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Archive for the ‘Canopy’ Category

Oil Cooler and More Photos

I test-flew the oil cooler installation on 07-16-10 to get an idea of how well this setup was going to work. It lowered my oil temps by a solid 25-30 degrees! Success, as far as I’m concerned. I still needed to plug the gap between my diffuser box and the oil cooler fins. I applied vinyl tape and some Part-All mold release to my diffuser box.

I then attached the diffuser box to the oil cooler and applied some black RTV to fill the voids.

The next morning, before flying the plane again, I took it all apart and removed the tape. What was left was sort of a crude-looking custom gasket. I think I can make this look prettier, but that will have to wait until I do the finish work on the plenum itself. I’m having too much fun flying to make stuff like this look real purty.

After a fantastic 1.2 hour flight on 07-18-10, I decided it was time for a few photos. This is one of my favorite viewing angles for the Midget Mustang. I just love the shape from an overhead view. I’ll have to find a little better lighting the next time I do this.

I think this is the first time I’ve posted a picture of my panel with all the labels applied. Aerographics made the labels for me. I think they did a fantastic job. If you look on the GPS, you can see my track line for the first 5 flights. Lots of laps over the top of the airfield!

As I mentioned above, today’s flight lasted 1.2 hours on the Hobbs meter. The temps were under control and I finally felt confident enough to leave the pattern long enough for some steep turns and a few stalls. I’m very happy to say that it stalls clean, power off at 70 mph indicated. Each notch of flaps lowers the stall speed approximately 3-4 mph with the full-flaps stall occurring at 58 mph indicated. MUCH better now than before the rebuild.

The stalls also broke straight ahead with plenty of warning in the form of reduced control effectiveness and a gentle buffet. Recovery was immediate by reducing back pressure and applying power. I also did a few 90 degree banks and rolled rapidly from 90 degrees left to 90 degrees right. Wow! This thing is wicked quick in roll. I banged my head on the first one. I’ll have to work hard to learn to NOT introduce a pitch input when rolling left/right. The elevator is very sensitive.

I wanted to put in a plug for these nav lights. I’ll have to update this post to include detailed information about manufacturer, but I’ve been really happy with these little lights. They’re obviously LED and also have a strobe light. There’s a single power pack for the strobes which I have mounted under my baggage floor. The wingtip lights are VERY lightweight at something like 11 ounces. I modified the wingtips to include a mounting base for the lights.

I’ve probably already got a picture of this somewhere, but here’s a shot of my cockpit lighting installation. The row of blue lights on the canopy provides just the right glow to see the instruments at night. The good news is that there’s a lip of plexiglass from the canopy that shields the pilots eyes from the strip lights themselves. All you see from the pilot’s perspective is the glow from the lights, not the lights themselves.

I’m away from home at work this week from Monday through Wednesday. I’m hoping to fly again this Thursday and Friday. I’d like to do some touch and go’s to make sure I can land this thing in a reasonable distance. I made 4 landings this morning using an over-the-fence speed of about 90 mph. I think with a little more confidence, I’ll drop that to 80-85 mph. The plane was very controllable at that speed and still had plenty of energy for a flare and a little float. I did 2 wheel landings and 2 3-point landings. They were all very controlled and the plane showed no signs of darting in any particular direction.

If all goes well, I’m planning to fly up to Mitchell, SD this weekend to hang out with the Air Venture Cup racers. I’ll spend the night in Mitchell on Saturday, watch the race start on Sunday morning and then head home before noon on Sunday. I’ve got a little bit of vacation time at the end of this month that I had planned to use for an Oshkosh visit, but since that’s not going to happen, I’ll probably just get to work installing wheelpants and fabricating my aux. tank. I’d like to participate in a few of the SARL races this year.


Cowl Cheeks, Gas Tank Cover, Canopy

It’s been a few days since I’ve posted. Been busy at work again. I’ve got a fair bit of time off again this week so I’m hoping to finish up a few of these nagging last minute details.

I decided to line the insides of my cowl cheeks with felt. I figure I might use the cheeks to store an extra quart of oil, rags, a funnel, and maybe even a soft overnight bag if I need to avoid the aft baggage compartment for C of G reasons. I taped off the perimeter and sprayed adhesive where the felt will go.

I cut the felt to rough size and then laid it over the still-tacky spray on glue. Once it was smoothed down, I used a straight-edge and a razor blade to trim the felt to the exact size.

I also taped off the side of the fuselage so that I wouldn’t get any glue where it shouldn’t be.

