Finishing Kit

04/09/2002: Deposit on engine.

Section update (02/09/2013): I have deleted the section describing the purchase of an Eggenfellner Subaru Firewall Forward package for a couple of reasons. First and foremost, Eggenfellner is no longer in the Subaru business. Second, while I believe it is possible to create a decent Subaru package, after a few years of experience with one and seeing a few others come and go, I can’t help but pass along some advice – don’t. Unless you are a serious gear head with real, actual engineering experience, you are unlikely to succeed in this venture. From what I have seen, it takes more than one installation to get all of the details right. And even then, the nightmarish adventure of sourcing custom parts, collecting and analyzing performance data, and designing tweaks to the solution are way beyond the capability of most people. If you are the 99%, then hold your nose, strap on Lycoming and forget about easy, cheap, or fast solutions in the alternative engine market.

10/28/2002: Finishing kit on order.

Placed the order with Van’s for the finishing kit. Expected delivery is last week of January, 2003.

02/13/2003: Big crate!

It’s here! This is the biggest crate yet, but amusingly, contains the fewest parts. Included is all of the big fiberglass pieces – cowl, wheel pants, spinner, fairings – as well as the BIG plastic bubble that will be a canopy some day. No kidding either – this thing is huge. I honestly don’t know where to store it where it won’t get accidentally beat on. Also included in the kit are the wheels and tires, which is handy. I immediately put these together so that I could roll the fuse around the garage more easily to make some room.

As usual, Van’s did an amazing job of packing everything and there are no missing, damaged or backordered items.

through 05/18/2003: Canopy frame spaghetti.

As I mentioned in the fuse section, the line blurs between fuse and finishing kits. From here on out, I am going to declare myself in the 75% done, 90% to go category and call it “finishing” even though I am nowhere near it.

One noteworth item is that it was so easy to get the canopy frame into the right shape that I wonder if I got a defective one. 🙂

through 05/26/2003: Bubble, bubble, toil and trouble…

18 hours: Unfortunately, once I split the canopy, it seemed like the fit was not nearly so good anymore at the front. There was a significant gap between the plexi and the canopy frame that caused severe deformation when clecoed together.

Resolution: I took the canopy frame and clamped the plexi to it, then let it sit out in the sun for a few hours. I initially tried to put a small electric heater under it, however its internal thermostat would not let it come on.

This closed the gap just a little bit, so I went ahead and drilled it to the frame. No cracks!! Onward…

through 07/27/2003: Have Engine, starting panel, hiding from the heat.

80 hours: OK, long time since we had an update, so here is the deal:

I took apart my little space heater and bypassed the termostat. For several days, I would place the heater under the canopy and let it get HOT. This has helped a great deal in getting the canopy to fit together better; there is a lot less stress on it while clecoed together. It is now at the point where I am confident it is OK. I think the bottom line is that I split the bubble just a few inches too far aft, which resulted in a good fit at the rear of the canopy, but a poor fit at the front. I think it might have been easier to deal with a poor fit at the back because it could have been hidden using plastic washers to fill the gaps between the plexi and the canopy frame. The problem at the front of the canopy can’t really be hidden easily with the canopy open.

Once the issue with the plexi was worked out, I went ahead and completed the entire slider portion. It turned out to be quite a lot of work, mostly in just making things fit. The rear skirts took several hours to form in such a way that there was a minimum gap along their entire length. I am still having a slight problem with the side skirts in that they appear to be too close to the fuselage sides and are binding. Next time I take it apart, the frame will get a slight adjustment, plus the side skirts will be fitted better after reassembly.

I got a few good hours of time in cleaning up some miscellaneous tasks that I have been putting off. This includes:

  • Finishing up some details on the elevator electric trim. There were some fit issues with the servo access panel, and some interference with the pushrod once it was in place.
  • Rework the elevator counterbalance weights. The original plans call for placing a lead weight on each side of the counterbalance rib. Since there is no cover on the inside of the counterbalance arm, it leaves open the possibility of the weight coming loose and jamming the elevator. Not happy. So, I just put both weights on the outer side, where they are encased by the fiberglass tip. Easy, no mods to the weight required, and a failure mode eliminated. Cool!
  • Trimmed and fitted elevator fiberglass tips.
  • Riveting in nutplates for the wing root fairing.
  • Install the static ports in the fuse.
  • Split the flap bearing blocks. These were very tight, so I cut them in half to allow some AN-960 washers to provide some breathing room for the weldment.
  • Fit and drill the F-704K covers. You can’t rivet these covers in until the last minute because you would lose access to the bolts that attach the roll bar to the fuse.
  • Finished some miscellaneous riveting on the fuse.
  • Install the NACA vents using our favorite all purpose fuel tank sealant.

