Chapter 18 – Canopy

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!

My Canopy

Chap 18 - Canopy

Here’s somewhat of a representation how this canopy style will look:

Canopy Style

•••

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:

Wayne Blackler's Long-EZWayne Blacklers 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:

Nick Ugolini's GRT EIS Installation

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.

Chapter 18 - D-deck mockupChapter 18 - D-deck mockup

•••

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:

Old CanopyThe 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).

Desired Canopy

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:

New Canopy

Compared to my existing canopy on-hand:

My CanopyTodd was a champ and gave me a great deal even though I was the one who initially picked the “wrong” canopy.  Once I picked out my new canopy he shipped it out the same day.

[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.

New Canopy

Canopy - SecuredCanopy - with plate!Canopy Overhead Shot

Here’s a shot of the new canopy that Todd had hoped to see!

New Canopy Profile

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).

EZ-Rotary Canopy Latch

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.

Aircraft Extras order

•••

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.

•••

20 March 2018 — Because of the issues detailed above, over the past couple of weeks I have decided to undertake yet another mod (I know, I know . . .!) and build a new canopy latch based on Mike Bowden’s design since his high horizontally-situated/activated latch works much better for my configuration (read: operating space) than does the rotary latch extending down in front of the left-side panel.

Although based primarily on Mike Bowden’s design, I will combine it with the forward latch catch manipulating features of the mystery Long-EZ that I somehow have a pic of, but have not been able to find who owns it or built it.  Coincidentally, as I was compiling a buy list of all the materials I would need to construct this latch, I got a text from Mike Bowden… who graciously provided me a plethora of dimensions that I had asked him for regarding his canopy latch.

•••

18 April 2018 — My goal today was to mock up the lower cowling in its close to final position (as best possible) to check the clearance between it and the engine air induction system… specifically the fuel injection servo.  To better ascertain the position of the lower cowling, I went ahead and set the top cowling in place, which I was going to do in short order anyway to check out the angle required for the intersection with the canopy.

I taped the cowling at the top cowling-firewall interface, and was glad to confirm I have a good firewall fit, with the shape of it matching the cowling shape.

Since I had the top cowling close to its final position (I double-checked the plans, my notes, other builders’, etc. to ensure I had it close to where it needed to be…) I then made some templates to use for the cowling angle interface with the canopy and D-deck/ turtledeck assembly.

Here’s another view of my canopy-top cowling interface angle template.  Clearly there may need to be a curve thrown into the mix as I mount the canopy, but it gave me a good starting point.

I also drew hash lines on the longerons and marked the extended angle of the top cowling contour about 18″ forward of the firewall.

•••

20 April 2018 — Today I started reviewing my canopy install and build plans.  I set the 4130 steel rollover assembly in place as well as the headrest to prep for putting the canopy in place and assessing clearances.

I then grabbed my canopy out of the back room and set in place on two 2x boards. Although the angle was still a tad bit shallower than I’d prefer on the front of the canopy, I still liked this canopy much better than my first one.

Here’s a canopy shot from the front that I was curious to see.

•••

21 April 2018 — I had a lengthy discussion with Mike Beasley, who many of you may know from his awesome website. (Admittedly, there’s not a lot of verbiage on his site, but for the fellow Long-EZ builder the pictures on his website are a treasure trove of information).

Lesson #2 of the day for me was Mike providing me with the finer points of how he constructed his canopy.  We spoke a bit on a few other topics such as throttle and mixture cables, but the near 2-hour long conversation focused primarily on the canopy and nose build.  I am very thankful for the time that fellow Canardians take to collaborate on such tasks as this, and it really does make the build so much more manageable (and enjoyable).

•••

3 May 2018 — I started off today by receiving a delivered order I placed while in NC for a set of new MS20001-12 hinges for the canopy.  After the issues reported by both Dave Berenholtz and Mike Beasley on the smaller MS20001-6 hinges called for by the plans, I figured I would make the decision early to implement these and save myself some pain.  So while down in NC I spent some time scrounging around online to find a source of supply for just a couple feet of these quite expensive hinges.

Then, per my discussion with Nick Ugolini about a year ago, I also determined that to get 30% compression (actually 37.5%) on my 0.2″ thick canopy “B” seal I need to compress just over an 1/16″ of an inch and have a 1/8″ spacer to keep it from going more than that. Again, as per discussions with Dave Berenholtz and Mike Beasley, I planned to build this gap into the left canopy frame side rail that rests upon the longeron so that it’s in place prior to glassing the canopy frame.  The final practical result will be a 1/16″ plate affixed to the left longeron both at the forward end and the aft end, with a matching set affixed to the bottom of the left canopy rail to create the 1/8″ gap for the proper compression of the “B” seal.

As I was running errands today, I picked up a cheap 17″ x 43″ x 2″ thick outdoor chair pad to use in the final dialing-in of my rudder/brake pedals, my canopy height and panel/F28 height (for visibility).  The pad fits so well I think I’ll use it as a rough template for my seat pad when I get to that point (Chapter 26 – Upholstery).

•••

9 June 2018 — I started out today by pulling my table saw out from the outdoor shed and cutting some wood in prep for the the canopy install.  The forecast was for afternoon thunderstorms, so I wanted to get the wood cutting out of the way, and I just made it before the rain started… by about 15 minutes.

One piece that I cut was the forward canopy cross support that will both support and align the forward end of the canopy during construction of the canopy frame.

The actual final bit of supporting and aligning is done with these 2 blocks.  The top, outboard edge of each block has a 1/8″ notch cut into it for the canopy bottom edge to nestle into for alignment.

For the aft side of the canopy, I created the side rails of what will be a spreader, each of which will push out against the longeron, and concurrently the bottom inside edge of the canopy to keep it splayed out in the right configuration during glassing.

Since my longerons are a bit wider from the pilot’s seat bulkhead aft, I glued on a 0.3″ strip of wood at the top of each spreader that will be the actual contact point against the inside of canopy edge to keep the canopy sides pushed outward.  This puts the canopy edge aligned with what would be the original inboard edge of the longeron, giving me (or the GIB really) about 5/8″ more canopy width internally and also creating a wider internal lip to allow for a bit wider canopy rail to interface with the longeron.

Here’s an end view of the canopy spreaders with the added 0.3″ strip at the top of each one.

•••

11 June 2018 — Today, just as I did on the front fuselage side, in prep for the canopy installation I covered up the back seat area with clear plastic to minimize any canopy build nasties getting on anything.

I then noted that I forgot all about the top cowling angle template that I had made up out of cardboard.  Now that the GIB headrest was in place I could no longer set the top cowling angle template in place.

I decided on a simple fix to remedy my oversight, and started by measuring the distance from the top of the headrest to the top edge of the firewall: 0.5″.

I then transferred that dimension over to the cardboard template and cut it at a right angle to match the top line of the GIB headrest which is 90° perpendicular to the firewall.  Voila! Now I have my top cowling angle denoted for the canopy build once again.

I then spent the next couple of hours just getting a feel for the canopy and how it sat free form on the top of the fuselage.  I took a myriad of measurements, checked height, checked width, checked length, and checked clearances forward and aft . . . all to get a good understanding of how the canopy would best fit onto the fuselage.  BTW, I included both pics below since they’re at different angles.

I then grabbed a quick shot from the front.

Then, after finalizing a few decisions, I did the initial taping of both the right and left longerons.

•••

12 June 2018 — In the shop today I started back on getting the longerons prepped for the canopy frame build. On the left side I started by inserting a 1/8″ aluminum thick spacer atop the longeron, the length of what will be the entire canopy frame.  As a reminder, this will allow me to do 2 things: 1) Place a 1/16″ hardpoint both front & aft on the longeron, then also a matching 1/16″ thick hardpoint both front & aft on the canopy frame, which will serve to maintain a 1/8″ gap between canopy frame and longeron.  2)  Inside the constant 1/8″ gap I will lay in a “Double-D” seal that is 0.2″ thick.  Proper compression is around 30%, so compressing it down to 1/8″ should allow for a proper seal of the canopy without crushing or mangling the seal over the years.

Based on my buddy Dave Berenholtz’ report during his canopy build that the 0.048″ thick glass on the BOTTOM of the canopy frame rails is not accounted for in the plans, with the builder being left to fend for himself, I used extra thick Gorilla duct tape for both tape runs here (above and below the spacer) to help account for that glass thickness.

I originally wasn’t going to put any spacer on the right side since it gets hinges… right? Well, as I was pondering the new mondo massive hinges I was putting in place I realized I had to account for the added height of these new, much larger hinges.  They do in fact measure roughly twice the thickness as the original plans hinges (a bit over 1/4″ vs a bit over 1/8″).  Since my canopy frame will not have as much surface area as the plans version, and will have narrower frame side rails, my revised plan is to simply leave the hinge depression on the bottom of the right canopy frame rail the same depth as per plans (0.150″).

The stock plans depression pretty much swallows up the entire closed stock hinge (both halves) whereas on my version it will only eat up half the hinge, with the other half exposed.  Since half of my new, larger hinge is roughly 1/8″ thick, I decided to then also add a 1/8″ longeron spacer and configure everything on the right side canopy frame to be better optimized for using the seal over on that side as well.  I will most likely incorporate the front and aft hard points as well.

The only issue with my modified plan was that I only picked up enough 1/8″ thick aluminum stock to add a spacer to the left longeron.  While I did have a considerable amount left over to use on the right side, I ended up having to rip a piece of scrap wood down to 1/8″ thick x 1″ wide for the aft end of the longeron (remember, from my pilot’s seat aft my longerons are 0.3-0.4″ wider than stock … 1.1″ total width).

As I did on the left, I then taped the spacer in place with extra thick Gorilla duct tape.

I then left the canopy alone until after I get the nose glassed.  Since the front height of the canopy frame will take its queue from the glare shield/drip guard since they intersect, I will pretty much finish the major glassing on the nose and avionics top deck cover before I finish the canopy.  Yes, I was originally thinking I would do all at the same time, but I really have to do it sequentially now since the intersection of the front canopy frame and aft side of the nose cover is a bit intricate.

•••

16 June 2018 — I feel I’d be remiss if I didn’t note that starting into the real, no-kidding canopy build is quite bittersweet due to the fact that my good friend Todd Silver, who I think just about every Canardian knew or knew of, had never actually installed a canopy on a Long-EZ even though he produced so many of them.  He made me promise that when I built my canopy that he could come help . . . well, this one’s for you Todd! (miss you buddy . . . )

I started out today cutting off the myriad of layers of protective plastic that was on the canopy to expose just the bottom and aft edges.

