Sunday, July 31, 2016

AirVenture 2016

Well, we're back from another awesome time at AirVenture Oshkosh 2016! Here's a writeup of our trip... enjoy!

Getting There

We left home a day earlier than planned (Friday 7/22) so that we could be in front of a line of bad weather that looked like it might be a problem if we waited until Saturday. Because we left so late in the day however, we weren't going to be able to make it to Oshkosh before the airport closed at 8:00 PM, so we set our sights on Baraboo, WI (KDLL) to spend the night. Our original plan was to fly formation as a flight of 4 aircraft (us in the Archer, Dan in a Cardinal RG, Gretchen in a Citabria, and Jonathan in an experimental biplane called a Burrows MB-360... a "motley crew" if there ever was one!); but since we were in sort of a rush to get airborne, and everyone would be departing from different home base airports in a staggered fashion, we figured we'd just improvise our way up to DLL and then do a "real" formation the next morning. So, we loaded up "Julie" the Archer with our 315lb of camping gear and set off into the dusk, headed for Baraboo.

About halfway there, as we were crossing the Mississippi River and wondering if we were going to hear from anyone in the formation on discrete frequency, I got a text message from Jonathan (I know I know, texting and flying...) that said "had an engine failure, all is ok." I thought whoa, not good at all. We decided to continue on, and after landing at Baraboo we called him to get the whole story. Long story short, the MB-360's engine quit on him at about 500' AGL just after takeoff from IIB. Biplanes aren't exactly known for their streamlined aerodynamics, and thus without power they basically become controllable bricks falling through the air. He ended up making a flawless forced landing on the road beside the airport, coasted into the neighbor's driveway (Bob Hoover style, from the sounds of it), and, I can only imagine, proceeded to reach for a fresh pair of shorts from his camping gear before climbing out of the airplane.

So after the dust settled with all that excitement, Jonathan and Gretchen decided to stay on the ground for the week, and in lieu of going to OSH they took a road trip and went camping around some different parks in the area. Sounds like they had a great time, and it was probably a well-earned reprieve from flying after that whole ordeal. That left Sarah and I in the Archer, and our friends Dan and Alexis in their Cardinal RG, who ended up also making their way to Baraboo that night.

We all split a hotel room, ate some frozen pizza from the hotel bar, drank a few Spotted Cows, and called it a night. The next morning, we looked up at the sky to realize it was pretty well socked in. The METAR was reporting BKN003, which is well below the limits for safe VFR flight. More bad news to the west: A line of storms had formed and were making their way toward us. The bright side of this was that at least we were on the correct side of the storms-- had we waited to leave home until now, we would have been completely stuck. This was unfortunately the case for our friends Roy and Merry, who were waiting to depart from IIB in a 172 to come and join us.

Our first Spotted Cow of the trip!

We grabbed some breakfast from McDonald's and waited for the skies to clear. Although the METAR hadn't changed, we were noticing a few holes in the sky showing clear blue above, and they seemed to be increasing in both size and frequency... a good sign, but it was now a race to see if the skies would improve in time before the storm hit us from the west. So we gathered our gear, checked out of the hotel, and headed to the airport to be ready to pounce at the first sign of good weather. The four of us joined a group of about 20-30 people out on the ramp at DLL, all waiting for good weather to head to OSH. What made it particularly frustrating was that Oshkosh itself, a mere 50 miles away, was reporting beautiful clear skies and calm winds. That means that although we're grounded here, the arrivals to OSH are in full effect, and with every new arrival there, it pushes us one parking spot further away that we'll be stuck with.

Waiting to depart KDLL Saturday morning

I should point out that this entire situation is the kind of thing you can find many accident reports about... a pilot pressed by a number of external factors including both schedule and weather, and the fear of disappointing your passengers, in this case by potentially ending up in a less-than-ideal parking spot to camp in. Of course, the latter point wasn't really a factor, at least from Sarah herself. She is very much accustomed to the way things go in GA, and is about as easygoing as it gets when it comes to schedule changes and improvisation like in the current situation. That doesn't change my own desire to get us there on time, though, and it really does take quite a bit of mental gymnastics to come up with a correct and safe "game plan" that is untainted by external factors.

We ended up chatting with a couple guys who had a Ryan PT-22 and a Waco biplane, and were waiting for the weather to clear. As we talked, we saw a rather large "hole" in the sky begin to float right over the airport. This might be our chance! Talking with these two experienced pilots who were flying airplanes that performed significantly worse than our own, Dan and I made the decision to follow their lead and depart behind them (if they can make it out, we should be able to no problem, right?). We ran out to the ramp and climbed into our airplanes as they were hand-propping their antiques next to us. With four engines now roaring to life, we taxied out to the runway and watched this flight of two depart ahead of us and climb successfully through the hole, turning on course to Oshkosh. With nothing left to do but follow suit, Dan and I took the runway and departed in trail, climbing up and out into blue skies. After about 10 miles of flying towards OSH, the skies opened beneath to become ideal "clear and a million" weather for the rest of our arrival. Not the most ideal of circumstances, but we did make it out safely and legally... that's the important part!

The arrival itself was pretty painless... there were a few other planes around, but the spacing pretty much worked itself out on its own and we just flew up the tracks, with a right turn at Fisk Ave, left base for RW36L, and landed on the yellow dot without any issue. After a long taxi up to the North 40, we got parked in a nearly ideal camping spot and shut down... we made it!!

