Friday finally got here and I departed home for my road trip to "parts south" at 1130am.
First stop, my long time friend Lynn's place just outisde Barrie. Lynn and I grew up in the same hometown of Holland Landing and her late father Wally owned the local airport. For several years Lynn was heavily involved with ultralight aircraft, as a builder, pilot and instructor. Now heading in a different direction in life, she contacted me with a list of items from sale from her collection.
As I arrived in her driveway, I was very pleasantly surprised to see that one of my best friends Mike (also from Holland Landing) was also there. It was just like old times - what a fantastic chance to catch up a bit. None of us has aged by the way ;)
Lynn had collected up a bunch of stuff for me and made a sales pitch I couldn't refuse. More on this in a bit.
Next stop, my parent's place to pick up Dad and head to Kitchener to see Scott about the 750 rudder he has for sale. I like taking Dad on these jaunts when possible. It's great to catch up and of course talk airplanes - it's certainly something in the DNA I got from him!
After a dinner in Guelph with Dad, we made our way to Scott's place in Kitchener. The deal for the rudder we agreed to got even sweeter when Scott included a box of Cleco fasteners, Cleco pliers and two heavy paper bags of A4 and A5 rivets - all for $100 cash! I didn't dicker or give him a chance to change his mind. START THE CAR!!
We wound our way back to Dad and Moms during Friday evening rush hour and seemed to hit every red light. Times like this remind me how much I enjoy living in northern Ontario. I decided to grab a nap for a couple of hours, but by 415am this morning, I was back on the road home (there are other things I have to get done before going back to work tomorrow!)
Once I got home and had some breakfast, I began the inventory process.... in a word, wow!
Here is a group photo of the items I obtained from Lynn and Scott. Top to bottom, left to right: A handful of the several reference books, bags of Cleco fasteners, over a thousand rivets (paper bags), Cleco pliers, drill bits "The Claw" aircraft tiedown kit and a "One Touch Tach" tool used for confirming prop RPM.
Amazing stuff for my project. In fairness to Lynn, I won't disclose what I paid for her portion of this stuff, but suffice to say, it pays to stay in touch with friends!
The big item of the trip however is the 750 rudder. Scott had attended a Zenair factory sponsored rudder workshop with the intent of getting a head-start on his 750 build, but as is often the case, life got in the way and he decided to part with his barely touched project. This rudder is already mostly built, including corrosion protection. Fortunately one side only has some temporary rivets on the skin that can be drilled out so I can confirm everything is good inside and run the wires for a navigation light. For $100 and the fact it was built in a supervised factory workshop I can drill a few rivets out to confirm. Unassembled rudder kits are more than $500 from the factory and there is at least $100 in hardware that he threw in.
Can't wait to show Ron!
But right now, the lawn needs to be cut.... again.
Snuck over to the shop for a couple of hours Monday morning. I'm trying to squeeze in time when I can and a few hours in the morning before I head to bed for my afternoon pre-nightshift nap works perfectly.
Work continues on the 701 wing repair/rebuild. I managed to fabricate my first replacement piece, a rear wing channel. It took some time to figure out how to use the sheet metal bending brake, but I got it done. Here you can see the original bent and mangled one on the right and my new one on the left. The previous builder for some reason made his channel with a thinner gauge of material than what the plans call for. I'm all for saving weight and money, but this is a critical structural component, not something I would consider worth skimping on:
Next was removal of the damaged nose skin. As part of the repair/rebuild, Ron is planning on extending the wing by a couple of feet. We'll cut out the damage, fabricate a tip extension to the main wing spar and add a rib where required. A new nose skin and upper/lower wing skins and will be cut and fastened to the originals. Of course, this means drilling out more rivets. I suspect there will be times this will come in handy when I make mistakes on my own build!
This picture shows the extent of damage. What do you think..... is this creased too far to be "popped out"?
I drilled out the rivets on the closest good rib to allow some flexibility when cutting the bad nose skin. We'll trim it cleanly back to the rib to enable a clean joint with the new extended skin. These empty holes will become part of the stronger joint as a result.
As always, I'm keeping my eyes open for good deals on things I need for my project. Surfing the classifieds section of the Ultralight Pilots Assocication website, I came across an individual selling a complete rudder section for a CH750 for an amazing price that was too good to be true! A quick game of phone tag and the seller and I agreed to meet on Friday this week.
On the road again..... can't wait to get on the road again.....
After a couple of weeks pouring over my new plans and discussing them with my friend Ron, tonight I begin the never ending trail of paperwork that needs to be filed with Transport Canada.
