January is definitely here! -32C today (that's about -25F for you imperialists) in the sun, without the wind. Brrrrr..... good day to be in the shop with the woodstove!
I thought we'd be on the road this weekend with the family, picking up supplies at Aircraft Spruce, but a major winter storm threatened to clobber southern Ontario and delivered over 40 centimetres of snow, right where we were headed. Glad we stayed home - we'll head south next weekend.
While I'm working on the 701 wing repair and making parts for my 750 STOL, Ron continues work on his Aeronca Scout. I hope to learn his methods for welding steel tube, he is a master craftsman. The rear fuse frame has been painted and the new wooden stringers are just about to be installed. Looking real good!
Got the trailing edge complete on the 701 wing. The plans call for squeeze rivets here - small ones!
With the trailing edge aligned, finger clamps are used to maintain the edges of the top and bottom skins. Spring loaded centre punch marking the location and spacing of the rivets, holes drilled and clecoed
With the wing now flipped upright, we need to strip off the last of the oh-so-pretty paint. The stripped works real well on the white, but the red primer underneath is painfully difficult to remove.
After 4 hours of applying stripper, scraping and scrubbing, the wing is now clean enough for priming once it is ready. I was so fed up I didn't take a picture. What a pain.
So far I've got 17 "standard L" blanks cut, so I used some time to day to bend them.
I made two test bends and used these as measurement jigs by taping them to the ends of the blanks. This provides the correct inserted depth in the bending brake.
Half an hour later, I had them all done and I'm happy how they turned out. They still need to be deburred, but that will be easier now that they won't flex all over the place. These are used all over the contstruction of my 750, so I'll score this under "other".
Spent the balance of the afternoon measuring and planning the installation of the nose skins for the wing. With the extension, we'll need to use two separate skins, one inboard and one outboard with the joint offset from the spar extension joint.
This will take some planning and some thought which I've started on. The end of this repair/extension is tantalizingly close.
Next weekend we're headed south to pick up some materials and parts.
Thanks for reading, more to come soon :)
In my previous post, I spoke of the standard 4 foot long L's that I have to make. There are apparently a lot of them, some sources claim up to 64 required for the plane, some as little as 35. They are simple to make and I'll need some quantity of them anyway, so today I worked in my downstairs shop to see if I could come up with a way to start producing these as I have some spare time.
I rolled my workbench out from the wall to give myself some room to work at the ends of the bench and locked the casters in place.
The cutting tool I made previously is perfect for this task (more information here).
The workbench already has some bolts I use for the drill press mount, but here I decided to use them as a front edge spacer. The first cut was measured and marked out on the aluminum sheet. Once I had the sheet in place, I was able to position the straight edge angle in the correct position so that the aluminum is cut to 36mm, the correct width for the "L" before bending.
Using the cutting tool, score the aluminum from one end to the other. Important note - if you are planning on using this method be sure you do not put any side loads on the blade - pull across the surface and let the tool do the work. Side loading the blade may cause it to snap. (Photo credits showing me doing the work goes to my supportive daughter Natalie!)
I found it took about 10 passes to create a good score line on the 0.025 aluminum. It creates quite a bit of "swarf" - the small pieces of metal removed from a workpiece by a cutting tool.
Once scored enough, I un-clamped the sheet and shuffled it forward - being sure to remove the front dog bolts - and placed the score line directly over edge of the bench and re-clamped it down.
To prevent the sheet from buckling upwards as I bent it at the scored line, I clamped down the edges and also held a piece of 1/3 on top
It took about 30 minutes or so to complete the first one and more like 10 minutes for the second one as everything was already set up.
I continued to produce these for a couple of hours and managed to make 12 in total. They still need to be bent and deburred, but I think this is good use of time and certainly cheaper than having the cut and bent in a machine shop. For now, I'll make up to 30 of them until I can confirm with Zenair the total count that would come in an ordered kit.
Here is a pic of the collected swarf (including some dust bunnies from the shop floor)..... more to come!
Ducked over to the shop tonight to work on making some 0.025 aluminum parts.
My original intention was to to start making the numerous (64? Are you kidding me!) 4 foot standard "L"s needed for my build, but I decided I wanted to accomplish something more tangible.
