Category Archives: Wings

Composite Wingtips – Take 1

It didn’t take long before I realized that I’m in for a battle. The fiberglass wingtips, as supplied with the kit, simply don’t come close to fitting the wing. They’re obviously hand-made parts and are nowhere near identical. Frankly, I expected better. But, they are what they are.

I don’t have much hope that if I push the factory for new parts, I’ll get anything [much] better. I’ll count myself fortunate if I can get satisfactory results with less than the 130 hours another Sling 2 builder has put into his wingtips. Jeez – that’s a lot of time!

Right off the bat – the overall length is far too long to fit into the end of the wing panel. The airfoil shape cross-section is decidedly too flat. The up-sweeping trailing edge scallops are oddly different shapes. The lack of alignment at the point where the tapered wing skin is supposed to accept the trailing edge of the wingtip is unfortunately grotesque. Cutting and reforming will be necessary. Ultimately, the wingtips will be permanently mounted with 3,2mm multi-grip blind rivets. I haven’t settled my mind as to how I will mount the wingtip lights.

I decided to make a simple wing-shaped jig from a 2 x 4 foot section plywood. This jig is much less elaborate than others I’ve seen, but it will hopefully result in a useful tool and a reasonably consistent reference I can use to evaluate and correct the various eccentricities of these fiberglass parts.

I’ve been fortunate to be able to see what other builders have encountered and done with their wingtips, and so, I’ll share my adventures too. For the Sling 2 builders, we all seem to be – more or less – in the same boat.

RH Wing – Fuel Tank and Inspection Covers

Practice makes perfect they say. Well, maybe not perfect. But the going seems a little easier when you’ve been there before. So it was for mounting the second fuel tank. It actually fit slightly better than the other one. I knew what to do, and on it went without issue.

I did the same basic steps as I did for the first tank. I felt confident, and the work went quickly. I had to carefully dress a number of the overlapping holes in the tank and spar with the #20 chucking reamer in the lithium drill. I knew what to expect and there were no surprises. I also had to touch the holes in spar web to align with the outermost Z-bracket so I could get the AN3 bolts through and threaded into the anchor nuts. Once again, I used a length of cord to pull on the Z-bracket while the tank was being fitted for the final time. That worked like a charm.

There are several stainless steel rivets, top and bottom of the spar near the root. Those are treated with fuel tank sealant for corrosion protection. The rest of the rivets are aluminum multi-grip. Riveting goes pretty fast when the pieces are fitted in place.

Having both fuel tanks mounted is a big milestone and yielded a rather wonderful sense of satisfaction that was sweetened with a measure of relief. Success! Good result. Yay!

The M4 rivnuts for the inspection panels went in without a hitch. I had to enlarge the holes in the bottom wing skin to #A – the perfect size (I’ve found) to accept the rivnut prior to setting them with the drill-mounted tool I use. Screw holes in each of the cover panels had to be enlarged for close clearance of M4 stainless steel button-head hex screws.

LH Wing – Inspection Covers

Compared to mounting a fuel tank, enlarging holes and setting M4 rivnuts seemed easy and definitely less stressful. Still, it was no time to be careless. The wing skin is easy to damage.

It took several steps to get the factory punched holes enlarged to letter number #A diameter, a perfect size to accept M4 rivnuts. I double checked my references and reviewed the process I would use. A series of increasingly larger straight-flute chucking reamers in my trusty lithium-powered drill did the trick.

All of the holes in the wing skin and the inspection covers were in the correct places and the alignments matched perfectly. The drill mounted rivet setting tool worked flawlessly. All rivets are consistent and tight. The screw clearance holes in the covers are ideal. Everything is fits together nicely.

LH Fuel Tank Fitment – Success!

I took a bunch of photos and texted them to Jean d’Assonville. After several days of phone tag – one or the other of us were busy – we connected for a brief chat. That’s all it took.

It turns out that I was in pretty good shape after all. My hell was all in my head. Having quite a few rivets that were hand-fitted at various places around the fuel tank flanges is a good sign. The thing that really set me free was to hear that it is acceptable to dress stubborn rivet holes with a chucking reamer or drill. The same thing is true for Z-bracket holes on the spar. You have to do what you have to do. I just needed to hear the guidance. I’ve learned from experience – it doesn’t usually pay to be impetuous.

