Thursday, December 29, 2016

Trim Wiring

My tail section came with a Ray Allen trim servo for pitch trim, continuing that I recently ordered another trim servo and roll trim bracket. I also recently ordered my stick grips with a 4 way high-hat and now it is time to start planning what wires I will need to put in place to control everything. I think I will be going with a G3X system (to include autopilot) as well as a VP-X electronic circuit breaker controller.

With this mix of electronics it is time to figure out what controls what and what else do I need from a trim and autopilot perspective. My first question was do I need a safety trim? In looking at the G3X system it looks like the preferred approach is to wire the trim servos through the GSA28 autopilot servos. While the VP-X system has safety trim built in, per their install manual, when you install GSA28s with a VP-X you configure the VP-X to disable the variable speed trim functionality. If you dig deeper into what the GSA28s are capable of everything makes a little more sense.

The Garmin servo provides a built-in interface to drive trim servos at no extra cost. When the autopilot is off, the servo provides speed scheduling for the manual trim commands. When the autopilot is on, the servo adjusts to constantly keep the aircraft trimmed. 

What does all of this mean? When the power is removed from the servos, speed scheduling is disabled and the trim commands are passed directly through the servos to the trim motors. Auto trim is not functional when the autopilot is disengaged, and manual electric trim via the stick hat is never disabled, but if you attempt to manually trim the plane when the autopilot is engaged, the autopilot will disengage to honor your request.

It is always your job to trim the plane when the autopilot is disengaged regardless of whether the servos are powered on (and providing speed scheduling) or off and the trim motor drive is passed through without speed scheduling. In general, with these systems, your servos will always be powered, even when you are not using the autopilot.

That seems pretty straight forward and confirmed by the VP-X install manual:

So I started thinking more about that and I got a fairly uncomfortable feeling. Not that I don't trust Garmin, but I don't really trust anyone. I especially don't trust electronics that I did not assemble. If you look at the wiring diagram above you quickly realize that in the event of an autopilot power failure you loose control to your trim. On the RV-10 there is no manual trim wheels so you would be SOL. How can that be? Well... Reading more into the Garmin manual I found this:

In the event that power to the GSA 28 is removed, a fail-safe system connects the trim input switch directly to the trim motor. In this condition, the trim switch powers the trim motor directly and the motor runs at its full speed when the switch is pressed. The same condition also occurs if a trim switch and motor are connected to the GSA 28, but the trim control function is disabled.

Well that makes sense. The next question is how does one wire in the trim switches. I would prefer having both control sticks have full control. I am not sure why other than I like symmetry. In the GSA28 install section you will find a the following note:

So looks like I should be thinking about a GAD 27 as I select my avionics. It is a $500 dollar unit that appears to have a bunch of functionality that I do not need. I went back to the VP-X manual and it looks like there is a trim mixer in that device. So assuming I disable all of the VP-X trim safety systems perhaps I can use the VP-X to mix my trim and G3X to provide auto-trim and speed scheduling. Other than that I still have to check to see if the G3X system has any form of runaway protection.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Anti-Rotation Plates

I still have not decided if I am going with a factory new or something like a BPE engine. I did speak with BPE the other day and I told them I am just about to close up my fuel tanks. They told me regardless of my engine choice that it would be a good decision to install fuel return lines into my tank just in case I ever end up with electronic fuel injection. In the case that I go bone stock, I can just cap these connections off, and that seems like some pretty wise advice.

I plan on putting 3/8s AN fitting near my vent line in order to service fuel return. This basically looks just like the vent line, but with a larger fitting to match the flow of the pick-up line. I looked around on Vans for a while, but I did not see an anti-rotation plate for 3/8s fittings. Back to the mill!

There is nothing really earth shattering here. I drilled a couple of #33 holes to have a close fit for some 4-40 screws to hold down the sheet to a scrap delrin block. I will later drill these #33 holes to #30 in order to rivet the plate to the end rib on the tank. From there I milled out a hex pattern to accept the AN fitting.

