Sunday, August 2, 2015

Phase 1 is complete!

Well, after 42 hrs, I am satisfied that my plane will fly safely thru all CG ranges and at gross weight. I have done a lot of stalls in the last 2 months! I have installed a cowl flap to help with cooling but June and July aren't the best months to be doing slow flight manuvers. I have adjusted an aileron to compensate for a heavy right wing. I have not been taking many pictures but I took this one to show how I simulated a 200lb passenger.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

First Flight!

I can tell you for sure, I was one nervous wreck on that Friday! I realized that I haven't flown solo in a plane in two an a half years! Nancy, Scotty, and I headed for the airport. Scotty had his HD camera and Nancy had her ipad and they filmed from the ground. I had Scotty's Go Pro camera mounted in the plane. I had been waiting for the perfect calm day but finally settled on about a 10-15 mph breeze coming  down runway 17. It was actually quartering a little out of the East but I never noticed it. I fired the plane up and it was ready! No backin out now! Here is the video I put together later.

I felt like a rag doll after that flight. My cylinder head temps got high pretty quick and that rattled me. I put the nose down and backed off the power and they came down below 400. I will tel you this, it is a great flying plane! The controls are so light and the Skyview was great for monitoring the engine. One more glitch, when I tried my flaps out, the plane yawed hard to the left! Didn't  know what was going  on  at that point but I  knew I was landing without  flaps! Later I found my rudder cable caught under the flap weldaments. 

  Anyway, I was thrilled! As we drove home I realized that I had just flown a plane I had put together myself!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Move to the airport and prepare for Airworthiness Inspection

Hours 41
Total Hours 1912

My brother and his brother in law was kind enough to let me borrow their hanger at the airport in Big Spring, Texas. It has a 8,800' runway and all kind of safety features that will factor in my first flight.

We removed the wings after I did a little vinyl work adding a red stripe. This wasn't the stripe I had planned but I am running a little short of time and it will do until I have more time to work on it.

We loaded the fuselage up on my utility trailer. Had to modify the rail on the end of the trailer so the main gear tires would fit but it was no big deal.

 We hauled the plane to the airport 25 miles away and had no problems. I drove very slow and used gust locks to secure the tail feathers. Then we made another trip for the wings and all my tools, tables, ect.

Once settled in the hanger, my brother and fellow pilot, Scotty, helped me attach the wings for the FINAL time. Boy was I glad to get that set of close tolerant wing bolts out to use! The bolts were not nearly as hard to get in as I thought they would be. I made sure the holes in the spar was very clean and oiled the bolts with light oil. The nuts were all torqued to spec. Yes, I installed the two AN4 short bolts in the center a little later.

I installed ailerons and flaps back on the plane using all new hardware and locknuts. All was torqued to spec. I double checked my control surface throws. I also permanently installed all the center section wiring and aileron attach points. Hooked up pitot and angle of attack lines and wing lighting connections.

I had some time before the inspection so Nancy and I wrapped the wingtips and tail feather tips with the hot rod red 3M 1080 vinyl. I installed the interior and all the fairings and did some taxi tests and put enough fuel in it for the first flight. The Classic Aero aviator seats are great and the carpet package really quieted down the noise level in the cockpit. Radio works good and the engine is running great............I then took out all the interior, floor pans, fairings, and inspection covers to get ready for the Airworthiness Inspection!

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Paint and Transitional Training

Hours 182
Total Hours 1871

It has been a while since I've updated the blog. I have been in a final push to finish this plane. I took one hitch at the rig off so I have 6 weeks to wrap this project up and maybe get it in the air.

 First, I built an extra set of sawhorses. I also built various stands to hold parts like wheel pants and fairings. I built brackets to hold all the parts like the rudder so I could flip them from one side to the other while painting. I didn't take any pictures of these brackets but they worked great. I would just screw them on to the sawhorses. I had tried painting parts hanging from wires and it didn't work well for me.