A shim is necessary under the top of the Z-bracket at the root of the tank. The other Z-brackets fit well enough. Other builders have needed to shim several brackets. Mine were flat on the spar. Another good thing.

Over a period of several days I evaluated fitment and planned my procedure. Then, I carefully fit the tank in place, one last time, as I’ve done twenty times or more by now.

I made a little shim from material I had on hand. A washer would have worked too, but I thought aluminum against aluminum might be better than against steel. Slightly more surface area is probably not such a bad thing either.

I fitted as many rivets as I could – by hand. The remaining 4,0 mm holes around the flanges were match-reamed with a #20, straight-flute chucking-reamer and deburred. Clecos and additional rivets were hand-fitted.

A mix of AN3-4A and 3A bolts, with washers, were threaded through the spar web and into the anchor nuts on the Z-brackets. (I began with the 4A length for 2 outer brackets, but then worried that the length might turn out to be slightly long.) At the root Z-bracket, two AN3-13A bolts, with washers and nuts and with the shim in place – were finger-tightened.

Finally – today, I mixed up a tiny bit of Flamemaster CS-3204 B-2, as recommended by Sling Aircraft to deter galvanic corrosion between the aluminum and the stainless steel rivets that are called out for use at the wing root – top and bottom.

Dipping the SS rivets in the sealant – one-by-one, I placed them and then pulled them with my trusty Milwaukee M12 lithium battery-powered tool. Rivet pulling continued with for the balance of 4,0mm aluminum rivets. Lastly, the 3,2 x 8mm rivets around the leading edge at RIB-105 were pulled. The Z-bracket bolts were all torqued. The 4A and 3A lengths are both fine. It’s all good. The fuel tank is mounted!

LH Fuel Tank Fitment, Plan B – Vertical Stands

With a seat-of-the-pants concept, a circular saw and a box of screws, I’ve managed to fashion a pair of Sling 2 custom vertical wing panel stands. Poof! It all came together.

With the LH wing panel on the stands, I’ve got much better access. Hopefully this will be the day I get the tank mounted.

Unfortunately, most of the same fit and alignment issues persist. This is starting to feel like Fuel Tank Fitment Hell.

Before I do something that’s un-recoverable, I’ll reach out to Jean d’Assonville at Sling Aircraft (TAF) USA before it gets any later in the day. It’s Friday and hopefully I can get out of this hell before the weekend. Stay tuned.

LH Fuel Tank – Final Fit (or Not)

The LH wing panel assembly has been back up on the workbench for several days. I can’t see any reason not to tackle permanent mounting of the fuel tank.

Well – I found a few reasons to not mount the tank today. I’m struggling to fully fit the tank and to align the rivet holes. I don’t have convenient access to the bottom surface of the wing panel. Gravity doesn’t seem to be helping either.

There’s a curious mix of places where rivets fit easily and squarely and other places where they won’t fit squarely, or at all. I’ll have to shift to Plan B. I think that means building some sort of stand(s) to hold the wing panel in a vertical leading-edge-up orientation.

LH Landing Light – Lens Retainer Strips

Several months ago, I’d taken a look at the landing/taxi light lenses and what it might take to mount them nicely. The LH wing panel was sitting horizontally on a workbench at the time.

About the first thing I noticed was that the mounting holes around the perimeter of the lens did not all correspond to the holes in the wing where the lights and the lens go. The holes lined up (pretty well) with the lens on the outside of the skin, but not when I put the lens in the opening, behind the skin – where it really belongs.

The other thing wasn’t really so much something I noticed, but rather, I realized that I needed to find a better solution for mounting the lens than the factory provided for – sheet metal screws through the skin and into the plexiglass lens. That’s just not going to cut it.

Now I had another classic opportunity for inspirational procrastination. I put the time to good use. It took weeks, but once again – procrastination paid off! The idea of retainer strips with anchor nuts came early. I also found that I’d likely use #4-40 hardware, because metric MK-1000 nut plates are absurdly expensive and challenging to source in the US. I hate mixing hardware standards on this bird, but that’s just how it goes. The blind anchor nuts on retainer strips behind the lens stuck in my head as an obvious solution.

