List of things left to be done

One evening in July '00, while we were chatting in the hot tub, Char wanted to know what was left to be done. I talked for almost 10 minutes, then realized that we had reached a big step in the process. Counting off chapters is all well and good to begin with, but then things tend to merge. Here I was, 16 months into building, and all but six of the chapters were essentially completed. In fact, of those remaining, chapters 13, 18, 24 and 25 were almost done. Only the engine, electrics and upholstry remained. So - we were nearly finished - right? Wrong! Its not a matter of Chapters any more. There are what I call "fiddly bits" that need doing all over the plane. The really good news is that the list of things remaining is becoming tangible and definable. The bad news is that its a pretty long list.

I'm prepared for my decision to use a Mazda 13B instead of Lycoming to cost me months of extra time and effort, just figuring out how to handle all the details. However, so far it hasnt cost me any time at all because I've been doing (or having done) bits of the engine work as I've been going along with the airframe. First I obtained the engine and had it rebuilt. Next I got the redrive and started the welding guy off on building the mount. Time invested (by me) so far is a couple of days. Delay to the rest of the project is zero. If I can get the logistics right and coordinate the professionals properly, I'm hoping to install the engine in a few days without having spent any real amount of building time on it.

As I approach completion I'm kind of working my way through the plane from all extremities towards the instrument panel. I started at the wingtips, fitted the lights, removed, reinstalled and checked the rudders & ailerons etc. Each item of construction is getting a "flight ready" inspection and / or overhaul as a move inward. At time of writing, Sept '02, the wings, canard and canopy are checked, ready for flight, stored and ready to bolt on when we get to the airport. The nose area, nose lift, rudder pedals, brakes and wheel pants are done. The strake wiring is complete and the firewall electrical panel is getting close. Meanwhile, I'm having some welding done on the engine mount to beef it up, the radiator is being modified and the intake manifold is being built. As of this work should come together in the next few months depending on other commitments.

Getting overwhelmed

It's now Jan '03 and an update on progress seems appropriate. I've often wondered why those who seemed close to finishing tend to "go quiet" for months, even years, before you read of their first flight. I'm beginning to understand why this is. The closer I get to "done" the farther away I seem to be. There are so many little jobs to be done on the plane now that the list seems endless. I'm working on about ten things at once, and I'm having a focus problem. People ask me how the plane's coming and I tell them it's "almost" finished. Almost can be a very big word. Like in "He almost pulled out of that dive". I wonder what its derivation is. ALL MOST.

For example. Today I went out to the plane with no clear idea of what I was going to do. [mistake number 1]. As I looked at the plane I decided that the paint on the recently repainted right strake was ready for color sanding, so I got some 1000 grit and set in. I hate color sanding for hours at a time (especially wet sanding upside down), so I did the 1000 grit and stopped. OK, what's next? My heater blower needs wiring up properly. Yesterday I'd threaded a 20awg wire between the cabin air intake duct and the fuselage side (this took an hour or so of poking and prodding). Now I needed to connect this wire to the switch and the fan. First I'd need wire labels, so I added label names to the word file I keep for this, and reprinted the full sheet of tiny little labels. I found my small clear shrink wrap, labeled the wire at both ends, threaded it through the wire ties and crimped the connectors. I've been wondering how to slow the fan down for a "half speed" setting, so I asked on the aero electric list and got some good suggestions. The best one was not to bother. Do this later when you're flying. OK, so I was ready to connect the wire to the switch. While I was working in this area I remembered that my panel light dimmer had ceased working. It gets hot, but the lights dont glow. This means I have to remove the wire ties in this area, so I defered the heater wire. I spent some time on the dimmer switch, removing connections looking for a problem. I also spent some time trying to figure out where to run the vacuum, AC and heater pipes. Working on the panel reminded me to goose Dan, Dan the Upholstery Man, who had promised to come around and measure the armrests, center consoles and fuselage sides and discuss how it would all be done. I called Dan and arranged for him to come over on Monday. When I went back out to the patio I couldnt find a couple of tools I needed, so I decided that it was time for a bench clean-up. I went to switch on the panel lights again, and wasnt sure which switch it was. After hunting around the back of the panel looking at wire labels I decided it was time for proper labels on the panel, so I got out my Dyno labeler and printed labels for everything. These were supposed to be temporary, but I think I like them. Later I discovered that switching the heater blower on made the compass swing 30 degrees, so I had to reroute the wire. The dimmer switch was dead and had to be sent back for repair.

