Saturday, November 28, 2009

Sunny and 50 today

Thus proving that my weather talisman is still demonstrating a preternatural efficacy in preventing the type of weather that wouldn't frustrate me. I'm still waiting for the rivets I need to attach the new hinge piece. There was still a little prep work to do, so I knocked that out this morning. I borrowed Co-pilot Rick's Dremel tool to grind down the bumps left by my overly zealous application of epoxy to fill the old holes. The worked great, but there was no way I was going to get a nice, smooth finish after doing that. I still have quite a bit of epoxy filler left over from filling the pinholes on the new wheel pants I installed four years ago, so I mixed up a batch of paste and smoothed it along the edge. Was that later cures, I'll sand it smooth and put a skim coat of unadulterated epoxy on top of it to protect it.

Then it should just be a matter of countersinking the holes for the rivets and putting it all together. For now it will have to get by with a coat of rattle can enamel paint. It will never look as good as it used to, I'm afraid.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

This drilling from the inside out thing?

It isn't necessarily going to end well:

Just call it a hunch.

Cowl Update

The halves are joined!

Now I have to let the epoxy that I used to fill the holes cure for a few more hours, then figure out a way to drill the new holes. I want to drill from the inside out, but that will make it hard to hot the old holes. There's no requirement to do so, of course, but it seems like it would be cleaner looking. I don't want to go from the outside in because it will push the hinge away and make it next to impossible to drill a round, accurately placed hold. Maybe I could do just a few inside outs and count on clecos to hold the hinge in place for the outside in drilling, but I'm dubious on a favorable prognosis.

There also quite a bit of epoxy that needs to be cleaned up on the holes, and the original installation of the hinge had 1/4" or so holes drilled in it and epoxy used to help the rivets hold it in place. So.... good progress, but plenty more to do yet.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Taunted by the weather

It would have been a great day to fly. That's all I can say about it; any more than that will require to think about how unseasonably beautiful our weather was today and likely will also be tomorrow. It's like getting a two day reprieve from being sent to a Siberian gulag but having to spend it fixing your plumbing. In may case, it is still the cowl that's keeping me grounded.

I started working on it this morning, though. The first thing that had to be done was the grinding away of the old epoxy that had apparently been used to aid the rivets in holding the hinge strip to the cowl. This step was quite easy, mostly due to a convenient tool crossover. I used the orbital sander that played such an integral role in the building of the kayak:

I also had to drill out the rivets holding in the remaining piece of yet another broken hinge. It's bad enough that I have no idea how this one got broken, but I also have no idea how it got broken this badly:

On the plus side, it was far easier to drill out the rivets from the inside out than it had been to do it from the outside in like I had to do with the other hinge:

Not that it matters because they're going to get filled with epoxy anyway, but the holes got far less elongated:

In yet another beneficent crossover, leftover materials from the kayak were already on hand for the filling of the old holes with new epoxy:

The pumps on the epoxy containers hadn't been exercised for a couple of years so I had to purge them, clean them, and re-prime them before dosing out a bit of epoxy to suck into a syringe. My first idea was to clamp the new hinge in place and use it to hold the epoxy in the holes:

That didn't work as well as I had hoped it would so I had to remove the hinge and try masking tape instead:

That seemed to work a lot better. Now it all needs to sit overnight curing.

I'll check on it second thing in the morning. What will I do first thing in the morning? Well, more than likely I'll be outside shaking my fist at a tauntingly blue sky.

Monday, November 16, 2009

At least the oil is drained

It was a beautiful weekend with weather as foreign to an Ohio November as parrot meat to a polar bear. Temps hovering near 70 and clear, calm skies. So where was I? Still waiting for new hinge strip material to fix Papa's cowls.

