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.....
Having just set up my tent I decided to have a quick look around.
Several Zenith models had already arrived and were tied down for the evening. The first one I see? Val and Craig Westedt's magnificent Corvair powered Zenith 650! I follow their adventures and they were back for another flying visit to the factory, where the kit was made. The plane captured a lot of attention, and Val was actually beginning to lose her voice by Saturday from speaking with so many Zenith builders.
As I am admiring the really nice paint scheme on their plane, William Wynne of FlyCorvair and Dan Wessman of Sport Performance Aviation arrived with their trailer. They attend the Zenith weekend every year and encourage builders like me to bring their core parts for evaluation and more importantly an entire two days to educate the finer points of the Corvair conversion.
With nothing better to do, they readily accepted my offer to help unload their trailer and set up the Corvair College tent. What a great opportunity to get to know one another!
Once we got them set up and the tent secured for the evening, I was invited to join everyone at the local Mexican restaurant for something to eat and drink. This is something I love about experimental aviation - the unwavering friendliness of fellow aviation enthusiasts!
Above, some of the people who displayed their products at the open house. I felt honored to have been invited to share their evening. Some of these people have been in this business for more than 20 years. Despite this, I felt welcome and included as a participant, not just a consumer! Photo credit: FlyCorvair.net
9 hours of driving was finally catching up to me, so after a real nice evening, I bid everyone good night and headed back to the airport and my tent for a good night's sleep. The next day promised to be busy!
Stay tuned for more in Part 3!
Amazing. Inspiring. Fun!
Although it was a very long drive, I couldn't have asked for a better way to spend a couple of days away.
I left late afternoon Wednesday after packing the car the night before. Corvair parts, tent and camping gear, and GPS all loaded. A quick gas stop and some road grub (separate purchase locations if you are wondering) and I was underway.
The week before, I took the time to have my local Canada Customs agent document all my Corvair parts (and our family DSLR camera). Free of charge, they issue a "green card" which identifies property you might take out of the country and bring home later. It's particularly important to prove ownership when these items come back into Canada when you return. The agent also suggested it would be a good thing to have to show US customs inbound.
Most of the Corvair core items would not likely be returning, instead the plan was to send them onwards to Florida with the Corvair experts for further work.
First leg was from home to my cousin Kevin's family home in Ann Arbor Michigan. In the past, we've had a better overall experience crossing from Sarnia into Port Huron, so this is the route I used.
I'm not usually nervous at the border, but for some reason this trip I was anxious. I'd never brought so much stuff across the border that wasn't just clothing. I didn't have anything to hide, but you never know how plans might be interpreted.
I was hoping for a steady stream of others crossing the border at the same time, perhaps in the belief that a busy crossing would lead to less interest in me. As I pulled up the ramp into the US customs plaza, there was only one vehicle crossing..... mine!
Standard run of questions... where you from, where you going, how long will you be in country, etc. I was advised by Canada Customs to declare the auto parts, which I did when asked. I handed over the green card and itemized list and based on the first reaction of the US border agent, I thought I'd be headed to secondary inspection. This was reinforced when the agent motioned for another agent to come over to our booth. After a bit of discussion and explanation, the conversation turned towards my aircraft plans and the conversion process. They both said what I was doing was really cool and interesting! And I was on my way after about ten minutes of gabbing about it.
The US interstate system of highways is great with generous speed limits. Generally 70 mPH which translates to approximately 112 kPH. What isn't great however is NO ONE follows the speed limit! I'll admit that I always drive a bit over the limit just like everyone else, but in each of the states I travelled, I was barely keeping up. In fact, people were blowing by me like I was standing still. I'm a very experienced driver and I don't often feel scared behind the wheel, but it's crazy, especially at night, through metro Detroit! Another reason to fly an airplane!
