I’ve completedly failed at blogging recently, but that doesn’t mean we haven’t been building!
In fact, we’ve made some really good progress and have almost completed the fuselage kit, but I haven’t found the time to write it up as regularly as I was hoping to do throughout our build.
A visit from our inspector this morning reminded me how helpful it’s been to document our progress more consistently and how much I enjoy looking back to see what we’ve achieved. I’m going to try to be better at it, but that might mean I write a bit less for each post and rely more on photos, since that will theoretically take less time!
This post will be a re-cap of what we’ve achieved since my last update, an embarrassingly long time ago, when we were about mid-way through the fuselage kit.
Joining the forward and aft fuselage sections
Probably the most significant and obvious achievement since I last wrote has been joining the aft fuselage (tailcone) and forward fuselage sections together. We completed the tailcone in early 2017 and were working on the forward fuselage for the remainder of that year and into 2019.
We read the Van’s instructions for joining the sections over and over and built it up to be an enormous and momentous task in our minds. It was indeed momentous and felt like a huge achievement to have these two sections together, but it was nowhere near as difficult and complex as we’d feared and it actually went together extremely smoothly.
We invited some lovely friends and neighbours over to help us out in exchange for fish and chips, and got the two sections balanced on sawhorses ready to go. Note: You cannot have too many sawhorses for this task – we used 4 and would have needed another couple if we’d had fewer people around!
We had one person at the back of the tailcone, one on each side of the main spar in the fuselage section and one at the front by the firewall. At all times, we had one person spotting in the middle giving directions to the other three.
We slotted the sections together, making sure the skins overlapped and settled in the right order – there are various tabs, gaps and areas of overlap, and the sections are designed to go together in a very specific way.
Once we had got this right and double-checked against the instructions, we then asked the person at the back to shuffle the tailcone slightly from side to side, after which the sections pretty much fell into place – probably luck rather than skill, but we were delighted!
I was spotting at the side and decided to see if I could get some clecos in, and much to our surprise I actually could. We got the sections stable, added more clecos (we did every hole initially, just to be sure), then went off to get our fish & chips!
It was hugely satisfying to see the sections together and it really made the build feel so much more complete.
This is yet another time when we’ve really appreciated the quality of the RV-14 kit design and the thoroughness of the Van’s instructions.
Baggage floors and armrests
After some catch-up riveting (which sounds simple but it took us months!) joining the forward and aft sections together and riveting up the various ribs and bulkheads inside, we eventually completed the under-floor works and turned our attention to the baggage floors.
These are large sections of metal skin that are pop-rivted onto the top layer of ribs to provide a flat area on top of which any baggage and the beginning of the seats will rest.
It was great to get these riveted into place as it immediately added rigidity to the structure and meant we were better able to move around inside the sections to complete other jobs – we have been terrified of bending the relatively flimsy internal ribs for ages
Whilst we haven’t yet de-burred and primed the under-seat sections of flooring (seen in blue above), we have temporarily screwed these into place to add further rigidity and allow us to work on the panel up front.
We have also installed the armrests, which can be seen in grey paint on the left-hand side of the fuselage.
Panel assembly and wiring channel
One of the tasks that has made the build look a lot more finished has been riveting the panel assembly into place. This joins to the firewall and means we can now see exactly where we will sit and what we will be looking at when we fly the plane.
The avionics wiring will be behind this assembly and the final panel will go onto the front, along with the avionics screens we install. We will be going with the Garmin G3X as our primary flight display, and eventually intend to install a Garmin autopilot as well as the other instruments required for full IFR capability. This is a must as J has an instrument rating, I am part-way through training for my IMC rating and we intend to use the plane for long-distance touring, so there is a huge safety and practicality benefit to having an IFR-capable plane.
Brakes and pedals
I’ve mentioned before that we have opted for the Beringer wheels and brakes for our build – having had so many problems with brakes on our previous aircraft, this was an area where we always knew we would choose to upgrade.
