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76. 90% done, 90% to go

20/10/2013

Aviation has more wise saws and sayings per square foot than any other activity. The title is one of those that’s always trotted out about building your own aircraft, and i guess we may have reached that point in ours.

This is pretty much where we're up to so far.

This is pretty much where we’re up to so far.

So far, every time we’ve met up to work on things, at the end of the time we’ve been able to put together a bigger and bigger part of the project; the tail surfaces, the wings, the fuselage, and then bolting them all together. This week it’s been more a question of filling in the blanks.

We’ve been able to consolidate the work we did before, fit the final struts, and we’ve got most of the rigging completed. In the photograph here, we’ve got the rear decking in place, and a piece of metal to show the line of the forward decking.

Wing assembly jig makes rigging the top wings a LOT easier.

Wing assembly jig makes rigging the top wings a LOT easier.

The other important progress we’ve made is finding a practical way to rig the top wings. We didn’t have enough spare hands to video the operation, but the photograph should give you the general idea. In essence, the jig posts into the strut fittings on the lower wing, and can hinge outwards. To fit it, you place a step ladder next to the fuselage and slowly walk up it holding the inboard end of the wing while your assistant fits the jig next to the strut fittings. As you pull the wing in towards the cabane, the out end is raised in parallel, and you can then fit the wing pins (actually, this isn’t as easy as it sounds here – it’s not too bad with no fabric on the wings and a lot more difficult thereafter!) With the inboard end secured, you can fit the struts in place while the jig takes the weight, and it’s easy enough to slip the jig out afterwards. Taking the wing off, you reverse the process. It’s not perfect, but it’s a good start!

It doesn’t look enormously different, but we are now able to sit in the aircraft on its wheels, and get a bit more accurate impression of what it will feel like when it’s complete. Even without the cockpit surround which will make entry and exit even more difficult, getting in and out is a tricky business. You’re a long way up – we certainly need the little steps in order to get in and out safely, and there are very few places that are safe to hold onto while you wriggle your way inside. Once there though, it’s pretty comfortable.

For me, there’s an additional problem in that my knees come into contact with the instrument panel, even if I adopt Granddad’s solution and remove the cushion. I’m going to have to design some ‘spurs’ which I can wear so that my heels go over the top of the rudder bar.

I was worried that the instrument panel would be difficult to see, but even at my height, it’s quite reasonably visible. In fact the view ahead on the ground is not quite as good as I’d expected, though it will be fine in the air.

The view ahead from the cockpit

The view ahead from the cockpit

One other worry seems to have receded too. We were concerned that the elevator controls would go slack at the full up and down travel. In fact, they seem to be no worse than on many modern aircraft and I think we should be able to live with that okay.

But although we may not have achieved a major step forward in the way the thing looks, another large milestone has been reached.

In order for the Scout to fly, it has to be certified by the Light Aircraft Association. Ages ago, I mentioned that we’ve been in regular touch with their Chief Engineer, Francis Donaldson, over aspects of the design, and agreed the minimum changes necessary to get a Permit to Fly.

Well,  the build obviously has to be inspected as well, and although I’m an inspector myself, one can’t inspect one’s own work, for obvious reasons. Our inspector, Mike Smart, is used to working with the build techniques we are employing here, having been a professional in the industry for many years, and he came and gave us some very useful steers, and also signed off several of the stages in our log book.  This means we are okay to apply the fabric covering to the wings and tail, which is great news!

He also pointed out that some of our cables are a bit on the short side, which means we’ll have to investigate getting some longer turnbarrels so that there are no threads exposed. It’s a setback, but only a minor one.

And also there was Andy Craddock, a model builder from Caerphilly, who brought along his part-completed 35% scale model in order to check it for accuracy. It’s a magnificent beast, and we’re certainly looking forward to seeing it completed in the not too distant future. Andy was with us for much of the day and an invaluable help in getting the airframe dismantled. Here’s the comparison between the two.

So today probably marks the end of the phase where we all come together in one place and see a major new part assembled at the end of it. The plan for the next couple of months is to bring the fuselage up to Shropshire for Rick and I to work on, while Theo carries on with the final bits and pieces on the wings. Then we’ll need to get together to work on the covering, which, because it’s on show all the time, needs to be done as carefully as possible!

In the meantime, there are loads of bits that we can’t do ourselves – engine, propeller, cowlings, instruments – and we’re actively sorting those out with others.

We’ll keep you posted on progress!

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