Cowl fasteners complete

August 18, 2018 – I’ve finished the Skybolt fasteners for the cowl. There’s a few fit and finish items I have to try to take care of.

After drilling the actual fastener holes in the top cowl for the split lines that run fore and aft, I had to fill the cleco holes.

Meanwhile, I moved the flanges to the inside of the lower cowl, then I countersunk the rivet holes.

I prepped and deburred the flanges and clecoed them in place for installation.

I riveted them in place, and then installed the fasteners, and tried the fit of the entire cowl.

Pretty cool. I made adjustments on a few of the fasteners all the way around, and I had two receptacles that needed to be changed to floating receptacles. I installed and adjusted those.

My biggest problem right now is that I have a pretty healthy gap of about 1/8″ at the outboard leading edges of the cowl on both sides. I’m going to try just to add material to the top cowl at that location.

Time: 7:20

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Cowling fasteners, Part 3

August 11, 2018 – Well, things are coming along nicely on the cowl.

I drilled the holes to size in the upper cowl. 15/32″ using a Unibit. At the holes at the upper corners where the engine mount is, I had to start them, and then finish the holes with the cowl off the airplane, because the Unibit hit the mount. This step is hard because there’s no solid way to cleco the cowl in place after the holes are drilled. I just had to be careful and make sure things were lined up as best as I could get them.

I mixed up a little bit of resin and flox and filled the cleco holes that I had drilled to get the cowl into position originally.

I riveted the receptacles for the upper cowl into the flanges.


Then I installed the collars into the cowl. These were really a tight fit, and most of them wouldn’t go in by hand. So I used a C-clamp and a socket to squeeze them into place.

I then installed the fasteners using the pliers.

I put the cowl on the airplane, and tightened the fasteners until they sat flush.

Once the fasteners are where you like them, you remove them by using a screwdriver and pressing down and turning to loosen them with a sharp motion. You have to do this because the receptacles are unlocked and will turn. The sharp motion just releases the pins on the fastener without turning the entire receptacle barrel.

To lock the receptacles, you remove the temporary lockpin and then turn the barrel to the 11:00 – 7:00 position. The collar locks into place with a light snap. That’s it.

I repeated the process with the lower cowl. The lower cowl seemed a lot harder to keep lined up and to drill precise holes. As it turns out, only two fasteners on the firewall, one on top, and one on the bottom, don’t quite line up. So I ordered some floating receptacles from Skybolt.

Now it’s time to set up the fasteners that go down the cowl split on the sides.

I decided to lay these flanges out externally, then they will be installed internally later. I drew a line from the lower fastener on the upper cowl, so everything’s in line. I marked the same spacing as on the firewall, 3.25″, and went from there. I positioned each flange centered on the marks I made, and clecoed them at the receptacle rivet locations.

I just carried that line forward until I ran out of room at the front. The flanges will be riveted to the lower cowl, so I laid out that line and went with .9″ for the rivet spacing.

I started on the left side and realized I’m short two flanges, because of my mistake installing them down in the belly where the exhaust fairing of the cowl is.  So I’m going to make a couple.

This cowl is almost done. I’m really happy with how it’s turning out.

Time: 9:00

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Continuing the cowl

July 18, 2018 – I think I’m on the home stretch for the cowl. 🙂

I like the fit all the way around, so I decided to go ahead and drill for the Skybolt fasteners around the firewall.

Before that, though, I drilled holes for the screws in the area behind the spinner. This also helps to support the cowl so I can accurately drill for the other fasteners.

Skybolt gives you little tools that fit in the fastener holes of the flanges so that you can drill a centered pilot hole. They’re kind of like drill bushings that I’ve used elsewhere on the airplane. You secure them in the holes you want to drill, then do the pilot holes. The holes will later be taken up to size with a Unibit.


I back-drilled through these bushings, but there are areas where you can’t get on the backside because of the engine mount. So I used my triangulation trick that I’ve used before for blind holes. You basically mark two or three lines that center on the hole you want to drill, and mark the dimension on that line.

