Saturday, July 30, 2011

The Receding Tide of my Ocean of "Fail"

So, it's finally the end of a stressful, difficult work week. As mentioned in the previous post, it started poorly and went downhill from there. There were a few bright spots, though they tended to also bear the signs of my week of pain.

The office where I do my day-to-day paying gig is on the small side - I think we top out in the low 40s with regards to head count. As often happens in an office that small that doesn't have a lot of turnover, it's really become somewhat like a large family. One of the sweetest co-workers I have is pregnant with her first children, a pair of twin girls. An event like that doesn't go unnoticed in a small office, of course, and we had a big baby shower on Wednesday afternoon. I can unequivocally say that it was absolutely the best baby shower that I've ever been to. Of course, with that sample set being a collection of precisely one, I could also unequivocally say that it was absolutely the worst baby shower that I've ever been to. I won't though; in this case I'm going with the oceans being half full.

As it turns out, there was quite a bit of the extremely tasty cake left and most of the office had counted on enjoying leftovers on Thursday. Unfortunately the remaining cake had mysteriously disappeared overnight. Rumors abounded (which fit in nicely with one of my long-standing traditions: Start a Rumor Thursdays) as to where the cake could have gone. Had a greedy co-worker absquatulated with it? Had the night cleaning staff accidentally thrown it away? All eyes turned to me. No, wait! They weren't accusatory eyes - they were hoping that I could help solve the mystery because I have access to the video recordings that visually document all of the comings and goings through our three doors. This coming at the tail end of a rotten week, it should come as no surprise that I was met with another big wave of "fail" when I went to retrieve the video. Unbeknownst to anyone, the very camera trained on that DOI (Door of Interest - it's a criminal forensics term that, well, I just now made up) had fried during the height of a thunderstorm that passed through last Saturday night. The Mystery of the Vanishing Cake will therefore never be solved.

I had high hopes for Friday, though. I had made an appointment with a dermatologist weeks ago to have this irritating bump on one of my knuckles looked at. It's grown to the size of an M&M (the chocolate ones, not the even larger peanut ones) and is starting to get in the way of things. I'm constantly bumping into things with it while I'm working on the airplane, and given that this is the finger that I use for non-verbal communications when I feel that I need to share an opinion about someone else's driving skills, it's becoming unsightly to others as well. I was anxious to finally start the process of having it removed.

This was my first visit to this dermatologist. The wait was thankfully brief since the waiting room magazines were anything but entertaining. It's not often that I get a chance to browse through The Skin Cancer Journal, and for that I am thankful. I am of the opinion that they could put something out there with more of a general appeal, though.

As I was shown to the examining room, I was told that I would first be visited by a student doctor. I'm normally okay with that, although a few years ago I did find it somewhat uncomfortable to have a young female student attending my vasectomy. I think that pretty much stretched the bounds of professional medical decorum well past the breaking point. I'm going to put my foot down if the same thing happens at my colonoscopy.

Anyway, the student doc soon came in, and again it was a very cute young lady. This was just fine by me in this case since I figured getting my finger looked at probably wouldn't require me to drop my pants. There was one moment of discomfort, though, when I had to decide whether to show her the finger standing proud all by itself and risk a slap, or just show her my entire hand and let her find the offending (heh!) digit all be herself. In the interest of propriety, I went with the latter. She must be a pretty advanced student - she found the problem easily.

She left the room and a few minutes later returned with the actual doctor and another young cutie who would be there to enter notes into a laptop computer. The doctor herself was quite a looker as well, and had the additional attractive element of not being young enough to be my daughter. Having been alerted by the young student doctor as to where to look for my malady, she was able to go directly to the problem area. A few moments of squeezing and peering later, she rendered her verdict: a digital mucoid cyst.

"Hmm," I thought, "how very modern of me to have a digital cyst. Why, back in the day of vacuum tubes, this thing would have been as big as a warehouse!"

In layman's terms, my understanding is that digital mucous cysts (DMCs) are benign ganglion cysts of the digits, typically located at the distal interphalangeal (DIP) joints or in the proximal nail fold. They usually occur on the hands, although they have also been noted on the toes. The etiology of these cysts is uncertain but may involve mucoid degeneration. Often, these cysts are asymptomatic and do not require treatment. When treatment is indicated, medical therapies and surgical interventions of varying magnitudes may be attempted. Recurrence is common.

