Major Milestone!

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This has been a BIG week-end for us. We have finally built a stand to allow us to attach the motor mount, wings and landing gear. The fuselage stand was a re-purposed stand we had used before the rotisserie, and part of the wing stand. Here is a BIG hint: never throw out old lumber. You will be needing it again.  Here is what the new stand looks like:


Also, for the first time, we were able to sit in the fuse and make airplane noises! Wow. I still have chills!

sitting in RV9A fuselage

Have a seat.

For folks building an experimental, sitting in it for the first time is a big deal.  I finally know how I will fit while flying.  I fit pretty well.  I need to lease a few pounds tho. *sigh*

Where do we stand?  Wings and done, Tail is done, flight surfaces are done, Instrument panel frame is done. Radios are mounted but not wired. Ready for motor mount, tail and wing install.

We are staring to wind down on the riveting, and I think I’ll miss that. To see the process, check out:

Riveting Wings on You Tube

We have the motor to install, lots of wire, and now all we need is the time.

More Later.



Jaws of Life, Death and other things…

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Yikes! I have a butt-kicking vise in my shop that will grab a hunk of metal, and hold on like a Gila monster!

Jaws of vise

But sometimes, you want to hold something a bit easier, and not make marks in the item clamped in the vise.  A simple solution is to cut a 3/4 by 3/4 angle into a 4 to 6″ length. Place that in the vise, and voila!  An easy holder for small parts.

Aluminum insert for vise clamping.

Aluminum inserts

But wait. These baby’s are always falling out and on to the floor every time I try to put something into them.   So, HERE IS THE TRICK:

Buy some self-stick magnets from your local stationary store, and cut to size, and glue them on to the angle.  They stay in place, and make it easy to move the insert around.

Vise Inserts with magnets

Aluminum vise jaw inserts with magnets.

Remember to put the magnets on top of the vise so you do not try to squeeze them.


Off plans…

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Anytime you go off plans, it creates a bunch of work and can add significantly to the timeline. However, adding cool features is what an experimental is all about.

Now, I’m not an aeronautical engineer, so I NEVER just go off plans by myself.  I have some pretty strict rules:

1. Does the mod affect safety of flight? I never go off plans on these mods. No mater who else did.

2. Would Cessna do this? I keep this thought in the back of my head as a guideline. Cessna Safe.

3. Is this a well documented mod? Are the parts involved aircraft parts?  Like adding parking brakes.  I’m in.

4. Is the mod a kit I can buy that many others have done? My Nav lights fall into this category.  LED lights for wings and tail. Thinking about Electronic ignition.

5. Have many before me done this mod?  Flap up travel limit switch falls here and in 4 above. I may buy the kit or do the Automotive relay thing.

6. Are the risks small?  Fairings on the rudder cable go here. My Avionics tray fits here too.

7. Cost appropriate? Am I overbuilding for the plane I want?

8. Is this a Real mod or am I just fantasizing about it? Rotary Engine?  Retractable landing gear?  Three seats?  Propane operated simulated machine guns????  Wow!  Nah…


For now, I’m building a standard, 150HP Lycoming, Mags and a carburetor with a wood prop. BUT after I’m flying a bit????  We’ll see…





Wings are Done!

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The wings are now completed. We spent the week-end putting the wings up and away where they will not get damaged. We also opened the Fuse box! Found some interesting stuff. Like a manual elevator trim cable (we have electric trim). Also we found the manual aileron trim, and we want to go with electric with that as well. Oh well.

We also spent a day getting the shop ready. Cleaning, re-packaging hardware, and doing an inventory of the kit. We also put weights on the plans so they will lie flat, and we loaded the plans holders we have.

At each step, it is a good idea to re-set the shop and make sure everything is back where you can quickly get your hands on it. This is REALLY worth the time investment later.


Lightweight riveter!

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No, I’m not talking about me.  I’m good at riveting, but rather a pretty cool tool I discovered at Harbor Freight.

On the Van’s Airforce and other Van’s aircraft lists, there is considerable discussion about which rivet gun should I buy? 2X? 3X? These things are pretty expensive, and you want to be sure you get the right one first!

Well, not so! Enter the 1X gun from autoparts stores, hardware chains or (best of all) Harbor Freight!

HB and others sell a small, lightweight Air Hammer for under $10 (yes, I said ten dollars) that is GREAT for AN426AD3-x rivets, especially the TONS of rivets that you do on the wings.