Drill at the intersection, and you should have a centered hole in the correct location.

I’ve got all the holes piloted except for the ones right adjacent to the gear legs. I’m going to see if I can investigate at Oshkosh whether I need fasteners that will ultimately be underneath the gear leg fairings.

I previously left off the flanges on the firewall that are in line with the horizontal split of the cowl, because I wanted to make sure those flanges were in the correct location. I marked on the skin where the split line was, then I located, drilled and installed these two flanges.

The Skybolt instructions say to install all the fasteners at the firewall, then do the fasteners at the horizontal split lines toward the front. I’m going to do it that way. But I believe I’m done now until after Oshkosh. Good thing I don’t have money yet for a panel…  🙂

Time: 3:45

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Continuing to fit cowl

July 11, 2018 – Well, it’s been a while, but I’m beginning to see the light at the end of this tunnel. It’s been hot, and I haven’t been interested in handling fiberglass lately, but we had a bit of a break and now I’m making progress.

I wish I could describe specifically what I’ve done to get the cowling this far, but you just have to sand here, sand there, and eventually it falls into place.

I trimmed the aft edge where it meets the firewall. I used 2″ tape to give a known dimension, then marked the cowl and cut it.

The hardest part of dealing with this thing is supporting it so I can attempt more or less accurate cuts. I decided it would be easier to support the cowl at the firewall if I went ahead and installed the flanges for the Skybolt fasteners. After playing with the spacing, I decided that 3 1/4″ worked all the way around. I started with the top, then I did the sides, then the bottom.


The Skybolt flanges are individual, so they can be trimmed to nest together.


I finished up by installing the bottom flanges.

Then I realized that I’d gotten ahead of myself and didn’t need fasteners at the exhaust fairing of the cowling.  Ha. So I removed the flanges at that location.

I think I’m really close right now. I’d like to look at a couple of airplanes. Maybe if I can hold out a couple of weeks I’ll look at some at a little fly-in in Oshkosh…

Time: 12:00

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Started fitting cowl

May 14, 2018 – I got hold of Van’s instructions for fitting the cowl without the prop in place. The instructions say to cut PVC spacers  2 1/8″ long for a constant-speed prop, then attach the spinner backplate using those spacers.

It turned out that I had jumped the gun modifying my backplate for the prop already, so I had to borrow one.

I ran 2″ tape around the firewall at the edge. This provides a known 2″ distance for cutting the aft edge of the cowl later on.

I placed the top cowl on the engine. I don’t have much extra material at the firewall to play with, but it’ll work out.

I taped some 1/4″ pieces of molding to the front lip of the cowl to act as spacers to give me a uniform distance from the prop backplate. I’ve also padded the top of the engine with a towel and some magazines to give me the correct height.

One nice thing about the airplane being on its gear is that now I can roll it outside on nice days to work on it.

I wanted to see how the lower cowl fits. so I cut out slots to clear the gear legs, then put it up into place.

I tried using a strap to hold it together, but the strap just slid forward because there’s really nothing for it to hold onto. I temp-drilled a couple of holes for some clecos to hold the cowls in place. It has taken a little while just playing with the cowls, and standing back and thinking about what’s going on, but I eventually developed a plan.

The worst fit on the cowl is the nesting area just outside the spinner in the inlets. I have to sand a little bit, then put everything back together. The fit is slowly improving.


I am using the Skybolt fasteners on my cowl instead of the stock hinges. I decided to start working on the flanges that are installed on the firewall before I worry too much about the final cowl fit.

The first step with these flanges is to get an idea of where the fasteners will be that are on the cowl split lines at the firewall, then locate flanges from there. I figured out a tentative cut line for the aft edge of the cowl, and the split line between the cowls, then marked a likely location for the fasteners on the left and right sides. These fasteners will be the intersecting fasteners between the firewall row and the cowl split rows going forward.

I marked where that flange would probably be located, then started placing flanges up around the top of the firewall. The Skybolt instructions suggest 3.5″ spacing between fasteners. I couldn’t get even spacing that way, but 3.25″ worked pretty well. The center flange might require some adjustment, but that measurement worked for me all the way around.

