Chapter 15 – Firewall

Chapter 15 – Firewall

4 May 2011 — Firewall after cutting out of 1/4 in. Finnish Birch plywood.

Firewall

•••

11 June 2011 — After another few discussions with some experienced Canardians familiar with the old glory days of the Cafe Races, I decided on another modification.  Now I’m sure this  may very well elicit some groans and ha-rumphs, and maybe even a few mutterings of how crazy I am, to put it politely, but here it is: I’ve decided to go pulley-less and run my rudder cables from Point-A (rudder pedals) through a curved conduit that traverses through the centersection spar, makes a semi-shallow bend and heads to Point B (rudders).  No fiberglass strands will be hurt in the making of this modification, just merely slightly separated at the holes in the foam so that glass strength and integrity is still in tact on the centersection spar.

No pulleys means that I don’t require pulley brackets, thus no “ears” on the firewall.  So I lopped off the “shoulders” of my firewall.

Modified Firewall

Once I finished cutting the ears off the firewall, I glassed the aft side with 1 ply of BID.

Glassing Firewall & Instrument Panel

•••

15 June 2011 — I had ordered my Carbon Fiber cowlings from Feather Lite, but with a twist: Mike & Larry were going to put a joggle down the center of top and bottom of the cowling so that I could adjust the cowling widths to my new wider fuselage.  Unfortunately, as they played around with the original plugs and molds— [these were the exact same molds that Mike Melvill designed for his armpit scoop cooling design that he installed before his round-the-world trip with Dick Rutan] —they realized that it was just too problematic and difficult to put the joggles down the center of the cowling halves.  Plus, it would add significantly more weight, minimizing the benefits and increasing the cost, thus nearly negating the reasons for using CF on the cowlings to begin with.

Thus, I would have to go with the original cowling size, meaning I had to trim my firewall down to it’s original plan-sized dimension.  Of course, the firewall being back to its original size does nothing for me if I can’t mount it to my top & bottom longerons… which was the case since my rear seat was widened by 1.2 inches.  So I recalculated everything, and not wanting to have go after my front seat (read: cut)  I compromised (the art of engineering, eh?) and narrowed my existing modified rear seat back by 0.4″ to only 0.8″ over stock. Which still is a decent amount of extra room in this narrow of a fuselage.

The one effect it did have was that it accentuated the curve of my cockpit to make it even more football shaped (fatter at the center, and narrower at the ends).  I’m not an aerodynamicist, but I have had some folks say that my shape is less desirable and less efficient than the original design.  Regardless, I think it will still fly even with a potential small increased drag penalty.

•••

22 June 2013 — Before I was separated from my project while I spent a year in the Middle East for Uncle Sam, I wanted to get an idea of what this thing looks like put all together.

So I pulled the fuselage out into the front yard, and kept it covered while I collected the other components.  Below you can see the CS Spar and Firewall mocked up on the fuselage.

Chap 14/15 - CS spar & firewall mockupChap 14/15 - CS spar & firewall mockup

You can see in the pic below that I got the measurements correct for running the rudder cable conduit through the fuselage sidewall, then through the CS Spar and positioned just off the edge of firewall (the curved metal conduit bracket that the Nylaflo will run through will get mounted to the firewall).

Chap 14/15 - CS spar & firewall mockup

A few more pics of the mocked up firewall.

Chap 14/15 - CS spar & FirewallChap 14/15 - CS spar & Firewall

Chap 14/15 - CS spar & FirewallChap 14/15 - CS spar & Firewall

After I got the CS spar & firewall in place, and added the wings, canard, and winglets, I took some wide angle shots.  Here’s a couple wide angle shots with the firewall clearly seen temporarily installed.

Long-EZ Project Mock-upChap 14/15/19/20 - CS spar-firewall-wings-winglet

Once I got the pics above taken, now it was time to fill in what gaps I could to make it look at least a little like it had some mass to it.  Next came the engine cowlings.

Chap 19/23 - Wing/spar & Cowling fitChap 19/23 - Wing/spar & Cowling fitLong-EZ Project Mock-upYou can see how the lower cowling hangs down 4 inches below the stock/plans firewall.  Again, since Mike Melvill had built a NACA inlet for his engine air intake the back end of his fuselage–and subsequently the firewall–was 4 inches lower than plans [in essence making the bottom line of the fuselage continue straight until aft of the firewall].

