Thursday, November 28, 2013

Successful First Flight

The morning was still breezy so I decided to stay at home and watch the wind forecasts. It said it should die down at noon (how unusual).

We went out there to arrive in breezy conditions at 11:30am but I went on to ready the plane for take-off.

Here I am installing the GoPro3 camera which would not yet let me read out the First Flight video data it had taken. I hope I can persuade it with some more effort ...

I fueled up the plane with around 15 gallons and opened the doors to get her out.

Then I did a thorough foreflight check.

And here we go, idling and checking the instruments.

Someone here is really focused (and somewhat worried, just slightly).

A last time contemplating what to do if something bad happens, and off we went towards runway 12.

And after another engine run-up (with erratic RPM readings above 5000 rpm), we took off.

I took 25 minutes of circling at 6000 feet MSL to get comfortable, trying stalls and slow flight and could find nothing wrong with the plane. The erratic RPM reading persist above 5000 rpm and it might be a bad connection to the sensor. It is rock solid below 5000, so it definitely working alright. The right wing is ever so slightly heavy and she needs quite some rudder to fly straight. Nothing unexpected though and a nice clean stall at 32 knots with the warning sound coming on at 40 knots. When she stalls the nose drops and that is it. The controls start feeling soft and wobbly at 42 and it worsens with slower speed. One thing I noticed was a high fuel flow warning with the gauge showing 9.9 gallons per hour. I checked the tank and there was no way I was burning fuel at this rate. I switched the electric fuel pump off and the flow immediately went down to 3.8 gals/hr. I am not sure what to make of this but it is an easy fix and I did not lose any fuel.
After those tests and me feeling completely comfortable, I went for a trial approach.

The approach turned out to be a tad high but was definitely land-able so I went for it (easy with a 7000 ft runway). It is amazing though how long the -12 floats when she gets into the ground effect.
And back I went towards the hangar.

Look on the far right if you lost me among all the other planes.

You have to zoom in to see the legendary RV grin or you look at this one after I came to a stop and out of the hot cockpit.

I put the plane away and read out the flight data from the Skyview for later analysis. I've made the logbook entries and went home to celebrate.

To be continued ...

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Brakes Broken In

Another day of prep work at the hangar. This time, I wanted to break in the brakes with some high speed taxi tests (and the subsequent hard braking). Reliably at 35 knots the nose would come up and I had to focus to not have an accidental First Flight as she really wants to fly now.

I chose a rather cloudy and later pretty breezy day for this activity but at least I learned how to keep her on the taxi way when there are significant cross winds.
Before the wind picked up I was able to complete a WOT static RPM test. As I had pitched the prop to maximum I was expecting to be a bit low on RPMs, it turned out to be stable at 4650. 4800-4900 would be better but this will just affect the maximum speed and I am not concerned about this yet.

Finally I also completed the transponder check at the local FBO and I re-checked the ELT. Everything is a go for a First Flight.

Now lets hope the winds do die down as forecast...

Monday, November 25, 2013

Carbs Balanced

Over the last days I was working on closing up the access covers and reattaching the cowl. It is simply amazing how much time goes just into putting all those screws back in.

I also built a fuel nozzle adapter for the big Mr. Funnel fuel filter.

That way the Mr. Funnel can safely sit on top and hold the fuel while it is filtering through it. This should make fueling a bit easier.

I put the seat backs and the cushions in, for the first time both sets.

All the bottom covers went on and the avionics bay was closed up too.

And the triangle cover for the front of the vertical stabilizer also got attached.

And then today, the carbs were synchronized and the idle adjusted (in reverse order) down to 1400 rpm.

Everything is ticked off the list, except for some high speed taxiing and glazing the brakes and getting my transponder check done. I think I will do this on Wednesday with the First Flight on the following day.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Static System Tested

The most important thing I had to do today was to complete the static hook-ups on the steam gauges and to test the static system. Having a low leak rate on the static system was the requirement to be able to close up the tail cone and to close up the tunnel.

The sealant on my suction cup system had cured over night and so I was ready to go and connect it.

With the help of a HF vacuum pump (which didn't work well for filling the brake system, because you need a push approach rather than a pull (vacuum) approach), the setup was pretty simple.

The pump itself loses the vacuum fairly quickly which is the reason for putting the shutoff valve in line. The first tests showed a very large leak and the suction cup would not stay on by itself. A bit of blue tape fixed that problem.

The leak was on the back of the altimeter. I had mistaken the nylon plug as a hook-up point for the static line when indeed it was covering a 1/8" NPT threaded hole. I had the right plug to put in and attach the line securely which fixed the leak problem perfectly. Unfortunately, I destroyed my fine German ASI from Winter in the process by forgetting to disconnect the static line from the ASI. Running the altitude up to 8000 ft also increases the airspeed to an astronomical value and the inner mechanics took a permanent hit. I will have to send it in for repair.

The static system had a leak rate of 2:37 minutes to get from 1000 feet AGL to 900. Overall it took 11:22 minutes to get down to 600 feet. The cheap Chinese altimeter has a quite significant leak rate all by itself (tried it by putting the vacuum on the altimeter alone) and it hardly changed when adding the rest of the system so I suppose a pure Dynon system should do much better than this but it is still 2.5 times better than required for the PAP.

While the vacuum tests were running I took care of finalizing the pitot protector.

And fixing some loose cable ties that we found during inspection.

Then I went for the Grande Finale and started the covering of the tunnel by putting the aft bulkhead in.

