Finishing Kit

January 28, 2012

Tipup Canopy Latch - Installation - 5.0 hrs.

Back on November 13th, I had a page showing my new J.D. Air Tipup Canopy Latch, and the work I had done to get a template made and the initial assembly done. Today, after procrastinating for some time, I went ahead and began the work for the installation. I had been procrastinating for good reason... the idea of cutting holes in the side skin of a finished fuselage is nerve-wracking at best. But at some point, you've gotta bite the bullet and dive in and get it done. Today was that day for me.

The instructions provided give you a good working template. I made mine as accurately as possible. In the picture above, you see it taped in place on the side of the fuselage. The row of holes across the top are the reference points for placing the template. The rivets that hold the side skin to the longeron show through these holes when it's properly placed in position. Then, I took a fine-point sharpie and marked the cutouts onto the fuselage skin, and also the rivet holes.

My strategy is to cut out the openings, put the latch assembly in place, and then backdrill the rivet holes through the skin. So these marks showing the rivets are just for checking the accuracy of my work when I start drilling from the back side.

Gathering up all my nerve, I drilled #40 pilot holes in the corners and then used my step-drill to enlarge them to7/32". I stayed well inside the lines. I used my die-grinder with a cutting disk to finish the rough cuts. I really took my time from this point, carefully filing the openings a bit larger a little at a time, checking frequently for the fit of the latch parts. I didn't take pictures during all the work. I wanted to stay totally focused on what I was doing.

Hours later, after tons of careful filing and finishing of the edges, the latch parts fit perfectly in the cutouts. I carefully backdrilled and clecoed the latch in place. I was delighted to find that the actual holes lined up perfectly with the marks I had made on the skin from the template. Then I sat back and breathed a HUGE sigh of relief. I didn't mess anything up! I know I'm going to love this latch. Compared to the Vans latch, this is perfectly flush, very solid yet surprisingly lightweight, and it clicks together with a very nice click. It's superior in every respect.

Here's what it looks like on the inside. I'm VERY happy with how this is turning out, and very relieved to have it done to this point. Now that the hard part is done, the usual cleaning, priming, countersinking of the angles and dimpling of the skin needs to be done. I've decided I'm going to paint the angles with my JetFlex interior paint before riveting them on. But I'm still not sure about the latch parts, whether to polish them, paint them, or have them anodized to match my nice red side rails. There's no hurry on that decision right now. I just want to finish the installation.

Seen from a little bit further back, the white tube will be trimmed to length, tapped, and connected to the latch after I finish the installation. All at once, this is fun again!

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