Sunday, June 29, 2014

The magic smoke...

When I was in nuclear power school many years ago they taught me of a concept called magic smoke.  The idea being that every piece of electronic gear is given a magic puff of smoke to make it work.  If you let the magic puff of smoke out the electronics will no longer work.   Well....I powered up my avionics today....wait for it....wait for it...NO MAGIC SMOKE!  Yessirree it all powered up correctly and the only issue I had was with my magnetometer.  Seems I swapped a pin when I rebuilt the cable run.  Fortunately it was a communication circuit that I swapped and not the power pins.  After a little head scratching trying to figure out how to get the G3X to recognize my VPX I can now say that everything I have hooked up seems to be working.  I didn't try to transmit or receive on the radio yet but I will get to that soon.

The headphone jacks are now wired up.  You will notice there are actually three jacks where normally you would see two.  I decided to include a LEMO plug which includes a power plug for ANR headsets like the Bose or Lightspeed (no more dead batteries because I left one on).  I think I mentioned it in the past but here it might make more sense when you can see it.

I also managed to finish up the labels on the panel.  I think I finally got the hang of using the DecalPro process and the labels are looking pretty good.  Not perfect but that's because I am not great at alignment with just my eyeballs but they are close enough that I think they are fine.  I actually used my GoPro to make a short how-to video so that when I have to do this again someday I will remember what I was doing.  I may post it online for others since the DecalPro process is a bit challenging.

Headphone and Microphone jack on the left and LEMO plug on the right.

Underside view.  I actually took this picture because I couldn't see what they looked like under there.

And here it is!  All powered up, labeled and itchin' to go flyin'

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Huge RV Grin!!

Ok today's post is not about my airplane but to me its almost more fun!  Today was the annual Young Eagles event that our local 326 EAA chapter hosts.  During this event private pilots bring their own airplanes, burn their own fuel, on their own time and fly kids who sign up in advance around the area for about 30 minutes.  I did this for the first time last year and it was a lot of fun and the kids really love it.  Some kids are super excited, and some are too cool to show how excited they are.  This year we had about 160 kids and 13 pilots flying which means it was a full day.  A good friend and coworker of mine (Martin) joined us this year to help out so we had a lot of fun.  However, that was not what is making me so excited about this day.  I had two other things happen that made it even better.

First, I met a gentleman who works for the FAA and does air worthiness inspections on amateur built airplanes.  He says he doesn't do them much anymore but if I needed one he would be willing to do it.  He gave me his number which I thought was very nice of him.

However, the grand act for today was spectacular.  There is a gentleman in our chapter that has an RV-9A very similar to the one that I am building and he was flying kids all day long.  Beautiful airplane and really nice guy.  Well I asked if he would take me for a ride in it someday and he offered to do it today.  I jumped all over that opportunity but it gets even better....he let me fly left seat!!!  That means I did the flying instead of being just a passenger!!  Holy cow that is an awesome airplane!  Three take-offs and three landings with some steep turns and slow flight really gave me an idea of what it will be like to fly my airplane when it is ready.  I may not sleep for the next month for want of finishing my airplane.  Ok, I am excited now but I know I'm not going to rush things just to get it in the air because I want make sure I build the airplane I want and I want it to be safe....but WOW that was fun!  Here are a few pics from today.

This is Harry's 150 that we use for the "ground school" portion of the experience.  The kids all get a quick ground lesson on what makes and airplane fly and what the instruments do.

This was one of the more unusual airplanes used during the event.  Its a least I think thats how it's spelled.  These are interesting because they have no rudder pedals.

Here is one of the larger airplanes flying today.  I apologize because I don't know what model this is, but it has a huge radial engine and sounds awesome!

This is the panel of the airplane I got to fly today.  Doesn't that look great!  Carbon fiber, all glass, and look at those master cylinders (red things on the pedals).

This is the outside of the same plane (the one I flew).   Thats Doug at the controls as he prepares to leave with one of the kids.

