Brainstorming External Lights Switch Layout

January 16, 2011

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I’m planning (AeroLED) strobes and position lights, taxi lights in the wingtips, and HID landing lights in the leading edges.  The taxi lights will be the ones to wig-wag.

I’ve set the switch layouts up for flow, both in before-flight and approach-to-landing phases. Let’s look at those:

Before Flight:

  1. Strobes ON before engine start.
  2. Position ON before taxiing.
  3. Taxi lights ON before taxiing.
  4. Landing Lights ON before taking the runway.
  5. Wig Wag taxi lights ON either before takeoff or on climbout (wig wags are primarily for traffic/recognition)

Approach-To-Landing (VMC):

  1. Strobes ON (on the entire flight)
  2. Position ON (on the entire flight)
  3. I’ll turn Taxi, Landing, and Wig Wag lights on prior to entering the terminal area. (No impact to switch placement, they can all be next to each other.)

Approach-To-Landing (IMC):

  1. Strobes OFF (because we’re in the clouds and they reflect off the clouds and distract)
  2. Position ON (on the entire flight, even in the clouds)
  3. I’ll turn Strobes, Taxi, and Landing  lights after breaking out of the clouds.
I won’t really need Wig Wag on an IFR flight plan if I’m breaking out of the clouds on an approach, but it couldn’t hurt, and it’s easy to just turn on ALL of the external lights once I’ve broken out.

So, my two choices are a 5-switch setup and a 4-switch setup.

5-switch setup.

This is great for EVERY flight’s checklist flow from Master ON to climbout.

Given that my taxi lights are going to be the ones wig-wagging, I’m nervous about hooking up wig-wag downstream of the taxi light switch (taxi must be on for wig wag to work.)

For example, let’s look at cruise flight. I want to wig-wag for a traffic call just received from ATC. I don’t want to have to flip on the taxi lights, then jump over to the wig wag switch (if wig-wag was wired downstream of the taxi switch). I just want one switch throw. This means if I go with the 5 switch setup I’ll probably wire the wig-wag switch in parallel to the taxi light switch. (Wig-wag will operate regardless of taxi light switch position). That means I get flashing lights with one switch throw.

Seems reasonable, but I also like combining switches where it makes sense.

4-switch setup.

In this case, I’d have to be careful to only go halfway with the switch (which everyone overshoots with 3 position switches, especially in turbulence) for taxi lights only and I’ll have to jump back to the taxi light switch to WIGWAG either before takeoff or on climbout. (I don’t like jumping back over, but I may be able to live with it given the panel space I might be saving.)

If I get an ATC call for traffic while in cruise, I would only need one switch flick; all the way up to wig-wag.

This saves space and a switch, but I don’t really like the vertical TAXI indication and the jumping around during the before takeoff flow.

I think while typing this that I’ve talked myself into the separate function wig-wag switch. Takes more panel space, but I’ve got it already planned there. It may be a little confusing having the taxi lights controlled from two separated switches, but I think pilots only care about the function. Either Taxi, Landing, or Wig Wag. Turn on what you want.

I’ll keep thinking about it, but I think I’m going to go with the 5-switch setup.

(My HID landing lights are showing up soon, hopefully I’ll have a nice post on operation, brightness, and electrical requirements. Stay tuned.)

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Sat in my first RV-7

June 27, 2010

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After an email to the Matronics list to beg for a chance to sit in an RV-7 to answer some panel/knee clearance/spacing questions, a gentleman from Southeast airport invited me out to take a look at his RV-7.

Coming over the small hill...the hangars are down to the right, and the runway is left to right.

After talking for a few minutes, I was invited to sit inside. First of all, this was a beautiful airplane. Definitely at the top of the “fit-and-finish” list in terms of quality of workmanship and systems/layout/panel decisions. (Doug Bell imitation tailwheel fork upgrade, smaller tailwheel springs, AOA vane, beautiful panel layout, etc.)