She explained it in much more technical terms, of course, but I was able to simplify it for you, I hope.

Her diagnosis apparently having taken only three of the available twenty minutes, she decided to see if she could drum up any more business. A quick look at my fingers showed traces of osteo-arthritis, but there being so little to be made on such a common and commoditized illness, she felt compelled to search further. Now keep in mind that I was in a small examining room with three very attractive women when you consider what my response was to what she said next.

"Could you stand up and drop your pants to your ankles?"


This was shaping up to be more humiliating that the Las Vegas show girl incident, albeit with a much smaller audience.

I did as I was told and she pronounced my legs to be just fine. I sat back down, thrilled to my exposed toes to be done with that. It was then that she asked me to remove my shirt.

Removing my shirt is, to me, actually worse than removing my pants, particularly in front of women. Not to lapse into bragging, but I really haven't any serious deficiencies south of the belt. Going the other direction, though, well, that's not as good. I'm so slight of build that I have to shop for muscle shirts in the 'Boys 8 to 10' section at Walmart. And if there was an antonym to the word "hirsute," my chest would be used as an example in the dictionary.

As she rubbed her hand lightly up and down my chest [shudder, suppress moan] she mentioned that the red spots on my skin weren't a rash, but were small ruptured blood vessels and that I had likely had them for my entire life.

"So," I said, trying to maintain a modicum of self esteem, "those would be what suppressed the growth of chest hair?"

"Well, no, but you should consider yourself lucky; I get men in here spending hundreds of dollars to have chest hair removed," was her reply.

"Really?" I replied. "I've spent easily that much rubbing gobs of Rogaine on it."

That elicited what I considered to be an inappropriately weak chuckle. When I get nervous and crank my BanterAmp(tm) all the way up to 11, I expect guffaws, or at least hearty laughter. Desperate to restore dignity, I had to pull out the big guns.

"I used to call it my Japanese Hope Chest," I told her with a completely straight face.

"Really?" she asked quizzically?

"Yeah," I said, "it looks Japanese, but I hope it gets better."

That did it. All three of them laughed so hard and for so long that I heard other people out in the office asking them what happened in there after they had gone back out to finish up my paperwork. Fortunately the answer wasn't anything to do with the pants-dropping business.

So there was that. I guess that will have to do if I'm looking for a good end to a difficult week.

I was anxious to get back to work on the plane today, but with the foreboding promise of a relative humidity higher than the temperature I thought it would be a good idea to get an early start. That proved to be exactly the right thing to do; by the time we decided enough was enough, the benign sounding 84 degree temperature was far outpaced by the dank 88% humidity.

It was nice early on, though, and Pete and I got a lot done. As you may recall, the big job for the day was to be the drilling of the flaperon torque tubes. That starts out with the requirement for a .063" spacer which you may also recall that I had planned to build up out of some feeler gauges purchased from Harbor Freight to replace the one that I had carelessly lost. That plan was mooted, however, by a text message received from Kyle, lead kazoo player for the infamous Jackson Two. He's up at Oshkosh for the big fly-in and had a chance to talk to some folks from Van's. The question on everyone's mind these days has to do with the new avionics: when, and how much. The answer to the first question was "soon." So soon, in fact, that they are no longer taking orders for the older D-180 kit. That means that the instrument panel that I currently have is obsolete. Conveniently, it is constructed from .063" thick aluminium. Rather than ruin a brand new set of approximately sized feelers, I just cut a chunk out of the old panel.

The spacer was slid between the two tubes and a clamp used to hold everything in place for the first drilling.

The holes are match drilled with the 12" #30 bit.

The whole deal gets pulled out of the plane to allow for the drilling of the two holes on the bottom. That required the removal of the wings, which I was only able to do because Cadillac Pete had agreed to join me for a few hours in the sauna.

The #30 holes are just starter holes; the final drill is with the #12 bit. And where is that bit? It's in the airplane, holding the flaperon bellcrank in a neutral position because I was never able to find the AN3-21A bolt called for in the plans.

This is what 88% humidity looks like:

Once the holes were drilled, I had to bolt both of the tubes back into place. It was definitely getting sweaty by then - I tried to keep myself cool by putting a fan in the plane to keep some cooling air blowing across me. Even so, it was getting uncomfortable enough that my concentration was suffering, and my fingers were slippery with sweat. That caused a lot of dropping of nuts and washers. I think we spent more time trying to find and retrieve dropped parts than anything else.