What was not obvious to me at the time, was how to hold the retainers in place so that the lens could be fitted and fastened with the little screws. I made a prototype with a hand-cut strip of 0.020 aluminum and held the anchor nuts with AN426AD-3-3 solid flush rivets. The strip was flimsy and I attempted to hold it against the backside of the lens with – if you can believe it – sewing thread. Once I got the screws started, I’d pull the thread out. I was too unwieldy.

Weeks went by. Then it hit me – the same basic idea, but with 0.5 x 0.025 stainless steel strips, held to the plexiglass lens with little #4 CSK screws and ny-lock locknuts. I had to make new holes in the bottom half of the lens to match the wing, made six retainer strips and mounted them to the lens. Now I have a lens that is easily installable and removable. I’ve come to believe that this is what the factory does for the Sling TSi and I might have seen it if I’d looked at the TSi construction manual. Oh well. I got there. I’ll repeat the fitting and fabrication process for the RH lens assembly.

LH Aileron – Finishing Up

The LH aileron had been languishing under the bed in my guest bedroom with the skin cleco’ed in place. It just needed the outboard rib with the reworked hinge brackets.

Riveting the skin on the bottom went well. Now it’s back under the bed again, with and in the same state as its buddies. Final riveting of ailerons and flaps will wait until I’m in the mood to fit them on the wing assemblies. That might even wait until I have the wings joined to the fuselage. We’ll see. I think that decision depends on what I decide to do about painting. Fly first or paint first? Yes – another excellent opportunity for inspirational procrastination.

Ailerons – Fab, Rework and Pre-Assembly

Aileron assembly has been delayed by ignorance and procrastination. It’s amazing how long it took me to decide to lever $20 out of my pocket for a tool. There’s an anchor nut that gets attached to a rib with a couple of stainless steel rivets that have a 120 degree countersink. I was reluctant to spring for a 120 degree, #40 pilot cutter. This left me pondering various alternative ways I might proceed to attach the anchor nuts. The door was left open because the construction manual doesn’t say anything about it. But, I did have reference examples – other builder’s and identical anchor nuts mounted in my quick-build fuselage. I finally ended up getting the stupid pilot cutter and then mounted the anchor nuts as I knew they should be from the very beginning.

Another self-inflicted setback has been in play. Sometime earlier, I’d riveted one of the aileron hinge bracket and rib sub-assemblies together. Unfortunately, something I’d noticed, but dismissed during initial fitting, had to be corrected. The bolt holes on the inner and outer aileron hinge brackets were not in alignment. To compound the problem, I reasoned that it would probably be ok to ream the bolt holes a little – make them oblong – and somehow that work out ok. Wrong! The result was better alignment, but at the cost of precision (proper) fit.

Sloppy fit for the outer aileron hinge just isn’t going to cut it. What could I do? Eventually, I did what I I should have done in the first place – ask the factory for guidance. I sent an email and got an overnight response directly from Mike Blyth – designer of all Sling Aircraft models. The outer bracket just needs to be bent a bit more. So simple! That absolutely did not occur to me. Sadly, I’d ruined (by reaming) the inner and outer brackets for one aileron and needed new ones. TAF USA rushed me replacements. Fantastic service!

With new brackets in hand, I slightly increased the bends on the outer brackets for both ailerons, removed the old brackets from one of the ribs and riveted all of the sub-assemblies together. Beautiful! I can sleep again. No more worries thinking about how I would try to rationalize wobbly ailerons to myself, the DAR, my technical counselors and everyone else.

RH Flap – Ribs and Skin Assembly

With a now ample supply of 4,8mm rivets in both 15 and 10 mm lengths, finishing the lefthand flap could proceed. I did, however, have to make a decision about how to address hole misalignment involving the short ribs of the hing-rib subassemblies. The solution I chose was hole enlargement and larger 4mm rivets.

I’ve learned that perfect factory bends are required in order to get relaxed fit and freedom from structure twists and wags on the trailing edges of control surface skins. Knowing what to look for during inspection is essential. It had been months since I’d received the quick-build wing kit components and done my inspections. I was reasonably confident the skins were good, yet there was a huge sense of relief to see them actually fitting very nicely.

For the flaps and ailerons, it is common practice to initially rivet only the bottom surface of the skins to the ribs and brackets. The top surface and the row of rivets at the leading edge of the control surface remain free until they are fitted to and the trailing edges are perfectly aligned with the each other and the wing.