With weather that nice, though, any time spent at the hangar is good time. I went out and finished draining the oil out of the oil filter. That's typically a messy job, but with time to spare I was able to devote sufficient time to the task to get it done without spilling a single drop. That's not as easy as it may sound. To remove the filter without spilling any oil down the back of the engine or the front of the firewall is a tightly choreographed effort involving an electric drill, a modified water bottle, and a lot of rags. It's worth the effort, though, because any oil spilled will eventually end up spread down the belly of the airplane. It is NO fun at all cleaning the belly, no matter what the weather.

While waiting for the oil to drain, I removed the wheel pants. That too is a persnickety job that I try to avoid whenever possible, but the tires are soon (assuming I ever fly again) going to be showing thread, at which point they will have to be replaced. Besides that, the annual inspection will be due in just a couple of months, so I figured I pull the wheel pants off while the hangar floor was at least somewhat warm and just leave them off until after the annual.

The rest of the weekend was spent doing various winter preparation chores and working on the RV-12. It's funny that the RV-12 project was intended to fill the time in the gawd-awful winter months when it's too cold and/or nasty to go outside, but I enjoy the "work" so much that I spent most of a beautiful weekend in the basement building a stabilator. I only went outside long enough to go to Lowes to buy a snow blower. With the weather being what it was, there wasn't much competition to buy a snow blower; those procrastinators will find that I got there before them.

Naturally, they will get the last laugh when it doesn't snow at all this year.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Nothing ever gets easier, either

After stressing about it for a few days and gathering opinions as to what to do from other RV owners, it came down to the fact that the only way to get the cowl off of Papa would be to drill out the rivets that hold the hinge in place. Naturally, as this would be the most destructive and invasive way to do it, I was very reluctant to do it. After a period of energetic loin girding, I grabbed the drill and a #41 bit and went at it. An hour (and a few choice cuts on my fingers) later, the cowl was off. And, I'm sorry to say, somewhat maimed. I knew that was a very real possibility, though, so selected the top cowl to be sacrificed since it's easier to transport to a more comfortable location to be worked on.

It turns out that it's harder to drill a rivet out of fiberglass than it is to drill one out of aluminum. I'm sure this is almost universally true, but it becomes even more true if you can't really see exactly where the rivet is. If it was under a thick coat of paint, like. Adds to the challenge, that. Some of the rivets came out peacefully, others barricaded themselves in and hoped I wouldn't call in the SWAT team. They underestimated my resolve, probably unaware of the girded loins that I was bringing to the battle. And a #41 drill bit.

The difficulty in drilling out the rivets in fiberglass is that they are surrounded by a much softer, pliant material. If the bit got even the least bit off the center of the rivet, it would take the path of lesser resistance and slice off into the fiberglass. There is no silver lining in that cloud. Not only does it create a messy, large hole in the fiberglass that will have to be fixed (somehow - not quite sure how yet, and my loins are at this point quite ungirded), it also leaves enough rivet in place to maintain a strangle hold on the hinge. Oh, and it also leaves a very sharp edge, perfect for lacerating fingertips if one was careless enough to try to wipe away what looked like paint and/or metal shavings. Let's just say that if one were to do that, one would later realize just how deep those cuts were when one was slicing onions for dinner. Or trying to type a blog post, for that matter.

As it stands today, the cowl has bigger holes in it than our national budget and the hinge strip is as ruined as Congressional credibility. (Sorry, I had the radio news on - it has the effect on me) I think the cowl can be repaired by filling the holes with epoxy thickened with microballoons, but the hinge will have to be replaced. The hinge material is not expensive, but the job of matching and drilling new holes so that the top cowl will line up with the bottom has me worried. I'll stew on that for a few days; something will come to me. It always does.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Nothing is ever easy

The weather is fantastic, particularly considering that we're into November and there's no longer any point in living in denial as to what's just around the corner.

I thought it would be a good day to take Co-pilot Egg for a short plane ride out to MadCo and environs for a breath of fresh air and a load of new fuel for Papa, then drain the oil for the last oil change of the year.

There's nothing like a plane ride to bring out the natural beauty of a teen aged girl:

Or, you know.... not.

