The last really big check

…I hope.

I wrote it to Tim Hass and the folks at Approach Fast Stack for a Garmin 10.3″ G3X Touch EFIS system with Sirius XM, GTN-650 GPS/Nav/Comm, GTX-45R ADS-B In/Out transponder, GMA-245 audio panel, GMC-307 autopilot mode controller, two GSU-28 autopilot servos, and all the associated Garmin boxes that go into a G3X installation.

All these gadgets will be connected to one of Tim’s Fast Stack Pro-X hubs, which will make wiring significantly easier and neater.

ProX hub

It’s worth the (relatively) few extra dollars to speed up avionics installation, and the resulting product will be a lot easier to upgrade should I ever want to.

Jumping ahead to the instrument panel

One of my side projects over the last several years has been designing and re-designing the instrument panel. This is one area that every new builder likes to jump into right at the beginning of their build, and it’s probably one of the last areas we should worry about because the experimental avionics market changes so quickly.

But I’m at the point now where I must make provisions on the instrument panel fo specific avionics, so it’s time to commit to avionics equipage and cut the panel. You can tell by the picture below that I’ve chosen Garmin avionics for just about everything except the Advanced Flight Systems AoA indicator.

I decided early on that I’d have the panel professionally cut so I needed to find a shop that could do the CAD layout and also had the ability to do CNC milling. There are lots of panel design and cutting providers on VAF, but I’d heard good things about Bill Morelli at Up North Aviation in Swanton, Vermont and decided to give him a try. I’m glad I did.

I already had a basic idea of what I wanted in the panel, so I gave my ideas to Bill and he came right back with full-size CAD layout PDFs based on my inputs. For most iterations I’d have Kinkos print out the PDF at full size, cut out the panel from the print, overlay it on the blank aluminum panel, then make adjustments that I sent back to Bill for a new CAD layout. Bill and I went through this cycle many times, and he was extremely patient with all the little tweaks I requested.

The above picture is Bill’s CAD rendering of my final design, and the picture below is the end result after Bill cut my panel.

I’m extremely pleased with how it came out!

Here’s one example of the quality of Bill’s work. I pulled out the Advanced AoA display head and temporarily attached it to the panel. The fit is practically perfect!

With the panel cut, I’m warming up my frequent-flier rewards card in preparation for big avionics buys at Oshkosh…

Firewall prep, engine mount and gear reinstallation

The remainder of canopy work, mostly laying up the fiberglass front fairing, is on hold until warmer weather. So for the last two weeks I’ve been working on laying out and installing everything that needs to be on the firewall before the engine mount is permanently reattached.

Firewall hole layout

Throttle, mixture and prop cable penetrations laid out on firewall.

Cheap hole punches at work

Cabin heat control box mounting holes cut, using my inexpensive Lowe’s knockout punch to cut the throttle cable penetration.

Deconflicting the throttle and fuel bulkhead passthrough

Not a super clean hole, but better than I could have done otherwise.

Modified fuel reinforcement

Fitting the fuel line penetration doubler.

Firewall progress shot

The oil filter cutout and battery box are in temporarily installed so I can begin laying out battery and starter contractor locations.

Fitting starter/battery contractor doubler

Fitting the starter/battery contactor doubler.

Battery and starter conductors temp fitted

Battery and starter temp fitted, laying out location of ANL fuse holder and current-measuring shunt. The relative locations of the battery (top, silver) and starter (black, bottom) contactors was as close as I could get to Van’s plans locations while still accommodating the different style of starter contactor sold by B&C.

Doubler laid out for ANL holder and shunt

Doubler outline laid out, ready for fabrication.

Delayed by physical fitness

Mid-April – a running misstep led to a fractured ankle. No airplane work for a couple of weeks…this sucks.

Riveting things to the firewall

Back to work in early May despite the booted ankle.  With Ellen’s help, we got the contactor/fuse/shunt doublers and nutplates riveted to the firewall.

Electrical component doublers

The result of an evening’s work – battery and starter contractor doublers and nutplates riveted to the firewall.

Everything riveted to the firewall

Everything (almost) is now riveted to the firewall, ready to install electrical components, battery box and control cable passthroughs.

A mostly populated firewall

I was able to sneak away for a few hours and get most everything installed on the firewall. A few minutes of work for a nice little bit of visual progress.

2016-05-14 14.46.50

Fast forward a few days to finishing firewall prep and permanently reinstalling the engine mount. Ellen joined me at the hangar to help with fitting, bolting, torquing, hoisting and gear reinstallation. No more ankle boot, so moving around the airplane was a lot easier.