This is sort of a dual-purpose photo. You can see the cowl cheek installed with the felt on the inside. I don’t know if I’ll ever use the cheeks as a baggage compartment, but if I do, at least things won’t be rattling around against the paint. You’ll also notice that I’ve installed the skin piece over the gas tank. This seems like a minor little task, which I guess it was, but it represents a milestone in that it means that I’m done tinkering with the wiring behind the instrument panel. Woo, hoo! Progress!!!

Before I installed the forward fuselage skin over the gas tank, I applied a generous bead of Permatex #2 around the gas cap filler neck ring. I’m hoping that the Permatex will provide a seal such that if the tank is overfilled, the extra gas will run down the outside of the aircraft rather than seeping between the fuselage skin and the tank itself–eventually running down to the floor near the rudder pedals. Ugh. What a mess that’d be!

The Permatex oozed out around the perimeter of the gas cap ring. I carefully cleaned off the excess using a paper towel and a little bit of acetone. I think it cleaned up nicely. It nearly killed me to wipe my newly painted black skin with a paper towel. Black shows every hairline scratch and I think the only time black paint is truly scratch free is approximately 30 seconds after it originally comes out of the paint gun! I’m one of those freaky people, however, that notices the scratch left by placing a styrofoam coffee cup on the roof of the car. It really does leave scratches. Look closely…

A random picture of two of the ugliest planes I can ever imagine. They share a hangar with a friend of mine. The guys who built/own these things are really nice guys, but that doesn’t change the fact that these are butt-ugly! I’ve removed the N-numbers to protect their identity!

This is what I settled on for my canopy latch levers. These things attache on the inside of the canopy skirt to a couple of steel rods that engage into a simple bracket mounted on the top longeron. It’s simple and lightweight and the canopy is definitely held down securely. If I had built the canopy and canopy skirt from scratch I probably would have used some sort of a single lever cam system, but this will do.

This is my 1996 K1100LT BMW motorcycle. I’ve owned it for about 18 months. It’s kept me away from the airplane project for a few days over the past couple of weeks. The front fork seals were leaking fork oil and needed to be replaced. A friend offered to help me replace the seals. How could I refuse? We finished up late yesterday afternoon. If you look closely, we also installed rubber boots over the exposed portion of the forks. This should prevent the forks from leaking in the future. What happens is that bugs and/or road debris contaminate the smooth part of the folk. This contamination then erodes the fork seal and eventually causes a leak. Cherokees have similar problems with their landing gear struts. Maybe they need rubber boots, too?

Here are all my remaining fiberglass parts wearing a first round of primer. I’ll need to do a little more sanding and filling and then spray another round of primer before they’re ready for final paint. I should have these ready for primer as soon as tomorrow afternoon, but the actual priming session will be weather dependent. Hard to believe I’m still waiting for a warm day to paint outside in mid-May. Welcome to Colorado, I guess.


Baffles, Primer, Manifold Pressure

It’s been long enough since I’ve posted an update that I actually had to go read my blog to see where I’ve left off. I have to laugh because less than a week ago I mentioned how it was warming up and I couldn’t wait to ride my motorcycle. It snowed yesterday and today. Welcome to Colorado, I guess.
In any case, here’s a shot of my newly-painted baffles installed on my engine. I think they look nice.

I’m using the standard bulkhead pass-throughs for my ignition wires. I installed nutplates in my cylinder barrel baffles to accept these pass-throughs.

I finally remembered to bring the Garmin 496 from home. It was one more thing I needed to install before I could button up the wiring and put the forward fuselage skin piece on for good. I think the panel looks nice all lit up like this. I need to make some labels…

I’ve been trying to verify the operation of all my instruments before I close out the top skin covering the fuel tank and the backside of the instrument panel. I was suspicious of my manifold pressure gauge so I called UMA this morning. My gauge is an electronic version–meaning it uses a transducer and wires rather than an actual manifold pressure line running to the gauge. My gauge was pegged at full scale showing 35+ inches of Mercury. I thought it should read ambient pressure which (at 5,000′ field elevation) should be somewhere around 25 in. Hg. Sure enough. UMA confirmed that my instrument was not reading correctly.
I spent HOURS digging through wires and breaking bundles of wires apart to test, probe and verify everything I could think of. I called UMA again and mentioned told them what was going on. He said it sounded like I was feeding 12 volts to the 0-5 volt sensor wire. This would cause the needle to go full-scale rather than reading ambient. I ended up pulling the gauge from the panel and bench testing the setup. Same results.
I started taking voltage readings from everything I could think of. I called UMA again and started telling him voltage readings. He determined that my gauge was calibrated incorrectly. It was calibrated for a 0 to 70 in.Hg. scale rather than the correct o to 35 in.Hg. scale. He had me pull the gauge apart and turn the trim adjustment until my gauge read 25 in.Hg. It was a little scary tearing apart a brand new gauge, but it turned out to be no big deal.
The whole ordeal consumed about 6 hours of time today. It also pretty well sucked the life out of me so I had a hard time getting motivated the rest of the day.