Parked and started unloading

Tent set up - home sweet home for the week!

The Week

What a week! I couldn't possibly go into detail about the whole trip, but let's just say Oshkosh never disappoints! We did get a bit more rain than usual, particularly in the first couple of days (remember all those storms we were racing to get in front of?), but by the middle/end of the week the weather became much more tolerable. Here's a few highlights:

  • Sunday we attended the RV-10 builder's dinner, put on by a number of current and former RV-10 builders in Camp Scholler. It's always great to see this group, meeting up with some old friends and making new ones, often finally being able to associate a face with a familiar online profile either from VAF or Facebook. It's a very diverse group from all over the country and even beyond!
  • Monday we attended the RV builder's social, which is always a fun chance to "cut loose" a bit around your fellow RV family. It's sponsored by a number of vendors who cater to the experimental/RV aviation market, and there is always plenty of Spotted Cow (among other beers) flowing freely. It's become a tradition for us to attend this social and then stumble over to SOS when the kegs run dry, usually right around sunset, to grab some food and maybe a few more drinks. This is always a night we look forward to, but don't expect us to be ready for anything too early on Tuesday morning ;-) 
  • Tuesday night we had the tough decision to choose between the Van's Dinner Social or the EAA Chapter Presidents' dinner, sponsored by Ford. Since this is the first year I've attended OSH as a chapter president, we thought we'd give it a shot. We had a good time and ran into a good RV-10 friend (they seem to pop up everywhere don't they!), but honestly there wasn't much food and there was nowhere to sit. I guess it didn't really live up to what I thought it was going to be... I think next year we'll stick with the Van's dinner.
  • Wednesday night we attended the EAA Young Eagles dinner in the Eagle Hangar at the museum. This is always an excellent event with delicious and somewhat healthy/square food, which can be a rare commodity at AirVenture! We even had the chance to get a photo op with Sully and Skiles!
  • Thursday we had our Chapter 33 dinner at Saz's plaza. We had a decent turnout, maybe 8-10 members in attendance from the Cedar Rapids area. It's always fun to plan these kind of destination events!
  • Friday we were invited to fellow RV-10 builder Mike T.'s campsite for dinner and a few drinks. We had a delicious dinner and great conversation that went well into the night. It's so humbling and awesome to meet so many genuinely great people at OSH!
  • Saturday morning we ran the "Runway 5K" while tired and sore from the week's events, not to mention still full of salmon and Jim Beam from the night before. Needless to say, we didn't set any world records, but we made it through and enjoyed the free water, bananas and bagels at the end of the race (I remember asking the lady handing out bagels where the doughnuts were... lol).
  • Sunday morning, it was time to pack up and head home... time to get back to building and look forward to OSH 2017! With any luck, we'll be flying our very own RV-10 by then....
A few random pics:

RV Builders Social 2016! I got some crap from a few RV-10 friends who noticed my name tag said "Mike" the night before at the less-crazy RV-10 dinner, but tonight it was time for "Mikey J" to come out ;-)

We met Capt. Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger and F.O. Jeff Skiles from the "Miracle on the Hudson" at the Wednesday Young Eagles dinner!

Probably the highlight of the entire trip, Sarah and I both had the chance to meet the legend himself, Mr. R.A. Bob Hoover!

Had the chance to meet up with another RV-10 builder friend Mike T, who graciously invited Sarah and I to dinner at his campsite. Fresh grilled salmon imported from New Zealand... yum!!! Thanks again Mike!!!!

We ran the Runway 5K! Nope, we weren't in it to win it, but we had fun :-)

Lounging in our new Wind Pouch inflatable couches... they are quite comfortable once you figure out how to properly inflate them!

Sunday morning departure, headed for our halfway stop at Lone Rock, WI for our usual breakfast at the Piccadilly Lilly. Just a few other airplanes showing on the TIS!

With that, it's time to get back to building!!!!!

Monday, July 4, 2016

Forward Progress!!!

Well after almost 6 months of very little progress to report, I'm happy to say we had a very productive holiday weekend in the shop. Oh yeah, happy July 4!!!

Team Sarah Maggie and Mikey J back at it in the shop!

First order of business, however, was to fix our propane grill in preparation for Oshkosh later on this month... the hinge had some kind of cheap and terrible rivets holding the cover together, and it had come apart sometime last year. So, it seemed like a perfect project to fire up the rivet gun for the first time in quite a while:

A couple AN470AD4-4 and we're back in business... first rivets set in quite a while!!

