14.99 – Painting

This entry is part 36 of 36 in the series 14 - Final Assembly / FInishing

One of the things I recall when I started this project was not to paint until after about one year.  That’s because there are lots of tweaks that get made during Phase I flight testing and just after.

And (for me) that was good advice.  While I didn’t have to make any wing incidence adjustments, there were a number of minor changes that would have been painful to make had the plane been painted.

Started working towards paint last fall. But after a number of delays, I finally went down to Sebastian to begin the process. I flew down on Monday morning and by the end of the first day, most of the plane was disassembled.

IMG_20170612_165755

By lunch time on Tuesday, all removable, paintable parts had been removed. On Thursday, I began sanding. Fortunately, the plane was in really good shape.  The primer had yellowed which made for a really nice guide coat. It wasn’t as easy to see as a traditional black guide coat but other than pinholes, it worked very well.  For pinholes, a flashlight and pencil worked out just fine.

By the end of the day on Monday, everything was sanded out and most of the pinholes were filled. At this point, I had done all that I could do.  Actual masking and painting is best left to the professionals. So I drove back up to Panama City to wait for the call to come down and start putting everything back together.

11.1.8 Cowling Attachments

This entry is part 17 of 17 in the series 11 - Fairings

One of the changes I made during my build was to replace the screws which attach the doghouse cover to the canard with piano hinges with pins that are removed from inside the nose.

http://www.velocity-xl.com/blog/2008/08/16/6-8-2-doghouse-attach-points/

I also used an internal J-hinge for the nose hatch and a hidden latch. This means there are no visible screws on the forward part of the aircraft.

When the cowling was being prepared, I considered using piano hinges there as well. But three things stopped me. One was that I couldn’t figure out how to deal with the cowl to fuselage attachment. I knew from experience that the slight curve of the hinge for the doghouse cover made for a bit of challenge getting the pin to slide into the hinge easily. The fuselage curve would be significantly more difficult.

The second was how to access that cowl-fuselage pin. There would have to be some type of hole in the cowl to insert the pin and you need a latch of some sort.  Malcolm said he built one and that it was inserted from below the wing and you had to use a drill to get in fully inserted.

And the third was time. At this point I was about 5 years into the build.  The plane was at Hangar 18 (Malcolm Collier’s shop) so I was commuting from Chicago to work on it. The engine hadn’t been hung yet, the first electrical wire had yet to be pulled and I was looking to get finished. So I made the decision to go with the method called out in the manual which is to use screws with nutplates to attach the cowling.

I used #8 truss head stainless steel screws. I picked up some nylon washers to try and keep the cowling finish somewhat presentable.

And it works.  There’s nothing wrong with the book solution.

But like many aspects, it could be better. In my opinion, the biggest drawback is time.  There are a little over 40 screws holding the upper and lower cowling in place.  I eventually purchased an electric screwdriver to speed up the cowling removal process. But even with that it still takes a long time to remove all those screws.  The heads of the screws round out. Which means I had to constantly replace screws when the head became so damaged that I couldn’t tighten it anymore.   Finally, it just looks… not bad… but not good.

2017-04-13 IMG_20170413_120139

What alternatives are there?

Piano hinge retrofit

I could use piano hinges on the wing roots and where the two cowl halves meet.  Then the screws would just be at the cowl-fuselage junction. The problem with that is trying to install hinges with the engine in place would be very difficult if not impossible.

Camloc’s, Dzus or quarter-turn fasteners

These have been around airplanes for years. Basically they are spring loaded, quarter turn fasteners. They are available in many styles.  The problem is that they aren’t cheap.  But I found the racing version isn’t too expensive. So I got a couple samples.

jegs flatheadjegs oversizedjegs spring

The spring gets riveted to the underside of the lower panel. Then the fastener gets inserted from the outside and picks up the spring.  But here’s the big problem: This would be fine with a sheet metal airplane where the thickness of the panels doesn’t vary.  But with a composite airplane, there are variations in the thickness of all the parts. So you would either need a number of different length fasteners.  And of course you would need to remember which length went in which hole.  Or you could measure and then use shims to create an identical thickness. The other issue is that they are HUGE.  Some of the heads of the fasteners are one inch in diameter.

