Right Elevator
Left Elevator

Spar Prep
More Tanks
Tanks Alot
Final Assembly

F-704 Bulkhead
F-705 Bulkhead
Center Section
Forward Section
Forward Assembly

Top Skins

Cabin Stuff

More Cabin Stuff

Cabin Plumbing
Panel Install
Firewall Stuff
Misc. Cabin Stuff
Slider Frame
Electrical Part 1
Electrical Part 2
Electrical Part 3
Emp. & Gear
Avionics 1
Avionics 2
More Misc.
Finishing Up

Firewall Forward
Engine Stuff 1
Engine Stuff 2

Final Steps
Moving the Project
Attaching the Wings

Panel Planning
Panel Layout
Misc. Notes


Misc. - 39 hours

Previous: Wings


Happy New Year!

2006 is now here and the plane is very nearly completed.


12/30/05 - Flaps, Magnetometer - 8 hours

I started by working on the flaps. First I inserted the brass bushings in the hinges and then installed the bolts, nuts, and cotter pins. Next I began working on the pushrods. The pushrods need to be cut to the correct length that allows full up travel. Mine ended up being 5 1/4". I was unsure about this at first, but I called Vans and Bruce told me that you get whatever down travel that the servo will give you and not to worry about it.


So here's the left flap in the down position. The pictures above show the opening that I had to make in the bottom of the fuselage to allow the pushrods to move up and down.



Next I turned to the magnetometer in the left wing. This bracket had to be custom made, so I thought about it for a few minutes and then just started fabricating, drilling, and stuff. There are three dimensions to deal with, so I spent a lot of time with the smart level making sure everything was just right.



1/1/05-1/6/05 - Lights, etc - 10 hours


1/7/05 - First Engine Start - 8 hours

Watch the Video (22meg QuickTime)

Hey, I started the engine! You can see the video by clicking the link above. This was a tremendously successful day, but it started with lots of preparation and attention to many small details.


It all started on Friday afternoon. I asked for the fuel truck to stop by the hangar. The guy was patient as I did the required steps to calibrate the left fuel tank. I started with one gallon and then drained it back into a gallon jug. I couldn't really tell that there was any missing, so I must assume that unusable fuel is no more than a couple of ounces.

The Princeton fuel senders convert the capacitive fuel levels into a value that can be understood by the EIS, and they must be calibrated by first setting the empty state and then setting the full state. Once I did this with the left tank, I thanked the guy and he left. I then disconnected the fuel line from the carburetor and used the fuel pump to pump the fuel out of the left tank and into several five-gallon fuel cans. This took quite a while. The fuel flow indicator showed 26 gallons per hour, so 18 gallons took about 45 minutes to pump out. I was then able to set the right tank. After all of this, I pumped half of the fuel out of the right tank and put it in the left tank so the plane was balanced.


Saturday morning started with a long checklist that I had made for myself. It included torque and safety wire for the prop bolts and numerous other bolts here and there. I safetied the oil tube. I drained all of the preservative oil from the engine. This took a while.

Next came the ignition systems. I got the lower plugs installed and torqued. I left the upper ones out for the moment. I installed the fuses for the electronic ignition and the starter. Then I moved the plane outside.


I had some help from Todd Agold, my hangar mate who built a Sonex and is building an RV-10, and James Redmond, who is in our EAA chapter and has built a Berkut. Their assistance was invaluable. Todd tied the tail to the back of his truck. They both brought fire extinguishers for the event. My wife and kids came out to the airport. Everything was set.

I went down the list of instructions for the Lightspeed ignition. I set the timing of the hall effect sensor and set the phasing of the coils. Then I ran the starter for about 10 seconds to circulate the oil.


Now for the moment of truth. I installed the upper spark plugs and hopped back into the plane. I went down my checklist once again. I had also made an engine start checklist, which I dutifully followed. Master on. Radios off. Mixture full rich. Throttle open 1/4". Ignition switch to both. "Clear Prop." Fuel pump on. Engage Starter.


The engine came to life almost right away. In the video you will see a big puff of smoke. This is from the residue of the preservative oil being burned off in those first few strokes. Unfortunately, soon after startup my spotters saw some oil, so I had to shut it down after only a few seconds.

Duh. I forgot to tighten the fittings at the oil cooler. I guess I had finger tightened them but never came back with a wrench. It wasn't on my list. I recommend everyone doing this to make a detailed checklist and to stick with it.


With the fittings tight, I started the engine once again. This time everything went absolutely perfectly. The engine ran as smooth as silk. I was getting positive voltage and good fuel pressure. I ran it up to about 1400 RPM but that's it. Aerosport says to limit the ground runs. This run only lasted about three minutes, but it gave me such a positive feeling that I can't put into words. This thing is going to be GREAT!

The only glitch was that the tachometer was indicating about half the RPM that I estimate the engine was turning. I later fixed that with a simple software setting in the EIS.