I cut out the 0.025 skin for the elevator trim tab. I'm going to leave it flat for now until I have more time to concentrate on bending it. It's a fairly complex bend over a narrow piece of aluminum, so it will pay to think it out well before committing to the bender.
Next I started and completed the wing spar tips. By laying them out opposite to each other on the aluminum sheet, I saved a some cutting and and prevented waste.
Once I had them cut out the next challenge was to bend opposite flanges with the correct web space between. Thankfully I had done this before on the 701 wing extension, so it was fairly simple.
After making the correct bends (I had to think about which side was which) I laid out the measurements for the lightening holes. Once satisfied, it was back to the fly-cutter.
Depsite my efforts to size the hole correctly, I had a bit of a rough time flanging the holes evenly. They will need a bit more work from the flanging die. Other than that they turned out real nice.
That's it for tonight, thanks for following along!
A quick glance at my countdown timer to the right of this column tells a scary tale of how little time I have to get this plane done.
Originally designed as a motivator, I haven't really been paying attention to it. Now with just over 400 days to go I really have to get moving.
After battling with a broken snow-blower belt on New Years Day, I managed to get over to the shop for a it of building therapy.
A couple of quick photos of what I got done on the 701 wing repair - getting so close to moving it into storage and starting assembly on parts that I've made for my plane.
Unfortunately, Ron was gone for the night and I couldn't find the right squeezer anvil head for these rivets, so it will have to wait until I can ask them. It's probably right under my nose, but rather than rush when I was tired tired it can wait until next time.
Going to order some more aluminum this week. I'll post more to my blog about that next time.
Happy New Year everyone, thanks for reading!
Back in the shop today.... a full day to get lots done.
Started the day by cleaning up some of the small details for the flap brackets and assorted attachments. Surprisingly, most of these are actually good (contrary to most of what we've found during this repair). All four original flapperon brackets are stripped of paint, final sanded (not done by original builder) and clecoed in place. Final riveting will happen when we align the flaperrons. The new fifth one is already for final rivets and paint.
As with the flapperons, the wing extension we've added will require the slats to be extended too, meaning an additional slat support will need to be added. But first, I had to assess the current ones for condition and fit.
It became very apparent that the slats were installed with the same random carelessness of everything else on this wing. I really think most of the holes drilled by the original builder were done blind.
Here is the first one I I looked at. Clearly not to plan specs. Don't think those two top rivets will hold much, do you?
Drilled them out and not surprising, the nose rib looks like swiss cheese. No way we'll leave it that way or try and drill new slat supports to match either.
We decided to add doublers on both sides of the ribs that require this (we replaced several damaged ones with new already) in order to sandwich things together and give us fresh material to anchor to:
Taking a closer look at the slat supports, we determined that these too were randomly sized. Stacking them shows this well, none of the holes align, let alone match the plans:
So, like a lot of other things, we are replacing these with new. This of course means making new bent strips that will support the nose skin and required slot for the slat support.
Making the bent strips was fairly straight forward and and glad they turned out well.
It's very important that all slat supports are aligned the same, both for aerodynamic reasons and alignment of the slats. To accomplish this, the plans show how to create a positioning jig that puts the slat support in the correct position and alignment for riveting.
The bent strip is added and pre-drilled for fit:
The whole thing is re-assembled back in the jig for final drilling:
Disassemble again, debur, re-assemble and final rivet:
Managed to to get two done in about an hour. The second one went easier now that I know the process. With the second in place, it's clear the efforts to do it right are paying off. There are five in total so three more to do.
A view from about mid wing looking out towards the tip. A closer look shows perfectly aligned slat supports - yes!
That was a good day of work. Next up is finishing the other three slat supports and prepping the nose skin.
Thanks for reading :)
I was talking to along time friend the other day who I hadn't spoken to in a long time. Like me he is a huge aviation buff and we know each other from our time with the OPP.
Inevitably, the topic of my build came up and I mentioned this blog which reminded me that I need to stay on top of keeping it current, especially if I'm suggesting others read it! The last installment was the culmination of my trip to the Zenith weekend - with that documented I can move on.
Lots of progress to report on the 701 wing repair and extension. The pictures are limited and maybe slightly out of order, but the captions will explain what is going on. This took place over several trips to the shop and a lot of head scratching over the past couple of weeks!
