Category Archives: Rudder

Rudder – Composite Tip and Beacon

Never underestimate the amount of procrastination required to get something done.

As usual, parts preparation takes most of the time. The fiberglass tip, as supplied in the kit, was a bit rough. There were quite a few voids and other imperfections in the layup. The trailing edge was too fat to fit nicely with the skin. Cutting and re-gluing with a bit of glass cloth and West 105 epoxy resolved that. The contour of the tip leading edge needed building up and shaping – requiring several passes. Epoxy takes hours to cure, so each step takes a day. Epoxy filler and wet-sandable primer attends similar time-sinking characteristics. Along the way, test fitting and match drilling of the mounting (rivet) holes was accomplished.

I didn’t really like the way the construction manual prescribed M4 rivnuts for the aluminum doubler that serves as the mounting base for the strobe. My concern is that rivnut installation might crush the fiberglass. I opted instead to make a new part that uses MK1000-06 anchor nuts and is riveted in place with AN426-3 solid flush rivets. Having the patience to eventually arrive at the decision to do this and then actually fabricating the mounting plate demanded all of the procrastination I could muster.

Copious foot-dragging precipitated the decisions about wiring and method of tip attachment. For some reason, I just didn’t want to shorten the (rather stiff) wire bundle of the Aveo Mini Max LED beacon. At the same time, I didn’t want the splice to be at or near the point where the wire exits through the bushing in the rib. A loop seemed the answer. And so it was. Final fitting of the tip to the rudder and pulling of the 3,2 x 8 mm rivets went well. I’d long struggled with the temptation of making the tip removable, à la Pascal Latten, by installing dozens of anchor plates, flush rivets and #4-40 screws, but my steadfast procrastination eventually paid off and the scales tipped in favor of just pulling rivets and being done with it.

Closing Up The Rudder

With a good rudder skin, I was able to prepare, fit and secure the skin to the structure. Using techniques that I’ve learned from building similar components, the rudder went together smoothly. It’s a fine result.

There are still several tasks remaining to complete the rudder – fit the skin for the aero counter-balance, mount the internal counter-balance weight, run the strobe wire, fit the strobe to the rudder tip, and then finally, finishing the fiberglass and mounting of the rudder tip.

The great people at TAF USA worked hard to support me and promptly get me a rudder skin that I was satisfied with. The one that came with my empennage kit wasn’t bent properly on the trailing edge. It simply did not fit happily on the structure. A second skin was unfortunately damaged from moving about inside the crate during shipping. The third one was the charm.

It is crucial that the skins are fabricated perfectly. This plays a huge part in the resulting components being true. Precise fabrication is a critical element of the pre-punched and bent parts that allows them to assemble into a component that is uniform and free of twists, even without the use of jigs. The design of Sling aircraft absolutely depends upon the accurate fabrication of the parts. If yours aren’t right, work with TAF to get ones that are. Don’t mess around.

RD Structure Assembly

I’ve finally gotten back to building after hours of rivet-by-rivet QB build construction review. Parts inventory reconciliation and almost daily communications with TAF was accomplished over a couple of weeks.

The preparation and priming of the rudder structure was done before QB delivery, as I anticipated having to furl the curtain walls of my paint booth to eventually accommodate the fuselage and wing panels in my shop. Having the prepared parts on hand, left me in position to do a quick test fit and then permanently rivet the structure. The assembly went well, in the same manner as the VS and HS components.

Rudder – Prep and Prime

Preparing the rudder parts during the last few days of December and on into the first week of January 2020, involved increasingly familiar processes.

Inside the shop, deburring of all edges and holes was done with my Avery Speed Deburr tool and Scotch-Brite C/P 7A wheel. Light scuffing with a fine (red) Scotch-Brite pad seems to help make subsequent chemical treatments more effective. Initial parts degreasing was done by wiping with a splash of acetone on a paper towel.

Outside the shop, degreasing continued with Extreme Simple Green Aircraft Cleaner, using a soft clean rag, followed by a water rinse from the garden hose. It’s winter on the Olympic Peninsula and my well water is very – VERY – cold. My hands, wearing only thin nitrile gloves, are almost frozen. A few minutes in the shop to dry the parts and then it’s back outside to apply Alumiprep 33 with a silicone basting brush and freezing hands, while hovering over a black plastic mortar tub. Rinse, dry and repeat – this time with Alodine 1201.

It’s cold and it takes until the afternoon to get the shop inside air temperature above 50 degrees F. It’s something of a hassle to run my paint booth vent fan, as there are some gaps that let cold air in. Without the venting, I quickly and lightly spray just a few parts per day – often only one side. Then I have to abandon the shop until the next morning. It took several days to prime all of the rudder parts.

For me, degreasing and chemical treatments take hours and hours – most of it outdoors. I’m trying to use absolutely minimal amounts of material, not make a mess, and get satisfactory results. I just can’t afford to make or deal with dipping tanks. I tried to save time by not etching with Alumiprep. Unfortunately, I’ve found that even with thorough degreasing, there were places where the Alodine instantly sheeted off un-etched aluminum surface. Those parts got re-scuffed, etched and then re-treated with Alodine. I’ve tried not scuffing and short-cutting other steps – only to find that results tend to reflect the level effort that I put in.

The parts quality of the TAF Sling 2 kit is frankly remarkable – excellent in IMO. I could probably get away with little to no deburring – certainly much less than I’ve been doing. Priming is truly in the realm of optional effort. I’m taking it slow and having fun doing it all.

Somewhere on the TAF website there is a recommendation to start your building journey by ordering only the empennage kit and putting it together over a weekend – just to see what you’re in for. Maybe someone could take the parts out of the box – rivet them together over a couple of days – and end up with serviceable tail feathers. I suppose it’s mechanically possible, but highly unlikely, even for an experienced kit builder – if they haven’t previously built the empennage for some model of a Sling aircraft.

I believe a significant limiting factor of how fast you can go – is missing information detail. There are certainly a few pitfalls that only careful consideration will allow you to avoid. It takes time to understand. Achieving correct part orientation, relaxed fit and knowing exactly where and where not to rivet – is very important. If you get ahead of yourself, it’s going to take considerably more time, effort and cost for rework. Be careful. Strive to get things right on the first go.