First step in the painting process for the aluminum parts is a good cleaning and then acid etching. The Eko-Etch is sprayed on and then the part is completely gone over with a scotch bright pad. Then it is rinsed with a towel and bucket of clean water. The etch solution is not allowed to dry before it is wiped off. It must stay on for at least 3 minutes.

Then the parts are washed thoroughly with a pressure washer to remove any leftover etch solution.

My hanger has never been this messed up with parts sitting all around in various stages of being painted!

First, all the parts were primed with Stewart systems Eko-Prime smoke grey primer. The spraying was very easy but all the parts had to be sanded afterwards. That turned up some, well many, imperfections that had to be fixed and then primed again. Using the advice from Dan at Stewart systems, I used a two part glazing putty to fix small imperfections such as pinholes and on occasion, I had to fill with more micro-epoxy mix or Super Fill. Sanding off and re-priming until I thought my arms would fall off! I wish I could have spent some time with a professional painter to see how they handle all the imperfections. They must have better methods other wise the time involved in painting would be crazy!

Armed, and ready for battle! Actually I started painting a few of the parts without the goggles and shoot-suite. Waterborne paint cant be that bad, right? Wrong! My eyes burned and itched and my ears started turning red. This took several days to heal up from! I decided to pull out the shoot suite and goggles, fast!

My first parts looked really good and shiny! At least, I thought so at first. The Ekocrylic seemed to be pretty forgiving as far as runs and orange peel. The paint flowed out good.

I had a problem with lint. I started wiping off the part before painting with a alcohol  moistened terry cloth rag. This was a big mistake as the alcohol would make the primer sticky and pull minute fibers off the rag. These were undetected  on the first batch of parts until they were painted. They had to be sanded smooth and re-painted.

 This was a big batch of parts. The tack coats and fog coats are about 10-15 minutes apart and when you are comfortable with the color saturation, you shoot the wet coat. In this pic you can see how I used brackets to mount the elevators on the sawhorses. This allowed me to paint both sides by flipping the part. It also proved useful as I could position the part to get the reflection from the lights needed for shooting the wet coat.

 Here is a painted wing.

Notice the bracket I built for the wings. It is bolted onto the spar and allows me to rotate the wing at any angle. The set screw in the larger pipe on the part screwed onto the sawhorse holds the wing at any angle. The other end has a 4" aluminum pipe stuck into the middle hole in the end rib and rolls free on another sawhorse. This worked great and could be used on any sawhorse.......................I was really rockin and rollin and thought I was doing great until I decided to repaint a wheel pant half that had a run on it. After I repainted it, I put it together with the other half and found that the repainted half was "whiter"  than the half that was only painted once! I began looking at other parts that was painted twice against parts painted once and I became frustrated! I could not live with some parts being more "white" or  " color saturated" than the others.

I placed all the parts out in the yard in the sun and Nancy and I evaluated the situation. Although, it was hard to tell the difference, I wound up painting a lot of parts a second time, including the top half of both wings. This brings up my main beef with Stewart Systems Paint! The directions call to use smoke grey primer with white paint. My advice to you, if you are considering using SS white paint, is to use the white primer! I repainted the parts. This caused me to have to order another gallon of paint and some white Eko-Prime for the fuselage. Actually, I only used a couple quarts of that gallon but this delayed me a week and I was not about to run out again! It was probably a good thing to put an extra coat on theses parts as I plan to cut and buff the top surfaces after I get flying.

Trim colors? the only trim I'm putting on at this time was my checkerboard rudder and flaps. My cousin is a graphics designer and made me paint masks. I applied these to the rudder after the white coat had cured.

I sprayed the black SS paint. Easy. The only tedious thing was peeling these vinyl squares off the rudder later without marring the paint. I would have liked to peel them before the black was cured and let the edges flow out but I tried and made a mess with the first one because the black wet paint was everywhere.

I set the rudder on the VS and screwed it to a sawhorse to see how it looked. The red tip is just electrical tape and the emblem is a water transfer decal I made on my computer. The red will be replaced with vinyl later and the emblem may be. This one looks pretty good so I may just use it! To be honest with you, the vinyl squares looked very good before I painted. For this reason, I did not paint the squares on the bottom of my flaps, just left the vinyl ones.

