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Even more legal, and some argh

10 hours.

Friday I got the static/transponder test done and that’s now in the logbook.   That took a bit, because I had to chase down some leaks.   And, somehow, I managed to snap off the hose barb that connects to the EFIS’s AOA pressure sensor.   That really, really sucks.   Now, once again, I have to dismount the EFIS and take it to MGL to have the AOA sensor replaced.  Can’t fix the barb.  The good news is that the AOA isn’t really necessary for first flight.   Also, my combination AOA/Pitot doesn’t lend itself well to the usual testing method of slipping a hose over the end of the pitot and hooking it up to the test machine.   But we worked around it by connecting the test line to the fitting where it connects to the pitot tube, so I’m going to assume it works.   We’ll find out.

Static tests eventually worked out OK, and we were able to calibrate using the EFIS’s setup menus.    All good!  Signed off, sticker in the airframe logbook.

Today was about picking up the pieces and extracting the EFIS backup battery for replacement.   I think it got run down too far too often and now it won’t take a charge and tops out at 6v.   To do that, I had to relocate the IO Extender module to someplace that would allow me to get to the screw securing the backup battery in its bracket.   When I had to move the IOX before to get it out of the way of the canopy, I’d put it on the end of a piece of angle behind the EFIS.  This solution was kind of half-assed, and I never actually felt good about it, so this is actually an improvement: I put it on top of the throttle quadrant bracket, up out of the way of everything.   I’ll have to dismount the transponder to make changes to the wiring, but that’s OK, it shouldn’t be necessary to change the wiring much.  It’s much more elegant, and gives me plenty of room behind the EFIS to do what I need to do, plus it’s more secure.

I did have to extend the power and ground wires for the IOX, but I was able to use the trim position wires as-is.  It also enabled a much neater wiring bundle instead of the slightly messy arrangement I had previously.

Odds, ends, and annoyances.

6 hours.

Last weekend I had to work to deliver a product launch, so no airplane.   This weekend, I had a list, and I knocked out a bunch of stuff on it.  To sum up:

  • Tensioned and safety-wired alternator bracket
  • Removed protective plastic from aft canopy and removed tape residue
  • Relabeled mag switches and made “OFF” labels for everything else
  • Reconfigured quadrant for extra travel on governor
  • Added a wider heat shield to protect the throttle cable
  • changed out a too-short bolt on the purge valve cable bracket.

Apparently the way you do alternator belt tension is by increasing belt tension until it takes 12 ft/lbs of torque on the alternator nut to slip the belt.   That’s it.   That also gives you the 1/4″ deflection (on a new belt) called out by the usual procedure.   This is important, because a slipping belt can cause over/under voltage problems.  I did that, and safety-wired the bracket tension bolts together, like so:

Alt bracket saftey wire

Alternator bracket Safety wiring


When I put the aft canopy in all those many moons ago, I left the protective plastic on it, because why not?  Why subject the vulnerable plexiglas to my fumbling ministrations while I’m climbing in and out of the tailcone to adjust one thing or another, swinging tools and wires about?   Because once the canopy is attached, it’s difficult if not impossible to get all the plastic out from between the roll bar support and the canopy.   I had to put a space heater in the cockpit and run it for a while, until it was a balmy 75 degrees and the plexi and surrounding aluminum were warm to the touch.  I took out all the fasteners and removed the aft canopy section, which I put on the bench, then removed the rest of the protective plastic and cleaned off all the tape residue I couldn’t get to before.  100% better.

Protective plastic and tape residue gone

Protective plastic and tape residue gone


The magneto switches on the panel were cryptically labeled “MAG 1” and “MAG 2.”   I don’t know why I thought this was a good idea, and it broke with common practices in aircraft UI/UX design.   I relabeled them “L MAG” and “R MAG” because that made the most sense, and that’s how everyone else does it.   While I was in a labeling mood, I made about a dozen or so “OFF” labels to describe the down position of most of my toggle switches.   The double-throw switches like flaps up/down already had good labels in both directions, but there wasn’t anything labeled “OFF” anywhere.  The switch pointing toward the function described seems obvious to me, but apparently it isn’t to whoever wrote that reg at the FAA, so now everything is labeled according to the AC’s.