Then I decided to look into aircraft versions.  Reiff Lorenz gave me a tip for Skybolt located nearby in Leesburg, FL so I started looking at their offerings.  They have a number of different types.  But the one which has the most promise is their Cloc 4000 Series Fasteners.  The best part is they have an adjustable receptacle (like the nutplate for quarter turn fasteners) which can accommodate a wide range of panel thicknesses. I ordered two fasteners, two floating receptacles and two grommets. The grommets are the ring that the fastener goes through on the outer panel.  Kind of like a bezel.

I tested them out on some mockup panels and they work great. I simulated different panel thicknesses by adding washers between the two test panels.  The receptacle adjusted for every thickness I threw at it.  But there were two problems: 1) Countersinking the grommet.  The bottom of the grommet is a 120 degree countersink. But I don’t have a countersink that size and I don’t have one with a 15/32” guide to keep it centered.  2) Cost. Each position was going to cost about $10.  That would work out to over $400 for entire cowling.

As is usually the case in aviation, almost all problems can be solved using the acronym which is well known to boaters. BOAT: Break Out Another Thousand (dollars). Fortunately, it wasn’t that bad.  On the runup to Sun-n-Fun, Skybolt was having a sale. 10% off.  And they have a special tool for countersinking for the grommets.  And it’s ONLY $145.

Since there is a price break at 50, I bumped up the number of parts so I would have some spares. The parts came out to about $440.

Here is the receptacle.

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The small stud on the housing prevents a spring clip from engaging. This allows you to turn the receptacle in or out to adjust it. Once you have it at the correct depth, you remove the stud, rotate the receptacle 90 degrees in or out (whichever is closer) and the clip engages the receptacle locking it in position.

I installed two on the upper cowling just to see how difficult the install would be, how it would look and most importantly, how it would hold up. The installation was too bad, but the results were very nice.

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After about 4 hours of flight time, I could see no adverse wear or stress as a result of the two fasteners. So now it’s time to get serious about installing.

The first task was to make a drill guide. It would have been nice if the rivet holes matched the existing nutplates, but with the size of the receptacle housing, that wasn’t going to happen.  Skybolt sells a drill guide but I spent my lunch money for the year on their countersink tool. So I grabbed some steel (never make a guide you need to use more than two times out of aluminum) marked, drilled and cut.

2017-04-28 IMG_20170428_145850

I filed down one corner so it would fit close if there was a raised edge.  Now, all I have to do is attach this guide to the flange with a #8 screw into the existing nutplate.

If the rivet holes were farther apart, I could mount  the receptacle in the same orientation. But because they’re just a little farther apart, that won’t work. I tried rotating the receptacle 90 degrees but in many cases there wasn’t enough room.  So I had to settle for rotating it about 40 degrees off of the existing nutplates.

Installation

Here’s one of the nutplates on the flange of the wingroot.

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After the two #30 mounting holes have been drilled.

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Next, remove the old nutplate by drilling out the rivets with a #41 drill bit and enlarge the center hole to 15/32”.

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Then countersink for the new rivets and install the receptacle.

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I’m not a fan of pop rivets. So whenever possible, I use solid rivets. Pop rivets are used for places that I can’t get the rivet squeezer into.

Preparing the outer panel for the fastener.

Here is the cowling where the #8 screw was used to attach the cowling. Notice how the screw head/washer has displaced the paint (actually primer since I haven’t painted yet).

Because the new fastener will be in the exact same position as the old screw, it’s a simple matter of enlarging the hole to accommodate the grommet. A step drill gets the opening to within about a 32nd of an inch.  Then a 15/32” drill bit finishes the opening.

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Finally the incredibly, insanely expensive special tool is used to create the bevel for the grommet.

