24 December 2017

My first landing.

First flight was on 10-Dec-17 after obtaining my airworthiness certificate on 9-Nov-17.

Here is my first landing from 24-Dec-17.  I think I got really lucky.

Life in the sky is fun.  Engine break-in and Phase I flight testing slowly continue amidst work and other life needs.

The aircraft continues to function well.

Many followers of the blog have been asking for performance numbers, oil consumption, flight reports, squawks and maintenance descriptions.  That information will be forthcoming in the blog once I get out of Phase I flying.  I anticipate another couple of months until I reach Phase II.

23 December 2017

Modification: Rudder pedal springs.

My right brake liked to stick.  It meant dragging the left brake sometimes to keep the aircraft straight on the ground.  Plus, it made using the tow bar a real workout.  Many folks use return springs on the master cylinders to mitigate this problem.

So off to the local Ace Hardware store for some Hillman, item #115, 5"x5/8"x0.042" (~3 TPI) springs at $1.15 each (I tried other spring sizes but those worked best).  About an hour of my time under the panel and problem was solved.

Right seat pedals.

Left seat pedals.  That little air bubble in the line appeared after I thought I got them all back when I filled the brake lines in October of 2016.  I can't get it out but it doesn't seem to affect braking meaningfully.

19 December 2017

Maintenance: Prop greasing.

Shortly after the first flight, it was time to grease the prop, per the Hartzell manual.  I picked up a Lincoln Lubrication 1134 Heavy Duty Pistol Grip Grease Gun with Whip Hose and Rigid Pipe for the purpose and used Aeroshell #6, as that is what the hub was originally filled with at the factory.  It took only 4 or 5 pumps on each side to fill it up properly.  

Here's the hub with the one fitting removed so I could see whilst pumping from the other side.

Pumping in progress.  I just continued until I saw grease start to come out of the other side.

10 December 2017

First Flight!

The aircraft has been flown!  No significant squawks.  It flies straight, no heavy wing and the rudder hardly requires attention in flight.  Whilst I'd like to take credit for building the aircraft with highly-skilled craftsmanship, that the aircraft flies so well is more likely due to the kit design and fabrication.

Crosswind turn after first takeoff.  This 1920x1440 image is from a GoPro Session using the PlaneAround wing mount.  Tail camera is visible below tail.

Base-to-final turn on landing following the second flight.  This 1920x1080 image is from a GoPro HERO2 using the PlaneAround tie-down mount.  Wing camera is visible on right wing.

Third take off.  This 2704x1520 image is from a GoPro HERO5 Session using the PlaneAround tie-down mount.  The HERO2's resolution limited the clarity of the image at the tail (as seen above), so I picked up the HERO5 Session to capture more detail.  Wing camera is visible on right wing.

The following week, my aircraft visited the first airport away from home, one of the few permitted by my operating limitations under Phase I.  It was also an opportunity to use the field's compass rose to calibrate the magnetometer again.  If you look carefully, you can see the GoPro cameras on the left wing (HERO Session), under the tail (HERO5 Session) and the two mounted under the canopy (Fusion and HERO6 Black).

During a day of ground testing, prior to first flight day, another RV-14A happened to stop by.  The aircraft's pilot requested a photo-shoot.  Turns out, one of these planes is wearing pants, the other isn't.

The one item worth mentioning is that initially the prop would not cycle even up to 2,000 RPM on the ground.  This was a cause for concern and unacceptable for flight, obviously.  A day was spent making phone calls, examining the governor installation and searching the web for similar experiences.  Turns out this is a normal occurrence and probably exacerbated by the prop sitting unspun since delivery in Sep-15, some 2.25 years ago.

After manually cycling the prop with boards (as shown on 44-07 in the plans for cutting the spinner to accommodate blade travel) in the hangar some 20 times then bringing the engine up to 2,100 RPM on taxi, the prop loosened up and then could cycle down to ~1,700 RPM.

