Fuel lines and fittings have arrived. Stainless braided Auto-Flex line and Swivel Seal fittings. Expensive but the peace of mind this provides is worth it. This is one area of the plane I refuse to compromise on. Very impressed with the quality of Earl's Performance products. With these in hand I can start laying out the fuel tank plumbing.
I've been wanting to figure out a way to measure the fuel level in the tank that requires no internal sensor - less holes in the tank means less chance for leaks. There are several stories on the builders forums about tank sensors mounted through the sides of the tank leaking or being terribly inaccurate, hard to service and generally failing.
I wondered if there was a better way, and I originally came up with the following. A very sensitive presssure transducer (the chrome unit with yellow label below) that will measure the "head" pressure of fuel in the tank via a "T" in the fuel line next to the tank. In theory this should work using an Arduino microcontroller to read the sensor and output a value to a gauge. Here is the assembly mocked up on the bench. From right to left - finger strainer (inside the fuel tank), tank fitting (through wall of tank), threaded adapter, threaded "T", coupler and pressure sensor), fuel line fitting elbow.
Testing of the system has proven difficult. I've been unable to get consistent readings from the sensor in a static set-up. The programming of the Arduino works fine, I'm just not happy with the accuracy of the output due to the very low spread between empty tank head pressure and full tank head pressure, which given the depth of the tank is about 1.5 PSI. I'd hoped a programming algorithm within the Arduino to amplify the input values and stabilize the readings would work, but it's become too much of a tail chase to get it right. From there I'd still need to figure out how to smooth the values to account for changes in atmospheric pressure (fuel changes "weight" with changes in altitude) and aircraft attitude - banking towards the sensor increases head pressure, banking away reduces head pressure.
In an effort to focus on the build getting moved forward, I've decided to abandon this concept in favour of a top mounted float sensor. Yes, this means another hole in the tank, but if mounted from the top, the risks of leaks is minimized and the ability to service the sensor if needed is much easier. More on this later.
So removing the pressure transducer from the fuel line leaves just the tank strainer, the tank fitting and the elbow. I'll need to order the fitting that goes between them, but they are inexpensive and easy to obtain.
The tank fitting is a one direction NPT thread. This picture shows the fitting as it looks from the outside of the tank.
These fittings were gifted to me by another builder. They are actually the larger style, so I need to modify them slightly to fit the tank side rib so the strainer sits nearest to the bottom of the tank as possible. Trimmed them using the bandsaw, then cleaned them on up the disc sander.
The smaller diameter of the fitting needs to fit through the tank rib from the inside. I don't have a drill bit this size to make the hole, so I had to improvise.
I confirmed the fitting was trimmed enough by laying in on the outer face of the tank rib:
I drilled a pilot hole equivalent to where the centre of the fuel strainer will be on the tank:
Used a large step bit to create the general shape of the hole almost up to full size in the tank rib:
Laid the fitting centred over the hole on the tank side of the rib and traced the final size/shape:
Clamped the rib to the bench elevated on some blocks, then used the Dremel tool with spiral cutting bit to carefully bring the hole close to size using the trace lines as my guide:
Filed the hole to final size to ensure a tight fit:
Here is the fitting in it's final position looking from the inside of the tank rib.
On the outside of the rib, the fit is really good:
With the finger strainer in place
Bending the tank skins can be tricky. It is paramount to ensure the bends are as tight as possible to the corners of the tank ribs to reduce any gaps that will need to be filled when the tanks are welded.
I wrapped and finger clamped one of the ribs with the seamstress measuring tape (very handy long ruler for any project) to get a general measurement of where the corners of the tank skin will be. This picture is of the second tank taken later in the day (left tank had already been through this process and I forgot to get a picture for the blog):
The throat depth of the wide bender isn't deep enough to get to the middle tank skin bends, so I needed to use the heavy bender. To allow full access we moved it out into the open floor area, rather than roll up the paint booth curtain (Ron is painting currently).
First I laid out the 025 skin and marked the approximate location of the first bend. Like the slat skins, order of bending is important here, working from middle out to ends. I've left the skin a bit long at each end to make sure it doesn't come up short once it is bent to shape:
The heavy bender allows for material to pass through, giving full access to the middle of the sheet:
First bend complete, next was measuring the second bend closely to make the corners tight
Finger clamped the ribs in position to get a good measurement where the next bend would be:
Second bend line laid out (note the little circled "2" I used to remind me of the bend order):
Back on the bench, I discovered the second bend was slightly overbent and the process on the bender had opened up the first bend as well.... I corrected both before moving forward, but swapped the bend order on the second tank which prevented this from happening again.
