Tag Archives: alignment

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 – 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.

CF – Control Tubes, Brackets and Bearings

Mounting the control tubes in the center fuselage is very much like the process for the rudder pedals. Once again, clearance and alignment prove to be the main variables.

A couple of important discoveries made a big difference. The first discovery was that the elevator and flap torque tubes are not perfectly straight. They’re close, but they are not absolutely perfect. With an ever so slight bow and four bearing points, over a meter of distance, the centers of the bearing bores present different impacts, depending on rotational position of the tube. The variations are tiny, but if the bearing clearances are too tight – you get a surprising amount of binding.

The other discovery was that not all of the bearings have identical inner diameter. It’s a long story, but I ended up with a few extras and happened to find one that has good bit looser fit on the elevator torque tube.

The bearing with the looser fit proved to be ideal, when I put it at the LH end of the elevator torque tube. Careful dressing of the fuselage brackets and the retainer brackets with the Dremel sanding drum resulted in perfect fits everywhere – and fantastically smooth action.

Careful observation of how the bores of individual bearings center around the tube allowed me to ever slightly shift those centers in good directions as I opened the U-shaped bearing capture areas to eliminate pinching of the bearings around the tube. Each custom fit retainer bracket and bearing is marked for a specific location and orientation. I’m confidently optimistic that there will be just enough clearance for friction free operation after the retainers are permanently riveted.

At the moment, the flap torque tube movement is good, but it isn’t quite a limber as the elevator tube. It’s not of great concern. The flaps are driven by a linear actuator and won’t be anything I notice in the hand controls, which will be effortlessly smooth.

The two main control stick tubes are each supported by a pair of bearings along the roll axis. The front bearing is captured by brackets with U-shaped retainers, top and bottom, that are rigidly riveted to the structure at the front of the main wing spar carry-through.

The upper retainer should have been riveted before the carry-through structure was mated with the surrounding center fuselage members. This is another instance of the factory failing to comply with documented assembly details.

I can’t really get good enough access for confident pulling of 4,0 x 10mm rivets, so I’m going to use screws and elastic stop-nuts for the uppermost holes and (probably) use rivets for the balance of bracket mounting holes. I’ve got to end up with good alignment and enough clearance so that the bearings don’t bind when the brackets get pulled down. I’m certain that the retaining brackets are going to shift slightly from their un-riveted positions. I might use screws after all. That would make it reasonably straightforward to take it all apart and re-tweak the final fit until I get it right. Absolutely no binding will be tolerated. Smooth, smooth, perfectly smooth – that’s how it will be. Period.

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.

Seat Assembly

Assembly of the adjustable seats has been straightforward. They’re made up of 2 hinged panels that have a simple channel structure, sandwiched with identical skins – top and bottom. Inside the seat base is spring-loaded lever and cable mechanism for the slide locking pins. I opted to adapt some clevis pins instead of using the kit-supplied (large) solid rivets to assemble the linkages. The rivets proved difficult to deal with. It took a few days of pondering, but I eventually realized that custom fabrication of clevis pins were the way for me to go.

The only metal preparation I did was deburring and scuffing with a Scotch-Brite pad. I may or may not paint the seats as they’ll be almost entirely covered by the upholstery. The structures and panels fit perfectly and went together quickly. Sling 2 seat design has apparently changed over the years. The recently manufactured parts I had didn’t exactly match the construction manual, but understanding and dealing the differences was not difficult.

There are now at least 2 ways that the piano hinge can be mounted between the seat base and back, so that it can folded forward to access the luggage compartment area. The deciding factor seems to be how far beyond perpendicular to the seat base the seat back will naturally recline. The construction manual shows the hinge on the surfaces, riveted across step transitions where the side channels overlap the skins. The hinge, mounted to the back and bottom edges of the seat panels just seems more appropriate and allows for about 21 degrees backward and no restriction (until the panels meet) in the forward folding direction. That’s perfect. Seat recline angle is set by side-straps anchored to brackets at the edges of the seat panels.

The seats slide on rails mounted to the center fuselage. Clearances are pretty close, but appear to be perfectly aligned. Finding that helps to confirm that the center fuselage is built straight and square. Oh let me tell you that’s good news!

