Embarrasingly long since my last update, but to anyone wondering if we’ve given up – not yet! I have just been rubbish at reporting it. Will try to post more regularly.
Since the last update we have been putting the finishing touches to our empennage kit and moving onto the fuselage kit, which arrived shortly before Christmas.
Tailcone – back-riveting on the top skins
The first thing to finish on the empennage was riveting the top skins onto the tailcone. This was quite an entertaining task as it required one of us to lie inside with the rivet gun whilst the other held the back-riveting bar on the outside. Given the size difference there wasn’t really much discussion about who would go inside…I have heard of other builders borrowing a neighbour’s child for the same purpose! One advantage to being small, I suppose!
We lined the tailcone with cushions to spread my weight and protect the bulkheads, and then I inched myself in (VERY carefully) and lay down. I couldn’t get out without J pulling my feet, otherwise I put sideways load on the bulkheads, which were still quite flimsy until we’d finished riveting them to the skins.
A few tips for the person inside the tailcone:
- Take everything you will need tools-wise (gun, different rivet sets if required, rivet gauge)
- Take a torch, or you will have no idea if your rivets are any good once you’ve set them!
- Take safety goggles and some sort of dust sheet to cover your face, or the shards from any drill-outs will end up in your eyes or up your nose…
- Go to the loo beforehand as you have no idea how long it’ll take and it’s a massive pain to get out and back in again(!)
Vertical Stabilizer (VS) – aligning and drilling
Once the tailcone is complete, there are a few holes to match drill in the VS and tailcone. This requires the VS to be clecoed onto the back of the tailcone and carefully aligned, before drilling. The drilling itself takes seconds, but the task of setting it up takes much longer.
We got quite excited as it really looked like the back end of a plane at this point. We had to dismantle it again fairly quickly as we found that the limit of the garage roof = workbench + tailcone + VS!
Rudder and elevators – bending and riveting the leading edges
The next thing to do was to bend and rivet the leading edges of the rudder and elevators. We left this quite late in the process as we didn’t really have an appropriate tool – the pieces have been hanging unfinished for a while whilst we worked on the tailcone.
Our LAA inspector lent us his leading edge to allow us to finish off – it’s basically just a length of pipe with a torque wrench in one end, but it’s a life-saver! We used gorilla tape to secure the edges to the pipe, then used the wrench to bend the metal around gradually until the rivet holes in the two sides lined up and we were able to use pop rivets to bring them together. For the rudder there are paper templates in the Van’s instructions to show the required bend, which varies along the length – for the elevators the bend is the same all the way along the edge.
There is a lot of massaging involved and patience is key. One thing we found is that – whilst some sort of pipe tool is essentially for the bulk of the rounding – sometimes to finish it off you need to use your free hands as the changes are a lot smaller than you can achieve with the pipe. Within reason you can always un-bend something again if you take it too far, so don’t be afraid to try several iterations.
We got there eventually and are pleased with the results – the pieces look a lot more finished!
The one task we are consciously leaving until the end is the fibreglass work on the fairings, as this will apply across all the kits and we can set the workshop up for this purpose. I’m told you either love or hate fibreglass – we’ll save that mystery for another day!
Other than the fibreglass, that’s our empennage kit finished now…onto the fuselage, it’s getting very real now 🙂