One of the little clean-up chores was connecting the capacitive fuel probe to the UMA fuel gauge. In the process of verifying the correct operation of my fuel gauge, I discovered a bad connection in some other wiring. After about an hour, I finally finished this 10 minute project!

For a simple little no-gyro VFR-only panel, I sure wound up with a bunch of little wires! I did my best to tie everything up and support it so I won’t be having intermittent electrical problems.

I made the final connections today for my electric primer pump and fuel solenoid. I decided to go with an electric primer system to avoid bringing the 1/8″ copper lines carrying fuel to and from the manual primer plunger valve. Since the aircraft doesn’t otherwise have an electric fuel pump, I installed this Facet pump just for the primer. The primer pump sucks fuel from the gascolator and then routes it through the fuel solenoid. I’ve got it set up so the solenoid opens at the same time the pump comes on. They’re both connected to a single, momentary contact pushbutton switch. Getting the right amount of prime will depend on holding the button down for the right amount of time. One-Mississippi, Two-Mississippi, etc.

This will be the next project: routing my spark plug wires. I spent the money for a “custom” harness for my O-200. Well, I’m not sure what makes it custom. From all I can tell, the wires are all cut to random lengths and I’ll wind up with just barely enough in some instances and way too much wire in other instances. I’m experimenting with circuitous routing to take up some of the excess wire. I still need to check on some internet forums to see if it’s possible to trim these babies down to size.

I installed the canopy so I just had to take a progress picture. Getting closer… I installed a string system to keep the canopy from springing open too far and damaging the hinge attach point. I was trying to come up with all kinds of spiffy brackets and mechanisms to hold the canopy open, but in the end I just decided to keep it simple and use a length of black nylon rope. Light, simple and effective. It’ll do.


Baffles, Primer, Panel, Canopy

The good news is that rattle can primer and paint strips very easily with Aircraft Stripper. The bad news is that I spent 2-1/2 hours this morning proving this. I purchased some Ace Hardware hi-temp gloss black and sprayed it over the top of my SEM self-etching rattle can primer. The two didn’t get along and I had to strip all the baffles back to bare metal.

It took about 2-1/2 hours to strip all the baffles back to bare metal. To avoid any compatibility problems this time around, I bought Rustoleum primer and Rustoleum gloss black. It worked out very well and I’ve now got a bunch of shiny baffles hanging from my hangar door while the paint cures. I probably won’t be back out to the hangar until at least Wednesday of this week so I’m hopeful they’ll have time to fully cure.

I wasn’t happy with the routing of the copper tube for my primer system. I visited the airplane aisle at Ace again and purchased 5 feet of 1/8″ copper tubing for $1 per foot. I have no idea whether this is more or less than what Aircraft Spruce charges, but I don’t really care. It was nice to buy the stuff locally and finish the project. I routed the line out of the primer solenoid horizontally across the firewall and then followed the engine mount to the center of the case just inboard of the left upper engine mount.

I also covered the copper line with clear rubber tubing from a oxygen cannula that they used on my Mom in the hospital. They were just going to throw it away so I snagged it. It sure made it simple to tie the copper line wherever I wanted without worrying about chafing. You can see that I also included a loop for strain relief just forward of the engine mount. I figure there’s a good possibility that there will be a little movement between the engine mount and the engine.

I took the canopy to the airport with me this morning. It had been sitting in my living room at home since I finished the Micro Mesh process a week or so ago. A friend, who’s far more experienced than I in terms of building airplanes, predicts that it’ll take me another couple of months before I’m ready to fly. I was hoping to be finished before that, but who knows… I’ll need to cover my nice, clear plexi so I started by running a strip of fine line tape along the perimeter of the plexiglass. It shouldn’t screw up the plastic or leave any residue the way that masking tape sometimes does.

I then covered the canopy with masking paper to protect the glass. It’ll be a big milestone when the day comes to remove the paper.