Once that was all done, I hit a wall with the fuselage. I can’t really do anything else to the cabin until I paint the interior. So, I disassembled everything possible from the fuse and laid it out on the garage floor. Then, all of a sudden, it got hot. I mean, real Phoenix desert hot. I mean, really, really, really hot. In fact, we have been setting some records lately. On July 17th, we had a record low of 96 degrees. We also had a record high a few days later of 117 degrees. In a word, OUCH! My monkey ass aint going out in the garage with the heat turned up this high.

So, here we are in the last week of July, and I haven’t touched the airframe in 2 1/2 weeks. But, the good news is that I haven’t been idle either. I ordered the RST audio panel and marker beacon receiver kits from RST Engineering . It took just about 23 hours to complete both kits, but I have not tested either one yet. The kits are very nice, however the PC boards are very densely populated. Unless you are really good with a soldering iron, and have a steady hand, I would not recommend that this be your first electronics project. Fortunately my experience in Amateur Radio has been a great help here; I have had lots of time on a soldering iron.

The final bit of news is… ENGINE IN THE HOUSE, BAY-BEEE. Well, actually the crate is out in the garage. What a deal. It was kind of a hassle getting it delivered. The local trucking company had it for a couple of days and didn’t bother calling me until they were prodded by Elizabeth over at Eggenfellner Aircraft. But the best part was that the day they decided to deliver it, “both” of the companys’ lift gate trucks were out of service, so they decided to send it on a non-liftgate truck and hope that somehow by magic a loading dock and forklift would appear in front of my house. Well, to say the least, that did not happen. The crate was within 20 feet of my garage and it may as well have been 20 miles, because it was not coming off the truck. The driver was convinced we could slide it off the back and muscle it to the ground. I then told him what was in the crate and how much it cost. He then changed his mind. So I had to wait an extra day for them to find a truck to make the delivery, and finally, the big crate arrived.

through 08/10/2003: Interior paint.

17 hours: Well, it is 110 degrees outside, dusty, windy, “high” humidity… the worst conditions for painting. If you have been reading this journal carefully, you know what this means – time to break out the paint gun.

Yes, the cabin area from the firewall to the baggage compartment finally got a coat of paint. The bottom line is that I could do very little else with the airframe at this point without doing some of the finishing work. I decided a coat of paint would be the easiest solution, and actually it turned out pretty nice, considering the paint I used was Rustoleum gloss Smoke Gray. The paint shot fairly well right out of the can, but I decided on the second batch to thin it with just a bit of mineral spirits. The canopy frame, rudder pedals and weldments, roll bar and gear weldments all got a coat of industrial flat black. Frankly, I was hesitant about using this paint as I could find very few comments about it in the usual homebuilding archives. So I decided to experiment.

through 10/13/2003: Fuel plumbing and miscellaneous stuff.

25 hours: Rumors of accidentally painting myself and getting stuck to the garage floor have been greatly exaggerated.

Between record setting temperatures and dealing with business around the house, not much shop time has been logged. Several miscellaneous items have been taken care of, such as: riveting top aft fuse skins on, running conduit from the baggage area to the tail, installing the static air ports and running the line forward, and installing the vent, feed, return and brake lines.

Found some time to get to the Copperstate fly in this past Sunday, but unfortunately we seem to have missed the party… nobody was there. By the time the airshow started at 11:30, all but about six planes were gone. Maybe next year… 🙁

through 11/13/2003: How’s it hangin’?

20 hours: Spent a few hours in the shop doing some more fuel line work, as well as assembling the landing gear components. Got the fuse back up on the gear again. But a lot of time I spent just moving stuff around preparing for the next milestone event. Finally cleared out a big enough space to work with and… hung the engine. There is another photo of where I left off with the fuel lines earlier.

