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Archive for April, 2010

Spinning the Spinner

I woke up to snow this morning. Gotta love springtime in Colorado. I started the day by going to the hospital to visit my Mom at about 8:15. She’s recovering very well. I can’t believe she’s climbing in and out of their simulated car and up and down some stairs in the physical therapy room only 2 days post surgery. Amazing.

I left at about lunchtime and decided to visit the paint shop to see how they are coming on my parts. Our agreement is that my work is filler work for them so they’ll do it when they don’t have their usual flow of automotive work. We’ve worked under this arrangement in the past and they’ve always treated me very well. If anyone in the area needs any paint work, I highly recommend Choice City Auto Body in Ft. Collins, CO.

Since I’m getting closer to starting the engine, I asked the Choice City guys if there was any chance my spinner and backplate were painted. As it turns out, they had everything ready except for the cowling itself. I went straight back to my hangar with my CR-V full of freshly painted parts and installed my backplate, propeller and spinner. The spinner looks a little out of place without the cowling, but it should look great once the cowling is installed.

Mark and the guys at Choice City went the extra mile and even painted the back of the spinner backplate black and white. Very cool. I’ve dealt with other paint shops in the past who didn’t care about the big stuff, much less this kind of detail work.

I received another package this afternoon from Aircraft Spruce. It contained the mounting bracket for my primer solenoid along with the Facet electric fuel pump I’m going to use for my electric primer system. I spent a little time this evening running copper tubing for the primer system and mounting the pump and solenoid on the firewall.

My new ECI cylinders have primer ports in each cylinder just like Lycoming engines. I decided to prime two cylinders by splitting the primary input line using a steel “T” fitting. The Adel clamp fits nice and snug around the nut from the primer fitting. I started at the “T” and then worked my way back to the primer solenoid on the firewall. I covered the primer line with rubber tubing and then wire-tied it to the engine lifting bracket. I tied it to the lower half of the bracket so I can still lift the engine without having to move the primer line.

I used my string tie technique rather than Tye wraps. I also padded the tubing with clear tubing.

I put a loop in the tubing as it approached the firewall to allow some “give” for vibration. The whole mess is still a little “bouncy” so I will probably end up adding another Adel clamp on the firewall to stiffen things up a bit.

I’m using an Odyssey 680 battery and have no alternator or generator to charge the battery. I’m planning to just charge it up after each flight. There are many opinions as to the best/most appropriate battery charger for this application. Rather than wade through all the various opinions, I ended up just sticking with the Odyssey-brand charger. This particular unit provides up to 12 amps for a quick charge but also has “smart” capabilities where it automatically reverts to a maintenance phase when the battery is fully charged.


Package Arrives. Project Moves Forward

My Mom had hip replacement surgery yesterday. She’s a good sport and posed for this picture on our way to the check-in desk yesterday morning. My siblings and I are trading off being with her at the hospital.

I was up at the hospital for most of the day yesterday and a good part of the day today. I found this scale in one of the waiting rooms. My MacBook Pro is fairly lightweight! Today I received a call from my office saying that a package arrived from Aircraft Spruce. My brother took over at the hospital and I went to retrieve the package.

One of the things that arrived was a 1″ Adel clamp that I needed to use as a mounting bracket for my oil pressure transducer. Stacked Adel clamps can be difficult to work with. One technique is using small zip ties to hold things together while you insert a bolt.

The firewall pass-through eyeball also arrived in today’s shipment. This is all aluminum so it’s not as fire resistant as the other firewall pass-throughs I used, but this one sure looks cleaner and was much easier to install. The price was about the same at ~$35–not exactly cheap. I liked the idea of being able to drill the aluminum ball out to the size I needed. I rationalized that aluminum was probably OK because it was high up on the firewall and there’s already a bunch of aluminum on or near the firewall.

Here’s the backside of the new pass-through. The simplest routing for the GPS wires was along the upper longeron. Since gravity is working in my favor, I just used the basic peel-and-stick wire mounting pads. They don’t stick that great if they’re asked to hold things up in sheer, but they should work reasonably well in this application.

I received the Aeroquip 303 hose, hose ends and the mandrel to install the hose ends in today’s shipment. I’ve attached the hose to the brass T I’m using to distribute oil pressure to the Hobbs switch and the oil pressure transducer for my pressure gauge.