The flanges have joggles and they overlap, so once I finally drilled and clecoed them, I took out each one and trimmed the overlap, based on where a rivet would be located.

Still have a lot of work to do, and things might look a little rough in these pictures, but I feel better about this than when I started.

Time: 12:45

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Engine is hung!

April 5, 2018 – A very nice day to hang the engine!

I got a good crew together today and we got the engine hung in no time.

Not much to say about it…started with the top bolts and then did the bottom. Had a lot of hands in there and a pro manned the hoist.

Thanks to Mel and Ann Asberry, Norm Biron, Carlos Ramos and Floyd Knudsen. After we got it installed there was lots of hangar flying and adult beverages.

Time: 10:00

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Engine delivered

April 3, 2018 – After its own well-deserved vacation, the engine finally arrived safely.

I’d been watching the tracking for the engine, and all of a sudden, it veered east. Then it showed Out for Delivery…in Virginia! After a couple of phone calls, it was redirected, and was delivered on April 3.

Opened it up and checked to make sure all was well, and that the serial number matched. Yep, it’s mine!

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Engine Build School

March 20, 2018 – Last week I built my engine!

I can’t say enough about my build experience. I made the trip from Dallas to Kamloops, BC to build my engine at AeroSport Power. I HIGHLY recommend doing this, and especially at AeroSport.

Darren Jones, Simon Travers and everyone else at AeroSport were great to work with. I’m not going to go into detail on the build; I’m just putting a very small sampling of the photos here for your perusal.

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Assembled prop spinner back plate

March 2, 2018 – This morning I finished assembling the back plate for the prop spinner.

There are two pieces to the back plate. For the constant speed prop, the large plate needs to be trimmed out to fit. There are four 3/8″ bolt holes that need to be aligned. I used pieces of 3/8″ tubing to align the holes, and then piloted some of the rivet holes.

I marked the large plate, and started the cutout.

One way I’ve learned to do a cutout like this is just to drill holes along the edge, then cut the remainder as needed. Then you finish it with a rotary file, then sand and polish.

Here are both parts before painting:

…and the final product:

I may do a final coat of paint later on, maybe after I’ve fitted it around the prop hub. It may need a little more trimming.

Time: 2:00

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On the Gear!!!

February 22, 2018 – It’s on the gear!

After the previous session, I ordered some corrosion preventative compound for the final permanent gear install. While I was waiting on that, I installed the brakes on the wheels. No big deal.

Today, Floyd and Randy came over to help me hoist the airplane again and permanently install the gear. We removed the gear legs, honed the tubes in the engine mount, reamed the bolt holes, and reinstalled the gear legs. They still took a bit of persuasion, but they’re in. Had to drive the bolts in using a rivet gun, but they need to be an interference fit. No pictures of the process, but here it is:

Time: 2:00

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Installed wheels on gear legs

February 8, 2018 – Today I drilled the axles and installed the wheels and tires.

I wanted to install the gear into the airplane one time, after the wheels were completely done. However, I couldn’t hold the gear legs and the wheels adequately where I could torque the wheels and locate and drill the axle holes. So I decided to put the gear in the airplane and do the work that way.

My friend Chris (Sticker) came over to help. First of all, don’t ask why he goes by “Sticker”. I don’t know. Someday I’ll get the story.

Anyway, we hoisted the airplane, still with the intention to install the gear for good, then work the wheels and let it down and be done.

We greased up the gear legs, and had a really hard time getting them all the way up and into position where the bolt holes line up. The right gear is about 1/4 hole off, and we could never get it all the way into position. So we threw some temporary bolts into the holes, and decided that we would put the airplane on a sawhorse, and I would do the wheels.

I torqued the axle nut (as best I could); there is no firm data on torque published. I started the holes with a short #30 bit in an angle drill, then drilled with a #40, then a #30.

I deburred it all, then reinstalled the wheels.