Drilling the nose gear leg was a nothing job – don’t know why there is a whole chapter dedicated to it in the manual. The REAL trick was honing the mount tube so that the leg would plug into the engine mount. I started out with a small Scotchbrite wheel in a drill but was not making significant progress. So I went up to emery cloth, and then to a file. After filing the welds down on my hands and knees for an hour, I finally broke down and went to Pep Boys to buy a brake cylinder honing tool. Well, that didn’t make the job go faster, but sitting there holding an electric drill letting the tool do the work was much easier. Eventually the leg was able to clear the welds and slip all the way in.

There is only one other trick to mounting the E-Subaru engine. Initially drill the two top holes and one bottom outboard hole exactly where the prepunched holes in the firewall are. After lining the engine mount up, put a bolt in one of the top mount holes. You will need to pull the other side apart as the mount arms will collapse slightly while the engine is hoisted. Put the second top bolt in, then the one outboard bottom bolt. The trick is that the bottom part of the mount is a solid tube and that other bottom hole must be lined up exactly, so drill it “in assembly”. Once all four outboard bolts are in, then drill the two lower inboard bolts.

through 11/30/2003: Break on through – penetrating the firewall

20 hours: Mounting everything to the firewall is like trying to solve a big jigsaw puzzle without knowing what the final result is supposed to look like. The hardest part is punching holes through the firewall – you have to be careful and plan ahead so that the holes and what goes in them will not interfere with anything on the cabin side.

I was seriously thinking about having the fuel feed come through the firewall somewhere in the middle so that the flow of piping would be more naturally in-line, however I eventually decided against it. This meant however, that the hose from the gascolator has to do a fairly tight 180 degree turn to go to the pumps. To alleviate the need for stressing out any of the hoses, I put together some pipe fittings from the local Ace Hardware store.

The fuel pump assembly that came with my engine had an inline filter with input and output on opposite ends. This turned out to be a hassle because I could not orient the whole assembly as is anywhere on the firewall. So, I decided to extend the hose out of the pumps a bit and let the filter “float” between the mount and the fuel rails, supported by clamps on either side.

On the return side, things were a bit simpler and were installed exactly per the manual

through 01/25/2004: Details, details and more details

60 hours: The holiday season and the lack of a paying job have allowed me to crank out some work in the shop. One of the things I was forced to do was create a list of as many of the small detail items that I put off over the last few years until I had the tools, materials or inclination to actually do them. Turns out there were quite a few of these detail items and I had a hard time picking a place to start. Having a list that I could run down and check off as I did things really helped.

Once most of the firewall penetrations were complete, I began on the somewhat daunting Chapter 6 of the E-Subaru install manual. This is the chapter on the electrical system. At this point, I have all of the primary power distribution cables made up and ready for soldering. I also went through and installed all of the sensors for the Grand Rapids EIS 2000 engine monitor. I had to stop at this point however, because I simply could not visualize a lot of the details of routing cables through the fuse to the panel. I decided to lay out and install the panel and forward rib assembly before proceeding here.

That of course means I had to find other stuff to do, of which there is plenty. One of the things I put off was installing the rudder and brake pedal system so that I could work on fuel line plumbing and finishing other parts of the forward fuse. So I took a few hours to fit and drill the brake pedals, and install the weldments into the fuse. I also completed all of the brake system plumbing.

Another one of those details was getting the aileron trim servo installed. My advice is to install this servo as early as possible. Since my elevator pushrods are already installed, it was a HUGE struggle to install the lower two screws. I ended up buying a Craftsman offset ratcheting screwdriver to tighten everything down. It still was not easy, but it is finally in.

Some of the other smaller details include riveting the slider canopy rail, steps and rudder stops, installing the muffler mount, installing the lights into the Duckworks landing light holders, fabricating and installing some reinforcements in the baggage floor for mounting the ELT, fabricating and installing mounts for the Whelen strobe light power supply, and creating a panel layout.

After adding up all the hours in my builders log, I find I finally broke 1000 hours of shop time.

through 03/20/2004: Swearing at the rats nest

80 hours: I was a bit surprised that designing the instrument panel took so much effort. It wasn’t too hard picking out the equipment that I wanted, but it literally took about 50 hours to figure out where to put it and document the effort in a CAD layout. I went through at least three ground up designs before I settled on what seems to be a reasonable compromise, and finally this week sent the panel out to be cut. Since this is a high visibility item, I want it to look somewhat nice – not like some idiot with a flycutter and a drill press cut the holes and tried to cover the mistakes… Anyway, as soon as it gets back I will post a picture of the final result.

