Sunday, November 7, 2010

On solitude

Do we ever really have solitude anymore? Are we ever truly alone? I think the closest that I ever get is on the relatively rare occasions when I fly alone, but even then I share often-crowded radio frequencies with other pilots and, should push come to shove, there is always someone on the other end of the emergency 121.5 frequency.

I started thinking about this just recently when I had one of my middle-of-the-night anxiety attacks, this one on behalf of my daughter who, to all indications, sleeps through the night like a petrified log. We have been discussing where she will attend college once liberated from the confines of government mandated public education and allowed to choose her own path. She has long wanted to attend the Nursing College at Mt. Carmel Hospital here in Columbus, but I've been reluctant to wholeheartedly get behind that idea.

There are two tangentially related reasons for my failure to fully support this decision: 1) I think it is very important for her to get out of the house and learn to live on her own, particularly after her highly cloistered upbringing as an only child, and 2) Mt. Carmel is located in the shadow of downtown Columbus. There's a world of difference between "being out on your own" and "being out your own in a tough neighborhood." During our campus visit, Mt. Carmel tried to put me at ease by assuring me that there are armed guards available to escort her to and from classes, but all that did was starkly point out the validity of my concerns.

Well, it turns out that Mt. Carmel now has a regional program in not-too-close-but-not-too-far Lancaster, OH. Lancaster is a much smaller town and our visit to the medical center showed that it is located in a nice neighborhood. Egg loves the idea and is keen to go, and I fully support her in that decision. That said, I woke up one night not long after our visit to Lancaster wondering how I could ever kick her out of the nest like that and how she would respond to being utterly and completely alone for the first time in her life. It's hard. Very hard. I don't know if she fully understands what it's like to be all alone in a strange city, completely separated from everyone you've grown up with. I've done it myself, and I know how horribly lonely it can be.

After stewing about it for half an hour, I finally suffered an epiphany that somewhat comforted me: kids today are never really alone. They may be physically separated by thousands of miles, but they are always only a text message, a Skype call, or a Facebook chat away from each other. Chances are that she would never even notice that she was alone; she spends most of her free time with her face planted to a computer monitor anyway.

Today I realized that in a very similar way, I am not alone in my efforts to build an RV-12. It may seem that I'm out at the hangar working away in complete solitude, but it isn't any more true in my case than it is in Egg's. Here's how I came to that realization.

I started out with a simple job: remove the blue plastic stuff from the tray that will hold the brains of the airplane. As you can probably infer, it was pretty cold today. I think it was 35F when I got to the hangar. There will come a day in the not-very-distant future when 35F is positively balmy, but for now it seems mighty cold. The blue plastic thinks so too; it did not want to leave the comfort of the nice aluminum tray. It was quite a pain to get it all off of there.

I couldn't help noticing that the schizophrenic attitude that Van's has towards dimpling holes for us showed up again. I actually came across the step in the instructions that directed me to do these dimples, yet here they are, already done. It's not that I don't appreciate their effort, mind you. It's more that I wish they would do a lot more! And, as long as I'm dreaming, I wish they would provide pre-dimpled nutplates as well. Still, beggars/choosers and all that.

Things soon got a little more complicated. The part shown below is a canopy rib. There are two of them, a left and a right. These are fairly critical parts. Their purpose is to provide a surface to host the canopy hinge bolts and the bases of the hydraulic lift cylinders that will lift the canopy. It needs to be pretty robust for that task, and that is reflected in the width of the metal. It's thick enough that the rivet holes for the ubiquitous collection of nutplates get machine countersunk instead of dimpled. All but two, anyway. There are two that will have blind rivets through them and thus don't need any type of recess. That left the question of what to do with the collection of seven holes that I have outlined. Should they be countersunk too? I wasn't sure. I was having trouble visualizing how the parts were going to go together.

It was then that I realized that I was not alone, nor was I solely responsible for figuring this out. Kyle, bass player and managing agent for The Jackson Two, had just gone through this stage of the build himself and could likely offer some advice. I sent him a quick question and a supporting picture to see what he had to say.

Just moments later I had an answer.

We both enjoy figuring out the 'why' in addition to the 'how', although I've been known to settle for the latter now and then, depending on my mood.

So I dimpled them.

Now don't get me wrong, I'm nowhere near too proud to ask for help, but it actually is the case that I was visiting a local completed RV-12 just a few days ago and had intended to take a few dozen pictures of exactly these types of details but was thwarted by a dead battery in Egg's camera. A little venting was in order, right? Even if completely unfair and unjustified...

As I drilled the countersink holes, I matched the part to the inside of the dimpled canopy ribs. I couldn't get the parts to sit flush against each other because the dimples were just too big for the countersunk holes. I eventually got to the point that if I countersunk any deeper, I'd risk making the rivet hole too big.

I solved that problem by clamping the parts together really, REALLY tightly before riveting them together.

There is nothing quite as awkward as trying to squeeze #4 rivets on a part that isn't being held in a vise. Knowing through personal experience (I'm glad that experience didn't leave a scar on my forehead!) how that rivet squeezer has a propensity to spring back with a great deal of force and given the topography of the particular region where the handles were, I was more than a little concerned over the possibilities of damaging some rather sensitive protuberances. Fortunately, all went well.

Here's how smart people do it:

There they are! A baker's dozen-plus-one of squeezed rivets!

The next couple of parts are the vertical braces that will support the center instrument panel that will hold the radio and transponder. As I was installing the nutplates, I noticed that there were 'bumps' on the surface that apparently were caused by the stamping of the lightening holes. My experience with these things is such that I became somewhat suspicious that those bumps would cause me great consternation when it came time to install the radios. Having just recently seen how tightly the radios fit on Capt. Lonnie's RV-12, I thought it best to grind those potentially frustrating obstructions off of the braces.

All gone! Compare the bottom part shown in the two pictures.

I clecoed the braces in and moved the tray over to test fit it to the fuselage.

It seems to fit so far. There's a lot more to be installed still, though.

At least I won't be lonely while I do it.

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