Tail Fairings

March 12, 2020 – I started working on the fairings for the tail surfaces.

The fairing for the top of the rudder is probably the easiest fiberglass piece on the airplane. I just had to cut the fairing to clear the wedge in the trailing edge of the rudder. The rest was easy.

I then hung the rudder to check the clearance and position of the vertical stab top fairing.

Here’s the fairing in position.

Once I got the pilot holes drilled, I removed the fairing and glassed in a plug to close the backside.

I moved on to the elevator tip fairings. More or less the same as the rudder fairing. I cut slots for the lead counterweights, and fit and drilled the fairings.

Time: 6:00

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Continued Work on Rudder Lower Fairing

March 6, 2020 – I continued the lower fairing on the rudder to prepare for the installation of the tail light.

I drilled the new screw holes to mount the fairing. The holes you see in this picture are the old ones, and they are filled with resin, so no worries about edge distance.

I installed the nutplates in the rudder.

I installed the chassis ground for the light. Not a lot of room in there. Hopefully this will be adequate. I removed one of the pop rivets and put a screw in its place, with a terminal on the inside.

Here’s a test fit of the light.

Time: 7:05

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Continued Lower Rudder Fairing

February 6, 2020 – I stated on my previous post about the fairing that I had a couple of issues with its fit.

  • The light contour and the attach plate are bigger than the molded area the light attaches to. I’ll just build that area up to make a smooth transition.

  • I figured out that the fairing is now not vertically aligned with the rudder. I sighted up along the rudder trailing edge, and the fairing doglegs off to one side. Hopefully cutting the offending side at the screw holes will bring it back into alignment…

First, the misalignment.

Here’s a picture, best I could get, of the misalignment:

It’s kind of hard to tell, but it’s there. I cut a bit of material off the top on the right side, to hopefully pull the fairing towards the centerline when screws are installed. I filled the existing pilot holes for the screws, and I’ll redrill new holes when everything else is set.

Then I started working on fairing the light a bit better. I mixed a batch of resin and flox, and slathered it around the base plate for the light, as well as gluing the plate to the fairing. After it cured, the first sanding went pretty well. I just have to do the usual fill and sand…fill and sand… I also installed four pop rivets in the base plate to help to mechanically secure it.

Time: 3:15

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Started Rudder Lower Fairing

February 2, 2020 – I started the lower fairing for the rudder that will also hold the tail strobe.

The fairing that comes from Vans was two pieces that they put together. They provide scribe lines on the part that are suggested cut lines. I know from experience that these lines are just guidelines, and that you should do your own fitting.

The first consideration is that the fairing needs to clear the tailwheel spring. I cut about 3/8″ off the top to give the fairing a 1/4″ clearance above the spring. You also have to make cuts to clear the control arm for the rudder.

I also needed to cut the front of the fairing to give clearance for access to the lower hinge bolt.

Then I trimmed the top to allow the fairing to fit along the lower edges of the rudder, where the fairing will attach.

I drilled screw holes through the fairing and the attach flange on the rudder. I’m going to use #6 screws and nutplates, since I want the fairing to be removable for the light.

This all sounds pretty easy, doesn’t it?

Well, when I got the fairing fitted, I found that the trailing edge of the fairing was mismatched with the trailing edge of the rudder by about 1/4″.

I figured the easiect way to fix this would be to split the trailing edge of the fairing, remove material from the pulled side, then resin the fairing back together.

It took two iterations of this process to get the fairing aligned.

In the meantime, I made an adapter plate to attach the light to the fairing. The plate is 1/8″ aluminum, made to match the contours of the light. I drilled and tapped the screw holes to directly attach the light. I had to chamfer the edge of the hole where it meets the back side of the light housing.

Still not done. Two problems…

  • The light contour and the attach plate are bigger than the molded area the light attaches to. I’ll just build that area up to make a smooth transition.
  • I figured out that the fairing is now not vertically aligned with the rudder. I sighted up along the rudder trailing edge, and the fairing doglegs off to one side. Hopefully cutting the offending side at the screw holes will bring it back into alignment…

Time: 9:25

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Finished vertical stabilizer prep

April 25, 2016 – I finished up the parts for the vertical stabilizer.

