Chapter 18 – Canopy
13 January 2013 — I took the opportunity while in Florida to pick up my canopy from Todd Silver in Ft. Lauderdale (there’s a lot of forts in Florida, eh?). Todd’s a good guy!
Here’s somewhat of a representation how this canopy style will look:
30 May 2013 — I had to run out & deliver some items I’ve sold online in prep for my move. Since it was in the latter part of the evening when I got started, I focused on planning out some details on what I call the “D-Deck,” the area at the aft end of the cabin, behind the GIB’s head, on top of the CS spar, and just forward of the firewall. Basically the rear passenger’s head rest area. I would like to build my canopy frame so that the frame continues past the aft edge of the canopy glass significantly farther than stock & have it intersect the firewall in much the same way as Wayne Blackler did on his Long-EZ:
To me, this removes the cavernous area behind the GIB’s head, provides a headrest platform, and an area to hide away electronics (and the fuel tank vent manifold). Since I’ll be using GRT’s Engine Information System (GRT EIS-4000) I’d like to mount the EIS control unit in the D-Deck electronics area much like Nick Ugolini did (shown below, but without the spare battery) and as he discusses on his blog:
I’ll be honest, at first I didn’t like the thought of putting the EIS control head back in the aft of the aircraft. I didn’t really see the light until I spoke with a GRT rep at the Sebring LSA show and he asked me why I would want to mount it up front in a Long-EZ with all that engine probe wiring traversing a good total length of the fuselage (i.e. bad for space, current noise & WEIGHT). The GRT EIS control unit can really get away with one single wire feeding the EFIS all the engine info that is processed, tracked & displayed (which is a lot!). If one wants to be able to upgrade the unit at the front panel with a laptop connection, then they would require a whole ‘nother whopping second wire (vs. Lord knows how many by bringing all the probes up to the instrument panel). Thus, I get a well deserved “DUH!” on that one. Ok, GRT (and Nick) ya’ got me this time, but never again . . . ha!
I started measuring, designing and crafting my D-Deck electronics/fuel vent manifold housing.
1-4 June 2013 — I finished my D-deck mock-up & then made some cardboard and duct tape mock ups of the Electroair Electronic Ignition controller. I placed the Electroair controller into the D-deck mock-up along with the fuel tank vent manifold and just the face-plate cutout of the GRT EIS-4000 control unit to see if there would be enough space. As you can tell, it looks like there will be plenty of room.
28 October 2014 — I’ve been talking with Todd Silver for a number of months now on getting a new canopy.
Why? Well, here’s the story:
The first canopy I got from Todd was one that I went down and picked up out of his shop in Ft. Lauderdale in early 2013 while I was deployed to Tampa, FL. I had wanted a little bit larger/longer canopy so that I wouldn’t have the windscreen up so close to my face, and a little bit taller to have just a little bit more “cabin” space. However, I should have analyzed the shape of the canopy more thoroughly before throwing it in the back of my vehicle and hauling it back up to Tampa.
Fast-forward to late 2013, once I was settled into my job in Qatar, where I had more time to ponder various build aspects since I wasn’t actually making layups or sniffing epoxy fumes. I took my pics of the canopy, traced them out (poor man’s CAD) and then overlaid them onto an outline of a close depiction of my fuselage. I checked this out a number of times from as many angles as I could find. The main depiction of what I found is here:
The canopy profile is very close to a true section of a circle on a standard curve. What this meant is the highest point of the canopy sat behind the rollover structure and really wasn’t adding any usable space, but was most certainly adding drag. Now, to be clear I picked this canopy out of a lineup and the result of my dissatisfaction with it was my fault, not Todd’s. Todd was nothing but exceptionally helpful as I was looking at his canopies. In addition, the shape of the canopy also meant a fairly flat and low profile directly in front of the pilot’s seat, and a sharper curve aft where the canopy met the firewall structure. To be clear on another point: this canopy is beautiful. It just happened to have the wrong characteristics that I was looking for.
Now, I confirmed my misgivings with the canopy when I came back to the states for a couple of weeks from Qatar in March 2014. I hauled the canopy down to my buddy Marco’s shop (since my project–but obviously not my canopy–was in storage) and we trial fitted it on his fuselage. Now, I widened my fuselage 1.4 inches at the pilot seat, but the rest of the fuselage is widened at the same ratio as the original plans fuselage (except my firewall). Being more of a maverick, Marco chose to widen his fuselage 2 inches the entire length. When we put the canopy on his fuselage it displayed and confirmed the characteristics I was concerned about (see pic above), but it also proved to me that the dimensions were just too big, since the canopy was close to being oversized even for Marco’s bigger fuselage.