Once that was finally done, I got into running the wires. Back in January, I honestly believed I had started down the road of running the electrical system when I ran some of the engine harness wires. Hah! I had an idea of how much wire it would take to make everything work, but it has been quite an effort making up cable bundles and routing everything literally from one end of the fuse to the other.

Here is a big HINT: MAKE MORE HOLES TO RUN ELECTRICAL WIRES! Because the ones on the plans are not enough… with strobe and position lights, landing light, taxi light, three antennas, a pitot line, remote ELT, cabin speaker, flap and trim switching power there is simply not enough hole in the spar box to fit everything through. The plans indicate that you can make an additional hole near the center of the spar box for either the manual trim cable or electrical wiring. Make it. Use it.

Another thing that I wish I had done was order the five conductor cable for the Ray Allen servos. That would have saved some hassle with making up very long 5 conductor cables.

And yet another hint – you really do not need to install the control column assembly until you are nearing final assembly of the plane. Leave it and the smaller elevator pushrod out. Running big cables through the center tunnel is a pain otherwise. It can be done, but it is a pain.

By the time I got done getting everything rough cut to length and routed through all the bulkheads, the cabin area looked like some huge horrific rats nest of wires and tubing. It was hard to believe that I had all the wires run, and harder to believe that I will need to plug the ends of all those wires somewhere into the system. But that will be the next problem…

through 04/22/2004: Home stretch…?!?!

Nearly 110 hours (yes, I have been busy): A productive month indeed. I have checked off quite a few boxes on the list of things to be done.

To sum up at least 65 hours of work, the entire electrical system is installed and working. The entire instrument panel (with the exception of the Aerospace Logic fuel indicator which is on backorder) is at least temporarily installed, wired up and functional. The engine has been run on the aircraft’s own electrical system. Truly it is a thing of beauty.

As a satisfied customer, I have to say that Ross at Experimental Air did a fantastic job of getting the panel cut to my specifications.

In general, the electrical system as a whole is something that I grossly underestimated. It is not particularly problematic, but it is time consuming and often frustrating. I literally spent several days at a time simply routing wire bundles around the airframe, installing connectors, labelling wires and making connections to the panel. I would say count on at least 200 hours from the time you start wiring to the time your panel is operational.

While my panel was off at Experimental Air being cut, I started on the fiberglass gear leg and wheel fairings. This included finishing up some work on the caliper mounting hardware and running brake lines. About two months ago, I ordered the intersection fairings from Fairings Etc., which happens to be located near Glendale Airport. After a little trimming, they seem to fit well, although I haven’t permanently installed them yet.

Another one of those “little” tasks that has been overdue is to install the heater hose plumbing, flush the coolant system and add NPG+. Well, I finally got a chance to start on that recently. Once the electrical system was done and I was able to run the engine again, I replaced the coolant with Sierra to help flush the water out and ran the engine. After heating up to about 180 degrees, the thermostat was open and coolant flowed. I also took this opportunity to see if the fuel flow sensors and alternator hookups were OK. The jury is out on the fuel flow sensors. Either there is less than 0.1 gph all the time or something is hosed. Anyway, after draining the coolant a second time, I started tapping into the system and installing the heater valve. The hardest part was trying to figure out where to put it and how to route the control cable. I finally settled on clamping the valve and hoses down to the top rear of the engine, and running the cable through an eyeball on the firewall immediately behind it. The hole is below the swirl pot bracket, and the cable runs underneath the intake duct to the valve. The valve is located just aft and under the throttle assembly. One thing I made sure of is that even if both clamps and the cable fail, absolutely nothing can interfere with operation of the throttle.

During this time I also embarked on a little side project to build a heater/outside air mixer. I detailed this in a seperate page in the Miscellaneous section.

Finally, after only 30 weeks of waiting, my MT prop arrived. Apparently the MT production line was a tad slow, so the initial 10 weeks that was promised as the delivery time was blown big time. Oh well, par for the course. Anyway, once everything arrived I was able to fabricate the brackets for and install the brush block. The prop package comes with a nice wiring harness, so making all the connections was easy enough. One of the things that must be done is to drill out the prop flange holes to 7/16″. This turned out to be fairly easy, using lots of cutting oil, a sharp bit and a good electric drill motor. I was able to then hang the prop so that I could measure and align the brush block. Unfortunately I neglected to get a picture of the plane with the prop on it.