The winds at MadCo were 13 gusting 17, straight out of the south. The only way to have gotten that cross wind any crosser would have been to insult its mother. The landing went OK - I held a bunch of left bank into it and a boot full of right rudder to keep us on the straight and narrow. I thought for a second in the flare that we were going to smack the runway like a spoiled 3 year old at Wal-Mart, but I timed it perfectly and rubbed it on with an unexpected greaser.

I bounced it back at Bolton. Just to keep my streak going, of course.

The Co-pilot was of great assistance when it came time to push the fuel-bloated plane back into the hangar:

While she relaxed, I started to remove the cowls. I didn't, however, finish removing the cowls. If you could pick the absolutely worst place for the long hinge wire that runs along the seam where the top and bottom cowls meet to break, it would be right at the point where the wire would be flush with the first hoop. If that were to happen, you'd have no way in the world short of drilling out all of the rivets that hold the hinge in place on the cowl to get the cowls apart.

Here's what it would look like:

Ask me how I know.

Oh well, it's just one more thing on the to-do list. To date the list is as follows:

- replace tires
- change oil and filter
- replace Artificial Horizon ($$$s!!!)
- remove broken hinge wire, replace

It's doubtful that the Native American Summer we're enjoying right now will last long enough to allow that work to be done in relative comfort. But it sure was a nice day to fly!

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Schmetterling CEO Visit

As a major milestone approaches with the imminent completion of a major aerodynamic surface and flight control, it seemed that it might be a good time for the CEO of our parent company to come for a visit to the production facility. VIP treatment is standard for situations such as these so I took the company plane out to pick him up.

Or, put another way, the weather was gorgeous today and was almost irresistibly beckoning me, but the RV-12 rudder is on the cusp of completion and I really wanted to spend some time doing that. But... there's just no denying the call of a sky that appears as if it may have once or twice heard whispered rumors of these new fangled things called 'clouds' but was believing none of that wild gossip, thank you very much. And calm winds in the forecast as well! Astounding! What better way to kill two birds with one stone (hmm, this seems like a wildly inappropriate time to use that expression) than to fly out to KVES and pick up my Dad and fly him back to Columbus for a shop visit. Sure, it would mean flying him back as well, but seriously, isn't that just a cherry on the sundae?

It was a relaxed morning what with the DST 'found' hour to buffer the time between having a hot cup or two of Vitamin P infused coffee and having to head to the airport for departure. There's no lav in an RV-6, remember? Timing is critical.

The extra hour came from Daylight Savings Time ending later in the year than ever before because our Congress, always eager to flaunt their dominance over us, legislated a seemingly random change in when we shift time. They meddle in so many things anymore that I think a House bill to coerce water into flowing up hill is expected to get voted out of committee next week.

In any event, no one bothered to tell my Garmin 396 of the change of schedule. Try as it might, it just could not find any satellites, my theory being that it was looking at points in space that wouldn't be inhabited by GPS satellites for another hour. Or spots from which satellites had already departed an hour earlier. It could be either - I'm not very good at temporal calculations. If I had to bet, I'd say it was the latter case.

Whatever the cause, buggered if I was going to sit around waiting three months for the clocks to get set back ahead. I'd go without it - I have a nice spare built right into the panel. Although I rarely use it, I do dial in Direct To now and then just to remind myself how. That came in handy today since it was super simple to just dial in KVES and get things going. It's a little less pleasant than the Garmin to use, though:

Always the forgive and forget type, I gave the Garmin another chance. And another, and another, and another. I diddled around with menu pages trying to find a place where I could set the time and, for that matter, the date. It was convinced that it was October 28th. Brilliant little box, but sometimes easily confused. I couldn't find anything that would let me give the unit a temporal foothold on reality, but I did find a way to turn off Daylight Savings Time. I was optimistic about that, but the Garmin stubbornly continued to play the fool:

Finally I stumbled upon a 'Set Location' menu item. Just what I was looking for! You just pick a spot on the map or type in an airport identifier and Bob's your uncle. Well, not so fast: it seems that rather than give it a location as you're pounding through the air at a blistering 3,139 inches per second, you have to be sitting still. I typed in a couple of airports as I flew over or by them, but no luck. As soon as I stopped at KVES, POW!, it found all the satellites it could ever want.