Fuse on the hoist for landing gear install

With the engine mount firmly and permanently attached, we hauled out the engine hoist and tow strap to get the fuselage high enough for the landing gear to be reinstalled.

Back on the gear for good

…and the fuselage is back on the gear for good. It’s engine hangin’ time!

Free to a good home…

Back when we put all the small fuselage pieces together into one big pice, I built a spiffy rolling stand to hold the fuselage so I could be moved easily around our small garage. It was adapted from plans provided by Lars Pedersen on VAF.

It served its purpose well, and we’ve used it as we attached wings and tail, fitted the canopy, and prepped the interior and firewall.

Wings on...

But now that the landing gear is on the fuselage (hopefully) for good, it’s time to pass the stand to someone else who can put it to good use.

Wing stand 2

It’ll definitely fit an RV-6, -7, -8 or -9 fuselage, and maybe a -10 as well but I haven’t measured it to be sure.

Wing stand 1

I’ve added some little jackscrew thingies on each corner to make it easier to level the fuselage when/if needed.

It’s free to anyone who will come to the Nashua NH airport and pick it up. All I ask is your promise that you’ll put it to good use on your RV project, and that you’ll pass it on to another builder when you’re done. If you’re interested, use the “leave a reply” link on this post to send me a message and I’ll get in touch with you.

Fun with brake installation

Back before we moved the project to KASH, I temporarily installed the engine mount and landing gear so we could move the fuselage more easily. Because it’s almost time to permanently reinstall both items, the brakes need to be installed before the airplane is on the landing gear for good.

This is probably the most poorly documented part of the project so far in Van’s instructions, in part because they reference Cleveland wheels and brakes – and Van’s delivered MATCO wheels and brakes with my kit. I don’t know why and I don’t think I asked for them, but whatever.

One of the big differences between Cleveland and MATCO wheels is MATCO’s use of sealed wheel bearings rather than Cleveland’s unsealed versions. Bearings with an integrated dust seal last longer, but they’re harder to pack with grease – I couldn’t use my spiffy Lisle bearing packer device which pushes grease through the bearings.  Instead, I had to put on rubber gloves and pack them by hand by shoving grease into every available nook and cranny.

Repacking brake

Yes, it’s a messy job.

One other thing to note about MATCO wheels is that the bearing races are milled into the wheels themselves, and the bearings don’t rotate around the axle. Therefore, it’s important to torque the wheel nuts sufficiently to provide enough friction to keep the bearings from rotating.

Wheel pant bracket

The drawings are also unclear about how the brake caliper and wheel pant support brackets are arranged on the axle. So for those of you who are scratching your heads over this as I did, here are a couple of pictures that show how the assembly goes together. In both pictures the large portion of the wheel pant bracket pointing up, is oriented forward with respect to the airplane.

Reinstalling wheel bearings

Another thing that wasn’t clear was how to get the brake caliper apart to fit it over the brake disc. It’s actually easy, there are two bolts on the back of the caliper that are removed, then it’s an easy matter to install the wheel, torque the wheel nut, then slip the caliper back in place and reinstall/torque the caliper bolts.

Brake caliper removed

Getting real

Over the last couple of weeks the heart of the Mighty RV arrived at the ThermosWorks. If you recall from past posts, I engaged Tim Hess at Unlimited Aero Engines to build, flow-match, balance and test a Superior XP-360 engine.

The heart of the Mighty RV

In mid-February, Tim delivered this work of art to the hangar. It’s been test-run on a dyne stand and produces 184.9 horsepower. The rocker box covers have been hydro-dipped in a carbon fiber weave pattern – Tim’s idea, and they look great…

Hydro-dipped RBCs

In fact, they look so nice that I’ll replace them with stock covers until the cowl is fitted!

A very red engine

The choice of color was Ellen’s, and as usual, she was spot on.  The engine is gorgeous, and my only concern is keeping it looking this way once it’s in the airplane.

The other chambers of the Mighty RV’s heart were drop-shipped from Piqua, Ohio by the good folks at Hartzell Propeller…

A big fan

Not much to see in the box, and the prop will stay there for awhile until it’s time to put it on the engine.

A closeup of the fan

It’s been a long haul to get to this point, and with the delivery of the engine and prop, everything has suddenly become a lot more real…it’s easier to envision this assemblage of aluminum, steel, plastic, blood, sweat and tears as an airplane.