Scratch Built Annunciator Panels

Some people call them “Idiot Lights”, lights that are on under some condition, and off when that condition is not present.  Pilots may have strong opinions on whether or not they are useful.  Many state that most annunciator functions can now be implemented through the glass panel displays that many of us are installing, and therefore an annunciator panel is just adding  unnecessary complexity.

If forgetting to turn off a fuel boost pump after takeoff, or not remembering to turn on strobe lights before starting the engine makes one an idiot, then count me in.  Our RV-7 is going to have an annunciator panel.  Exactly what conditions will be monitored is yet to be determined.

Inspired by the work of Paul Dye and others, I decided to build my own. Continue reading “Scratch Built Annunciator Panels”



Dolly and I started construction of the RV-7 empenage on November 4th after voting.  72 days later (70 shop days) the tail feathers are assembled except for the fiberglas tips that will be attached later.

This post is the story of building the elevators.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe right and left elevators are identical except for a pitch trim tab that sits in an inboard cutout in the left elevator. Construction starts with the spars and is similar to the rudder,

Counterbalance arms containing lead weights are attached on the outboard edges of the elevators Continue reading “Empennage”

It’s a Learning Experience

Each part of the empenage seems to add a new complexity to the build.  The Rudder is no exception.  It does not have internal ribs like the Horizontal Stabilizer; rather it has light weight stiffeners that the builder fabricates from pre-punched angle channel stock.  Tho lighter in weight than the Vertical Stabilizer the Rudder has many many more rivets.


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANot the best photo, but it shows a pre-punched rudder stiffener being cut  on our band saw.

There are sixteen stiffeners. Continue reading “It’s a Learning Experience”

Let’s build a Vertical Stabilizer


I have an old (3 megapixel) Olympus camera that is now dedicated to recording the build.  I keep it in the tool chest for photos such as these.


In building the Vertical Stabilizer, the first task is to smooth all edges and slightly round the corners of all the parts.

Vertical Stabilizer rear spar and reinforcing plate.
Vertical Stabilizer rear spar and reinforcing plate.









The lightening holes in the reinforcing plate are punched at the factory and have rough edges, as on the center hole shown in the photo on the right.  The other two shiny holes have been finished with a Scotchbrite wheel on a drill and then a hand held Scotchbrite red pad. Continue reading “Let’s build a Vertical Stabilizer”

A Milestone


This week the horizontal stabilizer parts were abraded with ScotchBrite, cleaned with acetone and labeled in Sharpie blue.

Ready for priming.
Ready for priming.

I built a spray table from 1/2 inch PVC.  Wire cloth was stretched between two sides.  The sides with the legs rotate so the whole thing folds flat for storage. The table was placed on a plastic tarp on our lanai  (that’s a screened back porch for you northerners).

All primed and ready for assembly.
All primed and ready for assembly.

Internal surfaces were painted with SEM self etching rattle-can primer.  I chose one part primer for these interior parts for simplicity of process.  Our 66 year old Globe Swift has no interior primer in the fuselage and the metal still shines.  We’ll move up to two part epoxy primer for the cabin interior and other wear and tear areas. Continue reading “A Milestone”

Eleven Days In


The FAA says amateur building is to be an educational process.  It sure is.  We are learning not only new mechanical skills but also new ways of thinking and communicating.

Left horizontal stabilizer skeleton.
Left horizontal stabilizer skeleton.


We are eleven days into the metalworking and have yet to set the first rivet.  The parts in Vans kit are formed and most holes punched, but they all require smoothing of edges, resizing of holes, deburring of drilled holes, etc.

Van’s construction instructions start off being very detailed.  We soon found that details are needed which are not in the instructions and only exist in the plan drawings.



Skin on and ready for match drilling of skin to rib and spar flanges.


We started drilling skins to the ribs following the instructions and not noting that the drawing wanted a smaller drill size than in the previous instruction.  A phone call to Vans gave relief.  It’s OK to use larger rivets (1/8 vs 3/32″) on the inboard rib providing edge clearance rules are not violated.  Fortunately our edge distances are OK.



One hole at a time.

As a result of my drilling snafoo we built a new rule.  Dolly and I will each independently read plans and instructions for any construction step. and come to a common understanding of what is to be done. Continue reading “Eleven Days In”

The Build Begins


The empennage has arrived

The empennage kit was ordered on October 16th, the Thursday before we left Michigan.  The kit  was shipped on the 20th and arrived in Florida three days later.   The boxes were kept closed while we finished construction of an EAA table.  A tool chest was found on Craigslist.  It was in good shape at a pawn shop.  Great deal.

Dolly has become “Chief Engineer” on the proect.  I couldn’t wouldn’t do it without her.

We unpacked Sunday evening the 25th.  Inventory started Monday morning.  We counted all the packages and parts, everything but the rivets.

imageReady to start the inventory.image





Oshkosh Airventure 2014

Camping with friends

Dolly and I drove our Roadtrek RV to Airventure rather than fly the Swift so as to not be distracted from our prime focus on Vans RV building information. It also allowed us to camp with over twenty others from Dalton Airport (3DA), our home airport.   We were the first of our group to arrive on Thursday before the conventionOshkosh_Camping_2012-1.  The site in Ed’s Campground adjacent to the airport and just off the end of the ultralight runway was gorgeous.



Airventure 2014 campsiteA Surprise Decision

Continue reading “Oshkosh Airventure 2014”

Step One


Vans shipped the RV-7 preview plans yesterday. I’ve been reading everything I can find about construction. Hope for a ride at Oshkosh.


Plans arrived.  Is that the beginning of an RV Grin?



This is the Michigan pole barn that is being converted into the RV-7 construction site.  Today I completed a pad and cover for our 20 gal air compressor to sit outside the barn.  There is still much cleaning to do before it is ready to receive the quickbuild wings and fuselage next spring.