is, I’ll be able to use the crating for another project at home, and/or shelves for the incoming bits. The loft in my shop is getting crowded with things I’ll eventually need to paint and screw back on.
Cut, primed, drilled, deburred, riveted, and temp-installed elevator pushrods. I’m now working on temp-installing the control column because, dammit, I want to see the elevators go up and down when I move the stick. I’m also re-thinking my original position on cutting access notches in the two ribs 2nd outboard from center. But another disadvantage to making these post-QB stage is that there’s no way in hell the platenut for the cover attach screw is ever going to line up again. The solution is probably to make a drill jig from a strip of .032, bent to the contour of the rib and cover, and matchdrilled through the cover. This sounds like a pain, and I think maybe time would be better spent getting really good at installing the control column the way Van intended.
Nor is the fiddling done on the stick bearings themselves. The way I understand it, the steel hinge in the stick base rotates around the brass bushing, rather than the brass bushing rotating around the bolt. That’s nice, but the bushings are still a very tight fit in the tube. My guess is, whatever person or machine welding control columns that day left his/her/its juice turned up too high and warped the work just enough to make the fit suck. So I have to pull the bushings out, chuck them into the drill press and sand them down a couple more microns so they slide into the stick bases easily. Now, given the fit of everythign else on this column, I’m expecting a fight when I have to bolt the main control bar to the bearings on the spar. After that, I have lots of crawling around back there to do; I have to run conduit aft for the strobes and antennae, autopilot servo, and AHRS sensors, plus install the static port kit I got from SafeAir1 many moons ago. I also have to manufacture the access covers for the tail and the rudder cable fairings. the fun bit on that is convincing a helper to crawl down the Jeffries tube and buck the rivets for them.
Finished drilling the VS, finished the elevator stop (primed, installed), but still need to finish riveting it to the aft deck.. Bolts are in and torqued though. Not a lot of actual metal work, but lots of measuring. When it says “DOUBLE CHECK EDGE DISTANCE” on the drawing itself, you can take that as a hint that it’s pretty important. So I was doing my best to make sure I knew exactly where I was putting the drill on both sides of the sandwich. With the elevators horns in the way, it’s really hard to judge anything vertical on F-712, so there was a lot of measuring, then some measuring, followed by more measuring, then the actual 1/4″ holes. It’s important to get this right because the load from the tailwheel spring gets transferred into the airframe via WD-409 and some of it gets picked up by the VS and transferred to the HS, which spreads it out into two big bars attached to F-711. After this was done, there was a lot of bolt torquing and application of torque seal, fiddly bits like that. Still on the to do list is the rudder stops, but I’ll do that after I get the pitch push tubes done and I can pull the HS off and actually work back there. As it is, I’m crammed in with the fridge and stove and every time I have to get to the workbench or the tool box, I have to duck under the stabilizer.
But after that, I started on the control column. This is my first beef with the quality of the stuff coming from Van’s. The powder coated stick assembly sucks. I wound up bending the tabs outward, then grinding off a good 1/16″ from the sides of the stick bearings and bushings. Now all the stuff fits. And fits well. But it still chaps my hindquarters that I had to do so much work on a part that’s supposed to be done, finito, that’s it. But I got the stick assembly together, and I got the forward elevator tube drilled, aft elevator tube cut to length. I wanted to get the tubes done, but that’s as far as I got. We’ve got Santa Ana conditions all week though, so it’s conceivable I can prime the tubes this week and get it rigged by Friday. For those of you outside Los Angeles, those are the hot winds from the desert carrying dirt and charged particles that make everyone in the city crazy and fakes the classic Southern Calfornia summer for a week or so. I havent’ actually installed the control column yet. I was thinking about cutting removable sections in the next two outboard ribs near the control column so I can drop it in without much contortion, but it seems to me the savings in work from ease of assembly of the control column is offset by having to fabricate the new cutouts and fiddle with the hardware. But as of now, I’m trapped in paint-land, and the worst kind fo paint-land, priming the inside of aluminum tube. And better yet, I have to do it in the morning before work. I’m going to try to make it happen with the spray can, so I can keep cleanup to a minimum.
Mostly. I still have to drill the lower holes in the VS/F712/tailwheel bracket assembly, but today I finished the up elevator stop and drilled the VS to it. I did the forward attach bracket as well, and based on the plumb line down the holes in the rudder attach brackets, it’s pretty dang straight.
I also finished bending the tubes for the boost pump. Making tube bends is a dark art, and I’m by no means a master of it, but I got everything cut and bent and it all lines up without any stress on the fittings, and none of the lines rub together. All the covers fit too, which is a bonus. The new tubing bender performs really well, but it’s a little unwieldy in some situations and I did a few hand-bends where I couldn’t get the right angle with the bender.
The control column got some work today, which was more pain than fun, because the powder-coated parts don’t fit together well at all. I wound up filing the stick bearing down so it would fit in the yoke on the main bar, along with the brass bushing. But that gets to wait anyway, I need to finish drillng the VS.