About the only annoying thing here is that I don't have a CNC. I have gotten fairly decent at running 45 degree lines by hand, but 60 degrees I have yet to master.

PVPV-D Parking Brake Bracket

I want to put a parking brake into the plane. I looked around what others were doing and the Matco PVPV parking brake seems to be pretty standard. So much so that airward sells a bracket for the brake. I have no issues with the airward bracket, but I do have a mill in the basement and this seems like a pretty low stress project for when it is too cold to work in the shop.

I started with building a solidworks model of the PVPV-D from the mechanical drawings. The drawings call out that you need 27.5 degrees of deflection on each side of the "up" position to go from on to off. I built the axial limits on the model stop at 30 degrees on each side.

From there I designed a bracket around the PVPV-D that will:

  • Securely mount the valve to the firewall
  • Allow the replacement of the valve
  • Give 30 degree end stops on the arm travel
  • Hold the control cable

After the design stage I moved over to the mill and faced a hunk of aluminum. I have a TIG welder so I plan to build this in 2 pieces so I don't have to hog out 3 square inches of aluminum. I drilled and tapped the parking PVPV-D mounting holes with a 10-32 tap.

I am still waiting on my fuselage kit to arrive so for the time being I only placed the two valve mounting holes, and none of the firewall mount holes.


At this stage I forgot to keep on taking photos. The second piece I machined was the vertical bracket that provides the end stops and cable holding. I need to purchase a cable yet, so for now, I am going to keep the project in this state until I get the rest of the pieces. I still have a lot of metal to get rid of, but from a proof of concept, the bracket is working.

Friday, December 16, 2016

More Fuel Tanks

Not too much to talk about lately. I have been spending my time working through the fuel tanks. I went back and re-read my last post. I guess a couple of things have changed since then. On the first couple of ribs of the right tank I went with the cleco, cure, and then wet rivet method. I ended up not really liking that method. I started to find the riveting of the ribs while wet quicker and cleaner. I know that sounds counter intuitive given all the complaints about that process, but I like it. It goes quickly, and I do think it pulls the skins to the ribs in a more desirable way.

One of the other interesting things was the right tank fuel sender rod bends. I remember a couple of people complaining that the float hits either the stiffeners or the vent line and that you have to make a couple of bends to get around this. I did not find this to be the case. I started with 3/32 tig rod and made sure I had my bends just right.

After I got everything where I wanted I bent the real rod and checked the clearance and travel. According to the multi-meter I had full travel and there were no clearance issues with the stiffeners or the vent.


Saturday, November 5, 2016

Buying a partial RV

When I started looking into RVs I was set on starting from scratch. I am a fairly picky person and I could not imagine dealing with someone else's work and potential mistakes. That said, having found a partially complete project from a builder who had a similar mindset as mine I started searching the community for "what to look for" when purchasing a project off of someone else. Vans themselves have a document on their website for some key points. I wanted to make a post that I will come back to update whenever I think of something else that I would have looked for when purchasing a used project.

