« Archives in March, 2014


7 hours.

Put the pants on, one leg at a time.   I’m about to head back into my regular work schedule, which means days will become weeks.   So a task that will take a couple of days, will become a couple of weeks, because I’ll only get to it on weekends.  And the fun part coming up:  Wet fiberglass!  But this is what I got done today:

People’s exhibit A:  The right side wheel pant with the intersection fairings test-fit.



Left wheel pant.IMG_1966



Getting there.   Today was all about installing the mounting hardware for the fairings  Since we did the tweaky measuring stuff on Friday, today was all about just putting everything together.   Lots of platenuts to replace the clecoes from the position-locking drill ops.   But it is actually pretty cool how sturdy these things become once they’re put together and installed.   They’d better be.   They’re going to get the crap beat out of them.

Next is the wet work.   The intersection fairings will have to be taped on, then have a couple of layups of glass put on them to thicken them and make them conform to the exact shape of the fuse, gear leg fairings, and wheel pants.  I’m still working out the best way to do this, but I think it’s a two-day job.   One side per day.    Then the whole kerbang comes apart and I take the parts home and paint them.

Back to Project Status

IMG_19596 hours.

About 10 hours into Phase 1 testing, and so, time for the first oil change, among other things. Have I mentioned I love flying this airplane?   I’ve been flying all week and not blogging much, because I’ve been learning the airplane, how it flies, how it feels.  I can report with great accuracy that gyroscopic precession is a bitch:   If you try to lift the tail too fast, the aircraft will quickly be pointing at whatever is to the left of you.

I’m updating and rearranging the order of things in my checklists, based on where the task is spatially in the cockpit.   This is just good UX design, but like anything else, you work out the best workflows through usage.   For instance:  Put the flaps up before takeoff.   Yes, I know, this should be a post-landing task, and it usually is, but it doesn’t hurt to have it on the runup checklist before RPM to 1700.

The autopilot is more or less dialed in, but it still jitters a little bit.  This is unsettling and needs fixing, but that can happen later.  At least now it doesn’t pull a divergent oscillation in bank.   My fuel flow fix works as well.  I’m now reporting a burn rate consistent with what I expect for a given RPM or MAP.

Day before yesterday, I took a flight to Santa Paula to get fuel and spent a little time buzzing around the Ojai valley.  That’s where the above pic is from.   But following that flight, I decided to take a run at tweaking the idle, which is still al little rough down in the 750’s.  Last time I messed with it, I set it richer to cure the somewhat terrifying issue of it stumbling when advancing from idle to high RPM.   I think I went too far in that direction because since then, it’s run rough at idle and has been a bastard to start when hot.    The hot start is a known issue with FI engines, but even with the proper procedure, it’s difficult, so an adjustment had to be made.   This took the better part of an hour and a half, and the engine has to be hot when the adjustments are made.   This is why I have a nice burn on my hand from trying to get a wrench into the space where the idle adjustment arm is.   I’m still not ballsy enough to adjust this thing with the engine running.  That’s just not going to happen, especially when the exhaust pipes are still hot.   It’s amazing how fast ss exhaust pipes cool, but you don’t want to have a forearm laying on one when they’ve got hot gas blowing through them.

I was going to go fly again, but the wind put the kibosh on that idea:  14kts gusting to 20kts, although right down the runway.  I was too chicken to try to fly that, although I could have probably done wheel landings and i’d have been OK.  Better safe than filling out FAA forms over the wreckage of a balled-up airplane and a bunch of broken runway signage.

But yesterday saw the return of 313TD from aircraft to project.   David and I did the cutting and measuring of the wheel pants and gear fairings.  This is way more difficult than it has to be: You have to take the weight off the gear so you can align the wheel pants and gear fairings in trail.   Fortunately, the local airport mafia purchased a surplus forklift for a couple hundred bucks, and doubly fortunate, Dave knows how to drive one!


I didn’t snap a lot of pics during the actual process because we got busy and stayed busy.   We first jacked up the plane on each side to install the wheel pant brackets, and took the opportunity to bevel the brake pads in an attempt to stop them from groaning during taxi.    Then we used the forklift to lift the airplane by the motor mount just high enough to get the weight off the wheels and the bend out of the gear legs.   Then there was a lot of crawling, measuring, and marking to find the centerline of the wheel parallel to the centerline of the aircraft.   We drilled the aft section to the gear brackets once we had everything lined up.


It’s amazing how hard it is to find a 1″ block of wood in an airplane hangar, but 3/4″ PVC, no problem.  Short sections of that were used as spacers on the vertical to give the 1″ clearance required for the wheel pant.