Everything is looking better now. I did take time to cut and buff (color sand)  the top half of the cowl. It looks great and I was thankful I had that extra coat of paint on it when I started sanding.

So, while I was waiting on the extra paint and white primer to come it from Washington (UPS must have used a buckboard and a team of mules cause it took 8 days)  I prepared the fuselage for painting. Acid etched and rolled into position in the paint booth. My faithful assistant is holding the tail while I take the picture. The tail is very light without the the tail feathers and makes me very nervous! All I need, is a prop strike before the first flight!

I have the tailwheel wired to a couple of 100lb tractor weights. When it is raised, the nose is actually heavier than the tail and will stay in position. This proved to be handy as I was priming and painting the bottom of the fuselage.

While getting ready, I wondered how I was going to lay down and spray upside down with my paint gun? I didnt want to buy another hundred dollar gadget (plastic paint cup liners for painting at all angles) so I bought a 3/8" street ell. It worked fine. I layed on my back on a creeper and primed the bottom of the plane. Was not too bad but my arms did get pretty tired. Later, when painting white, I had to hold a flood lamp in one hand while painting to get a reflection to judge the amount of wet coat. I wasn't all that concerned about the quality of the bottom paint job as no one will ever see it so I hurried thru it. Wouldn't you know, It turned out the best of all the surfaces! Absolutely, no orange peel and very very smooth! I guess I was just trying too hard on all the rest of the parts.

  I primed and sanded several areas of the fuse several times and repaired some dings and rough spots. Then I shot white primer. Light sanded everything. Then shot the bottom fuse. I then removed the street ell on the paint gun and shot the rest of the fuse. it turned out great! Using the white primer, it was easy to get full color saturation. Other than a few bugs and some minor orange peel, it turned out great! I am so excited to be finished painting! It has been a journey getting thru this stage!

Re assembly begins.

Since this was the last time to assemble the tail, I was very meticulous about using new bolts and nuts and correct torque values! The left elevator was slightly aft heavy and the right one was slightly nose heavy. After connecting them, they balanced perfectly and moved very free. I had researched balancing the elevators and found out that it is perfectly except-able to balance the two together as a unit.

 We put the wings on again using hardware store bolts as I will remove them later for the move to the airport. We loosely installed everything including the complete interior with the seat belts. Any hardware that was not installed was placed at the install area it belonged. I leveled the plane at normal flight attitude on a set of certified race car scales I rented from Avery Tools in Ft Worth to compute the weight and balance. I was worried it would come in heavy because of the complete Classic Aero interior and the extra coat of paint on some of the parts. Why weight before moving? I wanted to send my inspector the needed paperwork to arrange for the inspection.

1123lbs! Not the lightest but not that bad. My main mission is a comfortable traveling plane for Nancy and I. Even with the heavy CS prop, the CG came out a little farther aft as I would like it, 81.25". Maybe, after I get thru cut and buffing I need to re-weigh as paint makes the tail heavier.

Somewhere along the way, before I weighed the plane, I installed a canopy lock, reworked my exhaust hangers, installed the rubber stripping on the wing root fairings, and numerous small odds and ends along the way.

Besides the airplane painting I accomplished during this period, I also drove to Midlothian, Texas to get transition training with Alex DeDominicis on April 3-4. Alex is a great instructor and I really enjoyed flying his RV7. I acquired 5 hrs even though my insurance just asked for 1 hour. We had windy conditions but that is probably a good thing. The plane handled beautifully and made me really excited about finishing mine! Besides coaching me on flying and landing the 7, Alex and I talked about all the things to be aware of on my first flight. I highly recommend Alex for training and he was very helpful with the scheduling me in at the last moment.

Still need some vinyl trim and N numbers. Hopefully, we can get this baby transported to the airport, finished up, and inspected soon!

