Timetable of events
Which plane to build?
Where to get the supplies?
Which epoxy to use?
Concerns about allergic reaction to epoxy
What to tell the FAA when?
When will I be done?
Overall impressons so far
CA List Censorship

In my spare time I built myself a model Cozy. I have a model of the Wright brothers special, so I thought a Cozy model would balance it, and remind me to get on with the project when I'm watching TV. JD of Infinity Aerospace sent me a note pointing out that the model has retracts, so when would I be ordering? Actually, the main gear was a bit flimsy and fell off, but.... when looking at my Cozy with fixed gear, I often think about maybe retrofitting the retracts one day. JD says that at my build speed, I could do it in a week (plus $5k).

Which Plane?

I've been following the Velocity for some years. I looked through Kitplanes magazine's listings. I considered a seaplane, but then decided that my main need was cross country travel. Efficiency, speed, economy and cost to build were the main issues. The canard design isn't the best for aerobatics or short field landings, but its way ahead in efficiency and speed - and also it just looks cool. The Cozy airframe costs about $14k to build. Less expensive than some ultralights! I looked up each of the canards. I decided I wanted a side by side four place which narrowed it down to Velocity, Cozy, Aerocanard.

Which Canard?

Mailing the check for Cozy IV plans. Feb '99' I particularly liked the plans build approach. I can get started for little cash and I can order the parts as I need them from competing suppliers. This way I get to test the water without diving in to the tune of $20k or more. I didn't like the Velocity center stick or the kit price. This narrowed the field to Cozy /Aerocanard. Next I researched Cozy to see if I liked what I heard. I spoke to Nat, looked up NTSB reports, followed the mail list, read some of the mail list archives, studied the specs and costs. I was impressed by the support - The designer and 700 other builders ready to answer your questions - I didn't want to be on my own in such a complex project. I visited
AeroCad, test flew the Aerocanard, liked the idea of having a way to get prefab parts if cash availability got better and / or I tired of the building process after a while. I was very impressed with the setup at Aerocad. Nice people, molded parts ready for paint. I'll probably get the turtleback and a few other items from them. I was also impressed with Nat Puffer's approach to building. Don't change anything. Do it this way and it will work. The plans looked like I could follow them. I agree with the KISS principle. If it ain't broke donít fix it. Etc. etc. OK. Decision made. I will build a Cozy per plans with approved parts only. I ordered the Cozy Mk IV plans. [later note: I didn't stick exactly to plans in a couple of areas. See Modifications]

Four Seats?

Augusto & Javier (plans # 963) Try the back for size There has been much discussion about whether the Cozy too small for 4 passengers and lots of people begin the project with the intention of expanding the rear cabin. Most of my traveling will be with one passenger, so I didnít pay much attention. The back is certainly big enough for all the luggage I'll want to carry. In some ways, smaller is better because I'll have an excuse to limit the amount of unwanted stuff we'll take on weekend trips.

Over 2 years later, in September 2001, Augusto & Javier (plans # 963) were visiting one day when they asked if it was really a four seater. I put the rear seats in and got in the back with Augusto. I don't expect to be in the back during flight - ever, but there was plenty of room. I swapped places with Javier, who isnít small, and took the picture above. The guys agreed that there was no problem with headroom or legroom.

Which Suppliers?

