Assembling VS

September 15: I was pleasantly surprised at how well the AKZO went on. It sprays easily, dries quickly so you can flip the parts and spray the other side, and cure hard as a rock.

Set the very first of tens of thousands of rivets today.

Due to the particulars of the Canadian amateur-built process, I cannot enclose any structure until an inspector from the MD-RA (Ministry of Transport) comes out to take a look at everything. As these inspections aren’t cheap, and they have to drive a couple of hours to get here, most builders wait until they have their empennage and wings nearly complete before scheduling.

This means for the vertical stabilizer, I will leave the rear spar unattached, but will rivet the rest of the structure and skin together. As for the rudder, I will have to give my assigned inspector a call as the rudder spar has lightening holes which will allow him access. But I will defer to his instructions.

Since winter is rapidly approaching, I’m trying to get as much priming done as possible while the weather cooperates, and then spending the winter months in the basement riveting everything together.

Priming first batch

September 14: Got all the parts for the vertical stabilizer and rudder prepped and ready for primer. I’ve waded through the primer wars for the four years I’ve been on Vansairforce.com, and I had primed my earlier RV-7 project with SEM self etching, which I discovered was not solvent resistant. So I decided to go with AKZO two-part epoxy primer. But I did choose to forego the etch and alodine steps that many others have promoted. I did like the idea of dipping clean parts into prep solutions, with minimal elbow grease required. But I wasn’t too keen on the logistics of disposal of acidic and hex chrome waste.

I prepped the parts of the RV-7 with Bon Ami and red Scotchbrite. But I found through the VAF forums and other builder’s logs that Prekote was an option to prep for primer. It seems to be just a glorified soap, at $40 per gallon, but it was non-hazardous and one step instead of multiple steps.

I chose a perfect late summer day to set up a plastic table in the driveway and get to work on all the parts. You have to spray the Prekote on, scrub with the Scotchbrite until you get a lather, spray again then scrub at 90 degrees to the first pass. Then you should get a water break free surface when you rinse. This indicates that the aluminum oxide layer has been broken. I had already built a spray platform from 1x6s and chicken wire, which I laid on a workbench and arranged all the parts on it.

For priming, I bought a cheap purple HVLP gun from Harbor Freight, which so far has done a great job.

And I know this will get gasps of horror from some builders, but I did research it on VAF, and decided to prime both sides of the skins with the AKZO. Other builders have gotten input from aircraft painters at some major airframe manufacturers, and they are fine with receiving an AKZO primed aircraft to finish paint. They wet-sand it then shoot their own primer that is compatible with the top coat. True, I will incur a weight penalty, but prefer having things protected inside and out, and especially at faying surfaces and lap joints.

Rudder (and first destroyed part)

August 30: Work begins on the rudder. Shear clips cut apart per plans, deburred, prepped. Same with the rudder stiffeners.

Then I destroyed my first part. I don’t have a bandsaw (yet), so when I went to separate the R-00904A-1 from B-1 with metal snips, the flange of A-1 bent away and a small but visible crack was produced. Into the scrap bin with it, and off to order another one from Vans.

Lesson learned: I tried cutting up to the marked line to separate the two parts instead of rough cutting down the middle of the gore between them. Mistake two was using snips to cut thick metal in this manner. A bandsaw is on the shopping list before I get too much further into this.

Living >just< across the border, it’s much faster and cheaper to have things shipped to me in Michigan to my employer’s office there. I work there usually once a week, so it makes thing simpler. And I’ve up until this point had good luck using USPS. But this time, the replacement R-00904 bottom rib was lost in transit. USPS tracking showed it arriving in Portland after departing Vans, then nothing. For a week.

I eventually contacted Vans, who sent out a replacement, FedEx 2 day this time, for an additional $40-plus dollars, but no charge for the part.

The original USPS order eventually updated tracking over two weeks later, showing it was delivered to our front office. I went the next morning but no package. I even had security pull video footage at the time it was allegedly delivered, with no evidence of a mail carrier.

It finally showed up a month after that, mid-October, from who knows where. So nearly two months for a replacement rib via USPS. I refused shipment and Vans just got it back October 23 and processed the return for me. Stellar service from Vans, but I think I’ll stick with FedEx or UPS from now on.

VS Rear Spar and remainder

August 27-29: Continuing on after the simple task of prepping the front spar. The VS is a simple component, and goes together quickly. By the end of the weekend, you have a recognizable airplane part.

The quality of the -14’s pre-punched kit compared to the -7 that I originally started with is light years ahead.

Again, once everything is prepped, it’s put aside for batch priming.

It begins: VS Front Spar

August 24: Started with VS-702. Prepped spar doubler, clecoed into place and drilled the first holes. Finished drilling, trimmed bottom edge of front spar per plans, deburred and dimpled.

I set everything aside until I got a big enough batch to prime with AKZO.

Unpacking and Inventory

August 23: Began unpacking and inventorying everything. Vans did a great job packing, and we ended up with a mountain of paper in the corner of the garage.

140665 has arrived

Picked up the crate from ABF in Romulus, Michigan. Came back to Canada through the Detroit/Windsor tunnel, stuck for an hour in horrible traffic underneath Cobo Center.

CBSA was pretty cool at the border, I had to pay $740+ in taxes though.

Unboxing, inventory and storage is the weekend project.