CHAPTER 43 - Mating Wings and Landing Gear

The first step was fitting the landing gear into the mounts. There's just enough powdercoat to make that difficult, but patience will be rewarded here. I used drilling oil and a rubber hammer. I also found that, once started, using the leg's own weight as a ram against the mounts (cushioned by a thick piece of plywood on the floor) worked rather well. The left/right markings were not as described in the manual but were easy to figure out. Once the legs were in, the mount was inserted in a vise and I used the rubber hammer to make small alignment adjustments until I could insert the bolts.

Now the forward bottom skins were removed and the jig hauled out of the garage so that I would have room to install the wings. I had a three day weekend and a clear forcast ending in rain on Sunday evening. That should have been plenty of time, right? I used automotive ramps under the jig legs to level the fuselage. Enlisting Judith's help, I installed the wings into the fuselage. The garbage container shown in the third photo was used as a safety; later I used it, augumented by boxes and an identical arrangement under the other wing, to hold the fuselage level laterally. The fourth photo shows what I hardly dared believe - the rear spar matched the rear attachment perfectly. It's not perfectly lined up due to the weight of the wing, but I easily lifted it and clamped it roughly in alignment. I'll wait to drill for final alignment when I'm ready for final assembly. The next photo shows what it looked like from the street (yes, it's not been leveled yet) which partly explains why it took longer than I thought to finish - every neighbor I had found time to come around and ask questions.

The next photo shows the gear roughly clamped in place, as well as the gear jig also roughly in place. I tried to find angle at places like Home Depot and couldn't get it in the required length and the price for shorter lengths that would have to be spliced was astronomical. Eventually I went to a welding and metal shop and they cut me a piece while I waited, for under twenty bucks. The closeup photo shows the safety strap of tiewrap, the clamp, and a penny that I used for a shim; it was just perfect. The next photo shows the gear mounts clamped to spar and fuselage and the following photo shows the overall arrangement. I'm sorry that I didn't get pictures of me doing the alignment. It really requires a video - get up on the step stool, make measurements, get down, adjust mounts, repeat. I kept doing this until all the measurements were correct, which meant checking them all each time I made an adjustment. Good exercise...

Finally I could begin the drilling. This took about a full day. Drill slow through the steel, fast through aluminum. Use plenty of drilling lube. I got 12" and 6" long bits for the tough to reach spots. Who am I kidding? With the seat ribs in the way, they're all hard to reach. A hardware store bolt in each one. When it was finally done and all the clamps off, I checked the alignment again and then heaved a sigh of relief. Next I removed the landing gear legs in preparation for fitting the forward bottom skin. I had already created a template from aluminum and fitted it over the mounts and then backdrilled the holes in the bulkhead into the template. After that, I attached the template to the bottom skin using the matching holes, then marked and cut the gear hole out. I found I had the enlarge the holes outboard to allow the skin to slip over the mounts but eventually the bottom skin was on as the photo shows.

The next photo shows how I roughly marked some wing locations on the fuselage and the final two photos show me taking advantage of having the spars in place to install the forward bottom stiffeners. I was racing for time at this point, because it was Sunday and the rains were supposed to come. To make a long story short, it never rained on me - it hailed. Pea sized bits infrequently for about five minutes and then I got finished. Judith helped me stow the wings (on the cradle now in the back yard and tarped so we have room for a car in the garage) and we had the fuselage safely back inside before the rain finally came.