I arrived about midnight and after a short conversation with Kevin who was kind enough to stay up to greet me, we headed to bed. Being a normal weekday, we were up early. It was great to see the reaction on the kids faces who didn't know I was coming :)
I made a short stop at Target to see if I could make heads or tails of getting a prepaid SIM card for my phone, but decided it would be better (and free!) to take advantage of readily available WiFi at various locations on my route when I stopped to stretch.
Breakfast at McD's at Jackson Michigan was a typical example.
When my family travelled to Florida last year, we made a point of stopping as we entered each state for a photo in front of the "welcome to" sign. Unfortunately, it was dark when I entered Michigan, so I decided I'd grab that one on the way home.
Only in the state for a short bit as you leave Michigan and continue west towards Illinois. Maybe it was time of day, but at least the interstate was calmer.
Things get hairy again as you enter Illinois, mostly due to volume of traffic approaching Chicago. What was disappointing was the limited signage for an Illinois welcome centre. Oh well, maybe I'd get that photo on the way back too.
Westward I continued past greater Chicago on through Joliet, Illinois. Once past this suburb, I switched to the southbound interstate 55. It's amazing how flat mid and southwest Illinois is - like someone took a giant rolling pin and flattened everything.
After what seemed like an eternity of endless corn vistas going by, I made a stop in Springfield, Illinois to stock up on camp food at what is arguably (on the outside at least) the fanciest Walmart I've ever seen:
From Springfield, the interstate makes a distinct turn more towards the west. Next rest/stretch stop was in the little town of Pittsfield. A cute little midwestern town. My go to WiFi stop on the trip was always McDonald's. When I pulled up to this one, I thought WiFi may not be available.... what a retro time warp! Almost exactly the same as the one I worked in as a teenager back in the 80's!
Turned out the WiFi was just as good as anywhere else!
I continued westbound and about an hour later crossed over the Mississippi River and into the state of Missouri at the town of Louisiana.
A quaint little town nestled in the river valley, I remember thinking "wow, look at these hills!", but just outside town the land flatlined again and look, more corn.
As the afternoon passed by, I eventually started to see the end of route on the GPS.
Google's algorithm sometimes doesn't consider the easy way, just he shortest. After a small detour of the county road through Rush Hill (the sign actually says "Rush Hill City Limits - Population 112", I turned turned onto the county road leading to Mexico Missouri, home of Zenith Aircraft and the destination of my travels.
Pulling onto the airport property, I noticed several RVs already parking on site, a fairly distant walk to where the events were taking place. Wanting to see where I'd have to walk to, I drove closer and met Joyce, office manager of Zenith. When I asked if I was supposed to set up my tent down the road with the RV's, she graciously advised me to just set up on the grass beside the hanger! This was awesome, just 50 feet from everything!
I had arrived!
So much more to share. Stay tuned for part two!
Spent 7 hours in the shop today and got a lot accomplished. Fitted the upper wing extension skin and the splice plate using the hole duplicator tool. Once clecoed together, both the main spar and the rear wing spar are perfectly square. Next step will be to match drill the holes to the correct size. The it all comes apart to be deburred and reassembled with clecos. We'll then flip the wing over and do he whole process again for the lower skin. Once all deburred and clecoed together, the final rivets will be pulled. We haven't decided if we are going to cut the wing tip curves yet but probably will do those before final riveting.
Last weekend I popped into the Edenvale Gathering of Classics aircraft and car show. I saw this "pilot name" on the side of a homebuilt Hummelbird airplane. Cool way to express the joy this pilot obviously experiences flying his craft!
I'm getting closer to having this wing repair done. Once we get this off the table, we're going to open the production line and assemble 5 sets of slats and 4 of flaps for Ron's projects and my 750.
I've got to start getting my Corvair stuff together for my trip to the Zentih open-house at the end of September. Having a chance to get an expert opinion on my core items is exciting :)
Stay tuned, more to come.
Decided to upload some pictures of the 701 wing repair and realized I haven't posted in a while. Which also reminds me it's already August! Summer has been slipping by and I've accomplished little... <sigh> This new Monday to Friday work schedule isn't helping matters!