With confirmation in hand, I approached Todd and let him know my concerns. I sent him the pic above along with this pic below depicting more of the shape I was looking for (BTW, I used Steve Volovsek’s canopy as a style reference).
As you can see, the most “bubbly”part of the canopy is directly over the pilot as it flattens out behind the pilot for a good intersection angle with the firewall.
Thus began a conversation over the next few months about the size, shape, etc. of the canopy I was wanting. Since I wasn’t in a hurry to get a new canopy until after I got back from overseas and settled in, Todd and I waited until I got back to finalize my choice of a new canopy. Well once back, Todd of course delivered in spades. He sent me a lineup of pics of a few different canopies (I think knowing full well which one I’d pick) that were all very close to what I wanted, with one being spot on:
Compared to my existing canopy on-hand:
[Note: I have since sold my first canopy to Chris Seats. Apparently he’s a more bubbly guy than I am . . . ha!]
5 November 2014 — Today I went down to a freight terminal 40 miles south of my house to pick up my new canopy that Todd Silver sent out last week. Todd had shipped out the canopy in hopes of getting a look a the canopy mocked up on my fuselage when he stopped through town as part of his multi-state canopy install tour that he was on. Unfortunately for Todd, he stopped by on Tuesday evening (last night), but since I had originally received an estimated delivery for Wednesday (today), that’s when I picked up the canopy.
Here’s a shot of the new canopy that Todd had hoped to see!
As you can see by the pic above, the new canopy’s profile is excellent and the dimensions are spot on. I am VERY happy with this canopy!
20 August 2016 — During the last week I have been doing some odd & end stuff on the build, much of it stuff I was never able to really put together before since I didn’t have all the pieces parts in the same location.
A note that I’ve had for a while in the middle of my electrical switch diagram states to account for the panel space required by the canopy latch arm that sticks out horizontally into the space near the throttle handle. I became acutely aware of how much space the canopy latch was really taking up when I sat in my buddy Marco’s Long-EZ specifically to note clearances, required reach to cockpit items/switches, and simple ergonomics. It emphasized that the note on my switch diagram truly had merit, and that I must indeed account for this most necessary but intrusive component (pic below is from Jack’s website).
Thus, back at my hacienda, I finally got around to pulling out the EZ-Rotary Canopy Latch kit that I bought from Jack Wilhelmson (eznoselift.com). I first (re-)inventoried all the parts to ensure I hadn’t lost anything over the years. I then did a quick (re-)review of the installation procedures to get a feel of what I was up against. My main current concern was of course the clearance with the instrument panel, and luckily with this setup the bearing block hangs down from underneath the longeron, and not straight out from the panel, thus giving me back the 3-4 square inches that I wouldn’t have been able to use on my instrument panel if I had installed the plans version of the canopy latch.
23 February 2017 — When I spoke with Rich at Aircraft Extras about adding new AG6 warning screens (shown below) to a couple of new chips for me, I added a bottle of canopy cleaner and a tire air nozzle extension to the order to optimize shipping costs.
26 June 2017 — I realized as I was making up a quick sketch of all the GIB controlled electrical components (with the addition of the LED lit fuel site gauges) that I should account for the canopy locking rod & latches. I stumbled upon a discovery that shows yet another faulty assumption on my part, and I’m not sure exactly how I missed it.
The bottom line is that I found that the midpoint canopy latch is supposed to be –as per plans– situated at the front business area of my roll bar. I played around with it for a while, but realized I just had to bite the bullet and will have to move the middle canopy latch about 1.4″ forward. I’ll probably adjust the aft latch a hair forward as well, but at least now I know. Amazing that just this nth order affect took me about an hour to track down (well, technically over 2 years to track down!).
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”) component placement.
Moreover, as I install the canopy I will construct a GIB headrest assembly that will also be a compartment containing the GRT EIS4000 engine management control head and the Electroair Electronic Ignition controller as well. Having a good idea for where & how these component wires transit the firewall is a good thing.
2 September 2017 — Today Chris Seats was going to come up from Fredericksburg, VA to pick up my extra canopy that he’s buying from me, and to take a look at my Long-EZ build. I finished up some errands and was about an hour into straightening up the shop when I got a message from him saying that traffic was way backed up and it was going to take him twice as long as usual to get here, so understandably Chris rescheduled his visit. If any of you know DC area traffic, it can be brutal at times.