Left tank skin rear corners corrected and test fit shows good:
Marked out the location of the fuel filler neck:
Front side of the tank skin bent up to meet the top skin and close off the tank:
The front side of the tank skin needs to have a 5mm flange bent forwards to create the seam for welding. I puposely waited to bend this flange as I didn't know where the bend would be until I mocked up the tank:
I tipped the tank forward on its nose and clamped the forward tank skin onto a piece of aluminum angle at the bench edge:
Using a deadblow hammer I caefully bent the 5mm flange forwards to match the top corners of the tank ribs:
Reassemble the tank and use Cleco vise clamps to hold it together. Some final tweaking of the rib flanges squares it all up - very happy with the final shape! The extra material overhang on the top side of the skin will be trimmed back to match the flange.
Marked out the fuel tank drain location which is directly below the fuel line fitting. This is the lowest spot in the tank once it is mounted in the wing. It is from here that fuel is drawn during pre-flight to check for contaminants such as debris or water:
The right wing tank went faster now that I have the benefit of a process from the first. Fuel outlets are on the opposite side of the left tank (the face inwards towards the fuselage:
I drilled and sized the fuel line fitting for the right tank after creating the tank so we could move the bender back out of the way. The process for the fitting was the exact same as the left wing, just the opposite side of the tank:
Picture of the top front of the left wing tank. I've laid out the location of the top mount fuel tank sensor and the fuel filler neck.
Both tanks clamped together, resting on top of the wing and awaiting parts for the fuel filler neck and fuel level sensor. These will be fitted before final weld-up.
Very pleased at how the tank assemblies turned out, hopefully welding and subsequent leak testing goes as well. Getting ready to order the fuel filler necks, fuel caps and the parts needed for the fuel level float sensors.
This doesn't fit under either the engine or avionics category, I guess it is part of the wings? Maybe under other......
Thanks for following along, stay tuned for more.
So here is a first look at some of the highlights of my find.
There are a LOT of parts to go through and inventory, but I can't begin to explain how stoked I am about my acquisitions.
Most of everything is either salvageable as is, prime for exchange as a core for re-manufacture, or trade-worthy for other things I will need.
Casting numbers (T1208RH) on the dis-assembled core block indicate a 1965/66/67 110HP "automatic transmission no smog" block manufactured on December 8th in either 1965, 66 or 67.
The casting numbers (3878566) on the heads from this core indicate 110HP from 65, 66 or 67.
These are prime candidates for conversion. Two things I haven't found in the boxes yet are the camshaft (but that isn't a game-stopper as it will be replaced by a custom cam anyhow) and the push-rod tubes (cheap to purchase new). Everything else important seems to be there.
The original cylinders, pistons and rods from this 110hp core are in great shape and will be excellent core exchanges.
The crankshaft is the correct model (8409 cast iron) for conversion. It has already (as far as I can tell and was told) been drilled for the prop hub and safety shaft. I'm not sure if it has been nitrided or not, should be easy to find out. Huge savings having this already complete.
The new in box pistons I got with this lot have been superseded in the latest conversion plans with dished and forged aluminum pistons. Perhaps these can be traded or sold.
I paid a bit extra to obtain the prop hub assembly. It includes the machined safety shaft called for in the conversion plans. A new one from William Wynne costs over $500USD, I got it for $50CAD. Great deal!
The second core is still almost completely assembled and appears on the outside to be super clean. The valve covers even have some of their factory chrome finish left on them. The cooling fins are real nice and straight on both the cylinders and the heads.
Casting numbers (T1214RM) on the dis-assembled core block indicate a 1965 or 66 140HP "manual transmission no smog" block manufactured on December 14th in either 1965 or 66. It would be neat to know if both this and the other 110HP block were made within 6 days of each other!
The casting numbers (3878570) on the heads from this core indicate 140HP from 65 or 66.
This block is also a prime candidate for conversion. The heads however would have to be directly replaced with 95HP or 110HP heads. They will be of value to someone, probably a car rebuilder (140HP heads are rare). Of course the crank and camshaft are still inside and the push-rod tubes are there as well. I haven't looked inside this motor yet Everything else important seems to be there on this core too.
Although not pictured, Paul also included new in the box set of chrome piston rings and a David Clark headset (which appears new from the box!).