Once the edge was exposed, I used some . . . wha…? Yep, YELLOW painters tape. Supposedly the edge seals much better than the blue to guard against any epoxy wicking up the edges of the tape.  That was of course after I marked the appropriate width of the exposed canopy edge to be mounted into the canopy frame.

However, I suspected that just like the blue painters tape, the yellow probably doesn’t stand up to epoxy any better . . . so I covered the painters tape with duct tape for added security.

I then got to work sanding the edges of the canopy with 220 grit sandpaper, just as per plans.  I honestly planned on using the Dremel Tool like most other builders, but I literally happened upon a fresh piece of 220 grit sitting on my workbench.  Curiosity got the best of me and then I realized it really wasn’t that bad, so I just finished the entire canopy edge using the Ol Skool plans method.

You can see the sanded edge on each side in the pic below, whereas the middle section hadn’t been sanded yet.

Here we have the entire edge sanded with 220 grit sandpaper.

I also taped off and sanded a few key spots on the inside edge that would get hot glued to secure the canopy in place.  I also went ahead and taped and sanded the very aft inside edge because it gets micro’d directly to the foam back there… also so that if the micro decided to run at all, it would be on the tape vs bare canopy.

I then trimmed the front canopy positioning blocks to length (ok, the wrong length, but who’s counting!) and hot glued them in place on each side of the front canopy edge.

I then spent a little bit constructing the aft canopy spreader to keep the sides of the canopy splayed out into position, straight and at the proper elevation.  The canopy spreader sides are the wood pieces I glued up last week, with 0.4″ spacers along the top edge.  These spacers will drive the canopy further outboard so that they sit in the original position for a Long-EZ with standard width longerons…. remember, my longerons are 0.4″ wider from the pilot’s seat aft so this allows me to push the aft canopy sides out further and provides more of internal edge for aft canopy rail support.

I used ACS shipping dunnage cut to length for the internal spacers, and press fit everything together.  Then I hit all the joints with the hot glue gun.

A side shot of the canopy spreader assembly.  Now, I will note that I did have to adjust the front side of the entire assembly up about 1/4″ as I was setting the canopy in its final position on the fuselage.

I also added a 3/16″ spacer on each side on the very back to push the canopy –which really wanted to curl inward on the very aft edge– out just a hair.

Adding the 3/16″ spacer on each side as shown above also dropped the center aft top of the canopy right into perfect position so that it just barely kissed the extended cowling line angle template that I have taped to the top of the headrest.  I know the angle for the aft canopy edge and the turtleback is simply terrible, and it’s one of those things that I’m just going to have to bite the bullet on (and probably 2-3 knots!) since A) this is the only canopy I have, and B) it’s getting installed now!

The next bunch of pics all show the canopy set and hot glued into it’s final position on the fuselage.

I then started cutting out and shaping the blue foam blocks that run along the side of the canopy were it intersects the fuselage at the longerons.

A bit later I decided since it was late and that I was done cutting blue foam pieces, especially since the more intricate pieces at the front and very aft were next and I wanted to be a lot sharper than I was this late at night to undertake those beasts.  However, I didn’t want to call it a night without having something cooking in the proverbial oven!  So I whipped up some micro and set these babies in place… woo-hoo!

Here are the blue foam canopy rail pieces micro’d in place on the right side.

And here are the blue foam canopy rail pieces micro’d in place on the left side.  BTW, for fun I calculated the total edge length of the canopy and as I head off for the evening I know that I am literally 63% finished with the canopy frame… ha!

•••

30 June 2018 — I started off today by spending a couple of hours cutting, shaping and sanding the blue foam blocks for the aft canopy structure, or the “turtleback” as some folks call it, while I’ve also heard it referred to the “D-Deck” as well since it looks like a capital “D” fell over on its back.

Of course there are a myriad of angles going on with each one of these blocks, but since I already have my GIB headrest installed I can’t just stuff this area full of big blocks of blue foam and then hack it down afterwards.  Of course there’s nothing wrong with that way at all, and I’m sure it’s definitely easier than this method.

Here’s a shot from the aft end with the blue foam pieces peeking up above the perimeter edge of the firewall.  To be clear, the foam at this stage has been configured, but not installed in place yet.

After I got the “turtleback’s” blue foam blocks cut and sanded to a pleasing shape (ha… had to throw that in there!), I then set them aside to tape up the GIB headrest structure a little better to protect it from any nasty stuff.

I also taped the longerons, leaving the aft ends exposed since that’s where the canopy structure that will remain on the aircraft side will get secured to.  Again, obviously I’m not doing my aft canopy area as per plans, and that includes the width of the canopy side aft structure, which will be a bit wider/longer than normal, while the structure coming off the firewall will be narrower than typical.  As a reminder, my aft canopy structure is patterned quite a bit after Wayne Blackler’s… although my canopy is way oversized compared to his more stock canopy size.

Since I was using spray foam in between the foam blocks, I decided to protect the aft edge of the canopy where glass will eventually get attached to.  The spray foam has a significantly strong hold and I didn’t want to have to be sanding it off of the aft canopy edge.

Now, I hate to point this out, but it’s another one of those “Sins of the Past” deals in that since my fuselage is a little off-balance symmetry wise, then it makes the canopy –which is following the curvature of the longerons– stick out about an 1/8″ more on the left side and pulls the right side over just a hair as well.  This IS noticeable from the aft side, especially with no engine or cowlings in place.

To mitigate this unsymmetrical dilemma as much as I could, I removed the spacer from the left side of the aft canopy spreader and pulled the canopy’s foam “frame” inboard to align the inside edge of the foam more with the inside edge of the longeron.  I then slathered it a bit with Bondo.

On the right side I simply tried wedging in a razor blade first, to split the glue seam and see if it did anything to get the right aft canopy to move outboard a bit.  It did, so I wedged in a mixing stick, etc. to get the very aft right side canopy to move outboard about 0.1″.  I included both pics since the top one shows the canopy spreader setup.

I then prepped for my craft project of assembling all the blue foam pieces between the aft canopy edge and the firewall to create a D-Deck/Turtleback, et al.  I had in my notes on the canopy build a little tidbit from CP 35 (shown below), and then just recently Mike Beasley also reminded me about using “pour-in-place” foam to secure the foam pieces together.  I should clarify that I used this foam just between the sides [“sides” here defined as actually top & bottom of each piece] of the foam pieces and still used micro on the aft canopy edge and around the perimeter of the firewall front face.

Here’s a screen shot of the first part of the CP 35 Builder Hint regarding using the “pour-in-place” foam.

Ahh, and then here’s the bias a lot companies have against us homebuilders! Basterds…ha!

I wanted to get this knocked out, so I used fast hardener in my epoxy.  It’s HOT here so man did I have to move out to get ‘er done!  But I did, and the micro was starting to get a bit gummy just as I was finishing up!

Here’s a wider angle shot of the freshly added “turtleback” blue foam along with the existing canopy foam along the right side.

And here are shots of the freshly added blue foam to create the “turtleback” on the aft end of the canopy.  I have to say that I was really impressed with that spray foam, and I think it will do well.  To be clear, with the amount & type of glass that is getting laid up in this area, I have zero concerns about using this spray foam.

Another aft shot from the firewall.

And finally a shot from above of the newly micro’d and foamed-in “D-Deck”.

It’s a bit hard to see (at least for the camera since I could see it plain as day), but peaking from under the front of the canopy I could see the seams between the blue foam pieces were pretty solid and by using this method I will have way, way less to carve to prep the interior surfaces for glass.

I then put a straight edge on the top of the newly added Balsa wood and marked the line on the canopy.  With the angle of the nose curving up as it goes aft, it meant that I was going to have to move the line up to 0.9″ on the front canopy edge, up from 0.4″.

I pulled the tape off from around the front of the canopy and then marked the front edge of the canopy with hash marks at 0.9″ from the edge.  In the pic below you can actually see the strip of unsanded canopy above the original sanded strip.  After I re-taped the canopy edge I of course re-sanded the entire edge using 220 grit sandpaper.

I then spent almost 2 more hours getting 2 foam block pieces shaped and micro’d in place on each forward side of the canopy.

Here we have a wider angle shot showing the newly added foam pieces at the front of the canopy and the newly added 1/8″ thick Balsa wood plate on the Aft Nose Cover.

And a head on view of above.

•••

7 July 2018 — I started off today by cutting the glare shield’s aft edge trim/seal to length.  I also tapered the ends so that it flows in nicely at the outboard edges.

[Note the very outboard edge of the glare shield that is situated immediately over the longeron, this is discussed below].

Here’s a shot of the right side cut/tapered aft edge trim/seal of the glare shield.

I then covered the trim/seal with painters tape to protect it from getting gummed up by the duct tape.

I then applied a couple layers of protective duct tape over the glare shield.  After I got the tape on I realized I hadn’t (re)trimmed the very outboard edges of the aft nose cover, along side the glare shield.  These ends are immediately over the longerons and for the canopy frame to be shaped properly they needed to be trimmed in width . . . or at least very close to their final width.

So I peeled back the tape on each side and, using the Fein saw, trimmed off about 0.1″ of the very outboard edge of the glare shield in between the taped in 1/8″ aluminum spacer for the canopy and the aft outboard edge of the Balsa wood on the aft nose cover (no pics on this trimming).

I then laid the tape back down in place.

A side shot of the taped up glare shield…. with the aft edge trim/seal in place.

I then spent about 45 minutes measuring and shaping a block of foam for the center section of the canopy front skirt.

•••

8 July 2018 — Today was all about shaping the canopy frame.

I started off by shaping 4 separate foam blocks for the canopy’s front skirt.  I then used micro and “pour-in-place” foam to keep them all in place.  I most likely would not have used the “pour-in-place” foam except that my underside contours of the canopy front skirt and glare shield/aft nose cover interfaces were a bit sloppy and had some significant gaps present.  Yep, the side-to-side, front-to-back, and up-and-down contours and shapes of the glare shield definitely presented some challenges.

So, I punted and just used pour foam both as a shaping mechanism for the underside of the front canopy skirt (fingers crossed!) and also the bonding agent for two front corner pieces and the very front CL seam of the 2 inboard foam pieces.

As you can see, I then had to weigh down the foam to keep it in place since the expanding “pour-in-place” foam required a bit of tamping down.

Here we have a side view of the canopy skirt front foam pieces weighed down in place.  To be clear, there is micro securing the center pieces to the canopy, each other and to the foam pieces aft of this very front row of foam blocks.

While the canopy front skirt foam pieces cured I then got to work on cleaning up and shaping the foam that makes up the turtleback.  I took my time as to not jack anything up, and got the aft canopy frame and turtleback to about 70-80% of its final state.

With the “pour-in-place” foam and micro that secures the foam pieces at the front side of the canopy cured, I then removed the weights and got to work.