We’re going to remove the gear legs, clean everything up, chamfer edges, then try to install the gear legs for good.

Time: 3:00

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Started main landing gear

February 2, 2018 – Okay. Now that the engine mount is on, I want to look towards getting the airplane on it’s feet.

The brake flanges need to be reamed to 5/16″. It was more removal of powder-coating than any material. I also ran the reamer through the holes in the gear legs.

I then made 6 spacers that are 13/32″ long. These provide a standoff for the wheel pant bracket.

The brake bracket attaches to the flange using 3 of the 4 bolts. This took some research online to figure out how these parts go together. I’d read that the drawings and instructions were practically non-existent, and that the instructions refer to Cleveland parts. My parts are from Matco. I found some pretty good documentation from other people. I also discovered that I had to trim the wheel pant brackets to fit the Matco brakes. So I marked what had to be trimmed, and clecoed the two wheel pant brackets together to make the cutouts the same.

I drilled the screw and nutplate holes in the brackets. Once that was done, I prepped and painted them.

I started on the wheels and tires. Here’s a wheel assembled as shipped from Matco.

The plated part is the brake rotor. It’s assembled with the wheel halves. I disassembled one wheel.

I had previously put air in the tubes to make sure they were OK, since they came from Vans folded up in plastic bags. I deflated them totally in order to put them in the tires.

I shook a fair amount of talcum powder into the tires and shook it around. This would help lubricate the tube as it was placed inside.

Trying to keep the valve stem more or less in line with the red dot on the tire sidewall, I stuffed the tube into the tire.

Once it was cleanly in place, I put a little bit of air in the tube to make it fill into the tire.

Here’s the tube with the valve stem:

Then it was time to install the wheel halves into the tires. I used some dishwashing soap to lube the tire. The outboard wheel half has a hole for the valve stem. Easy enough to put it in the proper position. These wheels do not have a grommet for the valve stem.

I put the wheel halves together, along with the brake rotor and installed the bolts, which get torqued to 100 in/lbs.

I was a little confused about securing the valve stem. I had nuts that came with the tubes, and  I assumed they would secure the valve stem after the wheel was assembled. But thethreads on the valve stem stopped before the not would secure anything.

I called Matco, and they told me that the valve stem did not need a grommet or a locknut. OK.

I assembled the brake flange and wheel pant brackets on the gear legs, hopefully for the last time. These nuts and bolts are so close to the brake flange, and were a real pain to torque. Here’s several views of the left and right gear legs:

Next I have to lube the wheel bearings, install the wheels, and drill the cotter pin holes in the axles.

Time: 7:10

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Closed firewall and installed engine mount

February 2, 2018 – I found somebody available to help me rivet the firewall recess.

Before I installed the recess, I had to finish installing the rudder pedal center bracket.

I also had to install the two nutplates in the recess where the cockpit heat box attaches.

One of my EAA 168 buddies came over and we riveted the firewall recess.

I applied firewall sealant and clecoed the recess in place.

We got the recess installed, then decided to go ahead and install the engine mount. Jim shot the recess rivets outside, so he wanted to crawl in and do the bolts for the mount.

Time: 1:30

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Started center section cover

January 22, 2018 – Since my next step on the firewall is to install the recess, I moved to the cockpit floor cover for the fuel system.

I had previously done some small work on this, but didn’t know if I’d be installing a fuel boost pump in this location. I have the stock boost pump and filter from Van’s, along with the cover, so I started in on this. The cover needs to be modified to fit the pump assembly.

The long piece of the cover gets cut to accommodate the support for the pump and filter. The piece in blue plastic is the new bracket that supports the pump. An additional notch needs to be removed from the long cover after it’s shortened.

The housing for the fuel selector valve also gets modified.

Then I had to crawl into the airplane and drill the mounting holes for the covers. I temp installed everything to get the positioning just right.

Once everything was drilled, I took it all apart to deburr and prep for paint.  One last thing I had to do was bend the louvers for “cabin heat”. I put that in quotes because the RVs are known for not having adequate heat in the cabin right out of the box. These louvers were a little tricky to get the hang of at first, but I think I did pretty well.

