Construction Start

Horizontal Stabilizer

Horizontal stabilizer drawing

I officially started construction of my RV-9A on July 17, 2012. The first major sub-assembly to be made is the horizontal stabilizer. Construction began with fabrication of the two HS-908 Attach Angles. The instructions indicate that these and the two HS-909 shims are the only items that need to be made from scratch so I decided to those pieces first. The kit comes with a piece of angle aluminum 2″ x 2.5″ x 5″ long that is technically enough for three pieces but the thickness of any cutting blade will make it difficult to make an extra angle. I tried using both a hacksaw with a new fine tooth blade and a Dremel with a metal cutting wheel and found the hacksaw to work better for me. The Dremel would shoot dust and debris all over the place and a new hacksaw blade gets through the aluminum fairly quickly.

HS-908 attach angle rough cut

A single HS-908 attach angle rough cut.

After the rough shapes of the attach angles were cut, I shaped them to the final specifications using a vixen file and a bench grinder with a medium grade ScotchBrite wheel. It’s important to smooth down any tool marks because those can become sources of stress fractures due to airframe vibration over time. The sharp corners were rounded down as well. I then drilled the nine 1/8-inch (#30) holes in each attach angle using the drill press.

The kit includes two pieces of aluminum that are the correct width for the HS-909 shims. I just had to cut them down to the correct length with snips. I deburred and rounded down the corners using the bench grinder but a fine grade file would have been sufficient. It’s just that the grinder makes quick work of it.

Now that the messy fabrication work was out of the way, I could begin preparing all of the parts of the horizontal stabilizer for assembly.

I clecoed together the left and right HS-902 front spars to the front spar doubler plate (HS-907) and match drilled all of the 1/8-inch holes including those of each attach angle. The doubler and spars already had a hole to line up with the top middle hole pre-punched. I then did the same with the left and right HS-903 rear spars, the rear spar doubler plate (HS-906) and the eight outboard hinge brackets (HS-912).

Front Spar Attach Angle

Front spar clecoed with HS-908-L attach angle.

Front Spar Clecoed

The front spar assembly.

Rear Spar Hinge Brackets

Rear spar hinge brackets

After the front and rear spars were ready, I clecoed the nose ribs (HS-905) and the main ribs (HS-904) to the front and rear spars and match drilled the holes that would attach them together. These holes are also 1/8 inch. I then took everything apart and deburred all the holes and edges. The Dremel with a grinding wheel works well on the lightening holes in the ribs and spars.

Horizontal Stabilizer Interior Structure

Horizontal stabilizer interior structure

With the interior structure of the horizontal stabilizer ready, I could move on to the skins. The kit includes two flat pieces of wood that have the cross sectional shape of the horizontal stabilizer drawn on it. I cut those sections out with a jig-saw and mounted each to a piece of 2×4 lumber. These formed a jig in which the skin can be assembled.

I clamped the jig to a work bench and lined each support with duct tape to prevent scratching the skin. I put the left-hand skin (HS-901) into the jig first and clecoed the interior structure into the skin starting at the leading edge: the nose ribs, left-hand front spar with doubler plate, main ribs with HS-909 shim, and finally the left-hand rear spar with doubler plate. Using a 3/32 (#40) inch drill bit this time, I match drilled all of the holes in the skin to the interior structure.

Left-hand Skin In Jig

Horizontal stabilizer left-hand skin in jig

Horizontal Stabilizer Interior Structure Clecoed

Interior structure clecoed into left-hand skin

After the holes were drilled on the left-hand horizontal stabilizer, I disassembled everything, deburred the holes and dimpled the skins using the DRDT-2 dimpler. I had previously built a “cradle” that fit between two workbenches on which I placed the dimpler. Then by putting a piece of carpet on each workbench I could slide the skin around without worry of scratching it while dimpling each hole. I used the Tatco hand squeezer to dimple the ribs. I used Cleveland Tools tank dimple dies which provide slightly more room to allow the dimples in the skin to nest deeply into the dimple on the rib. I used the counter-sink cage on the hand air drill to counter-sink the holes in the spars and doubler plates. Before using the counter-sink cage, it is best to test it on some scrap to get the depth setting just right. I deburred the edges of the skins as well with a file. After all this work on the left-hand side was complete, I put the left hand parts aside and repeated the entire process on the right-hand side.

Now that all of the drilling and deburring was complete, the next step was to wash and clean all the parts that need to be primed. I had decided to prime the spars and ribs even though they had an Alclad layer because these parts were handled the most and would be more likely to have fine scratches on the surface. The attach angles are the only parts that have no corrosion protection so those definitely needed to be primed. I washed the parts in a solution of Dawn dish detergent and dried them with a clean shop towel to get the excess water off. I let them air dry at least overnight to get completely dry. There were some spots of adhesive residue from where stock labels were attached at the factory but these were easily cleaned up with some acetone. I also used acetone to clean up the insides of the skins but I only intended to prime the rivet lines.