Another nice event was the arrival of my seat cushions, manufactured by Classic Aero Designs. They did an absolutely unbelievable job. The workmanship on these seats is simply top notch. A couple of days ago I put the seats into the plane and sat in them to help me locate the engine control bracket and heater ducting. They work really well.

It turns out that with the panel done and the prop and seats finally here, that another minor milestone has been reached. I now have all of the major pieces of the plane to complete it, except for paint. Not only am I happy, but my check book is thrilled. I am now on a short list of things to do to finish the project. Granted, some of the tasks are not that small (ie, “fit the cowl” and “windscreen fairing”), but I have definitely confirmed that the light at the end of the tunnel is NOT an oncoming train, but is in fact daylight. For the first time I feel like this is the home stretch!

through 05/31/2004: Progress at any rate…

60 hours: Where did the time go? Hardly looks like I have done anything to the plane, but I know I have been working on it!
I have been working off a bunch of smaller items, such as making heat shields for the fuel pumps and batteries, hold down for the batteries, VOR antenna mount and coax run, doubler for the ELT antenna mount, and filling the brake system with fluid, then draining it, redoing the leaky flares, and refilling again.
In order to start fitting the cowl, I clecoed on the top front skin, then I riveted on the piano hinges on the sides and bottom. After about 5 or 6 hours of trimming and sanding, it still don’t fit right. What a hassle. But it really does look like an airplane when the cowling is attached!

I also got about half of the tail tips installed (finally). If I haven’t mentioned it already, I hate working with fiberglass. It is a nasty business.

through 06/28/2004: Fiberglass sucks.

70 hours: I hate fiberglass. The statement in the instruction manual about the fiberglass taking longer than you realize is really true. The stuff is horrible to work with. I have spent a total of 27 hours on my cowl, and another 17 on my wheel fairings. They still are not done. They all need at least one more round of fitting/cutting/sanding. Then they can finally be prepped for painting. Ugh.

Fitting the cowling was an unhappy experience all around. I must have put the cowl on and taken it off 500 times. The upper and lower halves mostly lined up when joined, but the lower cowl at the front left corner had about a half inch gap. I endup up cutting out the whole corner and epoxying in a foam block to replace it.

I then sanded it down to match to the contour of the upper half and glassed it over with about five layers of cloth.

After weeks of sanding, trimming, fitting, drilling, sanding, more fitting, more sanding, etc. etc., it is mostly complete. However, the most annoying thing now is that it is really a problem getting the hinge pins in and out. They are really tight. Now I know why people use camlocks or other means of attaching the cowl.

I tell you what though, it sure looks good with that MT prop hanging out front.

The wheel fairings didn’t go a whole lot better, however the job was made easier with the Fairings Etc. intersection fairings. After epoxying them in place, I added three layers of glass to smooth it out a bit. They came out really well, but still require quite a bit of work before getting painted.

Working with fiberglass really requires a different mindset. You can rough out a shape pretty easily, but the hard part is sanding it to the final shape or contour, then filling and sanding over and over until you get a relatively nice smooth part. And if you do any serious filling or a layup with epoxy, you have to wait 9 to 14 hours for the thing to set.

The good news is that I got my instrument panel painted (finally) and repopulated it with instruments. It is actually looking quite good. I also cleaned up some of the wiring while I was at it.

through 07/31/2004: Best and final. Fit that is.

about 60 hours: Well, it is 110 degrees outside, dusty, windy, “high” humidity… the worst conditions for painting. If you have been reading this journal carefully, you know what this means – time to break out the paint gun.

Actually I put in quite a bit of time this month doing final fitting of stuff. All of the wheel and leg fairings are properly fitted. I also installed the new Moroso expansion tank and overflow tank to the firewall. Along with that came some replumbing work, as well as building the coolant loss detection circuit and probes.

Another final fit effort went into the instrument panel. After removing for paint a few months ago, it is finally completely assembled and fully installed. One round of final tests to make sure everything is still wired correctly and it is done.

Also finally got around to installing the wing tips. I had been saving them (as suggested by Vans) until near the end, although I honestly see no reason to wait. I installed nutplates on the tips to make them removable.