It was a real treat trying to get washers into place on this particular tube.

When that one was done, I went to install the corresponding candle stick, but came up one washer short. There was only one place it could be, thankfully, since the area into which it could have been dropped was bordered by four walls. While that was helpful, it was not sufficient. Even searching with a flashlight and mirror showed no sign of the missing washer. The "drop area" was small, but it was also full of wire bundles and other things that could block sight of the small washer. Because the floor slopes towards the front of the plane, everything that I had dropped down there previously had rolled up against the forward bulkhead. Pete suggested that we remove the scaffold that is holding up the tail to encourage the washer to slide back to where we could see it.

That was a great idea except for one thing: there is a bit of a painted-into-a-corner issue with the scaffold ever since we installed the horizontal stab. With the stab in place, that scaffold can't slide back out from under the plane.

Not ready to give up on his idea, Pete suggested that the scaffold could be moved out by tipping it onto its side while one of us supported the tail and gently set it down on the hangar floor. Well, that worked pretty well, with one notable exception:

While Pete relaxed under the airplane, I went back to look for the washer. There was still no sign of it, so we lifted the plane back up onto the scaffold. At that point I had given up on finding the washer, but still felt the need to make sure that it wasn't in the airplane. I have plenty of spare washers, but I can't stand the idea of one floating around loose in the airplane. My idea was to use compressed air to blow everything down in the drop area around - surely 80psi would be enough to force it out into the open if not into an eye, given the week I'd had. A few minutes of blowing area around in there proved to my satisfaction that the washer was not in there.

We removed the tubes from the left side and did the drilling in those uneventfully. When it came time to put those tubes back in, I let Pete take care of it. He's left handed, so it's easier for him to work on that side of the plane.

At one point he asked for a confirmation of the number of washers and their positioning on the first torque tube, and I confirmed that there are three washers, two inside the bracket and the third under the nut.

That's when it struck me.

Here, take a look at this again:

See the washer under the head of the bolt? That, my friends, is the "lost" washer that we spent so much time looking for! I'm thinking no amount of compressed air was ever going to blow that loose!

They work!

As Pete was finishing up the re-installation of the torque tubes, I busied myself with the first steps of installing the rudder cables. They get fed in through some of the big plastic bushings that were placed in the fuselage bulkheads ages ago. As they reach the tunnel, the plastic protective tube gets passed through a hole that has no bushing, finally explaining to my great relief why those particular holes never received bushings. That's one of those little mysteries that had be going back and reviewing the plans half a dozen times trying to figure out how I missed the step where those got installed.

The downside here, though, is that the hole is blocked by a stack of ground wires:

That's not a huge problem; it seems that those wires are going to be removed anyway so that the screw holding them in place can be replaced by a bolt.

I was about done for the day, so I just loosened the screw enough to allow me to move the wires out of the way and feed the plastic tube through the hole. I was kind of irritated that a bolt wasn't used to hold those wires in the first place, but that was probably the sweat talking. It was getting too muggy to be fun anymore, so we started cleaning up the shop.

I did notice one thing, though. As I moved the control stick to the right, there seemed to be some resistance just before the controls reached the stops. I tracked that down to the clamp that holds the supply and return fuel lines together.

That was easily fixed by loosening the clamp and sliding it out from under the fuel lines. That was enough work for the day and I headed home to spend the afternoon getting back in touch with my sedentary side.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Ups and Downs

It's been a bit of a rocky week at the paying job. There are weeks where the time passes docilely by as I get in some good, solid development work, and there are weeks where the problems come at me one after another like the waves of an incoming tide of irritation. Given that I start out each week with the type of fairly pessimistic outlook that you'd expect from a guy that views the oceans as half empty, these difficult weeks are almost the default expectation. Even so, they always end up darkening my outlook on just about everything else. It's even worse when the problems are not of my own making; that was the case this week, and it started early. By 7:00 am on Monday morning, I could already tell that a tsunami of ire was barreling my way.