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This is the same type of bit used with the micro-stop countersink tool.  But it has a number of different sized guides which attach to the pilot. Once the micro-stop is adjusted, it only takes a second to create the bevel.

2017-04-27 IMG_20170427_131932

Once that’s done, it’s time to put the cowling on, insert the fastener, and then tighten until the head of the fastener is flush with the grommet. Then remove the fastener without rotating the receptacle. This is accomplished by pushing in firmly while releasing the fastener. Remove the cowling and then remove the stud. Insert a flat blade screwdriver into the receptacle and turn in or out a quarter turn to let the spring clip latch into the receptacle. That’s it.

2017-04-27 IMG_20170427_151602

Repeat about 40 times and you’re done.

I think that when the engine comes out for overhaul, I’ll retrofit piano hinges on the wing roots and upper/lower cowl joint. But until then, this solution will work nicely.

Here’s a split screen view of the left and right side.

Before-After

Parts:
SK245A161A  –  Receptacle $4.20
SK40S5-3S  –  Fastener $3.29
SK-GS – Grommet $1.99
MS20426AD4-5835 Solid Rivets

Tools:
#30 drill bit
#41 drill bit (to drill out old nutplates)
Step drill bit
15/32” drill bit
Rivet Squeezer
Counter sink for 3/32” hole
SKC4S (Counter sink for grommet)
Drill
#2 Phillips Head Screwdriver
Large Flat Blade Screwdriver

 

 

 

 

 

Glide testing and V speeds

This entry is part 7 of 7 in the series 16 - Flight Testing

One of the tasks during Phase I flight testing is to determine the significant flight speeds.  Things like Vx (best angle of climb), Vy (best rate of climb) and Vso (stall speed in landing configuration).

Stall speed is easy… especially in the Velocity.  Just keep going slower and slower until the canard stalls.

The climb speeds were a bit of work though. Basically you pick a starting altitude (I chose 4,000′) and then get into a full power climb at a defined airspeed before hitting that starting altitude. Then hold that airspeed for one minute and see how much altitude you gained.

Repeat for at least four airspeeds. I chose 70, 80, 90 and 100kts. Then take those results and plot them on a graph. On most conventional aircraft you end up with a pretty bell curve. The peak of the curve is your best rate of climb. Then you draw a line from 0/0 to where it just meets the curve and the point it touches is your best angle of climb.

Normally, it looks like this:

VX-VY Traditional

It this example, Vy would be about 86kts and Vx would be 80kts.

But the Velocity is anything but normal.

Here’s the chart I ended up with:

VX-VY Velocity

Not exactly what you would call a bell curve, huh?

For Vy, 80kts gave me the best rate of climb at 1,386fpm. But there’s almost no forward visibility at 80kts since it feels like you’re looking straight up.  And it’s about 20kts above the canard stall.  And finally, 90kts is only 10 feet per minute slower. 100kts is only 4fpm slower than 90kts. So I like 90kts as Vy.

Vx is real tough.  I could run another flight test and see where 60kts comes in on the graph, but I don’t think I would like the deck angle or being that close to the stall speed at that angle. So I would be happy saying that Vx is 70kts.

Except that I don’t like the idea of flying at that angle. And because I have all the data being recorded, I was able to determine the deck angle and the distance covered during the climb. The deck angle really isn’t significant since what you’re really trying to do is get as high as possible over a given distance. What I discovered is that the distance covered for 1,000 feet of altitude gained is:

70kts: 1.069nm
80kts: 1.082nm
90kts: 1.233nm
100kts: 1.532nm

While 70kts is obviously a better climb angle, 80kts provides the same altitude gain with only an additional 80 feet of distance.

So for me, 80kts is now the official Vx.

And if I’m ever in a situation where I REALLY need to get higher in the shortest possible distance, I know that 70kts will get me over that mounding pile of zombies. I just need to watch the CHT’s and make sure I don’t get any slower.

Even though this was done during Phase I Flight Testing, I wanted to lay the groundwork for some recent testing.

