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Plenum, Oil Cooler Duct & Upholstery

My poor plenum tops have taken a beating with my oil cooler installation and then relocation. It was a shame to screw up my checkerboard paint, but it’s all in the name of progress, right? After grinding out all the previous ducting I had to re-glass the holes near the inlets. I used clay as a backing and then glassed the holes shut.

The lower half of the new duct to the oil cooler is attached to the cylinder baffles. As you can see, the cylinder baffles are held on with safety wire. I put a couple of nutplates in the lower duct that the top duct will attach to. The gap will eventually be filled with a neoprene ring. I needed a little space because there will likely be movement between the engine and the oil cooler (because the cooler is mounted to the engine mount).

The plenum is in place and completes the new duct to the oil cooler. With all the screws in place, it’s really a solid setup.

Here’s a birds-eye view of the engine compartment as it currently stands. You can see the patches towards the inlets where I removed the previous ducting. I used duct tape to seal the gap in the new plenum for now. Once I know the system is going to work, I’ll fabricate a neoprene sleeve for the gap.
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I went up on Wednesday of this last week to test the new installation. I ran the plane wide open for 30 minutes to see how high I could get the temps In the old days, I could easily flog it into going to 225 degrees. I’m happy to say that the best I could do running around at 3000+ rpm for a full 30 minutes was 210 degrees. I have no intention of running around at 3000 rpm in normal operations so I’m calling this a success.
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I de-cowled the airplane after the flight and found 2 small oil leaks. The first was an easy one… in fact it was one of those “duh” moments… The hose on the breather port was night tightened down. Woops.
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The second leak came from my modified reducer fitting on the right side (looking at it) of my oil filter adapter. I remember being excited to see if the modified adapter was going to solve my clearance issue so I put the fitting on without using the Permatex teflon sealer. It leaked. Woops again. I stopped by the hangar last night at about 9pm on my way home from work and fixed both these issues in hopes of flying to breakfast this morning.
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The other thing I did yesterday was that I picked up my new seat cushions with the new upholstery. A guy over in Brighton, CO built the seat cushions and did all the sewing, too. I could have picked from any material in the world for my upholstery, but ended up picking sheepskin. I purchased 2 pelts from Colorado Sheepskin Factory in Denver.
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I was originally planning to go with a dark grey color, but nothing I found really blended well with all the other colors in the interior. I ended up going with black because black seems to go with everything. Now that it’s installed, I’m very happy with the look.
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I went out to the airport today (Friday) with hopes of flying over to Greeley (KGXY) for breakfast. Unfortunately, by the time I arrived at the airport at about 7:30 this morning, the wind was already blowing in a direct crosswind at 16 knots. It would have been do-able, but I figured I’d get my fanny kicked all the way to and from Greeley so I decided to stay on the ground and work on the next project.
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What’s the next project? Stay tuned for pictures and a narrative in the next entry.


Zulu Headset, Salida for Breakfast

I took a little time this morning and tidied up my Lightspeed Zulu headset installation. Since the cord on the Lightspeed comes out of the left earcup, I put the LEMO plug on the left side of the seatback bulkhead. I then ran the wire up the bulkhead and attached the headset control unit under the longeron with velcro. This way, I can still unplug the headset and take it with me to a hotel room if I’m going to have to leave the plane sit someplace unattended overnight. Simple, but it seems to work really well.

A bunch of us converged on Salida, Colorado (KANK) for breakfast on the morning of September 4th. This is my friend and tech counselor’s Sidewinder sitting on the ramp in Salida. Dave first flew this aircraft in 1982. He’s officially an old-timer homebuilder! This thing’s fast, too. He routinely beats up on a local guy who’s got an RV-4 and races in the Sport Air Racing League.

This Rocket is owned by an eye doctor in the Denver area. I purchased my RV-3 from this guy back in 1999. It was nice to catch up with him at breakfast. I like the smiley air intake on his bird.


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.


Diodes, Lighting, Plenum Checkers, Ignition Harness

Ah the diode. Many people say that diodes are a necessary part of the master and battery solenoid installation. They prevent a spike in current when the solenoid snaps closed and protect sensitive electronic equipment. Some people say their normally-certified airplane doesn’t have them and they’ve never had any problems. At about $0.75 each and about 0.01 oz. each, I decided I may as well install them. I covered them with heat shrink and crimped the ends directly to the diode wires. It was a 5 minute installation.

Here’s a shot of the 2 diodes installed. The one on the master solenoid goes from the ground trigger wire to the power input pole. The diode on the starter solenoid goes from the 12 volt trigger wire to ground. The orientation of the band on the diode is very important. Bob Nuckolls has a good article available on his website that describes diode use in technical detail. Advanced Power Systems has a cartoon drawing explanation that I found more appropriate to my level of understanding.

There were thunderstorms and severe weather in the Denver area last week so a few Frontier airplanes diverted to KFNL. I’ve been at Frontier for over 6 years so I wasn’t too surprised to know the captains on both flights. It was fun walking up to the left side window and asking them if they were lost… or what?

It was a little difficult to get a picture of this, but what I’m trying to show is my new nighttime loading/unloading lighting. I bought 2 12-inch strips of LED lights from Auto Zone and installed one under the right longeron and one in the baggage compartment. I’m not talented enough as a photographer to figure out how to get a good photo of this so I had to take the picture with the hangar lights on. The short story is that the lights are connected to a switch and the hot battery buss. The lights look great and provide plenty of light. Gotta love bling, right?

I was really dreading the process of finalizing the routing and tying off my ignition harness. I was convinced that I could never find a home for all that wire and make it look decent. Well, I’ll let you (and the inspector) decide how it turned out, but it’s done and I’m pretty satisfied. As it turns out, it took a fair bit of time (several hours), but it wasn’t a dreadful task after all. One more piece of the puzzle completed.

Just in case you were wondering what I was doing with better than half my day on Thursday… Here it is. I taped the checkerboard pattern on my plenum pieces. Wow. Checkerboard really is time-consuming. I had Aerographics make me a big sheet of 2×2 checkerboard to speed the process. It worked, but since the pieces had many compound curves, I had to “fill in the blanks” with some 3M fineline vinyl tape. I painted the black on Thursday afternoon and the parts are curing in my hangar as I type this message. I’m currently sitting in a hotel room in Milwaukee, but will be back out at the hangar later this afternoon and again tomorrow morning. My day will be cut short tomorrow because I’m scheduled to give my last 2 Beech 1900 checkrides tomorrow afternoon. My examiner designation expires May 31st and I’m not going to renew it. I enjoyed it, but I’m looking forward to freeing up the time for flying my Midget Mustang!


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!


Seat Pan around Aileron Push Rods

Someone asked about a seat bottom piece that would cover the aileron pushrods. This the seat pan from my Midget Mustang. For orientation, the notch cut near the lower right of this picture goes around the flap rail bracket towards the forward left side of the cockpit. The oval-shaped cutouts near the back of the seat pan accommodate seat belt attach points.

This is the bottom of the seat pan. I reinforced it slightly before I reinstalled it.

This wasn’t really supposed to be a picture of my aileron controls, but it’ll do. You can at least see where the push/pull rods attach. The transition from grey to white is at the seat back bulkhead.

My cockpit area and seat back. I did my best to seal everything up so that small items lost in the cockpit should not find their way into the various hinge points and/or push rods that would cause binding of the controls.