Here’s the oil pressure line. It’s a pretty short run from the engine port to the pressure transducer. I suppose this really should have fire sleeve, but it seems like overkill. The heck of all this stuff is that the original installation not only didn’t have fire sleeve, but it had a pressurized oil line running all the way to the gauge in the cockpit! Now’s not the time to start skimping on things, though, so I’ll probably add some fire sleeve to my next ACS order.

I’ll have to be at the hospital for a large part of tomorrow so I wasn’t anxious to quit at the hangar this evening. I decided I’d try to pin down the routing for my mixture cable. A couple of Adel clamps held the cable firmly in place.

I need to shop around for a secure method of attaching the mixture cable to the mixture control horn on the carburetor. I think the original installation just used a pinch connection. I’m hoping to do better than that, but I guess sometimes the simple solution is the best solution. I’ll dig through the ACS catalog and see what I can find.

Moving from the carburetor towards the firewall, this was the next attach point for the mixture cable. Gotta love these Adel clamps. I bought a whole bag of the yellow Adel clamps off of eBay several years ago for little of nothing. They sure have come in handy. I guess I should start monitoring eBay again in anticipation of my next airplane project!

Here’s a wider angle of the mixture cable’s path towards the firewall. I’ll probably add a few pieces of clear rubber tubing to make sure the cable doesn’t cause chafing where it touches any of the painted pieces. Those steel cables can act like little buzz saws with just a little vibration.


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.


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.


I’m Baffled!

I’ve been having a great month. It was supposed to be vacation time, but I keep finding things to do. I started the month with 23 days off from airliner flying and am now down to 15. On top of the Frontier flying, by the end of the month I will have given 7 Beech 1900 checkrides, taught 1 day of Beech 1900 ground school, drafted one Husband & Wife Will, babysat my brother’s children one night, and helped my Mom get to the hospital for her hip replacement surgery. If this is my vacation month, I can’t wait to get back to work!

I’ve decided that being “on vacation” is more a state of mind than actual days off. I’m completely serious when I say I’ve really enjoyed the month. On top of all that stuff in the first paragraph, I’ve also probably spent a total of 70 hours working on my Midget Mustang project. I was hoping to start the engine before the end of the month, but that’s now in jeopardy. I put in an order with Aircraft Spruce yesterday in hopes that it would ship yesterday. No dice. In fact, it shipped today, but there were some fairly significant things on backorder that won’t ship until the 2nd week in May. On top of that, I finally called this morning to check on the status of my custom-length throttle cable. It was supposed to have shipped on 04-07, but it is now scheduled to ship next Monday, 04-26. Can’t very well start the engine without a throttle cable!

I decided I needed to beef up the attach points for my engine baffles. I drew some rough lines on the baffles to remind me where the additional material should be placed. Baffles seem to crack frequently so I figured I might as well do what I can to prevent it.

With the right combination of thin washers, it was possible to increase the size of the tab under the bolt head. I think this will help to spread the load and the stresses. I drew the circles on a more-or-less scrap piece of aluminum. (In fact, this was the original baggage compartment floor!) This is going to be a time-intensive task.

It was a bit of a head-scratcher to decide what lines I needed on the pieces and what order I needed to drill holes to bring about the desired result. From this point, I aligned the small (1/16″) hole with the center of the existing bolt hole in the baffle. I then traced the outline of the baffle to where it intersected the 3/8″ radius arc near the center of the piece. I drilled #40 holes in the corners and then trimmed the pieces.

Here’s a close-up of one of my reinforcement plates riveted in place. On this particular plate, I removed a rivet from the perimeter flange and installed a slightly longer rivet to hold the reinforcement plate.

The left baffles in their more-or-less finished state. Now that everything is reinforced and fitting nicely, I need to take it back apart and get it ready for primer and painting. Little stuff like this takes a crazy amount of time. I think I spent a little over 3 hours worth of head-scratching and fabrication to get to this point on ONE side of the engine. To be fair, all the little reinforcement disks are also ready for trimming for the right side of the engine, too. I’m hoping to finish the right side reinforcements in less than an hour tomorrow.


Big Wires Day

Before I dive into telling you all about today’s wiring activities, I figured I’d share a picture of the parts and pieces of my baffles and plenum. I slathered filler on the last piece of baffling this afternoon. I’m going to do my best to finish the exterior parts of the plenum and baffling to a high gloss state. They’ll look much nicer and should be easier to keep clean.

