Vans RV-12iS Builders Blog

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3/22/18 -  The empennage kit is ordered…  Soon I begin my journey!

This will be a 2 to 3 year part time journey.  Work and family will surely impede progress to some degree.  I have decided to build the empennage at my home workshop and then move the completed tail to the hangar.  I’ll decide based on how this first kit goes whether to build at home, or at the airport.  Eventually, I’ll need to shift to the airport but I’m trying to eliminate commuting time in the early stages and convert that to productive time.  Vans says 900 hours - we shall see!

3/30/18 - The empennage kit has arrived!   

I managed to bribe the FedEx guy to help me get it to the garage (teasing, he did it willingly and I tipped him anyways).   I opened the crate, cut up and disposed of the lid, and then lovingly unpacked everything.  Inventory took a good 3 hours or so (do I log that time?) and not surprisingly - everything is there and it appears is in perfect shape.

4/5/18 - Vertical Stabilizer Build Has Begun

I wonder how many have come before me?  Based on my serial number 121109, there have been 1108 RV12iS’s started before me.  The first time you squeeze a rivet is pictured below.  I bought a build video DVD for the empennage, it has proved a useful aide already.   I look at plans, watch the related video segment and then dive in.  Starting to get a feel for a bunch of new tools.  I bought the RV12 kit at Aircraft Tool Supply (~$1500) and even though I’m a very handy guy, have found myself scratching my head a few times. Generally, between the video and the manual I can figure things out. So off and on the way now, my wife says I’m like a dog with a bone once I get started.  Here’s a couple pics to keep those that are looking from getting bored.

4/6/18 - Vertical Stabilizer Skeleton Complete

Making some progress on this Spring Break week.  Pushing my luck on garage time, but its so nice and cool outside its great to be out there piddling and feeling that So Cal breeze.  Still, I know it won’t continue at this pace!  I highly recommend that video series on step by step RV12 building.  It has prevented me from making countless rookie mistakes.  I finally had to drill out and redo a few rivets, feeling a bit more confident in my skills.  Here is the completed Vertical Stabilizer Skeleton in complete format.

4/8/18 - Vertical Stabilizer Completed.

Over the last 2 days I prepared the main skin and leading edge skin for install on the vertical stabilizer skeleton.  There is a lot of drilling, dimpling of holes and installation of rivnuts to prepare.  When putting on the skins there is a lot of cleco’s to install to check for fit and then a whole lot of riveting.  I busted out my ATS pneumatic pop riveter which makes riveting an absolute ease (and saves my hand).  This is a must have tool, and it comes standard as part of the RV12 Tool Kit that Aircraft Tool Supply sells.  So far, everytime I needed something, its been in that tool box.   Things have gone smoothly so far.  Beginning to wonder where I’ll store completed subassemblies without them getting damaged.  Very light, very strong but also thin and susceptable to dings from an errant tool or kid :-)

  Using Hand Squeezer with dimple dies.  You can see finished holes at the top, and unfished below.  These are rivnut attach points.

Cleco the skin to the skeleton then work from leading edge to rear (top to bottom given the way this vertical stabilizer is laying down. The Air Riveter (blue thing) is a fabulous way to rivet.  Pic below is the completed vertical stabilizer.

04/14/18  Rudder Construction

The rudder construction is very similar to the vertical stabilizer.  Once a builder has tackled the stabilizer, you are very comfortable and well prepared to knock out the rudder.   No issues or problems, but a lot more squeeze rivets on this small structure.  Clearly, just based on what I see in terms of engineering / construction, the rudder faces much more in flight stress than the stabilizer its attached to!  One thing about building a plane - you literally know every rivet, spar and bolt!

  Upper rudder attach point shown here - 20 squeeze rivets hold this section together!  

  Showing the completed rudder skeleton

  Attaching the rudder skin

Above:  Vertical Stabilizer and Rudder side by side - starting to look like the tail of an airplane!