Chap 23 - Cowling Trial FittingChap 23 - Cowling Trial Fitting

And then the following pics are more close-up shots of the upper cowling & firewall interface.

Chap 19/23 - Wing/spar & Cowling fit

•••

2 February 2016 — If you look back at the pics I took of the firewall back in 2013 above, you can see how the lower cowling hangs down 4 inches below the stock/plans firewall.  As I explained above, Mike Melvill left his NACA air intake in place when he converted to the new carbon fiber cowlings.  Thus, his new cowling was 4 inches lower than plans which makes my lower cowling 4″ lower than my stock height firewall.  Since I decided to not cut up a perfectly good cowling (at least not yet!) clearly there’s a 4″ gap that must be filled in.

So, today I started work on cutting the required firewall extension piece.

I pulled out the box containing my 6mm (1/4″) Finnish Birtch plywood.  The plywood box being easily spotted… recognize it?  It’s the box that I primed all the 2024 aluminum extrusions for the wings & CS spar.  Ah, memories!

Anyway, I pulled out the second uncut 24″ x 48″ sheet that I still have left over from my original order of 2 sheets, but then found the remaining piece left over from when I cut the original firewall.  This piece was plenty big enough from which to cut the 4″ firewall extension.

Finnish birch plywood box

I marked 4″ up from the bottom edge of the scrap Birch plywood sheet, and then placed my existing firewall in place with the vertical edge aligned flush with new plywood edge & the firewall bottom edge aligned with the 4″ line on the plywood.

Determining 4" plywood extension

I then traced the bottom of the firewall in relation to the marked 4″ line across the plywood piece, and then again along the very bottom edge of the plywood piece.  The latter will be the new bottom edge of the firewall.  I then made 3 puzzle piece styled locking tabs to help lock the new 4″ firewall extension in place when it is attached to the bottom of the existing firewall.

4" plywood extension marled up

Here’s a closeup of the “puzzle piece” tabs.  I grabbed a 27/64″ (.421″) drill bit and traced the bottom edge of it to the side of each puzzle piece tab to mark the drill points that will make up the compound curve of each locking tab side.

Radiused locking tabs marked for drilling

I then drilled a smaller pilot hole for each circle I just marked.

Starter holes drilled

Loaded up the mojamma 27/64″ bit . . .

Ready to drill the big holes

. . .  and drilled the holes to make up the compound curved edges of the puzzle piece locking tabs.

Locking tabs' side edges drilled

I then used my jig saw to cut out the rest of the 4″ lower firewall extension piece.  I would have preferred to have a finer jig saw bit, but since it will all get covered with glass anyway, I wasn’t too concerned about a slightly rougher edge.

Here’s the new firewall extension piece mocked up along the lower edge of the existing firewall.

Mocking up 4" firewall extension

And another shot of it by itself.

4" firewall extension cut out

•••

3 February 2016 — Today I marked up the lower firewall to cut for adding the extension.

Marking up lower firewall for extension

I then marked the lower firewall to cut the matching “puzzle piece” interfaces with the wood extension piece.

Marking up lower firewall for extension

After cutting the “puzzle piece” notches in the lower firewall, I then test fitted the firewall extension.

Test fitting lower firewall extension

I then floxed the firewall extension piece to the lower firewall & glassed with 1 ply of BID.

4" firewall extension floxed & glassed

And peel plied the lower firewall extension addition.

Firewall extension layup peel plied

•••

5 February 2016 — Today I mounted the extended firewall to the aft fuselage early on in the day.

Extended firewall remounted

Here’s a shot showing approximately what the new profile of the aft fuselage will be when the plane is finished.  Of course this is upside down, but clearly the width & bulk of the fuselage will be extended aft to create more of a “boat” shape vs. the traditional swoop of the old P-51 style inlet.  In short, my Long-EZ will have the same profile as one that has a NACA scoop intake.

That being said, I will have a 3″ round air scoop, somewhat like James Redmon has on his Berkut 13, that will run from aft of the landing brake and slowly meld into the bottom hell hole area so that it should (still in design phase) dive aft into the firewall and flow into the lower cowling skin.  Thus, I guess my EZ will look a tad different than all the NACA-scooped EZs.

Checking future bottom fuselage lines

•••

21 September 2016 —  Tonight I finally got that lower cowling mounted so that I could mark up the firewall for trim.

Mocking up lower cowling with wings & FW

I had to lean way over into the cowling in order to mark the lower line without disturbing the taped-in-place cowling.