Here’s a shot looking into the cockpit with the panel mostly installed. I forgot to bring the GPS from home or I think I would have finished the entire panel installation. I’ll need to order the graphics to label the panel from Aerographics sometime soon. For the unfamiliar, Aerographics is a great company for all sorts of custom vinyl work for airplanes or other applications. I’m very lucky in that they’re local and have lightning fast turnaround if I need it. I’ll probably go see Marilyn sometime this week.

Here’s a shot of the current status of my panel installation from the backside. Don’t be too critical just yet. I’ve still got to install the GPS and its mounting bracket. I’ve got a couple of hard points built into the GPS bracket where I’ll use a couple of Adel clamps to firm up my wire bundles. It’s amazing how busy a fairly simple VFR panel can get.

Here’s an overal status shot taken just as I was ready to leave the hangar this evening. I just laid the black forward fuselage skin in place to see what it will look like. It’s pretty exciting to see the project taking its final shape. I think installing the newly-painted black baffles along with the plenum, routing the ignition harness wires and installing the canopy will make a huge difference. I can’t wait until the day comes when I can roll it out onto the ramp and give it a good wash job. It’s accumulated a fair amount of dust over the past few months. I’m sure it will also require a light polishing to remove some hairline scratches in the clear coat, too. Oh well, a labor of love!
I’m scheduled to give 6 Beech 1900 checkrides over the course of the next 3 days. With this much going on, I sort of doubt I’ll make it to the hangar much this week until maybe Friday. My vacation from Frontier is coming to an end and I’ll have to go to work for 3 days starting on Saturday. I’m nearly out of clean clothes because I’ve been spending so much time at my hangar so I may have to play Danny Domestic on Friday rather than going to the airport. We’ll see how much I can accomplish in the evenings over the next few days. i’d really like to get another day at the shop in before I have to go back to work. Stay tuned!


Polishing the Canopy

I’m getting close to putting this thing together so I decided it was time to polish the plexiglass on my canopy. I took it home with me because things are [barely] cleaner and a little “softer” at my house versus the hangar. Hey… where does a single guy polish his airplane canopy? In the family room in front of the TV, of course! I’m not a barbarian… I did put down a bath towel to protect the carpet. :-)

I started with 400 grit wet/dry sandpaper and then progressed through the Micro Mesh system of progressively finer sandpaper. Their grit numbering system is not the same scale as normal sandpaper, but suffice to say that the final few steps were barely more coarse than a sheet of construction paper. I finished up with some plastic polish and this Griots-brand 2-inch random orbital polisher. This is a handy device to have around.

Here’s everything as it appeared at the end of my work session. I finished the interior and did one-half of the exterior of the canopy. I had to quit early because I had to go to work. That darned work thing getting in the way again. I’ll be back home tomorrow and am hoping to finish the polishing process tomorrow evening. The next challenge will be protecting the canopy between now and the first flight!


Baffles, Parking Brake, Carb Heat, Canopy

There’s just no getting around it. This stuff takes a significant amount of time. I finished up the semi-circle reinforcements on the right side cylinders this morning. Even with the circles cut to size and ready to be fitted to the individual tabs, it still took me a solid 2 hours to finish the fabrication and riveting for these 6 reinforcement plates. No phone calls, coffee breaks, emails… Just 2 solid hours of work. Amazing.

I have no idea if this little piece is overkill or not. I built a little tab to block the air from taking the easy way out between the cylinders near the valve covers (the red parts in this picture). I figure I want all that high pressure air flowing through fins rather than just exiting without cooling anything.

These numbers are stamped (molded, actually) into my cylinders near the valve cover. I’ve been taking pictures of anything with numbers on it just in case there’s an AD or service bulletin on anything I own. I’m hoping the pictures will make it easier to determine of the AD or service bulletin applies to my stuff.

This is the heat exchanger do-dad that I’m going to use to provide hot air for my carb heat. Those of us with the short stack exhaust face the problem that there’s really not room for a traditional heat muff around the exhaust. I had a local exhaust shop cut a semi-circle out of some 1-1/2 exhaust pipe. They didn’t do a great job, but hey, it should still conduct heat, right?

Here’s a side view of the installation. There’s a stainless hose clamp around my exhaust stack. The hose clamp has got a dimpled hole in it that has a tapered-head machine screw coming out of it. There’s a hole drilled in my heat exchanger pipe with a nut and a star lock washer holding it all together. The plan is that there will be 1-1/2″ SCEET hose running from this pipe to my carb heat inlet on my air inlet box. Pulling my carb heat cable to the ON position will close the fresh air intake door and will force the engine to draw its air from this pipe. I’ve seen this setup used on RV engine installations. It’s gotta be better than my original setup that drew lukewarm air from the back of the cylinder baffling.