Monday was therefore a complete write-off for airplane work. Tuesday was indiscernible from Monday at work, but the evening was much better. We had a brief respite in the muggy weather that lent itself to a brief flight in the RV-6. As luck would have it, I even had an excuse to burn a few gallons of extremely precious 100LL: a woman that I work with had asked my advice regarding her 13-almost-14 year old son's desire to get a pilots license. At that age the best advice I could come up with was to get him a decent flight yoke for their PC and turn him loose with Microsoft Flight Simulator. In the short term, though, I asked her if he might be interested in a plane ride. He was, of course, so we scheduled a ride for the only evening of the week that had a forecast for decent weather. So, there was an excuse to fly, just in case I needed a better one than the one I already had: the plane needed gas. I was going to have to fly out to MadCo eventually anyway, so it worked out as one of those two birds, one stone kind of deals.

We met at the hangar and I spent 10 or 15 minutes showing him a sectional chart and our planned direct-to route out to KUYF, or as I call it, Ugly Young Farmers. Along with that I gave him some introduction to the names of the parts of the airplane that aren't obvious (having learned long ago that people feel somewhat talked down to when you point at the wings and say, "And those are wings.") and described the functions that they perform. He seemed to get all of that pretty easily, so it wasn't long before we were strapping in and getting ready to go. I gave his mom directions to JP's BBQ where she could sit in the shade and wait for us to get back.

The takeoff went pretty much as I had briefed him, so there were no unpleasant surprises. We climbed to 3,000' where I relinquished control to the young co-pilot. We did some straight and level flight, and I had him do a few turns to the left and right to get a feel for it. He couldn't see out the front very well, so he spend a lot of time looking at the instruments. In this zig-zag manner we worked our way out to MadCo. He did pretty well at holding altitude, although by the time we got there we had crept up to 3,500'. I didn't figure it worth mentioning, my thinking being that I'd rather we unintentionally crept higher than lower.

As I flew us down short final, I hedged my bets (a nice way of saying "took advantage of his naïveté") by explaining that an airplane of this sort invariably bounces a little bit on landing. And so it was. It wasn't a bad bounce, but neither was it a greaser.

Getting the gas took a little longer than expected as we had to sit and wait for one of the local crop dusters to get fueled up. There's a new crop dusting business opened down in Mt. Gilead, it seems. After we finally got to the pumps, I asked one of the workers why crop dusting was making such a comeback in central Ohio. He said it had a lot to do with a new type of fungicide that they're using on corn these days. He told me the name of the stuff, but I've forgotten it.

The tower was closed by the time we got back and the pattern was empty, so I took advantage of the empty skies by entering the pattern at a midfield crosswind, cooking along at a good 200mph. Hey, I figured, what a great time to put on a show for mom sitting down there waiting for us to return. It's a small office, after all, so it's virtually guaranteed that this particular story is going to make the rounds. Might as well make it a Tom Cruise story, albeit 700' shy of actually buzzing the tower.

That all went well, but the landing was one of those embarrassingly ostentatious bounces that one never wants to do in front of witnesses. I couldn't even fall back on my earlier preparation since the landing back at MadCo had been fairly good. About all I could say was that a landing like that was proof that I'm just not flying enough.

As far as the RV-12, well, I was able to work for about an hour tonight. I'm still doing prep work for the eventual drilling of the flaperon torque tubes. The first step was to clamp the flaperons into a neutral position. This ultimately proved to be the only step that went well.

Against the prevailing trend, it was the right wing that gave me trouble this time. The little black plastic cone wouldn't fit into the open end of the torque tube.

This kept the torque tube from flushing up against the brackets.

I had to unclamp the flaperon and allow it to droop down, then had to pull the wing pins out and pull the wing out a few inches to gain some room to work. The powder coating on the torque tube was keeping the cone from fitting, and it had also built a little ridge around the circumference of the cone as a result of my having tried to push it in. A very light filing of the tube and a light sanding of the cone resolved the problem.

The next step was to insert a .063" spacer between the two tubes. Now here's the thing about a .063" spacer: if you're very lucky, someone will give you one of those, having himself built one up from other, thinner shims and used it on his very own RV-12. That's probably the best way to get a .063" spacer, but if you aren't lucky enough to have one given to you, or if you're careless enough to lose the one you've been given, there is an alternative. You can go to Harbor Freight (hopefully not the Home of Arbitrarily Sized Feeler Gauges) and pick up a set of feeler gauges for $3.99. You can then remove and combine the .028" and .035" plates to make something that at least mathematically equates to a .063" spacer.

Having done so, though, you're very likely to decide that enough is enough and call it a night.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

When 90 degrees seems cool...