So, I think it's fair to say I've got a running head start on my engine project. A complete inventory is next. Time to buy some storage totes :)
On another note, I'd be remiss in not mentioning the support for this mission that has been given to me by my wife Brenda. She always seems to guide me away from to good to be true deals to hidden ones like these. Thanks - I love you.
So I bit the bullet today and ordered my Corvair Engine conversion manual from William Wynne in Florida.
A bit pricy with the exchange between Canadian and USD (we truly are getting screwed right now), but it's a crucial step in making this conversion work.
William Wynne has been researching, building and teaching Corvair conversions for over 25 years while countless others have come and gone on broken promises of better conversions. William's path has a proven track record of success and I really like his philosophy about learn-build-fly.
Spent the day yesterday travelling to southern Ontario to have a look at a couple of core engines for sale that I found online. One guy advertised a core motor still in the car (asking $400) and the other guy has a core motor partially disasembled in his shed also for $400.
I picked up my Dad at my parents home near Barrie and we headed for the day to have a look.
Our first stop was a little town near Woodstock. A guy there had a Corvair engine that he bought as a spare parts engine for this custom trike he is also selling:
He claims it will do over 100mph, and it's a cool looking ride, but not something I'd be interested in riding or owning.
Unfortunately, the spare engine he has is still installed in the back end of the car that it came from the factory with, making it difficult to see completely. At some point in time, the rear frame of the car was chopped off just in front of the rear fenders, leaving the rear frame, engine compartment, rear hood and part of the bumper. From what I've read, this is a fairly common practice by people salvaging a derelict Corvair car. That's unfortunate as there is always someone looking for the other parts of the car. Taking these engines out is apparently easy but I've never done it and I don't know the history of the car or reasons someone would hack it apart like this one.
This boneyard example was sitting on two flat tires with the driveshafts still attached to the transmission and both fenders cut away. No glass or tailights, but the trunk lid is complete. Nothing really salvageable on the frame.
Once we pulled the tarp of plastic away from the engine, this is what we saw. Seems promising and better preserved than the rest of the frame....
On closer look it's easy to see the engine and components are mostly there. The cooling fan spins freely on it's bearing. I won't be using this part for my conversion, or the shroud that surrounds it. From what I understand, the magnesium fan was introduced 1964 models and was the standard for the balance of production until 1969, so this indicates an engine that could be suitable for me. Everything seems complete, even if not attached in the right spot at the moment.
So my next step is to search for the all important block casting number. As I posted in an earlier post about Corvair engines, the block number is fairly easy to find, but hard to read when covered in dirt, grime and associated mouse droppings typical of any engine left out in the elements. Thankfully, the block casting on this engine wasn't difficult to find or to clean:
So this block number is T0914RH
I have discovered however that the serial number on the engine cases is often not enough to define the nature of the complete engine. The "T" in the code is useless, since all Corvair engines have a serial number that begins with "T", meaning Tonawanda NY, which is the engine plant responsible for building all Corvair engines.
The four-digit numeric code "0914" only gives you the month and day of manufacture (in this case September 14), but unfortunately GM decided the year was not significant. And the two letter suffix code often stretches through numerous production years and engine variations (i.e. what heads, carbs, etc.), so this stamping on it's own is not specific enough either.
I don't need to be specific on year, as long as it is a 164 cubic inch block 1965 or newer. "RH" indicates this block is from 1965 to 1968 engine production run. All those engines were 164 cubic inch, so this is the right block for my needs!
The next and just as important thing to determine are what heads are attached to the block. The only acceptable heads for aircraft conversion are 95 or 110 horsepower non-smog heads.
It didn't appear that this engine was smog pump equipped, so this indicates the heads are likely correct.
GM created lots of combinations of blocks and heads and for the most part they were interchangeable. Sometimes heads of different specs were installed one at a time, meaning an engine might have heads of different compression, HP or displacement!
This engine appears to be installed just as it came from the factory, including all the extra tin and baffles between the block and engine compartment walls. This makes it next to impossible to confirm the heads are in good shape and to obtain the casting numbers to ensure they match and are what I need.
Another issue I had to consider was how to get this home and where to work on it. I plan on rebuilding the engine in my basement shop but this won't fit down the stairs!
I'm certainly not going to pull the engine from the frame in this guy's backyard just to find out, so I'd have to haul the whole back of the car home with me. Then it might not even be the right heads. Frustrating to say the least.