As part of our work towards completion of the fuselage kit, we have painted and assembled the rudder pedals and measured and installed brake lines and cylinders.
We went for red brake pedals as we want to be able to see them easily and because they look really cool alongside the bright red Beringer parts.
We deburred and primed them with AeroWave 2001 as with all the other sections, and then painted them with rattle-can car paint purchased at our local hardware store. We chose to paint them before adding the final rivets, so these also stand out – I’m obsessed with how pretty they are and will have to make an effort avoid staring at my feet while flying 🙂
You can also see the sections we’ve painted with our interior paint, as these will be visible once the final build is complete – the green sections you can still see in the pictures will either be hidden eventually or will be painted with the interior grey as well. We are considering adding carpet and some side panels eventually, but painting the interior gives us the option of leaving that for a bit and/or changing our mind.
The Beringer instructions are nowhere near as simple to follow as the Van’s ones, but the parts are extremely well made and go together easily once you have figured out how
We have opted to use upgraded fuel lines from TS Flightlines because of the improved quality, safety and ease of installation they provide. They come pre-bent and with the connectors already attached, as well as having upgraded materials and coverings compared to the standard Van’s hoses.
They do slightly increase the overall cost of the build, but on balance we felt this was worth it.
Many of these won’t be used until we reach the point of installing the engine, but in the fuselage kit we have had to put some of the lines and connectors in place before we close up the floors, so this is a further task that has happened since I last updated.
Finishing kit delivery
We were very excited to take delivery of our finishing kit in January of this year. There are some satisfyingly large pieces (especially the perspex canopy, fibreglass cowling sections, landing gear and engine mount), but they’re also very heavy so the shipping cost of this kit was a lot more than we’ve had previously.
It was probably the most exciting kit to unpack as we had so many parts that already look like they belong on an aeroplane, and it made us feel a lot closer to the finish. A bit daunting, too, as we have really hit our stride with the metalwork recently and it’s dawning on us that we actually have relatively little of that left and a lot of new skills to acquire for this next stage of the build.
We were again very lucky to have lovely friends and neighbours who dropped everything and came over to help us unpack!
Before we rivet the flooring into place under the seats, we also had to install various moving parts relating to the control column. This involved painstaking hours of adding and removing shims and washers to get friction-free movement of the bases.
This is where our flight control sticks will eventually be attached so it definitely focused our minds and kept us motivated as we made the situation considerably worse before it got better!
The Van’s instructions were again helpful, but as each aircraft is unique, they couldn’t specify exactly how many washers or shims would be required to get it right, so it involved a lot of trial and error and attempts to predict (often incorrectly) the impact of changes we made.
I have found that being small results in me being the one to cram into tiny spaces such as the aft end of the tailcone in order to do riveting, and in this case my small hand size meant I was also the one adding and removing washers and shims. It’s extremely fiddly work between the fuselage ribs, and it’s safe to say that trying to get nuts and bolts into very tight spaces when you can’t see is not my favourite task!
It was enormously satisfying when we finally managed it, as the whole assembly suddenly moved freely and easily. We are both very glad we didn’t give up earlier or settle for ‘almost there’ as it’s definitely the case that when it’s right, you really know.
Today’s task of assembling, riveting and fitting the roll bar assembly brings us up to date. These sections took some de-burring as they are a different composition to the majority of the metalwork and aren’t as easy to manipulate. Probably a good thing when you remember that they are there to protect you from the weight of the aircraft if you have an accident!
There are a number of internal doublers and some long straps of aluminium to help hold the various sections together, so whilst the assembly looks simple when complete, this has also taken hours of work to get right. The rivet density is pretty bonkers in some places, but again I’m happy with that as it’s designed to protect our heads!
It was a bit fiddly to get into place as it fits very snugly and both sides have to be moved into place at the same time and pace for it to work, but again the instructions were very clear and helpful in guiding us.
The structure has grown again, and we’re close to being able to start work on the perspex canopy, which is currently occupying the guest bed!
I’ll try to be better at updating this as we move to the next stages!