Friday, March 6, 2015

Engine Test, Wing Root Fairings, Paint Booth

Hours 98
Total Hours 1689

The first thing I did on my two weeks off of the rig is do some testing on my engine. I had been experiencing some plug fowling on my previous runs and I just wanted to do some general maintenance items that will be required for my condition inspection. I need to do a condition inspection before I can get an Airworthiness Certificate from the DAR that will inspect my plane before I can fly it.

Although the engine had really ran good on my previous runs, other than the plug fowling, I wanted to check the fuel flow from each injector to see how balanced they were. After I cleaned and checked each injector nozzle, I connected them back to the injector lines and routed them to four Mason Jars I had found. Three matching and the fourth was fairly close. I pushed full throttle and full rich on my control cables and turned on the boost pump and collected fuel in all the jars. I believe I let the boost pump run for 5 minutes.  

This is what I collected. I measured all the gas in each jar. The most full jar and the least full jar was within 1.5 ounces of each other. After the reading I have done, I believe these to be fairly close but I can use this test in the future if I want to work on balancing the injectors better and running the engine lean of peak. I needed to clean the injectors anyway for my condition inspection, so this test didn't take much additional time and was interesting. I cleaned the plugs and rolled it out and cranked it up. I let it warm up, checked the mags, and adjusted my idle speed and mixture to 700 rpm. I then leaned the mixture adjustment screw until I had about 20 to 30 rpm gain just before the engine shut down when pulling the mixture control to idle cut off. I then installed my cowl and ran the engine again checking mags and the CS prop. I ran the engine at 2200 rpm for a short period watching my EGT's and my CHT's very closely. I had the tail tied down and the nose into the wind. I ran it to full throttle two separate times for about a minute before I had to idle back because of the number 1 cylinder nearing 400 degrees. Both times as I advanced the throttle to wide open with the stick back and hard an the brakes, I watched the engine rpm climb to 2730 for a brief second then fall back to 2650 as the prop gov kicked in. I believe the CS prop is adjusted well enough until I can test it on a true take off roll so I am not going to mess with it now. I will remember on that first flight, to advance my throttle slow enough to let the prop gov stay ahead of the engine. I believe I am satisfied with the engine now. Both run ups were without the boost pump and I changed fuel tanks between the run ups to assure I had no fuel plumbing problems. I then pushed the plane back in the hanger. I de-cowled the hot engine in 6 minutes! All the work I've done trying to make the hinge pins easy to remove has paid off! I then removed the bottom plugs and checked the compression on each cylinder. 75/80-76/80-75/80-76/80. This is the first time I had checked the compression when the engine was warmed up. The engine was last run in 2013 before I test ran it for the first time several months ago. I am going to continue with finishing this airplane now and quit fooling with the engine. I checked the cowl for rubs. The rear left corner of my baffle frame had rubbed. I simply rounded the corner on it and solved that problem. I safety wired the drilled bolts on the snorkle-fuel servo mating and tightened the alternator belt. I still want to beef up my exhaust hanger and will order some parts to get that done before the first flight. I may order some fine wire plugs so I will not have to worry about that plug fouling as much. Idling is probably causing most of it but I do try to lean it out.

I do not know why I waited so long to install these covers. My hands hurt after pulling all those pop rivets.

I fitted, drilled, and trimmed the wing root fairings.

The time came to disassemble the plane for painting. My cousin is a vinyl graphics guy so I sent him this picture with the yardstick taped to the side of the fuselage. He need the picture so he can design a red vinyl stripe to be applied after the all white paint job.

Here is a computer model of the paint scheme I have planned. The plane will be painted Insignia White with black checkers on the rudder and the bottom of the flaps. The rest of the red trim will be vinyl so I can change it later if I get tired of the way it looks.

Well I spent a Sunday afternoon taking the empennage off and took the wings off so Nancy could help with those. Then spent all day Monday installing nutplates in the wings for the wing root fairings. Also tapped the holes for the tie down rings with 3/8" tap. I built some mounting plates to attach the wings to some sawhorses so I can swivel them when I paint. Then I started on the paint booth you see in the background. I built it 13'x24' with 2x4's. I can always use 2x4 lumber on the farm after this painting is over. I had bought it several months earlier along with florescent lights, wire, screws, and a box of 20'x100' 6 ml plastic sheet.