Foreflight recently added a feature where it draws a line around the plane that shows how far you can glide (it factors in terrain and winds). In order to use this, you have to know the glide ratio. During Phase I, I figured the best glide speed (basically, minimum sink rate), but didn’t know what the glide ratio was.

I did some research and discovered what glider guys have known for years. The Polar Glide Chart.  Basically, this is the same chart that I used to determine the climb speeds. It’s just inverted. Now the glider pilots take this way deeper than I need to go, but the concept is the same.  Pick a starting altitude, fly a decent at a constant speed, then after 1 minute record the altitude lost. Go back up and repeat at another three airspeeds. I used 5,000′ as my starting altitude and 100, 90, 80 and 70KIAS for airspeeds. Like I did with the climb tests, I did all the descents in the same direction in roughly the same place, this way I could use the flight data recorder to also determine distance.

Here’s what a chart would look like for a traditional airplane:

Vld-Vbg Traditional

Here we can see the airspeed which gives you the minimum sink rate (or most time in the air) is about 62kts. The airspeed which would provide the greatest distance looks to be about 65kts. I can’t find any official designations for these airspeeds. I’ve found Vld which is supposedly the best “Lift to Drag ratio” so that sounds like minimum sink rate. And I’ve seen some references to Vbg which is supposed to be “Best Glide”.  So I’ll use those. If anyone knows the official terms, please let me know.

Now for the results of my recent testing.

Vld-Vbg Velocity

Not very different from the climb chart.

In this case, minimum sink would appear to increase the slower you fly. But like before, teetering on the edge of a stall isn’t a smart way to fly. And the vertical speed difference between flying at 70kts and 80kts is only 20 feet per minute. So 80kts seems like a good choice for (what I’m calling) Vld.

For distance, it looks like about 88kts would give the best glide distance. But according to the flight data, 90kts gives me a glide ratio of 13:1 while 80kts gives me a glide ratio of 13.4:1.

So in the interest of simplicity, I’m going to call 80kts Vbg.

Now in the real world, if the engine ever stops, the glide ratio will increase since there will not be the drag from the windmilling prop.  Not sure how much it will improve the ratio, but more is usually better, right?

 

15.99 – Crash Axe Holder

This entry is part 8 of 8 in the series 15 - Interior

During the build, one of the things that I thought about is how would I exit the plane if it were upside down? Better to think about this now than when time is short.

Because of the gull-wing doors, it seems like it would be rather difficult to open the doors with the airplane on its roof.  Some planes have quick release doors. Basically a way to remove the hinge pins. I thought about implementing this and talked to Malcolm who had some ideas as well. The problem is that trying to implement it after the doors have been mounted would be a chore.  And it would require an opening to access the hinge pin from inside the cabin… which would allow water in.

So I came up with “Plan B”.  Busting out. I researched “Crash Axes” and found a bunch… that weren’t practical. Either because they were too big and heavy or they were insanely expensive.  I found one for $400.

In the end, I settled on the “Dead On Annihilator” demolition tool. Small and only 2 pounds. The claw is razor sharp and it’s long enough to provide some leverage.

Now where to put it?  I decided to put it on the side of the cabin just aft of the B-Pillar.  To keep from snagging things and prevent it from becoming a missile, I made at holder for it out of foam and some lightweight BID.

A length of Velcro strap should keep it in place until needed.  Which is hopefully never.

IMG_20170221_120347

7.2 – Nose Gear Door Actuator Replacement

This entry is part 38 of 38 in the series 07 - Landing Gear

Early on in the build, I decided that I didn’t like the idea of closing the nose gear doors using hydraulics. There’s a lot that can go wrong there and it’s a more complicated approach.

IMG_5822

Hydraulic lines, cylinders, switches, etc. Yuch!

Fellow Builder Terry Miles had a nice solution that I liked.

IMG_9583

Another guy who had also come up with a mechanism was Ken Mishler. And he sold these.  So why reinvent the wheel?

