Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Go "pedal" your sob story somewhere else, fella

It's kind of hard for me to believe, but I'm actually a little choked up. Tonight I installed the rudder/brake pedals. That doesn't seem overly significant, I suppose, but as I was tightening up the bolts to hold the pedal assembly in place (temporarily - it will all come back out once the brake lines are done to aid accessibility for other stuff yet to go in) I realized that I had just finished installing my first flight controls. It's really starting to become an airplane! And what's more, it's really starting to become my airplane.

On the occasions when I have shared the idea that I'm not sure which airplane I will sell (the RV-6 or this RV-12) when the time comes, I've been told that the decision is already made. I will be too emotionally involved with the RV-12 to sell it, they said. I didn't believe it, thinking for some reason that I'd be able to keep a business-like detachment about the whole thing, but I now know that to not be even remotely possible. If the simple act of bolting a collection of tubes to a frame of aluminum nearly brought me to tears, I don't see how I could ever sell this thing after we have shared a moment as deeply profound as its first flight as an airplane and my first flight in a machine that I assembled by myself. Those, my friends, are emotional bonds that won't be easily broken.

And, ignominiously enough, it all started with grease. The brake torque tubes need to pivot nicely inside the rudder pedals, and for that we need lubricant. Nothing fancy; just plane plain old grease.

Here's a free hint: you don't need to grease the whole length. Fully half of the thing is going to hang out the other side and have a brake pedal bolted to it. Just grease the half closest to the flange.

The pedal part of the rudder pedals then get bolted on. They're just little rubber grippy things to give some traction to your feet. Notice the arrow pointing at what appears to be a missing flange? Well, I didn't. Not until later, anyway.

To be fair, it was enough trouble holding tools and parts in place with grease all over my fingers - it's no wonder that I missed that!

The brake master cylinders go on next. There's a washer that sits between the clevis bolt and the cotter pin that holds it in. It's not a particularly easy washer to get into place.

I got those tweezers at the dental tools section of Harbor Freight. One really has to wonder about a dentist that buys his tools at Harbor Freight. [shudder] I got as far as the second cylinder before I realized I had a little problem:

Over the months that I've been working on the plane, I've developed a highly tuned sensitivity to things that don't look right, no matter how subtle the hint may be. In this case, I don't think an inexperienced builder would have seen anything wrong, but my finely tuned senses immediately detected the whiff of a problem here. Something just didn't look right. But what could it be???

Quick fix, although it might have been easier if my hands weren't so greasy and I hadn't gotten that bolt so tight.

Then there was more dental work required to bend the cotter pins.

Finally, time to install it all into the fuselage! Which, I'm here to tell you, is a royal pain. You see, the plastic blocks holding the whole thing together were only in place temporarily. They have to be removed to put the pedals in the plane. Note the relationship between "holding the whole thing together" and "removed." What happens when you remove the blocks should be pretty obvious: everything falls apart. You then get to try to put it all back together under the shelf of the firewall. Tricky!

They sure do look good, though!

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