Question: When do you look at a forecast for temps in low 90s and say "Yeah, that's more like it! I'm goin' to the hangar!!"

Answer: When you've just spent a week looking at forecasts in the 100s and saying "Nope, no way I'm going to the hangar!"

So yesterday, finally, I got back to work. Cadillac Pete was also chomping at the bit and was more than happy to brave the slightly-less-of-a-sauna-but-still-a-sauna-none-the-less hangar (in fact, it was his idea!) and help out with the next steps. We're still in the mode of hunting back through the plans to find things that I didn't do when I was supposed to because it didn't make sense to do them until now. In this case, those things included installing the Flettner tab and the electric motor that will be used to control its position.

The tab itself fit into place almost as if it had been designed to. Of course, it had in fact been designed to just that, but that doesn't always mean anything at all. It could just as easily taken hours to get the thing to fit - it's happened that way before and it will happen that way again.

The mounting of the trim motor tray is a case in point. It took quite a bit of finagling (which is Latin for 'cussing', I think) to get it into place. Having done so, however, I was relieved to find that the bushings that I had agonized over more than a year ago when I first measured and cut them from a piece of tube were actually the correct length. I double, triple, quadruple checked them because they seemed too short. Now I know why: the black plastic bushings take up the slack.

Then it was just a simple matter of crimping five connectors on the wires. Well, not so simple in the event. The wires are very, very thin. I couldn't even strip the insulation off with my nice wire trimmers because the wires were too thin for the tool. They were also too thin, as it turns out, for the crimped on connectors to get enough wire to grab ahold of. The connectors fell right off after being crimped. I went though a couple of connectors (fortunately I had amortized the cost of shipping a couple of replacements by buying ten after the last time I ruined one) before realizing that I would have to find a better way.

What I did was to take a length of 20 gauge wire and strip a short piece of insulation off the end.

I cut that end off, carefully leaving a very small length of insulation on it. I braided the new thicker wire onto the too-thin wire. I would then have a thick enough wire to crimp.

I was afraid that the thin wire would still be too weak to support the connector, so I added a piece of shrink wrap tube to add some strain relief.

And there they are, all hooked up and ready to go.

With the exception of not having any control cables attached to it, the tail is functionally complete.

Pete had been kind enough to bring me a loaf of bread that his lovely wife Красивая женщина had been kind enough to bake for me. Figuring that getting the Flettner tab and its drive motor installed was about all of the work I wanted to do in the awful heat, I decided to call it a day and head home for a sandwich made from said bread.

Today was a little cooler than yesterday, but that's akin to saying that a crocodile is friendlier than an alligator. You really don't want to take a bath with either of them. Pete was on hand again to help with the installation of the flaperons. This was to be another of those jobs that I would have had no hope of doing alone. It's been an absolute godsend having someone to offer a hand. I imagine this kind of stuff can be done alone with enough inventiveness and perseverance, but I'm sure happy that I don't need to have either of those traits in abundance to get this thing done, because I don't.

This is the business end of the flaperon:

The black cone aligns (and, I suspect, fits into, after sufficient inventiveness and perseverance have been applied) with the open end of the flaperon torque tube. The olive drab tab that you can almost see below it fits into the slot of the torque tube. Between the two of them, those two things will align the wing as it is inserted into the fuselage and provide the torque to rotate the flaperons.

With the flaperons finally installed, the wings went back onto the airplane. It was too hot and uncomfortable to even consider moving onto the next step. That step is pretty critical: we will be aligning and drilling the flaperon torque tubes.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

It's a heat humidity wave!

I could tolerate temperatures in the 90s easily enough and, after suffering through the worst that winter had to throw at me, probably actually enjoy that kind of heat. If, that is, it wasn't also accompanied by cloying humidity. In my considered opinion, you should not be able to feel air clinging to you like an alpaca blanket. You should not be able to fill a glass with tea-steepingly hot water simply by wringing a handful of air. This is the weather we have, though, so I'm spending the week reaquainting myself with the computer games and TV shows that get usually pushed aside in favor of working on the airplane.

It's not that I've forgotten the plane, though. During my heat-induced hiatus I have managed a finish a few errands. I ordered a bag of commonly use nuts, bolts, screws, and washers from Aircraft Spruce and added a couple of extra AN3-10A bolts to replace the two that jumped ship.

