« Archives in January, 2014


15 hours.

That includes Friday and Saturday.

You folks who follow this blog on Facebook already know this stuff, this is more for those who don’t, and the general public at large.

Last time, I had just made my appointment for inspection on 1/25.   I spent a bit of time freaking out about this because work is a torrential downpour right now and there was enough stuff to do to make me concerned that we wouldn’t finish by Saturday.   I had planned to take Friday off, but there was a thing at USC I was scheduled to do so that was out.   But like a bolt of lightning from on high, the USC event was cancelled, so I took a vacation day.

[wb_fb_f name=”” id=””] [wb_fb_f name=”David Prescott” id=””] , who’s appeared on these pages before, volunteered to help, so we were on the freeway at 8am on Friday morning, heading to Oxnard with the intention of crossing every t and dotting every i we could find on the ship from one end to the other.   We cleaned out all the metal chips, spare hardware, and tools that have collected in hard-to-reach places over the years, securing wires, removing the remaining access panels, and generally making things ready for the inspection.   There was a fair bit of safety wiring, which Dave did, while I fixed and dressed wiring underneath the panel that had come undone during the Great Magneto Adventure.  All the stuff on the list from last time got done, and as many of those chronically deprioritized small fixes as we could do.

Then we cleaned up the shop.   That hangar is a study in constrained chaos.  There are two and a half airplanes, a car on a trailer, and an empire of tools and hardware.   Our goal was to make my rented portion of the hangar as clean and clutter-free as possible.   Difficult with an asphalt floor, but we did really well.   All the tools were put away and organized in such a way that it would be easy to find what we needed if we had to fix something during the inspection.   That was Dave’s doing.   Very smart.  We both knew that the greatest amount of wasted time is in the act of looking for something that should be in a known, proper place.   This time, adherence to that idea paid concrete dividends.

As we worked through the plane, I checked off items on the 100-hour condition inspection checklist, at least the ones that applied, since this is a new aircraft.   We also spent some time measuring the control surfaces’ travel to ensure they were within limits called out by the construction manual.   They were, for the most part.   Flaps need a minor adjustment, ailerons, rudder, and elevators are good, and we got the elevator trim adjusted correctly.

I also wound up adjusting the fail-safe spring on the purge valve.   Ron found me a spring the other day, which worked fine, but I twisted it around in kind of a half-assed manner to get it to work.   Friday, I undid it and reworked it with a pair of safety-wire pliers so now it looks clean and is much better.

I couldn’t tell you all the little things we did.   Mostly it involved getting eyes in places that haven’t been looked at in years and fixing anything that needed to be fixed and generally making temporary solutions permanent.

Saturday was the inspection itself.

Adam Valdez got there at about 8:30, and the family had come along for the ride.   While they were getting some brunch, Adam performed a very thorough inspection of the aircraft.   He started at the tail and worked his way forward.   He said that usually he finds small things, like missing cotter pins, nuts, things like that.   I was thinking, you’re not going to find much.   We went over this thing yesterday.   But sure enough, he found some minor issues that we didn’t even think to check for.

At about 9:30, David Voelker of the FAA stopped by to brief me on what my operating limitations and some of the regs regarding phase one testing are.   Mr. Voelker’s an excellent guy.  He loves general aviation, and he makes time to personally contact each new builder to brief them, which is really cool of him to do.   He doesn’t have to, but he does.

“How many hours do you have?”  He asked me.

“About 125 or so,”  I said.  “I’m not sure, I didn’t bring my logbook.   Today was the last day I expected to go flying.”

Then he informed me that I am now a test pilot.  A TEST PILOT.  Let that sink in for a while.  And as a test pilot, I have certain responsibilities, number one of which is to protect the non-participating public from a fairly dangerous activity that we as aviators and experimental airplane builders willingly and deliberately choose to do, but that they don’t.

I don’t think he was expecting me to have such a low number on my flight clock.   He did ask me about tailwheel training, and transition training, and currency.   Then it was a bit of a socratic dialogue about the regs, and the purpose of all the questions he asked me was not to make sure I could quote the regulations chapter and verse, but that I understood that the purpose of my operating limitations is to keep me within the constraints of the prime directive stated above.   It boils down to:  don’t fly over population, leave yourself an out, and it’s OK to tell ATC “unable to comply” if their directions put you in conflict with the above.   Lots of good advice, and an invitation to call any time I had a question.

Altogether an informative and pleasant process.

While this was going on, Adam had found the most onerous squawk of the day:   None of the rudder pedal attach bolts had cotter pins on them, but there was nothing I could do about it in the middle of my briefing.   Fortunately Dave picked up the slack and got out ahead of Adam, looking for loose jam nuts and other similar gaffes.

The only fly in this otherwise smooth ointment was one of the local airport bums who really wasn’t able to take the hint that this wasn’t a social gathering and it might be best if he came back in a couple of hours after everything was over, and please, for fuck’s sake don’t ask the FAA guy or the DAR inane questions while they’re trying to impart information to me that might save my life or my pilot’s license.   And absolutely do not start kibitzing while i’m upside down under the panel trying to put 8 sets of cotter pins on bolts I can’t see and dropping 3/8″ wrenches and pliers on my face.

I was debating throwing him out of my hangar, but he’s one of the old heads at the airport, and I didn’t want to risk pissing him off.  You never know the ways people can make your life miserable until they do.   In retrospect, it may have been worth it.

Mr. Voelker headed out, then I worked on the rudder pedal cotter pins for a while.   At that point, Adam was inspecting the engine, where he found a couple of missing nuts and a backwards safety wiring.   He taught Dave the cool trick of safety-wiring drilled bolt heads, which I picked up secondhand.    He also found that the throttle had about 1/8″ of travel left to go full, and the mixture didn’t actually go all the way to lean, both easily fixed by adjustments to the cable travel.