Isn't it looking nice! The floor panels followed.

At some point I felt like the number of screws was about to match the number of rivets I had put into the plane. But that was nothing compared to the realization that you actually have to pull at least the left wing to get the panel for the flap handle on!
I could not believe it but there was just no way to get the aft part of the cover over the flap handle and under the wing spars otherwise. I actually ended up pulling both wings as one screw did not want to start in the nutplate and I needed a clear view to figure out why.

Eventually I prevailed and the whole assembly came nicely together. However, thinking about taking all this out again in just a year is driving me somewhat insane right now, so I choose not to contemplate this further.
The rest was simple - just a lot of screws still.

I also had my POH reprinted in the latest revision and on card stock to make it a bit sturdier and longer lasting. Considering my luck I'd assume that Van's is going to come out with a new revision by the end of the month.

And concluded a very long work day in the hangar. I am making very good progress though and the next things are:
       - installing the big cover in the seat pan
       - installing the seat backs and cushions
       - installing the lower cowl
       - balancing the carbs
       - installing the top cowl
       - some more taxi tests and engine run up to maximum power

==> First Flight

How would that be for a Thanksgiving?

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Steam Gauges Installed

The first work day after the certification. It felt great! Now I am working for myself and not for the certification and no more ELSA restrictions.
So, I decided to install the steam gauges at this point as I'd like to have a backup for my Dynon system.

They fit nicely. Only the altimeter needed a bit of the paint removed from the edge of the cutouts.

Then I worked on setting up the pitot pressure test. I used a PVC hose attached to the pitot tube and long enough to be able to blow into it while watching the ASI.

I used a piece of 5/16" tubing as a sleeve to connect the pitot hose to the ASI.

Although the pitot tube is not secured inside the PVC tube, this setup gave me great leak test results. From 120kts down to 110 in 4 minutes and 17 seconds, the whole test took 24 minutes (down to 80 kts). I ran the Dynon in parallel once I had established the pressure and the gauge is within a few knots of the Dynon.
I might add two cable ties on the pitot tube side tomorrow just for good measure and longevity.

Unfortunately, I had forgotten to bring a few pieces of PE tubing to hook up the static ports of the ASI and the altimeter to the static Y-connector.
So I decided to attach the tail fairing instead. I reinspected the area closely before closing it up - for the first time.

The fit is tight and we will see if I get some chafing in flight. The thing that surprised me is that the trim assembly is not well centered within the fairing.

It really is the assembly as the rudder measurements in the PAP use the trim assembly as a reference point and my numbers show the offset is clearly to the right of the centerline of the aircraft. However, there is no bending or friction or anything, so I leave it as is for now.

I left airport after this task and brought some homework with me.

This suction cup is from a removable hanger and fits over the static port and stays clear of surrounding rivets. I drilled an undersize hole in the base and inserted a 1/4" PVC tube and sealed it in with the Dynaflex silicone. Once cured the silicone will be clear and it should seal well enough for a low vacuum test.
I plan on putting this over one static port rivet and once I put a vacuum on the system it should stay on by itself.
We'll see if it works...

Thursday, November 14, 2013

We! Are! Certified!

And so the building path came to an end! 3.5 years after squeezing the first rivet on this project, my DAR found her in condition for safe operation.

What else can I say, I'm pretty much speechless right now.

What a milestone!

Note: No one has seen it yet and it completely escaped me yesterday but the year is wrong on the certificate. It should say 2013, not 2012, although that was the initial plan for certification... I am working with the DAR to correct this.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

What the .... is a Program Letter?

I had all my paperwork for the certification/inspection ready and lined up and then my DAR asked me for my Program Letter. Huh? What in the world is a Program Letter? I never received a Program Letter from Van's along with the FAA forms package.
Turned out this is a common question among builders but I did not find very many answers nor current sample lettersfor an ELSA through Google. Hence I decided to publish mine when the FSDO accepted it (just so I wouldn't lead on to making mistakes).
So what is this Program Letter? It's a formal letter to your responsible FSDO asking them to issue an Airworthiness Certificate for your newly finished plane. It is also asking them to issue you a set of Operating Limitations and a test area for the Phase I flight testing. Along with that your are going to make a few statements about how you complied with regulations and how you intend to use the plane after Phase I completion.
After drafting my Program Letter and sending it to the DAR, I got a positive response but I will wait until the FSDO has accepted it before posting a link here for you to download the letter.

The Program Letter was accepted without any changes, so here are the links.

Microsoft Word .docx: here and as an PDF for everyone else: here

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Ready For Inspection

All the covers had to come off again. Some more spiral wrapping and cable tying around wires and some cleanup was necessary. Then it looked like this again:

The engine also needed some touch-ups, mainly to secure some wires that could chafe.

I also completed the safety wiring on the gascolator. Do not ask me how I liked it!

I also completed a lot of additional torque sealing and retorquing. I found the AN3 bolts on the nose wheel bracket to have had a few loose ones. I torqued them and marked them to check again after more taxi testing.

The second day of the weekend was more of the same. Torquing, torque sealing and bending cotter pins. Too boring to take a photo of. I also found one missing placard on the rear window and fixed it by applying it.

The last step was spent on removing more blue from the lower left wing - for a few hours .... and you can hardly see it. I removed 1.5 fields and there are 8 more to go.

The plane is ready for inspection now. If the FSDO is cooperating, it might happen next Thursday. If not, it will have to wait until after the 22nd. Cross your fingers that we can make it happen this Thursday!