Saturday, July 9, 2011

Too bad it isn't a tail dragger...

... because if it was, the landing gear installation would be done. As it is, the training wheel still has yet to be installed.

I was the first to arrive at the shop this morning (which is kind of expected, what with me being the guy with the key) and whipped through the final tightening of the wheel bolts and the addition of 28 PSIs of air, each.

Harley showed up next and we made the critical move of the fuselage to a regular top-on-the-top orientation. This is more than likely the way the fuselage will be oriented from here on out.

I spent a lot of time last night reading up on all of the tribulations others have had when it comes to installing the main landing gear legs, my hopes being that I could apply the tips and tricks they had come up with to our installation, thus avoiding hours of tedious and sweaty labor. The most common suggestion was to go to the hardware store and get some off-the-shelf bolts that are a bit longer than the actual AN bolts that will hold the brackets that hold the gear in place. The idea was that having the bracket dangling lower would made it easier to get the tongue of the gear leg slid into place. So that's what I did.

(Note that you can see two blue brake line fittings on the powder-coated part. This is wrong! The one further inside the airplane should be brass!)

I also double checked that all of the bolts would fit easily through the powder-coated steel blocks; that has been an issue in the past. Not to worry: all of the bolts slid through their assigned holes with no obstructions felt at all. There are also some bare steel "wear plates" that needed to be prepared by smearing grease on them to keep them from rusting. That was the usually messy job that results from anything involving grease. I hate the stuff.

Cadillac Pete showed up at about this time and we got serious about getting the left leg bolted in. Unfortunately, it wasn't quite that easy. First of all, I couldn't get the outboard bracket to fit into the channel because a couple of rivet ends were in the way. They were blind rivets, so they weren't able to see me coming at them with a drill and it was easy to just drill them out. The perfect ambush!

That wasn't the end of the problems, though. Try as we might, we just couldn't get three of the bolts to go all the way down through there respective holes. Eventually we managed to get them into a sort of bolt purgatory where they would go no further in despite our most strenuous efforts, but nor could we get them back out. As I looked at the problem from underneath, it appeared that I had allowed the greasy steel wear plate to get tilted, thus binding the whole operation up. I thought if we could just get the bolts back out and get that plate leveled, it might all proceed much more smoothly.

This ordeal had been going on for a couple of rather hot hours at that point, so I somewhat desperately went to the toolbox for a sharp, pointy tool that I could use to push the bolts back out from the bottom side. I knew everyone was getting a little tired when I said, "I'm going to give this my awl!" and didn't even get a chuckle. But the awl worked even if the pun fell short; the bolts were soon out.

It's all kind of a blur now, but somewhere in all of that turmoil I somehow noticed that the bolts wouldn't fit through the holes in the second wear plate over on the bench. I had been so conscientious about testing the fit of the powder-coated parts that I had completely neglected to test the bare metal parts. The bolts were simply stuck at the point of trying to get through the plate.

The problem was quickly rectified with the judicious application of some good ole drillin' and I was soon able to theatrically drop a bolt through the holes that had caused so much grief. As it dropped through with complete ease, Pete couldn't help laughing. He was summarily brusquely chastised for laughing about my wear plate fiasco, but having completely deadpanned my awl quip. He was already on thin ice anyway after having committed the unpardonable sin of having photographed my bald(ing) spot, which you surely will have noticed above. I would have fired the last guy that did that if it hadn't been, well... me. It just figures that it was that picture that he managed to get into focus!

With all of the bolts in place after what had to be two or three hours of frustration, we had a leg installed.

As it turned out, the secret to installing these gear legs isn't hardware store bolts and dangling brackets. Rather, the secret is to do it with three people. The division of duties is this:

- one guy on top holding the wrench on nuts or bolts, depending on which are in work, and helping position things.
- one guy below doing the same, but in a much more awkward position.
- one guy leaning on the side of the plane performing high-level management functions.

Guess which position I favored!

Having learned that we didn't need to do all of the temporary bolt dangling stuff and that the gear would slide easily into place if there were enough hands involved and all of the holes were drilled to the right size beforehand, we got the second leg fully installed in fifteen or twenty minutes. I didn't even need to drill out any rivets.

As I started to clean up tools, I discovered why the second leg seemed to fit so much more easily: I had forgotten to install one of the wear plates.

This is not a happy face. The leg had to come back out.

Still, it was much easier to get the leg back in now that we had it down to a science, although one rivet did still need to be drilled out. Here's the crew just before heading to the Galloway Tavern for a well-deserved pizza:

1 comment:

Leon said...

well done getting the legs on. it is starting to look like a plane.
ps i'm the one giving you the weird africa demographic

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