I spent a couple of weeks rearranging the garage (again) trying to make room to build a paint booth. Because of the large amount of crap I have out there, it is not possible to build the full size booth that I want. So, the painting process is going to go in phases. The first phase involves building a smaller paint booth of approximately 8′ by 12′. This should be just big enough to paint the wings, flaps, ailerons and some miscellaneous parts. Once these items are done, they all get moved to the hangar. Then, the phase two booth will be finished, which will be large enough to hold the fuselage.

As of this morning, I made a test run of the painting process by priming the ailerons. So far, so good! I am using the Aircraft Finishing Systems paint system. A fellow RV-9E builder is letting me borrow his Citation turbine respirator and HVLP setup, which works pretty well. Once I get into the groove of painting, things should progress quicker. I am hoping to get the wings painted and out of the shop this week, but we will see…

through 09/22/2004: Painting is hard.

40 hours: A few months ago I emailed someone asking a question about why he didn’t paint his airplane. His response was “Painting a whole airplane is a big job”. Well, he was right. And all those people that said you shouldn’t learn how to paint by painting your airplane were also right.

My overconfidence in my ability to spray paint comes from spraying nothing but primer. I first attempted to paint my flaps. The primer went on really nice, but the topcoat was a disaster. It was full of runs and sags. I got on the phone to AFS and talked to them about what might be going wrong – turns out just about everything I was doing was wrong. They also said something along the lines of primer being very easy to shoot, even under difficult conditions. Great.

So, two of the fundamental issues were temperature and humidity. Too much of one and not enough of the other. In spite of starting at 6am, it was getting too warm to paint (over 80F) by about 8am. Also, the hot air generated by the Citation HVLP turbine was heating the paint up at the gun quite a bit. As for humidity, well, it is Arizona.

To solve the temperature problem, I switched to my old compressor powered, gravity feed, Harbor Freight special $39 paint gun. I also put the air hose into a large cooler filled with ice water, and added a water filter to capture condensation. Humidity was raised by spraying some water in the paint booth on the walls and floors.

The other thing that AFS told me was the proper spraying technique. You simply just cannot dump a full wet coat on with the first pass. They recommended at least two fog coats before a wet coat. In my environment, I had to use four fog coats. After that, four additional coats for solid coverage was typical. Now, after reading this, you might be saying to yourself, “Gee, that’s a lot of work!”. Well son, you would be right.

The bottom line however, was that the paint starting looking really good. Unfortunately, however, spraying lots of coats increases the chances of something going wrong during one pass. There are a couple of spots where I sprayed an area too wet and got some runs or a big sag.

At this point, I have the elevators, horiz. stab, both wings and wing tips, flaps and ailerons painted and moved to the hangar. I am still working on the fuselage. In fact, this past weekend, I made the fiberglass windscreen fairing. After some final fitting and touch ups, the fuse will be ready for paint. All of the other glass pieces will need some prep work also before paint.

Of course, now that I have rejoined the work force, my hobby life has been severely crimped. The pace of getting the plane done has slowed quite dramatically (in fact, more dramatically than I had been hoping). But I am still planning on first flight to be this year.

through 10/24/2004: Disappointed.

40 hours: Well, it is done – the fuse is painted. But, as with everything else, the end result is not without its disappointments.
It took a couple of weeks of work, but the paint booth Phase II was constructed and took up a full 1/2 of the 3-car garage. After washing and prepping the fuse in my driveway, I pushed back into the booth and started setting up for paint. Fortunately, the weather has finally broken and for the last week or so, it has barely gotten up to 80 deg.

So, this weekend, I primed the entire fuselage in about 5 hours on Friday. Then, on Saturday, I top-coated with generic white. Everything was going so well – not one sag or run, even on the vertical surfaces! So on Sunday, I decided to paint my “N” number on using the vinyl paint mask I bought from Aircraft Spruce. I applied the masks, threw a plastic sheet over everything else and shot some black paint. Again, perfectly shot paint!
But then, tragedy struck. I started pulling off the paint mask, and just as I noted that it was sticking awfully good, suddenly I saw a gray patch under the mask… I felt sick as I realized the mask had pulled a patch of the top coat off. After nearly shedding tears, I very carefully peeled the rest of the mask off on one side, then proceeded to the other side. Double tragedy! As I started peeling the second number’s mask off, a large patch of gray primer became visible as the top coat pulled off.

