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Installed Rudder Fairing, etc. – 9 hrs

April 20, 2014 Leave a comment

Sunday April 20, 2014

Easter weekend, so happy resurrection day! I had the chance to fly an RV-7 (N223J) on Saturday with Jake Lewis, a neighbor in Mission Viejo and resident of a hangar at KAJO. We flew out to San Clemente and up the coastline to Huntington Beach. He let me pilot from the right seat most of the time. It was a blast. So much different than the C172 and I am anxious to put the spam can days behind me.

Back at home after lunch I completed the final installation of the lower fairing on the rudder. I had drilled pilot holes but I needed to install nutplates and countersink the fiberglass for Tinnerman washers. Here is a view of the nutplates installed along the attachment strip.

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And here is a view with the fairing installed with the washers. I guess I could have spaced the screws out a little more and used fewer. This thing is on solid.

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I also made and installed a tab for the local electrical grounding of the strobe light. I needed to ground the cable shielding on both ends to minimize EMI concerns but there was no convenient place to screw down the ground lug. So I made a tab, installed a nutplate on it, and riveted it to the bottom rib of the rudder.

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On Sunday evening after getting home from my daughters place I installed the nutplates on the horizontal stabilizer for the empennage fairing. Here is a view of the fairing test fit.

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The list of things to do before moving to the airport is getting shorter and shorter.

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Installing Tail Light Adapter – 2 hrs

July 31, 2010 Leave a comment

Saturday July 31, 2010

Denise spent the whole day cleaning out the garage yesterday. I didn’t ask her to, she just decided that I could work more efficiently if the place was more organized and uncluttered.

She is right. It’s a pleasure to be out here now and I feel like I am ready to start the wings.

In the mean time I am working on dismantling one of may patio covers to replace some rotting beams. That is no fun. I can’t stay away from the airplane factory completely so I scotchbrited the tail light adapter and cleaned it. Then I sprayed on a good coat of primer and let it dry in the sun.

Then I used CS4-4 pop rivets to mount it to the rudder bottom fairing. It was a little tricky because of the counterbores in the adapter. The nose of the rivet puller won’t go down in there so I stacked up six small washers on the rivet head when I pulled it. That did the trick and all the rivets were set flush to the bottom of the counterbore. Here it is ready to receive the tail strobe light.

Categories: Rudder

Tail Light Adapter Part 1 – 1 Hr

July 29, 2010 Leave a comment

July 29, 2010

My tail light adapter and tank dimple dies arrived from Cleveland Aircraft Tools today. I’ll need the dimple dies when I get to the fuel tanks but for now I can install the tail light adapter on the rudder bottom fairing. Here is the little $17 aluminum part.

I aligned it to the fairing contour by eye (a little awkward) and match drilled the holes in the fairing. The alignment turned out OK in spite of the fact that the fairing is not perfectly symmetrical.

Then I marked the center hole on the fairing and drilled it out using a 1 inch spade bit from my woodworking supplies. That worked surprising well. Then I smoothed out the edges of the fiberglass with my rotary tool and a sanding drum.

Ready to prime the adapter and install it with CS4-4 rivets.

Categories: Fiberglass Tips, Rudder

Finished Elevator and Rudder Tips – 4 hrs

July 17, 2010 Leave a comment

Saturday July 17, 2010

Big day today. I officially finished the elevator tips, rudder top tip, and vertical stabilizer top tip. The morning started with sanding out the dry micro that I applied last night on the VS tip seam. After shaping and blending it into the skin and the fiberglass there were several low areas where more filler was needed so I mixed another batch and applied that.

It was hot again today so it only took a few hours for it to kick over. Then I sanded it again to get the final clean shape I wanted. Seam gone!

Next I broke out the spray gun and sprayed on a few light coats of UV Smooth Prime, which I had learned about on the forums. It fills pin holes and small defects and sands out really smooth. It also provides UV protection to the fiberglass. I guess that’s important. It drys pretty fast too in light coats so it was only about a half hour before it was ready to sand.

Here is the finished VS tip.

Then I sprayed UV Smooth Prime onto the two elevator tips and the rudder top tip. I’m new to working with fiberglass so I am happy with how well these came out.

Here are the two elevator tips.

Here is the rudder top tip.

And here is how the rudder and VS tips fit together.

Here is a closeup of the gap.