I took everything apart from the drilling session, and prepped and primed the parts.


I assembled the splice plate to the forward spar.


I put everything back in place and tried the rudder. I had decided to use the internal rudder stop, so I drilled the lower hinge bracket and tried the stop out. Some people put the stop on top of the bracket, some put it in between the two pieces:

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I think I’m going to stick with putting it on top.

Here’s the rudder attached to the vertical:


Awesome. It swings effortlessly.

I took the empennage back apart and put everything back into storage. My next step is to drill the wings to the fuselage. To make it easier to move, I put the tailwheel in place for the first time.


Time: 4:15

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Drilled vertical stabilizer

April 18, 2016 – I think I lost a few hairs doing this one. Really needed to make sure I didn’t mis-drill, and I measured, re-measured, and so on.

The first part of this was to trim the front spar of the stabilizer. The plans called for 5/8″, but I kept it at 1/2″ for now.


I marked edge distance on the splice plate and clamped it into place.


I clamped the stabilizer into place.

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I made the angle that ties the stabilizer to the top deck of the fuselage. I ended up making another one, because it turned out just a bit too short. I wanted some more edge distance for the outboard bolts.

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I drilled the bolt holes, which have to go through the longerons, and edge distance there is critical. The center three holes are for rivets that attach to the deck.


There are several measurements that have to be made:

  • the distance from the tips of the horizontal stabilizer to the tip of the vertical. This ensures that the vertical is truly vertical. My measurement came out to 62 5/16″
  • the vertical is displaced 1/4″ to the left of the aircraft centerline. This compensates for engine torque. The splice plate at the forward spar is “joggled” to the left to allow for this.
  • the rudder hinge brackets had to be in line. This is adjusted at the forward spar splice plate. This took me the longest time to figure out. I though the center bracket was somehow incorrect, because it was just forward of the top and bottom brackets. I was able to straighten the stabilzer vertically by pushing the forward spar down lower on the splice plate.

I drilled two bolt holes on the angle at the aft spar and the deck.

Once I had everything measured and located properly, I back-drilled the holes for the splice plate. Had to use an angle drill, and I couldn’t get to all the holes with the stabilizer in place.

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I took the stabilizer off and drilled the rest of the holes on the table.


Remember when I said that the plans showed to trim the stabilizer spar 5/8″ and I just trimmed 1/2″? Here’s the situation I had:


The spar interfered with the bend in the splice plate. So I marked good edge distance from the rivet holes and trimmed another 1/8″ off the spar. Now it fits like a glove.


The last thing I had to do was drill the bolts attaching the aft spar of the stabilizer to the fuselage. These bolts also go through the tailwheel mount.

To give myself better access, I lifted the tail up onto a box.


I used the tooling hole in the fuselage frame just above the tailwheel mount. I used a #30 with a drill bushing, then back-drilled from inside, and took the hole up to final size.

I also measured the hole locations in just the frame, with the stabilizer off. Triple-checked everything because I’d be drilling blind through to the tailwheel mount and I needed good edge distance. I drilled the holes to #30, reinstalled the stabilizer, and back-drilled from the inside.


I think it came out pretty good…:


That did it. Here’s a few shots of the drilled front assembly:

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Time: 8:30

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Drilled horizontal stabilizer

April 6, 2016 – I drilled the stabilizer to mount to the fuselage.

I made the shims that go under the HS-714 where the stabilizer mounts.


I made sure that the stabilizer would be mounted square. I measured from the aft outboard corner on each side up to the top corner of the side skin at the firewall. Both sides were right at 170″. Perfect.

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The plans call for a 3/16″ gap between the aft deck and the bottom of the stab, so I inserted two #10 drill bits.


I marked the location for the outboard holes that go through the HS-714, the aft deck, the longerons, and the support angle underneath. I drilled the holes with a #40. You can see the open hole in the angle in this photo shot from inside:


I’m OK with the edge distance here. I drilled the two holes just inboard of these, then took these four holes up to fit -3 bolts.