I started by shaping the right side first, starting at the front and working my way aft along the right side canopy rail.

Here is the right front canopy skirt and right side canopy rail nearly sanded to its final shape.

After a fair amount more sanding and tweaking the shape, I finally got both the right and left foam canopy frame shaped.

Here’s a shot of the shaped aft right side canopy frame.

And a shot of the shaped left side canopy frame.

And let’s not forget the turtleback on the left side!

Here we have a head on view of the freshly shaped canopy frame.

And a bit closer view.

•••

9 July 2018 — I started off today spending over 4 hours prepping the canopy frame for glass.

Part of that prep was marking and sanding a 3″ wide depression in the aft canopy frame for a strip of 3″ wide UNI tape, the same that is used for the spar caps.

I then did a rough cut of the 3″ wide UNI tape.

I was going to take a pic of only the UNI tape laid up but I was on the phone and forgot, so here’s a shot of the laid up 3″ wide UNI tape with 1 ply of BID laid up over it and the rest of the turtleback.

After the above shenanigans, I then spent another 8 hours laying up all the external canopy fiberglass following the plans layup schedule.  I then peel plied the layups.

Here’s the aft side of the canopy frame glassed as per plans, with of course 1 extra strip of 3″ wide UNI tape.  To keep the aft canopy from spreading I will add 2 plies of the 3″ UNI tape on the inside of the canopy frame as well.

Now, my canopy is a tale of 2 canopies …. I am extremely happy with the front half of the canopy, the skirt and the interface with the aft nose cover.  Unfortunately, due my slightly asymmetrical “D” shaped fuselage, coupled with a huge oversized canopy, the turtleback is a bit off kilter.  It is simply fatter on the left side than it is the right.  My neighbor, who has a really good eye for detail, had a hard time noticing it standing aft of the plane looking at it, but as with anything, once you see it you can’t “un-see” it!

Then there’s the issue with the turtleback and aft canopy intersection angle.  It is clearly a bit severe and I’ll need to ponder some on fix actions for that.  In talking with Mike Beasley in prepping to construct the canopy, he said to ensure that the line forward of the firewall maintains the upper cowling profile.  Moreover, Mike stated that if the canopy profile and cowling profile didn’t agree, then the turtleback profile should match the cowling, not the canopy.  Thus, as you can see, this is the predicament I find myself in . . . and not caring much for being in predicaments, I look forward to the day when I am not finding myself in one canopy & turtleback wise!!

•••

10 July 2018 — Today was a cleanup day for last night’s external canopy layups.

I started by pulling the peel ply and cleaning up the seam areas of the peel ply.

I then pulled the edge tape off the canopy that last night’s laid up glass butted up against…. and a number of times over.

I then spent the next 3+ hours very carefully cutting away overhanging glass off the canopy edge at the canopy to frame intersections, while also removing any trapped and/or extraneous protective tape.

It took a while, and is a bit nerve-racking work since you have to be close up to the canopy surface with a sharp razor knife to extract the dead glass and tape.  I’m pleased to report that besides a few very, very minor scratches I made with the knife, the job came off without any major casualties (except my fingers of course!).

A little while later –curious to see how the canopy looked!– I pulled the protective plastic off the canopy to take a peek.

I have to say, barring any aft canopy issues that I may have, I am very, very pleased with the size and shape of this canopy.

Again, except for the slightly off center shaped turtledeck and it’s angle with the canopy, I am so far very pleased with the canopy install into the canopy frame.

This shot gives you a good idea of how it will look once the plane is finished.

And the requisite nose shot of course!

A profile view . . .

And one more slightly down angled side shot.

I also grabbed a couple shots of the GIB headrest and the internal turtleback from each side.

 

•••

12 July 2018 — The external canopy layup passed the 48 hour mark for curing, but before I popped the canopy off the fuselage to shape and glass the inside I needed to contend with one of two issues involving the turtleback (aka turtledeck, D-Deck, etc.).

The issue that I wasn’t contending with was the profile angle between the turtleback and canopy.  That will be dealt with once the upper cowling is mounted and I know the exact angle I’m dealing with.

In regards to the other issue, as you may be able to see below –which coincidently I clearly DID NOT/COULD NOT see before I glassed the canopy frame– was that the turtledeck is a bit curvier on the left side, a bit flatter on the right side and a bit deflated on the upper right side.  This all comes down to one thing really:   Sins of the past.

With my fuselage being slightly askew, although virtually imperceptible to the naked (or unaware) eye, it seemingly took its toll on the aft canopy to turtleback interface . . . although I tried (in vain) to mitigate it as best possible before glassing.

A sideline issue that actually helped mitigate the issue above was that the vertical seams between the turtleback and canopy are at different Fuselage Stations, with the right side corner being about 3/8″ aft of the left side.  This actually helped my mitigation actions (note that I didn’t say “fix” actions because the configuration is such that I should be able to mitigate the turtleback imbalance to a good degree, but not eliminate it altogether) since it gave me more space forward for another layup.

Yes, it may be hard to tell, but underneath that strap and all those boards and wedges is a 1/4″ thick piece of PVC foam that will get sanded and shaped down to fill in the low spots on the right side turtleback.

Here’s a closer shot . . . Again, there was no way to completely eliminate the offset of the turtleback without redoing the entire canopy install (that was NOT going to happen!), but I was cautiously optimistic that this would help balance it out to a good degree.

With the aft extra foam piece in place, I then spent about 45 min marking and trimming the overhanging glass from the sides of the canopy, starting on the right side first.

I then did the same on the left.  The edge will most certainly require more work before final canopy install, but so far it’s looking pretty good.

I then spent some time cleaning up the intersection between the canopy front skirt edge and the aft edge of the nose cover.  Again, this is the rough start to this process, but so far the lines are looking pretty good and the elevation glass-wise will be very close between the two structures once I get a ply of BID on the aft nose cover (which I now plan to do after I remove the canopy from the fuselage).  I also took about 15 minutes to sand down the flocro transition around the Balsa wood on the aft nose cover.

•••

13 July 2018 — Turtleback issue defined:

In the pic below, note the 9 O’Clock bulge and the 1-2 O’clock deflation.  I think I unknowingly did this by forcing the canopy bottom corners both over to the right before placing the turtleback foam in place.  Actually, I did notice it, but I thought it was a very slight, minute shape shift. It just wasn’t obvious nor clear that it would become so obvious and prominent after shaping and glassing the turtleback.

Below is a pic of the turtleback unmarked and as it was in its “natural” state.

The turtleback shape mitigation plan:

My analysis of how to minimize the misshapen turtleback, as in the pic below marked up to explain my mitigation plan.

First off, let me reiterate and be clear that my plan was to MITIGATE this off-balanced issue as best possible.  I had NO illusions of completely eliminating it.  The only true fix would have been to rip off the canopy and redo the whole thing, with my entire focus then being how to mitigate this configuration debacle on the aft end vs (again) eliminating it.  And of course risking the chance of screwing up the very nice outcome of the front 90% of the canopy!

Problem #1 was the bulge on the left side, denoted in the pic below with the red oval and the white star being the apex of the bulge.  Note how below the star the canopy was vertical to almost coming back inboard.  Contrast this with the other side (right) where it had a comparatively gentle sloping curve, much more constant in nature.  To be clear, the aft canopy edge drove the shape of the turtleback so the only thing further outboard than that canopy bulge on the right was the 3 plies of BID holding it in place.

The REASON this shapeshifting occurred was most likely my maniacal –and probably misplaced/misguided– adherence to keeping the center canopy elevation even with the upper engine cowling extended contour angle (denoted by the green arrow and line).  If I had adjusted the canopy and let the elevation of the top go where it wanted to naturally, I think I’d still be dealing with this configuration oddity, but just in a less severe form.

Yet another issue, that actually helped in the attempted remedy of this SNAFU, was that for some mysterious reason –despite many repeated measurements– the fore/aft vertical canopy line of the turtleback glass overlaying the aft edge of the canopy was 0.35″ aft on the right side than it was on the left… which I denoted with the blue line.  This obviously meant that the left was more pronounced when looking at the turtleback from CL aft as in this pic because its termination line was 0.35″ forward than the right side.  Which made the bulge even more pronounced!

My plan was a 2 step plan.  First was to fill in the area marked by the yellow dashed line with 1/4″ foam and shape it.  Focusing on trying to manufacture a right side apex (purple line) opposite the left one.  I also very aggressively sanded the left side along the apex line to knock that down as much as possible, since even 0.020″ made a difference.

Part of the deflation between the 12 O’clock and 3 O’Clock positions was that on the left side my sanded depression for the 3″ UNI tape was close to spot on and it was even with the other foam surface, whereas on the right I went just a hair deeper and the UNI tape was not proud nor even, and was ever so slightly sunken… but not enough to affect the glass transition with the overlying BID.  It just added to the depressed/flat/deflated look on that right side.

Now, I said a 2 step plan due to the fact that I felt I could/should deal with the turtleback to canopy angle issue later, after I get the upper cowling in place.  However, IMO I needed to see if this remedy for the right side would work effectively BEFORE I pulled the canopy off to shape and glass the interior surfaces.

One final thought on the remedy to my unsightly creation, which actually wasn’t really a remedy but rather a byproduct of the shape and configuration of my plane’s major components.  The bulkiness, size and shape of the canopy would do a good job of hiding this issue from the front.  It also would most likely be more noticeable with the airplane in the grazing position because it naturally would take more of the canopy’s sheer size –that would serve to block the turtleback from view– out of play.  The other saving grace for my surreptitious cover up here was that the cylinder humps on each side of the upper cowling would serve to block the view of the lower half/third of each turtleback side when viewing it from the back side of the plane (determined by my holding the cowling in place and assessing the aft view with cowling in place).

Clearly what I’ve shown here in these 2 pics was NOT visible (to my knowledge) in any of the pics I took at other angles.  Since you can’t be on separate sides of the airplane at the same time, I thought by adding mass to the right side and mitigate the off balance between the two sides that it would be really hard to get a really good view of this abomination at any other angle other than straight forward or aft of the plane.

Finally, I wasn’t trying to hide bad workmanship and be done with it.  Clearly there were no structural issues at play here and it was my belief that any airflow imbalance will be minimal.  But for the sake of getting this thing in the air, and also to not waste more time, materials, or money, I wanted the best mitigation possible and merely pointed out the view-blocking components as a point of note.  Obviously no builder wants a glaring, non-structural issue being the focal point that eyes are drawn to on their creation as it sits on the ramp!

So I started today by trimming the overhanging cured glass from around the firewall.

Here’s a side shot of the overhanging glass over the firewall’s aft edge.

Here we have the glass trimmed away that was hanging over the firewall and also the 1/4″ thick Divinycell foam that I micro’d to the right side turtleback.

