Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Combating Old Man Winter...

Believe it or not, some parts of Florida do get cold in the winter.  Sure, we don't get snow, and hardly ever any ice, but we still get temperatures that prevent glassing work from about Nov through Feb/Mar.

I had to find a way to keep working so I took a page from other builder logs and built a heat tent to enable glassed parts to cure at a proper temp.  Combined with my semi-heated garage, I should be able to work through the winter and keep making progress.

My solution was simple...1/2" PVC attached to the workbench in 4 places creating a tent structure to support 4 mil plastic.  Inside the tent is a small, oscillating ceramic heater capable of keeping the tent above 80 degrees.  Pic

The PVC is secured at the bottom with a wood screw so it can pivot.  The upper portion (of the bottom) is secured in place with a large nail used as a pin.  Pop the horizontal pieces on, cover in heavy plastic, and your in business.  When you pull the top horizontal pieces off, the vertical supports fold down out of the way when not needed. 

It's also adjustable for the job.  With 4 supports running the length of the bench, I can make it the size I need for the parts that are curing.  I can also easily put an extention on one or multiple sets of supports to make a portion taller if needed.

The whole project took about 1.5 hrs not counting the trip to Lowes.

Back to building.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

More Bulkheads...

I spent about 5 hrs this weekend cutting out, shaping, and glassing one side of the instrument panel (IP) as well as tracing and cutting out the landing gear bulkheads.  It will be next week before anything else gets done because I'll be traveling all week and weekend.  After completing these bulkheads, I'll just have the firewall to go to finish up Ch 4.


Monday, November 1, 2010

Let's see...What was I doing? Oh yeah...Ch 4 Bulkheads.

Well I'm back from 10 weeks in Ohio and ready to make some good progress on the Cozy.  (Oh yeah.. I also spent some time getting to know the family again too!)

I just finished the F22 bulkhead.  This is the forward most bulkhead about where the rudder peddals will go.  It took a good while, about 7 hrs, just to glass both sides.  None of it was hard, it just took a while because of the number of plys on the front side.  On the fwd and aft side there are 2 plys of BID and 1 ply of UND.  On the front however, there are an additional 9 plys of alternating BID & UND placed up to 5 inches in from both the left and right.  All total, 24 plys for entire bulkhead.  My back hurts from bending over the work bench for all that.  The picture shows the fwd side of the bulkhead, peel ply'd and curing before I knife trim the excess.

F22 Bulkhead w/peel ply
Post weight after completion:  2.375 lbs...just a little above average :-)

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

2010 Rough River Canard Fly-In

The one thing I was really looking forward to by being captured in Ohio for 10 weeks was the chance to attend the annual Canard Fly-In at Rough River State Park in Kentucky.  It is thought to be the largest gathering of canard aircraft in the world.  At least nobody has challenged that yet.  This year there were approximately 68 aircraft on hand with the farthest flown from New Mexico.  The non-flying attendees that came the farthest were from Australia!

It was really the first time I had ever been around any significant numbers of canard owners and builders.  What a great group to be associated with!  Each one willing to answer questions and explain thier approach to solving various challenges.  There were some wonderful planes to look at and great learning and inspiration to be had for a builder.  Before I left I grabbed a reservation in the last cottage available for next years event. 

I can't offer enough thanks to my new friend Nick Ugolini for showing me around.  He advertised for a roommate to split expenses and ended up showing me around and introducing me to others.  He probably felt like he had found a lost puppy and wasn't sure how to get rid of him.  Nick was was extremely patient and even offered me valuable "Nick's Nugget's" of advice to help my build.  To top it all off, Nick gave me my first official canard flight in his Long EZ.  What a blast !  That ride will stick with me a long time.   Thanks Nick!

Here are some more pictures of the great weekend.