Then we did the loop-of-string method to insure the gear leg fairings were in trail.   No drilling done there, but marking the position on the gear legs got us what we needed.

This whole process required making as much space in the hangar as possible, so we had to shove the Luscombe outside and move a bunch of stuff around to accommodate the forklift’s dance moves.


The yellow chocks are where the forklift wound up to put the tine with a hole in it directly above the engine mount.

Of course, all this means that the aircraft is down until the fairings can be installed.    This is necessary anyway because I need to do an oil and filter change and a thorough under-cowl inspection.   Fortunately I can do some of the fairing work at home, like paint.   But what’s left is the onerous, fiddly part: glassing in the intersection fairings, then trimming and priming the pieces.   When that’s done, I should be able to bolt it back together and go flying some more.

Wow, this thing is fun!

8 hours.
1.8 flight hours.

I got off to a late start, and didn’t get to the airport until about 10:30. I got the cowling back on and programmed in the autopilot numbers Matt sent me from MGL. I got off the ground and saw my #4 cylinder was reading totally cold, which was not right, because the plane was making full power just like it’s supposed to. I turned around to land, and managed to sneak in ahead of Derek Spears, who brought the family up for lunch.

After that, I burned some more gas, climbing, turning, generally getting the feel for the airplane, and doing it with the throttle rammed to the boards for cylinder break in. The numbers for the autopilot worked pretty well, and I could steer the plane by changing the heading bug on the EFIS. I have no words for how cool that is. It was still a little springy though. The correction the AP did had a little bit of oscillation left in it, so I’ll fine tune it and see what I can get from it. Most people have trouble with the pitch servo, but mine dialed in just fine. I got a couple of landings in on that flight.

I put about 1.8 hours on the plane today, and it would have been over 2, but on my last flight of the day, the oil fill door popped open in flight. Surprising, but not problematic. I headed for the deck and got into the pattern, then set down and burbled back to the barn.

One thing I’ve been noticing is that my fuel flow is ridiculously high, according to the little gizmo on the EFIS. According to that thing, I’m burning 45gph on takeoff and 30 in cruise. Last time I looked, this wasn’t a 414 or a twin Bonanza, so like, WTF?

Fuel flow works by doing some clever math using the k-factor of the flow sensor. When I got my sensor, there was a tag that said 16-3496. I assumed 3496 was the k-factor and dutifully entered it into the EFIS when I set it up. But MGL EFISes are metric, internally. That means the k-factor on the American FloScan sensor has to be converted. 3496 x 10 / 3.785 = 9236.46, which will probably give me the fuel flow numbers I expect.

First Flight!

4 hours.

Yesterday, 313TD got some air under the tires.   Weather was perfect: Wind 260 at 4, clear sky, visibility unlimited.   This was actually a couple of firsts for me.  It was my first taildragger solo, my first flight in my airplane, and my airplane’s first flight, period.

Shelley, Dave and I arrived at the airport at about 9:45AM, and we spent  a bit of time waiting for the wind to flip over from 090 to 260, the direction of the runway I’m authorized to use in Phase 1.   We busied ourselves prepping the airplane.   We cleaned off the plexiglass, removed the stray items from the cockpit, and generally got things ready to go.   Ron was there briefly to go up to the Chicken Strip with Owen for lunch, and he loaned me his handheld radio, which Dave and Shelley used to monitor the tower.

I went through my engine start checklist, but somehow missed turning off the 430W prior to start, which was bad, because the power drain forced it to go offline, and when it came back up, it had to verify its database.    That takes a while, and I was freaking out a little bit, thinking I’d just burned my radio and would have to abort the flight.

Eventually, it did come up and I was ready to go.   I did a radio check with ground control, then taxied out to the runup area at runway 25.   I did my runup checks, then called the tower.   “Experimental 313TD at RWY 25, first flight in phase one testing, intend to turn right, then climb to 4000′ and remain above the airport.”

They cleared me for takeoff right behind Owen’s Bearhawk, which was kind of cool.   I couldn’t really tell if I had a heavy wing or not.  I didn’t have to fight it to keep it wings level on takeoff, if that means anything. The rolling around you see in the video is me not holding the stick all that steady.  I couldn’t tell you what my angle of climb was, but lowered the nose a bit to see if I could get my CHT’s down a bit.

By the way, without a couple hundred pounds of flight instructor in the right seat and only half fuel, this thing jumps into the air like it was beamed up from the Enterprise!

