This weekend I spent a few hours working on the plane. I wanted to get some specific things done in order to make a little progress towards fitting the wings.
I spent the day installing the fuel tank attach bracket to the outside of the fuselage. This required fabricating the internal support bracket and spacers. It took a little longer than I though, but got it done.
After taking these pictures, I buffer and then primed the brackets. These are steel so they are very susceptible to corrosion. Now that these are installed. I can prep to mount and test fit the wings!
After this I spent an hour or so finishing up the exhaust hangar modification. I didn’t take any pictures, but because I’m using the Vetterman 4 pipe exhaust and the heat muff, the standard Vans exhaust hanger can’t be used on that side. So I fabricated a support bar that shifts the hangar mounting point outboard of the heat muff. I finished it by drilling the bolt hole for the mount and attaching it with all metal lock nuts.
I also removed the bolts for the exhaust attaching it to the engine in preparation for riveting the firewall to the bottom skin where the exhaust exits the cowl. This isn’t accessible when the exhaust it attached to the engine.
Today I spent a couple hours putting the forward fuselage gussets in place. They are unique to the -7 vs the -7A. The tri-gear plane rear landing gear are mounted just forward of the center section. Since the -7 is a tail trager, there is a gap here that need to be reinforced using these gussets. They are attached to the sides of the fuselage with 5 bolts that need to be match drilled. The gussets also line up with the bottom wing attach bolts.
I lined everything up and then drilled the holes to #40 and then enlarged for the AN3 bolts. I prepped and primed these and then attached them to the fuselage. The whole interior will be painted with my interior paint, but it’s good to prime all the parts especially mating surfaces.
I also sent a bit of time working on the panel attachment brackets. Since I’m using twin Skyview HDC screens, I need to move the Vans panel supports inboard. This requires making some custom brackets to attach the panel to the sub panel. I received a shipment of L stock from vans that worked perfectly for this.
I decided to wrap up the center section bolts that are used for the tricycle gear. In the tail dragged version the bolts need to be put into the center section.
The bottom bolts were difficult to reach but everything is now in place and torqued.
I also placed the remaining two cover supports on the sides of the fuselage, forward of the center section.
Next up is to wrap up the exhaust hangar modification. And to drill the wing fuel attachment bracket to the sides of the fuselage.
Over the last two weeks I’ve spent many hours working out how much stuff there is left to do. I put together a list of everything I can think of, adding effort estimates to each item and adding time spent.
Google sheets has been awesome to organize my to-do list. I’ve completed about 100 hours since I made the list a few months back, so I’ve updated it all to be as accurate as possible. I then took the remaining items and I’ve been organizing them in a JIRA project I made to track my active work. This is a product I use at work on a daily basis to manage my teams’ projects, so I figured I’d try it for managing my own project.
Here is the collapsed view of my project. By using this interface I can manage all my project links on the left, as well as drag and drop my to-do items into their respective statuses based on what I’m working on.
An Item I just completed – the full aircraft wiring harness. I’ve spent the last week designing and verifying the wire harness using http://www.diagrams.net by Google. Its been great to look at pinout diagrams from my avionics suppliers and then visualize the harness pin-to-pin. It really helps me to understand the way I will make the harness.
I made a system overview block diagram to make sure I was accounting for all the items in the system. This probably doesn’t have every item, but it was still great for visualizing the system.
I then used all the documentation I had for all the ECUs and components, and made the full system wiring harness. Again, I think this has everything covered, but I will continuously be checking the system before completely turning it on. I have a power supply that I will use for testing that has protection circuits in place in order to prevent any overcurrent or shortage issues.
Today I hit a huge milestone! With the help of my fiancée Britney and my friend Mina, we were able to close out the final skin on the wings.
With all that’s going on, I was worried that I wouldn’t make much progress on the project, which has turned out to be somewhat true. But when I do get to a new milestone, it feels amazing.
After we wrapped up the final rivets, Mina helped me put the wings back in the cradle. I couldn’t help but take a wide angle pic of the whole hangar. There is a lot more space now that the wing isn’t on the saw horses.
There’s still lots to do on the project, but getting to this point has been a great adventure!
This weekend I had a few hours to work on the plane. It’s been a couple months since I’ve spent a good chunk of time on it.
I decided to take off the old conventional master and starter contractors. I’ve decided to go with Vertical Power Primary Power System. This is a single unit that replaces the contractors, as well as current shunt and fuses. I’m also using the Vertical Power Pro solid state VPX. These two will work really well together.