There was also a fun discussion on Doug Reeve's Van's forum concerning alternative engines for the RV-12. By "fun," of course, I mean "combative, evangelical, and self-serving." Mostly people are open to the idea of using alternative engines, but these things always seem to degenerate down into a fight over which engine is better. It's as if one engine has to be bad for the other to be good. That's ridiculous, but for some reason (perhaps human nature) it's inevitable. The situation in this case was exacerbated by the over-promising and "you're an idiot if you don't buy my engine" sub-tones from the guy that has the most to gain from deriding the currently dominant engine. I don't have a dog in this hunt since I am perfectly content to follow Van's lead in their selection of a well-known, proven engine, but I am at the same time supportive of people that are willing to bravely go down another path in support of a newly emerging power plant. To each his own, I figure.

There have been more announcements from Van's regarding the Dynon Skyview as a replacement for the current D-180. Notably absent from these announcements is any indication of what it will cost. I did a little napkin math to see if I could come up with a good estimate:
I figure you're "trading in" a Garmin 496 and a Garmin transponder, and adding:

SkyView 10” Display (includes main wiring harness & SynVis)

ADAHRS - First (at least one ADAHRS required)

Engine Monitoring Module

ARINC-429 Interface Module

SkyView GPS Navigation Mapping Software

Mode-S Class 1 Transponder (high performance aircraft & US)

GPS 5Hz Receiver Module (at least one recommended)

That's $8,775. Add in some wiring harnesses and new panel aluminum, guessing about $250 for that. Subtract roughly $3,400 for the Garmin units you won't need anymore. That gives you $5,625. The D-180 was around $3,200.

My guess is you're looking at roughly an extra $2,500, but you won't need to buy the AP-74 ($450) if you decide to install the autopilot. So, I'm guessing about $2,000 more than you would have spent for an all-up solution. My personal opinion is that the Skyview provides enough additional value and future expandability to make that a good deal.

My fearless and consequence-free guess: Skyview avionics kit comes in at right around $15,000.
Stay tuned to see how close I got.

The weather is supposed to break in the next couple of days. I hope it does before the TV makes me homicidal - I've endured more Judge Judy than any man should be forced to see.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Taking another stab at it

With the vertical stab installed, there's one more to go: the horizontal stab. But before that could be done, the rudder needed to be installed on the VStab. This was made more difficult by the newly tall and increasingly inconvenient VStab. The only way to reach the top hinge was to use the new scaffold.

Cadillac Pete showed up just in time to help me install the rudder (it wasn't going very well as a one-man job) and to help get the HStab ready to mount.

The bolts that hold in the counterbalance arm have to be removed and the arm twisted 90 degrees in its mount to allow the weights to fit through the aft bulkhead.

The fit through the slot easily.

I marked the arm to help me remember which way to turn it in order to get it back to its original orientation. Yes, it matters.

Putting in the bolts to hold the stab in place turned out to be slightly more difficult that it initially appeared. I thought it lucky that the washers that I had super glued into place almost two years ago were still holding, but it turned out that the glue bond had grown brittle and fragile in the intervening months as had, truth be told, my patience when it comes to super glue in general. As soon as we tried to get the flanges with the washers glued to them into position, the washers broke loose. That led to a trip to Lowes where I found a new package design for Super Glue: four single-use tubes instead of the normal larger tube that ends up being a de facto higher cost single-use package since the unused portion inevitably hardens in the tube before I get around to needing it again.  Maybe I will find super glue to be more tolerable now.

Once the washers were glued back onto the flanges, it was relatively easy to get the stab bolted into place.

Cap Down!

In the neighborhood where I grew up, we had an expression we used whenever we slammed another kid with a really good insult: Cap Down! I hadn't thought of that in decades; it came to me just now as I was trying to think of a pithy title for this post. I kind of miss the concept, though, and wish I could use it in my day-to-day life as an adult. Why? Well, through necessity (read: overly timid HR departments) my cap downs have become extraordinarily subtle and surgically precise. The problem there is that the people that most need to know that they've been the target of one of my oh-so-subtle zings are more often than not completely oblivious to it.

Oh well, at least I know. And every now and then I see the secret eye shift from some of the witnesses that passes for a silent Cap Down!