Basic Supplies
spreadsheets of the basic parts listings have kindly been provided by other builders. Surrounded by airplane bits for the first timeBasic parts come from either Wicks or AC Spruce. I called each one and asked a dumb question (I had a few, but this one I knew the answer to). The response from Wicks was quick and effective. Someone called me back with a good answer. The response from Spruce was poor. No one called me back. When I called again I got a dumb answer for my dumb question. A look at the catalog for each showed that Wicks had all the Cozy stuff broken down by chapter. Spruce told me I'd have to order line items. I ordered a misc. kit and materials for Chap 4 - 7 from Wicks and haven't regretted the decision. Last week I ordered a smart level, 4 ft rail and a few other items from them for overnight delivery. They called me at 4pm. They said the shipping was a lot if I got the rail overnight. Could I live with the level overnight and the rest ground? I'd save $40. Wow! That's a level of service I'd thought was long gone. Sorry 'bout the unintended pun. Much later, during Chapter 18 I gave AC Spruce another chance. They failed the test miserably. Just the same day, another builder complained on the web about AC Spruce service. I added my comments and a whole tirade of angry builders followed with their similar experiences. (Check the archives). I got email from their president and a phone call from their marketing director. At Jim Irwin's suggestion I left it a few weeks, then tried a small order with ACS once more. Once again, they failed to meet any reasonable criteria for a good supplier. All I expect is that they get the order right and ship it on time. They didn't manage either of these, but I will say that they were much more pleasant on the phone, so, in my book, they get 1 out of 10 for effort. I wrote to Jim Irwin again telling him the details of this last fiasco. I got no reply. I've documented my experiences with AC Spruce and included all the email for the benefit of anyone who'd like to read it. I'm tempted to start a website, but I'm not that vindictive (yet), and I've got a plane to build.

Note: An earlier version of this paragraph referred to "Brock" instead of Spruce. My apologies to Brock for the error. There's nothing wrong with Brock's service. Their parts, however, are another matter - see below.

Initial supplies

A thought about the initial supplies. I've used almost everything except the cotton gloves. The hand protection gel seems excellent (but I've been warned by Marc Zeitlin that he used it and still developed an allergy). I've learned to run it all the way up my arms when I'm sanding. (Later I switched to the latex gloves and found them better). I'd highly recommend the use of latex gloves at all times. They make handling the glass much easier and clean up is simple. On a big lay-up I'll often go through three or four sets of gloves.

I can't imagine how I'd manage without my epoxy pump. By the way - the door catch on my hot box is one of those push to open, push again to close things. Works great when pushed with an elbow (since everything else is covered with epoxy). I ran out of micro in the middle of Chap 6. My BID lasted. Just. I'm getting through brushes fairly fast because I donít wash them (per plans) and try to reuse them. Later I started to keep used brushes in a bottle of MEK, which worked just fine. I also started keeping used cups and mixing sticks. I've read of other builders who say "I've been building for 19 years and I'm still using the original mixing cup, brush, mixing stick" etc. I wonder if that's one of the reasons they've been building for 19 years. After 2 years I'm on my second set of cups, brushes and mixing sticks. So? It cost me about $40 for the convenience of tossing old stuff. Big deal. I use 1-inch brushes mostly. The 2 inch ones only come out on big lay-ups. The specified foam and plywood was just enough to do the job provided I kept ALL the scraps. My epoxy lasted very well. I used 20% less than plans specify in the first 4 chapters. I started off being very careful about mixing and stirring the epoxy. Later I found that I could pour, mix and stir a full cup in about 30 seconds. I do the scratch test regularly and only once had a batch fail. I know exactly what happened. I'd just cleaned the pump and I used separate cups to get the flow going again. Once there were no bubbles I poured the hardener and resin back in the containers, then used the wet resin container for the first batch. It was a two-squirt batch, and there was a lot of resin already stuck to the sides of the cup. The mix was probably way out and the stuff didnít harden properly. No big deal - I'd used it on a cosmetic repair and just rubbed it off and added more glass. I have run out of micro a bunch of times. Given the price I wish I'd ordered a big tub of the stuff up front.

Building environment

I was lucky. A couple of years before even thinking about building an airplane we bought a house with a 40 foot * 20 foot covered patio. The fully assembled plane fits perfectly under it with a couple of feet to spare. Those that are not so fortunate have to manage in less ideal circumstance. Bulent Alieve, for example, built most of his plane in his one bedroom studio apartment. One good solution I've seen is Jerry (Skip) Schneider, who built a CAF, (Cozy Assembly Facility) in his back yard. It's basically an air-conditioned tent.