At the end of the day I felt that I'd done maybe three hours productive work. So where did the day go? The answer is distractions, visitors, cooking the dinner, email, watching star-trek, writing this, and lots of little bits of jobs. Did I make progress? I guess so. When you're working through the chapters and have a specific part to build and a series of instructions to follow, the motivation and direction comes fairly easily. I'm working on too many details now. My own advice to myself is to pick a job, any job, and do it. See it through to completion, then pick another job. Unfortunately many of the jobs overlap. You get part way through something and have to stop because something else gets in the way. It's a very complex PERT chart at this point and I find myself wandering around trying to solve the whole puzzel, rather than actually DOING anything.

Hiatus - Spring '03

Work (the kind that earns a living) reared it's ugly head again, and progress slowed to a crawl. I've even had "hate mail" from other builders telling me to get on with the plane and get it finished. They want to know if it's worth copying. It may not seem like it, but progress is occuring slowly but steadily, even if I only get near it on weekends.

Status as of June 16th 2003

The upholstery is half done. Dan's coming back Wednesday to do some more. The seat belts are in. I need to redo the heating, vacuum and AC pipes pipes at the back. I have to finish wiring the power for the EC2 computer, the coils and the injectors. Everything else is wired up and working. I'm waiting for the EM2 from Tracy Crook (due end of June) and I need an nav/com + vor indicator. The engine is with Japtrix getting the intake made. They should be done with the intake in a few days. Hangar is paid for and waiting. I hope to move down to the hangar by the end of June, and get the engine started by mid July. Later note - we made it to the hangar July 9th. No sign of the engine coming back from Japtrix yet, but they're making progress. Perhaps mid August would be a safer bet for engine start. Oh great! Mid August in South Florida....

Mid August update

Well, mid August was supposed to be engine start date, and I'm nowhere near. The intake is partly done, but needs modifying to fit under the cowl, a plenum, a rail and finishing off. The engine is now mounted with the proper bolts, the sump is sealed and some of the wires are connected. The upholstery is 3/4 done. Maybe October would be a better time of year for taxi tests anyway...

As I get closer and closer to flying this bird I'm finding that there's still a lot to do, and do over. For example, I need to install the ELT. It comes with a little control console, so I need to install this too. I'm probably becoming a bit fanatical about some of the details, checking the plans to be sure I installed the aileron linkages right, fixing a bunch of things I once decided "would do". The fuel lines used to run over the gear well behind the back seat. I reworked them so that they go through the gear well, and any leaked fuel will flow out under the plane rather than into the back seat area. I decided I didnt like the custom fitting I'd had made for my early model Tracy Crook fuel pump, so I'll replace the pump. The AC and heater pipes are all getting reworked and connected to bulkhead fittings on the firewall. The list goes on and on....

Anyway, I digress. Here's my partial list of things to do. As they get marked off I move them down the list. I check them off as I get to them, and add in new ones at the top as I think of them. X is deleted. Y is done. W is working (or waiting for a part). I think it might help if I print the list and pin it on the patio door.

By the time I got the plane down to the airport I had the list down to under 20 items. Of course, when I went down to the hangar I'd do ten items not on the list for every one that was on it, and add a few items I'd forgotten, but gradually the list was getting smaller. Then airport people started "dropping in" to look at the plane. The bad news is that the list got bigger again, the good news is that I got some good safety suggestions.

November '03

Wow. Time flies when you're having fun. Unfortunately airplanes don't. At least not yet. It seems like the more I do on the plane, the more I find still to be done. The intake was partly done in August. Now, at the start of November, it's still partly done.... It would have been quicker for me to teach myself welding. I've been down to Japtrix three or four times a week since August, and on each visit slight progress has been made. The guys there are pleasant enough - just busy, and I seem to be on the back burner. Last week I put the pressure on a bit, and now we're definately getting close. The intake is essentially complete. The secondary bosses are in they're new home under the intake, right by the block mounted primary injectors. The bosses for the throttle body were being welded on Friday. The lower cowl is going together on its journey to final assembly. I've mounted the oil coolers and sealed the joints with RTV. Last week I added 3 inch ducts for the intercooler and AC condensor, and had the corners cut off the radiator to stop it touching the back of the cowl. I found a new welding shop, Stemann Tool & Die, right on the airport. Charlie and Dave are easy going and good at what they do. Now I have an alternative source for small engineering jobs I can move forward more quickly. I took my cowl down to Charlie and we discussed how the cowl flap could be actuated. We decided on an 18 inch steel rod with an actuator arm on one end and fingers welded in place. I'll glass the fingers to the underside of the flap. Charlie says he'll have the rod made by Tuesday. Meanwhile I've been moving the fuel solenoid to the cold side, mounting the fuel pressure regulator and redoing the aluminum fuel piples in ss braided hose. Maybe - just maybe we'll get to engine start this month. I'm now shooting for first flight on Dec 17th at 10:05am.