I then did an initial round of sanding on the added foam, as well as cleaned up some micro runs.

Here’s the 1/4″ thick added foam piece sanded and shaped down close to its final shape before glassing.

Here you can see that, although still not perfect, the addition of the foam had taken the shape & aft view of the turtleback from “Ooh, gross!” to “Hmm, it’s not horrible…”

I then micro’d the foam and glassed it with 2 plies of BID.  I used an extra ply to allow me to really hit it hard with a sanding block if need be when it comes time to finish the surface for paint… with the micro finish allowing me to further fine tune the turtleback’s shape and symmetry as well.

Here’s a shot of the shaped & glassed foam added to the right side of the turtleback

This pic shows the newly positioned line of the canopy to turtleback intersection.

Before I got busy sanding and shaping the added turtleback foam, I Fein saw cut the aft edges of the canopy at the longerons.  Here’s the left side, but I forgot to grab a shot of it on the right side before I reglassed the added foam piece.

I also took a few minutes to dig out the foam in the mouse holes on one of the 3 strake ribs that I left out of the last haul to NC.  I’ll try to knock these out as I go about my other build tasks so they’re ready when it comes time to build the strakes in the next 2-3 months.

I also took a little bit of time to take the long sanding board and really finalize the shape of both the flocro transition for the added Balsa wood strips on the aft nose cover, as well as the intersection of the “old” nose sidewalls and the new foam I just recently added to make up the forward nose sidewalls.

[I have some slight “shoulders” on the nose sides right where I added in the new PVC foam when creating the top nose structure.  I sanded these for a bit but I think I have to accept the fact that since I left my original nose sidewalls a bit high and with a vertical surface, that the nose then somewhat sharply transitions into the top curve… this makes for a somewhat abrupt change at the nose sides from curved (top) to vertical (side).  So although curved, it’s not as smooth as I would want.  A minor issue, as I think it has zero affect on nose structure strength or aerodynamics, and I suspect not highly noticeable when the nose is finished to paint.]

Here are some closer up shots of the flocro transitions between the edge of the added Balsa wood and the front/side areas of the aft nose cover.  To be clear, the height of the front edge of the balsa wood was about 1/32″ when I applied this flocro, so there is not a ton of added flocro added here.

•••

14 July 2018 — I started off today by marking the cut line that will separate the turtleback from the aft canopy frame.  To reiterate, not only is the overall combined length of the turtleback and canopy frame significantly shorter on my airplane that per plans, but the ratio is much different in that the canopy frame is longer than the turtleback. This is opposite the configuration than the way the plans has it.

I also cut the overhanging/excess glass from the latest layup over the added 1/4″ foam piece.

I then did a quick mockup of the upper engine cowling to determine where the shoulders of the upper cowling were located –these shoulders are a unique feature of the Mike Melvill CF cowlings.

I marked the shoulder interface and then extrapolated where the turtleback & CS spar portion of the slope that extends from the cowling shoulder would be.  I won’t be using this information now, but I did want an idea of what I’ll need to do down the road to prep for this configuration issue.

Not really having contended with the upper cowling “shoulder” issue and how the requisite forward wedge/coned shaped piece that terminates just forward of the CS Spar front face means that I will have to cut off the lower aft corner of the canopy frame and reattach it to the front bottom corner of the turtleback-to-longeron intersection.  Clearly I couldn’t do it at this point because the releasing duct tape that I placed between the bottom of the canopy frame structure and the longerons prevents any permanent structure to remain at this point.  It simply has to be done one the tape is removed.

After I cut the turtleback-aft canopy frame line with the Fein saw, I then took a few hour break to go run some errands and pick up some 1×3 and 1×4 pieces of wood for the canopy brace that I then constructed around the canopy frame before I removed the canopy from the fuselage.

Here’s the finished canopy frame constructed to remove the canopy from the fuselage.

I ended up having to use Bondo in a few key places to ensure the wood strips along the side would stay in place.  I also used it on each end to reinforce the vertical parts.

I went upstairs for a bit while the Bondo cured, and when I returned back to the shop the canopy was ready for removal.

I have to say that with the 1/8″ spacers in place on top of both longerons, the canopy removal wasn’t that big of an issue.  It took a little over half an hour and I had the canopy off and on the floor inverted.

I should note that before I started in on the canopy removal in earnest, I reached up through the hell hole and used a 1×2 ACS shipping piece of wood to knock loose the aft canopy vertical spreader cross support boards that were wedged and hot glued into place.

Of course there was a bit of a mess on/around/in the fuselage when I removed the canopy, but I had it all cleaned up in fairly short order.

I also cleaned some of the foam gunk out of the channel between the GIB headrest and the interior foam wall (currently) of the turtleback.

I also put a decent sized gouge on the underside of the canopy front skirt.

Speaking of the underside of the canopy front skirt, I have to say I’m extremely happy with how the pour foam filled in the gaps and contoured in spot on fashion with the raised aft lip of the glare shield.

Finally, I liked the way this look so I snapped a shot of it.  Here we have a new version of the fuselage with the canopy off again.

•••

15 July 2018 — Today I set the canopy structure up on saw horses.

And then spent a good while cleaning it up… a lot of dead hot glue and micro needed to come off!

I realized that I just couldn’t add the myriad of layers of flox and BID for the hardpoints with my canopy rails configured like they are . . . there’s just not enough meat to do it, nor is the shape of the side foam (mine are more vertical vs. horizontal) conducive to constructing hard points in the traditional plans manner.  Thus, I decided to add inboard sidewalls just for the hard points and for retaining, restraining & containing the BID and flox laid into each hardpoint.

I peel plied the underside (outboard) side of each BID pad for these 3 front left side hard points (from left: front canopy latch, canopy safety catch, and middle canopy latch) and also the inboard side so that I could add the normal glass layup schedule right over these pads.

I also did a bit of assessing on the right side canopy’s hard points for the 2 hinges.

Finally, I marked the thickness and did an initial trim of the the right side interior turtleback foam (I couldn’t easily get to the left side because it was a bit too crowded on that side…. plus, it was late!).

•••

16 July 2018 — I should note starting off that it took me a bit of research and thought yesterday to figure out that I needed what was essentially an interior “wall” to retain the wet flox & BID that goes into all the component hard points on the canopy frame.  Thus the reason for a layup of 2-3 plies of BID –above and beyond the normal layup schedule– at each hardpoint location.

I started off today with another long round of more refined clean up of the canopy frame.  I Dremelled off a lot of dead micro, and also Dremelled a small trench around the front edge of the canopy about a foot in each direction from CL.  Like the top side per plans, I’ll also lay up the first ply with the glass going into this trench and fill it with flox.

I then got to prepping the right front hinge location for a retainer layup, as I mention above. The plans denote a 1.5″ thick (over normal width longerons… more on that below) canopy frame where it contacts the longerons, but since my canopy rail matches the thickness of the longeron (~0.8″) on the front half, I needed to ensure I maintain (or make) my hard points at the 1.5″ width.  As it goes, at the front end of my canopy frame it’s not difficult to obtain or keep the 1.5″ width for the hard points.

But I digress, back on the front hinge hard points, I used micro on the areas that would not get dug out and then placed raw epoxy and then a patch of peel ply over each actual hard point spot.

I then laid up my prepregged 2 plies of BID over the hard points, and then peel plied that since the final interior canopy frame layup will cover this glass.

I then taped off the back right half of the canopy along the “glass-to” line that matches the exterior glass line of the canopy.  I then sanded the bare canopy edge to give it texture to grip the interior glass when it’s laid up.

Since I don’t have 1.5″ of foam frame here, I manufactured it by shaping a piece of foam that will get micro’d to the existing foam rail.  I made it “L” shaped so that it also rests on the bottom half of the exposed canopy edge, with plenty of room for glass above it.

I then micro’d the additional foam piece in place that then gave me 1.5″ wide on the canopy rail right at the right side canopy aft hinge hard points.  The foam piece extends 1″ beyond the hardpoint segment forward & aft to allow for a transition back to the existing narrower canopy frame.

I then made up another piece, only for one hardpoint, on the other side for the #3 of 4 canopy latch.

[NOTE:  I’m going with 4 canopy latches.  Here’s why:  My canopy goes much further aft than plans, plus I have a longer aft canopy frame.  In addition to that little factoid, I don’t have a good option for keeping/incorporating the middle latch in the same place due to my roll bar frame.  If I move the middle latch forward 2″ than I can just barely clear the frame, but since I have the entire kit from Jack Wilhemson, pre-made, then I only have enough of the long rod (tube) that then forces me to move the aft latch forward about the same as the middle latch.  So, I have much more canopy + frame aft, but then I’d be moving my aft latch forward a minimum of 2″.  I don’t much care to do that.  I’d rather move the aft latch back an inch, move my middle latch forward 2″ and then fill that gap in with another latch.  With a MUCH bigger canopy than stock I think I wouldn’t mind having one more securing latch anyway!]

Here’s the foam piece micro’d in place for the #3 of 4 canopy latch, that will be located just aft of the roll bar frame.

I then cut another piece of foam (quickly, since I had leftover micro) and clamped it in place on the left side aft canopy frame.  This foam piece will of course make up the left aft canopy latch hardpoint.

So, here are the foam pieces (incorrect width! more on that below…) for the aft 2 canopy latches, secured in place with clamps while the micro cures.

And a bit a later after the micro cured…. look nice eh?  But again, wrong width!

My mindset the whole day had been geared towards the aft hinge hardpoint, which, no matter what size the longeron is needs to be 1.5″ minimum width to have a good foundation for mounting the hinges to.

With that in mind, I got busy shaping/curving the top side of the added foam so it made a nice transition into the canopy edge.

I prepped it in the same fashion as the front hinge hard points and as I was finishing up the 3 ply BID layup I was thinking about my next task: glassing the 2 hardpoint retaining layups on the other side…. I then had a DOH! moment.

As I mentioned, no matter what size the longerons are, the 1.5″ wide hardpoint works fine for the hinge hard points, but that is not the case with the canopy latch hard points, which MUST overhang the longeron inboard since the latch assemblies attach inboard of the longeron.  Remember, from the pilot’s seat aft my longerons are a hair over 1″ wide, so a 1.5″ wide hardpoint works for a 0.7″ wide longeron, but not a 1″ wide longeron.  Ugh!  The good news is that I caught my error before I glassed in the retaining layups at these hard points.

Again, having some left over micro, I quickly made up 2 more additions to bring the canopy frame inboard a minimum of 0.35″ to allow enough hardpoint for the latch assembly to attach to.  The foam pieces are a bit thicker than required, but of course I’ll just sand them down to the proper thickness before glassing the retaining layups.