Antennas etc.
For Antennas, audio panel, marker beacon and some other radio stuff I went to RST. Very helpful people.
I went to Featherlight for the main and nose gear strut since Nat had not then approved AeroCad as a supplier of these parts. You need to get in early with Larry at Featherlight. I was lucky. He had one in stock and told me "first check gets it".
Got my step from Brock and it fitted nicely. They were trusting enough to ship in advance of check receipt. Other bits of prefab metal come from there also, but I found the fit and quality lacking so I got most of my hardware from another builder.
Nose Lift.
I saw Steve Wright's nose lift demo at Sun & Fun '99. Considering that it only costs a few hundred more than the manual parts, I think I'd rather push a button rather than be cranking a handle at the two most critical times of flight. The decider was when I asked Steve if it was possible to raise the electric nose lift while sliding down the runway on your "puck". His answer was "yes. Its been done". I don't think the crank handle would help much in that unfortunate situation. I also looked at the nose lifts made by Aerocad and Jack Wilhelmson. Eventually I settled on Jacks unit because its smaller, doesnít invade F22 and I trust his work. (Not saying I don't trust Steve Wright's work - his lift has an excellent reputation.) It just seemed to me that Jacks lift was the next generation.

Ed, the UPS man

Ed, the UPS guy. He gets a free ride for delivering the airplane Ed, our UPS guy, stands proudly alongside the airplane he's delivering piece by piece.

Building the work table

OK, I'm ready. So where's the stuff?I took over the patio. Built my worktable over the weekend. Made a shelf underneath for storage. Hung shelves and tool pegboard on the wall and built a hot box for the epoxy pump. I'm ready! Where are those materials?

Building the hot box

I built a box with internal dimensions 13 inches deep by * 21 inches wide and 22 inches high (available space after all insulation etc.). The front panel is a door. This will accommodate the epoxy pump, 5-minute epoxy bottles and currently open resin and hardener containers. I built mine with chipboard insulated with hard insulation foam covered with a layer of sheetrock. Char wanted to know if I was going to hang pictures. I fitted a 40 watt (wattage depends on ambient temperature) light bulb with external switch and used a push to release, push to open type of catch (so I can open and close with an elbow). I mounted a thermometer inside and keep the temp at around 110 degrees. This makes the epoxy nice and viscous. Once my bulb blew and I tried to do a lay-up anyway. The epoxy was 78 degrees. Big mistake. It was like working with molasses.

My advice - don't even THINK about using scales instead of buying an epoxy pump. I've never used scales, or a mixing device. My turnaround time when I need more epoxy is about 20 seconds. On big lay-ups I use small batches - 4 or 5 squirts at most. This way the stuff is hot and flows well when I brush it on.

A Jump start

If you want to get a jump start, call Wicks and get them to fax you a copy of the Cozy IV parts breakdown by chapter, then order Chapters 4 - 8 plus the misc. supplies, epoxy pump and 4 gallons of MGS plus 4 cans of fast and 4 cans of slow hardener. Make sure you get mixing sticks, 1 and 2 inch brushes, mixing cups, scissors, and decimal tape measure. Get a couple of bags of micro and flox plus a couple of 6-inch rubber squeegees. Skip the seat harnesses for now. You don't need them till the very end. You'll need a smart level fairly early on.

Advising the FAA

While at Sun & Fun (4/12/99) I went to the FAA building and asked about what I need to do regarding letting them know I'm building a homebuilt. The guy I spoke to told me to contact the local FSDO and get a list of DAR's, contact a DAR and liaise with him/her during the process. He/she would do the inspection when I was ready to fly. I called Ft. Lauderdale FSDO the next day, spoke to Tom Laird. He said the advice I was given was incorrect. I should write to FSDO 171050, attn Bill Weaver, Lee Wagner Blvd. Ft Lauderdale, FL 33315 3 or 4 weeks before I am ready to fly. They will assign an inspector and I coordinate with him/her to set an appointment. In the meantime, the most important thing I need to do as far as they are concerned is maintain a builders log, which will prove that I built the plane. Pictures of me building the parts, start dates end dates etc. A printed copy of this web site will be ideal. While continuing input from EAA tech consultants, A&Ps etc. and inspection of parts by an expert before finishing would be good for my own comfort, it is not an FAA requirement. Tom also suggested that I consider getting some input on handling issues from other owners of the same airplane type before flying. I plan to have some time and numerous landings in type before I fly my cozy. I'd hate to break it on the first flight after all this work. I wrote to the FAA to reserve my N number. Asked for NnnnJS and they allocated N386JS. Jody Hart later pointed out that 386 spells "fun" on the telephone pad. In Mar '00, the FAA sent me a reminder postcard to warn me that the reservation would lapse if I didn't send them $10 by April, the anniversary of the reservation. I sent the $10 and they sent me a letter saying the number was now reserved for another year. This happened again in Mar '01. I'm hoping I won't have to reserve the number for another year.

