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 :)
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 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!
Previously on part one.....
Without the resistance of the blower fan and suction of the vacuum filter assembly, this motor spins way faster than what the label states. So fast in fact it wants to tear itself apart while merrily dancing across the shop floor despite being mounted on springs (or maybe because it's mounted on springs?)
So, I need to figure out a way to slow the motor down or reduce the vibration component.
My first thought is to reduce the size of or modify the shape of the metal strip I added to the motor axle.
I think doing this only reduces the vibration. The motor will still be spinning way too fast and determining the right size of strip may be hit and miss to get exactly right.
How about controlling the motor speed? I think this will be the easier route.
Digging through my box of household electrical stuff, I found two incandescent dimmer switches that should work. They are designed for AC power (as is the electric motor) and this would add the ability to fine tune the vibratory effect for best results.
Before that however, I need to finish creating the parts bowl. First I inverted the bowl and traced a circle on a piece of spare lucite (plexiglass):
Cut the circle out using my bandsaw...... that's when I realized the centre section of the bowl sits above the rim:
To secure the new lid, I used a piece of hollow threaded rod. I screwed it into the top plate of the tumbler and l left it long enough to add a cap to hold it down tight to the bowl:
To hold the lid, I found an old powder scoop that fits perfectly over the bowl centre. That and a washer and nut hold everything down nicely:
Now that everything is built, back to slowing down the motor.
I added in the rotary dimmer switch. It has an off position when turned counter-clockwise all the way. I'll tide up the wiring once I figure out if this is going to work as designed. The picture was taken prior to creating the lid. Using the dimmer works!
Time to test the machine....
First, add the tumbling media, in this case a couple of scoops of clean clay cat litter. Then add some dirty, greasy and rusty test parts:
Close and fasten the lid..... all secure and "go for power-up!" The vibrating of the tumbler makes it hard to get a clear picture, but the media very quickly envelops the parts. As it tumbles, they occasionally come back up the top:
The tumbler is NOISY! I suspect the bolts between the levels of the tumbler are vibrating against the bowl. That should be easy to fix. Perhaps it might have to be run outside. After letting it run for about five minutes, I decided to have a look at the progress. Even after only 5 minutes, the parts are obviously cleaner and devoid of the grime they entered with:
Although the parts come out a bit dusty, clearly this method and machine I've built works very well, even at a short duration. I'm planning on running a longer test this afternoon and will post more details.
So as I mentioned previously, I have a pail full of loose hardware (bolts, nuts, washers etc.) that are completely covered in dirt, grime and rust. I pondered using my daughter's rotary rock tumbler, but learned that the interior of the drum can get destroyed by the tumbling medium and the metal parts.
A quick Google search led me to this post on how to make a Vibratory Tumbler:
The tumbler described in the link above is for rocks, but the concept is simple enough, perhaps I can come up with something for cleaning my parts. Another Google search led me to this You-Tube video:
Now that seems more like the type of task I'm trying to accomplish! And the cleaning media is cat litter!
Shouldn't get much cheaper and easier than that! Let's build one!
First, I obtained the following two items from the Value Village thrift store:
I tested the vacuum in the store before purchasing it to make sure it worked. It was missing the nozzle extension, so as a vacuum it really was worthless..... but it's the 9000 rpm electric motor that's inside I'm after. Recycling at it's best!
Remove the filter section and split the main case open:
Remove the motor/blower assembly and filter gasket:
Pry off the outer housing with a small screwdriver and remove the blower fan:
I removed the plastic backing plate leaving just the motor assembly. The mounting screws are quite short so I needed a thin board to mount the motor to. I had an old poly cutting board (white one on the bottom of the picture below) that I wasn't using for anything. I drilled out a large hole in it for the motor axle and two smaller holes for the mounting screws. The upper board is where the bowl will sit, for this I used a piece of scrap laminate flooring I had kicking around. I used 6 inch bolts with lock washers and nuts to space them apart enough to fit the motor in between. This whole assembly will be the vibratory part:
Next, I mounted the vibratory assembly on compression springs I bought in the surplus aisle at Princess Auto. Then the whole thing is mounted on a base of wood:
Next I mounted the motor. In the vacuum, it was designed to spin at high speed and very smoothly.
In my application, I want the motor to continue to spin at a high speed, but to also vibrate at high frequency. To accomplish this, I attached a small strip of scrap metal to the fan mounting bolt/axle of the electric motor:
So... thinking all was good, I figured it was time to test it. I very quickly learned that the motor was designed to power the blower fan with the added resistance of trying to move the air through the vacuum filter. Although I did plug in the motor and tested it once I had it outside of the vacuum housing and disconnected from the blower I didn't think much of it. However, without this resistance, I believe the motor spins much MUCH faster than it's rated RPM. Adding the attached metal strip and the whole assembly almost jumped and bounced across the shop floor base and all when I applied power. I should have tested this before mounting it, but it probably would have ripped my hand off in the process.