I then got busy digging out the foam and removing the inboard peel ply off the 3 left side forward hardpoints . . .

And the two forward right side hinge hard points.

BTW, although these layups were fairly fresh and I used NO micro on the foam surface where I applied the peel ply, it was still amazingly difficult to remove…. each hardpoint took a good 10 minutes in just removing the peel ply!

About this time in the evening is when everything turned magical, and by magical, I mean it went south ….. a bit.  Kinda weird and still assessing!

I started off by rereading the plans and then proceeded to glass in the 3 hard points along the front left side canopy frame.  I knew from accounts from other builders that 15 plies in these hard points, especially the deeper ones I had, was simply a fantasy and that it required a whole lot more than that.  I gathered up all my BID scraps, whipped up some flox using my “slow” hardener (75/25 slow/fast) to a point where it was right at the cusp of being wet flox (i.e. towards the thicker side of wet flox), and got to work.

Ok, first off, my bad for not taking into account the heat in my shop.  It was HOT outside and well over 80° F in my shop.  Secondly, I had never encountered an issue with a large scale exotherm type event with anything other than using fast hardener.  IIRC, in Germany I had an exotherm with a huge cup of epoxy when I left it sitting there for a good while when I was doing something really big like the wings or fuselage, and one event when I used fast hardener for the filling in the one of the elevator hinges . . . which resulted in it spitting the flox right out of the hole.

But just as I was a few plies from finishing up these holes, I started to see some bubbling around the edges of each hole.  I felt the sides of the retaining glass and it was hot, so I grabbed my thermometer.  I got one reading at 201° F for a blip, but couldn’t replicate it. Most of the readings on all the surfaces on or around the hardpoint layups were in the range 160-195° F.

I had a couple of small leaks around the retaining glass layups going on which had annoyed me since I had to keep wiping up epoxy running down the inside of the canopy (one of the few times I’ve used paper vs plastic, and I got a fair bit of epoxy running down the paper!)…. however, I think these leak areas worked to allow the heat to vent and the layups to stay in place with no expulsion action going on.  I continued to monitor the temps as there was no discoloration of glass on the top side of the canopy frame and no melting foam anywhere.

Out of curiosity I tried to add a bit of flox to the top side of each layup just to use it up and get the final 0.2″ of fill on each hole.  However, when the flox hit the bubbling brew on each hole it just burned out immediately and turned white (as you can see in the pics below).

The layups stayed warm for quite a while, but again, except for one non-repeatable blip just over 200°, I never saw any dangerous temps.  I’ll cut a core out of one of the hard points to see if it is solid [it should be, it was filled with glass] and check to see if the epoxy/flox just cured overly fast or if it burned out.

Having learned my lesson, I then grabbed a can of straight SLOW hardener and got to work on the right front hinge hard points.  Note the duct tape on the front hardpoint… this tape plays a key role in the next part of my story.

You see, as I was filling up the 2 front hinge hard points, I thought to myself the front hard point must be bigger than the back one, because the back one is filling up noticeably quicker with the same amount of flox and glass going in.  That’s when I realized the front hardpoint was leaking and thus harder to maintain the same level as the aft hardpoint.

Seeing that I wasn’t going to win this game, and almost out of flox in my cup, I simply cut a piece of peel ply for each hole and set the peel ply in place.  I would simple finish these holes with flox paste tomorrow and call it a day.  I did a final wipe down of all the epoxy that had run down into the canopy onto my thick brown paper, and knew I’d be back one more time for some cleaning before heading to bed.  And with that, I went upstairs and took a shower.

When I returned to clean up the epoxy mess caused by the leaking front hardpoint, what did I find?!  These hardpoint layups –with straight SLOW hardener– both had some minor bubbling going on around the edges!  I grabbed the IR thermometer again and checked temps (again!) and sure enough, same range as the left side: 160-195° F.  Highest temp I saw on this side was 198° . . .  amazing.  Again, no discolored or burned glass or foam anywhere, just a really hot curing layup. (sorry, no pic of this tonight but I’ll grab one for tomorrow’s post).

So, I cleaned up the epoxy, went upstairs to spend some time uploading the pics for this post and returned about 45 minutes later.  The temps were still fairly high, although significantly cooler (130-150° F), and the epoxy leak had stopped, so I did a final cleanup of the epoxy and pulled out the wet tape and paper from inside the canopy to ensure I had no curing flox or epoxy on the inside canopy surface…. thankfully it was really clean and nothing had really gotten onto the canopy.

All part of the struggle of building these airplanes!

•••

17 July 2018 — It’s interesting that when looking down the road at required build tasks some things pop out as seemingly challenging but then they end up being fairly routine, while there’s other tasks that you barely make mention of mentally, mere background noise, that in your mind should merely take hours but end up taking days . . . in other words, predicting man-hours spent in all the wrong places!

Ahh, thus is exactly the case with the canopy hard points!  Who knew they’d take so long or be such pain in the backside?!  Regardless, no matter how long it took, the canopy hard points are glassed!

I started today by pulling the peel ply off the canopy forward hinge hard points and inspecting the layups…. they looked fine.

I then curved the outer edges and tops of the last round of foam additions I made for the 2 aft canopy latch hard points on the left side canopy frame.  The forward of these 2 hard points was already at the exact width I needed, 1.85″ while the aft hard point needed a little narrowing so I sanded it down to 1.85″ width as well.

I then laid up 2 plies of BID on the forward hardpoint of this pair, canopy latch #3 of 4.

And then also laid up 2 plies of BID on the aft canopy latch hardpoint.

I would like to note that these 2 aft protruding canopy latch hard points (above) are 1 of 2 options that I have for mounting the canopy latch hardware.  As per plans, the standard canopy latches will get mounted with bolts running vertically.  However, if I find these hardpoints too obtrusive, unsightly or the plans method of latch catch installation too problematic, I reserve the right to shave these off and mount new latches (which I would have to cut out of flat aluminum, see pic below left) which would mount with the hardware installed horizontally (pic below right).

Option #2 is a blatant copy of Mike Beasley’s outstanding work that he did on his canopy, which is pretty close in size & shape to mine (from what I can tell pic wise).  I nabbed these pics off Mike’s very informative Long-EZ build site.

One final point of note on my 2 canopy latch options is A) for option #1 I already have all but one set of latch hardware in hand, and B) since these hard points traverse the width of the canopy frame, it’s clearly much easier to lop off the protruding hardpoint section to go with option #2 than it would be to add it later if I wanted to go with option #1.

Moving on.

With the 2 aft canopy latch hardpoint retaining glass laid up, I then spent about 5 minutes per forward left side hardpoint with the Fein saw for an initial cleanup.  Here is the aft most hardpoint of the 3 that had an accelerated curing event (not quite your typical “violent” exotherm).

Here’s the middle of the 3 forward hard points, which will be where the safety catch will get mounted.  I had a pic of the forward hardpoint as well, but it was very blurry so I deleted it.

I will say that trimming off the nasty tops and then digging down into these front 3 hard points proved to be the normal arduous task of trimming solid flox & glass.  Although not pictured, I later dug down into this hardpoint almost 1.5″ and found nothing to be concerned about structure wise.  And given each of these hard points weren’t quite full when I stopped, with about 3/8″ more of new flox and BID required to get them to level with the bottom canopy frame, I’m very confident there is no structural issue with these hardpoints (I did a fair bit of research as well and from what I could ascertain 160-200° curing temps are not damaging in any manner to a layup).

And here we have the 2 forward hard points on the right side for the forward canopy hinge after I pulled the peel ply.  I then hit the hard points with the Dremel tool to clean them up a bit.

I then got to work on the right side aft canopy hinge hard points.

I dug the foam and dead micro out, pulled the peel ply on the inside of the newly applied “retaining wall” glass and prepped them for the BID/wet flox hard point mix.

This time around I decided to avoid any exothermic type reaction so I simply use slow hardener and filled each hardpoint up only about 2/3rds of the way.  I then peel plied each hardpoint.  The plan was after the first round cured I would then pull the peel ply and top off each hardpoint hole in an attempt to minimize any excessive curing heat.

Here you can see the aft hinge hard point holes filled with wet flox and BID, but not all the way.  The layup mixture is peel plied and allowed to cure before another final round of wet flox/BID mixed was added to fill the hardpoint holes level with the foam canopy frame.

I then dug out and cleaned up the hardpoint hole for canopy latch #3 of 4….

And the canopy aft latch hardpoint.

Here we have the 2 aft canopy latch hard points ready for their wet flox/BID concoctions.

It was getting toward the end of the evening and I wanted to get the aft canopy corners cut off since I needed to first use my battery powered “skil” saw to trim down the canopy’s wood support frame to allow access –if you can call it that!– to get the Fein saw in to lop off the aft lower corner of each canopy side.  You can see the visible green cut line. [Note: all the above power tools make a lot of noise, and it was getting late… my community homeowners association and I already have a strained relationship….. so…. ya know!]

I then cut off the lower aft corner of the right side canopy frame.

I discussed this in an earlier post, where I noted I couldn’t just do this during canopy removal because I had duct tape under the aft canopy frame as a release agent.  This piece will be attached to the aft side turtleback (sans duct tape) and will allow the forward part of the upper cowling’s protruding shoulder (faintly marked on the side of the turtleback) to be installed without any clearance issues (if my prognosticating is correct!).  It also provides clearance for the canopy when it is opened with the forward part of the cowling shoulder structure.

Here I’ve done the same on the left side, lopping off the lower aft corner of the canopy (seen in background) to add it onto the left side turtleback structure.

Here’s a tandem shot of the new turtleback additions.

And I couple wider angle shots.  I left the first pic even though it’s blurry to get an idea of how these turtleback lower corner additions will look.

And a final shot of the canopy with the lower aft corners lopped off.  Now, to be clear this is not a design feature dreamed up by me –although admittedly I’ve come up with a few doozies!– but rather the quickest, most acceptable response to having to contend with the upper cowling shoulders and ensuring clearance for the canopy to open without hindrance.  Obviously I only needed this for the right side, but doing both sides makes the canopy and turtleback symmetrical.  So, if you don’t like it, than bicker at Mike Melvill –the guy who designed these cowlings– next time you see him . . . not me! haha!

Ok, so jumping ahead about 5 hours, I finally completed glassing ALL the canopy hard points . . . whew!  As I said at the beginning of this post, I would not have expected these darn things to take so long.

Here’s a shot of the right side canopy hinge hard points.

And the 4 canopy latch (remember, I added a latch) and safety catch hard points.

The aft 4 hard points on the left side canopy frame.

And the aft 2 canopy latch hard points.

Finally, we have the front canopy latch hardpoint, floxed, glassed and peel plied.