On climbout, #2 and #4 hit the caution mark at 400, but the nose-down brought them back into line.   I climbed to 4000′ doing slow circles upward.   Once I had 1500′ made, I pulled the throttle back to 2500rpm and MAP to 25.  I fumbled it a little bit, but I still don’t know the controls that well.   I also fumbled setting my transponder to altitude.   Never mind that there’s a giant button on it to engage altitude reporting.  OXR didn’t see it, and Pt. Mugu approach didn’t see it, but  I eventually figured out I needed to push the damn button marked “ALT” instead of “ON.”  But hey, the transponder works, so that’s nice.

Once I was at 4000′ and my instrument shenanigans were done, I could concentrate on feeling out the airplane.   Among the first things I discovered was that my airspeed tape was inoperative.   I guess of all the things that could be inoperative up there, that’s the easiest one to deal with.   I blipped the trim control a little bit and that seemed to level out the wings, but since I have no trim position indicators, I’m not sure it was ever centered to begin with.   Like I said, I didn’t feel like I had a heavy wing, and it didn’t take much trim to correct it out.   Once I stabilized, I trimmed up altitude and it flew hands off, which was awesome.   I guess I built a more or less straight airplane.  More accurately, the Filipino factory workers who did the QB kit built a more or less straight airplane, but I think my sweep/twist/incidence measurements and final drilling were pretty much on.

Without airspeed, I really had no idea when I could deploy flaps, so I did my best guess at slowing down to Vfe for slow flight.   I remembered the sounds (engine, wind) from training with Mike Seager, so I figured if I matched that, I’d be OK.   I got to slow flight with flaps extended and felt it out a little bit with shallow turns.  I wasn’t ready to stall it just yet, but I figured out about where it will stall.   It also feels different from Mike’s plane in that it’s a bit draggier with the gear fairings off.    I did this for a bit, making turns, going back up to cruise, all the while making sure I didn’t fly over populated areas per my op lims.

Naturally, I forgot to set a flight timer, but after the slow flight practice I decided to come home.   I called Mugu, who had been providing me with flight following (nice of them) and told them I was heading for OXR airspace.   Frequency change approved, I got OXR ATIS ,then called the tower.   Once again, I said hey, phase one first flight here.   They cleared me to land before I even entered the pattern proper.   I got slow enough to be able to think (probably 110mph or so), and got my downwind checks done.   I followed the sequence and checklists perfectly.   Abeam the instrument landing marks, slow down to 80 (ish) and drop half flaps.   Boost on, prop high, mix rich.   On base, drop the rest of the flaps and get the approach dialed in.   I came in a little fast, probably, and I definitely held on to power a little longer than I should have, but I made a good, straight, soft landing.   I ate up 2000′ of runway, but that’s my prerogative.   Then I taxied back, and we decowled and inspected.


Some oil seeping from the right mag gasket.

Airspeed inop

The airspeed we were able to fix easily: the AOA and pitot lines were reversed, which is why I got an intermittent airspeed reading which coincided with my taxi speed.   The oil, we wiped off and decided to see if it was indeed leaking from the mag gasket or somewhere else.   The amount was negligible.

I was going to go for a second flight, but during runup, the right mag was inop.  Boo.  Abort.   That’s what I fix today.   Here’s the video



6 hours.

No, it’s never finished.   Today I took the seat wedges that Shelley made out to the hangar and installed them.  They boost my skinny arse up enough to see over the nose when taxiing, and put me in the same position I had when I finally figured out how to land Mike Seager’s RV-7.

I spent a bunch of time finessing the alarm and limit settings on the EFIS, then chatted with Jim D for a bit about his first flight, what to do, and what to expect.  Since I’d just set a bunch of things, I wanted to check it out, so I took the plane out for a little spin.

Everybody says “don’t do high speed taxi tests, they’re not necessary and they’re not worth the risk.”   I would normally agree with that sentiment, but I had a good reason: I wanted to make sure my prop wasn’t going to overspeed when I rammed it to the boards on takeoff.   I suppose I could have just pulled the prop pitch back if that had happened, but I really don’t want to deal with that in addition to everything else I’m going to be doing when I do the first flight.

I did a proper runup, because there’s no reason not to, and if the taxi test inadvertently became a first flight, it would be good if all the stuff works.   Called the tower, asked for a high speed taxi, waited for a 172 to land and get off the track, then I went.   RPM’s peaked out at about 2650, which is about right, so that’s good to go.  I braked  and got off at the first intersection, no problem.

After that, I got back into the EFIS and messed around with the moving map settings and autopilot setup.   Not that I’ll be screwing around with the autopilot or using the map a whole lot, but I did find out one important thing:  my autopilot servo was set to go the wrong way.   That means that if I turned the heading bug to the left, the autopilot would make the plane go to the right, which is really counterproductive.   So I fixed that.  Easy enough.

So now I just have to wait for a good day to fly it.