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-

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