After that, it was time to do paperwork.    Dave took over the cotter-pinning of the rudder pedals, and I sat down with Adam to go over the 8130 forms, operating limitations, and other signature-requiring documents.    With the stroke of a pen and a handshake, I had an airplane!

He autographed my as-yet-unpainted right wingtip, then left us to fix the few remaining squawks.


Airworthiness inspection on Saturday!

A few things to get ready for the inspection

  1. drill out/replace rudder bottom fairing screw that got stripped.
  2. drill out/replace platenut from right wing root fairing with stripped screw
  3. obtain new MGL backup battery. – DONE
  4. install new MGL backup battery.
  5. remove pop rivets from old IOX mount holes/deburr
  6. vacuum/clean interior
  7. wipe down interior of tailcone
  8. remove floor panels
  9. glue warning placard to panel – enhance sticky backing
  10. put UHMW tape where pax stick wiring rubs floor
  11. remove center tunnel cover
  12. remove flap actuator cover
  13. bend wheel pins into permanent shape
  14. check travel of all control surfaces – Bring flight test binder
  15. safety-wire prop governor
  16. check tire pressure
  17. retrieve washers from baffling
  18. clean shop area, put away tools, clean up debris
  19. create inspection paperwork area.
  20. have tools/equipment ready to fix squawks.
  21. bring checkbook.

I’m really hoping all that gets done on Friday so Saturday can be a painless, easy affair

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.

Outdoor fun.

5 hours.

I took my freshly painted spinner and cowl up to the airport to see how it would look. Not bad. Beats pink and purple, that’s for sure.



Of course I forgot my hinge pins for the cowl, so I’ll have to bring them up next weekend.   But as part of the exercise of rolling the plane out to shoot these pics, i spent some time running the battery down, playing with the EFIS.   Also, Derek Spears stopped by in his Cardinal.    He gave me the quick tour of the GNS430, which is truly an amazing piece of hardware that I don’t know how to use just yet.  He walked me through the major modes and flight planning, and I was able to get the EFIS to pick up flight plans, nav info, and waypoints from the ARINC 429 feed from the 430.   Derek programmed in a flight from OXR to SMO using Van Nuys and Burbank as waypoints.  The EFIS displayed the legs as HITS boxes as well as a moving-map track.

Also, I confirmed that the nav antenna in the wingtip does work; I was able to pick up the Ventura VOR on 108.20 and feed the EFIS’s HSI with it.   One thing that bugs me a little;  In order to get VOR navigation stuff to show up on the EFIS screen, I need to be in External Nav Source mode, which means the EFIS doesn’t use its internal GPS.   This is ordinarily OK, but there have been issues driving autopilots using the 430 as a GPS source.   Something about the resolution and the frame rate that makes the autopilot hunt for headings, or something like that.

Also, of interest: The EFIS isn’t a big fan of low system voltage.   Piddling about with the equipment for as long as we did really ran the battery down, and when that happens, the EFIS does things like spontaneously reboot when changing screens.   This is not good.

So on  my to-do list is to sort out the backup battery and how to preserve EFIS functionality during all modes, including engine start.

Confirmed that the passenger headset jacks work, after fumbling with the audio panel for a bit.

After Derek left, I went flying in Don’s RV6A for an hour, then came back and did some more safety-wiring, and used my newly purchased Weld-On #4 to try to bond the small crack in my canopy.

I also set up the EFIS with all the V-speeds for the RV-7.


More little things.

4.5 hours.

I brought the newly painted cowl back to the airport and yes, it looks way more badass in olive drab than pink.  I also took care of some things that have been bothering me for a while but never got around to doing.   I re-did the cotter pin on the prop pitch control on the quadrant because I’d forgotten to put a washer between the pin and the lever.   This is now fixed.   The left control stick now has a cotter pin as well.

After that it was the endless tedium of safety-wiring a bunch of hose clamps and other fittings.   I hate safety wire, but I can’t argue the fact that it can keep you from having a really interesting day.      I think I got most everything on the right side.   I’ll do the left side next time.

I also need to make an appointment with Randy to get my avionics calibrated, but I’ll have to wait until Monday.

More legals.

3.5 hours.

Today’s big story was attaching the N number.


Behold my legalness.


And yay, more legalness.  This gets covered up with masking tape until it’s airworthy.  No sense giving the tax man a foot in the door before it’s necessary.

After this, I went for a quick flight with Don in his RV6A.   Don’s between medicals at the moment, and I’m in need of RV hours, so we both get to fly if we’re both at the airport at the same time.  Today I flew us over to Santa Paula to get some fuel.  Apparently, I don’t suck at flying the 6A.  But today was an optimum day for flying, with clear skies and smooth air, so that helped.

After that, I replaced the silicone fuel line I was using for the fuel pump overflow connector and replaced it with some real 5/16″ tubing and secured it with hose clamps.   Then I dismounted the spinner and empennage fairing so I could bring them home to paint them.  Or at least shoot a half-assed covering of primer on them.


I’m getting tired of the pink cowl and the purple spinner, so even though it might be kind of a pain to deal with later, I decided to spray the cowl down with Krylon Olive, which is pretty close to the same color as the dropship in James Cameron’s “Aliens.”  It’s flat.  It’s easy.   And when I get around to spending a hundred hours or so touching up and filling in the cowl, maybe I’ll do something different.   Or it’ll go to the paint shop and it’ll be somebody else’s problem.

The result you see here is before the paint’s actually dry, which accounts for some of the streaks.  But when it’s done it’ll be a nice, uniform olive drab.

Maybe I’ll do the spinner bright red.  Or black with a twisting white stripe.  Although, the metallic purple actually looks good with this color green, so maybe I’ll leave it as is.