Awww Nuts!

The picture sort of speaks for itself, doesn't it? A long-ago completed stabilizer for our Xenos motor glider project, carefully stored in the hangar was recently abused by some workers we had bumbling around unsupervised. The good news is that this dent isn't a concern structurally. The bad news is that I don't think it is going be covered by fiberglass fairing like it would be on an RV. Such are the problems of long-term airplane building - completed assemblies can sit for a long time before being used in the final airplane, and the chances of damage due to storage accidents, corrosion, or the simple effects of entropy can take their toll. Continue reading "Awww Nuts!"

The LONG Spar

I know, the picture isn't very good, and the lighting is poor--but there in the middle are the recently joined left and right spars for our nascent Xenos Motorglider--and if it were any longer, it would need two zip codes! Continue reading "The LONG Spar"

Build it Better

Kitplanes - Build it BetterA few years back, before I took over the helm of Kitplanes, I wrote a series of articles that stemmed from a talk I was giving around the country entitled "Lessons from Mission Control." The gist of the material is that we learned many things about flying humans in space in experimental machines in my years (and my predecessors years) in NASA's human spaceflight program, and many of those lessons are directly applicable to what we do in Experimental aviation. Building a bridge and cross-pollinating those lessons can save time, money—and most importantly, lives. Continue reading "Build it Better"

Getting a Grip

Cockpit ergonomics are a big deal to me – and they are a slippery problem. I spent much of a career helping designers refine designs for man-machine interfaces, and part of the problem we had is that everyone had different opinions of what was “good.” And given the wide variety of people – both in size and shape as well as the way they think – coming up with good solutions was never easy. Continue reading "Getting a Grip"

Tundra: Return to Flight!

Dream Tundra flight

The Monday after Christmas dawned clear, calm, and cold here in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains of Nevada – perfect for flight testing (assuming you have thermal underwear and gloves)! It was time to get our Dream Tundra back in the air after significant belly skin upgrades. We also finished up a complete (early) annual condition inspection, seeing as how we took the plane out of service right after completing Phase 1, and this was a great opportunity to do a tip to tail inspection after the flight test phase. In addition, we’ve added a few things during the downtime – things we’ll be writing about in the near future in the pages of Kitplanes and here on the web site. These include a new angle of attack indicator from Alpha Systems AoA, and a T3 tail wheel suspension from Airframes Alaska, plus new stick grips from Tosten, and a pitch trim controller from TCW. We’ve also made a few tweaks to the Dynon Skyview, updating to the latest software – so there is a lot to test and report on! Continue reading "Tundra: Return to Flight!"

Drill, deburr... repeat!

After several months of waiting on new pre-punched parts to be made and delivered by Dream Aircraft for our Tundra, we finally received a big box of belly skins and repairs are underway! If you remember, we (and other owners) discovered some buckling under the chin of the aircraft that were attributed to torque loads on a very thin (0.024”) skin section. The repair is to use much thicker material, and eliminate a couple of inspection panels that further weakened the area. While we could have made these parts (and indeed, we began fabricating them after the long delay – but stopped when informed that they wee ready for shipment), the pre-punched components fit perfectly into the existing holes in the framework, and require far less tweaking.

Yesterday we drilled out hundreds of rivets holding the cabin and nose belly skins in place, completing the removal process we had started a while back. Our arms are feeling it today, I’ll tell you! Lying on a creeper and holding even a lightweight air drill for a couple of hours is tiring. With all of the rivets removed, we were able to drop the skins and start cleaning up all of the rivet tails, aluminum shavings, and accumulated dirt that seems to creep into a structure over the years. The good news is that the fuselage framing is in great shape, and (most of) the holes aren’t enlarged from the rivet removal process. A few will need oversized rivets – but that’s the life of aircraft repair.

We had already made a smaller doubler plate ourselves using a Mylar pattern technique to match holes, but Dream supplied us with a new belly skin, doubler, and the thickened chin skin all of which fit perfectly, with only the need to up-drill the pre-punched pilot holes to final size. More drilling while lying on our backs – yippee! A good solid work day saw us to the point where all the holes are done on the bottom of the airplane, and we only have to work our way up around the sides – that will require some blocking and wrapping with cargo straps to bring the skins in tight.

Drill, deburr... repeat! That’s aircraft sheet metal repair. It takes the time it takes, but we can see some light at the end of the tunnel. Plus, we found those missing screwdriver bits and determined that there were no mice living under the floorboard of the airplane – so we’ve got that going for us!