I used Duplicolor self-etching primer to prime all the ribs, spars, doubler plates, attach angles and skins along the rivet lines. It only takes a light coat. As a test, I weighed the ribs before and after priming and found the primer only increased the weight by 9 grams (less than 1/3 of an ounce) over all of the ribs which amounts to 0.7% increase in weight. While the parts felt dry to the touch after 15 minutes or so, I let them dry for a few days to fully harden before moving on to the riveting.

Primed spars

Primed horizontal stabilizer spars

I began by riveting together the front spars to the front spar doubler plate and attach angles. I used the rivet gun set to about 35 psi and AN470D4-6 rivets. While some of the shop heads were slanted because the bucking bar wasn’t held perfectly perpendicular to the rivet, after checking them against a rivet gauge and measuring with calipers, I decided the finished heads were well within acceptable tolerances.

Following the front spar assembly, I proceeded to the rear spar assembly. Here, I switched to using the squeezer. It definitely required more physical effort and fatigue would be a problem if many rivets needed to be set in one session. I switched back to the rivet gun to attach the hinge brackets (HS-912).

Front and rear spar riveted

Riveted front and rear spars

Building an amateur-built airplane in Canada

So you’ve decided to build an amateur-built airplane in Canada. Construction is going to be challenging enough but what about all the steps that need to be followed to satisfy the Canadian government? The following is a basic list of everything that needs to be done to build an amateur-built airplane in Canada.

  1. File Letter of Intent with MD-RA.
  2. If building from a kit and it is not on the list of eligible aircraft, you must prove that you will meet the 51% rule.
  3. Begin construction.
  4. Request a pre-cover inspection. This means that any assembly must have access for the inspector to see every rivet. This will most likely mean that you will have to leave some assemblies almost complete to allow for the inspector to look inside them. You may need more than one pre-cover inspection if you decide to have an assembly inspected before continuing with construction or if you require to have an assembly closed up before continuing.
  5. After completing all construction, you need to request a final inspection. It would be ideal to request this approximately two months prior to the inspection date so you can get the Certificate of Registration.
  6. After getting the Certificate of Registration and the airplane is ready to fly, you can finalize the inspection date with the inspector.
  7. If the inspector finds any deficiencies, you will be required to fix them before you get approval to fly.
  8. Complete the necessary paperwork verifying the deficiencies have been corrected and submit them back to the inspector.
  9. The inspector will issue the initial Certificate of Airworthiness and a restricted flight authority. At this point, MD-RA’s involvement with your airplane is complete. MD-RA will send your file to Transport Canada.
  10. Perform the required 25 hour test period.
  11. After the 25 hour test period is complete, you need to submit to Transport Canada the following information:
    • Climb test report
    • Proof that you had 25 continuous hours of trouble free flight
    • A letter requesting a new Special Certificate of Airworthiness with the operational restrictions lifted
    • The original Special Certificate of Airworthiness
  12. Once you receive your new Special Certificate of Airworthiness, the process is complete and you can now enjoy flying your new airplane.

Deciding On A Homebuilt Airplane

One of the first things that crosses the mind of a newly minted pilot is owning an airplane. But what would that airplane be? Factory-built or homebuilt? A factory-built, certified airplane must have major work performed by a certified mechanic but a homebuilt can be maintained entirely by the builder. Also, a homebuilt, or amateur built as it is properly designated, can be assembled to the owner’s specific requirements. So, you get an airplane built just for you.

Build an airplane from a kit or plans?

So, you’ve decided you want to build your airplane but will it be from a kit or from plans only? With a kit-built airplane, most, if not, all of the parts are fabricated for you. You just have to assemble the airplane and add you own personal touch to it. With a plans-built airplane, you are provided with the blueprints and instructions only. It’s up to you to source the materials and fabricate each part. The plans-built airplane will definitely be a lot less expensive than the kit-built but you will have to do all of the work.

An option that may be available to you if you choose to go with the kit-build is that you can choose between either a quick-build or slow-build. A quick-build kit has much of the airplane assembled for you and the remainder that you have to assemble still satisfies the 51% requirement for the amateur build category. With a slow-build kit, all of the airplane must be assembled by you, the builder.

What’s your flying mission?

Now you need to decide what kind of airplane to get. That depends on how you intend to use the airplane the majority of the time. Do you want to travel or just go on local, leisurely jaunts? How about setting speed records or getting into aerobatics? If you want to travel, you’ll want to consider the airplane’s range and comfort. Aerobatics will require an airplane that can handle high G loading. Obviously, you’ll want to choose an airplane that is suited for the activity for which you will most likely use it.

Construction material – what’s your airplane made of?

Something else you may want to consider is the material that the airplane is made of. Airplanes can be constructed from aluminum, wood, fiberglass or a combination. Working with aluminum or wood is relatively easier than with fiberglass because fiberglass involves working with toxic chemicals. However, fiberglass is also very light, strong and lends itself well to very fluid designs and may allow very unique features that would be impossible to create in aluminum or wood.