Anyhow, here are some pics of the continuing 701 wing repair. When we flipped the wing over to begin fitting a new top skin on the extension, it became very apparent that the rear wing spar was not aligned properly with the main spar. Neither of us can figure out why as it was dead on straight when we riveted it. Very frustrating! So, drill out the rivets and start again. Hate doing things twice, but do it right, right?
To help keep things lined up correctly, we fastened a long aluminum angle to the top of the inboard spar using clecos, leaving the angle extended out the end of the rear spar tip.
C-clamps hold the rear spar at the correct position.
Cleco clamps hold the upper and lower skins to the wing ribs, ensuring everything is square
New rear brackets for both wing ribs. This requires a bit of finesse fitting in the clecos without disturbing the square of the whole assembly!
With everything square again, I riveted it all back together. We'll leave the angle attached until the skins are fitted and drilled. This is much better and the skins will just add further stiffness.
One of the advantages of "monocoque contruction" is the inherent rigidity of the structure of ribs and skins. Light and strong. More information on what monocoque means can be read here: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monocoque
That's it for this update. Thanks for tuning in, more progress soon.
As we get to the last of the flap repair (for this wing anyhow) I'm learning more skills that will come in handy later for my build.
So far, I've had the opportunity to work with blind "pop" rivets (the predominant style in the Zenair line of aircraft) and solid "bucked" rivets. Both have their place and use.
Last night I started working with flush rivets. Designed with a smooth flat top they too are bucked or squeezed to form a bond between two sheets of metal. The advantage these have however is that they leave the top surface smooth and thereby more aerodynamic. It also looks real cool! Most modern metal aircraft use this style for aerodynamic reasons. They are particularly handy around windows trim and landing gear plates where thickness tolerance of adjoining parts is important.
In the case of our flap repairs, we wanted to come up with a way to clean up the trailing edge and correct the ham-fisted attempts at a straight edge by the original builder. Ron made up a sleeve which will be flush riveted to the trailing edge.
It starts with marking out the rivet lines and drilling small #3 holes, the size of the rivet shank:
Next, the hole is very carefully countersunk with a bit in the cordless drill:, to a depth that matches the shoulder of the rivet. Holes for larger rivet are usually countersunk using a dimpling tool, but this tool works here:
Here is a picture of a typical flush rivet. Note the smooth flat top, angled shoulder and round shank:
Making the hole match the rivet so it lies flush is the goal here. Too shallow and the rivet won't lie flush, too deep and it can't hold the bond adequately enough nor be completely smooth on the surface:
Work a little at a time, test fit often and eventually the rivet will sit perfectly flush with the surface... smooth!:
Now repeat 30 times along the trailing edge :)
Ron and I flipped the wing over on the bench and I removed the damaged nose skin:
I know at this point I shouldn't be surprised by anything I find with this repair, but this was interesting. There was a "perfectly" blended rectangle, held in place by rivets and covered by the magic of cheap paint located at the back edge of the nose skin. It is hard to make out in the picture below but I really didn't notice until I took off the skin what it actually was, so I don't have a before picture.
Once the skin rivets were removed, and the damaged nose skin removed did the curious patch reveal itself, again nothing surprises me anymore:
My only guess is that this was some sort of Mickey Mouse access panel to get at the wing strut mounts, but I can't for the life of me figure out how anyone thought this was an acceptable patch..... jeebus.
On a happier note, I recently confirmed my attendance this fall at the Zenith Factory open house in Mexico Missouri. It's a two day drive from here, but most importantly William Wynne will be there demonstrating the build up of Corvair engines. As a bonus I'll be able to take my core items for assessment and perhaps send my heads away for rebuilding at the same time. Can't wait to atttend and learn even more!
Next up, more finishing work on the wing repair and prepping the bench for slat building.
