Tag Archives: alignment

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.