Skin back in place and pilot drilled. The fit over the flap pick up is real clean and tight. The new skin showing over the fuel tank bay is a replaceable panel. We'll be mounting it using riv-nuts (more on this later) that will allow future servicing of the fuel tank should the need ever arise. You can sort of make out the gentle folds that go corner to corner to help rigidity of the panel as there isn't much room underneath for structure between the panel and the tank. The panel edges also are bent slightly down to help tighten the panel against the surrounding wing skin when it's installed. Again, I'll try and get some more pictures when we get ready to install this.
Overall, very happy with the progress on this wing. Next up will be the nose and new root skins. These too will need slots cut in them for the slat attach brackets. With the extension, we'll actually be using two sheets as the wing is now wider than an standard sheet of aluminum.
Still some work to do, but excellent progress - very happy.
Thanks for reading and stay tuned for more in the coming days.
On Saturday evening, as everything was wrapping up I folded up my tent, packed up the car with my gear/stuff I bought (the long spars I bought from the factory just fitting from trunk to dash through the folded down back seat!) and headed to a local hotel for the night after saying my goodbyes to the Zenith staff, William and Dan from the Corvair group and the innumerable new freinds I have made . It had been a very long couple of days and a cheap hotel stay helped me catch up on some needed sleep and a hot shower felt good!
I was up (fairly) early Sunday morning, having enjoyed my stay but anxious to get on the long road home. I wanted to make it back to Kevin's in order to have a bit more time to visit with him and the family.
On my way east again, I tried again to get some pictures where I could but the drive to get back to Ann Arbor kept me focused on destination and less on the scenery. Other than gas and food, I had little reason to stop..... and it is just as flat and full of corn rows coming from the other direction too!
On the way down, I found Illinois less than convenient when it came to catching visitor centre entrances. They aren't very well marked and I found I was past them before realizing I did. So on the way back I tried to grab a photo:
After a stop for gas and a bite to eat for lunch (Arby's in the states is SO different than here in Canada), I was across the flat corn views of Illinois and into Indiana. I promised Kevin to keep him up to date with my ETA and decided to stop at the next convenient spot where free WiFi was available and a good spot to stretch my legs. By the time I got on Interstate 94 south of Chicago I was ready for break. A very well placed highway sign for the Indiana Visitors Welcome Centre at Hammond beckoned with the promise of washrooms, WiFi and good parking.
The first impression of this visitor centre is WOW! A very interesting architectural design:
As I walk up, I see a little bronze statue of a boy with his tongue stuck to a pole and I think, "Ha! That's a funny thing to put there!"
It never even donned on me, but Indiana is the state where a famous movie was filmed - this art was a tribute to a favorite family film:
I went inside and discovered that this building was also the Christmas Story Museum. I didn't have time to explore much, but the curator gave me quick run down of local sites that were used in the movie, all within a couple of miles of here. He was surprised at my level of knowledge about the film and really pleased to meet someone with a connection to Vincent Massey school in Etobicoke Ontario where the famous school and flag pole scenes were filmed (my Mom and her siblings went to grade school there). wish I could have explored more locally, but time was ticking and I wanted to get through more of the traffic before rush hour got into full swing.
My next washroom break was at the Michigan visitor centre.... almost felt like I was home, until I remembered I still had two and half hours to go.....
The rest of the last leg went without a hitch and I arrived in time for dinner and longer visit at Ann Arbor and a good night sleep.
Monday came early and I did my best to stay out of the way as Kevin, Wei and the kids prepped for their day. I had a shower, packed up my overnight bag and left mid morning, hoping to miss the inbound morning traffic through Detroit. I made a good choice and the drive to the crossing at Port Huron was good. I grabbed gas just north of Detroit and headed for the border.
When I purchased the spars at Zenith, I asked about bringing them across the border. The admin staff at Zenith issued me a customs declaration form which identified the items as aircraft parts that are exempt from duties under NAFTA (now called USMCA apparently).
When I approached the Canada Customs booth, the agent asked the normal gamut of questions (where, when, what, etc) and then peered into my window, looking directly at the wrapped spars sticking out across the back seat and up onto the dash.