1/8/06 - 1/10/06 - More Details - 6 hours


1/11/06 - Flight Training

Today I switched from builder to pilot and began the process of preparing for the first flight. The first step was to go flying with my old instructor to practice emergency procedures. We did this in a Cessna 150. To simulate the slightly faster landing speeds of the -9A, I didn't use any flaps. We simulated my first flight, climbing to 3000 feet above the airport and doing some power off stalls. We also did some simulated engine outs at various points on the field, including a turn-back and land downwind. One thing that I did that I think could be very useful was to land the plane with only outside references...no instruments. This is to take into account the possibility that I could have instrument failure and not be able to know my airspeed or altitude.

Saturday I am scheduled to go do some transition training with Ben Johnson in his RV-6A.


1/12/06 - Weight & Balance - 3 hours

I had spoken with a local A&P who owns some official aircraft scales about weighing my plane. He charges $100 to do the job, which is less than going and buying a bunch of bathroom scales and a whole lot more accurate. He showed up with his scales, a computer, and a portable printer. The scales have little ramps that attach, so it was only a matter of pulling the plane up onto the scales. I knew from past experience that the plane wouldn't be level unless we added some shims under the main gear, so I did that first.


The scales are each attached to this device, which gives the total as well as individual weights for each of the three wheels. I don't have the wheel pants and fairings on yet, so I asked him to weigh it both with and without the fairings. He calculated the weight both ways so I could verify the CG for the first few hours of testing without the wheel pants.

The weights were recorded and he typed them into his computer. The total without wheel pants and fairings was 1010 pounds. With the pants and fairings the total was 1018 pounds.


It's been a while since I got a new tool, but today I bought a lithium-powered cordless screwdriver so I could install and remove all of the screws that hold this plane's access panels in place. It's quite a workout by hand, and the drill-driver is just too forceful and leads to too many stripped out screws. This thing was $39 at Home Depot Aircraft Supply.


1/14/06 - Transition Training - 0 hours

If I'm going to fly this thing then I need to be properly trained. So today I went flying with a local trainer who does transition training in his RV-6A. Ben Johnson is on the Van's website as an authorized transition trainer, and he's only about 20 miles away from my home. We started at about 9am and flew here and there for most of the day. He had me do some basic maneuvering, followed by slow flight, turns, stalls, and such. We also did landings. We ran out of time before we could finish, so I plan to go back to Mesquite next weekend for another hour of landings.


Remember that I am a very low time pilot. I only have Cessna time to compare it to, but the -6A is an absolute blast to fly! It handles like a sports car compared to the Cessna station wagon that I've been used to. I'm so glad I decided to build this plane. The crazy thing is that he didn't have his wheel pants on the plane (because he uses it as a trainer) and we were still moving right along. Landings were more tricky with his plane, and I've still got some work to do, but it's not that bad, and I think I'll get the hang of it by the end of our next session.


1/16/05 - Wrapping Things Up - 4 hours

I made the call to Mel Asberry, our local DAR. He's scheduled to come inspect my plane next Tuesday. So, that means I've got to get busy finishing up a few minor details this week.

First on my list was the empennage fairing. I finally got it trimmed to size and drilled for the #6 screws that will hold it in plae. The tricky part was adding all of the nutplates that go around the perimeter.


Once I finished that task, I turned to the oil door on the cowl. I've been putting this off for no reason, and now it has to get done. I am using invisible hinges rather than the standard piano hinge that Vans puts in their kit. I'm also using the Hartwell latches that I've seen a few other builders install.



I installed the hinges along with some strips of aluminum to provide a more secure base for the hinges. Then I bonded the aluminum to the fiberglass with some epoxy. I left the whole business to cure for the rest of the day.


1/21/2006 - First Taxi Test

Watch the First Taxi Video (12meg QuickTime)

Today I set out to prove to myself that the plane handles properly on the ground and that all of the systems that I can possibly test have been exercised in a real way. I thought of this as much as a dress rehearsal for the first flight as anything. There are so many things that I will be dealing with on the first flight, and the more I can have already experienced the better.

I started the day by bleeding the brakes once again. I had done this twice before, but I was still seeing bubbles in the brake lines. My little oil can had broken the last time I did this, and I was sort of frustrated by the process, so I gave up. This time I bought a big, strong oil can with a lot of pressure. I filled it with brake fluid and set about to purging the brake lines of any air. It worked. Now I have nothing in the brake lines but brake fluid.

I had a few visitors to the hangar today. A guy named Dane came by and brought his brother with him. They are interested in building an RV so they wanted to see one up close and ask all of the standard questions. Of course they don’t know they are the standard questions, but anyone who considers building one asks many of the “standard” questions. They were really nice and we had a good time talking airplanes.

James Redmond came by and gave the plane a good once over at my request. He found a few small items that I had overlooked, and he gave me some advice on a couple of items I had questions about.