Below: Anti-Servo Tabs for the Horizontal Stabiliator starting to take shape

Anti-Servo Tabs for the Horizontal Stabilator completed -  Time to build the actual stabilator next.   There was a recent SB that came out, trying to determine how to incorporate into the build so I only do it once.

04/22/18 - Horizontal Stabilator Build

I have spent the last week building the horizontal stabilator.  A lot of work on this one.  Build the skeleton, lots of drilling, deburring, temporary assembly, match drilling blah blah blah.   I also had to figure out how to incorporate a recent service bulletin (SB-18-02-02) into the build so I didn’t have to build, dissasemble and then rebuild again.  Skills are getting pretty good.  I’m definitely faster at all aspects of metalworking.  

This picture shows good detail of how I incorporated Service Bulletin 18-02-02 into the build of the stabilator.  The SB would have caused 9 hours of rework on a finished stabilator so I took pains to incorporate it into the original build (Van’s intent).  The SB came out recently and was added to my empennage kit as an “add on” with its own retrofit instructions but the intial build instructions had not yet been updated so that required my careful comparison in order to build once, instead of twice!  (success).  Here you can see the new hinge brackets with stiffiners on top, bottom and sides.  You can also see the doublers under the control horn.

05/06/2018 - Tailcone Build - Ribs and Rear Bulkhead

My first wooden crate doesn’t have many pieces left in it, mostly skins so I’m guessing that I must be 70 to 80% done with the empennage kit at this point.   This week there were many hours doing tiedious prep work on the tail cone ribs and primarily the rear bulkhead where the horizontal stabilator attached to the tailcone.  My knuckles and fingers are feeling the pain of having to install a boatload of squeeze rivets in a short time period.  I’m now ready to build the tailcone by adding the skins to the ribs and rear bulkhead so future entries should show a lot of visual progress. 

05/06/18 Tailcone Bottom

Pictures are self explanatory.  Prepared bottom skins, joined ribs and did a gazillion pop rivets to hold it all together.  Big airplane parts are starting to clog my man cave!

05/12/2018 Tailcone Nearing Completion

OK, making progress on the tailcone.  Side skins on, upper skins on, pitot and static air tubes run to side vents, cable for electric trim is run, everything is riveted.  Only the top skin remains, then its time to put all the major subassemblies together and call the tail a wrap!  Crate is empty now, I suppose I ought to order the next kit.  Hmm, should I do the wings next or the fuselage?  Most do the wings although nothing requires it.  Here are some pics of the recent building activity over the last week.

To give a reference on size, the workbenches supporting the tailcone are 10’ long in total.  The tailcone itself is about 9.5’.

5/19/18 - Vertical Stabilizer and Rudder Attached!

OK, spent about 4 hours today removing the vertical stabilizer (it was previously only mounted temporarily per the manual to test and adjust fit.  Everything is now mounted, bolts are torqued to spec and then the rudder was also attached and torqued to spec.  Next up is the horizontal stabilator.  I’ll mount that to make sure it all fits but to move this puppy to the hangar I will need to remove it and reattach once I get there.   Still debating on whether to do fuselage next or wings.   Wings once built, will just sit on a wing cart until I’m about all done.  Fuselage would let me attach to tailcone, do avionics and finish kit if I wanted.  The debate in my brain continues!

5/20/18 - Horizontal Stabilator Attached!   

Still several hours of work left to do.  Need to attached fiberglass tips on horizontal stabilator, top of rudder and vertical stabilizer.  Also need to put on the trim tabs and finish mounting the electric trim box.  Still, for a small plane, this darn thing is massive inside my 20’x20’ garage workshop!

05/26/18 AST (Anti-Servo Tab) Installed on Stabilator


OK Folks…   Between trips to Italy (Venice, Florence, Sienna, Gargonza, Rome) and Hawaii…  Not to mention the heat and a busy work schedule I took a couple months off the project.  Soon as the heat breaks, I’ll pick back up where I left off.  

Check Back Later for Further Updates!