Saturday, September 25, 2010

Road Trip to Sporty's

Today was a beautiful day.  70 degrees, blue sky...a perfect day to fly.  Having nothing else but homework to do, I took a road trip to the largest pilot supply store in the nation, actually the world...Sporty's.  Sporty's is located at Clermont County Airport, in Batavia, OH.  It was a very nice place but the actual walk-in store was smaller than I expected.  There was a cafe on the second floor, a barber in the building, and I believe an aviation medical examiner where you can get your medical onsite.  After picking up a 2011 FAR/AIM, I sat on a bench in the sun and watched as the planes came and went wishing I was in each and every one of them.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

2010 WACO Fly-In

Day 26 of my captivity.  This weekend was the WACO (Weaver Aircraft Company) annual Fly-In at the historic WACO Airfield and 1920's-40's WACO factory in Troy, OH.  It was a little like walking back in time being around those old classic airplanes.  There's a museum on site with lots of pictures from the factory days.  WACO was even the prime contractor for the old WWII gliders.  Here are some pics from the trip.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

2010 MERFI

While stranded in Ohio I've found a few things to do when I'm not doing homework or doing actual work from Florida.  This weekend was the Experimental Aircraft Association's Mid-East Regional Fly-In in Urbana, OH.  There were approximately 75 aircraft in attendance representing a good mix of homebuilts, certified, and a few warbird aircraft.  In attendance, and I think based there at a museum, was the only flying Pitcairn Autogiro from the 30's.  This was the predecessor of the modern helicopter.  Click hear to read about what its like to fly.  the Pitcairn Autogiro made an appearance in the movie " It Happened One Night " staring Clark Gable.  Here are some pics.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

On Hold...

Everything has to go on hold while I attend a 10 week class for work.  I'll return to work on the bulkheads in November.


Sunday, August 15, 2010

Instrument Panel

The IP is made from multiple pieces of foam and pieced together before glassing.  I used the full size plans I bought as a template and a seamstress pattern marker to transfer the template to the foam.  I did run into one small problem...

As I mentioned before, the plans kit comes with a set of drawings but some of the bulkheads templates are only half drawings and you have to make the mirror image.  That's not that big a deal but I thought it would be easier just to have the full sized drawings.  The full size set was provided by a former builder.  Just in case there could be differences between the two, my process involved checking the full sized drawings against the plans drawings to make sure any changes had been picked up.  In the process of checking the IP, I noticed a 1/4" difference in the height of the two sets of drawings.  Which one was correct? 

After consulting with the Cozy mailing list I decided to go with the larger dimension as I could always trim excess if needed.  After a little more checking of different drawings and actually measuring the distance between WL marks, I actually found that it was the plans drawings that were distorted in the vertical axis...presumably from the copying process.  This may explain why several builders report having IPs that were 1/4" short when they went to install. I've decided to stick first with dimensions as called out in the instructions and second, with the full size plans for any measurements I need to take from the drawings.



Here We Go...The Seatback Bulkhead

Well, at long last, it's time to start building real aircraft parts.  The long journey ahead starts with the fairly straight forward building of the front seat back.  It's made out of 3/4" medium density foam, glassed on both sides, and becomes one of several structural bulkheads running from one end to another in the fuselage.  At this point I went ahead and purchased a small 10" table saw from Lowes.  It was perfect for cutting the 45 degree beveled edges at the top and bottom of the seat.  I'm sure it will come in handy more.  The beveled edges are necessary because the seat reclines 45 degrees when installed in the aircraft making for a relaxed seating position while flying.
Glassing the front went very well.  I am peel plying everything.  Peel ply is a process of applying a dacron fabric over the completed wet glass until it cures.  When you pull it off, it leaves a surface that doesn't need any sanding or other prep to be able to bond another piece to it.  Otherwise, fiberglass parts that must be bonded to other parts must be sanded with very course sandpaper to eliminate any smooth areas that won't adhere well.  The sanding process will cut fibers in the glass--not the best situation.  With the peel ply process, I don't have to worry about where I might have to bond something in the future, it will already be prepared.  The peel ply also works really well to hide transition areas between two layers of glass.