I had a little paperwork and correspondence to take care of at my office this morning so I got a late start on the day. I decided that I was going to do my best to finish up the battery, starter and ground hookups today. A friend from Frontier offered to crimp these big connectors using his industrial-sized hydraulic crimping tool. I called him up and today was the day. Woo, hooo! Because these are some pretty hefty wires, it’s important to be accurate with both the length and the twist of the wires. I cut all the wires to length and then made marks to show the twist I needed.

Before I went to visit my friend with the expensive crimping tool, I loaded up the wires with the proper ends and a length of heat shrink. He’s a busy guy and was doing me a huge favor. I didn’t want to waste his time any more than absolutely necessary.

I’m very happy with how the wires turned out. Dave’s crimping tool was perfect and made some very nice wires. I used double-walled heat shrink with a heat-activated adhesive built in. I’m convinced that I’ve done everything I can to make sure these wires will last a long time.

Here’s a close-up of the finished ends. If you click on the picture and make it full-sized, you can see how the adhesive oozed out at each end and created an airtight seal. These babies shouldn’t have any chance to corrode.

This red wire runs from the output side of my starter solenoid to the starter itself. I’m freakishly paranoid about having this wire in place because my prop is just pressed in place right now… there are no bolts holding it in place. If the starter spun the engine, I think my prop would probably embed itself in my hangar ceiling. I removed this wire after the photo shoot!

This ground wire runs from the battery post to an engine case stud that holds the B&C starter in place. It’s important to ground the engine case to the ground bus. The starter uses the case as its ground.

My Odyssey 680 battery came with a couple of brass 90 degree mounting brackets. I used one of these brackets to create a straight shot between the battery post and the master solenoid directly above. I covered some of the mounting bracket with red heat shrink. I’m trying to minimize the amount of “hot” exposed metal. I’m pretty satisfied with how clean this is looking.

A close-up of the master and starter solenoid installation. If you look closely, you’ll notice a ground lead running to the firewall behind the hot side of the starter solenoid. This wire comes from the engine case and serves to tie everything together. The other wire (12 gauge) coming off the starter solenoid mounting base runs to the ground bus mounted on the backside of the main wing spar which also has a wire running to a secondary ground bus located under the seat. The solenoid mounting bracket is tied via a copper plate to a small, 6-post firewall ground bus located between and slightly below the 2 solenoids. This is also a good picture to see how I used heat shrink to protect the copper plate used to join the master and starter solenoids. This really is the fun part of the project!


Gathering Supplies

I had recurrent ground school on the Beech 1900 last Friday so I didn’t touch the Midget Mustang project. I had to go back to work at Frontier (flying an Airbus) on Saturday. It’s a bummer how these pesky jobs can get in the way of progress!

I returned to Denver this afternoon at about 2:30 so I had a little time to do some shopping in the Denver area before everyone closed shop at 5:00.

I ran by Portable Power Systems and purchased a new Odyssey 680 battery. Very cool. $107 and no shipping since I picked it up in person. Kind of a bummer how heavy it seems. I know it’s lighter than virtually any other viable battery solution, but it’s still an additional 14.25 lbs.

I also stopped by E & G Terminals in Commerce City. For the locals, they’re located near the old Stapleton airport in the industrial area just northwest of the intersection of I-70 and Quebec. I couldn’t believe the selection they had of high quality electrical crimp-on connectors and various gadgets. It was sort of like the back corner of an old Ace Hardware store with all the assorted screws, gaskets, grommets, etc. I picked up a few ring terminals for the #4 wire I’m going to use for my battery and starter connections. A friend of mine from work offered to crimp the ends with his expensive crimping tool so I’m going to try to hook up with him sometime soon.

I’ve been up since 3:15am this morning so I’m about ready to head to bed. I’m excited to be assembling what I believe to be the last volley of little parts needed to finish this project!


Yet MORE Electrical

I’m at that point where the progress is constant, but barely noticeable to the outside world. I keep putting in the hours and I’m mostly headed in the right direction (forward), but it’s hard to see actual progress from one day to the next.

These are the carcasses from the Click-Bond fasteners I was trying to describe yesterday. These things are the throw-away parts to the Click-Bond installation. These little towers hold the actual mounting pad in place long enough to allow the glue to cure.