Like I said, there were odds, ends and annoyances.   Firewall forward, there was the matter of a heat shield, a too-short bolt, and the prop governor travel.

Heat shield on throttle cable

Heat shield on throttle cable

I did have a shield in place at this spot, but I remembered I had an extra double-wide one, so I put that one on in its place.  On the topside of the engine, I changed out the bolt holding the purge valve cable.   It was a temporary thing when I did it, and it didn’t have the required number of threads showing to meet spec, and since it’s pretty important that the purge valve remain closed in flight, it’s also important that everything connected to it is not half-assed.  This is what the proper bolt length looks like:

Purge valve cable bracket

Purge valve cable bracket

As to the prop governor, if you’ll recall from last time, the prop didn’t cycle at the low end of the throw.  The quadrant was only moving the lever arm about halfway through its arc of travel.   The simple fix to that was to drill a #12 hole about 5/8″ up the quadrant lever from the original one and voila, I get me 75-80% travel instead of 50%.   That story ended with a quick runup to 1800rpm and getting the prop to cycle, so that’s good enough for now.   Whether or not I have the rpm set right due to the arm position relative to the governor shaft is another story, and it will be resolved on either a full power run or first flight.  Even so, the engine is more responsive, now that it’s firing on all the plugs, which are now more or less synchronized in their ignition, so that’s a plus as well.

What was really awesome about this weekend was that for the most part, it was forward motion, not playing catch-up.  New things got done and good fixes were made, rather than unsuccessful stabs at a persistent and difficult problem.   There’s still a bunch of stuff to do to get ready for first flight, but I think if I can keep up the pace, I’ll be on track to fly it in early 2014.


Equal parts forward and back.

6 hours.

One of these days, I’ll move forward without moving backwards.  Today I had to dismount the EFIS in preparation for taking it to MGL Avionics.   Apparently the OAT module is fried.  I tried it with a new probe last week, no dice.   Maybe, if I’m lucky, I’ll be able to drop it off tomorrow on my lunch hour.   Other than that annoyance, I got the tailwheel hardware primed, something I should have done long ago, and I got my spark plugs torqued in.   But now, for some mysterious reason, the tailwheel steering chains don’t reach their mounting points on the rudder anymore.   It’s possible I had the steering link on upside down/backwards, which would have accounted for the missing 3/4″ of chain necessary to bridge the gap between what I need and what I’ve got.   Looks like I’ll be ordering another set of tailwheel chains.  Grumble.

Anyway, once I get my EFIS back from the shop, it’ll be time to prepare the engine for first start.

On another note, I’m progressing nicely in my tailwheel training.   We flew from Torrance to Hawthorne, where I did 8 landings, unassisted.   Apparently I CAN land a Citabria in 3-point attitude.   At least when the wind is coming at me and I set up the approach right.

More odds and ends

4 hours.

A few things here and there. I installed the MAP tubing and put a couple of heat shields on the pipes to protect the throttle and mixture cables. I also installed the canopy seal, which is going to need some assistance from some RTV or proseal. I do think firewall forward is just about done, though. The cabin heat SCAT tube rubs on the engine mount a little, but some UHMW tape should fix that. The two things I did that were of major importance were the autopilot test and getting that ridiculous piece of lead off the flange of the left elevator counterweight rib.

A while back, I’d balanced out my elevators, or so I thought. You’re supposed to put the elevator tips on, then drill holes in the lead weight until the elevator balances. Well, guess what? You’re not supposed to have the elevators connected when you do this. I discovered this, freaked out, then riveted a flat piece of lead (cut from an extra counterweight) to the outboard rib.

