Tag Archives: rivet

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.

Rivet Shortening – Apparently, Someone’s Got to Do It

There are several points in the build where short rivets are required. Sling Aircraft (TAF) has chosen to leave this task as an exercise for the builder, to adapt some from the ordinary ones supplied with the kit. Here I’m shortening 3,2 x 8mm rivets to about 5mm. These will be used to fasten the piano hinge and control horn to the elevator trim tab.

For some steps, I use a small box end wrench and a socket to provide support around the entire head of the rivet, as I drive the mandrel out or back in using a hammer. I use a cutoff-wheel in the Dremel Tool to trim the rivet body.

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.

Closing Up the Horizontal Stabilizer

Completing the horizontal stabilizer went smoothly and turned out beautifully – ultimately. The fine folks at TAF, now Sling Aircraft, were super-supportive. Without going into great detail, I’d found that the leading edge bends of both HS skins were not on centerline – root to tip. They just wouldn’t fit properly – imposing significant stress and twisting of the structure. Sling Aircraft stepped up to quickly provide replacement HS skins and that saved the day.

I’ve been impressed with how precisely the holes in the skins match with the assembled structure. I’ve made a very conscious effort to take advantage of the kit precision. I try to get the skins initially positioned with very few clecos. I want to be able to move the skin slightly, until I can see that nearly all of the holes in the skin and structure are concentrically aligned. Starting the fitment process with fewer clecos makes that easier – possible. In practice, I’ve found that good overall initial skin position, relative to the underlying structure, allows the great majority of rivets to drop in – effortlessly. Once I’ve got the skin in place, I can further anchor things down with alternate clecos and hand-inserted rivets for the entire HS assembly.

I used a vertical HS working orientation that allowed me to evaluate skin fitment on top and bottom surfaces at the same time. Once the skin was in place, very few rivet holes needed attention – and then, only the slightest dressing with a chucking reamer in my lithium battery-powered drill. With a relaxed final fit of skin, rivets and structure – I’ve seen that when the rivets are pulled, nothing really moves. The permanently fastened skins are remarkably free of surface deviations. I’m quite pleased and anticipating that the contours of the final painted surfaces will be excellent.

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.

VS Structure, Antenna and Cables

Over a couple of sessions, I’ve installed additional m4 rivnuts, permanently riveted together the VS structure and mounted the VOR antenna base to Rib 004 – previously reinforced with its doubler.

Edge grommets have been applied to lightening holes of the rear channel and rib 003. I’ve elected to replace the factory-supplied rubber grommets with Heyco 0.375in nylon snap-bushings – to protect the coax and strobe light wiring where it passes through the VS structure. I enlarged the forming holes to 9.5mm, as directed. The forming holes at the front of ribs 002 and 003 were similarly enlarged to accommodate the bushings for my (optional, build-specific) VOR antenna coax cable. Routing the coax near the front of the structure is intended to keep the cable clear of the ‘works’ for the elevator.

After a bit of experimentation with my newly acquired rotary coax stripper, I installed the Amphenol BNC male connector to the RG-400 coax cable. As mentioned in a earlier post, I’ve decided to use M27500-20TG4T14 for the strobe – rather than the factory-supplied PVC jacketed wire. Some heat shrink tubing bulks up the cables as they pass through the bushings and the edge grommets. A few dollops of aluminum-compatable gasket-forming RTV locks down the bushings and the cables to the structure. I don’t want any movement from vibration.

VS Skin – Prep and Test Fit

I spent several work sessions to make sure I can expect good results when it comes time to close up the VS by riveting the skin to the underling structure. By that time – the VOR antenna, its RG-400 coax cable and the tail strobe wiring must be in place and will be expected to last the lifetime of the aircraft. No pressure!

Holes around the edges of the skin were typically large enough to accommodate 3,2 x 8mm domed rivets, but the holes in the skin at the interfaces with the ribs were smaller and needed to be enlarged with a #30 straight flute chucking reamer. All holes in the skin were carefully deburred. Overall, the concentric alignment of holes in skin and structure were pretty good, but a few will need to be match-reamed during the final fit, immediately prior to the riveting.

The antenna base required 4 recesses be machined into the plastic-like material that allow shortened rivets to fit without interference. My trusty Dremel Tool did both jobs handily – shortening the rivets and creating the recesses.

Pulling Rivets – We’re Really Having Fun Now!

I’ve had the empennage sub-kit since late July. Today – finally, in November – I’m very pleased to have pulled my first rivets.

It’s taken me this long to get my act together to the point of seeing my way clear to assemble a few parts. As is happens, the VS rear channel is a good starting point.

If things weren’t exciting enough for one day – I opened an email from Barry Jay (TAF) and was surprised to find first pictures of my factory quick-build. The fuselage is built up with evidence of many alodined parts and even some gray paint on interior spaces.