Wolf DSC_0190

Unfortunately, Ken wasn’t making any at the time and didn’t know if he would. So I found a local machinist, drew up some plans and ended up with my version of the Terry Miles actuator.

2010-07-22 0610 IMG_0668

This worked very well. Went overcenter with the gear down and closed the doors when up. But it had three problems.

  1. It had a very narrow range of adjustment.  Basically, you could adjust the linkage. That’s it.
  2. Adjusted with the doors closed, the tire would rub on the door when spinning. This created a burning rubber smell in the cabin.
  3. With the gear up and doors closed, any increase in air pressure in the nose would cause the doors to open slightly. Two things caused this: a) air leaking from the nose oil cooler. and b) Air leaking into the nose through the gear doors.  Either of these would cause the “Gear Unsafe” warning light to come on.

There was a simple fix to these problems; Longer arms.  But my machinist was retired which meant that I didn’t have anyone to make me a new set.  I could have kludged on some extensions, but that’s not a good way to do things.

Then I found out that Ken was making his actuators again.  A bunch of people have installed these so I ordered one.

2016-11-30 IMG_20161130_133353

Nicely built, the spring provides some give in the system so the doors stay closed even if the nose gear bounces a bit.

It also came with the rod ends to connect to the gear doors.

I used 1/4″ aluminum rod for the connecting rod between the upper and lower rod ends. First I had to determine the correct length of the base connecting rod.  So I installed the actuator in what I thought would be the best location. Then I measured the distance from the holes on the actuator to the holes on the gear door arms. Then I subtracted the length of the rod ends (to halfway the threaded part).  This gave me the length of the connecting rod.

I cut a pair that length (I think it was 3-1/2″) and started to drill the holes which would receive the rod ends. This brought me to my first, seemingly insurmountable problem. How do you drill a 5/32″ hole in the end of (what is effectively) an 8/32″ rod and be exactly in the center without wandering?  The obvious answer is a lathe. But I don’t have one nor do I have access to one.

So this is how I got around that minor barrier:

I chucked each piece of the 1/4″ rod into my drill.  Then I smoothed and flattened each end.

Next I got some 1/2″ (ID) tubing that I had laying around and cut off a piece about 3″ long.

Then I wrapped some tape around the 1/4″ rod near the end so that it just fit inside the 1/2″ tubing.

I then took a 7/16″ drill bit and clamped it in the bench vice and wrapped some masking tape around it until it just fit into the tubing.

Now I’m ready to go.  I chuck the 1/4″ rod into the drill, slide the 1/2″ tubing around it (the tubing extends past the end of the rod by about an inch), slide the end of the tubing over the 7/16″ drill bit and slowly start drilling. You just need to go a little because all you’re doing now is creating a pilot for drilling with the #21 bit.  By doing it this way, the pilot is almost exactly in the center.

Now slide the 1/2″ tubing off the rod, put a #21 bit in the vise, get the bit in the pilot that you just created and start drilling. Since you’re turning the stock instead of the bit, the hole will be perfectly centered in the rod.

Do that four more times and both end of the two connected rods are now drilled and ready for tapping the end with a 10-32 tap.

Here’s what it looked like after assembly:

2017-01-18 IMG_20170118_123722

As soon as I raised the gear, I discovered the doors would close on the nose wheel. That’s because the linkage was too short. If I made them longer, the mechanism wouldn’t be overcenter when down… Unless I moved the actuator up.  So I did that (making new connecting rods wouldn’t be that much trouble). But once you move it up enough so that the mechanism is overcenter, the roller that rides on the gear leg becomes perpendicular to the leg. So now it becomes a stop. I asked Scott Swing and a couple other builders who used this mechanism how they got it overcenter and they all said they didn’t. No matter how much they tweaked it, they couldn’t get it to work properly when it was overcenter.

I decided to re-position the actuator so the doors would close properly and made stronger springs to hold the doors open. The concept of being overcenter is sound, but in reality, if the springs are not strong enough to overcome the force of the air on the doors, then they would never open far enough to go overcenter in the first place.