Drilled and deburred the up elevator stop. That should be the last thing standing in the way of mounting the VS, which might happen tomorrow. I’m dying to get the control column and push tube done so I can detach the emp and put it back in the attic, because this Tetris game I’m playing with the fuse, the engine, the benches, and the toolbox has gone on long enough. I also need to keep this project from brachiating into too many lines of work. Having ten things partially finished is not how I want to do this. I sleep better knowing things are done. I’ve already got the wings open with no servos, I’ve got the engine needing work and parts, and i’ve got the fuselage that needs to be brought up to a level where I can paint. This weekend is supposed to be warm, so I think I can prime the inside of the push tube if I move fast enough mounting the VS.
One of my favorite lines from The Road Warrior, or Mad Max 2, as everybody but us yankees calls it. To paraphrase a little green guy with a mean spin kick, “always in motion, is the panel.” When I started this adventure, I knew I wanted glass instead of steam. I’m a visual effects dork, I grew up on MFD’s and synthetic vision in movies, like the display in Snake’s glider in Escape from New York, or in the dropship in ‘Aliens,’ both of which were done by painting the edges of foam core terrain slices with fluorescent paint and filming them under blacklight to make them look like computer images. There’s also the HITS in Bladerunner, which is pretty much the only way I’d trust the average Angeleno driver in my airspace, even in 2019. That’s only 10 years from now, by the way. Fast forward to present and there’s a tall stack of options to choose from; BMA, Dynon, MGL, Grand Rapids, Tru-Trak, the list is long and distinguished. At first I was all about the EFIS-One from Blue Mountain Avionics. It was my first synVis option.. The Dynon was a good replacement for the steam gauges, but the BMA had some eye-popping features and seemed like a better option to me. At least it seemed like a better option to the ‘me’ in the alternate universe where I have unlimited amounts of money. 14k, ouch. The Grand Rapids stuff is cool, but also expensive, and the screen’s not big enough. If this is going to be my main info feed for flight ops, I don’t want to squint at it. So along comes MGL. The Enigma was intriguing, but it wasn’t big enough, and I was about to blow it off entirely, except for the price point, which is great for what the unit does. Then MGL came out with their Odyssey. 10.4″ of daylight-readable synthetic-vision, programmable-screen goodness. And the price is defiinitely right. for about 6k, I get synthetic terrain, HITS, moving map, WAAS/RAIM GPS, engine monitoring, all the probes and sensors necessary, and it talks to the Garmin SL30 for radio NAV ops. Not only that, it drives Trio autopilot servos. MGL also has their own COMM, which fits in a standard 3.5″ instrument hole, and communicates with the EFIS via proprietary link over a nice tidy CAT5 cable. They are supposed to be releasing a NAV radio companion to this unit, which is fully SL30 compatible. Oh, and it talks to the ZAON PCAS products as well, and it won’t be long before it will display traffic threats in the synVis.
Daydreaming about this is fine, and the whole “what if your fancy gear packs up at night in IMC” question is answered this way: I’ll be flying day-VFR most of the time. Like 99% of the time. I will probably put a second EFIS in there, probably a secondhand Dynon D10 just in case the Odyssey goes south, but I expect it to function as designed just shy of all the time. I would like to get my IFR ticket in this aircraft, and at that point, I will install TSO’d equipment as required. Until that time, I’m going to be quite content with the current mission of regional cross-country VFR and local hops. How hard is it to get to wine country from SMO anyway? Not very.
I suppose I knew better than buying a tubing bender on ebay for twelve bucks and a flaring tool for about fifteen. The tubing bender gouges the hell out of the tubing, and the flare tool die scores the tubing where it grips. So let’s see: Stress risers in aluminum tubing, check. High pressure fuel, check. Inside the cabin, check. Near electrical devices, check. Boo. Hiss. Ordered the Imperial 3-size tubing bender and the nice rol-air (not the $600 one) tool off Spruce this morning.. dammit.. that’s what I forgot. the spring tubing bender. Maybe I can live without it. We’ll see.
Anyway, I got some extra tubing, and went back out to begin the process of mounting the vertical stabilizer. Not sure if I mentioned it before, but the two main longerons and the aft deck stuck out past F-712 about 1/16″, enough to keep the VS from laying flat on F-712. This morning I filed down the offending metal and cut off the 5/8″ from the forward spar to make it friendly with the F-781 mount plate. I drilled the mount plate to the HS forward spar and bolted it in, temporarily. This is where it sits until I can get the VS aligned to vertical and drill the holes in the VS/F-712 sandwich. I need to get this done so I can make the elevator push tube and elevator stops constructed. At that point, I’ll do the control column, and once I’m convinced that rigging the aircraft is actually possible, i’ll put the emp back in the attic until final assembly. I’m also rapidly approaching the singularity point of painting the interior. Before this happens, I should probably figure out what I’m going to do about autopilot servos. I haven’t closed the wings yet either, which is also relevant for that issue, so there’s going to be a prying open of the wallet in the near future. I’m saving that for later, when I know for a fact that all the wiring has been run and won’t need anything new for a long long time.