This past couple of weeks has reminded me of two important plane building lessons. 1) A task you expect to take one hour will actually take two or three. 2) Even if you're frustrated with some part of the build, you'll eventually figure it out. Honestly, what other option do you have but to figure it out. It's not like you're going to throw away the past year and a half of work and give up.
I was reminded of these lessons when we tried to fit the other side skin onto the tail cone. Theoretically, it should have been a piece of cake and taken about 30 minutes. In reality, it was one of the most frustrating experiences we've had so far and took more than a week to figure out.
Everything started smoothly, well except that we had to free up some work space before we could begin. Our EAA chapter holds a dinner every couple of months, which means the entire hangar gets rearranged to accommodate the crowd. Making enough free space for the tables is like a giant game of tetris. It's impressive how tightly things gets packed together and the space between our sawhorses and workbench was entirely filled...
So, before we could begin, Mike had to move another plane out of the way. Unfortunately, that task pretty much wrapped up the easy, successful past of our day.
We flipped the tail cone on it's side so we could more easily attach the other side skin.
In this picture it looks like we are building a canoe rather than an airplane. We were able to get the front bulkheads clecoed into place, but once we got toward the skinny end of the tail, there was a small but significant mismatch in the location of the holes on the skin and bulkheads. I would say that we were off by about half a hole, but there's absolutely no give to aluminum. If you can't get those two holes to line up, you're not getting a cleco in there.
This is what it's supposed to look like. Notice the row of clecos running vertically down the center of the picture. This is the side skin that we finished attaching last week.
This is what the other side looked like. Notice there are no clecos in that bulkhead that runs down the middle of the picture.
I tried to get a picture of the misalignment between the skin and the bulkhead holes, but the small size of the holes and reflective skin surface made it impossible.
We made a valiant attempt and tried to get the holes to match up for nearly two hours. We tried everything...
So, the next weekend Mike got out the grinder and set to work. Here's what the bulkhead looked like when we started.
Notice how square all of the tabs are, particularly the tabs on the far left and right sides of the bulkhead. That's what was causing our problem. You can actually see the creases that they left in the skin.
Mike very carefully and delicately used a grinder to smooth out the tabs and give them a more rounded profile.
Well, I assume he was very careful and delicate. There was nothing for me to do while he was grinding so I took a series of photos where Zoey was increasingly pathetic as she begged for popcorn.
Once we had reshaped the bulkhead, everything fit together perfectly. In minutes, we had the whole side skin clecoed into place.
Next, Mike has to match drill all of the stringers on this side of the tail cone.