I attempted to touch up the areas that were damaged, but there is little hope as the patches are still extremely obvious. My nearly perfect paint wrecked by the silly paint mask. How disappointing is that.

One thing I know for sure is that I am not going to take any more chances of ruining the rest of the job. I was going to add a couple of stripes to the sides, but now I think I can live with a plain white plane. If I decide to add some color later, I might just buy some vinyl stick-on type decals. At least I know for sure they won’t come off…

through 11/27/2004: Abduction Rumours and The Big Move.

20 hours: Rumours of my abduction and subsequent enslavement by a large defense contractor are absolutely true. Since I started back to work in September, I have done a lot less work on the plane than I had hoped. Now that the holiday season is upon us again, I should get a few more days here and there.

The big news is that the fuselage has been moved to the hangar. It was loaded onto one of those flat bed tow trucks and driven down the road at a blistering 25 MPH the whole 11 miles to Glendale Airport (KGEU).

Meanwhile, back at the shop, I have been trying to find time to finish painting the last few items – the VS and rudder are primed, as well as all the wing access covers. Only the fiberglass parts remain – the cowl and all of the fairings.

Finishing the fiberglass has been hell. I can’t imagine ever building an entire plane out of fiberglass. Round after round of sanding and filling, and still I just can’t seem to eliminate all of the pinholes and uneven surfaces. I have followed Van’s suggested method of painting with epoxy thinned with acetone, then using a creme body filler compound to fill the low spots and pinholes. I am getting real tired of all the sanding – I must have at least 60 hours into just finishing the cowl and I still have more to go.

through 12/24/2004: Almost real.

countless hours: It is really looking like a real airplane now. The tail has been permanently attached; the wings have been mounted; the antennas are on. For now, I will let the picture say a thousand words and just wish y’all Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

through 01/18/2005: Final checklist.

Over the last two months I have put in a lot of time working off the final tasks. On 12/31/2004, a milestone was reached when the prop was installed. Gas was put into the left tank and no leaks were observed. The engine was started and after a few brief smoke tests, the first taxi was performed!

The brakes are a bit tight, and the audio panel has some issues apparently with RF causing feed back in the cabin speaker. I have also run into an issue with the low fuel pressure switch. After forgetting to turn the fuel selector to Left from Off, the fuel pressure spiked at 65 psi. Apparently this blew out the pressure switch as it started leaking gasoline.
A replacement was quickly received, however the new switch was not working at all. Pulling the connector off caused the terminal to break off, necessitating the forking over of $85 for another new switch. Not good.

through 02/25/2005: Inspection date set.

More countless hours: Coming down to the wire. In the last month or so I have knocked off quite a list of items – install vents in the cowl, label the instrument panel, replace the fuel pressure switch (twice), ripped out my audio panel and wired in the SL-30 intercom instead, and a long list of nit-noise items.

The only “airworthiness” items left are to do the weight and balance, and finish up the cowl hinge pins which have really been painful to deal with.

As such, I have contacted a DAR and set up an inspection date for early March. One more stack of paperwork and I am home free…

through 03/05/2005: Checklist complete.

It is with great amusement that I find myself checking off the “last” item on my final building checklist. The weight and balance is done and there are no more tasks that need to be done prior to first flight except the inspection.

The weight came in a bit porky at 1188 lbs. On the other hand, I made no overt attempt to conserve on weight. This makes flying with another Bubba sized adult tricky unless a lot of fuel is left behind. However, there are no CG issues. You really have to work at blowing the CG limits.

through 03/11/2005: Have AROW.

It’s done.

On Friday, March 11, 2005, N194TC received an airworthiness certificate.

I must say I was almost as nervous as my first checkride in the days leading up to the inspection. As it turned out, everything was ready and it was just a matter of going through the excercise.

My DAR had asked for draft copies of the paperwork ahead of time, and said not to worry about it as we would be updating things as we go along. The inspection itself concentrated mostly on the control system, and a few minor sqauwks have been easily corrected. After looking over the entire plane, and verifying all the “legal items” were present, some logbook entries were made and a pink slip was issued.

At this point, I will conclude this chapter of the journal and create a new section to document the flight testing of my airplane.

Total time to build:
First Journal Entry: 04/06/2001
Last Journal Entry: 03/11/2005
Total shop hours logged: 1644.0