Alright, now on to the fiberglass stuff. I've been wanting to get my center console and throttle quadrant up and going, so the first thing I wanted to do was put the throttle friction lock recess back into place. I did this by marking the center point of the friction lock stud, and drilling a 2.5" hole using a hole saw. Then, I took a scrap piece of 1/2" styrofoam and cut a hole out of it as well (using the hole saw with the drill in reverse):

Throttle friction lock recess

I took a second piece of styrofoam and glued it to the back of the first piece, and taped it into place behind the hole I cut in the console. After a quick layup session and some sanding, drilling, and cutting, I had this piece:
Throttle friction lock, with quadrant mounted into place

Nice!! Nothing like taking some time off from building and getting back into the swing of things with a successful first project. Next, it was time to tackle the cabin cover. We've got a couple things going on simultaneously with the cabin cover: (1) The A-pillars are nearly done after months of "5-minutes-at-a-time" work sanding and filling; (2) The B-pillars will be closed in much like the A-pillars, but that effort is just getting started. Sarah has volunteered to take charge of this task (in fact, that's what she's doing in the top photo in this post) and I fully expect them to come out better than the A-pillars that I did; and (3) The overly-complicated overhead console. While I'm happy we're taking this route, I cannot overstate the amount of extra work that "rolling your own" requires versus buying, say, the Aerosport overhead console out of the box. I think by the end of this build I'm going to be Aerosport's #1 sales rep, even though I've bought only a small handful of their products compared to what they have available :-)

So now that the ducts are pretty close to done, it's time to build up the rest of the overhead, which will contain lights, switches, and a 4" speaker. I spent a lot of time trying to figure out what the best design would be for this, taking into consideration function, headroom, and aesthetics. I came up with this hourglass-shaped design which I'm super happy with how it turned out:

The hourglass-shaped cutout for the overhead console

The front two vent pads are visible at the bottom of the photo above. Working backwards from there, the idea is to have the vents "flow" visually into the area immediately behind, where there will be two eyeball spot lights. The center area will be raised slightly, approximately 5" wide and have an access cover containing a few switches and hiding some wiring. Moving further back, there is a mold to put a flush-mounted 4" PA speaker in the ceiling. I'm planning on using a Visaton R10S speaker with a black wire mesh grille. It *should* look pretty slick when it's done.

Moving further back from the speaker is the set of rear vent pads, which I've noticed I placed quite a bit farther forward than where they are in the Aerosport overhead console. From my mockups and measurements, these will be directly over the knees of the rear seat occupants, which is where I envisioned to be the best place for them. Maybe they are better further back? Oh well, too late to change that now. Lastly, there will be another area for two more eyeball spot lights for the rear seat occupants.

After mocking everything up with pink foam, I had an idea to try something different to fill in all the gaps and round off all the transitions: Great Stuff spray foam. We've dabbled with it plenty in the past, but this is the first time I'm using it for mold-making. I laid down a sheet of plastic film and got to work:

Using spray foam to fill in the gaps, and bucking bars to hold everything in place

Side view of the current state of affairs

Now to let the foam cure and get to sanding it all back down again!

Saturday, June 11, 2016

We're still here...

This post is dedicated to our friends who've reached out asking for an update... we're alive and well, just had a CRAZY spring so far... hopefully things will be settling down soon and we can get back to building!

Well, we're over halfway to Oshkosh now since the last update (yes we keep track of time using Oshkosh as a reference), and although unfortunately I don't have a ton of progress to report, I thought I'd make a quick update. I think we left off complaining about the basement flooding...again. Fortunately, it wasn't too big of a mess or hassle, and within a week or two things were pretty much back to normal in that department. Both Sarah and I have had a number of things going on though, keeping us mostly away from the garage. Every now and then we'd sneak out there and sand a bit on the cabin cover, but really hardly any measurable progress has been made.

So let's see... where to start? Oh yeah, we got a new puppy!!! Guess what we named him?

Our new puppy - Cleco!!

I don't have to explain to this audience why we named him Cleco... but unfortunately everyone else we run into needs a quick explanation, always with the same unenthusiastic reaction of "oh... cool." It's alright, we think it's a good name for him. We got him from the local animal shelter, and he has adapted to our household very well, and gets along great with our other dog Mesa. Training and housebreaking is going "ok" so far, as I'm sure anyone who's raised a puppy can agree it's no small task and takes no small commitment!

Shortly after bringing home our new pup at some point in early April, I ended up getting in touch with fellow RV-10 builder Ed Kranz up in the Minneapolis area, and he very graciously offered for Sarah and I to come up and see his plane (now completed and flying) in person before it went in for paint. That was an offer we couldn't pass up! One of the primary things I was interested in seeing was his G3X avionics setup, which was very similar to what we've purchased, except for the fact that he had opted for the "whole hog" and has three beautiful 10" screens in his panel as opposed to my two. He is an advocate of the three-display approach, so that you can have a full-screen PFD and then use the center screen as the MFD. In a two-display setup like ours, the second panel is too far off to the right to contain much useful data for the person in the left seat (and vice versa).

Ed's three-display RV-10 panel in action

It was so cool to be able to get up there and see the very airplane I had been watching come together online over the past few years, and not only that but get a chance to go flying in it! Thanks so much again to Ed for your generosity and hospitality... we are truly grateful to be part of such a cool community of builders. Can't wait to "pay it forward" for some future builders in our plane when it's done... but now I'm getting ahead of myself :-)

Anyway, after a short flight back home in "Julie" the Archer, I had to step into the shop for a minute with some mockups and start playing around:

N165MJ with three 10" displays

N165MJ with a 7" center display

It's tempting... very tempting. We'll see how things go. Another thing to point out is I've gotten rid of the GRT Mini-X in favor of the new Garmin G5 EFIS, as well as swapped out audio panels from the GMA350c to the GMA245. I've actually been able to sell off those new-in-box items I had already purchased, and place an order with Stein for the new stuff. It should work out pretty close to a wash, maybe even a few dollars in my favor, and I'll have all the "latest and greatest" Garmin stuff. The audio panel may be regarded as a bit of a step down from the flagship 350c, but the new 245 actually has all of the features I wanted out of the 350c, and it interfaces better with the rest of the G3X system. And it's cheaper, so it's really a win-win! I think basically the only thing I lose is the voice command feature... which I wasn't really too excited about in the first place anyway.