When I put that away, thinking I was just about the smartest cat in the whole barn, I started imagining the kind of beating a control surface takes in flight. So what happens to a little piece of lead riveted to this structure with a couple of Cherry countersunk blind rivets? The piece of lead comes off and somehow jams the elevator in the dive position and I go screaming downward like a holed Stuka, straight into a busload of orphans on the 405. This has bothered me for months, but I could never find a good opportunity to fix it until Saturday. I drilled out the rivets and put the lead back in a drawer. I also read about a neat trick you can do when balancing your elevators: Pour some lead shot into the tip through the tooling hole in the rib until th elevator balances out, then stick it in place with epoxy resin. Even if it’s not perfect, bias it a little heavy, because paint will change the balance.

I also mounted the MGL GPS antenna on the top side of the glare shield. It works; I get an intermittent GPS position while still inside the guest house.

Oh and one other thing: I dragged the wing cradle over to the shop and tested out the bank servo of the autopilot. Since I actually followed a wiring plan and wired the fuselage-side and the wing side according to it, I was able to test out both servos simultaneously. I do need to make a new ground connection though. The ground from the servo bracket sucks and I was only able to get a good ground by cleco-clamping the ground terminal to a wing rib.

“He fixes the cable?”

8 hours.

Yes, the title is a line from “The Big Lebowski.” You’ll find a few of those in here. Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Got some solid work in during the Xmas holiday, at least up until Christmas eve. My ACS order containing a bunch of suppplies came in during the week, so this involved making the firewall penetrations for the throttle, mixutre, and governor cable.

Since I got to firewall forward, I’ve pretty much been on the “here be monsters” part of the map, so drilling the firewall where it says to on Van’s plans was a non-starter. For one thing, the governor’s up front. For another, the Superior Cold Air sump and the AFP servo pretty much negate the use of any standard Van’s bracketry or control cable lengths.

In a way, it’s a kind of freedom: Since the plans don’t apply, you’re not bound by them. What you must do, however, is follow the rules, and that means keep things from chafing, don’t glom fuel lines on to wiring, keep things from flopping, and whatever you do, insure free and correct travel of all controls. I got some good cable routing for the throttle and mix by bringing them down through the angled part of the firewall recess. This has the effect of lifting the cables up over the rudder pedal crosstubes, then a smooth S downward and slightly to the left, which lets me bring them in more or less right behind the engine above the exhaust. I’ll show pics as soon as I get them off my phone.

I used the eyeball-type firewall pass-throughs from ACS, but in this case, even the biggest one they had wasn’t enough to accommodate the fat green cables from Van’s, so they had to be drilled out. Installing them required Shelley’s help, since getting these things in requires the holding and alignment of more things than I have hands, and putting in fasteners as well. Smashing success though, the cables work smoothly with full travel.

Here, you can see the one for the governor cable, doing its thing:

You can also see the purge valve cable, running alongside before taking its right turn. The bracket for the purge valve cable and the number 2 injector line is an idea I stole from somebody on VAF: A piece of aluminum angle bolted to the case and drilled for Adel clamps in 2 places. Of course, this means replacing the case bolt with an AN4 one of a length I don’t currently have, but I guess that’s why it’s good that ACS is only an hour’s drive and 2 days’ delivery away. That brown hose snaking out over the baffling is the fuel purge return line, which will get a corresponding hole drilled in the baffles.

Once the cables made their way through the firewall, they needed to be attached to the quadrant. Somehow. I knew there was going to be some metal fabrication (yay!), and way back when I built the rails for the quadrant, I figured there would be some sort of hare-brained rig holding it all together, and this weekend was the time to actually build the thing.

This is the shape it wound up in:

This started out as 3 pieces of 2x2x1/8″ angle. Through a series of moves that involved cleco-clamping, measuring, marking, and finally cutting, I came up with a structure that gave me a bracket with 3 holes for the cable ends, each with enough room to turn the nuts on the cable. I managed to get the measurement for the attach angles by securing the cables into the part with the 3 holes, then drilling the attach angles to the angles holding the quadrant itself.

