Category: Wingtips

Right wingtip complete

October 23, 2013 – With the right wing on the table, I wanted to arrange the wiring so that the wingtip would be removable and the wiring would be reasonably secured.

I cut the 4-strand cable for the strobe to length and terminated the wires for the wingtip. I clamped the wires to the rib I installed in the tip. Here’s a before and after:

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Here’s close-ups of the wiring inside the tip, and of the terminal connection on the wing itself.

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I temporarily installed the wingtip to the wing, mainly just for storage. The phillips head 4-40 screws I have will not work later on. I’ve already stripped a few of them, so I’ll be getting torx fasteners later on.

Of course I had to try my lights with everything installed.


I’m calling the right wingtip complete.

A friend from work came over and helped me put the right wing back in the stand and the left wing on the table.

Time: 2:30

Continuing wing tip lighting assembly

October 10, 2013 – It feels like forever since I’ve done anything on the airplane. Money issues and just life in general have gotten in the way, but things may be looking up.

I continued with the right wingtip lens. They’re trimmed about as well as I can get them, and then I transferred the holes for the attach screws. LJ helped clean up the cut edges and the screw countersinks.

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I also had to repair the foam rib I installed in the right wingtip. Part of it had pulled away from the tip.

101013004Before I installed the lenses, I needed to finalize the installation of the lights. I had made some spacers for the mirrored plexi, but I didn’t like them because they were hand cut and not very straight. A good friend of mine at work helped me out by cutting spacers on his lathe at home. They came out beautifully; all the same size and nice and smooth.

I assembled the lights and installed the lens.

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The next thing I’m working on is securing the wiring in the wingtip so that when the wingtip is installed, the wiring will be safe.

I put the right wing on the table so it will be in an as-installed position. I realize that some people will say that this is over-engineered, but coming from a maintenance background, I want it…well…maintainable.


Time: 5:00

Started wingtip lenses

March 21, 2013 – I started cutting and fitting the wingtip lenses.

Van’s provides you with a formed bubble of plexiglass that you cut to make the two wingtip light lenses. I didn’t get a picture of it before I cut it in half, but here is a lens half before trimming:


I set it in place over the wingtip cutout and started trimming. I was able to use snips until I was down to fine adjustment, when I used files and sandpaper.


When I was happy with the fit, I taped it in place, and drilled the screw holes at #40, and clecoed the lens in place. Now on to the other one…


Time: 2:00

Wingtip lighting almost done

March 5, 2013 – I’ve come a long way since my last update.

Since I did the green LEDs last time, I got the red ones done:


Here’s a guide to how I wired the LEDs:


I installed the strobes on the wingtip cutout backing plates I made. As I wrote before, I didn’t want to attach the strobes to the wingtip fiberglass.

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These are the outside and inside views of the strobes. The strobes are Whelen Vertex Hide-a-way Super LED strobes that I got from Strobes N’ More. If they turn out to be not what I need, the cutouts are the standard 1″ hole, so I can drop in a regular strobe if required.

030513005The next thing I needed to do was to make spacers for the screws for the mirrored plexiglass since it sits on top of the LEDs. I needed 1/4″ OD and ID to fit a #6 screw. I found longer spacers and cut them to fit. Unfortunately, the height I need is only 1/8″, so these were kind of a pain to make. They aren’t pristine parts, so I’ll be replacing them with better spacers at some point. For now, they do the job.

Here you see the spacer between the rivets for a nutplate:


…and placed over a screw for the plexiglass:


Here are side views of the plexiglass installed with the spacers:

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I hooked up both wingtips to power, and…


…everything works!

Not the best quality, but you get the idea…


I started installing the wiring on the outboard wing ribs. I made brackets for the LED drivers. I used thermal epoxy to attach the driver pucks to the brackets, then screwed the brackets to the ribs. I plan on using the terminal bars to connect the lighting to the wiring, so I installed terminals on the driver puck wires.

Time: 6:40

Continued wingtip lighting

February 11, 2013 – I continued work on the wingtip lighting by drilling screw holes for the plexi for the strobes, then drilled the strobe holes.

I drilled the holes in the plexi to 1″ to fit the strobe itself.


I took the corresponding holes in the fiberglass underneath to 1 1/2″ to fit the body of the strobe. This will allow the strobe to sit higher in the opening. I will attach the strobe to the plexi and the aluminum underneath, instead of also going through the fiberglass.

I then cut out the face of the wingtip cutout where the nav lights will be. This will allow for a bit of cooling. Some people have installed heatsinks onside the wingtip. I’m going to wait to see how hot the LED assembly will get before I go through that work. It will save a little bit of weight.