I didn’t take any pictures of the rest of the work I accomplished today. I reinstalled the original cable and pulley setup for my parking brake. It was simple, lightweight and very effective. No sense in reinventing the wheel! After looking at the installation, I’ve decided to replace a bit of the cabling. I’ll hit the aircraft aisle at the local Ace Hardware before my next session and should have it buttoned up in no time.

I spent a fair bit of time this afternoon trying to come up with a better idea for my canopy latch system. The original installation had no provision for latching or unlatching the canopy from the outside. The prior owner/original builder just locked the pins in the extended position from the inside and then twisted the canopy locking pins into the receptacles. I didn’t like this as a longterm solution.

After several hours of fabricating something I thought would work, I ended up giving up and going with a pretty simple tab system. The tabs will be available on the outside of the canopy. On the inside, I’ll squeeze the pins together using a couple of screws that hold the tabs into the sliding locking pins. It’s tough to describe in words. I’ll take some pictures next time I’m at the hangar.

Satisfied with the latch system, I brought the canopy itself home with me this evening. I’m going to do the Micro Mesh process here at home. It’s a cleaner, softer environment with better access to running water and good light. I did a brief trial run with the Micro Mesh about a year ago. The stuff is really impressive. Once the canopy glass is perfect, I’ll take it back to the airport and install it on the airframe for good. I’m really looking forward to doing this. Somehow it seems like it’ll be a big milestone to have it back on the fuselage. It’ll look more like an airplane, I guess.

Well, this will probably be the last update until at least Wednesday of next week. I go to work tomorrow at about 1pm and I’ll probably go see my niece’s first softball game of the season before that at about 11am. I’m back in town Monday morning just in time to make it back to the office by 1:30 for a Will signing. After that, I’m hosting my niece’s Girl Scout group at the airport for a tour and Show ‘n Tell at 4pm.

I’m taking my Mom to the hospital on Tuesday morning by 7:30 to check in for hip replacement surgery. The actual surgery is at 9:30 and should last approximately 1 hour. I’m hoping she’s out of recovery and back to her room by noon or so. Some of my relatives will relieve me shortly after she makes it back to her room. I’ll go from there to the office for an appointment with a client at 2pm. If that meeting’s short, I may make it to the hangar for a little tinkering Tuesday night, but I’m probably more likely to go home and collapse!

If all goes well, I’ll hit the shop again next Wednesday morning. I’ll probably work for a while and then go see mom somewhere a little before or after lunch each day until she’s moved to the rehab facility. Should be an entertaining week.


Canopy Corner Repair

Here’s a picture of the original canopy installation. The hinge consisted of 2 brackets–one at the front and one in the rear. There were steel rods running through the tubular canopy frame. It almost looked as if the original design intended for the canopy to be completely removable. At some point, someone crimped the canopy frame tubes which held the inner steel rods extended into the hinge brackets. In any case, you can see where the skirt bound up at the front and back and had been bent and torn. Also note that there was a significant gap between the fuselage and the canopy skirt… Built-in airflow, I guess. If I fix this I’ll have to install a real vent system!

This is a close-up of the forward right side canopy corner. It is a little ugly.

The canopy had 2 hinge points and was allowed to tip over all the way. Not great.

I decided to add a piano hinge along the right side of the canopy. I ordered piano hinge with the widest flange I could find. I then cut moon-shaped half circles out of the flange to allow the canopy skirt to attach to the frame in the same holes as the original installation.

I’m test-fitting the canopy skirt to the frame with the new piano hinge. You also see that the front and rear corners of the canopy skirt are pretty buggered up.

Here’s a close-up view of the forward buggered up corner.

I first trimmed the mangled aluminum from the corner to leave a nice edge.

I then glued (using epoxy) a new piece of aluminum in place. I used light aluminum (.016, I think) because I wanted it to conform nicely to the original canopy.

I also grafted a new piece on the right rear corner of the canopy skirt. I took special care to match the slight crease so that the new piece would seem as natural as possible.

I guess I don’t have a picture of the painted canopy to show how the new skin grafts turned out. For now, this picture of the canopy before paint will have to do. In short, the new grafts turned out very well. I’m betting that 95% of all the people who see my airplane never give the grafts a second thought.