In its final form, it looks like this:

The clevises on the cable ends are special ones with 10/32 thread, and finding them was kind of a bitch. They give you the range of travel you need, but it’s a bit of a puzzle to get them all installed without them interfering with each other. As it was, I had to squeeze the middle one in the vise (not much) and come up with an arrangement for the clevis pins that allowed the maximum amount of space between them. I still wound up grinding down the middle one (blue handle, prop rpm) so that it didn’t catch on the left one (throttle), because these things binding on you in flight would be a major downer, possibly literally. But the control cables are in, they work, they’re smooth and functional. One thing I am going to have to do at some point is make some cover plates for the sides of the quadrant, because the levers are basically three little guillotines, hungrily awaiting careless fingers.

More bits and bobs

5 hours.

Since we’re now undertaking a remodel of the downstairs (as if it’s not crazy enough around here) the pressure is on to get the plane done and get it out of the guest house. I’ve been finding all the fiddly things to do and doing them, per last week’s list.

The alt air cable adventures continue. The bracket’s done, and now there’s a hole in the firewall. Suck part is that I have the wrong eyeball, I need the .188 and I have the .210, so it doesn’t actually seal much of anything. New one is on order. I reinstalled the flap brace and drilled the horizontal stabilizer to the the fuse. I had to do this because I replaced the HS-710 bracket a while back because it was crap and I never got around to it.

The panel is also labeled! This is quite nice, but I still need to put the N number on it, as well as the placard that says, “I built this plane, so don’t go looking for certification.”

Cooling blast tube for the alternator is installed, but only halfway, it needs to be secured in such a way that it blows on the alternator. Other blast tubes need to be installed for the magnetos, and then I have to get serious about hoses and control cables.


Here are some pics from the last couple of weeks.  I’ve recovered my server-side image processing script, so I promise more photos in the future.

This is the mess before I cleaned it all up.

Flap actuator and servo reinstalled (Yay!)

Fuel pump reinstalled, lines secured.

This is me working on the endless process of dressing cables and zip-tying everything.

Avionics Install (almost) DONE!

4 hours.

Sweet FA got done over the weekend (New Years, hangover, etc, etc.), but today I finished wrapping and securing various wires, as well as rerouting the starter ground in a bundle instead of floating around all by its lonesome.

Only two things left to do, really, and that’s to install the OAT probe and reconnect the IOX when it comes back from MGL in a couple of weeks.  For now, i’m not sure whether or not to start the baffling or the FWF sensor wiring.

Another productive day.

4 hours.

Bunch of stuff happened today.  Shelley helped me get the fuel lines secured with Adel clamps, and I got the fuel pump reinstalled and wired up.  It works!   I also got the tunnel cover finished, but didn’t get to setting up the cabin heat cable.    The throttle quadrant also went back in.   It’s nice to finally see the ‘damage’ from the avionics install and wiring fiasco put right and parts that were languishing on shelves put back on the airplane.

There is no end to wiring.   I cable-wrapped the antenna  wires and worked on the GS/NAV splitter mounting.  Fortunately, there were two holes ready made for it (not really, they just coincidentally lined up).   But I stopped dead in my tracks when my cable stripper exploded.   I need a new one from Radio Shack ASAP.   But once that’s done, the avionics wiring is just about done.   Finished.  Fin.  The end.

Still have to figure out how to connect the marker beacon antenna.   It comes out of the audio panel as a single shielded wire, but it has to connect to a big, fat length of RG400.   How the hell do I do that?

Antenna installed. Again.

5 hours.

The COMM antenna is installed.   I finally wound up routing it along the longeron and down through the center section channel, then back to about where the seat floor panels join.   I was able to keep it from running alongside any wires for very long, but there’s some contact where it has to pass through the spar.   I swear, running wires fore to aft in that thing is a pain.

I got the antenna installed in a good spot, it’s more than 2 feet away from anything interesting, but I need to test it with my ghetto ground plane strips, since it won’t have a proper ground plane until the wings are on.   Even so, I can hear SMO traffic and with the squelch off, a little bit of ATIS.  Pressing the transmit button causes some sensor weirdness, but I imagine that will go away with all the dangling wing wires connected and once the plane is outdoors and not surrounded by metal shop equipment and other various RF-bouncy things.

So next is to finish cleaning up the strobe cables running aft (since I can get to them with the floor panels off), then put my floors back together.   Then the flap actuator and the control arms, fuel pump, etc, etc.