So, I worked a bit more on getting my shop squared away when out of curiosity I checked the traffic situation from my side down. Interestingly, if I went down to see him it was going to taking half the time than him coming north. After conferring with Chris, I loaded up the Todd Silver made canopy and hauled it down to Chris’s shop in Fredericksburg.
I got there around 1530 and planned on leaving an hour or two later. Well, by the time I got out of there . . . of course talking all things Long-EZ, it was nearly 2100. I got some great ideas and some really good insight into some common engine components that we both have.
10 January 2018 — I started off this morning reading an email from my buddy Dave in OZ extolling some issues on placing the latch for Jack Wilhelmson’s RL-1 Canopy Rotary Latch system. Dave has too many interfering components, including the left knob on his Garmin GTN650, if he tries to put it in the traditional location just in front of the left side of the instrument panel. Just as a point of note, that was seriously a big primary reason why I went with the GNS480: no left knob except the on/off/vol knob, which is still however my own limiting factor for moving my RL-1 latch up as close to the panel as I’d like.
Well, curiosity got the better of me, so I grabbed my latch and mocked it up… I was aiming for the plans’ ~4″ in my head and mocked it up quickly, realizing immediately after I took the pic below that the longer lever doesn’t reach forward as I have it in the pic, it only just travels between the 7’ish to maybe 1 O’clock position (as I understand it).
I pulled out the installation manual and had in my notes to move the whole canopy latch shebang 1.4″ forward to allow clearance at the rollover assembly and also for the throttle. Dave’s solution looks to be mounting it mid-strake opening, thus turning it into a center controlled latch with the small catches forward and aft of the main latch, where as obviously both are aft on the plans style latch.
Since I can’t really do what Dave is doing (since Dave is building his Long-EZ to fly around the world, he has no fuselage cutouts into the strakes… the fuselage sidewalls are the interior walls of the fuel tanks), my issue becomes one of tight tolerances and clearances.
Although the cardboard cutout I made as positioned below is ~1.4″ inches forward (F.S. 42.6) of the plans’ position (F.S. 44), allowing clearance for the throttle, this position has the short fat rotary latch knob hitting my GNS480 on/off/vol knob. Moving it aft about 0.2″ provides clearance for the knobs, but only gives me about 1/4″ clearance from the outboard top edge of my CURRENT WOT throttle position to the robust, square-edged latch cam I note in the pic above (noted as “#1 issue”).
Thus, I provide Wade’s 3-point plan for eaking out just enough room to make this work:
1. Ensure the rotary latch assembly is driven as far outboard up against the sidewall as possible when mounted to better provide clearance between the latch cam (top pic) and the outboard edge of the throttle handle. BTW, the throttle handle’s outboard edge aligns vertically very closely with the inboard edge of the longeron (if you drew a line or strung a plumb bob and viewed it from top/aft/front), so there is clearance… but I just want more for my poor pinky! Also, regarding the clearance between throttle and canopy latch, the real issue is only during T/O and climbs at WOT.
2. I still need to drop the throttle down when I construct the new throttle lever. With the canopy latch position required to be a hair aft of where I originally wanted it, I may cheat a bit and drive the throttle inboard say 0.1″, and mount it lower (the handle, not the quadrant) the furthest it will go comfortably.
3. There’s approximately a 3/4″ gap between the front of the rotary latch’s smaller fat knob (depicted blue above) and the GNS480 face when the rotary latch is locked and closed. Again, this is approximate of course since I don’t know the exact resting position of this knob, but it is close to what I have shown above. This shorter latch knob will also just barely clear the bottom front edge of the “PWR/VOL” knob. However, since I come in at a slight angle from the right anyway to push the CDI button (XPDR button is inop in my setup), the short fat knob if left alone wouldn’t present a big problem. But by driving the rotary latch assembly as far outboard as possible AND trimming about 1/8″ off the bottom (outboard) of the knob to reduce it’s overall protrusion into my GNS480 op space, I should have zero issues for any 480 button-pushing tasks that may ensue.
12 January 2018 — I started off today discussing a variety of issues via email with my buddy Dave Berenholtz, one of which was parts availability for the canopy latch system. I took the pic below of my Wilhelmson RL-1 rotary canopy latch components to add some clarity to my email and thought I’d include it here.