Today was one of those rare milestone days that occurs only a few times in the project. I've been planning and looking forward to this day for months. I've known for a long time that I can't put the wings on the fuselage inside my garage. I just don't have the room. So I had been debating about two options; whether to just pull it out onto my driveway ( and expose it to all the neighborhood and traffic driving by) or carry it out back where it's a lot safer if left overnight, but more of a hassle carrying everything out back. In the end, I decided that the risk of carrying it out back was too much. One slipped foot by one of my helpers, stumbling over a rock or piece of sod or whatever, and somebody drops it. Not a risk I wanted to take.
Then, there was consideration over the weather. Being outdoors, I definitely wanted this done during the summer, while the weather is nice and it's warm outside. Finally, in consideration of my helpers, I chose a weekend day when my son Paul was home from San Diego for a visit. I need some help with this, and I invited some other family and friends over, too. My good friend Joe showed up first, with a buddy from Argentina. Joe is a longtime friend who is an amateur astronomer and telescope builder, like me, and also a pilot for Horizon Airlines. His experience as a professional commercial pilot is something I admire and I look up to him for all kinds of advice on flying. He, on the other hand, doesn't have any experience with homebuilt aircraft. He's been very impressed with the kit and my progress on my project. And I really appreciated him for showing up and giving me a hand. Thanks, Joe!
The first thing we did was to lift the fuselage up one end at a time, putting a temporary support underneath so I could pull the sawhorses out that it has been sitting on. Here are the sawhorses out on the driveway in position for the fuse.
Next, I pulled a bunch of things out of the cabin to lighten the load. I removed the blank panel, front deck parts and top skin, the seatbacks, the seat pans, covers and other small stuff that comes out easily. I also had to remove the rudder and VS in order to more easily get it under the garage door on the way out. The three of us were able to carry it outside and set it back on it's sawhorses. Then, we spent quite a bit of time leveling everything. I had to raise the tail quite a bit, and the right side of the fuse needed some shims because my driveway slopes off that direction a bit. I found out that my forward sawhorse really isn't as sturdy as I would like. I may add some additional bracing to stiffen it up before doing this again. Unfortunately, Joe and his friend had to leave before going any further, so I was stranded until Paul and some friends of his showed up. My brother Roger also came by, so all of a sudden I had a bunch of help again.
I removed the flaps and took one wing at a time out of the cradle. I put some boelube on the spar and on my drift pin and hardware store bolts. Then Paul and I carried the right wing out and set it on these short stools. Then we carefully pushed it into place. It was tight, but it's supposed to be that way. Wiggling and pushing, it slid into place a little bit at a time. One of my helpers stood on the other side of the fuselage to push back so the fuse wouldn't be pushed off the sawhorse. Using my inspection mirror, I was able to look and see when the holes were close enough in alignment to push a drift pin into place. Then, the bolts were tapped into place; two on each side were used.
Here are the hardware store bolts that I bought just for this purpose. They're 7/16" ordinary cheap bolts, but I chucked them in the drill press and took a file to them, followed by emery cloth, to take a few thousandths off so they will fit easily in the holes in the spar. Then I polished them up on my fine scotchbrite wheel. The drift pin on the far left is just a longer bolt with the head cut off, and filed and smoothed in a more drastic manner to taper the end a bit.
When you do this, don't forget to put some support under the end of the wing. With only one wing on, it will tip the fuselage over!
Here's a closeup shot of the right wings' spar in place. I curved the fuel line down out of the way so it wouldn't interfere. One of my upcoming tasks is to carefully measure and trim the fuel line to length and flare the end. The fuel tanks' fitting is right there on the left, so it's a straight shot to hook it up.
A while later, after repeating all of this for the left side, both wings were in place. It was great to have Paul here to help and participate. Thanks for the help, Paul! I'm really looking forward to trips to San Diego to visit him when this bird takes flight.
Here's a larger picture. It's my favorite of the day. I put the rudder and VS back in place for visual effect, just for fun. Then it was time to hang plumb bobs over the front of the wings to check the sweep. I stretched and staked a string underneath to see how closely aligned they are. The wings were swept slightly forward, but within about 1/32" of being perfect. Wow! Giddyup. You also triangulate and measure from the tail to the tip of each wing. The measurements were extremely close; the difference was negligible. Once again, the accuracy of this kit and the engineering behind it all just blows me away. Thank you, Vans! Some additional checking revealed that the rear spar bulkhead stubs sticking out of the F-705 bulkhead were rubbing on the flanges of the innermost wing rib. I believe some minor trimming will alleviate this, and also correct the 1/32" forward sweep error. According to the plans, if it's within 1/2" it's close enough, but I don't want that rubbing anyway, so why not correct it?
Here's a view from directly in front. My sawhorse makes funny looking gear legs!
I had to just walk around, take some pictures, and enjoy the moment. Passersby were really looking. Some stopped to comment. All in all, it was a great experience.
At this point, I think I can stop asking the stupid question "does it look like an airplane yet?". I think all doubts are finally removed.
Once I realized that the wings have to come off for that minor trimming of the rear spar brackets before going any further, there was no point moving on to consider the angle of incidence. So we just enjoyed the moment before taking it all apart and packing it back into the garage. I really enjoyed this time with Paul and the rest of my family, friends, and helpers. Thanks for the helping hands, everyone! This will be repeated again soon to finish the sweep and incidence adjustments, and drill those critical holes in the rear spar.