VPX Installation

Yesterday I spent most of the day at the hangar cleaning up and working on the installation of the VPX mounting brackets.


I started with the rough position of the mounting brackets under the sub panel ribs. This will be the final position of the VPX under the panel.

Each corner needed a nut plate installed, so I match drilled the brackets to the ribs, and then lined up the nuplates and clamped them in place.

I then drilled all the nut plates, debuted, dimpled, and riveted the nut plates to the sub panel ribs.

Here’s the close up of one of the nut plates riveted in place with the angle bracket loosely held in place with a mounting screw.

During the day, a friend of mine visited the hangar to check out the project. He took this awesome picture, thanks for hanging out (and helping) Andrew!

It was fun to chat about the project, and airplanes in general. I always enjoy sharing my love for aviation with other people.

Later in the day, I received a nice shipment from Dynon! My autopilot panel, and my comm radio was delivered! These are some of the final components in my avionics package. The remaining component is the second HDX screen.

AP panel

These buttons are very satisfying to push! I’m looking forward to installing this in the plane soon!

VPX Installation

VPX Wiring

Today I spent a few hours working on the main power harnesses. Since I’m using the Vertical Power VPX, all the power wires connect to a central distribution point including the panel switches. It’s all very straightforward once you have the pins all planned out.

Vertical power VPX

Here’s the VPX mounted under the panel (it’s all upside down) so that I could reference the two D25 connectors for J1 and J2. The J8 connector, as well as the J10 and J12 connectit’s on the other side are used for the larger power distribution, whereas the J1 and J2 connectors are for switches (connects to ground), flap position sensor, and serial Tx/Rx for communicating with the EFIS.

J12 connector

Here’s the backside of the J12 connector. Not all the pins are used, and they are left empty. I used my heat shrink tubing labeler to mark each wire for each of the five connectors.

All the wiring harnesses completed

Here are all five of the main power harnesses completed. The final wire runs will need to be done in the plane, but that won’t take too much effort once I rivet in the sub-panel and can start installing components. There are 50 wires here that each are labeled with their respective pins and connectors in order to easily route and attach to the correct components. I genuinely enjoyed this work and look forward to more of the avionics installation and wiring!

VPX Wiring

EMS wiring

This weekend I spent time working on the main EMS wiring harness. It includes everything for engine monitoring including oil pressure, temperature, fuel flow, fuel pressure, manifold pressure, rpm, etc. It’s quiet extensive.

I started by reviewing my wiring diagram that I made, and reviewed the pin out of the EMS D37 connector.

EMS box and connectors

I then opened up the main harness that is included in the skyview EMS in order to identify every pin.

Top half of the connector

I used my multimeter to check each wire and then I used that to label each one according to the function.

EMS temporarily installed

Here’s the EMS and the main harness (silver) plugged in. As you can see in this picture, the wires are labeled and then separated out into the appropriate pairings (e.g. oil pressure power, ground and signal). Then I began to wire the engine sensors and measure the wiring runs.

Firewall pass-through for main harness

Here you can see the main EMS harness come through for all the firewall forward components. Mounted to the top of the firewall is the sensor manifold, which includes oil pressure, fuel pressure, and manifold pressure.

Sensor manifold closeup

Here’s the oil and fuel pressure sensors mounted to the firewall. These are wired into the main harness and share their 5v source on the same pin (pin18) of the EMS. It’s a common source for low power components and is shared between several other sensors.

Oil temperature sensor

Here’s a close up of the oil temp sensor wired to the harness.

Manifold pressure sensor

Here’s the manifold pressure sensor. It has a tube that’s connected to a T in order to share a manifold pressure source with the ignition system. E-Mag ignitions also need to know the pressure of the intake in order to adjust timing of the spark.

Continuing the work is a bit slow, but it’s getting there. Lots left to do.

EMS wiring

Roll Trim System

This weekend I spent a few hours working on the roll trim system. I’m using the Ray Allen trim system from Vans, so everything is nicely packaged together into its own subsystem.

Modified trim bushing block

I started out by modifying the plastic block that holds the pivot arm. This needed two holes drilled through it foe the AN3 bolts that hold it to the aluminum plate. I also botched the larger counter bored hole to allow access to the cotter pin that holds the pivot arm in place.

Mounting plate drilled

I then trimmed and match drilled the mounting plate to the seat pan holes. This allowed for a perfect fit. Once I drilled the two holes on the left, I temporarily installed it to drill the two holes on the right to the floor ribs.

Original hole and new hole in ribs

Here you can see the original hole where the nut plate was. I removed the nut plate and then used the center hole to mount the plate in order to drill the bottom hole. This was done on both sides of the center channel.

Cutting the pivot arm to the right length

I then cut the pivot arm tube to the right length so it can sit in the block and then be mounted to the metal plate. I cut off about an inch of tube. Once I did that I drilled a 1/16th hole for the cotter pin.

Mounting plate completed

After drilling the block to the mounting plate, I dimpled, and mounted the nut plates to the mounting plate. I will complete this plate by priming it before final installation.

Pivot arm installed into block

I then installed the pivot arm into the plastic block, and then installed the washer and cotter pin to hold it all together.

Test fitting the assembly

I then test fit the assembly by installing the bottom two screws. The top two are where the floor is held on to the ribs. The pivot arm needed to be adjusted to not rub on the control rod.

In the bottom left is the servo block. I need to drill that to the floor rib for final installation as well.

The final thing to do next time is to finishing the assembly with the control stick springs and cleaning up the assembly with some final adjustments.

Roll Trim System

Fuselage gussets

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.

Fuselage gussets

Behind the scenes and Wire Harness

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.

list of things to do

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.

JIRA 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.

System Block Diagram

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.

Full System Wire Harness

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.

Behind the scenes and Wire Harness

Closed out the wings!

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.

Current state of the hangar

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.

Checking the spar receptacle

There’s still lots to do on the project, but getting to this point has been a great adventure!

Closed out the wings!

Vertical Power PPS

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.

Vertical Power PPS

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.

Vertical Power PPS

Finished closing out first wing

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.

Final wing skin partially riveted

Once we got the hang of the pattern, it went quicker. Still required maneuvering my arm through tight spaces and rib lightening holes.

Interior of the wing

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.

Me checking out the rivets after finishing

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.

Finished closing out first wing

Lots of work – Canopy and Empenage

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!

Lots of work – Canopy and Empenage