"Anything to declare sir, particularly in the plain brown wrapper?" he asks - staring intently at the spars with a sly grin on his face.
"Aircraft parts, here is the documentation" I smile back.
We laughed a bit and I was on my way home.
A couple of stops for lunch and some more gas and I was finally home.
Here is a pic of the spars I bought. The camera doesn't do length of these justice and in hindsight I wish I had taken a picture of them in the car. I'll unwrap these in a future post, probably when I start the horizontal tail build:
I continue to be busy in the shop and I do have some pictures to share on a coming blog post that will catch me up to where we are today. Thanks for staying with me :)
Time just keeps slipping away.
It's been almost 2 months since the open house and I'm still trying to finish posting the story to my blog. The further t fades into the past, the less I can recall! I wish I could say I've been busy in the shop, but that would be a stretch of the truth. A change in job to Monday-Friday schedule hasn't helped but hopefully now that winter is here, I can make more time for building. The countdown clock at the right of the page hasn't stopped!
The rest of the day Saturday I spent talking with other builders and speaking with vendors on site. There really wasn't anything from the vendors that I hadn't already seen on line. Most of the avionics stuff was focused on expensive glass panel add-ons and other things that are of little interest to me either because of cost or timeline in my build. Almost all of it I can find out just as much online as speaking to them in person, so I didn't spend a lot of time browsing.
I did however get a chance to meet a few other bloggers and You-Tubers such as Jeff and Adam, a cool son/father team that are building a 750 Cruzer. It was great to meet them and chat about the differences in building from a kit vs scratch-building like I am. Another topic we spoke about was the regulatory differences between the US and Canada - both have pros and cons. They even filmed a short segment for their vlog with me in it! You can check out their YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/watch?v=NsZQ00KzeP0 and on Instgram here
Another YouTube'r I subscribe to is Jon Croke and his series on tips for homebuilders. He's an avid homebuilder and produces an almost weekly "tip of the week" on his YouTube channel as well as builders guides on DVD that he offers for sale. I subscribe to his YouTube channel and really enjoy what he produces.
He too asked me for a favour which I was happy to provide.
Of course I took the time to introduce myself to Sebastien Heintz, president of Zenith Aircraft. He is the son of Chris Heintz original designed of these aircraft, and a fellow Canadian! Although he lives and works in the US factory, he appreciated meeting another Canadian and hasn't forgotten his roots - something we shared a few laughs about.
One of the more interesting thing on display was this homebuilt trailer, made by a homebuilding couple from the exact same aluminum that our aircraft are made from. Retro styling for sure!
With the nicer weather starting to arrive by Saturday afternoon, more Zeniths started to arrive at the homecoming weekend, which gave me even more opportunity to see some of the custom work others have done. I was particularly interested in speed mods - things that builders have done to clean up some of the aerodynamics on their planes. Even small things when added up can make a huge difference in climb and cruise speeds! For example, I really liked the fairing this builder installed on the tail of his 750. Nice and clean. This has the added benefit of preventing debris from entering the tail/fuselage juntion:
Of course the prime goal right now is to get mine built, but looking ahead one can't help but wonder about what I might choose for a paint scheme. These flyins are always a good chance to see what others have done and perhaps provide a starting point for mine. I really liked the overall look of this one:
I really like the clean lines and I found out from the builder that there isn't any paint! He did the entire aircraft in 3M vinyl wrap himself without ever doing it before. The bonus is that if he doesn't like the scheme at some time in the future, he can change it! Cool! I think this would look awesome with blue instead of red (I dislike red).
The factory 750 STOL looks nice too, but again, I'd prefer blue instead of yellow (I dislike yellow even more than red!)
All the factory demonstrators are open and you can sit in them, so I had a seat in the 750 STOL to confirm I like the layout. Just as I hoped - comfortable and roomy. Hope to be flying in the winter, so need enough room for bulky winter outdoor gear:
Even better, I arranged a demo flight with Roger, the Zenith company pilot!
We did a quick briefing (Roger has thousands of demo flights under his belt. Despite this, he is the consummate professional!) and we were airborne. What an amazing machine!