I made the decision to build an aircraft on 4-Jul-12.  My decision to build an RV-14A was made a few weeks afterwards.  My wing kit was ordered on 12-Feb-13 and received on 10-Apr-13.  It took 4 years and 8 months from start of construction to first flight.  Though generally I worked on the plane consistently, there were several months of inactivity due to domestic and employment affairs and similar such distractions .  The cumulative build hours graph, shown below (also on the right column of this blog), records my building activities.

As shown on the right column in this blog and below, 2,196.01 hours total build time were invested (includes all redone parts).  An additional 599.69 hours of help from eight others was obtained, each of which were invaluable to finishing the project.  A single helper donated 461 hours of his time to my build - the aircraft could not have been completed without him and to whom I owe a massive debt of gratitude for his dedication to my aircraft.   Thus, it took 2,795.7 hours to build this aircraft.  No quick-build kits were used.  Panel design, fabrication and all aircraft wiring were done by me.  My POH can be found here.  Total cost, as shown on the right column of this blog and below, was $155,737.88 (includes tools and redone parts).

Build Time as of 4-Sep-17
SubcategoryTotal HoursFTE
Shop Prep29.250m, 3d, 5h
Practice25.330m, 3d, 5h
Wings611.183m, 16d, 3h
Fuel Tanks Redo110.980m, 13d, 7h
Empennage306.64 1m, 18d, 3h
Horizontal Stab Redo37.190m, 4d, 5h
Rudder Redo25.03 0m, 3d, 1h
Fuselage440.462m, 15d, 0h
Finishing290.201m, 16d, 2h
FWF154.200m, 19d, 2h
Avionics220.141m, 7d, 4h
Total Time2196.0113m, 14d, 4h
W/O Major Redos2047.4712m, 15d, 7h
Add'l Help from Others599.693m, 14d, 8h
Averages: 495.86 hrs/yr, 41.95 hrs/mo, 1.36 hrs/day (from start). Hours/day worked: 3.51.

Cost as of 1-Nov-17 
Hover your mouse over most categories for itemization.
Category Amount
Avionics and Panel $38,805.90
Antennas $1,086.33
CPU for Shop $531.31
Engine and Prop $42,145.00
Fuel Tanks Redo $1,537.51
Fuselage Bulkheads $1,315.77
Kits from Van's $41,750.13
Lighting $3,022.54
Maintenance $775.77
Modifications $2,303.66
Other $3,391.36
Paint and Primer $1,203.96
Replacement Parts $2,123.02
Rudder Redo $493.52
Tools and Shop $12,773.35
Total: $155,737.88

29 November 2017

Avionics: Intercom output level for recording.

I picked up a fancy GoPro Fusion (marketing video below) to use with my aircraft.  It's a full 360 degree camera, in both xy- and xz-planes.  I also picked up the GoPro HERO 6 Black, GoPro HERO5 Session  and GoPro Session.  The Fusion and HERO6 Black will be placed under the canopy.  The HERO5 Session will be placed on the tail and the Session will be placed on the wing.

I would also like to record the intercom audio on the HERO6 Black.  This is why I wired in panel-mounted jacks, on the lower right of my panel, for audio input and output (Music 1 In and Out in the image below), figuring I would use the latter for a video camera.  For the Music 1 Out jack, I used the GMA-240's Passenger Headset Audio Out pins (40 and 41 on J2401). Note, the GMA 240 was replaced with a GMA 245 on 12-Aug-18.

Because the output level from the GMA-240 is for a headset and can exceed ±4V (depending on load impedance) it can't be connected directly to the GoPro.  This is because the GoPro's audio input level requires "line level" (i.e., about ±1V) and has a 8k-Ohm input impedance in line input mode (2.2k-Ohm for mic and 47k-Ohm for powered mic).

By placing a 47k-Ohm resistor in series with the left and right audio lines into the jacks, the GoPro can accept output from the GMA-240 through the jack.  This occurs since this simple voltage divider network reduces the magnitude of the audio voltage into the GoPro to about 14.5% of GMA-240's output.

