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

Vertical Stabilizer

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.

Vertical Stabilizer

Drilled Horizontal Stab

This weekend I spent time getting the elevator horns drilled for the pushrod and the horizontal stab drilled and mounted to the fuselage.

Britney was in town visiting me this weekend so, of course, I asked her to help me work on the plane. She has been very encouraging and really wants to help on the project. So we got started by mounting the elevators to the horizontal stab on the bench.

Once we got the elevators lined up and clamped, we measured which horn was aft, and then removed the left elevator.

I measured and then drilled the hole for the pushrod, and then I fabricated a block to span the gap between the horns, remounted the left elevator and placed the block between the horns. This ensured that the #30 pilot hole was drilled perfectly perpendicular.

Once the pilot hole was drilled, I enlarged it for the AN3 bolt that will eventually hold the pushrod.

The resulting holes are perfectly lined up and perpendicular.

Once this was done, we removed the elevators and then positioned the horizontal stab on the fuselage.

We measured, and then measured, and then measured again. I clamped everything into place and measured one last time.

I then drilled my #30 pilot hole through the stab and then remeasured. After ensuring nothing moved, I final drilled it for the AN3 bolt and then inserted the bolt to prevent anything from shifting.

This is the underside of the outer holes after drilling the pilot holes. Edge distances for the longeron were right on the money.

I then proceeded to drill the remaining two holes, and fabricated the F-798 shims. Everything lined up and I did one final measurement, and it all remained perfectly aligned.

I bolted the forward bolts, used a 3/16th spacer to raise the rear spar to the right height, and then drilled and bolted the four holes to mount the rear spar to the fuselage.

Next up is the vertical stab!

Drilled Horizontal Stab

Propeller

Today I installed my beautiful MT propeller! It’s a huge milestone!

I received it last Thursday, and I had to finish a couple other things that needed to be installed behind the starter ring, namely the alternator mounting bracket. I also took this opportunity to pull the starter and grind off the mounting boss that was interfering with the intake snorkel.

Here you can see it after I ground it down. Now the snorkel can fit without and modification.

I then took my time installing the prop. The mounting bolts can only turn a couple turns at a time before having to wiggle the prop and tighten another one.

Once I got them all tighten I torqued it by hand for now, but MT calls for 65ft-lbs if torque on the bolts and then safety wiring them in pairs. I will do that later just in case (I really really hope not) I have to take the prop off again.

It’s just so cool to look at.

I just had to test fit the top cowl, it’s still high by about 3/4 of an inch, it’s sitting on the baffles, which I have yet to modify. Now that the prop is on I can start with the cowl fitting and then continue working on the baffles.

And of course…Happy Mothers Day!

Propeller

Received my prop!

Today it was Christmas in May! I got my prop delivered by American Propeller out of Redding, CA. I ordered a three blade MT Prop. It’s a composite, constant speed propeller.

Tracy from American Propeller did a great job unloading it from the truck and placing it in the shop.

I had to make some room (still have to clean up a bit) to put the prop on the table. I will install it for the first time this weekend. here’s my hand on the widest part of the blade for comparison. It’s a 72″ diameter prop.

I took the spinner off and man is that some gorgeous machining and fabrication.

I’m thoroughly impressed with MT prop and I’m sure the performance will match.

Received my prop!