Monday, September 21, 2009

When do we start?

You don't just order a kit and sit back to wait for it. Oh, no, there is plenty of preparation involved. First and foremost, one needs a shop. In my case, I will need two.

The first shop will be in my basement. This is where I will prepare parts and assemblies for later attachment to far larger assemblies. I could certainly find space in the basement shop to build the entire airplane, but it would be impossible to get it out of the house. The stairs that run from my basement up through the cellar doors are sufficient for removing something like kayak that I built down there, but that's only because it is very, very narrow. A wing or fuselage would exceed the height of the door as it was angled to go up the relatively steep stairs. That's unfortunate since the basement has the benefit of being temperature controlled.

The current state of the basement is also an issue. It is cluttered with the detritus of projects that have come before, both completed and uncompletable. And no, 'uncompletable' is neither the first nor the last word that I will invent to suit my immediate needs. You're just going to have to get used to that.

So, the basement needs a good cleaning and organizing and will additionally need another new workbench, improved overhead lighting, and additional shelving for storing unassembled pieces and assembled, well, assemblies. Aluminum is frightfully fragile, particularly when it comes to what would seem to be minor scratches. The corrosion-preventing cladding (the 'clad' in 'alclad') is only a few thousandths of an inch thick and must be carefully protected against scratches. I will also need a set of bins to store small attachment hardware like rivets, nuts, bolts, washers, and the like.

The second shop will be in the hangar where the RV-6 lives and will be used for the assembly of smaller assemblies into larger assemblies. Think 'wing' and 'fuselage' - these are too large for the basement. Space will need to be reclaimed from years of accumulated junk for the completion and protected storage of large pieces of airframe. At some point the fuselage will be up and on its landing gear and there will be quite a bit of systems work to be performed. That will include things like fuel lines, brake lines, seating, control surface installations, etc. At that point, it will be pretty much like having two airplanes in a single plane hangar. The plus side of the RV-12 is that the wings are detachable; they will never need to be permanently attached. This will allow even the completed airplane to share the space with the RV-6 until one or the other is sold.

The hangar is not the perfect building environment because there are only two temperatures available: brutally hot and brutally cold. Heat can be addressed with a large fan; cold is mostly unmanageable and is likely cause an annual building hiatus, at least with regards to assembling assemblies. Luckily, the mix between basement shop tasks and hangar tasks is (presumably) roughly 50-50. Parts preparation can be done in the comfort of the home shop; assembly work will be done in the hangar. An as yet unresolved issue is how larger parts will be carried between the two locations, but that doesn't seem like it will be overly difficult to solve. It will probably just mean adding a trailer hitch to one of my cars and retrieving the small flat bed trailer that I used to use to tow my racing kart from my brother's barn. Or pestering people that have trucks. Note that the latter is the most likely.

I hope to have the two shops cleaned up and ready to go within a couple of weeks. Once that's done, I can start thinking about ordering the kit. I'm planning to have it arrive in time for the annual holidays when I will be home for quite a few days at a time and looking for something to work on. I'm targeting early November for the official start of construction.

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