Thursday, July 7, 2011

Rolling with the punches

It was a frustrating day in the shop, not least because I was working alone and had to do all of the hard stuff myself. It shouldn't have been a difficult day, really, since all I wanted to do was install the autopilot roll servo. As usual, it looked like a simple job from front to back: finish up the control rod that I had started yesterday, crimp some electrical connectors onto the wires, and bolt it in. Nothing to it.

The control rod was done in no time even with the slower pace dictated by having to gather the little pieces/parts by myself. It was also a simple matter to bolt it to the control horn. I didn't really start facing any significant headwind until I tried to remove the wrench that I had used to hold the nut.

Oops! In hindsight it appears that I may have selected the wrong end of the wrench to use. Trapped!

The fix for that was easy; all I had to do was loosen the nut a little bit. The next step is where it all fell apart. I tried and tried and tried to get the servo bolted in, but no matter how many times I tried it and how many different ways I ordered the bolts as I put them in, it always came out the same: the fourth bolt would not align with the hole in the servo.

It made no sense at all! Those brackets were pre-drilled and riveted into a set of holes put there by the ultra-sophisticated computerized parts making machines at Van's. There was simply no way that I could have screwed that up.

Or.... was there? Was it possible that those brackets weren't as identical as they appeared? Might there have been a 'left' bracket and a 'right' bracket that I had somehow managed to install incorrectly?

As it turns out, the answer is yes.

That mistake, made more than a year ago in the thermally controlled indoor workshop where the fuselage was initially constructed, was paid for today in a 91 degree hangar. Both of the brackets had to be drilled out and replaced in their correct positions. Not. Much. Fun. But in the end, the roll servo dropped into place perfectly and it was an almost simple batter to bolt it into place. I say almost because one of the bolts was in a difficult location, but I was eventually able to get it tightened up by using the same wrench that I had mis-used earlier in the day.

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