So after the trip up north to see Ed and his plane, our schedules became almost completely filled up with "stuff" to do, and so we never really got any time to get back into the shop. I participated in a spot landing contest and LOST. Ugh. I landed about 2 feet short of the line, which is disqualifying. The winner landed about 20 feet beyond the line. Video of my attempt here:

Even two months later, still sore about this :-)

After that whole ordeal, I spent about the next 3 weeks holed up in my office, coding up and designing a new website for our EAA chapter. Back in February, I had been elected President of our local Chapter 33 (sounds pretty cool when I say it that way huh?), and the first order of business I wanted to achieve was improve our method of communication and simplify our website, making it easier to browse and maintain than before. It's just a basic Wordpress-powered site, but don't let the simple theme fool you... it still took weeks of work and thousands of lines of PHP code to make it all work the way I wanted. Fun stuff!! See the site here:

At some point in here, I built a new cutting table and storage rack for rolls of fiberglass, peel ply, and upholstery that rolls around on the floor and collapses for storage. It also has a rack along the top that holds a number of wire spools for when we get around to wiring everything up. I'll throw a picture of it in here soon.

Next up was a Young Eagles Rally, held at our "home" airport in Marion and sponsored by our Chapter. It ended up not as busy as we had hoped, but I did have the opportunity to make a flight that I think easily counts as the most rewarding thing I've had the privilege to do yet in an airplane... take my friend Jenny's son Dylan up for a ride. Dylan has autism, and at first I wasn't sure how things were going to go on the flight. Those concerns melted away as we performed our takeoff roll... here's one of my favorite videos that I've ever taken (there are a couple others from the flight on my youtube channel if you're interested):

Young Eagles flight with Dylan - Takeoff!

That was a flight I will not soon forget... so happy that it worked out the way it did! We're looking forward very much to the next Young Eagles Rally!

So let's see... other than that, I took my friend Brannen on a surprise "Bachelor's Day" flight the week before he got married. We went to Lone Rock, WI (KLNR) for breakfast at the Piccadilly Lilly Airport Diner, followed by a day in Oshkosh (KOSH) to visit the EAA museum, and then finished the day with dinner in Prairie du Chien, WI (KPDC) at Jones Black Angus, a nice steakhouse right across the street from the airport. Fun times!

Brannen (left), Roy (center), and Me (right) up to no good flying "Julie" the Archer all over WI!

Memorial day weekend came and went faster than I could have ever imagined (thanks in no small part to Brannen's wedding... congrats to you and Becca!), propelling us straight into June now, again with very little progress to report on the plane. Lately, I've been sneaking out to the garage a bit more and continuing on the cabin cover. The A-pillars are nearly complete, and they are finally contoured the way I had envisioned, with very few high or low spots remaining. Again, will get some pics on this soon.

Lastly, we're getting more and more excited for OSH16 as it approaches... we even got a new tent!

Our new OSH tent, set up and ready for waterproofing in our hangar

That's about it for now. Unfortunately, the hits just keep on coming as far as distractions go. This weekend, we have a benefit to attend for a good friend in need of a heart transplant, followed by a deep-cleaning of our house in preparation for the upcoming Father's Day weekend, when my parents are coming to visit from NY to spend the week. HOPEFULLY, when that is all over with, by the end of next week, we can get back to spending some serious time in the garage.

See you all then!

Monday, March 21, 2016

Not Again!!!!

Welp... the basement flooded again. Not nearly as bad this time, and unlike last time, this event was 100% my fault. In an effort to "foolproof" the sump pump system for the coming spring season, I had recently installed a triple-redundant array of pumps (two 120v and one 12v backup), each with all new PVC lines and couplings. Unfortunately for me, I didn't properly tighten one of the hose clamps on a rubber coupling, and after the first 24 hours of operation (during which time I had been checking on it religiously) it came apart. For the next 36-48 hours or so until we discovered the problem, every time the pump kicked on, it was spilling water directly into the basement... Ugh.

So that really sucked. Luckily, cleanup wasn't quite as bad, and we should be able to salvage the carpet. But, it will be a few weeks of off-and-on rework down in the basement, which will of course take time away from the project. Oh well, that's life I suppose.

Things that we have gotten accomplished since the last update: nothing really measurable, hence the lack of posts over the past month. We've been filling and sanding on the overhead console, switch pod, and center console pieces. It's coming together, but motivation has been slipping a bit too due to all the other things going on. We'll get through it, eventually.

One other thing we got done was take the engine over to Poplar Grove Airmotive near the Rockford, IL area for assembly and testing. I spent more time than I thought would be necessary to inventory all of the parts in the days leading up to the road trip over there. By the time I was done inventorying everything, I had an SUV completely filled with boxes, and an Excel spreadsheet that itemized every single part and its current condition (new, overhauled, as-removed, etc).

