A riveting partnership

My wife is awesome. And she rivets like a pro.

My riveting partner

We finished riveting the turtledeck…well, almost. There are three rivets left on each side that are gonna be a beeyotch to get, but that’s a problem to be solved tomorrow.

The riveted turtledeck

Looks good, doesn’t it? It was all Ellen.

Baggage bulkhead cover

We clecoed the baggage bulkhead in place because we could, and it looks cool.  Plus, it helps keep dirt and dust out of the tailcone.

Buttoning up the turtledeck

The tailcone avionics and electrical wiring are done and I really want to rivet the fuselage “turtledeck” skin – the one behind the cockpit. But I also don’t want to dive back there to fix wiring problems once it’s in place.

I’ve smoke-checked the ELT’s RS-232 data connection to the GTN-650, the tail nav/strobe light and even the elevator trim servo. But the last bit to be checked is the servo’s position indicator and the only way to know for sure is to configure the G3x Touch display to read and display position indicator signals. So that’s what I did.

G3x Pitch Trim 1

Configuring the Touch was a lot easier than I feared. All that’s required is to move the trim servo to full up, center, and full down and tell the display when the servo is positioned at each point.

G3x Pitch Trim 2

The Touch calibration page reads voltage coming from the position indicator and displays a gauge preview…very cool. That’s a good confirmation that the tailcone wiring is fully functional.

G3x Pitch Trim 3

And now Elevator Trim shows on the PFD…even more cool!

Turtledeck ready for riveting

A few more minutes and the turtledeck is clecoed into place for the last time and we’re ready to break out the rivet gun and bucking bars.

Current progress

One of the cool things about this stage of the project is that after a few hours of wiring I can turn on some part of the RV’s avionics and see it work.

For instance, I’ve had these Oplite 6 LED lights for several years now and finally got them wired up to the Garmin GAD-27 as instrument panel lights, so they’re controllable by a dimmer on the panel. These lights are really rugged and when driven by one of the GAD-27’s PWM lighting controllers, they’re dead quiet too – no hash on the radio like I’ve encountered with some other dimmers. Very cool.

Panel lights

I’ve also had Whelen LED nav/strobe lights sitting around for a few years, waiting for installation. The tail nav/strobe is finally wired through to the cockpit, and here’s some video to show how damn bright they are…low current draw too, and no need for a heavy strobe pack like older nav/strobe lighting systems.

Next on the list was wiring the flap motor, but I need some hardware to fabricate a mounting bracket. So, I jumped ahead to wiring the Advanced Flight Systems Angle-of-Attack (AoA) system. This is the only “legacy” avionics system on the airplane, as Advanced doesn’t sell it anymore. I hope it doesn’t fail.

For those of you who aren’t into aerodynamics, AoA is the angle at which the wing meets oncoming air, thus generating lift. If AoA exceeds a certain value, the wing stalls and lift is drastically reduced – so you can see why knowing AoA might be important for staying in the air. If you’re really into the concept, watch this video.

AoA is alive!

Everything lights up, and the self-test lady says the system is working…

Of course with all the gee-whiz stuff lit up, I had to take a picture. Enjoy!

A thing of beauty

It’s alive…

Sometimes all those little individual tasks you’re churning on, come together in a moment of progress. Tonight was one of those nights – the battery contactor and avionics relay switches are now active, and the main and avionics busses are connected. It’s time to flip a few switches…

Lots more wiring to do, but motivation is high.

Right side subpanel wiring

Left side sub panel wiring

More wiring in the tail

Even more fun with wiring…working my way forward from the tail I routed serial data and power wires to the ELT and assembled the autopilot pitch servo DSub connector.

AP pitch servo and ELT wiring

I also ran coax to the GTN-650 GPS and G3x GPS/XM antennae.

GPS/XM and light wiring

Assembling coax connectors is fun, at least for me…

GPS/XM antenna connectors

More to follow as I work my way forward to the cockpit.

The nervous system arrives

Back from Thanksgiving with family at Bear Ass Cove on Newfound Lake, New Hampshire and guess what UPS delivered? That’s right – the avionics harness!

Unboxing the avionics harness

I’m almost ready to install the harness – just a couple of empennage things left to finish – but I couldn’t resist stretching it out. This is, essentially, the Mighty RV’s nervous system and having it fabricated by the neurosurgeons at Approach Fast Stack is saving me a *ton* of build time. Cool!

The whole nervous system

Random tasks…

Finally getting a lot of little cleanup tasks done while the avionics harness is percolating at Approach FastStack.

First, I installed this…

Mystery device

First person to guess what it is gets a ThermosWorks sticker or a free beer at Oshkosh 2019.

Second, I dug out the cockpit lights from Oplite and fabricated a small bracket to mount them on the roll bar support.

Oplite 6sOplite wires

These lights are extremely well-made by my friend and fellow RV builder Rich Mileika. In addition to Oplite, Rich owns and operates Machine, Inc, a precision machining company in the greater Boston area. If you need quality cockpit lighting, try Oplite…you’ll like ’em.

And lastly, I replaced the stock Van’s flap motor with an upgraded version made by Pat Hatch at PH Aviation Services.

This motor has several advantages over the stock unit. The motor and jackscrew are separate so grease can’t migrate into the motor windings, a common problem with the Vans motor. It also has limit switches to stop the motor at full extension on either end, and also has a position sensor to report flap position to whatever device needs it.

The only downside is that the flap support bracket must be modified to accommodate the new motor. Rather than trying to rework the existing bracket, I bought new parts from Vans and started from scratch…only took a couple of hours, and Pat’s motor will save some wiring work later on.

The light at the end of the tunnel…

…is getting brighter – it’s time to start installing and wiring avionics. I’ve been plotting and planning how to mount the Garmin G3x Touch system, radios and transponders and I’ve settled on building a tray which will hold all the remote-mounted LRUs, Comm 2 and transponder.

Here’s a cardboard mockup.

Avionics tray mockup…and the tray with avionics temporarily attached.

Avionics tray fitting 1The GAD 27 and GAD 29 are on the right side. Most of the airframe power interfaces will be through the right firewall passthrough so having these boxes on the right should make wiring a little more straightforward.

GAD 27 and GAD 29The GEA 24 engine interface is on the left side as most of the engine sensor wires will come through the left firewall passthrough. Guess where the AoA CPU is going?

GEA 24More pics? Sure, I’m glad you asked.

The avionics tray from overhead