Marking firewall for trimming

I took this shot just to get an idea of what the bottom profile of the plane will look like.

Rear profile with cowling in place

•••

28 October 2016 — I backtracked to finish a step in Chapter 4 that is about 5 years late in the making: glassing the front face of the firewall with 1 ply of BID.  I had held off initially to wait to see if I needed to added any screws, etc. and just never got around to glassing it.

I used the firewall as a template to mark & cut the BID at a 45° bias.

Cutting BID for forward firewall face

I then took the firewall outside and sanded it down with a DA sander to prep it for glass.

Forward firewall face

I set the BID in place on the firewall then pulled it down and wet out just the top side of the firewall face.

Covering forward firewall face

Then I set the BID in place on the top side of the firewall, rolled the BID up towards the top and wetted out the bottom of the firewall face with epoxy.

Covering forward firewall face

I then wet out the entire BID on the firewall face.

Forward firewall face covered with 1-ply BID

With the BID wetted out on the face of the firewall, I then peel plied the entire layup.

Forward firewall face BID peel ply

•••

29 October 2016 — I spent a good half hour between removing the peel ply off the firewall front face 1-ply BID layup and then razor trimming the edges.  The firewall looks good and is very close to getting  mounted.  I do have to do some minor sanding along the edges and a couple places on the front face, and quite a bit on the aft side since I didn’t peel ply it for some odd reason (that was back in 2011, so my memory is foggy on why I didn’t peel ply it! . . . )

Firewall - forward side BID

•••

28 August 2017 — Today, after reviewing a bunch of pics I took of Marco’s firewall and engine compartment, and researching a bit while looking at some other folks’ firewalls, I then reworked the component diagram I have for my firewall.  May seem a bit ahead of the game, but if all goes right I will be mounting the firewall to the fuselage for good here in the next few weeks, and I wanted to figure out internal hell hole (aka “firewall forward”) cable & wiring runs, oil heat line configuration, and component placement.  Obviously, figuring out a close estimate of where all my firewall transitions will be on the engine side of the firewall will drive the placement requirements on the hellhole side of the firewall.

•••

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Project Update

Hi Folks,

Well, Rough River 2017 is in the history books.  A great Rough River all the way around!  Marco’s new GRT Mini & GNRS480 avionics install went off without a hitch, providing an awesome proof of concept for my upcoming panel.  In addition, the myriad of builder tips that I got from Buly, Rick Hall, James Redmon, Terry Schubert, Mike Beasley, Bruce Sinclair, Bill James and countless others were gold in the bank for so many upcoming component decisions and configurations I need to make.

As I mentioned before, I’ve had to adjust my schedule a bit over the past 6 weeks, which of course impacts my goals.  Yes, I will continue to fight in my hope that this will be the final push to get the main assembly of the aircraft completed.   I do plan on having the main structure of the aircraft finished by year’s end.  An aggressive timeline to be sure, but I think it’s very doable.

I’m still working out the finer details of making everything fit inside the cockpit.  Since the vast majority of what I’m doing are all mods, these usually require a lot of in-house R&D, and then trial & error when finally at the install phase.  However, the curve is exponential in that as each component is designed and installed, it accelerates the build because besides just being in the “done” column, it is one less thing to design and build.  Moreover, it’s a variable that has been changed into a constant.

All this is just to say that even though things seem to be going slowly, there really is a momentum building for this project.  These pesky mini-tasks burn time, but as they are finished and systems are integrated, then when the final airframe components builds are finished, this plane will seriously be close to being done. Again, these mini-tasks are definitely time-consuming and a lot more slow going then planned.  But finishing them now allows me to work all this stuff while I can stand right next to the fuselage without having to deal with strakes, or nose, being in the way!  

I have to say that it’s much easier and more fun to build the big stuff that makes this project look like a plane, and I often feel my discipline waining to go build something “cool”.  So, although obviously not as sexy as seeing major aircraft components (i.e. nose, strakes, canopy) being completed, these mini-tasks are oh so necessary for quality of flying later on!  Moreover, these immediate tasks, in turn, will allow me to finalize the configuration of the nose components. At which point I will focus on the building the nose and the canopy.  . . while concurrently finalizing the wheel pants install (nope, haven’t forgot about those!).

Cheers!

 

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