•••

18 July 2018 — I started off today spending a good hour cleaning up all the overhanging glass, epoxy runs, stuck on tape, etc. before doing a near-final shaping of the canopy hard points with the Fein saw and hard sanding board.

Below, starting from the left front of the canopy, you have the following cleaned and shaped hard points: forward canopy latch, safety catch, #2 of 4 canopy latch, #3 of 4 canopy latch, and aft canopy latch.

I then got busy making up a thick paper template for the canopy gas strut mounting tab that I decided quite a long time ago would get welded towards the bottom of the right roll bar support tube.

Another shot of my proposed canopy strut mounting tab.  With the multiple angles of the roll bar support tube, it took a number of iterations to get the bottom mounting indentation correct.

This spot on the roll bar support tube sets the mounting tab correctly so that it will be the correct distance forward and parallel to the canopy cross strut, and also at the correct height above the longeron (2″ seems to be the accepted standard…. at least that’s what my buddy Dave B. told me!)

I wanted to ensure I had a good piece of metal stock to make this mounting tab out of, so I scrounged around and found a piece 0.1″ thick 4130 steel . . . perfect!

I then marked up the mounting tab outline onto the 4130 steel.  At this point I just needed to confirm the shape would work and then cut it out!

After getting the canopy hardpoints glassed, according to the plans you place the canopy back onto the fuselage to check the fit, finish and clearances between canopy and fuselage.

So far so good…. everything seems to fit well!

I’ll say again, I’m really happy so far with my canopy skirt to aft nose cover intersection.

I then peeled pack a bit of the outer protective plastic to reveal the canopy strut mounting tab inside the canopy. (These pics are of the same thing…. just a slightly different perspective).

After seeing the amount of space available for my canopy strut mounting tab, I decided to shift the straighter edge from the inboard side to the outboard side, allowing me to move the canopy strut mounting hole outboard 0.5″… more towards the pivot location of the canopy hinges.

I was going to remove the canopy to swap out the original canopy strut mounting tab cutout with the newly shaped one, but then discovered that I could just carefully lift up the right side of the canopy.  I wedged it open while I taped the new/modified canopy strut mounting tab in place.

I then grabbed a shot of the newly shaped canopy strut mounting tab through the canopy. I like this shape much better because it utilizes more available space.

I then marked up the newly shaped canopy strut mounting tab onto the 4130 steel.

And then cut out the actual mounting tab from the 4130 steel plate.  Here are the iterations of the canopy strut mounting tab design below.

I then test fitted the freshly cut canopy strut mounting tab onto the rollbar support tube. You may also note that I removed the paint off of the support tube in prep for welding the tab into place.

I also ensured that with the lower shape of the mounting tab that I could get the tab parallel to the pilot’s seat back (which would be parallel to the canopy cross strut).

I then mocked up the canopy gas strut onto the mounting tab.

With everything looking good, I removed the roll bar from the fuselage and placed it onto my welding table.  I of course had to pull out my welding kit and set it up as well.

A few more minor trims and I finally had the shape of the canopy strut mounting tab dialed in.

I then proceeded to lay down some hideous looking welds, although this tab is now attached to the roll bar like nobody’s business.  Tonight was clearly not a great welding night, although I am out of practice on TIG, and I had a few minor issues.  For one, I was welding a 0.1″ thick straight piece of metal to a 0.065″ thick tube.  So I had to be careful of both getting a good flow of metal while not blowing out the side of the tube, which I did a couple of times but was able to quickly flow in some welding rod to fill the holes!

Also, I had initially just planned on tack welding this tab in place, but then decided to string the welds together which turned out to be just that: nothing more than a string of tack welds!

Another shot of the canopy strut mounting tab welded onto the roll bar.

Well, as I quite often respond when people ask me if I welded something…. “I’m not that great of a welder, but I’m a hell of a grinder!”  So, I’ll grind down just a bit of the ugliness, slather up the weld with Bondo and then shoot it with paint a bit later.  That should do the trick and hide my disgusting welds!

BTW, when I mocked up the tab while on the fuselage, I aligned it with the pilot’s seat back.  Well, not thinking about my curved roll bar base –which follows the curve of the fuselage– when I had it on the welding table I aligned the mounting tab to the roll bar side. Thus the reason the tab angles in slightly on the inboard (left) side . . . Yep, an oops but it makes zero negative impact in the operation of the canopy gas support strut.

Here’s another shot of the canopy strut mounting tab.

This time around I actually mounted the canopy gas strut by bolting it into place.  So far so good!

And a final shot of my canopy strut mounting tab welded to my roll bar.

•••

24 July 2018 — Since it was past 8 pm by the time I got into the shop tonight I felt I should get the noisy stuff out of the way first.  I grabbed the Dremel tool and ground down & shaped the rather grotesque welds I had made to hold the canopy gas strut mounting tab to the roll bar support tube.

Here’s the aft side (sorry for the blurriness, I loaded these after I was done applying metal glaze….) and the front side of the gas strut mounting tab, with my grinding job visible.

Then, with Metal Glaze, I slathered up the welds, transitions, and marks made to clear the paint off of the tubing for the original welding.

I was still settling in from my trip, which included baking another batch of desiccant to re-energize it for the engine dehydrator system.  By the time I had a good window of time to glass the canopy front skirt, it was a bit late.  Tired from my trip I decided to simply prep the glare shield with tape to knock out the layup and hit it hard tomorrow.

•••

25 July 2018 — Having figured out last night how much of the foam needed to be removed for glass, I started today by removing foam and micro from the very outboard edges of the canopy skirt underside.

I Dremelled both the channel groove and the edges and then sanded the bare glass part of the edges with 36 grit sandpaper.

I then spent a good half hour using the Dremel tool to remove the foam down to just shy of 1/16″ as best as I could.  Of course that made quite a mess . . .

After getting the foam removed as evenly as possible –to make room for the 4 plies of BID– I then slathered up the foam surfaces with micro slurry first and then with some thick micro.  On the front and side edges I used flocro, heavier on the flox.

I then laid up the 4 plies of BID just from the aft wall of the groove to the front edge of the canopy underside skirt.

I then peel plied the lay up.

I wanted the layup to be well on its way to being cured before I flipped it back onto the fuselage/glareshield, and it was getting fairly sticky (vs wet).  But when I remounted the canopy –to ensure the canopy underside skirt layup would cure perfectly formed to the glare shield– something was amiss.  I piled a bunch of weights on the very front portion of the canopy skirt, and it was laying down fairly well…. but it still seemed like 4 plies of BID in this configuration should not be that thick.

Well, I finally found a spot on the left side of the canopy frame where I could peer into the right underside of the canopy skirt.  I didn’t see any peel ply and as I had suspected it meant the aft wall of the groove had been caught up into the groove versus hanging freely.  I took all the weights off, had to lever the front of the canopy up… which I just lifted up around 6″ to then straighten out the glass in the groove.  The issue was the aft canopy frame (i.e. turtleback) was pushing the canopy forward as the entire canopy settled into place, so there was very little spacing between the aft edge of the glare shield and the aft wall of the canopy skirt groove.

I tried as best possible to ensure all the glass was where it was supposed to be and then set the canopy back down in place.  I then piled all the weights back up on top of it.  It did seem better, but it may still need some tweaking after it cures.

While the canopy underside front skirt layup cured I then started on the initial sanding and shaping of the Metal Glaze that I slathered onto the roll bar-attached canopy gas strut mounting tab.  The great thing about Metal Glaze is also probably one of its worst qualities in handling, it’s tough when cured so it took me over an hour just for this initial shaping.

Here’s a shot of the aft side initial shaping of the Metal Glaze.  It rained most of the day today, so tomorrow I plan on getting the final shape dialed in at which point I’ll take the roll bar outside and hit the welded on canopy gas strut mounting tab with a couple coats of primer.

•••

26 July 2018 — I started today by removing the canopy from the fuselage to enable her to look inside the fuselage.

I got down to the shop a bit after 5pm and got to work making a PVC foam plug for a hardpoint that I’ll have in the front right corner of the canopy to mount what is essentially a hook to keep the canopy front lip from lifting up in the airstream.

The PVC foam plug is 0.8″ deep and comes to within a 1/4″ of the glassed outer surface of the canopy.

Using a piece of 1/16″ thick G10 Garolite I made a 2x K1000-3 nutplate for the front right corner canopy “hook.”

I also made a K1000-6 nutplate assembly for the right front canopy corner to allow mounting a small 1/16″ aluminum spacer plate on the canopy, whereas another 1/16″ spacer plate will be floxed to the top of the longeron.  Obviously added together they will make up a 1/8″ gap which is very close to optimal for compression of the canopy seal. [The left side has a hardpoint where I would mount the nutplate assembly, so I’m waiting until after the internal canopy frame is glassed to figure it out].

I glued the two pieces above in place using micro and flox and then left them alone to allow them to cure.

I then got busy on the mess that awaited me regarding the canopy front underside skirt layup.  I was correct in that the glass did in fact get folded up underneath itself and thus jammed multiple layers up into the groove and –worse yet– off the aft wall of the glare shield interfacing groove.

It took over 2-1/2 hours to get the front canopy skirt trimmed, cleaned up, and sanded with the extra glass down in the groove removed.

I then set the canopy back in place on top of the fuselage.  The elevation of the canopy vs the aft nose cover looked great…. in fact, at most in any dimension the mismatch is about 0.030″ or less… max.

Here are a couple shots of the canopy skirt and aft nose cover interface . . . not bad!

Since it was getting late, and knowing that it was too late to use the Dremel or Fein saw, I decided to get nearly everything prepped for the canopy forward interior 3-ply layup. Since the layup is “U” shaped, I decided to go with 2 pieces of BID per ply to conserve BID and simply overlap all of them…. below you can see the 6 pieces of BID that will make up 3 plies.

Here’s a wide angle shot of the prep to glass in the next forward plies of BID at the front canopy loop.

If you look closely you can see that I used a razor knife at all the edges that will enable a flox corner.  Since the flox is the only thing touching both inside and outside glass where it meets in the outboard corner, I wanted to make sure that the bond was robust so I’ll wait until tomorrow to Dremel the interior crud off of the inside glass (I can’t do it tonight because of HOA rules and just wanting to be nice to my neighbors!)

•••

27 July 2018 — Today I got to work in the shop on finishing up the prep for glassing the canopy front underside with 3 plies of BID as per plans.  The first task was to finish taping up the canopy edge with first yellow paint tape, then duct tape over top of that.  After taping up the canopy edge to match the external canopy line, I then finished sanding the canopy edge to texture it to grip the BID plies.