Here’s a picture from up above again. You can see that the louvers at the top of the picture are just cutout and not bent to direct the air:

I used a hand seamer with a radiused strip of aluminum to make the bends. I used the table to back up the bend on the back side.

Here are the finished louvers:

Hopefully the weather will cooperate and I can get this stuff painted soon.

Time: 5:15

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Trimmed firewall for gear legs

January 22, 2018 – One of the steps I accidentally left out of the previous post was trimming to clear the gear legs.

Because the gear legs attach to the engine mount, the firewall interferes with the legs at the lower outboard corners.

I marked the cut line as best I could, and started trimming with a rotary file, then a sanding disc. Looks good now; I may need to make final adjustments when the gear legs are installed.

Time: 1:00

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Started drilling for engine mount

January 4, 2017 – Today I drilled two of the six holes in the firewall for the engine mount.

First things first, I had to rivet a stand-off on the bracket for the rudder pedals that secures the brake lines from one side to the other. This is my preference over running the brake lines through the bracket like normal. That option does not seem maintainable without breaking the brake system open.

I believe everything that needs to be placed on the firewall before the engine mount is done. I have to install the firewall recess, but I could get these holes drilled and cleaned up before I do that.

I struggled on a cold day with how to secure the mount to the firewall by myself. On that same cold day I gave up. Yesterday it was a little warmer, so I attacked it again. I used vinyl tape and clamped a 2×4 to hold the mount more or less in place. Seemed to work reasonably well.

I actually got the four corner pilot holes centered with this setup, so I started on the upper right hole.

You can just make out the pilot hole through the mount:

I started with a drill bushing in the mount, and drilled the pilot hole all the way through with a long #11. You can see that the dimensions for the bushing are perfect: .373″ OD and .191″ ID.

Here’s the #11 hole with a light behind it:

I then used core drills and BoeLube to step up to the final: .191″-248″, then .250″ -.312″ and then finished with .325″ – .375″.

Got the top two holes drilled, and the bolts slid right in:

Time: 1:05

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Installed heatbox on firewall

December 29, 2017 – Today I installed the heatbox.

This valve directs hot air from a muff around the exhaust into the cabin for heat on cold days. The stock one from Van’s is made out of aluminum. I decided to spring for one made out of stainless. I got it from Plane Innovations. I have to say I was very happy buying from them. I got personal emails from a real person notifying me that the item had been ordered, and again when it shipped. I had to order stainless hardware from Spruce, but it showed up today, so perfect timing.

I used a spreader bar to hold a block of wood to the firewall under pressure so I could drill the 2″ hole in the firewall.

The valve came with a drawing showing the dimensions for the bolt holes, so I drilled one through the valve, then used the dimension to do the other hole. Here it’s clecoed in place.

…and with the valve sealed and installed. I’ll clean up the sealant later after it dries.

Time: :45

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Continued firewall components

December 26, 2017 – I continued with components that mount to the firewall before I can attach the engine mount.

With the battery box pretty much done, I moved on to the start contactor and relay. I made the doubler that supports the firewall where they attach.

I located where on the firewall the holes will go, then drilled all the holes, using the doubler as a guide.

I drilled the nutplate holes, including where nutplates attach to the firewall support structure.

I dimpled the firewall, and countersunk the doubler to accommodate the dimples, then I painted the doubler.

While the paint dried, I tackled the sender manifold. This was easy; I just had to make a supporting angle that goes inside the firewall to provide structure for the manifold. I drilled the angle, then drilled the firewall. I bolted the manifold in place, using firewall sealant as well.

Back to the contactor and relay. I installed the doubler and the nutplates, then bolted the components in place.

I had looked for a copper bar to tie the contactor and relay together as required, but I couldn’t find one. I saw on someone else’s site where they had used a battery disconnect. I went to a local auto parts place, and bingo, I found this:

I drilled out the rivet holding the copper, then measured the distance between the two posts on the firewall, and drilled it to fit.

Time: 3:45

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