The seller offered to come down to $300 from $400 for everything, but I'm wondering if I might be buying more trouble than it's worth.
We headed out for our next stop near Hamilton.
This gentleman and I have been communicating by e-mail over the past month or so. He sent me pictures showing a perfect candidate block and matching heads for a 110HP Corvair. He made it fairly clear that it was partially disassembled and his asking price was firm at $400.
After stopping for lunch, we arrived at his place. As we walked up the driveway, it became VERY obvious that this guy was an old car enthusiast who lives and breathes Corvairs.
We became fast friends and his knowledge about Corvair cars and engines was vast. So much so, that when I originally asked about a 1965-69 110HP engine he says he knew that I was an airplane guy. He apparently gets asked for these engines all the time by airplane guys like me.
In my limited experience so far, I've realized that Corvair car enthusiasts fall somewhere on either end of the scale when it comes to people using Corvair engines for airplanes. They either outright dismiss aircraft builders as lunatics or accept them as fellow motor-heads. Thankfully Brian is the later. The way he figures it, as long as he doesn't have to fly with it, he's happy to source parts.
He showed us around his shop and I felt privledged to see some of the amazing restorations he has done and the amount of Corvair parts he's accumulated over the past couple of decades. I don't think anyone coming off the street like we did would have been privy to seeing his collection, truly amazing. We had such a good time talking engines and rebuilds (Dad is a motor-head too) that quite honestly I forgot to take any pictures.
He explained his rationale for the $400 price tag. He's become familiar over the years with what aircraft builders need (and more importantly don't need) and what condition engines should be in to be candidates for any rebuild. In addition, he has a side business rebuilding motors for other Corvair car owners and $400 is what he charges everyone for a rebuildable core.
Now, I could have walked away from his shop with a correct and complete motor for $400 out the door and loaded in the bed of my truck, but I chose not to.
I'm trying to decide what the better option is. Do I start with a derelict car, work on getting it home, getting the engine out in hopes that the heads are right? I "should" be able to sell off anything salvageable from the engine compartment (carbs, shrouds, intakes, blower) that won't be used for my conversion and the balance of the materials to a scrap metal dealer for cost recovery. That's a fair amount that would probably cover at least my trailering costs or more. I might even break even!
Or do I just buy a core from the Corviar guy? It would be a big step head start compared to all the work involved with the wreck and I could start right away in my basement shop. I truly get the feeling that Brian the Corvair guy is interested in seeing me succeed, I know the parts are right and it's really no gamble on being able to sell salvaged stuff I don't need.
I set out to learn new skills so the first engine definitely offers that over the core from Brian. But I don't think it's worth the hassle of dragging it home or wasting my time.
I've got some leads on something closer to home still that still haven't been fully explored. Maybe they will be good. I'll try to follow them up first, otherwise, I think I've found my source.
Time to order the conversion manual.
Today was everything I expected and more.
Tears... laughter.... love and friendship.
Brenda and I attended the Celebration of Life for Captain Barry Morris, my mentor.
I've been dreading this afternoon for weeks. I'm the type of person that wears his heart on his sleeve and never have gotten through funerals, deaths or other emotionally charged life events without shedding tears at the drop of a hat. Today was no different in that regard.
What was different however was the realization that as well as I thought I knew Barry, I only knew a very small part of his life. From every one of the people who spoke at his Celebration today, we all probably learned something new we didn't know about him before. Some of it familiar, some of it surprising, most of it smile invoking. For that I am extremely thankful.
One thing that was obvious is that he lived an incredibly diverse life. His flying career took him all over the globe where he rubbed shoulders and broke bread with heads of state, celebrities and industry leaders. He was a bush pilot, test pilot and salesman to name a few. He shared his enthusiasm for life and all it has to offer with anyone he met. Carpe diem in every sense of the word.
If I tried to relay even some of the stories he shared with me over breakfast or lunches at the airport, I wouldn't do them justice. I could never hope to capture the essence in the same way he could tell it, so I won't attempt to try.
In the last couple of years he was working on a trilogy of his memoirs that sadly he will never get a chance to complete. His wonderful wife Linda has taken up the charge to complete them with the help of some of his former co-workers and friends. I hope one day to read them. There is so much more I want to learn from this man.
When we worked together on the airport committee there were many times I got discouraged. He had a way of seeing the "runway through the fog" and always insisted I run with my ideas "full throttle".
I promise to do just that Barry. You are cleared direct my friend.
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.
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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.