Thursday, June 26, 2014


Aesthetics is the word of the week.  Pictures below will explain why but before we get there let me tell you about the majority of the work this week.  I was home sick for the past couple of days so didn't get a lot done on those days but overall I managed to get a few small tasks complete.  I managed to finish up the strobe wire runs, the nav light wiring, the landing light wiring, and the pitot heat wiring.  I also removed the ground bar that I installed last month since the only thing on it was the fuel pump.  I have one wire left to put into the VPX and that is for the MiniX that probably wont arrive until some time next month at the earliest.  The wiring harness is complete except for the engine analyzer wires that I can't install until I have an engine installed.  I haven't powered it up yet because I have a lot of checking to do before I give it a try.

I ran into yet another issue with my wiring harness that is really starting to bother me.  Today I went to hook up the engine analyzer connections that can be hooked up without an engine and found a few issues with it.  First the wires for the fuel level gauges are too short.  Second the wires for the outside air temperature sensor are too short.  Finally several of the screws on the connectors were stripped out and in one case the cover was actually reefed on so hard that it split.  See the pictures below to see what I mean.  I emailed Jon at SteinAir again and copied Stein himself because this is really starting to become a customer service issue.  I am trying to remain positive about the whole wiring harness because Stein has been great to work with and I want to see him succeed.  (6/30/2-14 Update:  Stein himself has jumped into this conversation, even when he is away dealing with family illness, and things have gone "red alert" over there.  They are doing everything possible to make sure my harness is perfect!  I really love working with somebody like that!)

Anyway I will get off my soapbox now and show you some of this weeks work.

I sent off my registration application to the FAA and I sent off the registration for my ELT to NOAA.

I wasn't planning on this but I ended up running my pitot, static and AOA hoses.  This is where the pitot and AOA come in from the left wing.

Lots going on in this picture but the main reason for taking it was to show the pitot, static and AOA hoses installed.

Somewhere in the middle of this picture is the outside air temperature probe.  Its the little silver rod sticking out of the bottom of the wing with an orange gasket/washer under it.  This is when I discovered that the wiring harness is not long enough.

And here is the picture I referenced above.  See the issue?
Well, here it is.  The aesthetics I was promising you.  I put the new carpet in with the seats and the newly painted panel and what you see is about all you get when I am ready to fly.  The only piece I am missing is the GRT MiniX that will go where I have the pretty little picture cutout in the center panel.  Other than that its done.   Still need to finish up the labels and decide how I am going to cover the center console.  Right now I am thinking vinyl for the sides to match the seats and then blue to match the switch panel on the top...maybe.

Side view...ignore the wires...these are not the wires you are looking for... move along..

Full shot of the seats...

And a shot with the baggage area carpet installed.  I few panels are missing from this area but I didn't feel the need to install them just to have to remove them when I am done...Dang this all looks good!!

Sunday, June 22, 2014

ELT is in

This week has been a long one.  I have a few items that have been completed including installing and wiring up the ELT (Emergency Locator Transmitter).  That however only took part of yesterday and it seems like the largest part of the week was spent wiring up the heated seats.  The wiring harness that came with the seats had to be dissected and rebuilt to fit into the center console which means a lot of head scratching time as I tried to find the best routing methods.  I also managed to finish up the baggage floor opening doors and get the ADSB receiver installed.

I am nearing a rather important point in my project.  The wiring harness is installed and most of the rest of the wiring is ready...its about time to power everything up for the first time.  That makes me nervous.

Here is the finished seat heat buttons.  There is a lot of wiring under the console that you can't see.

Oh yea, I also managed to spend a little time labeling.  Here you can see the dimmer labels on the pilot side.  I am using the DecalPro solution which has a rather large learning curve.  The labels are not perfect but they are actually pretty nice once I get them done right.