Once that was done and clecoed, I drilled the four aft bolts. This was a lot easier to get to.

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Here’s the end product. I have to take it all apart to deburr.

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Next up: drilling the vertical.

Time: 2:45

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Continued horizontal stabilizer

March 29, 2016 – I continued back-drilling the skins to the structure.


After the skins were back-drilled, I removed them, and got ready to prep and paint everything.

I needed to drill the hole for the elevator trim. I’m using electric trim, but I wanted to have the hole available for wiring. I marked the location of the hole, and drilled it to 5/8″.


After everything was deburred, dimpled, prepped and primed, I started the assembly.

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Now it’s ready for installation of the skins. I need to stop for a couple of days, though. Last week we had a pretty healthy hailstorm. I ended up buying a new car. The problem is we have more storms forecast for this week, so we wanted to try to see if we could fit the car in the garage with the wings and the fuselage. So we took down my work table and moved everything over. The car does fit with about 6″ to spare on each side. So I’m going to wait until later this week to keep going with the stab.

Time: 5:40

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Continued horizontal stab spar replacement

March 17, 2016 – I honestly don’t remember the sequence for the assembly of the stabilizer, so I called Van’s to get the manual pages for the stab. They emailed me the entire current manual. That was nice.

So now I have the sequence a new builder would follow. I started by positioning the new doublers on the spar channels and drilling them.


The upper and lower reinforcement angles needed to be tapered and bent to fit. I tapered the ends and filed them to size. I’ll poilsh them when everything is drilled. Each end is to be bent 6 degrees. I used my protractor and the vise.

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I clecoed the angles in place on the spars and drilled them.


The inboard forward ribs need to be trimmed to fit to the spar. One left and one right.

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To get ready to drill the ribs, I clecoed the spar in place with the old structure, then clecoed one side of the skin in place.

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After drawing centerlines on all flanges of the ribs, I slid them in place and drilled them. I really don’t see that I need to flute these ribs to straighten them. They lie flat on the table already.

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With that side done, I’ll cleco the other skin in place and do the same thing.

Time: 6:40

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Started horizontal Stabilizer v3.0

March 6, 2016 – Since I’m awaiting warmer weather to cut my canopy, I decided to start working on replacing my horizontal stabilizer forward spar.

I previously attempted to do the mod for the Service Bulletin on the spar, and it got to a point where I just could not live with it, so I ordered parts to totally replace the spar.

I started out by drilling the left and right skins.

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That’s it for now. I’m going to review the instructions and the new drawing, because I don’t even remember how the stabilizer went together.

Time: 1:40

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Continued horizontal stabilizer SB (again…)

January 11, 2016 – I really don’t know where to begin. I’ve wasted a lot of time on this little project, and I have nothing good to report. After getting close to closing the stabilizer, I had some new issues crop up, and I decided that I didn’t want to live life worrying about the structural integrity of the tail of my airplane.

I decided to order all new parts for the front spar of the stabilizer, and start fresh. I called Van’s, got a new drawing 3 with the current revisions, and I ordered the parts.

Here are the last pictures from the work I did. It was just time to move on.

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Time: 7:25

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Continued stabilizer SB

December 29, 2015 – I continued with the disassembly of the horizontal stabilizer in order to do the Service Bulletin (SB) mod.

I drilled out the rivets to remove the upper and lower angles that support the center of the stabilizer.

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The webs of the stabilizer’s forward spar had to have relief notches in them. This helps to prevent the cracking issue that’s being addressed. Since my tail kit is relatively new, the notches were there.


I slightly enlarged them to the dimensions called for in the SB.


The next step was to cut off the corners of the flanges for the spar webs. This was kinda fun because of the limited access. I used a Dremel to do the cuts. You have to be careful to prevent damage to the spar webs. I used a spare piece of titanium and taped a putty knife to the vertical part of the spar to prevent damage. Then I did my best to clean up the edges and the corners. When everything is ready to install, I’ll clean it all up and re-prime.

