Building the fuselage

These are the rear fuselage turtle deck ribs. If you think that they look time consuming to make you would be correct. I had to make a pair of forming blocks for each pair. Just to keep me on my toes was the fact that they have a double radius which required some serious head scratching each time while I carefully plotted them out.

This view is of looking down into the cockpit. I have pretty well all of the bits and pieces clecoed together. This is almost up the stage of putting the wings on, which I had been worrying about for years!

This is the elevator idler. There are a number of components that are like this. You need to treat each one as it's own little project. When you look at the plans and thing about all of the individual pieces and sub assemblies that need to be manufactured it makes your head spin.

This is what happens when you don't read the plans properly. I made the mistake of riveting the angled bracket into place. However it gets in the way when you need to drill the main wing mount bolt holes. In desperation I hacked off the excess metal that was in the way with a wood blade on an angle grinder. It was quicker to do that than take the wings off again, drill out the rivets and put it all back together again. Making up a couple of new brackets took only half an hour or so.

This is the start of one step that I have been putting off for quite some time....the canopy! There are quite a few horror stories on the net regarding split canopies, the stuffing around getting everything to line up, etc, etc. Well for me it wasn't too horrific. I spent 20 hours rolling the curves, lining everything up and getting the latch to work correctly. Once the perspex was fitted it required more messing around to get it to work properly. I used a step drill to drill the holes through the plastic which was a piece of cake and safe to do.

My daughter is modelling the cockpit with the forward windscreen fitted. I've left the protective plastic on for the time being to prevent damage. I highly recommend using child labour with their skinny arms to get the nuts onto the windscreen screws right at the front!

I purchased the standard horizontal split cowling from Sonex. The plans do show the dimensions to make your own, but it's a lot of work and I hate filling and sanding, which is the reason for building a metal aircraft in the first place. Unfortunately it didn't fit perfectly. The lower cowling was about 1/8" short on the left and 1/4" short on the right. I made the outlet 50% larger than called out on the plans. This ensures that I have the minimum outlet area as the plans show, but it is not obstructed by the engine mount or exhaust pipes. The material that I cut out for the cooling outlet I cut into thin strips and glassed them onto the rear edge to make it longer. Waste not, want not!

Now we get to the top half....again it was too short, this time about 3/4" plus it fouled on the top of the oil cooler. I've cut slots into the top which I will make into the hump to clear the cooler, I can pretend that I've got a blower on top of the engine.

This turned out to be one of my good ideas. I didn't have any release agent and I was impatient to keep cracking on with the cowls. I used a scrap piece of aluminium and left the protective plastic on the metal. I simply clecoed it into place marked a texta line giving myself plenty of extra material and proceeded to lay up the fibre glass

You can see from the photo how good it came out. As I pulled each clecoe off the aluminium just simply fell away from the new glass. Simply brilliant! 

This is the cowlings trimmed up and fitted to the air frame. There is still quite a bit of work to do with finishing off the hump, fitting the mounting screws and making the hatches for the fuel filler and oil filler and dip stick. I'm feeling great at the moment as I have made good progress over the last few weeks.

This is the last of my worries....the cooling baffles. I purchased the baffle kit from Sonex, the plans leave it up to the builder to figure out how to seal the air in. Even with the custome cut outs it is still a pain in the arse. There is still a lot of fiddling, trimming and head scratching to make it all fit. I'm still deciding exactly what I am going to rivet and what I will screw together to make it easy for servicing in the future. I feel like I'm on the home run now, there is still a myriad of minor details to finish and tidy up but I am on top of all the scary bits. 

Happiness is dreaming dreams, then putting in the hard yards to make it a reality.

This is my overview of the last 4 years following my dream which had been at the back of my mind for 40 years.

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