I took a break from building on Saturday and went flying.  I couldn't find anybody to go with me so I just went up and did a few maneuvers and the obligatory trip over the house.
Here is my ELT install.  I still have to do a little more cable control and I have to find a way to mount the portable antenna but that shouldn't be hard.  If I remember correctly the ELT kit includes a mount.

I tried 6 or 7 labels on the switch panel and only these two came out right on my first try.  This may take a while....
The baggage compartment is complete...mostly.  I got the transponder installed under the pilot side cover and the ADSB installed under the co-pilot side.  All that is left is the antenna's for both.

This is the magnetometer installation.  I still have to screw it down but today I managed to finish up the wiring.

The fuse panel is complete.  I added the last two wires today.  Now I can snug up the tie wraps and put it away.

And last but not least I finished up the weekend by priming the instrument panel and a few other miscellaneous parts.

These are the misc parts I mentioned in the previous picture caption.  This is the center floor covers where the aux fuel pump sits and the wiring/brake lines run under.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Take a seat...

Time for our weekly update.  I actually have a few pictures that I think are worth looking at.  Yes, I spent the weekend doing more wiring and I still have a ton more to do but its starting to come together.  One big piece of news happened on Friday.  Amy and I drove to Oregon to pick up my seats for the airplane!  We were suppose to fly but the weather was a little spotty so I opted to drive instead.  Wow, it took all day to make a trip that should have taken a few hours.  Anyway, here we go with a few pictures.

Ok, I lied, I had to show at least one picture of some wiring since it seems I have done little else but run wires for a while now.

I decided to actually do something that required drills and mounting...So I went ahead and installed the Autopilot hub behind the baggage wall.

Oh, yea!  I figured I had to put the seats and carpet in so I could sit for the first time....Oh my!

Another view of the seats and carpet.

This is a picture of the carpet on the floor.  I think I am going to have to have these redone since they don't actually fit the fuel pump cover I am going to use.

I finally think the panel is almost done.  At least with what I have so far.  I still need to paint it and I need to add labels but other than waiting on the GRT Mini X that goes in that small square hole in the middle section I am feeling pretty good about this.  Pretty simple panel with a ton of functionality.

I purchased this ground tab block because the site that sells them said this would be enough for most experimental airplanes....well I guess mine is not "most".  I have three spots left and I don't think that's going to be enough.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Sinking in a sea of wires

This weekend has been pretty much exclusively dedicated to getting the wiring harness installed in the plane.  I have spent at least 16 hours running wires, scratching my head, re-running wires, removing connectors, re-installing connectors, shortening wires, and even had to replace one that was too short.  I will say that I am learning a ton about avionics and associated wiring.  The class I took last fall only scratched the surface of what I needed to know to interconnect all of these devices.  However I am still enjoying the heck out of it and even though I gave up early tonight a little frustrated with a pin that would not come out, I am glad I am doing it this way.   I have found a few errors in the plans that I was given and I wrote an email to Jon and Stein at SteinAir letting them know the problems.  All minor things like a couple of mislabeled wire colors, one incorrect pin-out location (so far), and what I think may be an issue with the wrong wire size used on a DSUB HD connector that goes into the GNS-400. I say "may" because it is entirely possible that what I found is the correct way to wire the pin up.  That's part of the reason I emailed SteinAir, they do excellent work and I am VERY happy with what I got from them.

So after a weekend of work on the wiring it still looks like a spaghetti factory but its starting to come together.  One more thing, I got a little help from Mariah and mounted the canopy for the first time.  I have some more work to do on the canopy frame before I glue it all together.

I did get the Comm installed in its permanent location.  I added a label to the front of the comm because its not very clear how to get to the screws that hold it in and I may not remember next time I open this up and need to remove it.

One of the more exciting accomplishments this weekend was the installation of the GDU-460 display unit.  Still not powered up but at least the panel is cut and the nut plates are installed.

Here is a picture of the canopy sitting on the air-frame.  It moves back and forth ok but the front needs to be narrowed a bit and the aft section needs to spread out a little.