I spent 3 1/2 days building this paint booth. Here is looking at it from the loft in my hanger. I have a door in this end and on the other end I left a flap big enough to get the fuselage in and out later. 13x24 is big enough to have enough room to spray on both sides of the fuselage and still have room to back up a little.

I put 4-8' and two 4' florescent  lights up and it still could use more. I may build me a couple of 4' lights to put on a stand and make portable. I put two box fans with filters pushing air in and one 20" high capacity fan pulling out the other end. If I turn the two box fans on, the plastic walls will pooch out. then I turn the sucking fan on and they return to neutral. I believe this neutral pressure will keep dirt from being sucked in or paint particles from escaping into my hanger.

I may add another box fan later but the room seems to have good airflow. I don't want the fans to blow at me when I'm spraying. This is the end I will bring the fuselage in at.

This is the 20" fan pulling thru the rectangular duct I built out of plywood. The flow makes a right turn then exits the hanger out of a 55 gal barrel I cut out. I cut a hole in the steel sheet of the building. I made a cover to cover the hole when it is not in use. The 6hp compressor and 60 gal tank that provides air for spraying is actually in the loft. I have the air piped down both sides of the hanger thru 3/4" pvc pipe. I had this old tank from an old compressor set up that I quit using years ago. I cleaned the tank up and will use it to provide more air storage and a water/oil sump to help keep the air clean and dry. The air enters near the bottom and exits at the top and enters my Devilbiss qc3 air filter dryer. All new hoses from there, one for the paint gun and one to blow things off with.

I will be using the Stewart Systems paint system. Eko Prime and EkoCrylic Polyurethane water based paint. I've heard good and not so good things about application of the paint. I believe I can make it work if I can keep my parts uncontaminated and take my time learning how to paint. I have never painted anything other than tractors and farm implements and did a pretty poor job on those but I'm going to give this my best shot. If all else fails, I bought a DA sander and a buffer and plan to cut a buff my way to fame!

My first go at spraying parts! The primer spraying of these parts went great! I was going to shoot the primer one afternoon and shoot the color next morning, boy was I wrong! I thought I had these parts very close to finished with all the epoxy coatings but boy was I wrong. The primer brought out all those pinholes and little imperfections that was hidden from me. Some of the parts looked so smooth like the gear leg fairings so  I only put one coat of cut back epoxy on them to fill in pinholes and the primer revealed pinholes everywhere! The other parts were not so bad but they had scattered pinholes so I had my work cut out for me. On top of that, I had plenty of block sanding to do the smooth some things out.

The gear leg fairings were full of pinholes! I took a small bowl of EkoPrime and my plastic spreader and just scooped up the primer and started working it all over the parts. Back and forth, dragging it into the pinholes. It actually worked quite well. There were some stubborn ones but I finally got them all filled. The primer was dry a couple of hours later and I sanded them smooth. I will shoot them again with another light coat of primer to make sure I didnt open any pinholes back up sanding them.

For the scattered pinholes in the wheelpants and wing tips I used Bondo Professional Glazing Putty. This two part putty is sold at O'Rileys and was recommended by Dan at Stewarts Systems. I would not use it to fill any thing bigger than a pinhole and for that, it works great. You have to mix small batches like the one above and work fast cause it will harden in just a few minutes. Cures fast and sands easy. Well, all said and done, instead of spraying my first color coat the next day, I spent 14 hours filling and sanding my arms off! I will shoot another thick coat on the parts I had to block sand down to level and a thin coat on the parts that I had to fill pinholes on. Then they will all need another sanding with 320 grit to get ready for the topcoat. I did actually paint a 2'x2' panel and an old vertical stabilizer somebody gave me to practice on but I was too ashamed of the results to take pictures! The color was great but the runs were many! Apparently, this painting isn't as easy as I thought and will probably take much longer than I thought! I will read and study about it for the next two weeks and practice some more and I will eventually get this plane finished!