I ran into a couple minor snags with the folks at Poplar Grove, but I'm pretty sure we'll be able to work everything out. I had no trouble making the 3.5-hr drive over there, and unloading all the parts and check-in was a breeze. I headed for home thinking all was well. The next day, however, I got an alarming phone call. They don't deal much with the experimental aviation side of things, and they were expecting many of the parts like the new fuel system (overhauled by Airflow Performance) to have yellow tags with them. Since the overhaul was experimental, those tags don't exist, and for a moment there I thought that might be a show-stopping problem. After some negotiation and explanation though, they were able to accept everything as-is, and I think I narrowly avoided having to drive back over there to collect all of my parts and take them somewhere else. I still don't have a finalized quote though, since they have a backlog of several weeks before they can really look at everything and shoot me a finalized number... so I'm still sort of in a holding pattern, hoping that things will turn out as originally expected.

While we wait on the engine, we'll hopefully get a chance to finish up on all this fiberglass business. If the timing of things goes well, we'll get our engine back and ready to hang about the time we finish getting the cabin cover and doors all fitted and glassed... we'll see if that happens!

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Back To The Grind

Decent progress this last week, I guess. I'm finding that it's harder to gauge how far things are coming along with fiberglass work, because it's much more of a subjective art form than it is a concrete, step-by-step process. I think I'm much more of a step-by-step kinda guy.

We've continued with the A-pillars in the cabin cover, filling and sanding, filling and sanding. Complex curves are tough, but we've found out that using the right sanding block is the key to it. I made a sanding block out of a piece of 2" PVC pipe that is about 6" long, and hold it at about a 45-degree angle to the curve of the A-pillar. In this way, the roughness of the filler slowly sands away to become smooth with the natural curvature of the pillar.

The A-pillars, maybe about halfway done sanding and filling

We also final-attached the vent ducting to the cabin cover yesterday. This was kind of a benchmark step, since it had to be done before we can design and layup the overhead console itself, which will cover most of the ducting you can see now. It will also enable me to continue with the switch pod, and get everything to play nicely together. Lastly, we can also start on the B-pillar closeouts, which will be a similar process to what we're doing with the A-pillars, although hopefully not as difficult.

The vent ducting final-attached to the cabin cover. You can also see the spray foam making the general (initial) shape for the B-pillar closeouts

That's pretty much it on the fiberglassing front. In other news, I've done a bit more work in the tailcone area as well. I've attached the master and crossover solenoids to the battery mount, and re-made the yaw damper servo mount out of a slightly bigger sheet of aluminum, allowing me to mount the Garmin GDL-39R receiver next to the yaw damper servo.

Yaw damper servo (right bottom), Pitch servo (right top), GDL-39R (center), crossover solenoid (left)

Battery tray and master solenoid (left), crossover solenoid (right)

It came out pretty good so far! I'm excited to start wiring this stuff up. I did make my first RG400 BNC cable too, connecting the GDL39R to the TED transponder antenna located in the free area just aft of the elevator bellcrank. I watched a youtube video from SteinAir found at this link:, and it was really not a whole lot different than crimping standard household RG6 cable, other than using a slightly different crimper and the need to crimp a pin to the center conductor. The principle is pretty much the same though. I look forward to making the 10-20 more BNC cables necessary for the rest of the airplane!

Lastly, I had a question from a fellow RV-10 builder about the battery tray that I modified, so I'll describe what and why I did stray from the original Vans design F-1035 Battery mount.

The F-1035 battery mount is designed for a single Concorde RG-25XC battery, which has a footprint of 7.5" x 5". Many folks prefer to use an Odyssey PC925, which has a footprint of 7.05" x 6.64". Lastly, folks that run a dual-battery system typically install two Odyssey PC680's, each with a footprint of 7.15" x 3". Since I'm planning on having a "true dual" electrical system on this airplane, I'd like to go with the last option. However, I wanted to design a battery tray that would still have some flexibility in its design, in case someday I want to go back to a single battery setup, or maybe even move one of the two batteries up front for CG purposes.

After tossing around this idea for a bit, I decided to modify the factory mount to be 7-1/4" wide and 7-1/2" long, with provisions to attach a small 3/4-wide aluminum angle divider in the center (pictured above) and/or at the back. In this way, I can install two PC680's with a 3/4" gap in the middle and a 3/4" barrier in the back; a single PC925 with a 3/4" barrier in the back; or a RG-25XC in the original lengthwise configuration. There is an additional 3/8" nutplate installed between the two original 3/8" nutplates, so that I can attach a third hold-down bolt in that location to help keep everything secured and properly spaced.

The tray was modified by cutting off the side walls and taking some extra pieces of aluminum sheet and 1/8" angle pieces to make some extensions to "patch" into the existing part. You can see the two double rows of rivets in the photo above where the seam is. All in all, I'm very happy with how it has turned out, however I haven't yet actually installed any batteries, so the jury is still out as to whether or not it will work as I expect!

Hopefully that helps answer the question about the battery tray. Next post will likely be from back in fiberglassing hell! :-)

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Gulf Coast Trip

So we just got back from an 11-day trip down to Florida to visit my parents, followed by a stop in the New Orleans area to visit some of Sarah's family on the way back home. We flew our old standby, "Julie" the Archer, and had an awesome time! Keeping the trip summary geared towards RV-10 and experimentals, here are a few highlights:

We stopped over in Vero Beach, FL for the day to visit our RV-10 builder friend Kenny (sometimes known as "Falcon Guy"... a Falcon 900 pilot by day and RV-10 builder by night). It was awesome to meet him in person and see his project (and the Falcon!). Thanks for all your hospitality Kenny, not only to Sarah and I but to my parents also who were "in-tow" for the trip!