Been a while since I posted, but the new job is taking up most of my days and weekends are escaping us because now the outdoor work around the house begins. Excuses aren't welcome, but the grass doesn't stop growing.
Much earlier in this blog (my first post actually - click here) I spoke of all the work my mentor Barry Morris and I put into trying to promote and develop the South River / Sundridge Airport. Unfortunately, Barry passed away before seeing the local municipalities get their acts together on this important community asset.
I honestly thought all was lost regarding the airport. Three times the municipality almost sold the property to non-aviation interests who wanted to turn it into a number of non-aviation purposes. How disheartening.... however....
I'm ecstatic to say the property was sold to a couple of business men that are enthusiastic aviation people who want to continue to develop the property PROPERLY as a municipal airport, including paving a runway and installing lighting. "Build it and they will come...." is a quote from the 1989 "Field of Dreams". How perfectly appropriate!
On the 12th of May, the new owners, in conjunction with COPA and the local flying club hosted a fly-in pancake breakfast. Ron, his wife Donna and I attended and joined the fun.
Over 40 aircraft from all over southern Ontario attended, it was wonderful! The new owner couldn't wipe the smile off his face! There are a bunch of photos on the airport Facebook page. I was way to busy chatting with friends to take a bunch of pictures but here are a few:
Of course one of the more interesting planes that arrived was a newly kit built Zenair 750 STOL, just like I'm building. Spoke at length with the owner who has about 80 hours on the airframe after completing it last year just south of us in Emsdale. The biggest thing he recommended was keep at it. There is a ton of stuff he still wants to do cosmetically (more paint, etc) but he's having way too much fun flying! He let me sit in it too and I'm even more convinced that I've made the right choice :)
The chance to see another completed 750 was a real good motivator!
The 701 flap repair is almost done. Some final trimming to be done, but the skin wrapped real nice and the joining patch turned out real smooth. Happy to be moving on to building my own flaps shortly and not fighting with other people's mistakes.
Ron has never been very happy with the pinched trailing edge design of the wings and flaps on the 701. The original builder (as I've been saying all along) never really paid attention and the trailing edge isn't nearly straight enough. The pinched rivets called for in the plans really add a lot of drag too.
The plans in the 750 model I'm building wraps the skins forward to the spar, making the trailing edge much cleaner both in appearance and more importantly aerodynamically. Every little bit helps!
To clean things up, we'll be adding a trailing edge strip and attach it with flush rivets. Here, we're fitting the trailing edge "cover". The first one worked real well, I'll add a picture when the one is done.
We plan on building flaps and slaps at the same time for three new 701's and my 750 and new slats for this repaired 701. This sounds like a ton of work and it is, but there are huge time savings because they are dimensionally the same, meaning we only have to set up jigs once.
I spent a couple of hours the other night bending my slat ribs on the forming block. The 750 slats are identical to the 701, so I didn't need to make my own forms for this. The only adjustment needed was one tooling hole on the tail end which is different:
So they turned out ok, but will need some clean up. Not a big deal, but not a nice as I would have liked.
Next up, finish skinning the 701 wing extension. Here is a graphic of what I have complete and ready to assemble (highlighted in blue). Lots of stuff ready to be bent still.
Thanks for reading :)
Flap repairs continue. With the tightness of the skin and short bend radius, making the skins align squarely across the spar and ribs is a challenge. Careful application of ratchet straps helps, but doesn't leave a lot of room for drilling and clecos.
I took a couple of nights off and when I came back, Ron had striped the paint on the 701 wing, the original parts of the inboard flaperon and the entirety of the outboard section.
Went back to the shop this afternoon. Ron was away so I thought I'd tackle some of my parts. We plan on building our new slats and flaperons together, taking advantage of common assembly jigs. In order to do this, I need to get the balance of my flap and slat ribs done.
Due to the tight radii of the nose section, I was concerned how the aluminum would bend. It took some finesse, but I got them done. Happy with how they turned out!
