The next sub assembly to do is the elevator. This is the trailing edge of the tail and it's primary function is to control pitch movement for the aircraft in flight. The initial assembly of this structure is somewhat less complex than the horizontal stab, but as always just as critical to get straight and square.
The nose, tip and rear ribs I formed fit almost perfectly and with a bit of trimming squared up the spar really nicely.
Being able to interpret the plans is becoming more apparent as I progress through this build. One item missing on the plans is the distance from the elevator spar to the elevator rear support channel seen below. The builder is left to decide where this fits. From what I can determine, the placement is designed to be back far enough so the flanges on the support channel are equal in height to the inner rear ribs. This would make sense as the skin and elevator hinge assemblies attach here. Front to back spacing is held temporarily in place with tape, squaring the whole thing up proved to be a bit tricky but I got it done without too much issue.
I had some discussion with Ron at this point, as I wasn't happy with the rigidity of the elevator assembly. I know that things will square up and get stiffer once the skin is on, but the assembly seems a bit lacking in structure at the middle where all the force and weight is acting on the elevator in flight.
Ron suggested I make a small modification that he is doing on his 701 builds by adding a 016 gusset plate across the top and bottom of the elevator centre section, extended out to the spar.
I liked the idea and set out to make the suggested gusset plates. Even at 016 thickness this will strengthen the centre spar of the elevator without causing undue problems adding the elevator skins.
I've drilled them out to A3 and will wait for A4 holes once the skins are on. One on the lower side....
...... and one on the upper side:
The last pieces to be fit on the elevator spar skeleton are the tip ribs. It's a bit of a juggle to get them in the exact right position, but they fit perfectly. Figuring out the order to drill them and the attachment angles to the spar was fun, but I got it done. A pair of wide neck welder's vicegrips are excellent for holding things together for drilling (note the protective masking tape on the pads to avoid scratching the aluminum):
Here is a picture of the elevator tip rib clecoed into place. The final rivets here are four A5 rivets which also hold on the outboard elevator pivot pins. Ron and I are going to weld up enough sets for each airplane being built and the holes will be matched with the A3 pilot holes I've drilled here.
As mentioned in my previous blog post, I'm considering options for a system to control the elevator trim tab. The plans call for a Ray Allen trim actuator and digital trim position indicator for the cockpit. But at $400+ I'm exploring alternatives, including substituting in a giant scale RC servo.
The Ray Allen system is spec'd to provide 40 pounds of linear push/pull force. Current metal gear RC servos are more than capable of meeting or beating that spec and with a bit of microprocessor power and programming are an attractive alternative. The whole replacement system from front to back including servo, a cockpit indicator and voltage regulators will likely be less than $100. The question is how?
Welcome to the world of Arduino, a programmable microprocessor board based on the AT328 chipset. With a bit of time, I believe I can use the Arduino to not only control the trim servo but provide failover support and control correlation. In addition, I have many options for how I want it to display in the cockpit, from a simple bar graph LED to a more intuitive graphic display. Only imagination limits me here. I',m also considering an Arduino board for controlling LED navigation lights and LED strobes.
So what does an Arduino processor look like? There are several models of boards all with different strengths and weaknesses, but most of either are related to what the board is capable of providing. I want the board to be simple to use but small for space considerations behind the control panel. For my prototype and likely final design, I've settled on the smaller sized Arduino Nano for the trim system:
I went on Amazon and ordered the Arduino Nano board and the associated mounting pins. I was able to find a 3 pack that included the unsoldered breakout pins. My plan is to use one board to prototype the trim system, one board to make for the airplane (wire soldered to the board) and one spare (in case one decides to poof into blue smoke if I screw up). I also ordered a voltage step-down board (top of picture) - the trim servo operates on 6 volts, so i needed a way to power it from the 12 volt system:
The easiest way to prototype and learn how to use the Arduino board, is to mount the pins on the breadboard, then place the Arduino on the pins. From there careful soldering each pin of the Arduino:
The Arduino is supported by a large online community of programmers, experimenters, robotic designers, musicians and others. It's simple but powerful programming language is easy to learn and because it is "open source code" based, there are literally thousands of example projects to build from and modify. I won't get much more into it here, but if this interests you, check out https://www.arduino.cc/
After getting everything together, I powered up the Aruduino from the USB port of my laptop ..... IT'S ALIVE! (I guess it's a stretch to consider that this might count as the first "power" my aircraft has had - I'm such a geek!)
After a bit of fussing around with loading up the correct USB drivers so that the Arduino programming application on the laptop can talk to the board, I uploaded my first "sketch", (the Arduino name of a coded program that instructs the board what to do). In this case, I added an LED and used the basic "Blink" sketch which tells the board to blink it's on board LED light
Again, I know this sounds geeky, but it's really cool! I messed around with the sketch and changed the blink rate and patterns and uploaded it again to see the result. I've got a bunch of learning to do, but a work colleague sent me some links to YouTube instructional videos which I'll work through and learn what this board can do.
Well, that's it for tonight. Back to the shop Thursday night to work more on the elevator. Got to finish the centre section, the elevator upper/lower control horns and start looking at how the elevator trim gets mounted. Got some disassembly, deburring and priming to do as well.
Thanks for reading, more to come :)
Been away from the shop a bit. Christmas with the family, shopping, work etc. There are important things in life besides airplanes I suppose :) That doesn't stop me from doing reasearch. Okay, you can call it browsing if you like.