We also were able to visit our EAA Chapter 33 friends Ron and Connie, who were escaping the Iowa winter in a more pleasant area. We were able to track them down in Gulf Shores, AL and had a quick lunch with them while passing through the area. Good times!

We had hoped to have even more time to make a few more stops to see friends, both old and new, but unfortunately there's just never enough time. It was still an incredible trip and excellent reminder about why we love to fly so much!

Route flown (link here)

Random photo from the flight - here we are near Tampa FL, cleared to pass through the Class B airspace.

Team Mikey J and Sarah Maggie sporting our Vans-related gear :-)

It was good to visit my folks in FL... here we are at Sun Harvest Citrus buying some oranges and grapefruit to bring back to IA!

Spent some time with Sarah's brother and sister-in-law in New Orleans... missed Mardi Gras by less than a week! It was still a great time on Bourbon St.

Bottom line: We can't wait to take more trips like this in the faster and more capable RV-10! We absolutely love Julie the Archer, and we will certainly miss her when we start flying the -10, but we're ready for the change. In fact, this may very well have been our last "big" cross-country trip in Julie. We first took her to the west coast in 2013, then to the east coast in 2014, and now the gulf coast in early 2016. Fingers crossed we'll get to repeat these same trips (and many others) in the -10, and soon(ish)!

In order for that to happen, we've gotta keep our noses to the grinding wheel... or at least, if not our noses, some airplane part that is in need of grinding...

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Engine Update - More Fiberglass

So I've been pretty consistently lazy with updating the blog lately, sorry about that. I guess it isn't as fun spending days and days doing layups, sanding, filling, sanding, filling, doing more layups, sanding, filling, then throwing the whole thing away and starting over.... haha. But we're learning. There just isn't that much that's happened yet that makes for an interesting blog post, which I feel is somewhat in contrast to the progress we sometimes make following along in the plans and completing all the steps in order. I feel like I haven't even looked at the plans at all in at least a month now!

Before I get to the fiberglass, a quick note on the engine. I believe I've mentioned in the past that one of the parts of this build that I was excited about the most was overhauling/building the engine myself. Being a "car guy" and having overhauled many car engines in the past, I was very excited about the prospect of doing the same on the RV-10. However, as time has gone on and we've made it this far, a thought started to occur to me that maybe it would be a better idea to let the pros handle this. I mean after all, with all the time, money, blood, sweat and yes tears put into this project so far, why put the whole project in jeopardy by attempting to do the engine myself? Although these Lycoming engines are quite simple in design, anyone familiar with them will tell you there are a surprising number of gotchas and tricks-of-the-trade that only the professionals who do this every day really know how to handle.

And even the pros have trouble sometimes! I became familiar with a situation not too long ago involving a locally-owned airplane having some engine trouble at an airport a few hundred miles away. Luckily the pilot fought the urge to "get home and check it out" and decided to stay on the ground, quickly realizing that the engine actually had a major issue, requiring a complete and immediate overhaul. The engine was a mid-time Lycoming that had been previously overhauled by a top-notch and very experienced mechanic. I personally saw the look of disappointment and confusion on his face when he heard the news. It's very likely that the problem had nothing to do directly with the quality of work that he performed, but even so, his look and attitude towards that situation certainly left an impression.

I tell that story because that was sort of the beginning of the end for me with respect to building the engine myself. The more I thought about it, the more I became certain that this was a task best handed off to someone more experienced and capable. So, I called around to a few places and have made plans to bring my setup to Poplar Grove Airmotive in Poplar Grove, IL. They are a well-respected engine overhaul shop and come highly recommended by several pilot friends who have used their engine overhaul services. They quoted me what seems to be a fair price for engine assembly and dyno testing, and hopefully what I get back from them will be a zero-time, fully airworthy and reliable engine ready to perform for us.

So in preparation for sending the engine into their shop, I've placed a few orders for the parts I still need to make this engine complete. These include bearings, gaskets, hoses, nuts and bolts, as well as some additional components. Some of the bigger-ticket items include the starter and two B&C alternators (BC460-H and BC462-3H), as well as overhauling the fuel servo, fuel pump and flow divider by Airflow Performance. Hopefully, I'll have a complete stack of parts ready to go by the end of the month, and I can haul it all over to IL to get that process started!

In the meantime, we're continuing with our work on fiberglass. I started making the center console/quadrant/armrest, and tried to take a few pictures along the way:

NOTE: It will be painfully obvious that the design of this console is "inspired" by the new Aerosport "Quad Console" armrest... it can probably best be described as a poor-man's homemade version of it. Hopefully it will be just as functional and just nearly as pretty when complete!

Spent many DAYS making a foam "plug" that will be used to make the center console.

Random photo of the adhesive being used to bond the foam: Glidden Gripper primer! I found this trick from watching a youtube video where several different adhesives were used for comparison. Many traditional adhesives will actually melt the foam and can't be used, leaving few alternatives that actually make a good bond... this stuff works great, and cleanup is painless!

Approximate location on the tunnel. The throttle quadrant will be in the slanted forward part, and there will be a padded armrest cover that opens into a storage box (big enough to hold a sectional chart!) inside the main area.