That solved, I got the CEO settled into the right seat and we were off on the trip back to Columbus. The whole VIP thing kind of went sour, though, since I had forgotten to bring the passenger headset. He had to endure the full, unadulterated cacophony of Papa at full gallop. At first I tried cruising at a sedate 2,000 rpm to keep the noise down, but I quickly got bored with that and poured on the coal. After a fuel stop at MadCo, we landed at Bolton and hangared Papa. It was time to visit the shop.

I had the rudder pretty much ready to go for final assembly. Just to provide a complete picture of the work involved, I hadn't deburred the rudder skin yet. A few passes along the Scothbrite wheel made short work of dressing up the edges of the skin and the deburring of the rivet holes is never all that time consuming. It wasn't long at all before we were ready to take the rudder back to the hangar for riveting.

With the construction of the tail kit being well ahead of schedule and the lead time for the next kit (the fuselage) now hovering at somewhere around two months, and in consideration of the all too likely end of year price increase, the discussion turned to whether the order for the fuse kit should be placed. The timing of the tail is looking like I will be ready to assemble the too-big-for-the-shop tail cone by the end of December, just in time for the most inhospitable months of the year for working in the hangar. With the fuse kit on site, I could defer the building of the tail cone until Spring and concentrate on the first stages of the fuselage. Right up until the roll bars go on, the fuse is small enough to assemble in the shop.

As with CEOs everywhere in Corporate America, they need time to think about schedule changes. Deep in thought:

My only fear is that the vertical stab and rudder might be lulling me into over confidence. Maybe the horizontal stab is when this stuff really starts getting hard. I have to say, though, that the RV-12 so far has to be the simplest to build airplane in the world. Seriously, look at this:

The fronts of the rudder skin were already rounded into shape and fit right together with no trouble at all. The skin slid right onto the skeleton and the holes lined up with unconscionable ease. I don't think you can build an RV-9 rudder in just a handful of hours, can you? This thing is amazingly well designed.

We hauled the rudder out to the hangar and pulled about 3/4s of the rivets before we started getting pretty hungry. Also, with the loss of an hour of daylight I had to keep a tight look on the time to make sure I could be back to base before dark. We decided that we'd get started back towards KVES with a lunch stop at Urbana. I always seem to end up at Urbana...

Hey, you know how you always want to impress your Dad? Well, I got a little help with that today from a couple of total strangers.

"See the kind of people that have planes at Bolton? The kind that drive Porsche and Rolls Royce:"

"I just drive a Subaru because I find spectacularly conspicuous consumption like that somehow demeaning." Yeah, that's the ticket.

After lunch, I had him stand next to his artwork for a picture:

The flight from Urbana to KVES went fine, although I wouldn't say it was the best landing of the day. The best was a greaser at Urbana. The rest were so-so. The winds were a bit shifty and three out of the six landings were made with light quartering tailwinds. I'm not saying that's what caused the bad ones, but it could be.

The Sun was getting pretty close to the horizon as I flew back towards home, providing perfect lighting to capture a late Fall tapestry:

Bolton tower had been using runway 4 for most of the day but as I was approaching I heard the tower clear a couple of departures to go out on 22 since they were heading southwest. That meant that I had to land on 22 also, and that meant another landing with a slight tailwind. And, it sucked. I sailed right on past taxiway Alpha 3 and couldn't make the turn off until Alpha 4. That's not a big deal as there was another half a mile of runway after Alpha 4, but it's still a bit below my standard. Eh, it happens.

Once back I finished up the remaining riveting and headed home with a completed rudder:

Next comes the anti-servo tab. I'll 'splain just exactly what that is next time.