I then spent about 20 minutes getting the 2 forward hard points sanded both level to each other and down to the foam canopy side rail elevation.  At first I used the Dremel tool to knock some surface glass off of the front hardpoint.  Then I switched to the “L” shaped Perma-A-Grit tool (still LOVE these Perm-A-Grit sanding tools… if you’re a builder and don’t have them, STOP what you’re doing and order them NOW!  Indispensable when building a foam/glass airplane!!!!)

After getting the front 2 hard points leveled and to the correct height, I then prepregged 2 plies of BID to combat every front line officer’s worst nightmare: “holes in the line!”  Yep, before I placed flox in the channel behind the aft wall of the canopy front skirt groove, I made 3 little mini wall inserts out of 2 ply glass and wedged them into place.

They may be a bit difficult to see, but here are the 2 ply BID mini wall layups placed inside the channel which is situated AFT of the canopy front skirt groove.  These mini walls will keep the flox inside the channel and from oozing out into the groove.

I then spent a good hour microing up the foam and creating flox edges along the canopy frame sides.

Since I had a fair bit of thick micro in a cup, instead of wasting it I then added a LOT of flox to it and created a thick flocro paste –heavier on the flox– to fill in the channel just aft of the canopy front skirt groove (where I placed the mini walls into above).

Here we have a couple shots of the floxed edges along each side of the canopy frame.

I then laid up 3 plies of BID using 6 separate pieces of BID.  The overlap for the first 2 pieces making up ply #1 is over towards the right side (left side in pic), whereas the overlap for the next 2 pieces making up ply #2 is on the opposite side.  The final 2 pieces that make up ply #3 I cut much larger so that the overlap actually created an entire new ply of BID . . . #4, which is situated in the middle 50% area of the layup where the front of the canopy frame is fairly narrow at the very forward tip of the canopy.

After the glass was laid up I then peel plied the layup.

Another shot of the glassed and peel plied canopy front underside skirt.

I then went to dinner with my buddy Rob and upon returning a few hours later I pulled the peel ply and very carefully razor trimmed around the inside edge of the glass that overlaps onto the canopy.

Inside shots of the razor trimmed glass on the interior canopy edge.

I also razor trimmed the glass overhanging the canopy front skirt groove aft wall.  This is of course the initial trimming and cleanup, with a more detailed cleanup coming tomorrow.

Here we have one final shot for the evening of the glassed canopy front underside skirt.  I really like the way the canopy frame transitions into the canopy here and think it will look really good once installed.

•••

28 July 2018 — Today really was all about prep on the canopy as I didn’t get one thing glassed.

I’ve been pondering for a few weeks now just how exactly to deal with the inside aft bottom edge of the canopy.  The blue foam is wide enough back there but the canopy comes down so low that there’s only about a half inch of foam underneath the canopy bottom edge.  I had thought about using pour foam, but I really just didn’t want to mess with building the dams for the walls and edges.

So I started off today by making up some PVC foam “quarter round” insert “molding” to increase the interior foam edge of the canopy and still have plenty of room for the canopy frame rail glass to grab ahold of the lower canopy edge.  Here you can see my testing out the fit of the PVC foam molding, which measure 0.2″ thick x 0.45″ high and is radiused significantly at the top to allow for a better glass transition from foam rail to canopy edge.

Here’s some shots of the first PVC foam aft canopy rail “quarter round” addition that I made up.

I then micro’d the new PVC foam “quarter round” additions to the aft left canopy frame in 3 spots.

Here’s a closer up view of the very aft foam “quarter round” addition on the left side aft canopy.

A little while later I did the right side aft foam “quarter round” additions in 2 spots.

Again, below is a close up of the very aft foam “quarter round” addition on the right side.

In addition, I also took a little bit to finish taping up the interior canopy so that only the edge to be glassed was exposed.  Then I finally finished sanding the interior canopy edge to allow for a good bond to the glass that will secure it in place.

With the leftover micro from adding the foam “quarter round” to the aft right side canopy, I threw in some flox and applied it to the aft end of the 1/8″ thick Balsa wood strips to reinforce the aft nose cover lip that interfaces with the very front edge of the canopy’s front skirt.

I spent a good 45 minutes doing another round of sanding on the Metal Glaze that I had applied to the canopy strut mounting tab on the roll bar.  After I got it shaped down very close to what I wanted I took it outside and hit it with a couple coats of primer.  Clearly there’s still some areas that need working, but with the primer applied they become much more apparent and easier to see.

After cutting the perimeter edge of the foam out and Dremeling the inside of the glass edge to clean it up for a nice flox corner for the entire remaining canopy side rails, I then got to work on the canopy’s front hinge mount.  Since the closed canopy hinge measures 0.270″ at the midpoint, I then set the depth of the hinge notch at 0.140″ vs the plans called out 0.150″.  I then spent another 45 minutes Dremeling and sanding the front hinge hard points to create the 0.14″ deep notch for the hinge half.  Now, this is just the initial round of cutting, sanding and shaping… tomorrow I’ll dial it it so that the hinge sits in the notched canopy rail nice and clean.

Since it was late and I had made quite enough late-night noise, I simply measured and marked the canopy’s aft hinge 0.14″ deep notch.

In addition to all the above, I spent a good bit of time drilling, chiseling, etc. to remove the cured micro that had oozed out onto the firewall when the turtleback foam pieces were glued into place . . . should have used thicker micro!

•••

29 July 2018 — My goal for the day was to get both the turtleback interior glassed (which happened) and the aft canopy frame glassed (which didn’t happen).  I didn’t glass the internal aft canopy frame due to a twofold reason: 1) I need the drip seal on the turtleback to be shaped first, and moreover, 2) there was just not enough hours in the day to get it all done!

I started off today by cutting the set of canopy hinges from the 2 x12″ stock I had on hand.

Although my hinges are much larger than plans (MS20001-12) –which I was clued in on by two of my fellow builders: Dave Berenholtz & Mike Beasley– I still cut them to the plan’s length of 8 inches.

I then test fitted a hinge on the front hinge hardpoint depression.

While I had my chop saw out to cut my hinges, I went ahead and lopped off the angled ends of my 1/8″ thick aluminum bars to make up 4 spacers to place at the front and aft end of each longeron.  For now these little spacer nubs will mimic the 1/16″ spacers that will be mounted to both the longerons and the canopy frame, both front and back, that provide the proper gap for seal compression.

Here are 2 of the 1/8″ thick spacer nubs I cut . . .

And here are a pair of spacer nubs taped in place at the front end of the longerons.

And a couple more 1/8″ thick spacer nubs at the back end of the longerons.  This allows me to get rid of the long spacer bars that I used as the original 1/8″ spacers when constructing the canopy frame and up until today that I was using to maintain that gap whenever I placed the canopy on the fuselage.

After covering a good portion of my shop in fiberglass dust from Dremelling out the front canopy hinge depression last night, I decided for the rest of my messy massive dust-producing canopy frame work that I would haul the canopy out to the side yard…. so that’s what I did!

I then got to work on the canopy aft hinge depression.  Again, I’m making these hinge depressions about 0.140″ deep since the hinges measure 0.270″ at the midpoint when closed.  With the top hinge half buried 0.140″ into the canopy frame, this clearly leaves 0.130″ [very close to 1/8″] left for the other hinge half, and as a close-to-1/8″-spacer for the canopy seal.

After creating the aft canopy hinge depression I test fitted the canopy hinge.  Looks pretty good so far!

With the canopy outside I decided to knock out cleaning up the aft canopy frame foam and original layup to allow for a glass to glass joint back here . . . what I’m going to do is a bit detailed, so I’ll explain it when I do it.  The main thing here is that I got the canopy’s aft frame shaped and ready for glass.

Here’s some closer up shots of the canopy’s aft frame ready for glass.  The narrowed foam on the aft end is for the same type of seal that I’ll use along the canopy frame sides.

Again, before I can glass the aft canopy frame, I needed to get the interior turtleback glassed.  I spent a bit of time finishing up getting all the dead micro removed from the front face of the firewall… due to a fair bit micro oozing onto the firewall when I set the foam blocks in place to create the turtleback.

After I cleaned up the firewall, I did a final shaping of the foam to get it locked in to the right dimensions.

The first step in glassing the internal turtleback really had nothing to do with the existing turtleback proper, but rather the additions of the 2 pieces that I lopped off of the aft lower corners of the canopy frame.  As a reminder, this is to ensure clearance with the forward-projecting conical shaped “shoulders” that extend from the upper cowling.

I micro’d the foam and hit the glass to glass edges with a bit of flox. I then used some finishing nails to secure both sides in their respective places.

Here’s a shot of the interior turtleback additions.  I didn’t trim the additions at this point because I wanted to do it with them mounted in place.

A little while later the turtleback additions were cured enough that I could proceed with laying up the 1 ply of BID that goes on the inside surface of the turtleback and overlaps onto the front face of the firewall, as per plans.  I actually used 2 separate pieces of BID and just overlapped them a little at TDC.  In addition, measuring and cutting the pieces of BID (from the scrap glass pile) was one of the things I did while waiting for the additions to cure a bit.

Here’s some closer shots of each inside turtleback surface on both the left and right sides.

•••

30 July 2018 — Today I started out by spending a good hour cleaning the internal turtleback 1-ply BID layup.  I pulled the peel ply and dealt with the peel ply boogers.  I also razor trimmed the glass . . . one nice thing about a 1-ply BID layup is that it doesn’t matter if the glass is cured or not, it’s EZ to razor trim!

I then got busy cutting up and shaping some scrap urethane foam to attach to the front edge of the turtleback, using both nails and hot glued popsicle sticks.  I then sanded the interior edge of the urethane foam even with the interior surface of the turtleback.

Here you can see the shaped urethane foam pieces held in place with nails and hot glued popsicle sticks.  After I was certain that the foam was mounted fairly securely, I did a final shaping that included rounding over the bottom forward corner with about a 1/4″ radius.

I then taped up just the bottom edge of the foam.  This foam form is to create a lip akin to the what the glare shield up front has, and that will stop any water from leaking into the cabin.  Moreover, it will also be used as a flange for the canopy seal to seat into.

I then prepregged and laid up a 3-ply BID layup around the taped foam form, overlapping onto the interior turtleback glass by about an inch.

Here we have another couple shots of the 3-ply BID layup that will make up a flanged lip around the turtleback for the canopy to seat into.  As you may be able to tell, I peel plied both the tape form before laying up the 3 plies of BID, and then peel plied on the outer surface of the 3-ply layup.  This is to allow for me to pull the peel ply on the top of the flange and layup a ply of BID to both close out the front edge of the turtleback, but to then connect that to the lip flange, adding another securing ply from the top side.