  1. Logs/paperwork. Did the previous builder log the work. This is not only nice to have for picking up a technical project, it says a lot about the builder. What level of detail, what level of organization was followed? Do they still have the build log? The inventory sheets? Call Vans with the builder number to make sure everything is okay.
  2. Photos. In addition to the logs, does the builder have photos of his/her work? How detailed are they? 
  3. Fuel tank dies. If the fuel tank is already dimpled, what dies did they use? Tank Dies? Standard dies. This is up to you to determine what you want, but it is a good question to ask.
  4. Primer. Are the interior surfaces primered? Again, up to you if you care, but again, its a question to ask.
  5. Mistakes. I was pretty straight forward when I purchased my project on asking what mistakes were made. I made it clear that I wasn't trying to get money taken off of the price, everyone makes mistakes, and I wanted to find out what the previous builder messed up and what their corrective action was.
  6. One builder? It's a pretty good first question to ask. The first 3 or 4 projects I looked into had multiple builders. I was uncomfortable with having more than one builder on a project that only had the tail complete.
  7. Exterior Rivets. Exterior inspection of rivets is pretty easy to do. Go look at the countless websites of what over driven rivets, under dimpled skins, crooked rivets look like.
  8. Trailing edges. Are they straight? Sight down them and see if they wave. Also, how did they seal them if its a surface that has a wedge. Tape? Sealant?
  9. Shop head side of rivets. If you have a bore camera all the better. Get into tight spaces at a minimum and look at what the shop heads look like. How many drilled out rivets can you find? The edges of things like the flap, look at the rivets and look inside the first bay. I know when I am riveting I do my best on everything, but when I get to something that is one bay away from open air I slow down to half speed just because someone may be looking in there at some point.
  10. Tank sealant. Did they drive the rivets on the tank ribs when they were wet, or did they fay seal and let them cure with clecos. Again, this is up to you what you think is right/wrong, but it is a question worth asking. 

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Fuel tank senders

This weekend I made good progress on finishing up my second flap as well as starting the final assemble on the first tank. The flap went well as I figured out the optimal bucking situation from the first flap. Also, the pro-sealing of the Trailing Edge went much smoother/quicker/cleaner than the first one.


With the flap clecoed to the table while the pro-seal dries I started the final assembly on the first tank. I squeezed the end rib wet, but started the other method where you let the sealant cure while the clecos are holding pressure and then shoot wet rivets after a couple of days of curing. I have gone back and forth on the pros/cons of shooting wet rivets vs letting the sealant cure and what finally did me in was while I was placing the first full rib I really did not want to be rushing to shoot rivets. My take is that I increase the risk of shooting bad rivets when I am in a hurry, so I am going to go with the Rick6a Method (at least for this tank). About the only thing that made sense to me against this approach was someones comment on the forum about how the clecos would not provide enough tension in this method and there would be too much pro-seal stuck between the rib and the skin. When you let it cure like that and come back to shoot rivets over cured sealant that the compression of cured sealant leaves a weaker mechanical connection between the rib and the skin due to the compressible material between the two. My intuition is that is a valid statement. My intuition also says that bad rivets due to rushing also make a poor mechanical connection. So cured sealant and wet rivets it is.

After 3 ribs I ran out of clecos. (I still have the flap in the jig, so I guess I am going to need to wait until I finish that up this week before I continue on the tank.) 

Since I was waiting for sealant to dry I thought it would be a good time to start taking care of the fuel senders. I am going to go with the standard float sensors for this build. I really don't trust fuel senders all that much anyways, so I might as well stick with the standard ones. I am not sure why I do this to myself, but I always seem to start with the right side of the plane even when the plans call out the left assemblies. In doing that, I guess I am more careful to read, re-read, and re-read the plans because I am always double checking left vs right. Also, it is always nice to put together the second assembly per the plans and have no incorrect part numbers.

In the case of fuel senders, this cannot be more true. I started with the right float arm bending. I remember reading someones post about the right float arm needing a couple of more bends than the left in order to clear one of the tank stiffeners.  I mocked up the float arm in some TIG wire so I did not screw up the real arm.

Now I am normally pretty good with building up pictures in my head, but I will say, when I started making bends for the right float arm I got really lost. What it came down to was the senders themselves. Per the diagram and the plans the LH side gets the 385B-F and the RH side gets the 385C-F.

That is fine and dandy, but for some reason I would have guessed that if there was a left and right sender that they would be symmetrical inverses of each other. If you look carefully at the sequence of photos below you will see that the operation of both senders are identical to each other. Also, I am a little ashamed of these photos considering I do own a real multi-meter (Fluke). Weird. I would have thought one would have been backwards from the other for some reason.