It all starts with a CO1B "Letter of Intent" that gets submitted to the MDRA inspection agency. MDRA stands for Minister's Delegates - Recreational Aviation. Essentially the federal transportation Ministry decided a number of years ago that they didn't have the resources (or knowledge) to efficiently manage the inspection/inspector process for homebuilt recreational aircraft so they created another level of bureaucracy (i.e. fees) for those who wish to build and fly their own aircraft. The one good thing about this government mess is that MDRA inspectors come from the homebuilt community and should understand what most builders are attempting to do.
So, first form done and submitted (don't forget to include the $80+tax filing fee, ouch). Now to wait and get confirmation that MDRA has started a "file" on my project..... then I can start my build.
Yesterday, I called Zenair HQ to inquire if my plans had been shipped yet. I spoke with Kaitlyn who confirmed my package left their facility via U.S.Postal Service Air Mail on Friday afternoon.
Today, using the tracking number she provided me, I logged into the USPS web-portal and discovered that as of Monday morning my package was somewhere in the bowels of the USPS International Service Center in Chicago. Further reading reveals the ISC where all outbound mail from the U.S. goes to be sorted for distribution. I also read that it can be a bit of a black hole and there are many reports of stuff going missing, never to be seen again.
Thankfully when I checked a couple of hours later and my package was showing as of Wednesday morning as being in Canada Customs. I'm normally more patient than this, but Canada Post and their postal workers union are deep into a nasty labour dispute with both sides threatening strike/lock-out action by midnight tonight! At this point I hoping my plans wouldn't end up stuck on some conveyor belt or parked truck.
Knowing that web-portals are sometimes slow to update, I took a chance and called my local Post Office (love small towns). The lady there confirmed for me that I indeed had a package awaiting pick-up!
Brenda was kind enough to drop by and pick it up for me (I was stuck at work). When I got home, it was waiting for me. To be honest, I kinda thought it would be a bigger box, but happy nonetheless it has arrived safe!
Opening the box explained a lot. The plans are curled a bit on one end to fit a standard shipping box:
A fully numbered and complete set of plan drawings and folder with builder resource information including a CD of assembly photos. Really nice stuff.
Who's a happy guy?
Got a confirmation e-mail today that my Zenair 750 STOL plans are on their way from the Zenair factory in Mexico, Missouri. Despite being a company founded in Canada, all plans come from the U.S. office of Zenair as they are numbered and serialised for each builder (makes sense really, the U.S. is a huge market for homebuilts.) It's also great way for the designer to keep track of customers and provide support.
With some luck, I should have them in my hands in 5 to 7 business days!
In my previous post "Time to get back at it" I mentioned spending a day in July at the Zenair Open Hanger day in Midland, where I met fellow Corvair engine builders John from nearby Angus and Jeff Moores of Newfoundland.
Here are a couple more pictures from that day that Jeff's wife was kind enough to send me.
Hoping to get back into the shop this week. More rivets to drill on the salvaged wing. Learn I will..... learn :)
First off, I ordered my plans set today! Hopefully it won't take long to be shipped from Zenair. Once I have them, I'll have my very own serial number and I can start going down the road of endless inspection paperwork that needs to be on file with Transport Canada. I'm trying to decide if I want to reserve a good registration (call letters) or wait and see what they assign..... but that's a bit premature.... ha!
Four more hours in the shop today. Continued to open up the salvaged 701 wing. Wasn't too surprised to find damaged structure inside. This is the top of the wing at the root where it attaches to the fuselage. It likely got twisted back from the impact out on the tip of the wing. Lots of rash damage, probably from improper handling after the crash.
Flipped the wing over and with some drill effort, off comes the wing root fairing, fuel cell inspection cover and lower wing skin. Whomever built this wing wasn't much of a craftsman (or craftsperson). Lots of rivets where they shouldn't be, and lots of rivets missing from where they should be. We also discovered the rear spar channel is way under gauge from what the plans call for. Seems like someone decided to take a shortcut.
Next step was to drill out the rivets holding in the incorrect rear channel:
It came out easy, but it too has holes in all the wrong places.
Easy to fix/replace, but after seeing this, we are truly wondering what else we are going to find.
Next up, straighten the inboard main wing rib (on the left in the above picture). It will require another strip of aluminium (called a doubler) to reinforce the damaged area after we straighten it.
I just two afternoon sessions, I've learned a ton thanks to Ron but I've got a ton more to learn yet!
Had a real great afternoon today speaking with and working in the shop of my new friend Ron. As I've stated before in my blog, the prime motivator of building my own airplane is about learning.
Ron is a long time builder and re-builder of aircraft, both certified and homebuilts. He has a very deep knowledge of all things in recreational aviation and most importantly wants to teach me some of what he knows.
Ron's current projects include rebuilding a Cessna 170, a short wing Piper and several Zenair projects. His thinking is to have me assist his group of builders repair a Zenair 701 as a very first step to learning metal aircraft construction. Perfect! What a fantastic way to get an introduction to building skills.