While the turtleback seal layup cured, I then made up another #6 screw nutplate assembly to mount another 1/16″ thick aluminum plate to on the bottom edge of the aft canopy rail. I will then flox an associated 1/16″ thick plate onto the longeron top so that the two plates come in contact and rest against each other when the canopy is closed.  These plates will ensure a 1/8″ gap to allow for proper compression of the rubber canopy seal.

I then got busy cutting the UNI and BID required as per plans for the right side canopy frame rail layup.

I then spent the next 3.5 hours glassing and peel plying the right side canopy frame rail.

Here’s another shot from the aft end of the right side canopy frame rail layup.

I also measured and cut the 3 plies of BID for the aft canopy frame layup.

•••

31 July 2018 — My first shop task of the day was to mark and trim the cured glass that makes up the turtleback seal flange.

Here we have the numerous popsicle sticks with copious amounts of hot glue to keep them and the foam form pieces in place.  Also you can somewhat see the trimmed turtleback seal flange.

I then removed all the dried hot glue, popsicle sticks and foam & tape form pieces.  I then pulled the peel ply from the top/inside of the seal flange and cleaned up the glass.

Here’s another shot of the turtleback’s new addition from the left side . . .

I then test fit a piece of the same black rubber trim that I’m also using on the glare shield edge.  The trim here fit well and I’m good with using it for the seal trim back here.

To configure the aft interior end of the canopy to interface with all this that’s going on at the turtleback, I used some model paint to create a black edge on the seal flange.  I then quickly mounted the canopy and pressed the canopy’s blue foam into the flange on the turtleback . . .

The result was both a black mark left by the seal flange’s painted edge, and a depression in the foam.

It took a couple of iterations to shape the canopy’s aft foam and dial in the interfacing aft canopy and turtleback, but it looked good and I was satisfied enough to start glassing the aft canopy frame.

The pic above was taken with the black rubber trim (red arrows below) in place, at which point I then knew that the trim would fit underneath the aft canopy edge.

I then got to work glassing the canopy’s aft edge, side #3 of 4 sides.  If you look closely in the pics below, you can see just aft of the canopy edge is a greenish line about 5/8″ in width that tapers back into the canopy for a termination point at each outboard end.  That line is a 3″ UNI tape that I essentially pulled apart and made 4 separate 5/8″ wide plies stacked one on top of the other, with each respective/successive ply wet out as it was placed in this “mini-trough.”  This will make a solid fiberglass bow connected to and just aft of the canopy edge.  I then laid up a “normal” 3″ UNI tape that covered this stacked tape with the remaining tape glass positioned aft of the stacked 3″ UNI tape.

I’d like to reiterate that these extra 3″ UNI tape plies serve a twofold purpose:

  1. It reinforces the aft canopy to serve as an ad hoc roll bar for the GIB, and
  2. serves a vital role in keeping the aft canopy shape since I will have no cross structure (arrow stock) across the very aft canopy.

After the requisite minimum canopy layup work time of 3 hours, I finally finished glassing the very aft of the canopy frame.  I then of course peel plied it.

Here are the 2 sides of the aft canopy frame, glassed and peel plied.

•••

1 August 2018 — I started off today by pulling the peel ply off the aft canopy layup.  I then cleaned up the layup and cut off the overhanging glass.

Here’s a shot of the just-glassed aft internal canopy frame.

And a shot of the entire canopy frame so far . . .

I then spent a good hour sanding down the groove on the aft side of the canopy, as well as both the aft canopy edge and the front turtleback edge, to accept the turtleback flange and trim seal.  This of course involved countless cycles of taking the canopy off and putting it back on the fuselage.  I finally got it dialed in and the pic below shows the canopy in place with the trim seal in place underneath the canopy (again).  The significance of this iteration is that now the surface of the aft canopy is glassed.

I then made up another K1000-6 nutplate assembly to place in the aft left corner of the canopy to mount a spacer that will keep the compression on the canopy seal correct. After finishing the nutplate I then carved out the location that it would go in the canopy frame and set it in place.

Again, after about 4 hours total I finally finished glassing the left side of the canopy frame! Obviously this meant that the entire canopy frame wais glassed!!

Here are a couple closer shots of the just-glassed left side canopy frame.  The top pic shows the aft left canopy frame while the bottom pic shows the forward left canopy frame.

Before I started glassing the canopy I had laid up 1 ply of BID into the channel between the turtleback front edge (which also got glassed coincidently) and on top of the existing flange.  This ply of BID will help secure the cantilevered flange from the top side.

I then of course had to check it out with the black trim in place.

And a shot that shows the profile view of the turtleback/canopy flange and the black trim.

•••

2 August 2018 — First off, I started off today by taking pics of both the front and aft intersection of the canopy to show how the intersections worked with the seals mounted on the flanged edge underneath.  Overall, I’m really happy with the intersections.

I then got busy getting the canopy cross brace installed.  I started by measuring and marking the sidewalls at the canopy cross brace position.

I then set the piece of 1/4″ Finnish Birch plywood (same stuff we use for the firewall) in place and took some notes on how it needed to be shaped.  I then shaped each end in prep for installing it into the canopy frame.

I also drilled a couple of holes on each end for the cross brace to better grip the flox that it would get embedded into.

After making the slots in the canopy side rails with the Fein saw, I then test fitted the cross brace piece into the canopy frame.

After verifying the fit into the canopy frame, I then slathered a bunch of epoxy into each side rail slot and installed the cross brace.

I first covered each side with a ply of UNI that overlapped onto each side canopy rail about 1″.  I then wrapped the cross brace itself with a prepregged 2-ply BID layup twice, so that the end result was 4 plies of BID on both the front & aft side of the cross brace.  Finally, since the 4 ply layup in the middle didn’t overlay up onto the side rails, I then laid up 2-ply BID tapes in the corners that overlapped an inch onto the cross brace and the side rail. I then peel plied the layups.

Another wider angle shot of the glassed canopy cross brace.

With the cross brace layups curing, I then got to work on hinges.  After an hour of finagling the angles and trying to fit the proverbial square peg into a round hole –and conferring with both Mike Beasley and Nick Ugolini– I pulled the trigger and set the hinges in place.

Here’s the aft hinge getting the holes drilled for mounting.

Now, when I mounted the aft hinge I actually screwed up during my drilling ops that apparently pulled the front side of the aft hinge inboard by about 1/16″.  Instead of ripping out or messing around with repairing the geometry of the aft hinge, I set about to see if I could mend my mistake by setting the forward hinge inboard just a bit…  I did, although it was a bit further inboard than I would have chosen, but I compared it to one of the original hinges and my pivot point was still outboard of the longeron line . . . barely!

In the end my mistake worked serendipitously to pull the forward hinge in just a bit and lesson the issue I was having placing both hinges on the longeron equidistant from the CL. As it was, I was able to get the hinges lined up to each other (the front of the aft hinge is still maybe 1/64″ off) and, moreover, by pulling in the front hinge a bit I minimized the disparate difference from CL between the 2 hinges to just about 1/4″.  Below we have the lower hinges mounted in both an open and closed state.

I had to run down to Home Depot before they closed, so before I left I slathered a few dabs of bonbo onto each hinge and then set the canopy frame in place atop the fuselage.

Upon returning from my quick outing, I opened up the canopy from the fuselage for the first time via the hinges!  Before clamping and setting a screw in the vertical canopy support board, I cycled the canopy open and closed a number of times.  Besides a very slight rubbing on the turtleback flange with the aft canopy, the intersections and hinge geometry seriously looked spot on!

So I then got busy drilling the screw holes in the hinges and countersinking the holes.

With the geometry and sheer size of my canopy, it really made me have to mount the aft hinge much farther outboard than I had planned, at a much more distinct angle as well.

With the holes all drilled for the canopy bolts and the cross brace cured for a considerable number of hours, I then removed the wood support frame from around the canopy.

After a couple of trial runs I dialed in the open position of the canopy to set and drill the canopy gas strut attach bracket to the cross brace.

Here are some closer shots of the mounted canopy gas strut.

A good shot of the angle of the open canopy.

Finally, with the canopy mounted to the fuselage via hinges, I wanted to show once again how the front and aft intersections looked.  Again, these pics are with the seal trim mounted under the transition flanges.

•••

3 August 2018 — Today was about loading up the fuselage on the trailer to haul it down to North Carolina. [I’m posting this information here since it contains so many pics of the mounted canopy].

I started out by using the Fein saw to cut a notch on each side of the aft nose cover about midpoint where the openings for the canard will be located.  I then spent a few minutes digging out the foam to create a channel from one side to the other.  This channel will be used for transiting tie-downs through the nose.

I then spent a bit of time reconnecting the wiring (with the requisite bit of troubleshooting) for the nose gear system.

I then got to work rolling the fuselage out of the shop and positioning it into place for loading it onto the trailer.

I then wheeled the fuselage into position just on the edge of the trailer ramp, with all 3 wheels positioned so that the fuselage was on the trailer CL.

I then rolled the fuselage up into the trailer and secured it into place.

A few hours and one rainstorm later, I had the fuselage and canopy ready to roll!

With duct tape in all the right positions, I was ready to head off on my trek down to NC.

•••

4 August 2018 — This morning I finally got around to getting over to the storage unit to put the bird in its new cage for awhile: a 10’x20′ storage unit.

One last trailer shot before I unloaded the fuselage.  I have to say I’m loving the canopy. The fit and geometry is still spot on and it’s simply a treat to open & close the canopy…. and moreover to have a canopy mounted to open & close!!

Since the front rollup doorframe of the storage unit is a few inches narrower than the CS spar width I had to do some angling machinations to get the fuselage into the unit, but it still went in without too much effort.

Having not seen my nose or canopy with the bird in the grazing position, I wanted to get a wide angle grazing shot.

And a closer grazing shot….

And finally a grazing shot with the canopy open.

I have to say it’s a relief to have moved the fuselage safely down to NC without any incident.

•••

6 August 2018 — To wrap up the nose build, canopy build, and fuselage move down to North Carolina, I threw together a video to cover these topics.

This video should help shed some light on my build tasks that may not have been as apparent in my description using just pictures and words in my previous posts.

•••

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Project Update

Hey Guys,

Well, the past month or so has been grueling, exhausting, awesome and productive.  The heavy lifting on the canopy is pretty much completed and the nose hardware plan is set to be implemented in the near future.

Of course just this past weekend I hauled the fuselage with new attached canopy in tow down to North Carolina, where I put it in temporary storage.  With the fuselage move task complete, I will now start in wholeheartedly on updating and prepping my house for sale. 

The reality of having to put my build on hold for a good few weeks at a minimum, and again possibly up to a couple months, is here.  But I’ll reiterate what I’ve stated many times before: I will make every effort possible to minimize build downtime during this transition.

Cheers

 

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