Next I discovered a problem that I ran into when adjusting my mechanism. I have to remove one of the rod ends to adjust the length of the linkage. This is a pain and you only can adjust it one turn at a time (which may be too much) and you can’t adjust it in position.

The next issue is that this mechanism is narrower than mine.  Because of that, the lower rod ends where beyond their allowable limits. The fix there was to rotate the rod end 90 degrees. But then the stud isn’t long enough to go through the gear door arm.

The solution to the adjustment problem is to use right hand threads at one end and left hand at the other.

Here’s what I did:

I ordered a pair of left hand threaded rod-ends for the bottom from McMaster-Carr.  I’ve never needed left hand taps before and they aren’t something you’ll find at Ace Hardware.  So I ordered those as well. Since I’ll be tapping blind holes, I ordered the set of left hand taps.  That way you’ll have the taper, plug and bottoming tap for just a couple dollars more.  I was going to order the left hand jam nuts but at McMaster you have to order 50 and it would cost about $10.  So I got six (two spares) from Spruce for about $3.

I made a new set of connecting rods with the top ends tapped for right hand threads and the bottom was tapped for left hand threads, I was almost ready to assemble everything. But there was one last step to be done. I flattened the rod in the middle to accept a 1/4″ wrench.

To attach the rod ends to the door arms, I drilled and tapped another piece of 1/4″ rod stock and cut them about 1/2″ long.  Then I drilled out the existing holes in the door arm to 1/4″, sanded the rod pieces, coated them with epoxy and inserted them in the door arm holes. Once the epoxy cured, I filed them flat.

Before screwing in the rod ends, I used some loctite to keep them from coming loose.

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I used a couple of thick washers to move the rod end forward. I was hoping that would be enough to get the mechanism overcenter. But it wasn’t.

Once I got everything assembled I didn’t like how close the actuator was to the hydraulic line coming out of the canard bulkhead.  So I ordered a close clearance 90 degree fitting and rerouted the hydraulic line.

Here’s the current setup:

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One the test flight, everything to worked fine. Except for the burning rubber smell. So I need to tweak the adjustment a bit more.

Change suggestion:

If you’re going with ANY mechanical door actuator, move the rear door arms forward about 3-4 inches.  They are where the manual has them to accommodate the hydraulic door actuator. But if you’re using a mechanical actuator, if they were just a bit forward then you could easily get the linkage overcenter.

 

 

12.99 Cabin Heat

This entry is part 48 of 48 in the series 12 - Engine / Propeller

Update at the bottom of the post.

Even after the recent modifications, I’ve still got issues getting cabin heat. Here’s what (I think) is happening:

While I am getting hot air from the system, I’m not getting enough volume. On our recent flight to Atlanta, Ann was getting cold so I turned on the heat.  After a while, it didn’t seem like it was getting any warmer. I asked her to put her foot down where the air outlet was to see if any hot air was coming out. She said that she wasn’t feeling any but she wasn’t sure if she was checking in the right place. It’s down on the very bottom of the canard bulkhead between the rudder pedals but you can’t really see where it is.

On the trip back, while we were taxiing out, I turned on the heat and asked her to check if she could feel any hot air coming out. She said there was a definite blast of hot air. Once in the air, I had her check again. Nothing!

Hmmm.

Here’s what I think is happening:

On the ground, the damper which blocks the hot air from going out the bottom of the fuselage and diverts it into the cabin works fine. But once in the air, the shape of the outlet at the bottom of the fuselage creates a vacuum.  Because the damper doesn’t create an airtight seal in the duct, I think that vacuum is literally sucking the hot air out the bottom.

My solution is to create a lip or flange that the damper can seal against to block the air from being sucked out.

So while the nose gear doors were out, I disassembled the nose oil cooler ducts to access the damper. I sanded the duct area around the damper and then applied a liberal amount of release agent (AKA, Vaseline) to the damper.  Then I mixed up some epoxy, cabo and some flox and applied it to the duct around the bottom of the damper. Once it cured, I broke the damper loose and cleaned up the excess.