So what's the deal with caps? I'll get to that shortly. First allow me to set the stage for yesterday's efforts. I'm at a bit of a crossroads now and faced with a few decisions as to how and where to proceed. The next step in the plans if I want to proceed in a linear fashion is to drill the flaperon torque tubes. Doing so required installing the wings. All well and good since Cadillac Pete and I got that done just a few days ago. Soon after that will come the installation of the rudder and stabilator control cables. To do that, the rudder and stabilator need to be installed. Since the plane looked so incredible with the wings attached, I was leaning towards installing the tail feathers to get some more of that "Wow, does that ever look like an airplane!" feeling in my belly.

Each of those activities requires a trip back to the deep past to find the place in the plans where I was supposed to do those things in the first place. Having decided that the emotional lift of installing the tail feathers was a desirable goal, I decided to start there. But wait! The parts bags for the tail kit were nowhere to be found in the hangar, even though I was sure that I had gathered everything up when I brought the rest of the finish kit parts out to the hangar from the basement shop. I must have missed bringing the box full of brown paper bags with the tail kit hardware in them. I didn't want to go home to get it.

Pete suggested that we install the flaperons instead. While they would not be as visually striking as having the tail feathers on, they would still meet the soft and recently imposed requirement to install at least one control surface per day. Unfortunately, two of the AN3-10A bolts required have gone missing. An exhaustive search (I assume it to have been exhausting - I let Pete do it so I don't really know) didn't find them, so I'll have to order new ones. I'm going to order a handful of various sizes while I'm at it because 1) it's nice to have spares for the years of maintenance that lie ahead, and 2) it mitigates the pain of the shipping charges. Then I will take bets as to how long it will take to find the original two bolts after the replacements arrive.

Which reminds me: I found the bag of cotter pins.

Stymied on the flaperons, there was no choice but to run home and get the box of tail kit hardware. It was easy to find; it was sitting on the corner of the workbench where I put it so I wouldn't forget to take it out to the hangar. Funny how that works.

Once back at the hangar, I followed the bread crumbs back through the plans to see which part of the tail should be installed first. That turned out to be a good way to do it because it unearthed all of the "install this, remove it to do this, re-install it, remove it to do this" frustrations that are liberally sprinkled throughout the process. For example, had I started at "install vertical stabilizer" I would have been frustrated by having to remove it just a few pages later to install the fiberglass caps (Ah, there it is! We get to the caps at last!) that go on top of the VStab and rudder.

So where are the caps? I remembered very clearly that I threw them into the car so I'd be sure to drop them off at the hangar. What I didn't remember was ever having actually dropped them off. Surely, then, they are still in the car. Just not the car that I happened to have with me.

Another trip back home.

The caps come nicely formed and almost ready to go right out of the box, but they do require some trimming. They have a recessed edge that slips down into the open top if the VStab and rudder, and the molded corner of that recess needs to be squared up with a razor knife. Pete picked that job.

That left the trimming jobs to me. There are scribe lines around the edges of each part that show an approximation of the final fit. Van's asks that we approach the scribe line tentatively so as not to take off more material than needed. As I've said many times before, the great thing about working with fiberglass is how easy it is to remove material, while the horrible thing about working with fiberglass is how easy it is to remove material. I marked the suggested 1/8" buffer zone with a Sharpie(tm) marker.

Van's also suggests that a good way to remove the material is 80 grit sandpaper wrapper around a cylindrical object. I thought that was a terrific suggestion, but I had no 80 grit sandpaper. Not to worry, though, because I did have some sandpaper of undefined grittiness wrapped around a cylindrical object, and I figured the coarseness of 80 grit paper could be very suitably simulated with a high number of revolutions per minute. In other words, I grabbed the Dremel(tm) and a little sanding drum.

The Dremel(tm) was absolutely the right tool for the job. It removed the stuff I needed to trim away so easily that I commented to Pete that I had on a few occasions had an Anne Frank moment. I was met with a quizzical look that indicated to me that I might need to clarify what I meant by that.

"Well, I was only one sneeze away from tragedy."

Yeah, I know. I blame the fiberglass dust. Apparently it suppresses politically correct thoughts.

The trimming worked, though, and it was a simple matter to match drill to the tail parts and cleco the caps in for riveting.

The caps had been the only thing preventing us from bolting on the VStab, so that was next. A dozen AN3 bolts hold the VStab on and each was tightened up according to the torque values provided in the handbook provided by Van's with the kit.

I think the VStab was the right choice for a good emotional boost. Look how tall the plane has gotten!