Below is the sequence for these cutouts:

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I drilled the nutplate holes, countersunk them, and installed the required nutplates.

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Then I started in on the soldering. I have to do some research, but I had a heck of a time soldering to the contact points on the LEDs, plus I know now some have to be redone because the wires run where the plexi will sit down on top of the LED assemblies.

Here’s my initial wire arrangement:


Hooked up the driver and power…and…WooHoo! It worked.


This puppy is BRIGHT!!! Some of the trial and error work is done, no smoke leaked out, so I can clean up the wiring a little bit, learn from my mistakes, and move on.

Time: 5:30

Started wingtip lighting

February 4, 2013 – I’ve been looking forward to this; I started work on the scratch-built LED nav lights.

I have seen this lighting on several other builders’ websites, and I really liked the clean updated look. It will also be cheaper than standard lighting, and I’m not too concerned that they won’t be bright enough.


I had previously made templates of the cutout in the wingtips to form the backing plate, so  I cut out .020″ aluminum to fit. After it was shaped, I drilled for the attach screws in each corner. The clecos in the center were to hold the metal in place so I could shape the edges.

I used the bandsaw at work to cut the plexiglass. I am going with mirrored plexiglass for now.

I made a template for the LED holes, and transferred the holes to the plexi with a #40 drill. I measured the LED lens housing at .270″, so I had some room to make up. I slowly stepped up the holes through a range of drill sizes. As the holes got bigger, I used core drills where I could. These make cleaner holes and can go through plexi with no damage. 

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The last picture above shows the core drill I used for the final hole size, which was .278″.

I gently deburred the holes, and used a 5/16″ countersink to countersink the holes to act as reflectors for the LEDs. This went a lot easier than I thought it would.

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I also needed to drill screw holes in the plexi to mount them to the backing plates. I piloted them with a #40, then took them up to a #27 to accommodate the screws.


I had to order screws and nutplates from Spruce. I am using 6-32 stainless screws to mount all of this.

Now it was time to install the LEDs.

020413011I am using the Cree Rhea LEDs from LED Supply. I have 6 red and 6 green. I used Arctic Silver thermal adhesive to mount the LEDs to the backing plate. I marked the location of the LEDs on the plate, cleaned it well, then mixed the adhesive. I applied the adhesive quickly (this stuff has a short working time) to each LED and placed them in position. When all 6 were roughly in place, I set the plexi over them to position them correctly, then let it set up.


You can see the LEDs in place in the above picture.


Next, it’s time to wire the LEDs.

Time: 4:25

Installed nut plate strips on left wingtip

Lenora helping to cleco left wingtip nutplate stripJanuary 24, 2013 – I’ve finished installing the nutplate strips on the left wingtip, with help from my bride…

I drilled the nutplate rivet holes, countersunk, deburred, painted, sealed and installed the strips and the nutplates.

One thing I did differently on this one is to enlarge the final screw holes to #27. I did this because I found the holes a little tight on the right wingtip for alignment. I’ll go back and enlarge the holes on the right wingtip later.


Time: 3:55

Right wingtip wiring

December 5, 2012 – I realized that I had only done the wiring for the left wingtip, so I sat down and terminated, heat-shrunk, and wire-tied as needed on the right wing. Still a little slow with the wire-tying, but I got it right eventually. It’s kinda refreshing to do something not with an air tool…

Time: 1:15

Installed nutplates in right wingtip

December 5, 2012 – After deburring and painting the nutplate strips, I installed them in the right wingtip. The kit I got from Cleveland had -6 length rivets for the nutplates, which turned out to be WAY too long. I used 3.5s. Anyway, this was pretty straightforward, except for when I clecoed one in place, installed one nutplate, then realized some of the holes weren’t lining up. I had installed the strip upside down. Since I was using sealant to help secure the strips, it got a little messy, but oh well… Used a squeezer for all of these, so it was easy and quiet.

Time: 2:20

Drilled nutplate strip for right wingtip

November 19, 2012 – I started prepping for the installation of the nutplate strips by dimpling the holes in the wing skins. I’m using the Cleveland Tools 4-40 screw kit to attach my wingtips, so the wing skin holes stay at #40.

I started by drawing a line down the center of the reinforcement strips provided by Van’s. This will ensure safe edge distance for the screws.

When the strips are clamped in place for drilling, I look for the drawn line through the hole.

I drilled the holes to #40, then countersunk them to accommodate the dimples in the wing skins.


I then took the screw holes up to #30. The correct drill size for the shank of a 4-40 screw is #31, but I’m doing #30. I also used a nutplate jig to drill the holes for the nutplate rivets.