I had to remove the white wire because it was about 2 feet too long and was twisted up in another portion of the harness that was not related to where this was going.  So I pulled the wire and re-routed it correctly,  and now I am waiting on some HD DSub pins so I can trim it to the proper length.

Remember that spaghetti farm I mentioned...well here it is.  And this isn't even close to all of the wires that I am going to have to add to this area.  All of the engine monitoring wires come into the bay on the left.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

A sea of wires

As the weekend gets ready to kick off I thought I would update this blog with whats been going on for the past few days.  I have been mounting the avionics that I received from Stein and so far I have managed to mount the GNS-400 IFR GPS, GSU-25 ADAHRS, GEA 24 Engine analyzer, and GAD 29 IFR interface.  I have also started installing the wiring harness that Stein made for me.  The harness is absolutely worth every penny I paid for it.  I am learning so much from seeing the work that Jon (at SteinAir) did.  I am also finding mistakes in the documentation but only a few small items so far.  For example they installed a dimmer wire for my remote Comm unit.  The comm unit does not have a display so there is no need for the wire.  That is actually ok since if I ever decide to replace it with the display version (which I would do if I were to do this again) the wire would be there.  I found one or two wires that are mislabeled as far as color code goes.  The most painful part of the whole thing is I have had to cut apart the wrapping that Jon used.  He did not know where all of my components would be mounted so he just guessed at locations (or used some standard they have).  I have also had to disassemble many of the connectors to run the wires.  The drawing they gave me will help immensely when it comes time to reassemble everything.  Here are a few pictures but they don't tell the whole story.

I also managed to design the labels for the switch panel and the dimmers.  I ordered the DecalPro kit and will give that a try soon.

Here is the wiring harness as I try to make sense of the different runs of wire.  It doesn't look like much here but wait until you see it as I try to fit all of that wire behind the panel!

This is the back side of the GPS-400 mounting tray.  The actual instrument slides into this carrier which is bolted to the panel.  I took this picture before I started pulling apart wire bundles.

This is a neat feature that Stein offers.  If you remember back a few months ago I was working on a db-9 aggregator with 4 plugs on it?  Well, this is Steins version and it uses DB-15 plugs and is where the Autopilot servo's all connect together.

This is the GPS-400 as I begin the mounting process.  I have to make sure the depth is right and that required me to cut a hole in the sub-panel.  Subsequently I had to enlarge the hole to allow the Comm radio to slide through.

This is actually a reference picture I took to show where this white wire went into the connector.  The white wire is the feed from my backup battery and goes to the main display.

Another reference picture but this one is for the GSU25 before I pulled a few wires out of it.
Here is the GEA24 engine monitor as I am drilling holes to mount it to the sub-panel.  I opted to mount it back here so that the wire runs from the engine compartment can be minimized yet have this box still be somewhat accessible from under the instrument panel.

Monday, June 2, 2014

A day worthy of posting

Today was a great day!  It started out with me staying home because I was expecting a big shipment that needed signed for.  That shipment was three boxes of pure bliss!  My avionics have finally arrived!  Ok that in and of itself is big news but it gets better.  Because I was working from home I got to spend more time in the garage instead of commuting so I took advantage of the time and worked on the canopy again.  At the end of the day I had not only made the big cut (a huge step and a bigger worry) I had also managed to make most of the cuts to fit the canopy to the slider frame.  A few pics for your (and my) perusal...

Here I am cutting the 5/8" hole that the access handle utilizes.  This is the only hole that I will have to drill in the canopy and I managed to get it done without cracking the canopy.

I tried to take a picture of the hole after I had sanded and polished it.  It's hard to tell in this picture but that hole is almost perfectly smooth.

Here I am marking the canopy for cutting.

And here it is....the big cut!  Not nearly as hard as I had made it out to be but nerve wracking in any case.

And here is the slider canopy clamped to the frame.  All that's left is some trimming and gluing!

And last but not least I couldn't go the day without at least opening up and looking at all the new toys!