He gave me a quick tour of his workshop and we immediately went to work on removing the skins off a salvaged Zenair 701 wing that was badly damaged by a previous owner. This wing is being rebuilt.
We started by assessing the wing to determine the best course of action. We discussed what was salvageable as is, what could be patched and what would need to be cut away completely. As you can see in this picture, the damage is substantial.
After making some marks on the wing of what needed to be removed and a quick demonstration of the procedure required, I was drilling out the rivets. As you can see, there are a ton of them:
We also removed the lower wing skin closest to the wing root that was crinkled really badly. Again, a ton of rivets to drill out:
I wish I took more pictures, but I was having too much fun drilling rivets. Obviously today was just a tiny taste of what's to come for learning and building, but I'm hooked!
As we worked, Ron and I talked at length about my plans for building a Zenair 750 STOL. I explained my plans to put a Corvair engine in it and he was very interested in the combination.
Use of Ron's shop and taping into his experience building Zenair aircraft definitely confirms for me that this 750 STOL airplane is a do-able project that I can accomplish, and that by making some of the parts myself from raw materials (called "scratch building", as in "from scratch") I have the opportunity to save a bunch of time and money.
So after some weeks of debate, tomorrow I'm sending in my order to Zenair for a complete set of builders plans for a 750 STOL aircraft. Once I have them in hand, Ron and I are going to sit down and discuss a build plan.
I haven't posted anything to the blog because I've really not made any progress in the past couple of weeks, other than research stuff. Summertime is difficult.... hot and muggy and plenty of other family plans and activities to occupy my time.
Had a few minutes today though, so I thought I'd get out the core crankshaft I have safely stored in inventory and have a better look at it. One of the first items I'll be sending away for prep work, but it needs to be measured to see if it still meets factory specs.
This is the crank I inherited from the inventory I purchased in February. The previous owner had already completed some of the work to make it airworthy and it's in great shape:
The recommended prep work includes magnaflux testing for internal damage, straitening if required, heat treating for improved strength (ion nitriding) and grinding the piston rod journals to improve the fillet radiuses. Larger journal radii help prevent stress riser cranks from forming, which has led to broken crankshafts in the past. The process is quite common in certified aircraft engine cranks, so it's worth doing here.
One of the other processes that normally gets completed is to drill and tapping the centre of the end of the crank for a propeller hub safety shaft. Because the previous owner was working from the official plans, he had already completed this process with his machinist:
I opened my Corvair shop manual, and found the engine spec reference page. It contains all the measurements for the major engine components:
Using my digital caliper, I tried to measure as best I could the crankshaft main journals and connecting rod journals to see how close they are to factory. I really should be using a micrometer for this, but my calipers should at least let me know it's in the ballpark.
The manual says the connecting rod journals (they call them crankpin journals) calls for a diameter from 1.7999 inches to 1.800 inches. To make it easier to measure, I set and friction-lock my caliper to 1.7990 before placing it on the journal. This is slightly undersize, but as close to 1.7999 I can get. This way if the caliper slides over the journal without resistance, I know that it is below tolerance and no good for grinding. Anything larger than that leaves that much more room for the machining (good):
With my lovely assistant Brenda taking an action shot with the camera, I carefully measure each of the bearings:
It's real hard to get a good picture, but the caliper won't span the largest diameter of the journal, so we can deduce that they and the main journals (using the same measuring technique) are clearly above the minimum spec and can be used for conversion. I know it isn't a perfect measurement and my caliper may not be as accurate as a micrometer, but I think I'm in the ballpark at least.
I'm going to see if I can borrow a good micrometer from someone, or maybe buy one for myself to confirm this. Once I'm sure, off to Florida the crank will go for prep.
Next Wednesday I'm having my first shop lesson with Ron, another Zenair builder. He's rebuilding a Zenair 701 and has offered to let me help. What a great opportunity to learn and prep for my build.
More to come.....
Took an hour today to start cleaning up the push rod tubes that I removed from each of the cores:
First step was removing the old dry and cracked o-rings. GM used simple rubber ones which in the conversion process are replaced with Viton rings. Viton doesn't dry out with heat and remain supple over the course of the engine's life. Some were already cracked and missing pieces:
I rummaged around in my tool box and found the perfect thing to use. Don't ask me if I know how sharp the point is:
Some came off complete, but most came off in brittle little pieces:
Next step will be to clean them up. First a bath in Simple Green to get rid of the grime and grease, followed by a polish. The tubes are made of light steel with a zinc coating. GM left them bare, but standard practice for conversions is to paint and bake them white with high heat enamel to enhance cooling (or at least reduce heat transfer to the tubes from the cylinders). I've read online it's best remove the zinc coating and this can be done using an aggressive Scotchbrite pad or bench grinder wheel.
