Aluminum Foiled the Cowl

The interior of N50KB’s cowl was starting to discolor from the engine heat. 8″ wide adhesive backed foil came from Amazon. After wiping the inside with acetone I found the wide foil wrinkled during application. It was cut into 4″ wide strips that worked much better.

Application Method: Cut a strip. Remove about an inch of backing. Align and start sticking. Grab the end of the paper backing from underneath and fold it back on itself while pressing on the aluminum side with a cloth. Slowly pull the backing while pressing with my palm. Follow the fold in its travel to the end of the tape. Burnish as necessary to seal any wrinkles.

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200 Knot Club

In the world of Van’s RV Homebuilt Aircraft there is an event known as “joining the 200 knot club”.  It’s for aircraft that have surpassed 200kts (230mph) groundspeed in level cruise flight.  By far the majority of Van’s RVs have a top speed in level cruise around 175 kts or 200 mph.  So a pretty good tailwind is required.

Thursday 4/7 on a flight retrieving N50KB from Michigan to Florida we (I and the plane) joined the club.  Click on the photos to see the detail.  What a ride!

There was a 72 kt tailwind component at 14,500 ft msl. That plus the 143 kt full throttle (59% power) true airspeed pushed and pulled us at 215 kts over the ground.

215 kts

9.9 gallons per hour.  24.9 miles per gallon. Hooah!!!

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Oshkosh Airventure 2019

Sent a photo of N50KB in response to a query on Vans Airforce forum. Doug Reeves passed it on to Vans Aircraft where Rick Hayes passed it on to Lycoming. I received a call that Lycoming would like to have the aircraft on display at their Airventure booth in Oshkosh.

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Back to Michigan

The paint job was finished on May 17.  Dolly and I closed up the house and departed for Michigan on the 21st; she in her car and I in the Dreamweaver.

It took me 6 hours 38 minutes flying from Florida to Michigan, plus one fuel stop.  Dolly required three and a half days.  She plans on leaving her 2006 HHR in Michigan next winter and flying back with me.




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The prime mission for N50KB during the ’18/19 winter has been to be painted.  During most of the build I have had a design in mind, inspired by some of the spectacular paint jobs seen at EAA Airventure Oshkosh.

In November I started hunting for a professional paint shop as soon as we arrived in Florida. During a visit to their shops, each of three bidders was shown a black and white sketch depicting the design. We had a good discussion of what I wanted and they gave me an approximate cost.

It is amazing the range of prices I encountered.  The highest price was 240% of the lowest.  I chose Fosters Aircraft Restoration located on the Lakeland, Florida airport (KLAL), the home of Sun-N-Fun.  Although the high bidder has an excellent shop, the price was beyond my budget.  The owner of the lowest bid price shop was moving to a new location and could talk better than listen.

I found John Foster easy to work with.  His shop is huge. On my first 12/13/2018 visit there were seven aircraft in the preparation area.  These included two helicopters, a Citation jet, and other cabin class twins.  His reputation for quality work is outstanding.  Attached to the preparation hangar are three large (50′ x 50′ ?) paint booths.  I told John I wanted Fosters to do the job and accepted the three month wait till a March 11th start.

As I write this on May 14th, the painting is almost done.

As part of the deal, Dolly and I were to disassemble and reassemble N50KB.

For the first step in the process Fosters crew masked surfaces that were not to be painted, and ScotchBright scored the aluminum surface. Then an acid wash was applied to promote adhesion of the following coats.  This was followed by an alodyne anti-corrosion coating.  Next as shown below all metal surfaces were sprayed with a two part epoxy primer.


There was considerable body work to be done in front of the tip-up canopy where it meets the front fuselage skin.  I was amazed how the crew was able to make a 1/8″ mismatch disappear.   Further, they were dissatisfied with their first attempt, removed the faring, and did it over at their own initiative.  That has been their approach to the whole process allowing no blemish to exist.  However, each of these steps takes time and the original four to six weeks has inflated to nine.


Near the end of April the white paint had been sprayed.  Dolly and I drove to Lakeland to install the cowl and tail feathers, enabling the layout of masking for color stripes.


I visited Fosters last Thursday and most of the color work is complete with just some small areas to be painted.  It is coming along nicely.

Tomorrow Dolly and I travel to Lakeland to begin reassembly.  Vinyl N number, wing walk material and other decals are yet to be applied.



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Confession is Good for the Soul

The first flight of N50KB, 1.7 hours, was made on June 5, 2018.  All went well except I felt it necessary to file a NASA report for busting the lower floor of the Flint, MI class B outer ring by 100 feet.  Contributing factors were the new airplane first flight and first use of Garmin G3X touch glass panel instrumentation.

That’s not the reason for “Confession” in the title of this post.  Some 12.4 flight hours later on June 13th I managed to do a very very gentle tip up of the plane during landing on a 2700 ft grass strip.  I don’t like to talk about it because I’m supposed to be an experienced tail dragger pilot.  Besides having way too high airspeed ~90 kts on final, I overexercised the excellent Berringer brakes.  The prop made nine cuts in the soft sandy soil  before coming to rest on a blade that broke.  The left wing tip was dragged.