Elevator – Structure Assembly and Covering

The elevator presented itself as the most daunting of the empennage sub-assembly phases. It’s a lengthy piece – over 8 ft (2.5M) long, with ample potential for unwieldiness, twisting and treachery. Yet, after several weeks of thoughtful and careful steps, the thing has come together nicely.

Since the main spar channel was assembled, many of the remaining elevator fabrication and assembly tasks were accomplished during the last half of April and the first week of May.

Simple wooden supports were clamped and strapped to my workbenches. The structure merely rested on three points. Alignment was assessed with a laser-level, before and during fitting, and again after assembly. It all seems to be spot on.

I’ve talked much about it before. Vertical orientation seems to allow the structure to be established and then remain naturally true and relaxed, throughout the entire sequence of tasks – at least for the Sling 2 kit. It’s easy to work from all sides, with a minimum of manipulation. Gravity feels like it’s been working more for me, rather than the dark forces of Twist and Distortion.

The main surfaces of the elevator are covered with two skins. Each skin covers both top and bottom. There is a critical bend at the trailing edge. If the TE bend is not perfect, you’ve got trouble. Out of the box, my elevator skins were good. I’ve had skins for other components that weren’t. Believe me – it is absolutely futile to attempt assembly with an improperly fabricated skin. I know what to look for [now]. Also, the EL skins are extremely delicate – especially the LH one, where there are only a few inches of highly vulnerable material between the top and bottom panels of the skin. Great care in handling is essential.

The leading edges of the elevator are formed by factory bends that wrap the skin around the main spar channel, to overlap and join with a single row of rivets. Some builders have used a roll-forming tool to “break” the edge of the overlapping (top) skin. I have the tool, but didn’t use it. In my unpracticed hands, the potential to make things worse, not better, presented itself as I experimented on a few (not enough) scraps of aluminum sheet. A man’s got to know his limitations. The LE bends of the factory fabrication were better on one skin than the other. As you might expect, the resulting LE overlap was better on one side than the other. The LE seams are out of sight. It’s fine. Done and done.

HS Structure Assembly

The horizontal stabilizer assembly started by fitting together 2 sections of rear spar channel with the center section sandwiched by doubler plates – front and back. The result is over 8ft long. Appropriately sized cleco fasteners temporarily hold the parts together. A laser level helps to confirm that the channel is true – straight and free of twist.

The rear channel components were permanently fastened with a combination of 4.0 x 10mm and 3.2 x 8mm pulled rivets. Assembly continued with ribs joining with the front spar channel and clecos hold the front components as they are fitted and fastened in a similar fashion as the rear.

I’ve found that when 2 or 3 parts are sandwiched together with many rivets, it can be a little tricky to get a relaxed fit. Many overlapping holes must align precisely, in order for the rivet shanks to fit through all of the layers easily. I try to take whatever time is necessary to get the best concentric alignment of as many holes as possible, so that little or no reaming is necessary. The kit parts are punched very precisely and overlapping holes will likely line up, given the chance.

My assembly process starts with just a few clecos, while test fitting rivet shanks in many or most of the holes. Then I loosen and reset those few clecos until there is good natural alignment of as many holes as can reasonably be achieved. Eventually, a majority of the holes will line up perfectly, leaving only a very few that may need a little reaming to easily accept a rivet. Straight-shank chucking reamers seem to do a great job. Use the exactly right sizes. #30 and #20 are common.

The HS structure, without skins, is somewhat delicate. I’ve used a couple of stiffeners, from a Vans Aircraft workshop (skills practice) kit, clamped to the innermost HS ribs to provide support while the entire structure is riveted.

The HS structure is symmetrical. At some point, a decision must be made as to which side will be the top and the other side, therefore, the bottom. For my HS, continuity of how the rib flanges relate to the spar channels has turned out to be somewhat better on one side than the other. The side with the best potential for smooth skin support was chosen to be the top. I used a black permanent marker to make indications inside the front spar channel, where they can be seen during the various assembly phases.

With the HS top chosen, left and right HS panels become apparent. 2 Heyco 0.375in snap-bushings have been placed in the rear forming holes of the 2 innermost left-side ribs and anchored with some dabs of gray RTV. The nylon snap bushings are intended to protect the pitch trim servo wire (cable) as it passes through the ribs. I’ve elected to use nylon snap bushings instead of the rubber grommets supplied with the kit.