I haven't posted anything to my blog for a couple of weeks because I've been busy doing the other things in life that keep our family hopping at this time of year. Vacation, two birthdays, two anniversaries, the end of the school year, fireworks shows for Canada Day (another hobby of mine) and some camping. All this happens in the span of 14 days. But it's over again for another year.
Of course my mind hasn't strayed too far from my project and I'm starting to narrow down my decision on what airframe I want to build. In my post from last year "So Many Choices" I describe my thought process in this regard.
Just before I started vacation, I managed to meet up with Ron, a local home builder who has vast experience with building aircraft from scratch, from kits and rebuilding damaged airframes for others. He is currently working on a Piper Pacer, but he has offered me a spot on his build team and more importantly, the opportunity to assist him and another guy in building a Zenair 701. You can't ask for better chance to learn from someone that has "been-there-done-that". Ron is also keen to see a Corvair installation process, perhaps for future build of his own.
So, after much debate and thinking out the pros and cons I've decided 99.9% that I'm going to begin the process of building a Zenair 750 STOL (Short Take Off Landing). This aircraft has the best of everything I'm looking for:
One thing I really like about the home building movement is the willingness of others to share what they have learned and help others get started. It's a tight knit group of individuals and it's great having that support network when working through a build.
During my vacation, I got a call from another Corvair builder named John who is putting a Corvair in his Zenair 650. His engine was built for him by William Wynne and he is close to flying his 650 for the first time. He reached out to me after seeing I was also in Ontario in hopes of having another Corviar builder to bounce ideas off of (again, that built in support network is great). He also offered to put me in touch with yet another Corvair builder who is doing the same 750 airframe that I'm interested in.
I told John I was planning on heading to the Zenair open house being held in conjunction with the Midland RAA (Recreational Aircraft Association) fly-in being held this past weekend. We agreed to meet up in person and that's exactly what happened yesterday.
I arrived at the Midland Huronia Airport sharply at 9am Saturday morning. I was hoping to meet the Zenair staff before the crowds got too busy. I had the opportunity to speak directly with brothers Michael and Nicholas Heintz, sons of Zenair aircraft designer Chris Heintz. I explained my goals and mission and they answered any question I had. When I mentioned I was planning on putting a Corvair engine into the airplane, they were very positive about the combination which is extremely encouraging.
Michael advised me that a builder from Newfoundland by the name of Jeff Moores was coming that day to look at purcashing a Zenair 750 and was a Corvair builder as well. I've had conversations with Jeff via the Corvaircraft forums, as he has already built a Corvair for his Merlin ultralight, so it was great to meet him and his wife Dale in person. Shortly after, John walked over and introduced himself.
Jeff, John and I talked at length about each of our plans and how we are at substantially different phases of the build. having built both a 2.7 litre and 3.0 litre Corvair engin, Jeff offered some great insight to the differences and advantages of each. Considering none of us had ever met before in person, it amazed me how quickly we became friends - guess that's all part of being a builder.
We took a tour of the production facility where Michael explained the evolution of Zenair kits and how advanced the CNC production has become, even just in the last few years. The 750 kits are considered state of the art and are "match drilled" meaning all the holes in the pre-formed aluminum parts are already drilled for the builder, saving substantial time in assembly. It was clear from the tour that the kit quality is top notch, and I came away from the tour feeling very confident that this is a great project for an amateur builder like me.
As the morning progressed, each of us were offered a flight in the factory 750 demonstrator with Nicholas Heintz. This one is actually the 750 Cruzer model, which has a somewhat cleaner airframe (no slats, different wing, etc) resulting in a somewhat faster cruise speed than the STOL model, but the cabin dimensions and "feel" are the same. The demonstrator is equipped with a Jabiru engine (which is has approximately the same horsepower as what a Corvair would:
Now, I'm not sure what my goofy smile was from; the fact I was actually going flying or how pleased I was to experience the visibility this cabin design provides (and I wasn't even in the air yet!) but I suspect it was a combination of both:
A short time later and we were airborne! I was so wrapped up in the flight experience and speaking with Nicholas about the handling characteristics of this Cruzer model vs the STOL version, I didn't get any puictures, but I am really impressed with this aircraft. Smooth, stable and comfortable. The visibility is incredible in all directions and the bubble doors give that extra feel of roominess. One thing I noticed when I had the controls and entered a turn was the really nice visibility through the clear panel cabin roof:
Jeff's wife Dale took some pictures and videos of my flight and when they get a chance will send them to me and I'll post them. Here are a couple of more I took:
So things are starting to pick up speed. I'm definitely in the arena and the game is about to really get started!
Husband, father and 911 dispatcher. Long time pilot with a licence that burns a hole in my pocket where my student loan money used to be. First time aircraft builder. Looking to fly my own airplane.