For easiest access I mounted this on the edge of the firewall near the battery as far away from the exhaust as possible. Every bolt and post is accessible. I also crimped on the ring terminals for the alternator and for the starter once I had this mounted.
I also wired up the J1 harness that includes all the inputs for the master switch, battery and alternator current sense and fault indicators. This will all feed into my EFIS and be displayed on the engine monitoring page.
Today I spent a few hours working on the exhaust hangars, heater and the fuel lines.
It’s been on my to-do list for a long long time, but I finally marked and drilled the hole in the firewall for the fuel line.
I then test fitted the fuel line between the pump and firewall fitting. I had to fabricate a new tube in order to fit the position I drilled the hole. In hindsight I should have drilled it about one inch to the left of this, in order to provide more room for the heater scat tubing on the other side, however it should be fine.
The forward tunnel cover will go over this portion of the tubing as well as the wiring harness.
I then worked on the hangars for the exhaust as well as heat muff.
Here you can see the hangars before I installed the heat muff. The left hangar here will need to be modified to account for it.
I didn’t get any pictures during the install, but here is the heater installed with the tubing. I will need to add some support to prevent chaffing of the tubes on the engine mount.
I will also need to add some support for the fuel tubing here to prevent rubbing on the tube. It shouldn’t be too difficult to keep these two separated.
I will need to fabricate a support bar to extend the exhaust mount a bit wider in order to attach the hangar in order to avoid the scat tube.
This weekend my buddy Norio and I spent about three hours closing out the final wing skin. It was a lot of shuffling and checking rivets after bucking them.
Once we got the hang of the pattern, it went quicker. Still required maneuvering my arm through tight spaces and rib lightening holes.
Here you can see the shop heads in the rib after riveting. The spar (gold on the left) has the rivets in place but not set yet.
The shiny panel here is the skin we completed. I was looking over the rivets to make sure there wasn’t anything obviously out of place or missing. I only have the flap hinge left to rivet, which can be done solo using the squeezer.
Next I will prep the final skin for the left wing, and prepare it by marking the sequence for riveting. It will save a bunch of time trying to remember which set of rivets to go next.
It’s been a while since I’ve made an update…work and life have taken a priority over the last few months, but I’ve made some progress here and there.
Yesterday and today I spent some time working on the elevator and the autopilot servo pushrod installation. These three pushrods are kind of hard to reach and require washers in between the rod end bearings and the bell cranks, my washer wrench helped a lot.
I also installed my ELT antenna in the aft the airplane. It will sit under the vertical stabilizer faring. I like this much better than mounting it on top of the fuselage.
This is looking down onto the horizontal stabilizer. It will be secured under the faring with a clamp so as to not let the antenna rub on the fiberglass.
I also spent some time a few weeks ago working on the canopy frame and springs. I spent a few hours fabricating the attach points.
Here you can see both the canopy frame side and the fuselage side of the attachments. I originally fabricated a backing plate out of some 1/16th aluminum and two nut plates, however after some research online, I came across a CNCd version of this that is a single piece and has a back plate this is awesome. I installed those and I highly recommend them! Buller Enterprises makes a few experimental parts. I purchased the ball stud mounts and the canopy guides. Easy to install and much stronger than the ones I made.
I also finished riveting and test fitting the canopy frame stiffeners.
I still need to fabricate some spacers and then prime/prep all the surfaces. But the canopy frame is getting closer to completion!
The shop is a little messy, but the plane is looking good!
I’m hoping to get more time to work on the plane in the new year. Until then, I hope that everyone has a great holiday season!
I spent a few hours in the hangar to finish up the vertical stabilizer mounting to the fuselage.
I started by fabricating the shims that go between the front spar of the vertical stab and the horizontal stab mounting bracket. I then drilled them using the prepunched holes.
After measuring everything was straight and the leading edge of the vertical stab was 1/4 inch to the left of the fuselage centerline, I drilled the bracket o the horizontal stab and bolted it in place.
Then I measured and drilled the three bolts that hold the vertical stab to the rear bulkhead and tail spring mount. These bolts go through 4 or 5 layers of metal, and need to be precisely placed.
I got everything properly lined up and was able to keep the minimum edge distances on everything
I bolted everything into place to make sure the vertical stab was still straight. I also decided to check the tail fairing, just to see how it looks.
This is really starting to look cool. The last thing I did was verify the rudder still swung freely and to measuring the rudder throw.
I I staled the elevators and the rudder and everything was as smooth as silk. There was no binding of any of the control surfaces. The rudder has the required 35deg of throw, but I need to adjust the rudder stops, as the rudder exceeds the 35deg of throw before hitting the stops.