Today was the first day that I could actually see part of an airplane in my garage… instead of a bunch of airplane parts. I began what has been my favorite part of the build so far, bolting all the parts together!
I started by getting the rod end bearings threaded into the elevators and set to the correct depth. This involved a lot of “on again, off again” with the elevators to the horizontal stab. I got the hang of that procedure pretty quickly, so it wasn’t a big deal. Once both elevators were attached to the stab, I had to drill holes in the elevator control arms to match the center bearing on the stab. Van’s provides a drill bushing to keep this hole perfectly in line with the bearing, but the drill bushing had to be machined down a fair bit before it would fit in the bearing. This was just a matter of putting the bushing in the drill press and holding a file against it.
With the elevators attached, the next step was to drill the ends of the elevator control arms for where the main elevator push rod will connect. These holes will also determine how the two elevators sit in relation to each other (whether they are flush to each other) so it was a critical procedure. You duct tape the elevators so they are perfectly in-trail, then drill your hole with a drill bushing that I made out of MDF on the drill press.
Once that’s done, you take everything apart again, and it’s time to get the horizontal stab mounted to the tail cone. First you have to fabricate four aluminum shims that sit under the front attach point. Then you double-side tape the shims to the attach points (to keep everything lined up) and bolt the BACK attach points of the stab to the tail cone. Now the trick is making sure the stab is sitting at exactly a 90 degree angle to the tail cone. To do this, you wedge a piece of wood between the front stab attach points and then clamp the wood to the rear deck of the tail cone. Then you measure from each corner to a rivet on the center line of the plane. If the measurements are the same, you’re all set. I was able to get it PERFECT after the second adjustment! Once it’s lined up and clamped down, you drill out the front attach points.
Having the horizontal stab firmly bolted on, it was time to get the vertical stab installed. This was quite a bit quicker than the HS as there isn’t any alignment needed. Just final drill a few existing holes and bolt it down. Colleen and I then bolted the elevators back on. Even though it’s not called for until a few steps later, I also installed the rudder after I stopped the video. I just couldn’t wait to see what the “final product” would look like!