When will I be done?

Co-Z Development claims the plane can be built in 2,500 hours. What does this mean? Is this true? Well, it largely depends on you and how you count. Cozy IV's have been built in as little as 20 months, or as much as 10 years. Here's my attempt at the "top thirteen factors which affect build time".

1. Timing method. Different people count different ways. I've been estimating actual time on construction, not including research, prep, cleanup etc.

2. Consistency. A builder who works 5 hours every Saturday will take MANY more hours than one who works 5 hours every day. Also, consistency can vary through the project - some get tired, some run out of cash, get a new house, have kids, get a new job, a new GIB etc. etc. Some are afflicted by Aviation Induced Divorce Syndrome (AIDS). Many issues can cause the project to go on hold. Surprised at my progress, other builders have asked "are you retired", "Do you have family" or "Are you single?" "Are you independently wealthy?" (my answers are No, Yes, No, and No). Iím just highly focused and determined to get it done. However - make this project the CENTER of you're life and you might jeopardize other things which are important to you.

3. Support. The level of support you get from you're significant other will severely impact you're completion date (or see above). Instead of complaining about the cost or the time dedicated to the Cozy, Char is determined that the momentum on the plane be maintained. She "inspects" my work daily, raves at the progress and, when finances have been tight, she has often used her own income to buy me parts. You just can't buy this kind of support - and it's crucial. This is a BIG project. If you're GIB is against the project in any way you risk the possibility of either not finishing.... or looking for a new GIB, either of which can slow you down.

4. Location. My project is in my face all day every day. I can go out to the patio, do 20 minutes work with glass or micro, then come back in and do something else while it cures. My work is also at my house, so I can time things for optimum efficiency. If the project was in a hanger 5 miles away, or I was away from the house 10 hours a day, then my built time would have stretched dramatically.

5. Innovation. Invent you're own design (even in minor ways such as landing lights) and you'll drastically increase you're build time - just follow the plans and you'll be much faster. Itís MUCH harder to lead than to follow. This is especially true at the beginning. When you're relatively new to this you tend agonize for days about ways to modify the design. Once you've built a whole airframe it amazing how quick and easy it is to change or add something. If in doubt, do it by the plans and move on. Having said this, part of the make-up of a typical builder is that he or she is a natural innovator. Changes are the stamp of individuality you put on you're plane. I've done quite a few, and regretted none of them, except NOT doing a front opening canopy. It's hard to find a balance between natural innovation and getting the job done. The struggle is part of the fun.

6. Speed You're own speed of working makes a big difference. Some do a lay-up in 30 minutes. Others do the same lay-up in 2 hours. Why? See item 9 below.

7. Environment. One item which affects the speed is the work environment. Temperature, humidity, organization of tools etc. etc. This is my one negative. I'm building subject to S. Florida temperatures and humidity. While I try, I'm not very well organized and I waste a lot of time looking for tools and materials. One BIG advantage of my patio is that I have room to put both wings on the plane while building. Having said this, beware the trap of needing to build or modify your workshop before you can start building. Many don't get around to doing the workshop and never get started. You need epoxy and foam around to generate the incentive.

8. Degree of perfection Are you shooting for 95% perfect, or 101%? Remember that the last 5% is 95% of the work. The last 2% is 98% of the work. On that theory 100% perfect is unreachable. Somewhere between 90% perfect and 100% perfect is the level of perfection which is safe and aesthetically acceptable (to you). e.g. I heard one builder say that the quality of workmanship can be best judged by looking at areas of the plane you don't normally see. Perhaps, but if the inside of the nose looks like the outside of the nose, the project is going to take three times as long. Another adage that fits here is "It'll look just fine as I fly over you're [unfinished, but perfect] project at 10,000 feet"

9. Degree of anality Related somewhat to the item above. Are you the type that checks important items twice, or four times? If you just can't bear to say "it'll do" you might be being too anal about it. (but having said that - there are some areas where you SHOULD check 4 times!)

