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.....
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.