This obviously won't do.
More to think about..... stay tuned for part two.
I'm almost ready to share some pictures from the re-organized shop, but not quite. Here is a sneak peak of my re-organized tool board. I bought a new set of pliers today on sale at Canadian Tire. I never seem to lose screwdrivers, but for some reason I can't hold onto pliers...
Brenda says she is thankful because now she doesn't need to go digging around to find a tool that she might need. Power tools are in the bin under the workbench.
The other tool I picked up today was a dial indicator ($15 at the local hardware store). They actually told me the other day I was the first person to ask in many years for one and when I went in today to buy it they knocked $5 off the price.... sometimes it pays to shop local.
This simple tool will be invaluable in measuring some of the running gear of my engine turns straight and true. It will also be helpful in determining the suitability of the salvage parts (crankshaft, cam, etc) being sent for rebuild.
Hopefully the shop muck out will be "complete" this week and I can start actively purchasing a core engine to work on.
Storage and workshop solution building continues. I finished attaching the top to my new rolling workshop table:
The top is recycled from an old office desk, sturdy and solid. I left if overhanging the frame on all sides giving me plenty of space to clamp things to the table without giving up stability. Frame is 2x4 lumber. Locking casters on opposite corners prevent it from rolling away while working.
Still to come:
Haven't had a ton of time this week to work in the shop for more than a few minutes at a time, but I've been puttering around in there when I could.
As stated in an earlier post, I've been looking for a way to save space. I discovered this link on Instructables.com for a fold down workbench.
I'm certainly no carpenter (sorry Grampa Sword), but I think my version turned out well enough:
Aside from a buying a couple of wood screws, it is made entirely out of scrap 2x4 lumber I already had and an old large cupboard door as the top. Not heavy duty, but an excellent table to work on light weight projects.
I think I'm starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel :)
Next up... a rolling workbench for heavier items and a place to store some of my tools....
In today's world of recreational flying there are almost too many choices available to the new airplane owner.
You can pretty much buy or build anything you want, from powered parachutes (insane by my standards) to gliders, to personal helicopters to 4 seat speed machines to flying boats, even personal jets (yes, people have built their own jets, from scratch, it has been done) and everything in between. I saw evidence of this at Oshkosh.
Capabilities such as different ranges, speed, load carrying capacity and materials used all mix together to offer anything an owner could want or need.
Layer on top of this endless paint and colour schemes, avionics and powerplant choices.
The sky is the limit if you can excuse the horrible pun. I'm not interested in just buying my way back into the air. I want to create something and be the master of my aircraft.
Everything one decides they want in an aircraft is a compromise of choices. The goal is to get the best balance of options which gets you closest to the mission your aircraft is designed for.
So what is the mission? That's is what needs to be defined within the scope of what one wishes to invest (and let's be honest it most times comes down to $$$).
The best thing is to make a list of priorities of what I want the aircraft to do, use those priorities to guide the choices that get me there. It's a lot to think about and anyone has to be realistic in expectations.
For my example, I'm going to work this logic somewhat backwards and talk about my "mission" first, then try to mesh priorities and choices together.
As you can see from my previous posts, my overriding mission is to get flying again. It's where my heart is.
Okay so I need a licence (check, already got that) and an airplane. Next in my definition of the mission: What do I plan on doing with an airplane?
The airplane will be for recreational use with the possibility of eventually instructing in it. So it logically follows it must have 2 or more seats.
I hate government red tape. I need to find a way that has the least government involvement as possible.
I want the ability to take someone with me - I get great joy sharing flight with anyone.
I don't need to go fast or do a thousand mile leg all at once, but I would like something with decent speed and range for those occasional longer trips.
Eventually I'd like to put it on floats. I don't need to haul 500 pounds of gear, but it sure would be nice to pack an overnight bag or fishing gear or both.
I have a night rating, would sure be nice to use it.
I need this to be economical. Nobody can expect any hobby to cost nothing, but I don't have access to an endless pool of cash either. Fixing mechanical issues myself (within the scope of my abilities) is appealing for this reason. So is being able to use normal automotive fuel vs 100LL aviation fuel. The price spread between the two is worth investigating. Government red tape usually is a big drain on economics as well.
So my mission is fairly well defined. Now to prioritize, in order of importance. Here is where compromise is considered:
Fortunately, my priorities fall reasonably well into what the average person would call a standard light airplane. Still the options are many, but there are a number of ultralights available in today's marketplace that meet at the intersection of personal priorities and mission.
Now to stop window shopping and start looking for just that match.
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.