10. Logistics / cash flow Keeping track of (and buying) the required parts and materials can be tricky. Running out of BID or micro, or not having the hardware in stock when needed can cost a lot of elapsed time, and a lot of FedEx costs if you don't reschedule things time when you screw up on the ordering.

11. Help from friends. Can save time. Can cost you time. Depends on you and the friends.

12. Prefab parts. If you buy things pre-made you can save a lot of time. e.g. Get the fuselage tub from Aerocad and get a spar, wings, winglets ailerons and rudders pre-made from Dennis Olemann, and you'll save maybe one third of the total build time. You could go further, get everything prefab that can be bought and save maybe half of the build time. Does this mean you can build a Cozy in 1250 hours? Maybe. Depends on items 1 - 11 above.

13. Inspiration. Possibly the most important. Regular visits to other projects, visits from other builders and interaction with fellow builders. Family and friends who are genuinely supportive and interested.

I would suggest that the best way to estimate a completion date is not in hours or days, but in years. i.e. compare your progress through the plans with others based on elapsed time. I believe the fastest time to first flight (for a novice builder) so far is Dave Higgins who did it in about 21 months. Some do the first 4 chapters in 6 weeks, some in 6 months, some in 2 years.

Overall impression so far

I thought I was in this so I could have an airplane. I was wrong. I'm in this for the pure fun and satisfaction of building something this complex. The fact that I'll eventually be able to fly it from West Palm Beach to New York in 5 hours or so is a wonderful bonus. My plans have become well worn. They're like a Tom Clancy novel - can't seem to put them down. As each stage becomes a reality I can't wait to move on to the next step. I find myself working at midnight and half hoping no-one calls next day with a software project which will divert my attention. Note to clients: only kidding - please call - I'll need some fancy avionics soon!. The plans are more than an instruction manual. They are really a composite airplane builderís course, grade school through PhD. You are given very specific instructions at first. Gradually new techniques are introduced and you are expected to use what you've learned. You [have to] learn as you go. You're graduation is first flight.

As I came to the end of 18 months work, and a completed airframe a few things happened:

- I began to realize that the airframe is only 30% of the job
- I noticed that the expensive items come at the end 
- I had to take on additional work to help fund my "habit". 
- We got two new kittens.

Progress slowed dramatically. I dropped from maybe 80 hours / week on the project to possibly 4 or 5. Basically I blew 8 months because of cash flow and other commitments. I gradually plowed forward, dabbling with the plane here and there while rebuilding the porch on the house etc. You may be wondering what the kittens had to do with the project. Well, claw marks in you're freshly sprayed Zolotone can be really annoying. Check my landing brake - the scratches are still there. Check Harley's paws. The Zolotone is still there. She's been trying to lick it off for weeks. Great stuff that Zolotone!

Another reason that progress slowed was logistics. It takes a lot of time to organize getting the engine, having it rebuilt, having a mount made, building up the firewall backward package from scratch. However, I don't think the engine cost me much in terms of elapsed time. I gradually worked my way through the finishing while accumulating the engine bits.

After 44 months of building I'm approaching the big day. I thought I was done once the airframe was complete. Wrong. The "fiddly bits" take up an enormous amount of time. I've been through the learning curve on electrical wiring with Bob Nuckolls, and I'm still learning new stuff every day. For the past few months I've been getting the plane ready for flight one section at a time while "sneaking up" on the engine. I started at the rudders and nose. As I moved inward I double-checked all the nuts and bolts, added locktite where needed, tie-wrapped the wires, painted and cleaned. So when will I be done? The day after it's finished. I'm hoping that will be some time this year. That was written in 2001. It's now November 2002 and I'm still not quite done. Maybe next year - but I'm definitely getting closer. It's now September 2003, and I'm a lot closer than I was a year ago, but I ain't done yet. The plane's at the hangar, the upholstery's in, the panel is done (temporarily) and the engine is mounted, but not yet running. I'm still hoping it'll fly this year.

End note: The plane finally flew on April 9th, 2004.

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