Interesting observations:

  1. The panel is closer (to your face) than I expected. My idea for 2 ten inch screens to the left of the radio stack probably won’t work. The radio stack will still be reachable, but I don’t know if I like having it that far right with a panel that close to you.
  2. It was easier to get in and out of the airplane than I thought it would be. I’m a big boy, and this won’t be a problem.
  3. Plenty of leg/knee room to the left (a 1-inch subpanel would be no problem, although I didn’t do the rudder and brake full travel check.)
  4. Knee room to the right was a little limited, but the throttle quadrant bracket was taller than I have seen before, and was extended to the left a little for the (I think it was a) carb heat knob.
  5. That is (I believe) an 8.5″ AFS 3500.  Knowing my Dynon Skyviews are 10″, I don’t think I could put two of them next to eachother comfortably. To keep the radio stack within reach, the Skyviews have to come down a little to get left. The two directions I am not thinking about are two 7-inch Skyviews, or moving one of the 10″ units to the right of the radio stack and centering the two displays in front of each seat.
  6. Fuel pump switch just right of master. (I have my fuel pump switch planned for just left of the flap switch, which is the right-most switch on the pilot side of the panel. I did this because the pump is most used during TO/LDG…David put his here because the pump is first used to prime before start…hmm. I’ll have to think about this a little more.)
  7. For information only: this is a standard height panel.
  8. The Classic Aero Designs interior was fantastic. David had the sportsman seats (with a highly recommended sheepskin cover on the pilot’s side), which were nice, and the side panels, carpet, and baggage area accessories equally as high class/quality. Bravo CAD.

Look ma! I fit! (Probably should have checked this before starting the emp kit.)

I grabbed a picture of my feet.

(...and hairy legs!)

Here, I was just trying to get scale for a passenger and look at more spacing.

Those are tosten grips. I still can't decide if I like the fighter-style military grips.

Another panel shot. I thought I would be bothered by the headset plug location here. Didn’t bother me a bit.

Dimmers up here to the left are kind of a good idea. I've seen Stein do that with a lot of panels.

Just another shot of knee clearance.

I think I could shorten the throttle quadrant bracket, and have a little more clearance.

Nice Andair fuel valve. Apparently this is a no-brainer upgrade.

A shot of the right side of the panel. Nice compact CB panel.

Here I am, seated in normal postion (not stretching) reaching to the CB panel. I would have to lean about 2 inches to reach the right side of the panel. Not bad.

Hairy arms, too?!

Then, some anthropomorphic assessments…my left arm, in what I will call “relax” position.

Left arm, relaxed on my leg.

Same with the right arm. This throttle quadrant was offset about 2 inches left. I either want the Throttle right where my hand is, or I'll center the propeller control right in the middle of the panel, and work right and left from there.

Another shot of the fuel valve. (Actually I took this shot to look for any good switch locations down here, like seat heat.) Switches down here would be bumpable, but would get them off the panel.

This is the AFS fired up. I like all the information and the layout. Pretty similar to the Dynon in terms of quality. That will probably be a tough choice.

Wierd angle but this is between the two sticks, looking down and right toward the copilot stick. Right behind the stick might be a good place for the seat heat switch. You would never bump it accidentally.

Again the fit and finish was amazing.  A lot of people have pretty ugly looking cowl hinge pin attachments. This one was just a piece of polished (and nicely fitted) aluminum. Can’t beat that.

Great fit an finish. (I would have lined up the Phillips heads vertically and horizontally. Just kidding...kind of.

Other things of note: Slider, Mattituck 180HP, 2-bladed Hartzell CS prop.

An overall shot of the panel.

Looks damn good.

Lot’s of things to think about and ponder. No earth-shattering revelations, though, which is good. A big thanks to David for letting me come see his airplane.

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Practice Kit – Finished

October 4, 2009

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Sunday morning, I managed to finish off the practice kit. Here are the pictures.

Here are the skins riveted to the spar. Notice how I didn't make the jig to hold it to the table.

Here are the skins riveted to the spar. Notice how I didn't make the jig to hold it to the table.

Another shot of the skins riveted to the spar.

Another shot of the skins riveted to the spar.

After the skins were riveted to the ribs and the trailing edge wedge, I rolled the leading edge and clecloed it together. I haven't edge formed the top skin yet, hence the ripples.

After the skins were riveted to the ribs and the trailing edge wedge, I rolled the leading edge and clecloed it together. I haven't edge formed the top skin yet, hence the ripples.

The finished product.

The finished product.

Overall, I am happy with the results. I don’t think they are airplane worthy (I don’t know if I will ever be happy with the final product), but I feel like I am ready to start on the real kit. All of the riveting came out nice, but some of the other aspects (dimpling, countersinking, edge rolling) are still not up to par.