I wanted to share a website I found called experimentalavionics.com
One of the biggest decisions to be made with my build is what avionics I want in my panel. This of course is guided by the three points of mission, cost and simplicity in that order, although they aren't mutually exclusive either. Simplicity generally leads to lower cost. Mission needs vs wants can also directly influence cost up or down. With a bit of work, the following items can be built very inexpensively, with off the shelf parts and instructions found online.
My aircraft mission is simple enough. I don't need to go fast or high (the Zenair 750 isn't pressurized nor is it a speed demon) and I won't be flying IFR (instrument flight rules). I do want good communications (it's actually what I do for a living!) and the ability to navigate outside the normal ATC coverage areas to some of those good fishing/camping spots.
I'm using a converted Corvair automobile engine. Instrumentation for this is simple too.
The idea of building my own EMS (Engine Monitoring System) from open source electronics/software fits both my budget and interests in learning. I have learned enough electronics skills over the years to build it (thanks to Mom and Dad for starting my learning in basic electronics by buying me this when I was a kid). Whether this becomes my primary engine instrumentation or a back up to the traditional analog engine guages will be decided later after I do some more research. It might look something like this:
A nice, easy to read display suitable for the 6 cylinder Corvair engine. The bonus is how much panel space I'd save and the ability to datalog the information for testing mods or diagnosing trends. Alarm annunciators (flashing warning lights or audio) can easily be added for any parameter that goes out of range. Cool!
The other panel items such as primary flight instruments (altimeter, VSI, etc) require more thought. I like traditional instruments for their familiar simplicity. For the same reasons as the EMS, a EFIS (Electronic Flight Information System) has an intriguing draw, but I'll likely have something like this as my backup instruments:
Again, easy to read, simple and space saving. 6 instruments and a clock all in one place.
A couple of cons that I'll need to consider are temperature operating range and failure modes. It gets real cold where I'll be keeping the plane when it's built (unless I win the lottery, then it's heated floor hanger all the way!)
As for failure modes, how comfortable am I putting all indicators in one place, where a single failure may result in losing everything at once.
The website that I linked above also includes preliminary discussions on intercoms for pilot/passenger communication and a WiFi based AHRS (Attitude Heading Reference System) that could link wirelessly to a tablet for navigation. Perhaps someone will adapt the AHRS to be an inexpensive ADS-B out module!
Lots to think about...
Happy New Year everyone :)
I've shared my overall plans with many people over the past couple of months. It never hurts to put word out you are looking for something. Sometimes it pays off, sometimes it doesn't, but either way everyone ends up learning more or less as you go.
Got a call from a buddy who came across what he thought might be an airplane throttle assembly:
Turns out it is a throttle assembly, but for marine applications. I'm thinking it's for a very large twin engine boat with adjustable pitch props. Close, but not what I need.
Next, I got a call from another buddy at work who tells me he has a bunch of "on the way to the trash bin" stuff he thought I might be interested in.
I grabbed a box of stuff from him that appears to have some sort of bench testing equipment for strobe light assemblies. Among the junk were two strobe power supplies....
....and five of these strobe heads:
Our employer doesn't use this older technology any more (everything now is advanced LEDs), but this could work very well for me and my build.
I wired up one of the power supplies and connected 2 of the strobe heads. In my shop they are almost blindingly bright and work in quad-flash pattern, very cool and would be excellent on the wing tips (the video doesn't really capture the brightness well):
My only concern is the amount of power that these older types of strobes draw and how much they weigh compared to self contained LEDs, but when something is scrounged for free, it's hard to turn down. If I decide to switch to LED lights during the build, I can always donate (pay it forward) to my Volunteer Fire Department (I do their emergency light installs anyway).
Onto the shelf they'll go for now until I'm ready.
On another "scrounging" note, Dad's got his contacts in the old car world on the prowl for a Corvair motor.
Yes, scrounging is worth it and all part of learning :)
In order for this project to come together, I'm planning on building in sections in order to keep things economical. Overall I'll be spending a fair amount of money, but by doing things in stages, it will keep me from being overloaded by debt.
I figure if I'm going to build and learn as I go, might as well spread the dollars over time as well.
To that end, I've broken the project into several "sections" and within those there will inevitably be sub-sections.
I've decided on the type of airframe I want (high wing, side by side). It will most likely be buying something that is a complete fuselage, tail section and wings. Whether that will be fabric or metal or fiberglass or a combination of 2 or 3 is yet to be determined. Tail dragger (conventional) or tricycle gear is also a consideration.
This will be largely dependent on the airframe, however the key here will be lightweight materials with a eye towards function and comfort.
The key here will be simplicity. For the type of flying I plan on doing, I really don't need much more than what is required for basic visual flight rules.
Now, I'm the first to admit that I am a gadget geek, easily distracted by the latest and greatest electronic systems and gizmos. Unfortunately, there is a big correlation between fancy and expensive. Surely some electronics add to simplicity and by combining several items into one do-all display there might be some money savings, but I'm not sure putting all my money into a single system makes sense. If that single system fails, it will be costly to repair or replace, where an individual component is easier to diagnose and replace where necessary without upsetting the entire apple cart. Perhaps once I'm up flying I can take a look at upgrades, but for now I'll stick with tried and true simple analogue stuff. (Unless I get a deal I can't refuse!)
In my next post, I'll talk about engines, a really big topic.
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.