Seatback, glassed on both sides now and
 positioned approx like it will sit in the Cozy

The back side of the seat back didn't go as well.  I ended up with several lean (dry) spots under the surface as well as a few bubble type voids.  At first I was pretty dissapointed. I can only guess that I got in a hurry and didn't do an adequate job of wetting the glass cloth and moving the air out of it.  After a close inspection and a review of the inspection criteria in the plans, I decided that none if it, even taken as a whole, was severe enough to force rejection or repair.  I couldn't just leave it though, everytime I saw it I would be reminded that I could have done much better.  Besides, this would be a good opportunity to practice some of the repair techniques. In order to fill the voids, I puchased a couple of the largest syringes CVS pharmacy had in stock and carefully injected expoxy into the voids.  This worked great !  Then I thought...this might work on the lean areas?  Sure enough it did.  The trick was to poke an air relief hole on one side of the dry patch, then inject from the other side.  A little heat from a heat gun made this process a breeze.  I was able to cure most of the larger lean areas and make I then felt much better about the part.  Next time I won't let myself get rushed.


Monday, August 2, 2010

Tools for Composite Building

Chapter 3 introduces the builder to a number of items that are needed to build with composites, provides an education on fiberglass techniques and the different terms and processes you will use, and walks you through some exercises to practice those techniques before you start on real parts.  First the tools and equipment.

1.  You will need a flat top workbench that is at least 11ft x 3ft.  The length is to support the lenght of a wing or canard when you perform the assembly and layups.  These are obviously parts that need to be built true, without twist or curve, so the top must be extremely flat.  I built mine to be 12 x 4 like many others.  I followed the recommendation of a few other builders and purchased I Level TJI Engineered Floor Joist to use as beams for the workbench. There happend to be a millwork place about an hour from me that carried them. They are very solid and will keep your bench from twisting. I used 4x4s for legs and installed levelers to aid in leveling the entire table. The biggest problem I had was getting the tops of the beams all lined up to make a flat top. One of the beams was not as flat at the others on top so I had to shim under it until I got the partical board I used on top nice and flat. I worked for a few hours but finally got the top within .1% of level no matter where I checked it. Then I placed masonite over the top to provide a clean surface that would be easy and cheap to replace when needed.

Epoxy pump and insulated
heated cabinet
2.  An epoxy pump will make your mixing much quicker and easier.  Like most builders, I also built a heated epoxy cabinet to keep the epoxy at a good working temperature.  I used an old shelf cabinet I already had, installed foam insulation inside, and outfitted it with a light for a heat source and a dimmer to make the temps adjustable.

3.  You also need to keep your fiberglass cloth from getting dust or any contaminant on it.  I used the same idea that other builders used and constructed a wall mounted cabinet that folds up from the bottom to protect the cloth.  It has two sections that unfold into an approx. 6ft cutting table. Although it works well, it's probably not the design I would use if I did it again as I've pinched my fingers twice now by holding it in the wrong place when I unfold it.  I've now marked the end of the table with "NO GRIP" markings to remind me to hold it on the sides when unfolding the table so the outside legs don't catch my fingers when they fall into position.

Glass cabinet closed to keep cloth clean

Glass cloth cabinet open for cutting

4. One other tool I'll need is a foam cutter.  Chapter 3 shows you how to make one but I've decided to wait on building it since I won't need it for a while anyway.

Chapter 3 gives you a full list of recommended tools, both hand tools and things like a band saw, table saw, and drill press which will make some things easier.  I purchased the tools package from Wicks Aircraft Supply as well as their special package of Cozy Girrls tools.


Sunday, August 1, 2010

The CAF Emerges

Since the end of May, I've been focused on converting the garage into what I call the Cozy Aircraft Factory (CAF).

New lighting...I replaced the poor lights with 2 sets of 4-bulb, 48" floresent lights giving me much more light for which to see the Cozy.

I insulated the garage door with Prodex Total Reflective Insulation.  My garage gets the direct sun until 1100am and can really warm up the CAF fast in the summer mornings. 

 To make the CAF a more year round fabrication facility, I insulated the attic above and 2 exterior walls with lose fill insulation.  In the pic below you can see the holes drilled to pour in the insulation.  Then I purchased a portable air conditioner/ heater/dehumidifier which I'm sure will help make things much more tolerable in the extreme seasons.  Working well with epoxy and fiberglass is very temperature dependant.  You need a warm place, warm parts, and warm epoxy, perferably 80 degrees or more, to give you good results.