Because of the tight working area, I had to repeat this a few times to get the required coverage.

2017-02-14 IMG_20170214_1313582017-02-14 IMG_20170214_131445

Now I just need to test it out.  I’ll attach an extension duct to the co-pilot side outlet. That way I’ll be able to tell if this fix worked.

Update:

I connected a 6′ shop vacuum hose to the copilot side heater duct. The OAT was about 50f. With the outside NACA blocked and the diverter closed to allow heated air into the cabin and the fan on max, I was feeling hot air coming out at a noticeable flow.  It definitely needs more flow though.  I’ve got a pair of 1.5″ centrifugal fans that should increase that flow.  But that will be for a later day.

For now, I think that I’ve got enough hot air for anything above 30F.

15 – Cargo net

This entry is part 7 of 8 in the series 15 - Interior

One of the things we discovered on our first cross country is that baggage storage isn’t as easy as in the Cessna. And once the bags are stowed, they can easily come forward since the baggage shelf is elevated above the floor.

When I was coming home from Sebastian, I picked up a cargo net from Walmart which was kind of okay except there was no easy way to attach it.

I asked members of the VOBA (Velocity Owners & Builders Assoc) how they attached their cargo restraints and was tipped off on these.

Anchor Point Tie Downs

I like the idea. When not in use,  the only thing visible are the round plates. But four won’t be enough. I really need six.  I hate the idea of buying 8 just to throw 2 away.  So I went directly to the manufacture and bought 6.

Then it was a simple matter of embedding 6 drilled and tapped hardpoints and covering with the requisite 2 layers of BID.

Once it cured, I installed the mounting plates.

2017-01-26 IMG_20170126_110449 2017-01-26 IMG_20170126_110443

Then, rather than use the hooks to attach the net, I looped it through the rings.

2017-01-26 IMG_20170126_111551

Now if we ever hit turbulence, I won’t have to worry about Ann’s luggage coming up front.

13.99 – Switch panel update

This entry is part 66 of 66 in the series 13 - Electrical / Instruments

I have two primary switch panels.  The first is what I call the “Overhead Switch Panel” (OSP) which is located overhead (duh) between the front seats.

The second is the “Left Lower Switch Panel” (LLSP) which is located below the pilot side EFIS.

V1

My philosophy for the switch placement in the OSP was that these switches were for startup.  Once the engine was running and the airplane was ready to move, these switches would not be touched.  Part of the reason for that was these switches would be a bit hard to read in flight because they are so close to your head.  Furthermore, the switches would be switched up left to right during startup and then down right to left during shutdown.

The LLSP would be for things that I would need to activate or deactivate in flight. AutoPilot, Pitot Heat, etc.

I later added colored covers to the switches to identify function and purpose. Red was always up, yellow was lighting, black was fuel pump, blue is pitot/static, white is autopilot and green is the starter.

When I added the EFIS 1 backup battery, the easiest place to locate that was on the LLSP.  So even though it should be on the OSP, it ended up down on the LLSP.

Here’s what I learned after flying for a year.

I have impulse couplings on both mags which means instead of starting on the left mag, I start on both mags. So the to keep with the left-to-right start sequence, the mag switches were out of order. Next is that my hot start procedure (which works EVERY TIME), is to switch the boost pump on low while cranking the engine. So I need both hands on the OSP during engine start and then once the engine catches, I need to be on the throttle immediately.

Since I was going to be painting the interior, now was a good time to clean up the switch locations. So here’s what I did.

V2

Moved the EFIS 1 switch to the leftmost position on the OSP. That gets turned on during preflight.

The navigation lights are now on whenever the master switch is on.  Since the Velocity doesn’t have a rotating beacon, I use the nav lights as an indicator that the power is on.

Next is the Master switch.

Now it’s time to prime the engine. Fuel Pump is on the LLSP to allow for the hot start.  But the engine isn’t even running yet so it’s okay to jump down to the LLSP for this one.

