Saturday, November 27, 2010

Fuselage finished, to an appreciable degree anyway

After a few days of flu-imposed inactivity (and, I must say, if you're going to be stuck at home ill, there's no better time than when the airwaves are saturated with football!) and holiday gatherings, I gathered up my nerve and headed out to the hangar this morning despite temperatures in the low 30's. I packed the trusty propane heater into the car in case my Walmartts weren't sufficient to the task of keeping me warm enough to ward off a relapse.

As it turned out, they weren't. I quickly realized that I'd need combustion to provide a suitable level of comfort.

Still, the Walmartts do help quite a bit in keeping me warm in any temperature over the mid-20's. I'm afraid, though, that sometime in the near future I might have to consult with the cleaning directions thoughtfully provided on a fabric tag sewed to the inner collar, those instructions heretofore having been mooted by my negligence in laundering duties. What has brought about this precipitous change of heart? Well, I had a visit from a hangar neighbor the other day while I was applying the firewall sealant to the gaps in the firewall. For some reason he was curious about the sealant, asking on a couple of occasions if it smelled bad. The second time I told him that it really wasn't all that bad, he followed with a question along the lines of "how early did you get out here today?"

Oh, I get it. I can take a (liberally applied) hint.

I was alone today, though, and the smell of the burning propane surely covered any untoward scents wafting off of my coveralls anyway. I like the chilly/rainy/inclement mornings at the hangar for the same reason that I always chose those types of mornings back in the day when I'd take young Co-pilot Egg to the zoo: I'm going to be indoors anyway (at the zoo, we always went straight to the gorilla building to watch the familial antics of the residents), and it's not nearly as crowded. It's not that I mind visitors to the hangar, but I'd be lying if I said I didn't get more work done without them. And, after all, I was on a schedule today: kickoff for the Ohio $tate vs. Michigan game was at noon!

It seemed like I would make it easily, but in the event it came right down to the wire. All I needed to do was finish up the panel that covers the gap between the firewall and the instrument panel. Because I've done this out of order, I first needed to read through the plans to make sure I got the progression of tasks in the correct sequence.

Final drill #19 the screw holes, then dimple those and the holes for the rivets that would hold the panel attach strips in place. Easy as pie.

The panel was then supposed to be screwed into place on the fuselage, but I've been working on airplanes long enough to know that 1) those screws are good for two round trips in and out at most before getting rounded out, and 2) that panel will be coming off again some day soon. I clecoed it in.

I was then to work from the inboard towards outboard clecoing and riveting the panel attach strips into place. This seemed like it would have been immeasurably easier to do with the panel off of the airplane, but I was afraid that doing so would not pull the strips into position correctly. You see, the act of dimpling the holes in their flanges had introduced a bit of an awkward bend into them.

I climbed up onto the Stool of Doom to begin clecoing.

As I had hoped, cleco coercion was just the ticket for forcing the strips back into their correct shape.

That was only half the job. Well, far less that half in all actuality. The riveting was going to be far more complicated because I would have to do it from the same elevated position that I had used for clecoing. That meant that I wouldn't be able to see if the die on the rivet squeezer was correctly positioned on the rivet. That meant that I would have to use a mirror to check the positioning before squeezing each and every rivet, an additional complication that was sure to slow me down considerably.

There were thirty-six of these to be done.

It took awhile, as you might expect, but once it was done there was nothing left to do but rivet in the center panel. The plans show an optional installation method using eighteen screws and nutplates, but I've really had my fill of nutplates. The standard installation uses the soft little blind rivets that have previously given me so much trouble. I've figured out all of their nefarious little tricks, though, so I anticipated no difficulties.

Wrong again. I hate those little bastards with a burning, almost visceral passion. Okay, maybe they aren't that bad, but I do find them to be irksome. They're like the gnats of the rivet world.

It drilled out easily enough, but it was only due to pure luck that I had an extra to replace it with. I wouldn't have had that extra if I hadn't had to order a bunch to replace the ones I had to drill out after installing them on the wrong side of one of the fuselage skins. As long as I was paying for the shipping, I had Van's toss in a few extras. Smart, that.

This completes the fuselage with the exception of the turtle deck skins and the back window. I'm going to defer the installation of those until after the wings are done and the fuel tank is installed. Getting the fuel tank in is going to be much easier with the turtle deck skins sitting on a shelf and I don't want to mess around with drilling the window plastic when it's cold and brittle. Besides, I have plenty of work to do on the wings.

1 comment:

Vieille Burette said...

Congrats for this major milestone, Dave! I missed your comments while I was doing my wings as you chose to do the fuselage first. Wings are a no brainer though, you will be finished in no time.

Post a Comment