I had to install utility shelving high on the back wall to get much of my storage up and out of the way and completely reorganized the place to make as floor space as I could. 

Here is what it looked like after I finished. In this picture you can see the overhead utility shelves on the back wall.  Note this picture was taken after I had also built the required 12ft long work bench and other items you need to fabricate the larger parts.  I'll discuss those more in Ch. 3.

The Cozy Aircraft Factory Ready for Action

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Learning to Work With Fiberglass - Exercise #3

In the last exercise, I built a bookend.  The process of building the bookend gives you experience with glass on glass, corners, flox, and other techniques neccessary for the entire building process.  It's not the prettiest thing in the world when complete, since it's not painted or anything, but the exercise gives you a boost in confidence in your ability to actually build something useful.

Fiberglass practice bookend
Time to try my hand at the real thing.


Sunday, July 18, 2010

Learning to Work With Fiberglass - Exercise #2

In exercise #2, I built a tapered beam made of a piece of medium density foam sandwiched between layers of fiberglass.  This is designed to demonstrate the strength of composites and introduces you to working around curves.  After the part cured, I had each of my two oldest sons stand on each end (~100 lbs each) while balancing it across a broomstick...This stuff is strong.  The lesson learned here was that it's easy to get air bubbles in places where the fiblerglass is difficult to keep tight inside corners.  Oh yea...and did I mention how strong it was?


Saturday, July 10, 2010

Learning to Work With Fiberglass - Exercise #1

Chapter 3 provides all the education you need to build with composites...even some practice.

The primary purpose of Ch 3 is to educate the builder about fiberglass types and techniques, epoxy, and how to identify problems in your fiberglass layups.  The chapter even guides you through practice exercises so you can learn the process without the stress of trying to learn on real parts.  The Rutan video on building with composites is really helpful.  It is a must-watch video just as chapter 3 is a must-read.  As you get deeper into the project, the plans will stop telling you everything you need to do and assume you are using what you've learned and applying it.  I went through it several times and still went back to reference it as I started real parts.

Exercise #1 is a simple flat plate layup of fiberglass to learn how to wet out fiberglass and knife trim it at the right time (which is a sanding saver!).  I thought it was simple enough when I performed the exercise but after it cured I found that it had some dry spots in it...not enough that you would throw it a way if it were a real part, but it still suprised me.  If you look close in the 2nd picture you can see the cloudy areas that were a little dry.  A fellow builder recommended using a heat gun during the process to make the epoxy more workable and allow air bubbles to rise up easier.  Boy that worked great and I will use a heat gun as a part of all my layups now.  Thanks Ron!
Wetted out, untrimmed layup drying on the bench
Finished fiberglass plate being held by my youngest mechanic
On to Exercise #2


Friday, June 11, 2010

They're Heeeree!

The plans arrive !!!  I am now the proud owner of Cozy Mk IV plans serial number #1606.

Included in the plans are 2 volumes of spiral bound plans (26 chapters), a set of drawings (full sized but the bulkheads are only half sheets), a DVD of a 70's vintage Burt Rutan video on working with composites, and a Cozy MkIV Pilots Operating Handbook.  For another $50 I purchased an additional set of full sized drawings.  These drawings are not just full sized but full width so you don't have to make mirror images of the bulkheads on your own.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

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Where to Build??

If you're going to build an airplane, you have to have a place to build it.  I chose to convert my two car garage into an aircaft factory.  I know that if the airplane isn't close, then I won't work on it as much as I could, which of course means it will take a lot longer.  My goal is to do something every day, no matter how small, toward the completion of the Cozy.  Here is what the garage looked like as I started.

Before - still not completely cleaned out
 from the move last summer
You can build all the major components in the space of the garage. You can't attach the wings (which are designed to be removable if needed) but you can build them and then rent a T-hanger at the airport for final assembly and checkout prior to first flight.

As you can see I had stuff all over the place.  It had actually already been cleaned some.  The fiberglass you see in the floor was to go in the attic above the garage as part of insulating the garage for winter building.  Still quite a bit of other work to go to make a suitable building area.