Next is both mags on and then hit the starter.

Once the engine is running and stable, the Alternator comes on (primary alternator is all the way up now) followed by the Avionics.

I usually turn on the landing light on when I’m ready to move. Since the landing lights flash once I hit 90KIAS they need to be warmed up by the time I’m ready to take off.

Strobes come on when I take the runway.  It’s the rightmost switch so it’s easy to find without looking.

I grouped the LLSP so that fuel pump, autopilot and pitot/static switches are together.

The really nice thing about this change was how easy it was.  Without the VPX, it would have been a pain!  But with the VPX, just make a couple of changes in the config and it’s done.

 

 

15 – Interior Repainting

This entry is part 6 of 8 in the series 15 - Interior

Way back when…

I decided that instead of covering the pillars and fresh air plenum, that I would paint them.  Since Ann was in charge of picking colors for the inside, I gave her some different options on paint and she picked one. I then obtained the pull handles for the A-Pillars and proceeded to install the handles and paint the interior parts.

Since paint manufactures sometimes stop producing a particular color of paint, I bought a supply in case I needed to repaint.  The results were great.  It was a textured paint which hid flaws nicely and dings or scrapes didn’t show very much.

Interior painting.

Then we got the seats covered.  And given that the sample material was kind of small, Ann missed the color match by just a bit.  Then after she spoke with Justin about the interior, she broke the news to me:  The interior color would have to be changed.  And the color they selected wasn’t available in a textured finish.

So it was time to get to work.

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One of the vents for the rear seats couldn’t be removed.  I was going to tape it off but I noticed that it wasn’t closing. so I created an access panel (more work) and removed it.  I contacted Aveo Engineering and explained that while I had purchased these vents over 6 years ago that they had only been in use for about 1 years. They sent me a replacement at no charge!

Then it was sanding, filling, sanding, filling, etc. It was much harder this time since a) the plenum was already installed and not on a bench and b) the plane was not upside down so the overhead parts weren’t on the floor.

But after much work, it was done.

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One thing I’m not happy about are the A-Pillar pull handles.  I painted them because I couldn’t find any at the junkyard in the right color. I’ll keep looking.

While all this was going on, I also made some changes to the switch panels.

13.99 – ADS-B in antenna

This entry is part 65 of 66 in the series 13 - Electrical / Instruments

For ADS-B in, I’m going somewhat old-school.  While I could have gone with an installed ADS-B receiver and displayed the output on the Grand Rapids EFIS, I don’t like that approach.  I like having weather on a device other than my PFD.  And displaying it on the co-pilot EFIS would have it too far away for my taste.

Currently, I use an iPad with Foreflight for charts, approach plates, weather and traffic.  A Stratus II provides ADS-B weather and traffic. And I like it that way.

But I’ve been unhappy with the reception performance of the Stratus internal antenna. They sell an external antenna, but it’s $70 and probably would only be marginally better.

I exchanged some email with Jim Weir of RST Engineering (his manual is what I’ve used when building antennas). He gave me the spec’s for building an external antenna for the Stratus II.  Basically, it’s two 3″ legs. The real shocker was the connector that is used to connect to the Stratus.  It’s an unusual, tiny-ass connector and the best price that I could find was $17! (normally, coax connectors are around $1-4)

Once it came in, I donned the magnifying headset and terminated the RG-174 cable to the unbelievably expensive Hirose connector. Then I decided to run a little test.  Before installing the foil antenna and connecting the coax to it, I separated the shield from the center conductor and used duct tape to attach it to the side of the fuselage just aft of the instrument panel.

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I went up and checked the reception status and this is what I saw using the internal antenna:

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Receiving from four towers and one was showing a 51% error rate.  This is actually pretty good compared to what I normally see. Then I connected my new, test antenna. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a screenshot, but it was showing 5 towers and all had 0% error rate!

So now I’m debating whether to go to the trouble of building the the foil antenna and just sticking this one behind the panel.