This is what’s left behind after the Click-Bond installation. I didn’t even realize it before completing the installation, but the mounting saddle actually swivels on the mounting pad. I would have been less concerned about placement had I known this beforehand! If you enlarge the picture, you can see that I got a good “squeeze-out” on the glue around the perimeter of the mounting pad. I didn’t horse on these things too much to test them, but I’m convinced they’re stuck on there pretty good!

This is another little clean-up item. I ran coax with a BNC connector from the baggage compartment to the tip of the vertical stabilizer. I also ran power and a ground wire back there that is on/off switchable from a little switch in the baggage compartment. I hadn’t taken time to finish all the connections and make it look pretty until today.

Since I’m hemorrhaging money these days, I haven’t yet purchased a lipstick camera to complete my hoped-for video set-up. I wrapped the wires in a little foam insulation I had laying around the shop. This should protect the wires and keep them from rattling around until I can recover from all life’s little expenditures and buy the video system!

I’ve had to accept the fact that I’m getting older and can’t seem to remember things the way I used to… even just 5 years ago! I installed this white-board in my hangar. I make it a point to jot down notes on what should be included in my next Aircraft Spruce order or the next trip to Ace Hardware. The red writing at the top of the board is a “note to self.” I MUST remember to fill and bleed the brakes before installing the gas tank. There’s no reason to stand on my head to reach the brake cylinders when they’re easily accessible with the tank removed.

I didn’t take any pictures of the sanding and filling I accomplished on my plenum system this afternoon. The plenum has pretty much been finished for 6-9 months, but I never actually prepped it for painting. In the process of getting it ready for painting, I noticed a few places where a little grinding and a few more well-placed squares of fiberglass cloth could make the parts look much better.

Even though I’d really rather just slap them on at this point, I sucked it up and applied the additional cloth. It will be ready for me to sand and fill when I get back to the project next week.

I’m doing my best to maintain my currency on 2 different “big” airplanes these days. I’m an examiner on the Beech 1900 and I fly the Airbus 320 at my real job. Last month I had a Proficiency Check and recurrent ground school on the Airbus. My Beech 1900 currency as an examiner and as a pilot expires in May so I’m scheduled to do a day of ground school tomorrow. Bummer. There goes a perfectly good day shot to heck! I’ve got a couple of sim sessions scheduled over the next couple of weeks and then a checkride with the FAA on May 7th.

I’m fortunate in that I won’t have to study much to be ready for the oral portion of the checkride. I’ve been giving 2-5 checkrides a month in the Beech for the past year so I’m keeping fairly current on the systems just by osmosis. The more challenging part might be the actual flying of the aircraft. I’ve hardly touched the controls in over a year! I’m hoping to be competent enough to get a single-pilot designation during my FAA checkride. Should be entertaining, if nothing else!


A Wiring Kind of Day

I spent a bunch of time today on “invisible progress”. I know I worked for many hours, but I can’t put my finger on having accomplished much! This is the backside of my instrument panel. I made a few more connections and tied up a few more wires. It’s been a challenge maintaining my goal of having the panel removable by unplugging things rather than cutting wires. Most of everything comes apart with fast-on tab connectors or the big DB37 connector you see near the center of the panel. I found myself accidentally tying things that stay with the airframe to the bundle of wires that go away with the panel when it’s removed.

I’m using these Click-Bond mounting bases to tie wire bundles to the inside walls of my fuselage. They come with a little dual ketchup packet thing with resin and activator. You tear the top off the foil pouch and then mix up the contents. If the smell is any indication of the strength of the adhesive, these are going to be very well bonded!

I used 3 Click-Bonds on the left hand side of the fuselage. I’ll secure the fore-aft wire with a single mounting point. There are 2 mounting points for the 2 wires that run bottom-to-top just forward of the main spar.

Here’s a close-up shot of the Click-Bond I installed on the right side of the fuselage. It’s a pretty nifty contraption. The base of the mounting bracket is metal. You put a dollup of the glue mixture in the center of the mounting base and it squeezes out when you stick it to the mounting surface. The majority of what you see in the picture is a bracket that straddles the actual mounting base. It’s got little legs on either side of the actual mounting base. The legs of the bracket stick to the mounting surface with double-sided tape. Once the contraption is in place, you push on the center of the bracket and it snaps down against the mounting surface. Once the adhesive cures, you break off the bracket and are left with the little saddle bracket to hold your wire bundle. I’ll take more pictures… I’ve managed to confuse even myself with this explanation!