So what is the deal? I am a little saddened that it took me a good 20 minutes to figure it out. It wasn't until I tried screwing the 385C-F into the right rib before I figured out what was going on. If you look at the left photo, you will see that the hole pattern on the flanges are 180 degrees out from each other. That is beginning to make sense now.

I had to dig into the wonderful inter-tubes in order to verify what I was seeing. The Je-Mo build log had a great write-up on this. The following images are from his site:

Left tank (the sender orientation identical to the build plans)

Right tank. If you look carefully here, the float arm comes in from the forward side of the tank opposed to the left tank where the float arm comes in from the aft side of the tank. 

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Being able to enjoy flying with your family and friends is one of the greatest things ever!

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

N Numbers

I spent tonight priming the interior structure of the left flap. While waiting for the primer to dry I got a couple of other things done:

  • I have been in email contact with South Florida Sport Aviation and I am seriously debating purchasing their front seat covers, rear seats, overhead console, and headliner
  • I got my list of question together to talk to Rhonda at Barrett Precision Engines tomorrow
  • I started designing my matco parking brake valve bracket
  • I started designing my wingtip landing lights
  • I reserved our N number! 5412K for 05/04/12 (Our daughters Birthday) K for our last name. Also I like how one-two-kilo sounds. I can't wait to make that radio call. The process was pretty painless. I thought I had to mail in a written letter, but there is a website that you can both check if a number is available as well as pay your $10 dollars to reserve an available number. Done!

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Landing Lights

I probably have already written this, but one of the reasons of why I wanted to build my own plane was the intimate knowledge that I am have going to have about this plane. I hope to never have any in flight problems, but being able to visualize how a fuel molecule travels through every line and fitting in transit from the tank to the cylinder makes me more comfortable.

The second reason I went with building my own is the ability to setup the plane exactly how I want it. Per the name, this is an experimental plane. Yeah yeah, for all of you true experimental builders, this is really just a kit plane. Even though this is a kit plane, there are many things that the builder can experiment with. More so that I think I was actually prepared for before starting this project. There are the obvious things like avionics and panel configurations, propellor, seat materials, paint colors, etc. Beyond that, there are so many other things. Door handles, door pins, consoles, wheels, brakes, ignition, fuel system, etc. 

I have been looking at all of these things lately and I needed to narrow down my work to a manageable number of simultaneous projects. I am going to start planning the position and landing lighting.

When I picked this kit up it came with a Duckworks Leading Edge landing light kit. Thankfully the wing had not been cut yet. I am not afraid to cut the leading edge, but quite honestly I don't like the look of the leading edge landing light on the RVs. To me, the way the lenses end up always look, well, experimental. I would really like to get my landing light into my wingtip. I could probably just pickup some ZipTips, but I would really like to do it myself. 

I have seen a lot of adaptations of Baja Designs Pro Squadrons into the wings and wingtips. I have a special place in my heart for Baja Designs products because I have run many thousands of miles off-road behind Baja Designs lights. How cool would it be to get them into my plane!

The second thing that bothers me about wingtip lighting is most of it looks like boat designs from the 1970s. I am a computer engineer and I like raw circuit boards. The Cirrus position lights and the ability to see their raw LEDs really does it for me. I think it would be a nice touch to have a similarly designed wingtip setup.

I started down the path the other day of drawing up my own boards in Eagle, but then I came across FlyLeds has a product line pretty close to what I was starting to design, so there is no reason not to go with them right now. They have two things that I really like. 1) They have skinny boards that area designed to work in conjunction with a landing light. 2) They give you the option to build your own boards!

The standard MR-16s that Vans sells for their wingtips sound fairly useless if you are actually making night landings. They draw a lot of current, they get hot, and they don't put out much light (relative to an actual landing light). Going back to the Baja Designs idea, it would be super cool to get some Squadron Pros in the wingtips for the landing light, and use the side FlyLED boards for anti-collision and position lighting. 