A big part of this project is going to be taken up by drilling, clecos, drilling again, deburring clecos, rivets..... more to come.... stay tuned.
For quite some time now I've been helping Ron rebuild the wings on a 701 - using this as a learning experience towards building my 750.
In an attempt to ramp up our progress on the repair so we can get back to building new airplanes, we've been working hard at the flap extension.
It's become a huge quagmire. NOTHING that the original builder matches the plans. We could forgive a little tolerances here and there - IF THE TOLERANCES WE EVEN CLOSE TO WHAT THEY SHOULD BE! Even worse, it seems to have been a real terminal case of TLAR.... "That Looks About Right".
We've been building any new parts for the repair and extension exactly as the plans call for. However when we add those as components of the flap extension, they seem to create more problems because the "good parts" of the original builder are not "good parts" after all. Assumptions...
For example, we've had to add 3 rear ribs and a couple of nose ribs. Perfectly sized parts according to the plans. But the originals are several millimeters bigger than the plans, so the new extension skin doesn't fit right, it won't wrap tightly down to the new ribs, nor will it remain straight (leading and trailing edges). There is no way to predict this as none of the "changes" the original builder made are to scale (nothing is larger or smaller by the same amount). Assumptions...
What does this mean for us? Hours of thinking and rethinking on how to get the job done. I know the extension is our idea, but really that should be just more materials - if the dimensions were right (or at least close) on the original, we wouldn't be fighting at each and every step of the build.... sigh.
We'll keep working on it and I'm certainly learning where to watch tolerances. So far the pieces I've made for my 750 are real accurate to what is shown in my plans, so I'm happy. Guess I'll have to wait and see how they go together in assembly but I have much more confidence than I do with this 701.
Speaking of assembly, someone on the Zenair builders website was kind enough to email me a copy of the latest revisions to my 750 STOL plans. I have "Edition 3" plans, but with any design they are updates and additions made by the Zenair factory. Most of these are small changes made to make things incrementally better and of those most come from builders suggestions.
Having a look a the 20 or so pages of updates he sent me initially made my mind spin:
After pondering these and truly wondering what the hell I was thinking when I decided to scratch build this airplane, I decided the best way was to set aside some time at the dining room table and make notes on my plans of the updates:
The entire exercise took me most of a Sunday morning with breaks here and there for food, water (and sanity), but I think I have a good handle on what is important and what isn't. I probably have more freedom to decide what changes I want to incorporate as I am still early in my build and I'm making my own parts so unchanged parts can be modified to match up with the new designed parts easily.
A lot of the changes are simply cosmetic and make the 750 STOL have more part commonality with the more recently introduced 750 Cruzer model.
Onwards fellow builders and thanks for continuing to follow along.
Not a huge update, but a few things to mention this week.
Ron and I got further along on the 701 wing repair the last two weeks. We are being really challenged by the mistakes of the previous builder's measurements and decisions on what was "good enough". We've compounded that by adding the wind extention, but we are getting it figured out.
The flap extension to match the new wing length is coming together nicely. Because this is an add on, wrapping the short flap skin is certainly fun...
Once we get the flaps skinned we can fix the spacing of the flap brackets. As most things on this repair, nothing is consistent, even between both wings. Having the flaps apart allows us to adjust where they meet the flap brackets. Make it right has been the goal all along.
The days lately have kinda blurred together with my new position at work, but I'm certainly not missing the shift work that's for sure. It has made it somewhat difficult to focus on my project, but things will improve soon as I adapt to my new job and this Monday to Friday schedule. What hasn't changed is the feeling I'm doing something great when I do get to the shop, even if Ron and I spend the hours just jawing about airplanes and flying.
I've long been following the online musings of William Wynne, the Corvair expert I've mentioned before. He wrote the following quote on his blog the other day and it really struck a chord with me:
“Hours in the shop working with your own hands cleanses the part of your sanity which modern life soils”
Indeed William.... indeed :)
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.