Biggest lesson so far:

1) Go slow, take your time, read the plans, and be careful.
2) The skins don’t look too bad, but I have a feeling there will be too many scratches to polish the final airplane. I’m planning on paint anyway, so I should be okay.
3) Other things, I want to acquire some of the tank dimple dies for the understructure. Some of the skin to rib seams didn’t sit as nicely as I wanted, and I think the slightly deeper dimples in the ribs will accept the dimple in the skin better.
4) Buy a bigger backriveting plate. I just have a 1 x1/2 x 36 inch steel stock. I had to be really careful to keep the rivets lined up. With a wider plate, I wouldn’t’ have had to move the skin around, which caused…
5) …scratches in the skin. Next time I removed the vinyl from the skin, I am going to immediately replace it with painters tape. All of the scratches on the skin are where I removed the vinyl. This can be prevented.
6) Priming. Using the self-etching primer is so easy, I think I may do all of the interior skin next time ( I only primed the rivet lines, where two pieces of metal would meet this time).
7) I need a no-hole yoke for the rivets near the rear of the trailing edge. I managed with a thin bucking bar, but I didn’t like the results. A no-hole would make this a non-issue.

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Practice Kit – Riveting

October 2, 2009

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I started riveting today. I got the skeleton riveted together and back-riveted then stiffeners to the skins.

Skeleton riveted together.
Skeleton riveted together.
Skins back-riveted. Nice, huh?
Skins back-riveted. Nice, huh?

I’ll try to finish up tonight, but I need to figure out a way to dimple the ribs near the trailing edges. I should probably follow the directions and fabricate the special dimpling tool described in the plans. Off to the hardware store for some steel…

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Practice Kit – Stiffeners and Skins

September 30, 2009

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I started on the real practice kit today. First, you have to make the stiffeners. Easy as pie, except the stock I got in my kit was cut short by about 1/2″ in each case. I got two shorter sections, the kit shows it comes as one long piece. Maybe George gave me some extra that was laying around. No biggie, but that’s why in the pictures below the stiffeners are different lengths. Then I edge prepped the stiffeners, ribs, spar, and skins. I also practiced using the soldering iron some more, with pretty decent results. Here’s a shot of the stiffeners and skins ready to match-drill.

Skins and stiffeners ready for match drilling.

Skins and stiffeners ready for match-drilling.

And the stiffeners match-drilled to the skins…

Match-drilled and cleco'ed.

Match-drilled and cleco'ed.

After this, I assembled the skeleton, matchrilled both skins to the ribs, spar, and trailing edge wedge, then disassembled everything. It got late, so I stopped after getting all the holes deburred. Here’s a shot of the skeleton clamped together, ready for drilling.

Skeleton Clamped

Skeleton Clamped

Next step is to figure out a priming process and test it out before dimpling and riveting.

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Started on the Practice Kit

September 28, 2009

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Today, I started on the practice kit. The directions point back to (and the kit actually includes) sections 3 and 5 of the construction manual. I threw my extra copies away, I’m going to just keep the ones from the Preview Plans I have.

The kit tells you to make some useful tools before starting. I found 3: A wooden hand seamer, a stand for your practice kit (basically a place to clamp the front spar so the skins stand up vertically) and an assembly with an 11 inch long piece of angle riveted (with various rivets) to two more pieces of 2.25″ x 11″ aluminum sheet. I’m not sure if this is a useful tool or just something to rivet before starting the pretend control surface. Hmm… I’ll make it nonetheless for the practice. I’m going to pass on the hand seamer, but get started on the other two.

Interesting note, the directions tell you that if you don’t have dents, scratches, and mistakes on your practice kit, you aren’t doing it right. Apparently, they want me to get out all of the mistakes now before I start on the real airplane. Right…

Here’s a picture of everything that comes in the kit.

Everything that comes in the kit.

Everything that comes in the kit.

Closeup of the Hardware

Closeup of the Hardware

Closeup of the skins.

Closeup of the skins.

I didn’t get very far on the practice kit. I made it through step one, which is to drill the weird angle assembly in 24 places for the appropriate flush and blind rivets of various sizes. Even the practice kit is going to be slow going. I did learn a ton, though.