Well, here we are, Nov 18th, still in the black hole of the last 5%. I came home with a list of 34 things to do. Char mentioned that my last list was shorter. Ah yes, but the items on it were bigger. We had this strange conversation about going forward and backward at the same time. Each time I go down to the hangar I make progress. Like last night I finished off the intercooler ductwork, and made an aluminum plate to block off the oil injector pump area on the engine. Were these items on my to-do list? No.

What's taking so long?

Nov 18th., 2003. I'm starting to get emails from people who are anxiously waiting for my setup to fly because they want to copy it if it works. They're wondering what's taking so long. Here are a few details from the yesterday's efforts to give an idea of why the details take time....
  • I went down to the hangar at 7:30 am. I spent 30 minutes cleaning up the mess made during construction of the intercooler duct from the plenum, then prepared for Roger's arrival by noting questions.
  • I have two Crank Angle Sensor connectors now, and the CAS units are in place, but I dont know which terminal is which. To solve this I had to go to Roger's shop where he showed me the 3rd gen wiring diagram. Back at the hangar I butt spiced the correct (I hope) wires together and color coded the connectors with spray paint.
  • We need to construct the oil drain from the turbo. This goes to the plate below the oil injector pump. I'd made a fitting drilled and tapped for 1/4 NPT, but Roger says this isnt big enough. We need #10 there. Roger will look around his shop for one of the stock connectors and we'll weld a steel AN fitting to it. We cut off the exit pipe from the turbo and cut the end off a #10 steel fitting. I took these parts to Dave for welding. He'll have them ready by Monday. Once I get the stock fitting from Roger and have a fitting welded on, the turbo oil drain is solved. Except that I'll need two AN hose fittings and a length of ss braided teflon hose to join the two.
  • I talked to Narco about my reticent AT50A and removed it for shipping to them for replacement / repair
  • I butt spliced the injector connectors to the EC2 wires. Tomorrow I need to talk to Dan (the avionics guy in my hangar) about the best way to protect these wires.
  • We discussed how #6 AN fittings could be attached to the ends of the new secondary rail. Roger suggested that we weld the fittings in place, but when I mentioned this to my welder guy, Charlie he frowned. "We don't weld AN fittings on airplanes. The welds can crack", he said. "Thanks Charlie", I said. "That's why I come to you for this work. I need the red flags". We discussed the best way to do this and agreed to drill and tap each end for #8 > #6 adaptors. I picked these up from the FBO and left them with Charlie.
  • The primary rail needs drilling and tapping for AN6 fittings. I left this with Dave. Once all this is done, the rails are joined by SS hose and more fittings, and the secondary rail is drilled for the injectors I think we have a complete intake system.
  • Roger will order the intake gasket and water pump gaskets from the local Mazda dealer
  • We discussed the turbo water connections. These can be done with hi-temp silicone hose, but we need a barb welded on one of the stock fittings. A water outlet on the engine needs to be blocked up.
  • After researching boost, PSI, MAP and what gauge reads what I ordered a MAP gauge from Wicks
  • While ordering from Wicks I got a water temp gauge and some P6 hinge to replace the canopy hinge
  • I ordered a fuel pressure gauge and sender, plus a throttle cable from Vans

    I've probably covered about one third of the work done yesterday. The above might give prospective auto engine aviators an idea why this approach is both potentially dangerous, relatively expensive, and time consuming. Just yesterday I probably introduced ten connections of hoses and wires which haven't been done before in exactly the same way. These connections are critical. Each one is a single failure point. Lose any one of them and my engine will fail. Each one has to be invented, engineered, installed and tested. It all seems so simple once it's done, learning as you go.

    No more things to do?

    You'd think that the "things-to-do list" would be done after the inspection and first few flights. Think again. It's ongoing. However, the list is getting shorter and I'm covering it in the day-to-day description, so this list is now redundant.