Time: 3:15

Installed wingtip aft ribs

November 19, 2012 – I cleaned, scuffed and painted the aft ribs. You may recall that I modified the stock ribs so they would fit enclosing the end of the tips.

I slightly over-countersunk the wingtip holes so the pop-rivets would fit a little low when pulled. This way I can use filler and make these fasteners disappear.


I used sealant to secure the ribs in place and to fill gaps for a clean edge, then installed the rivets.


Time: 1:55

More wingtip work

October 18, 2012 – I finished glassing the wingtip ribs. For my first fiberglass work, I think they came out pretty well.


Since one of the purposes of these ribs is to support wiring for the lighting, I was weighing several options for how to install clamps in these ribs. I thought about threaded inserts of some sort, but I decided if they needed maintenance down the road, they would be difficult to work on or replace. I figured it would be easy to just run a bolt or screw through the rib and use area washers. What I decided to do was to use the longer screws and washers, but I gave the screw holes a little bit of support. I drilled the holes in the ribs where the screws would go, and I inserted aluminum bushings held in with sealant. If something ever happened with these, they would be easy to remove and replace. The bushings I used are just a little shorter than the width of the finished ribs, but I don’t really see a problem with that. Below are pictures of both sides of a rib with the bushings installed.


I also drilled the aft metal ribs that I made here. I piloted the wingtips with #40 holes, then drilled the ribs, then I took the holes up to #30. I’m going to attach the ribs with sealant and CS4-4 rivets.


Another item that I wanted to do on the wingtips is to reinforce the trailing edges, because they will likely need to be trimmed to match the trailing edge of the ailerons. I would rather add material on the inside of the tip instead of on the outside. I stood the wingtip between two padded sawhorses, mixed some flox with resin, and got it down in the inside of a wingtip. It looks like it laid down nicely. I may not have to cut that far when I trim, but I feel better knowing that the extra material is there.

I’ll do the other wingtip after this one sets up.

Time: 6:00

Wingtip ribs

September 22, 2012 – I carved the ribs for the wingtips out of 1″ insulation foam. Fitted in place, the wingtip fits really nice on the end of the wing.


I then moved to the aft fixed metal rib. I already knew that I wanted to install these ribs “backwards” from the plans, creating a smooth flush fairing between the aileron and the wingtip.

The problem I see with this is that the rib will  interfere with the nutplate reinforcement strip that will be installed later. The top and bottom of the rib are shown below. You can see the drilled screwholes in the wingtip.


I decided to cut the metal rib back to where it will not interfere with the nutplates. I still get the aerodynamic smoothing I want, and I don’t believe I’ll lose any structural integrity.

I located where the rib will go in relation to the wing skins, and marked the screw holes. The location of the cut line nearly matches the aft edges of the upper and lower skins.


I cut the flanges of the rib, then drew a cut line on the web of the rib to allow for a bend for stiffening. I cut the rib, and bent and trimmed the material for the stiffener. Here’s a before and after; the original rib vs. my version:

Here’s the rib temporarily placed in the wingtip:

Time: 2:25

More wingtip prep

September 11, 2012 – FINALLY!!! I have been able to get out and start doing something out here. Between the heat, and trips during the summer, including our first pilgrimage to Oshkosh, I haven’t physically done anything on the project. I am starting to spool up and gather supplies and equipment to do the wingtips this fall. I have never done any fiberglass, so I’ve been picking peoples’ brains.

I know that I want to install a span-wise rib in each wingtip, both for support and for an attachment point for wiring. I roughed out a template out of cardboard and taped it in place. The wingtip now fits beautifully where it belongs on the end of the wing.

When I make the rib, it will probably have inserts where I can attach clamps for my wingtip light wiring. Stay tuned…

I also had to trim and drill the other wingtip, so I did that today. I had to remove almost 3/8″ from the aft portion of the tip, where it clears the aileron and the hinge. Thank goodness for slightly cooler weather.

Here’s my bride with the drilled and clecoed wingtips. She handed me clecoes during the process today. I think maybe the bug has bitten…

Time: 1:55

Trimmed right wingtip

March 15, 2012 – I have the right wingtip trimmed to fit around the aileron bracket and to clear the aileron. I have about 3/16 – 1/4″ between the tip and the aileron.

When I was trying to hold the wingtip in place, I noticed that one side, either the top or the bottom, would not stay close to the skin. This would be a problem when I was ready to drill. So I cut a piece of closed-cell foam to fit the inside of the tip and to hold its shape. The square hole you see is to clear the wiring bracket I’ve installed on the outboard rib. The foam is still a bit large. I have to trim it a little bit because it’s difficult to get the tip completely into the end of the wing.

Time: 1:00