I retrospect I am glad that I have time before my wing kit arrives (week of August 8 according to Vans) to finish the fiberglass on the empennage. Most builders postpone it until after the wings and fuselage are done. But I would rather get this dusty stuff done and out of the way. If the wing kit was already here I am sure I could not resist the temptation to focus on that because there is so much satisfaction in seeing the big pieces come together. But now I know how time consuming the fiberglass work can be if you have a perfectionist approach, which I sorta do. It has take a lot more hours than I ever expected and I learned a lot. Hopefully something I posted here may help someone in addition to documenting my process for the FAA.

Ah, but I get ahead of myself. Next: Filling the seams on the horizontal stabilizer tips and installing the rudder bottom tip.

Finished the Rudder – 3.5 hrs

March 20, 2010 Leave a comment

Last night after work I installed the last few rivets on the top and bottom ribs of the rudder. These are the ones I left out earlier so I would have a little easier access to the trailing edge for bonding. Those rivets in the very narrow end of the ribs are a bear. I was able to buck all of them except the last one on each side of the top rib. There I used the Vans-approved pop rivet. It was so narrow in fact that I could barely get the second pop rivet in because the shank ran into the opposite rivet body. So I ground off half the tip of the rivet shank before putting it in and it seated flush.

This morning I began to roll the leading edge of the rudder. This is another dreaded step because it requires bending the skins into a cylindrical shape using a pipe or broom handle. I followed the instructions in the plans verbatim and it came out fine. I did it in three sections. Here is the top (shortest) section rolled and cleco’d.

You can just see the end of the  broom handle taped to the skin in the second section in preparation for rolling. The first section was misleading. It was so short that rolling was relatively easy. The second section was about four times longer and it was tough getting the skin to roll far enough to achieve the desired shape. My hands were tired afterward. Here is one side of the second section rolled.

Here both sides of the second section are rolled and cleco’d.

Here is a closeup so you can see the rolled shape. It is ideally a perfect cylinder. It’s actually pretty close so I am happy.

Here it is with all three sections rolled and cleco’d. Ready to rivet.

The riveting was straightforward. Match drill, deburr, pop rivet. Here is the completed rudder. I removed the blue film for long term storage.

I couldn’t resist hooking the rudder up to the vertical stabilizer to check the alignment and freedom of motion. It all looked good. Very smooth motion.

The gaps between the rudder and vertical stabilizer look really good. This is a testiment to the quality of the kit since I just built it to the plans and it came out right. Here is an example.

On to the elevators!

Categories: Rudder

Riveting the Rudder Trailing Edge – 1.5 hrs

March 18, 2010 Leave a comment

After the Hysol epoxy cured for 24 hours I removed the clecos and the aluminum angles from the trailing edge of the rudder. The edge looked nice and straight but it was too late on Tuesday night to start riveting so I just cleaned up the excess epoxy and inserted rivets in each hole for back riveting.

Tonight I started back riveting the tricky trailing edge per the instructions. The plans say doing this and getting a straight trailing edge  is one of the most challenging steps in building the entire airplane so there is obvious anxiety. I drove every tenth rivet about half way with the back rivet set on my gun, then went back and drove the rivets half way between the first set, and so on until all the rivets were half set. I checked the trailing edge about every fifth rivet to look for signs of curvature. So far so good.

Then I flipped it over and back riveted the factory heads with my flush set in the same basic sequence. Finally, I flipped it again and finished the shop heads with the back rivet set.

The final result is a nice straight trailing edge. I put the aluminum angle back on the surface just to compare the straightness. There is no more than .025 inch gap at any point between the angle and the trailing edge. I don’t think I could get it any better.

I’m hot and sweaty now. I think I’ll go take a shower.

Categories: Rudder

Bonding the Rudder Trailing Edge – 1 hr

March 15, 2010 Leave a comment

I received the Hysol flexible epoxy today via UPS. When I got home from work everything was set to go. I mixed up about one third of the material and applied a thin layer on the wedge and a bit to the surface of the skins also. I once knew an aerospace bonding expert that told me one of the secrets of getting a good bond was applying it to both surfaces before mating the parts.

Then I put an aluminum angle on each side of the rudder and cleco’d it together with a cleco in every hole. Now its time to let it cure. I hope the clecos don’t get permanently bonded in. I put a little petroleum jelly on the clecos before I installed them as a release agent. I hope that works. I’ll know tomorrow.

I oriented the rudder vertical so gravity doesn’t even have a slight chance to bend it or twist the trailing edge while it cures.

Categories: Rudder