It was an expensive lesson that halted further flight until September 19th.  The engine received a full tear down and reassembly at G&N Aircraft a Lycoming dealer in Griffith, Indiana.  All parts passed magniflux inspection with no problem.

The propeller was a different story.  Only one blade broke.  On the bright side Catto props recommended replacing the broken 68/72 with their new 66 inch diameter and 74 inch pitch three blade prop.  They predict a 3 to 4 knot speed increase.

Repair of the wingtip required replacement of the outboard forward rib and skin panel.  I have been complimented on the quality of the restoration.

Think that is the end of this tale?  Wrong!  On October 3rd I flew to Owasso< Michigan (KRNP) to practice landings.  With the airport in sight the oil pressure warning light lit up red.  An aluminum plate and gasket covering an oil pressure supply on the rear of the engine developed a serious leak.  I immediately landed and still had very low but positive pressure when the engine was shut down while still on the runway.  The airport staff was very helpful and N50KB spent two weeks in a hangar while Dolly and I diagnosed and fixed the problem with a new cover plate from Lycoming.

The plane has performed beautifully for the next 58 hours to date.  Whew!   I feel better already.


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Some Storage Space

The Vans RV7 design has about three inches of unused space between the side-by-side seats.  So, I built an insert to provide storage for sunglasses, handheld radio, drinks, etc.

It is made of 1/4 inch popular from Home Depot that I ran through a planer taking it down to 1/8 inch thickness.  The bottom and sides of the box were angled to match the cabin floor which is not flat between the seats.  The cover shown above fits either of the longer compartments. The smalest compartment was sized to hold my Yaesu handheld.  Overall it worked out well and is a snug fit between the seats.

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First Flights and Phase I Flight Testing

Difficulties, self inflicted and otherwise have been described in an earlier post.  The first and second flights were on June 5th, 2018.

A video of the second takeoff.

And the second landing.

The initial flight testing is known as Phase I and covers the first forty hours of operation where no passengers may be carried.  Other requirements such as a limited operating range are included in the FAA issued Operating Limitations.  The purpose of Phase I is to verify safe operation and establish the aircraft’s performance characteristics which may then be placed in a Pilot’s Operating Handbook.

Due to the problems described in the previous post the summer had drawn to a close and we were wanting to return home to Florida.  I was fortunate the FAA issued a Ferry Permit allowing N50KB to complete the last of Phase I on the repositioning trip to KBKV, Brooksville Regional Airport.  I arrived home on November 16th. Dolly had her first ride two days later.

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It is Coming Together Now

The engine was returned from Lycoming in February and sat until we returned to Michigan in April.  Reinstalling the engine and getting ready for the FAA airworthiness inspector took from April 22nd to May 17th.

Those weeks were occupied by:

  • Ordering new gaskets, oil filters, cotter pins, etc
  • Remounting the engine and reinstalling starter, crankcase breather, fuel servo, throttle and mixture cables, fuel flow sensor, spark plugs, exhaust pipes and temperature sensors, fuel and oil pressure lines, manifold pressure line. cabin heater scat tubing, Pmags, alternators, oil cooler and oil lines, engine fuel pump overflow line, Earthx battery and engine grounding wires, baffling and plenum cover, flywheel, propeller, spinner and 19.5 lb squash plate.
  • Installing a quick drain oil plug on bottom front of oil sump.
  • Redoing the weight and balance.
  • Running a “sparking test” to verify correct wiring between Pmags and cylinders.
  • Rerunning a failed fuel “bottle test” and sending the fuel servo spyder back to AVStar for diagnosis and repair.  There was a manufacturing burr in the #4 cylinder spyder outlet.  Ran the test again and it checked out OK.
  • Checking out the tail wheel hoist built in Florida.  Works Great!
  • Permanently installed faring at lower horizontal stabilizer to fuselage joints.
  • Fabricating a rudder control lock.
  • Designing, fabricating and installing a canopy lock sensor.
  • Installing HDPE canopy closing guides.
  • Test running the engine.

Richard Anderson of the East Michigan FSDO signed the builder’s log and issued the Operations Limitations document on May 25th 2018.

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The Winter of Out Discontent – ’17/18

No airplane to fly.  No airplane to work on.  Waiting for the engine to be returned by Lycoming.  Cold and snowy in Michigan.  Waiting for spring at home in Florida.  What?  In Florida, and I’m complaining?

Hope recovered nicely when I read about a wooden tail lift in the VanAirForce forums.  Having a way to raise the tail of the plane is a great help in draining all of the oil during engine oil changes.  I used Sam Buchanan’s lift photo as a model and built my own as shown below.Tail Lift Jack

The winch mechanism and the castors are from Harbor Freight.  Dolly drove her HHR North in the spring with the lift stowed nicely in the back.

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