After layups and initial trim: The console is made in two separate halves, one slightly overlapping the other, so that they can be removed from the plug and then bonded together as a hollow piece.

The first few clecos being installed to clamp it together for bonding

Since these photos were taken, the console has been bonded together, sanded, filled, and then cutouts have been made in the top, front and back for various panels and openings. It's coming together, but man this isn't something that can just be built in a day.

Other parts coming along are the "A-pillars" in the cabin cover, which I've successfully run conduit through and sealed in place with spray foam. I shaped the foam to approximate what I wanted and then put a single layup over it. This has resulted in an EXTREMELY wavy base layer, on top of which I will need to fill and sand everything to become smooth and properly contoured. I'll try and post some photos of that endeavor next time.

We have some plans coming up over the next week or two, so I wouldn't count on much work getting done on the plane until maybe after Valentine's day or so... but I will keep trying to find some time to post updates!

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Fiberglass, and a new toy on the way!

It feels like we're almost at a standstill on the fiberglassing front. Just working on the general shape and layout of the overhead console and the center console throttle quadrant/armrest/storage compartment. It's hard to take pictures of stuff when your hands are covered in epoxy and making a giant mess!

I'm getting "better" at fiberglassing techniques. I wouldn't say I'm "good" yet by any means... but with lots of practice and time spent, it's getting there. I'll try and post some pictures of the parts as they are coming together soon.

I also broke out the sewing machine (an old hand-me-down Husqvarna Viking 6000-series) and started to sew some practice seat covers from some cheap vinyl I had bought at the local fabric store. The stuff costs like $5/yd on clearance, so it's perfect to mess up on and make all the mistakes before we get our $65/yd Ultraleather. I made some simple patterns for the backseat and got to work, and the results turned out better than I had imagined-- comfy and nice-looking, at least for a total beginner!

Unfortunately, the sewing machine itself isn't going to cut it. The reverse drive is broken, and the needle doesn't sew on center; in fact it wanders back and forth a bit as you sew. Looking online, this is a common issue for this model of machine, and opening it up, I noticed a number of cams and gears that were shedding plastic and binding in ways they shouldn't be. It's pretty hard to complain though, since we got the machine for free from a friend, but this isn't going to be acceptable for the seats. So, after a brief discussion Sarah and I decided to splurge for a new Sailrite Ultrafeed LSZ-1 machine. Here's a promo video of it:

Hopefully, with that machine we can really get started making some interior pieces. Excited for that!

Stay tuned for more fiberglass and interior work!

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Odds & Ends

So it's been a while since the last update. Things are going well, but slowly. We've been working on sanding the inside of the cabin cover, installing conduit along the front "A-pillars" and "B-pillars", and filling in the voids with spray foam to then cover with fiberglass. I'm also trying to come up with the desired shape for the overhead switch panel, which will contain all my lights and dimming controls. I received my switch and terminal order from Digikey the other day, so I took a piece of scrap aluminum and quickly made a (very) rough mockup of what I had envisioned for the switch panel:

Overhead switch panel, v0.0.1

It came out "okay"... I think there needs to be a bit more room vertically between the dimmers and the switches, and also maybe just a smidge more space between each toggle, although I can live with it as-is. The idea will also be to have both the upper and lower edges of the panel curved, to better fit in the given space and give it kind of a more elegant look. At least that's what I'm going for-- it may very well end up looking like some kind of super-cheesy clown smile instead. We'll see.

I need to figure out how to illuminate these too. Right now the thought is to make a piece of clear acrylic that is painted a solid opaque color, and is then etched to allow light to pass through for all the legends and graphics. Another option would be to get a panel made from a place like and backlight them with LED's. Although I like that idea (and I've seen some really sweet-looking panels made this way), I'd like to first try the acrylic method and see how far I can get. This will be on a growing list of back-burner projects that I'll get to, eventually.

Continuing on the electrical side of things, I also received my order for 12V accessory plugs. I kind of "splurged" on this and went with the VW/Audi parts that I've seen discussed on the forums. They're pretty slick-looking-- they have a spring-loaded door with "12V" marked on the front, and should provide a nice finishing touch to the interior when it all comes together. I'd take a picture, but one of the parts I received was incorrect and I'll need to exchange that out before I can move forward on this. There will be a total of three outlets in the plane: one for each of the two front passengers, and a third in the middle for the back seat.

I'm also working on preparations for the avionics. Specifically, I'm drafting all of my own wiring diagrams for the plane using the program Kicad, an open-source schematic capture and PCB layout program I've used for quite some time on a number of different projects. This is of course BY FAR the biggest of those projects, and it's going to take many weeks (if not months) to finalize a wiring diagram before I can actually cut, strip and crimp my first wire. The diagram will be comprehensive in nature and cover all of the avionics interconnects (of which there are many hundreds) as well as ship's wiring for things like lights, trim, flaps, etc etc. It's a fun task (yes, I actually enjoy this stuff) but it's also very tedious and does take a long time. It also has a tendency to make me cross-eyed after a few hours of reading through the thousands of PDF pages of install manuals and datasheets, trying to figure everything out. I'm getting there, slowly but surely!