  1. Everything is so tiny. I’ve been staring at picture on all the build sites, thinking things were bigger. The -3-3 rivets are TINY! The skins are a lot thinner than I thought they would be.
  2. Don’t take the blue off the skins if you don’t want to scratch the skins. I thought my workbench was clean, but after deburring one of the small sheets, there were small pieces of aluminum everywhere. I slid one of the sheets on the table and scratched the hell out of it.
  3. My cheap clamps are nice, but not perfect. I’ll need to get some higher quality ones. Also, I need to use the duct tape on the clamp face trick. They scratched the hell out of the sheet, too.
  4. I had to measure, mark, and drill the holes. No big deal, but I just noted that they really have you jump right in. I drilled into a spare piece of MDF I had laying around, but I didn’t drill far enough, so the clecos don’t have a fantastic grip. Oh well.
  5. I played around with pressure on the bit while drilling. I learned as a kid that when you have the spiral piece of metal coming off in one piece as you drill, that is the right pressure (which wasn’t that much more than the air drill itself). Anyone have any other advice?
  6. I learned that building is not going to be a piece of cake, but is going to be a lot of fun. That’s kind of a fluffy statement, but it’s true.

Here’s the picture of what I got done last night.

Step one. Drill appropriate holes.

Step one. Drill appropriate holes. Don't make fun of my erroneous markings. The instructions said I have to make mistakes on this practice kit, and not the real airplane, so I made sure there were some errors.

Also, I had to cleco the skin to the end ribs. I don’t know why, but I wanted to do it. I promise not to skip steps in the future.

Top skin cleco'd to the end ribs.

Top skin cleco'd to the end ribs.

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Preview Plans arrived

August 27, 2009

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Last night, the preview plans arrived. They include some welcome pages, an RVator sample, a Van’s accessories catalog, the construction manual, and all the plans from the project printed on 11″ x 17″ paper. They come in a big grey binder.

I sat the binder on the table and stood back and looked at it thinking, “I bet this binder really doesn’t convey the enormity of what I am getting myself into.” After staring for a few minutes, I decided to dive in. I made it through the introductory pages and contruction techniques sections before heading to bed. I’ll start reading the actual construction manual this week and next.

Here’s the plan: the first time through, I just want an overview. The second time through, I am planning on outlining what tools, supplies, etc. I need and when I need them by adding a sheet behind appropriate pages and keeping a list. We’ll see how that goes. I’m trying not to buy tools needed only for the finish kit before building the empennage. More later…

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Reserved some N-Numbers

August 21, 2009

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After reading some threads on the VAF site, I decided to start some research some N-numbers. I needed AZ or ZA as the trailing characters to make it mine, and I wanted a cool sounding (I know, I know) callsign, that was recognizable.

N999ZA. At first, I wanted something that was going to be short and sweet on the radio, but the more I thought about it, I want something recognizable on the radio. “November-niner-niner-niner-zulu-alpha” is long, but very recognizable. ATC will undoubtedly shorten it to “niner-zulu-alpha.”

Also, I like “november triple-niner zulu alpha.” I would never suggest to any of my students that they use unapproved pronunciations of callsigns, but c’mon, it just sounds cool.

As an aside, I got my commercial and CFI-A tickets in N9991B. I always pronounced every character individually, until the controllers in the area started calling me “triple-niner.”

Is that permission for me to do it, too? No. Am I going to? Yes.

N74ZA. <sigh> I reserved this one because everyone else seemed to want their model number, followed by a 4, and then their initials (or wife’s initials, or kids initials, etc.). N74ZA was available, so I might as well reserve it while I can. I like the shorter number, but I am still leaning towards triple-niner-zulu-alpha.


Ordered Preview Plans

August 21, 2009

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Welcome to the site, and welcome to the first post. Over the last few weeks I’ve been starting to contemplate the dream of owning my own aircraft, and I think I am going to pull the trigger on it. Go to the Why an RV-7? page for more information.

Anyway, I headed over to the Van’s Aircraft website and ordered the preview plans for the RV-7/7A. (Go to the airplane page to see why I chose that airplane.)

At $55 (plus shipping), I didn’t think this was money poorly spent to get the chance to read through the builder’s manual, see a set of 11×17 plans, and start planning out equipment, systems, modifications, etc. Ordering the Preview Plans actually seems like less of a commitment than getting this site set up. I’m not sure what that means about my commitment.

Over the next few months, I’ll be getting ready to order the empennage. Now I’m just waiting for the delivery guy…

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