As you can see, there is lots to consider if you’ve decided to build your own airplane. While there is a lot more to think about versus getting a factory built airplane, the rewards of custom building your very own personal airplane could very well be priceless.

Air compressor in place

I finished installing an air line in the garage using rigid metal black pipe. The pipe runs the length of the garage with two coupler points to which I can plug in an air hose connected to an air tool. The source of compressed air comes from a 30 gallon oiled air compressor. Air compressors are noisy so I don’t want this thing making a lot of racket while I’m trying to work on the plane. So, I put the 170 lbs air compressor in the basement and passed an air hose from there, through a hole in the wall into the garage to connect to the rigid air line. I live alone so there won’t be any worry of disturbing anyone in the house.

The air compressor is heavy and top heavy at that. I temporarily installed an electric winch at the garage entry door and used it to slowly lower the air compressor down the stairs. I haven’t tested the system yet. While it’s getting too cold now to work on the airplane in the garage, I’d like to make sure the air system is available so I can use it to put air in my car tires whenever I need during the winter. With the car sitting on its tires all week, air leakage gets them “square” pretty quick.

Solo-ed again for the first time

I went flying by myself this morning for the first time in almost two years. I kept it simple and just did some circuits. The conditions were ideal to work on the basics with no wind and the sky clear and sunny. My first landing was a little sloppy because of poor air speed control but after that, I made some pretty nice landings. I’ve also started paying more attention to the nose wheel. In the –A model RV’s, it’s critical that, when landing on uneven surfaces, the nose wheel be kept off the ground for as long as possible to reduce the risk of the wheel buckling into a hole or depression. It’s something I intend to work on while building my RV-9A.

Workshop build underway

I’ve started putting together a workshop in the garage. I built two work tables following the EAA template for work tables . I kept the table top dimensions the same but made the base smaller so that I have a 3-inch overhang all around the table. I also built one table on lockable castors so that I can wheel it around if necessary.

With the tables done, I turned my attention to the shop air supply. The air drill and the most important tool, the rivet gun, are air powered. Air compressors are noisy so I decided to put the air compressor in the basement of my house. (I live alone so it won’t disturb anyone in the house when I’m working in the garage.) My garage is attached to the house and the back wall is where my utility room is in the basement. I drilled a hole through the back wall so I can bring an air hose through. I’m assembling a rigid black pipe air line in the garage that the air hose will connect to. The air line will have its own regulator and air filter and two outlet points to attach an air tool too. It should end up being a nice setup.

Getting back into it

Having finally completed a non-aviation related project, I can now resume focus on all things aviation. First, and foremost, was to get my flight currency reinstated.  Up until recently, I hadn’t flown in almost two years. So, for the past month, I spent 5.9 hours with an instructor who put me through all of the standard private pilot exercises. After that, the instructor signed off on my log book, making it official. Now, the plan is to go flying at least once a month while I build my RV-9A and increasing the frequency as I get closer to completing the build.

Mr. St. Clair McColl receives Transport Canada Aviation Safety Award

On this third annual National Aviation Day, Mr. St. Clair McColl, owner and operator of Saltspring Air, was awarded the Transport Canada Aviation Safety Award. Brian Jean, the Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Transport, the Honourable Chuck Strahl, presented the award to Mr. McColl at a National Aviation Day celebration at the Canada Aviation and Space Museum.

Mr. McColl, a pilot for over 30 years, demonstrated industry leadership towards safety in 2010 when his company, Saltspring Air, was the first to have emergency push out windows installed on the entire fleet of de Havilland DHC-2 Beaver floatplanes. The technology used is the same that is used for off-shore helicopters and this is the first time to be used on fixed-wing aircraft.

Letter of Intent response

Aircraft Identification Plate

Aircraft Identification Plate

The response to my Letter of Intent arrived today. It’s a simple booklet of information that contains checklists of what the inspectors will be looking for and specifications of the requirements that I need to meet. They also included a blank aircraft identification plate that I will need to have engraved with my name, the model of airplane and serial number.

Happy National Aviation Day Canada!

Silver Dart

Silver Dart

February 23 marks National Aviation Day in Canada. On  2009, the Minister of Transport declared February 23rd as Canada’s aviation day which commemorates the day Canada’s first powered flight occurred, which was February 23, 1909. On that day, the Silver Dart took off from the ice on Baddeck Bay in Baddeck, Nova Scotia and flew about 800 metres (half of a mile), at an altitude of 3 to 9 metres (10 to 30 feet) and at 65 km/h (40 mph).  The Silver Dart was made of wood, steel tube, wire and friction tape and the wings were covered in Japanese silk.

On National Aviation Day, Transport Canada recognizes individuals or organizations that have made contributions to aviation safety by awarding them with the Transport Canada Aviation Safety Award.