    Y  Repair pilot armrest
    X  rewire auto-return switch
    Y  reroute expansion hose - 3 ft 3005 .25 hose 
    X  replace fuel strainer
    Y  fix oil leak
    Y  fix voice annunciator
    Y  rewire coil power jumper
    Y  taxi test etc. (big etc)
    Y  first flight.
    X  wire alt batt ebus switch
    X  switch for ebus
    Y  modify Instrument panel cover
    Y  1/8 NPT boss for water pressure
    Y  wire hobbs for flight time
    Y  check compression
    Y  check fuses v draw
    Y  check spark
    Y  check injectors
    Y  check alternator / charging circuit FUSE s wire
    Y  compass deviation card
    Y  inspection
    Y  fix trim paint where damaged 
    Y  fit upper cowl
    Y  fix radio
    Y  check aileron travel
    Y  list battery bus connections - main
    Y  list battery bus connections - aux
    Y  check fuel gauges
    Y  check fuel solenoid
    Y  canopy hinge - tighten nuts 
    Y  check lower cowl screws
    Y  IP cover hinge pins - 3ft
    Y  canopy lock / warning check
    Y  heat shield for intake
    Y  Prepare check lists - external, startup, pre takeoff, downwind, emergency
    Y  fix elevator trim
    Y  check rudder travel
    Y  color sand & polish strakes
    Y  FAA data plate / PAX warning plate/s
    Y  refit canopy
    Y  fuel cap stickers
    Y  realign smog pump
    Y  weigh & balance  
    Y  FAA paperwork
    Y  secure batteries with straps
    Y  intake - turbo plumbing
    Y  install prop (after stopping engine)
    Y  get push-fit barb for engine top air bleed
    Y  add oil, gas, 2 stroke oil, water
    Y  start engine
    X  figure out a way to install hobbs sensor
    X  water drain on static line
    X  wire voice annunciator - low fuel pressure
    Y  plumb the AC firewall backwards (this is a bear)
    Y  intercooler - turbo plumbing
    Y  intercooler - TB plumbing
    Y  install honda civic condenser '92 - 95
    Y  check transponder / encoder
    Y  Intercooler & condenser mounting
    Y  remeasure labels for annunciator panel
    Y  finish bracket for overflow bottle
    Y  Fit overflow bottle
    Y  Get hose & fittings for AC
    Y  Order al bends for turbo 
    Y  Order silicone transitions for turbo
    Y  Order hose clamps for turbo
    Y  Order 2 feet 2.25 scat tube for turbo inlet
    Y  Order battery - Panasonic (LC-RD1217P)
    Y alt field wires
    Y wire CHT/EGT probes
    Y Wire oil temp
    Y Wire oil pressure
    Y filler neck & 5 psi cap for pop-off valve
    Y replace throttle cable bracket with steel
    Y Finish exhaust shroud install 
    Y install lower cowling
    Y wire a bunch of sensors
    Y install the AC compressor
    Y Mount the vacuum regulator
    Y wire air / fuel mixture gauge
    Y Wire water temp
    Y Reassemble and install smog (vacuum) pump
    Y plumb the vacuum firewall backwards
    Y Install air / fuel mixture probe
    Y vacuum - stock smog pump
    Y Manual boost cable
    Y Deal with the smog pump clutch
    Y fit throttle cable & clevis 106in 8/32
    Y replace turbo water return hose with steel
    Y overflow / expansion chamber
    Y intake support bracket
    Y cowl flap cable nuts
    Y exhaust pipe 8 in * 2 in OD 321 SS
    Y 21lb pressure cap
    Y intake system
    Y Fuel rail
    Y move oil filter
    Y fuel pressure gauge
    Y turbo oil feel / return
    Y turbo water feed / return
    Y redrive hoses
    Y oil hoses
    Y mount intercooler
    X intake temp guage?
    Y oil filter adapter
    Y remote oil filter unit
    Y oil filler cap / tube
    Y boost gauge
    Y coolant temp guage
    Y water pump gasket * inner / outer
    Y intake gasket
    Y coil lead seperator
    Y NAPA #6 bolts 1 inch
    Y Ultra grey RTV
    Y Clear RTV
    Y redrive oil drain - #6 90 > st 8.25in
    Y redrive oil drain rear - #6 90 > st 4in
    Y #6 1/4 NPT 90deg to flare - steel 
    Y install turbo heat shield
    Y Injector connectors * 3
    Y Crank angle sensor connectors * 1
    Y Exhaust bolts & nuts * 2
    Y oil injector blank plate
    Y make Cowl door
    Y Cowl flap actuator
    Y switch guards for ign / inj / computer switches
    X wire voice annunciator - high cooolant temp
    Y experimental sticker
    Y wire LED warning - landing brake down on throttle up