When I originally put in the panel-mounted audio jacks, I used Molex connectors on them figuring that I would need to replace the jacks in the future due to potentially many connect/disconnect cycles.  Turns these Molex connectors were ideal for accommodating the 47k-Ohm resistors in a little jumper cable.

The image below shows the back of the panel on the right side (looking aft).  The two Music 1 In and Out jacks are shown on the left of the image.  The bottom jack is the Music 1 input.  The top jack is the Music 1 Out jack which is the audio from the GMA-240's Passenger Headset Audio Out.  You can see a small Molex-plugged jumper cable with the 47k-Ohm resistors placed between the Molex connectors from the jack and from the GMA-240. 

When plugged in to the GoPro, the audio from the intercom is clear and unsaturated.  Should I ever need to, I can simply remove the jumper cable with resistors and return the jack to its headset-level output.

20 November 2017

Maintenance: Propeller governor leak.

My prop governor was leaking a tiny drip of oil every few days.  This was prior to my running the engine.  I have Hartzell's S-1-79 governor.  I removed the governor head (model 102889 Rev. 6) and found the below.  You can see that the o-ring apparently was pinched when installed.  I spoke to a Hartzell A&P and he thought it happened during assembly at the plant and was the first time he'd seen this.

The o-ring part number is  C-3317-035 with a 2016 list price of $2.70.  The replacement part was covered under warranty.

The damaged ring on the left and the new ring on the right.

When replacing the ring, I learned that it's important to lubricate it with oil and to stretch it in place not roll it.  It's trivial to reinstall.  The 9/32" hex cap head screws must be torqued to 21-25 in-lbs per the manual (HC-SL-61-277 Rev. 3 D(1)(b)g).

Then I needed to be sure the speeder compress spring sits properly when reassembling.  Left image is of course incorrect, whilst the right is correct.

09 November 2017

First Flight Prep: FAA Inspection. I can fly.

On 7-Nov-17, three FAA Aviation Safety Inspectors came to my hangar and completed their inspection of my aircraft, paper work and builder's log files, images and videos.  As of 9-Nov-17 my aircraft is legally permitted to fly. 

The FAA no longer provides "pink slips".  The airworthiness certificate is now provided on 8.5"x11" card stock and is part of the operating limitations.  This is FAA Form 8130-7 (11/2016).  It is a four page document, which includes a description of the approved flight test area (including permitted airports of use), that must remain in the aircraft during operations per CFR §91.203(b).  The certificate shown above is cropped from that document.

The official logbook entries are below.

And I can legally perform my own maintenance.  They put my model as RV-14/A rather than RV-14A.  When I pointed this out to one of the inspectors, he said "we're going to let that slide for now."

Soon these seats will be occupied.

Following placement of the top cowl half, this bad boy is ready to go.

The next posts will detail first and subsequent flight experiences.

15 October 2017

First Flight Prep: My POH, W&B, flight and annual checklists and flight test cards.

In the interest of sharing with the community, here are the first revisions of my RV-14A Pilot's Operating Handbook (POH), flight and annual checklists and flight test cards.  Please note, these were assembled prior to first flight and thus I anticipate they will all change during and after Phase I.  As with all information on my site, it is being offered free for use.  Feel free to copy and modify any or all of them to suit your needs.  Links to the files are in the matrix below the image.

I used OpenOffice to create each document.  It's a free open source office suite.  Below I include the documents in PDF, OpenOffice text (.odt) and Microsoft Word (.doc) formats (the .doc files may not preserve the full fidelity of original OpenOffice formatting).  I will update the links with future versions as I write them.  Following Phase 1 testing, v1.0 will be completed.

It's best to save the .odt and .doc files directly to your computer/phone/tablet.  If you instead view them in Google Docs' native viewer, they will be mangled on your screen.

.pdf .odt .doc
POH  v1.1 v1.1 v1.1
Flight Checklist  v1.0 v1.0 v1.0
Annual Checklist  v1.0 v1.0 v1.0
Flight Test Cards  v0.2 v0.2 v0.2

Update 21-Jan-19:  Latest POH revision uploaded.