After lunch I rolled the plane out of the hangar. This is not a process for the faint of heart, since I have to move a Bonanza and a Sonex before I can move mine. It’s not difficult, but it is stressful. With everything set up, my two teenage boys served as ground crew. I gave them a briefing on what I wanted them to do. I told them I was going to taxi the plane and wanted to test the brakes with someone on each wingtip just in case it didn’t behave and I needed help stopping the plane. So I climed into the plane and strapped on the new seatbelts that I installed yesterday. I figured I would do things the same way I would do on the first flight.
The other day I had made up a set of checklists, so I followed my new checklist when starting the engine. Again, this was to start getting into the habit and establishing a baseline for future flights. The engine started right away. I turned on the EFIS and before doing anything else I started the record function so I could study the data later on.

I had borrowed a digital tach from my flight instructor so I could check the RPM against the indication on the EFIS and EIS. This time it was right on, so the adjustment in the EFIS worked.

With that task taken care of, I gave the signal to the ground crew, and they began walking with the wingtips as I added power. After some turns I was satisfied that the brakes were working fine, so I dismissed Matt & Tim with a wave. I then moved to the edge of the hangars and performed the next test on my list: the radio test.

I called McKinney Ground and got clearance to taxi to the run-up area. They responded right away. Test #3 successful. The radio works.

So I began to taxi to the run-up area at runway 35. Right away I noticed that this plane taxis differently than other planes I’ve flown. I couldn’t figure out what was going on, but I could tell something was “weird.” It just seemed like the plane didn’t want to taxi straight. Hmmm. I got to the taxi area without incident and decided to ask the tower guys if they could see my transponder. Not on the ground, sorry. Too bad. I had hoped to at least have a basic test of the transponder.

I did a run-up to 1800 RPM and did a mag check. When running on only the electronic ignition, the tach didn’t seem to show any dropoff in RPM. Talking to James after the runup he seemed to think that this was pretty normal, since the electronic spark is hotter and is timed better. When running on the mag only the RPM dropped about 150 RPM.

Once again on the taxi back to the hangar I really was wondering why the brakes were dragging, but this time it seemed like the other brake. What’s going on?

I had one last test to do. I tried to stop the engine by turning the ignition switch to off. It worked. This means that the mag and electronic ignition are being grounded properly.

So, what’s the deal with the brakes? We checked them out and couldn’t see any problems, so I started thinking about it and realized that there was a crosswind causing the tail to want to weathervane. Duh. It is an airplane, after all. Mystery solved.


1/24/06 - Airworthiness Inspection

I guess you can tell from the picture that the inspection was a success, but I'll go ahead and say it here just for fun: N63MS is Airworthy!

This is a momentous day from a personal standpoint. Aside from the first flight and maybe the day the empennage arrives on your doorstep, this is probably the most anticipated day of the construction process. Mel Asberry is my local DAR and only had a short 15 mile flight to come visit. He's a great guy and I recommend him to anyone who is getting close to their inspection to give him a call.


I had no idea what to expect, but had resigned myself to the possibility that there may be some issues with my workmanship or whatever that the DAR may ask me to work on some more.

Well, that didn't happen. As a matter of fact, he only found five small things. I need to label my throttle and mixture controls. I need to adjust the right flap travel just a bit. I need to tighten one stop nut. I need to add the capacity of each tank to the fuel switch. Finally, there was a loose nut on the starter solenoid, which I fixed while he was still inspecting. That's it. That's what he found.

We did some paperwork and he read my operating limitations to me and answered any questions pertaining to them. We then took the picture and then we flew down to Lancaster with some other RVers to have lunch.

Mel mentioned that I must have been clued into the things that he looks for. Well, I can thank Clay Romeiser, James Redmond, Todd Agold, Gerhard Deffner, Max Probasco, and others for all of the pre-inspection inspections that went on at the hangar over the past month. Thanks guys.

One more thing that's cool. I'm not the only RV builder to receive an airworthiness certificate today. My buddy, Matthew Brandes (N523RV), who is also building an RV-9A, also had his airworthiness inspection and received his certificate probably about the same time as I did. We've been building together, but in different parts of the country for over two years, and here we finish on the same day. Congratulations, Matthew!

From now on, it's no longer a project, it's an aircraft. Time to do some flying!


1/25/06 - Transition Training

I finally got to go do my last hour of transition training with Ben Johnson down in Mesquite. We flew out to Terrell and practiced landings for a while. We also did some simulated engine outs. I only needed one more hour, so at the end of this flight he signed me off. Now I'm ready to fly my plane.


1/27/06 - Repairman's Certificate

The weather is bad yesterday and today, so I went ahead and made an appointment to get my repairman's certificate. This was really just a formality, but I had to go down to Love Field and talk to the guys at the FSDO. After filling out a form I am now the holder of a temporary repairman's certificate. The real one will show up in a few months.

I also went out to the hangar to finish putting all of the access panels back on the plane. I spent a while up inside the cockpit trying to assemble everything. I really wish I had run a tap through the platenuts because these screws are a real pain to install.

So, now everything is set. I have the airworthiness certificate. I have insurance. I have reassembled the plane. I even have the repairman's certificate. The only thing I need now is a nice day to go fly. Tomorrow is supposed to be bad as well. Maybe Sunday...