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Time: 2:30

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Started horizontal stabilizer service bulletin

December 23, 2015 – After the rudder pedals were in, I cleaned everything up and got out the horizontal stabilizer.

On January 31, 2014, Van’s issued a service bulletin for cracks in the horizontal stabilizer. Compliance with the SB involves a visual inspection in the problem area every year. The SB is terminated by installing a doubler mod on the forward spar of the stabilizer. It was obvious to me that since I was still building, I should do the mod and never have to worry about it. I decided to go ahead and do it before I got further involved with the build of the rest of the airplane.

The mod is started by removing the inboard ribs from the stab. I hate to remove perfectly good rivets, but it went OK.

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I’ll have to continue later. Tonight is our family Christmas dinner, then there’s Christmas Day, and a little bit of work mixed in there, so I’ll be back…

Time: :55

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NOW…Elevators complete!

July 15, 2010 – OK. I know I said before that the elevators were done, but I did have a couple of housekeeping items to take care of. I wanted to get a rough rig of the elevator trim servo with the tab.

Per the schematics that came with the Ray Allen servo kit, I wired everything together so that it would run. Using a 9-volt battery for testing, it all ran fine.

I discovered, as I guess most builders do, that I had to either bend the threaded rod or extend the cutout. There is interference with the cutout when the tab approaches full nose-up. I opted to extend the cutout about 1/4″ or so. Now the rod just clears at full nose-up.

Here’s a video of the tab running through its travel.

I also removed the composite end rib from the elevator, since I wasn’t happy with its shape. It was slightly rounded on the top and the bottom. I sanded the top and the bottom until they were flat, then I reinstalled it, using sealant like I did before.

Time : 1:45

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Elevators complete!

June 15, 2010 – I’m going to call the elevators finished. I have 2 months to wait before I see the wings, and all I really need to do on the elevators is to do a preliminary rig of the elevator trim servo. That’ll be a good job for the hot summer days ahead, since I can bring the left elevator and the associated parts inside.

I trimmed the stabilizer skins where they interfered with the elevator counterbalances. Real nice fit now.

I then drilled the holes through the elevator control horns where they attach to the stabilizer hinge bearing. I had a .249-.191 drill bushing from my kit at work. Drilled each side one at a time, then reamed the holes to .250″. I’m not going to drill the holes for the elevator control rod until I reach that point in the fuselage build.

Time : 2:10

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Test fit of all surfaces

May 30, 2010 – Had a family moment today. After we got done doing some chores inside and out, I managed to corral some hands to help me hang the rudder and elevators.

Using my temporary pins in place of the bolts, we got the rudder hung with the exception of the middle hinge. Looks like it needs to be adjusted.

I definitely have to trim the outboard ends of the horizontal stab to clear the counterbalance for the elevators. I have at least 3/4″ interference.

Time : :30

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May 29, 2010 – First of all, did I mention that I ordered the wings?! I expect them in mid-August.

Things are otherwise about down to the wire on the tail. I installed the rod ends for the hinges on the elevators and the rudder, using the handy-dandy PVC tool I made a while ago.

Since space is tight in the hinge cutouts, you need a way to hold the rod end and screw it into the nutplate that is attached to the spar. This tool has a notch cut into the business end that will hold the rod end so you can torque it.

The rod end is secured by a jam nut.

I also needed to make a way to temporarily attach the elevators and the rudder to their respective stabilizers without using the bolts that will be used for final assembly. Once again, space in the hinge cutouts makes it a little difficult to get fingers in there. You can buy tools that will do this, but I read on somebody else’s site about using 20D nails. Well, I found that while 20D is close to the 3/16′ bolt size, it was a hair too big (about .005″, actually). So I took a nail, “machined” it down to fit, then put a bend in it. The point of the nail will help align everything. That’s what makes this easier than just using the bolts.

The pin slides in nice and easy. Now I just need a helper to hold the surface while I align the ball in the rod end with the hinge bracket in the stabilizer, then stab the pin through all of it.

Time : 1:30

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