We flew for about twenty minutes and I was able to fly a good portion of it. I was really impressed with the stability of the airframe, both in straight/level flight and other maneuvers. Turns required almost no rudder correction and attitudes held with almost no control inputs. A very stable and forgiving platform. Stalls were non-events too. Very impressive.
Alas, our time went by very quick and soon we started our return to the airport. I asked Roger if he would mind taking a selfie which he graciously obliged! I'm thankful for the opportunity to have flown with him and he certainly helped confirm my decision to build this airplane!
After talking out what type of flying I want to do, Roger asked if I'd like to see a performance landing - meaning how short the 750 STOL landing was capable of - of course YES!
I'm not used to STOL approaches so I was really surprised on how steep the approach could be. What surprised me even more was how quiet and smooth it was.
Roll out after the flare and smooth touchdown was REAL short. I know Roger is very practiced in this type of landing and weren't going much more than stall speed over the numbers, but in a word WOW! He admitted it could even be shorter with harder braking, but he thought I'd be happy - I was!
It took me almost an hour to stop buzzing after we were done the demo flight. It was awesome and I can really picture now what my plane will be like.
Late Saturday afternoon was set aside by William Wynne to do a "parking lot tour" for those that brought Corvair stuff for assessment - another key reason for my trip.
I didn't get any pictures of William looking over my stuff, but needless to say I was pleased overall. The only disappointment was the "good" crankshaft I brought, the one I so carefully measured and spec'd and was apparently turned and properly polished according to the guy I bought it from wasn't good enough. The crank journals didn't have the proper shoulder radii. William's trained eye not only saw this, but also noticed some very fine turning induced surface cracks that would preclude this crank from being turned again to make it correct. Disappointed, sure, but happy to find out now before I start building up my engine.
William is always willing to assess other items too. The cheap carb I bought (see this blog post) is in fact a perfect match for my engine - he was real surprised on how little I paid - score!
Here's a picture of another's builder having his turn. William is so giving of his time and honest with builders, a welcome feeling considering he sells these parts - it isn't about lying to people to make another sale, it's about helping builders make the right choice, all for free.
After checking my cores and making some recommendations, I tagged everything I needed to send to Florida for rework and loaded everything into the FlyCorvair trailer . Again, this transportation is provided free of charge to builders, something no one I know of does in the industry. I've had this stuff in my possession for almost 2 years, it was bittersweet seeing it leave, but glad I didn't have to haul it all home.
As the day wound down, we watched a couple of more builders make their debut engine runs and we all enjoyed a Missouri BBQ pork chop dinner with all the trimmings. Then it was social time.
One of the other things I wanted to do was look into buying a couple of the longer pieces of the kit that will be difficult to make from scratch.
Both the front and rear spars of the horizontal tail and elevator are examples. Our heavy bender is too short to do these and the light bender to light to bend items this long. So I bought them! More on this later.
I still have more to blog about this trip, but the plane won't build itself! Thanks for reading.
The beauty of the open house weekend is the open format. The factory invites vendors to display their products, provides a loose schedule of discussion forums surrounding everything from new builders to building techniques to design updates. Everyone is friendly and willing to share what they know and have experienced.
This is most apparent in the Corvair engine tent. Corvair engine builders come from a vast variety of backgrounds. I met individuals who are commercial airline pilots, another gentlemen who was a farmer, another a music teacher. The common thread we all share is the desire to not only build our own engine, but to understand every last part and what it does. We aren't just consumers of, we are masters of our builds.
Several builders came to the weekend with engines in the final stages of assembly. These Corvair events are the best place to show your work and confirm with both the experts and other experienced builders what you've prepared and work through the final prep before first engine run on William Wynne's test stand. The is NO COST for doing this, just a willingness to learn and share with others.
With an engine on the build table, I was able to observe how the conversion products go together. In Bob's situation, his motor was real close to being ready to test run, so we helped get it mounted up to the test stand. A fairly simple process as the test stand provides intake runners, exhaust, starter battery and fuel delivery (carb, etc.). The test propeller is also installed at this point.
Bob goes over test stand install, point by point with William. Over the course of 40+ of these events and hundreds of engine test runs at his home shop location, William has a fined tuned procedure to go from work table to stand. These checklists are essential to ensure a successful test run and more importantly everyone's safety.