Alright, I've talked enough. Here's a few pictures of many of the other accomplishments made this last week:

Rigged up the GSA28 pitch servo, and installed the optional Van's RV-10 ADAHRS tray to hold another GSA28 servo for the yaw damper. Fabricated a bracket to hold the yaw damper bellcrank, centered behind the elevator bellcrank. I'll probably re-make the ADAHRS tray itself out of thicker material and extend it forward slightly so I can also mount my GDL39R ADSB box. I also re-made the yaw damper arm into a more "boomerang" shape that has slightly different geometry that will work better with the movement of the rudder cables. I'll make a full post about the yaw damper and all the parts used to construct it once it's finalized.

Installed the Tosten stick grips... yay! I may cut another bit off the sticks to bring them down just a tad more. I started with them in a little high because... well... you can always cut more off but it's real hard to make them taller again!

Lastly, a quick montage of cutting out the rear NACA vent holes. Thanks to my friend Derek for stopping over and taking some of the action shots :-)
Traced the front NACA hole onto a piece of Lean Pockets cardboard, cut it out, and then traced it on this location in the aft fuselage skin. The vertical line shown is 10" back from (and parallel to) the seam between the mid fuse side skin and the tailcone, with a centerline drawn between the two rivet lines.

Me getting started with the cut using a Dremel tool

Cut almost done...

After a bit of filing, it looks great! Just the same as the holes in the front... woo!

That's it for now... until next time!

Monday, January 11, 2016

Overhead Console - Panel

Quick update today... got some decent work in over the weekend but really doesn't feel like much has changed. I guess a lot has been accomplished, but nothing can really be checked off yet, and it feels like everything is in a half-completed state (I'm finding this seems to happen periodically). Also, I'm really finding out what a specialized skill fiberglassing is. People who are good at it make it look so darn easy, and there are plenty of beautiful examples that can be found online of parts people made for their airplanes from fiberglass... I wouldn't say mine fall into that category yet. The good news, though, is I feel like I'm learning a lot, and eventually I'll be able to make the parts I need for this project.

I was able to re-make the ducting system for the overhead console, using a slightly modified design and an improved method of actually laying the glass. It came out much better this time, but it certainly still has its flaws. The good news is, of course, these parts aren't structural in any way, so as long as they don't fall off the ceiling in flight or something, I think we're ok from a safety standpoint.

Version 2.0 of the overhead ducting system

It's pretty similar in theory to the first one-- the duct on the left side brings air to the front two vents, and the duct on the right side brings air to the rear two vents. There will be a pair of servos in the tailcone controlling flow to each of these two ducts, and in this way we can control the amount of fresh air going to the front and back.

Now, the idea is to cover these ducts with the actual console itself. Since these ducts will be mostly hidden beneath the console, I'm not too terribly worried about how perfect they look, as long as they are airtight and have a good bond to the cabin cover. If all works out like what's in my mind, the final product will be a seamless-looking console that has four vents, four spotlights, some access panels, and some recessed accent lights to serve as dome and cargo lighting. Oh yeah, and the switch pod. Still at square one for that... also need to build a center console for the armrest and throttle quadrant. Sheesh! Lots more fiberglass to do.

In between epoxy curing sessions, I also started work on the panel. I had previously purchased a 24" x 48" sheet of 0.070" aluminum from Aircraft Spruce and intended to cut out my own (slightly larger) version of the instrument panel Van's gives you. I began by tracing out the original instrument panel and marking all the attach holes that go along the upper edge. Then, I drew a straight line across the bottom that is about a half inch below where the standard switch bar ends, thus making the panel about a half inch taller than stock, and all in one sheet. Lastly, I drew in lines for the center console and side vents and began cutting everything out. I used a combination of a jigsaw, dremel, belt sander, and an array of files:

New instrument panel after initial cut

Looks good! I sat down in the left seat and discovered there was still plenty of room for my knees too. The extra half inch of height really isn't noticeable at all from a comfort side of things, but it totally gives the appearance of having WAY more panel!

So now comes the fun part: laying out where all the instruments are going to go. I've agonized over this for months now... so many options, each with their advantage and disadvantage. It's time to make my mind up and just go for it. If I end up hating the layout, I guess I can always try again. Hopefully that won't happen.

The basic idea for the panel layout is to have the 10" G3X touch screens centered for each pilot/copilot, and the Mini-X backup EFIS in the center. The GTN750 and GMA350c audio panel will be mounted into the console (a bit low compared to many other configurations, more on this later), and the GMC307 flight control panel will be mounted high and center. This layout seemed to work the best so that the aircraft can be piloted just as easily form the left seat as the right seat-- one of our main requirements. So, I did some more measuring, tracing, and cutting, and ended up with this for a panel:

Instrument panel after cutouts for avionics

Good stuff! I found it wasn't nearly as hard to cut it out as I was thinking it might be. The hardest part was drawing all the lines to be perfectly straight and square. If you look super close there are a few cut lines that aren't perfect, but the mounting of all the instruments covers it all up nicely. So far so good... now it's on to switches!

I'm struggling a bit with the layout of the switches, but I think I have a general idea of where things are going to go. I'll post a diagram at some point when I finalize the layout, but right now I'm at the point of figuring out exactly what model I need for every single switch, indicator, and potentiometer. Kind of a fun task, but very tedious too. Also, turns out quality switches aren't the cheapest thing in the world. I'll be placing a pretty hefty order with Digikey in the coming days that should cover most of our immediate needs for switches and the like, then we will go from there.

That's it for now! Next up, more work on the overhead and panel...