Update 21-Nov-18:  Annual Checklist added.

Update 10-Jan-19:  Added my W&B spreadsheet in both OpenOffice .ods and Microsoft Excel .xls formats.

.ods .xls
W&B v1.0 v1.0

Much of the POH structure and some of its wording were stolen from a POH written by Brian and Brandi for N42BU, an RV-10.  Most of the wording from the RV-14 plans' Chapter 2 serve as the first three subsections.

I copied much of the checklist structure and wording found in N42BU's checklist.

I copied the flight test card set offered by N169AK, modifying it as appropriate for my needs.

Tim Olson's N14YT annual checklist served as the starting point for mine.

14 October 2017

Finishing: Canopy. Canopy clips in.

The canopy clips are finally in.  Here they are prior to installation.

It's very important that they be test fit with the canopy off.  And that the flox added on page 38-36 be properly formed so as not to interfere with the canopy clips' fitment.

Also, do not excessively deflect the F-01449A Cover Clip.  It takes very little deflection to deform it to an unusable state.  I destroyed two clips before I got it right.  See the inset below from Figure 3, page 38-36.

Canopy clips in place.  I should have pushed the left one further forward.  But the gasket sealant will keep the moisture out.

09 October 2017

Fuselage: Rudder and Brake Systems. Longer rudder cable links.

I have given away all of the extra sets I had.  If you need a set, download the CAD drawing (consider updating the spacing as I explain below) and buy the steel stock material.  Links to both are provided in this post.

When I push the left pedal forward (which of course simultaneously pulls the right pedal aft), the "ear" on the WD-655-R pedal frame contacts the horizontal tube of the WD-655-L pedal, preventing the rudder from hitting its left stop.  My pedals are in the forward-most position (closest to the firewall).  This happens even with the proper rudder travel.

Below illustrates where the contact occurs as the right pedal is pulled aft and the left pedal pushed forward.  You can see where the powder coating came off due to the contact.

It appears as though the CS-00015 Cable Links need to be just slightly longer so that the cable need not be pulled forward so far (page 33-12).  Or, alternatively, that the CS-00014 Rudder Cable needs to be slightly shorter.  The latter solution is not practical.  I consulted with Van's and they suggested fabricating longer Cable Links or reducing the rudder throw.  However, to accomplish the latter would excessively limit the throw, so I deemed it undesirable.


So I bought some inexpensive 0.05" 4130 steel stock (the same material and thickness that the kit's links are composed of) and whipped up new cable links in my CAD program (LibreCAD - free is good).  I added two additional holes in comparison to the original cable links, giving me 9 holes rather than seven.  I went ahead and dropped four full sets on there since the waterjet shop was going to charge me the shop minimum of $75 for the small job. 

Ultimately, the waterjet shop said they'd make as many as my material would permit.  That turned out to be 18 Cable Links, so 4.5 sets.  Below shows the links.  The top row are 14 links as they came from the shop (dirty, rusty and undersized holes).  The bottom row shows on of the kit's Cable Links, followed by two sets of the longer links after final drilling to #12, deburring, sanding and cleaning for painting.

Installed, following painting.

If you need to fabricate your own, below are the final dimensions (ream to final size).  These line up very well with the original, shorter cable links.  Also, here is the dxf file with 16 links (the hole diameters are undersized by 1/64" and the width of the links are 0.04" wider to account for waterjet tolerance).
  • Holes are #12, so 0.189" diameter.
  • The first hole is centered 1/4" from the edge.
  • The second hole is center-to-center 0.75" from the first hole.
  • Subsequent holes are spaced 11/32" (0.34375") center-to-center.
    • I think the holes on the original parts are spaced 0.3445" center-to-center.  That would place exactly 1/4" from the hole edge to next hole's center.
  • The edges are half circles with a 0.25" radius, centered with the adjacent hole.
A picture probably expresses that much more clearly.