Once everything is together on the stand, the engine is pre-oiled. This coats all the internal wear surfaces prior to start-up but more importantly confirms oil is flowing correctly through all the passages and oil galleries. This ensures nothing got missed and the engine will be lubricated properly on first start-up and going forward into operation. William has a custom made oil pump drive shaft, made from a discard distributor shaft which is powered by an electric drill motor. It is inserted in the distributor hole and drives the high volume oil pump - this is opposite from normal operation, where the oil pump gears drive the distributor. To the untrained eye, this might seem a bit mickey-mouse, but is very simple and brilliantly effective!
What's the best way to see oil flow? The furthest distance that oil has to travel from the pump is to the front right rocker arm. What we want to see is oil dripping steadily from each rocker arm (12 in total). It takes several minutes for the pump to push oil out through the crank, into the block and across the push rod tubes, but eventually all 12 are receiving a steady stream. Of course the only way to see this is with the rocker covers off. Again, a simple set up William developed is seen below. It uses a spare set of rocker covers modified and mounted as a drip tray:
As the drill and shaft powers the oil pump, the engine is gently turned over by hand using the test prop. Here Bob rotates his engine awaiting confirmation of oil delivery. There was almost a casino atmosphere as everyone tried to guess which rocker arm would start to drip next!
With confirmation that oil was circulating properly and to all areas of the engine, we helped Bob install his rocker arm covers. As the rocker gasket sealant set up, we listened to William go through a final pretest checklist with Bob. This includes a procedure to install the distributor and set the preliminary engine timing. Once complete, it was time to wheel it outside for first run!
The engine stand is by itself a brilliant piece of homebuilt engineering. It connects to the trailer hitch of a vehicle and is chained up just like any trailer should be.
Once everything is confirmed as secure and everyone is clear of the prop (standard airmanship rules) a new engine is born!
Nothing sounds as smooth and powerful in this engine horsepower class. And when I say smooth, check the two videos below. Note that the engine doesn't vibrate at any any throttle setting... clearly the 6 cylinders, pistons and valve train are well balanced!
For those wondering, that prop is actually turning about 2300RPM - it looks much slower in the video due to camera shutter speed among others. For a real good explanation see this article:
Here is a close up video of the rear of the engine in operation. The engine is rock solid and completely still - the vibration/unsteadiness is from my hands only. Really impressive!
What a great moment sharing this accomplishment with the engine builder! Here Bob does the "mandatory" Captain Morgan pose behind his engine at the end of a flawless break-in run. A true master of his engine!
This blog post was too long coming and I promise for those still tuning in it won't be so long for the next one - thanks for your patience! Stay tuned for more from my Zenith weekend :)
I don't know if I was tired from the drive, relaxed from the dinner and beer or the steady beat of rain on the fly of my tent just after tucking in for the night. Perhaps and most likely it was a combination of all of the above, but boy did I ever sleep solid!
For airplane people, being woken up by a departing turbo-prop is the sweetest alarm clock there is!
Morning dawned overcast, but the rain had moved on and things stayed dry for the balance of the weekend. The Zenith staff arrived early and I captured this great shot as the hangar opened it doors in preparation for the weekend:
I wasn't long before the staff started to bring their factory demonstrators out of the hangar and onto the ramp for the day:
As the morning started to brighten up, I dove right in at the Corvair tent and started taking notes and photos of the Corvair engines on display. Lots of learning just by seeing.
One of the neatest products available in the conversion catalog is the rear mounted alternator which easily fits between the engine block and firewall - directly driven by the harmonic balancer, it eliminates a belt/pulley drive on the front and moves more of the installed weight towards the firewall
Nice custom stainless exhaust routed down and out at the rear of the cowling - Ron and I will have no problem making this and the mount in the shop. Someone questioned why no mufflers and the best answer is mufflers prevent the engine from developing maximum horsepower - I think they sound better without too!
It didn't take long for the parking lot to start filling up with visitors and the Corviar tent got busy real quick. What appealed to me was the open format of the engine building. No formal schedule to stick to and lots of opportunity to chat with other builders and the join into chats with the experts.
As I continue to sort through more of the tons of photos I took, I realize it's getting late and I have to work in the morning. Stay tuned for more.....
Time until takeoff
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.