While digging through the BajaDesigns website to order a Squadron for experimenting I found out that they have a S2 version of their light:

The S2 is still pretty bad ass. It outputs 2450 Lumens, draws 1.66A, and only weighs 8 ounces. Did I mention it was Baja Designs and that Baja Designs is a bad ass company?

Now I have to do some work in CAD to see what I can all fit into that poor wingtip. From the looks of it, I think there is a fair chance to get the S2 in either a horizontal or vertical orientation into the tip alongside the skinny FlyLEDs board. (I don't actually know that I am just going off of someones previous photo of a Squadron Pro inside a wingtip)

I will obviously have make some brackets and probably cut away some of the existing bracketry, but this looks promising. Here are the S2 Pro dimensions:

The cool thing about this approach is that if I put lights in both of the wingtips I should be able to select and position the beams to provide both great taxi as well as landing lights. The S2 has many lens options:

I drew this up in Solidworks to get a rough proof of concept in terms of size and fitment. I don't have the exact parabola of the wingtip modeled correctly (I was lazy), but for a rough size this is pretty close. The FlyLEDs "skinny" board is supposed to be 1 inch wide. The wingtip gives me enough room to put a plate that is 6 inches tall at the tallest point and 4.5 inches wide. I haven't measured it but I think the curvature of the wingtip is a little more slim than I modeled. However, with these rough dimensions it appears that the S2 will fit into the wingtip plate in both the horizontal and vertical orientations. That would give me forward facing strobes from the FlyLeds board, a "racer" series landing light that would give great distance, and a shorter wider beam illuminating the nearby taxi and runway. That is the theory at least.

With the sizing looking like its going to work I think it is time to order some components to see if the theory will hold up. Worst case I have some small LED lights for my wife's jeep.

-To be continued-

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Kitlog Pro File conversion

Back when I purchased the project I was given the printed manual with annotated work log notes on the pages along with a backup of the Kitlog Pro project. While I myself am not using Kitlog, I thought it would be nice to take a look at the project and archive off it's entries for historical record.

Kitlog Pro seems to be pretty popular amongst builders. I went over to the website, downloaded a copy, created a windows VM to run it in (unfortunately it only runs under Windows) and started to dig around. It seems like a pretty nice program, but with that said I still did/do not intend to use it. 

The backup looked to be some sort of database records with a TPS file extension. I tried importing these files into KitLog Pro 2.0, but it appeared that in version 2.0 the program changed to an XML format for its data storage. I emailed support and they were very responsive. They gave me the link to the 1.7.3 version of the program and proceeded to tell me that I should download 1.7.3, replace the installed database files with the ones that I had, and then upgrade to 2.0. I tried it (I didn't try that hard), but when I got 1.7.3 running and replaced the install files and rebooted, nothing showed up. I am sure this process would work, but I wasn't even intending to use Kitlog, so I went another way.

I really just wanted the data that was in the TPS files so that I could reference it at a later time in case there was something that I could not make sense of from the work logs in the construction manual. I started to see if my filesystem knew of this file type.

No luck. The second check was to see if there were any words that could be picked out of the file. i.e. was the file in some crazy binary format, or was it plain ASCII.

While that doesn't look that interesting, if you look further into the strings dump you start finding sentences!

So at this point I can at least figure out how to extract some data from this file and probably piece it back together. Developers rarely roll their own file data storage these days though in lieu of an already existing format. The next step was to figure out what sort of file this was. After a bit of digging in the hexdumps of the file I determined it was a Clarion Top Speed database file. Clarion TPS is proprietary file format that holds table based data, but with that said, people have already reversed the proprietary file format!

I ended up using the github tps-parse project: Once you get that compiled, it is pretty straight forward to convert the files from TPS to CSV.

By giving the program the directory with all of the saved TPS files as input and an output directory to save the CSVs to, I now have all of the logs saved in a useable format. From here I will probably write a small python script to import these into my own worklog. For the time being, Google sheets provides all I need.