    Y rear cushions
    Y check power to ec2, coils, injectors
    X number stencils
    Y belly vortilons
    Y water hoses
    Y headset plug screws 8
    Y headset plug nuts 3
    Y Install / mark instrument sensor wires
    Y Install boost gauge pipe
    Y check voice annunciator
    Y snap connector for parking brake
    Y Install landing brake cover
    Y mount ash trys
    Y add connector for alt battery charging
    Y replace ELT "phone" cable
    Y redrive final install
    Y fuel capacitor covers
    Y cover fuel returns
    Y install rear seatbelts
    Y Pax tx button
    Y Install park brake lever
    Y Install an AN3 bolt through nose wheel fitting
    Y install ELT / Antena
    Y check radio transmissions
    Y check right wheel for binding
    Y redo emerg fuel cut-off cables
    Y redo heater, vacuum & ac pipes at firewall
    Y list main bus connections
    Y list endurance bus connections
    Y upholstery - baggage areas
    Y tidy-up wiring - forward firewall
    Y wire starter
    Y wire altenator
    Y wire injectors
    Y swap dome / goose neck lights
    Y wire EC2 power
    Y wire injector power
    Y wire coil power
    Y install seat belts
    Y wire coils
    Y fit coils to firewall
    Y wire hobbs meter
    Y upholstery - map pockets 
    Y wire voice annunciator & sender modules
    Y nose gear microswitch - annunciator
    Y connect fuel shut off cables
    Y wire transponder
    Y rewire LED annunciator
    Y finish panel lighting
    Y refit cig lighter
    Y throttle?
    Y get radios
    Y wire heating fan
    Y seal off fuel pumps
    Y check vents
    Y heater core connections
    Y bleed brakes (again)
    Y front center console - remake
    Y rear center console - reduce in height
    Y EC2 panel position?
    Y reconnect rt fuel sender
    Y order plug leads
    Y Plumb vacuum
    Y Plumb heat
    Y Plumb AC
    Y Cockpit door
    Y canopy latch - complete
    Y Assemble & inflate nose wheel
    Y Layups etc on nose strut
    Y Obtain and install nose lift
    Y Change bolts in nose gear plates
    Y Check hard points for nose gear
    Y Nose gear doors 
    Y Install strong trim system
    Y finish off brake pipes
    Y install parking brake unit
    Y push pull control for park brake
    Y decide on brake fluid
    Y add fluid, bleed brakes 
    Y finish fuel system
    X build or buy header tank
    X install low pressure transfer pump 
    Y get EFI fuel pumps
    Y get fuel plumbing & fixtures
    Y get gascolator
    X install header tank.
    Y finish starboard wingtip light
    Y install light lenses and bulbs
    Y get antennae connectors & RG58
    Y wire antennae to IP
    Y get barry mounts from Bulent
    Y Install Barry mounts
    Y Finalize engine mount. 
    Y Clean up all control linkages
    Y remove elevator, rudders, ailerons
    Y final finish & gloss paint control surfaces
    Y final finish  & gloss paint canard & fuselage top
    Y remove canopy
    Y tidy up inside of canopy while off
    Y final finish & gloss paint canopy deck
    Y pitot tube and plumbing
    Y decide on vacuum method - Mazda stock smog pump
    Y get basic 6 instruments
    Y get transponder
    Y Wire cooling fan
    Y install intercom & jacks
    Y reinstall intercom & jacks
    Y decide on prop
    Y fix lawn mower
    Y mow lawn
    Y install intercom & jacks
    Y finish & wire wingtip lights
    Y make landing light mechanism
    Y fit engine mount
    Y install EFI computer
    Y install redrive
    Y alternator
    Y batteries (2 * 17AH RG, per Bob Knuckolls)
    Y backup battery / alternator
    X exhaust system
    Y cooling system
    Y radiator
    Y oil cooler
    Y ac system
    Y engine pulley
    Y exhaust studs
    X transmission bell housing
    Y plugs
    Y final finish & gloss paint wings / winglets
    Y final finish & gloss paint fuse & strakes
    Y make cowling
    Y check right aileron travel
    Y check elevator travel
    Y check vent lines integrity
    Y install canopy latch
    Y complete & install armrests
    Y internal bellhorn rudder springs by pedals
    Y firesleeve on brake lines by wheels
    Y main strut heatshields
    Y Wire fuel pumps
    Y Wire fuel solenoid