You have to get the right one, and with just a little careful selection, you can have GREAT looking skin!  I’ve just finished my wings, and they look GREAT!

What is the difference between an Air Hammer and a Rivet gun?  About $150.00

What to look for?

1. Small and light.  Better control and you won’t tire after 500 rivets or so.

2. A trigger you can feather, like this one.

Triggter on 1X air hammer.

Trigger you can feather

This was not so good a choice:

not a good coice for an air hammer

Trigger with poor feather control

3. Built-in regulator.  This worked VERY nice:

Pressure regulator on Air Hammer

Pressure regulator on Air Hammer

4. Throw out any accessories you get with the gun, and buy a nice rivet set. I prefer the flat set with a rubber ring around the edge to prevent the gun from running away. Also, go ahead and get a nice swivel whip tail.

5. You may still need a nice 2x or 3x gun, but for skins, this is the BEST.

You will see you get a really nice rivet gun for the small skin rivets with good control, easy to adjust and not driving them clear through to the other side of the wing with too strong of a gun. And the cost? under $10.

Rivet gun/Air hammer for skins

Rivet gun/Air hammer for skins

My rivet gun

My rivet gun


Getting rid of the blues… (A little at a time)


When I started the empennage, I saw some folks removing strips of the blue protective film by using a soldering iron and decided that the risk of scratching the skin was too great, so I peeled off all the protective film.  What a mistake!  Even with protective inserts in the emp jigs, the tail got pretty scuffed.  OK, so now I’m on the wings, but the  soldering iron route takes too darn long to mark and stripe, and I’m STILL afraid I’ll scratch the skin.  So here is my hint of the day…

To remove strips of blue protective coating from the skins:

1. Be sure the soldering iron has only a smooth rounded tip on it.  I took mine to the buffing wheel and made it real smooth.

Clean and deburred soldering iron

2. Buy an aluminum yard stick. With a number 40 drill, drill three or four hold in the middle of the yard stick.  One at the very end, one near the other end, and one about 1/3 of the way up the yard stick.

Yard Stick

Aluminum Yardstick

Be sure to de-burr the holes.

3. Now you can anchor the yard stick in the skin, and use the soldering iron to melt away one or BOTH sides to leave a nice clean center line and remove the blue stuff.

Cleco the yard stick down

Wow! nice clean straight lines. Fast and easy, with less of a possibility of burning yourself, easy to do with one person with better control so you do not scratch the metal.



Blue film removed

Blue film removed

To prime or not to prime…

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Many wars have been fought over the choice to prime aluminum or not. Many thoughts, considerations, pros and cons exsist over the use of primer on aluminum aircraft.  I made my decision, and I’ll live with it: Minimum primer.

Here are my guiding rules about decisions in building my aircraft.

  • First, did Van’s tell me to do it? That is an overriding decision point.  If Van’s said do it, I do it. Remember, I’m not an aeronautical engineer, I’m an aircraft assembler.
  • If Van’s has no preference, I ask: “Would Cessna do it?  Cessna aircraft, and the Cessna 172 in particular, are the safest aircraft in the sky. My motto is ” Cessna Safe”.
  • Finally, for more modern options (that are not related to safety of flight issues) I look at what other guys on the forums have done. BUT only AFTER they have some time with it.  Beware of advice from folks who have “heard from a friend…” or “read this on the web…”

Avionics is a BIG gray area here. Cessna does not use Dynon Avionics, but how cool is THAT in an experimental aircraft.

Murphy’s Law of Selective Gravitation:
“If while working on a large object with tools (car, airplane, boat, etc.) the dropping of any tool will cause the said tool to roll to the exact center of the object.”

Be sure to build a nice paint stand.

Cats at home?

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OK, here is a quick hint. Got cats at home? What can you do with old kitty litter containers? Why, make Cleco holders of course!

Converted Cat sand to cleco holder

Cleco Jug

Building other stuff….

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OK. when you start building your RV-9A, you discover very quickly what OTHER stuff you need to build first.  How about the best plane building workbenches ever?  Check out the bench and the plans for the EAA Chapter 1000 work bench at:

Note that you do not need to follow the plans EXACTLY. I made a long table and a short table, so I needed to buy only ONE sheet of plywood.  Actually, later I bought another sheet to have on top, so I could drill, cut, mar and generally abuse the top, then just give it to the next builder and get another.  Here is what that looks like:

EAA 1000 workbench  - customized