22 September 2017

First Flight Prep: Elevator balancing.

Van's suggests balancing the elevators separately.  Because my aircraft is not yet painted, my plan was to balance them slightly heavy.

My right elevator was too heavy and needed a few holes drilled in its weight to bring it more into balance.  Oddly, my left elevator was too light.  Here's the only picture I had showing how it likes to rest with the forward edge high.

Thus, it required additional weight.  That weight needs to be as far forward as possible to reduce how heavy it needs to be, thus I aimed for it to be a long, narrow piece.  But it also needs to be wide enough to accommodate a #10 screw.  Using a bag of hardware as a test weight, I was able to determine I needed about 7 - 8 ounces more weight.

I decided to drill out the CS4-4 rivets holding the E-912 Elevator Tip Fairing so that I could add a nutplate just aft of the stock weights.

Then I purchased an "electric ladle" made for melting and pouring lead (the melting point of Pb is 621.5°F).  Both the collected swarf from what was drilled out of the right elevator, plus a 12 oz sinker (also obtainable from an outdoor store) supplied the lead I would need to melt and mold a weight.  Originally, I purchased mold putty to make the mold.  However, using that putty, I found my first pour was not flat enough on two sides (which is necessary to rest up against both the web of the E-903 Elevator Tip Rib and the E-614 Counterweight already in place).

Next I used aluminum angles to re-mold the lead with 3 flat sides.  The mold putty was used to keep the four aluminum angles comprising the mold together.  But I found that the weight from this second melt, though it looked good, wasn't quite the right shape.  It was too long and narrow.

Finally, on my third melt, not using the mold putty but instead just using aluminum angles backed up by bucking bars (to serve both as large heatsinks and to keep my "mold" from moving), I got it right.

This additional weight contains about 7 ounces.

04 September 2017

First Flight Prep: First Engine Start.

It has been quite a week after moving into the hangar over two days.  Because I wanted to minimize the time building the plane in the hangar, the plan was to have nearly everything done at home prior to moving it there.  Then, only the wings and tail would need to be attached.

Thus, with confidence that everything was buttoned up and ready for an engine test, it was time.  The left tank was dry (because of a leak) and the right tank had 25.4 gallons.  If there ever is a next time, I don't think it's too intelligent to do a first start with a full tank.  Oh well. 

Here is my friend positioning the airplane into the wind.

The bird is ready for first start.  Though we checked the brakes prior to starting the engine, we really should have chocked the wheels.

I stayed outside with the fire extinguisher at-the-ready, whilst my friend sat in the left seat.  Though his RV-9A flies with a GRT EFIS too, he's not completely familiar with my panel (and heck, neither am I).  Here I am going over it with him.

A 34 second video of engine start.  The fuel pump ran for 4 seconds prior to priming the engine.  The engine cranked for 10 seconds (the max permitted on the starter) before it came to life.  We ran it for just under a minute and turned it off because the oil pressure was showing 150 PSI (Update 9-Sep-17:  I found the problem and described it in this post).  Though I'm confident that's an incorrect reading and is probably a simple fix, it was the prudent decision.  All other indicators looked good (EGT, CHT, oil temp, MAP, fuel pressure, etc.).  The video fades into when the engine was shut down.

My friend exits the aircraft as I check the engine, fire extinguisher in hand.

The propeller had some oil slung on it from the hub.  This is normal for the first twirl of a prop.  Apologies for the poor image.  I'll try to replace it with a better one shortly.

The bird returns to its nest.

There are a few more little items that need to be taken care of prior to requesting an inspection.  That should happen in the next few months, when I have time.  I don't want to set up an inspection and then have a deadline to meet.  I'd rather it be ready, on my own time, then schedule the inspection.

I'm not certain that I'll have too many more postings prior to inspection.  I do want to post some info on my landing light installation and provide examples of the extent of the lights' illumination ability.  They are AveoMaxx Hercules 30 landing lights (specs.and wiring).  That will be forthcoming.