It's been a while since I've updated this site and I'm
sure there are some folks out there who are curious about my progress. It's
funny how life can get in the way of your hobby if you let it. Although I have
worked on it some, it isn't nearly as far along as I had hoped.
To make myself feel better, I might as well list a few
excuses why I haven't been working on my plane. In the summer of 2004, my son
came to live with me full time. It's pretty amazing how much of your time a
child will consume when you are a single parent. He graduated from HS in May so
he doesn't need as much attention anymore.
In the summer of 2006 I bought a house and moved. It's on
6 acres outside the city limits. It has a 40 x 48 pole barn that was originally
built for horses. Although I have spent some time on some light remodeling of
the house and cleaning up the yard of fences and trees, I have been spending a
considerable amount of time turning the barn into an airplane factory. It was
built in 1976 and was showing its age. It had a dirt floor and horse stalls
inside with 3 doors cut in the south wall. The tin was beat up from years of
neglect. It had a sliding door that was ready to fall apart. The basic structure
was sound. The poles and the trusses were in good shape. It was very well built
originally. I had a concrete floor poured, installed all new tin and a new
overhead door. I had urethane foam insulation sprayed in. I am currently wiring
it and hanging sheet rock. I will also get central heat and air. You need to be
comfortable right? Also, the closer to home your shop is, the more likely you
will work on your hobby.
In the summer of 2005, I purchased a 1970 PA28-140. At the
time I had a few hours of training and I had soloed in 2000. Originally, when I
started the construction of the Pup, I didn't really know if I wanted to get a
PPL. Then along came the new Light Sport rules and rumors of the FAA cracking
down on overweight ultralights. After some research, I'm convinced no one has
ever built a legal N3 Pup ultralight (if I'm wrong, I would like to know). 290
lbs is the lowest weight I have heard of. I also think the stall speed and top
speed are too fast. I figured I would have to go certified with the Pup so I
should get my license out of the way. I got the hours in through the summer and
fall, passed my written and was almost ready for my check ride when the annual
The previous owner of the plane purchased it in 1986. Like
most airplane owners, he probably had better maintenance on the plane early in
his ownership than towards the end. One of my friends is an IA and there were
some items that needed attention. He came by, gave me a list of what was wrong
and told me to call him when I had everything fixed. It was all pretty simple
stuff so I did what he wanted me to and called him back. He came back to check
my work and lets me know the transponder and altimeter check are due also. No
one at my airport can do the work so I have to get my plane to Mid-Continent in
Wichita. Being a student pilot at the time, all my landings at other airports
have to be signed off ahead of time by my instructor. Newton is an uncontrolled
airport so he considered my solo to a class C airport good training and signed
me off. Because my airplane had to be there anyway, I figured it would be a good
time to have some avionics work done also. I had them replace my transponder and
my radios with a Garmin 300XL, GTX 327 and a KING KX-165. They also installed
new attitude and heading gyros. By the time they were done, my annual was past
due so I had to get a ferry permit to bring it back and I had a friend fly it
for me because I'm not sure about the rules for student pilots and ferry
permits. By this time almost 2 months had past and I was getting pretty anxious
to get flying again. Everything was pretty much finished except for the logs.
One of the first things my IA did before we started any work on the annual was
printing out a list of all the applicable AD's, and checking my logs for
compliance. Everything looked ok to start with but there was some question about
the oil pump AD. It was signed off sort of vaguely but there wasn't an entry
that specifically listed the P/N of the gears installed at the last overhaul.
Time to pull the accessory case and check the oil pump. I thought he was crazy
but he wasn't going to sign off my annual unless it was right. He had me take it
apart and it had the bad gears. He knows the IA that signed off the AD and he
told me the FAA took his A&P away a while back for similar problems. About a
week later, I got it flying again and got my license in January 2006.
In October 2006 I loaned my plane to another friend who
needed to get to Kansas City. He is actually the brother of my IA friend and I
have known them both for many years. Anyway, he gets about 20 minutes away and
the engine starts losing power and altitude. He was on flight following so he
declared an emergency and puts it down on a highway near Cottonwood Falls, KS. I
saw where he landed it and I honestly don't know how he got it down without
dinging it up. He went over one set of power lines and under another, then had
to lift the left wing to miss a sign on the highway. It's a narrow 2 lane. It's
a good thing it was him because I think if it was me I would have ended up with
some damage to the plane.
We did a compression check and one of the cylinders didn't
have any compression so we pulled it. The head of the exhaust valve had broken
in half. Half was still attached to the stem and the other half was MIA. We
figured we might get another cylinder and install it to fly the airplane back
home. The father of the 2 brothers owns an FBO at Newton and he tells us it
probably isn't a good idea to just install another cylinder without
disassembling the engine further because there is probably metal in the intake.
(I have their whole family involved in my little airplane). Anyway, the airplane
was only about a mile from the airport at Cottonwood Falls so with the help of
the local Sheriff we were able to tow the plane to the airport and pull the
engine apart there. Sure enough, a piece of the valve was in the intake tube of
another cylinder. These guys know an awful lot about airplanes! When a valve
breaks like that the air starts flowing backwards through the engine. You have
pressure in the exhaust and a vacuum in the intake. With the exhaust valve half
gone, when the intake valve opens exhaust gasses flow into the intake to the
other cylinders and you lose a lot of power. The engine only had 1350 hours on
it but I decided to overhaul it so for the next 3 months I spent a lot of
evenings cleaning parts, painting parts, repairing baffling and many other
menial tasks to assist my IA with the overhaul. I'm getting quite the education
on this airplane.
As you can tell, I have been living the normal life of a
homebuilder. I suppose it's time to get to the point and describe what I have
been able to get done to the Pup in all this time. The basic fuselage is
fabricated. All the brackets, attach tabs, pulley mounts, fairleads and formers
are on it. The engine mount is done. The tailwheel is on it.
I decided since I was going to get an N number I might as
well put a 4 cylinder on it and make it a Super Pup. I have the N number, N34PV.
I have most of the parts for the engine but it is unassembled.
The empennage is finished except for the bushings for the
flying wire attach points. I haven't painted anything yet.
Right now I have been kind of hung up on the wing. I'm
kind of a sheet metal guy and I really never liked the parts that were available
for the ribs. I made a hydro form block for the full rib like what you can buy
and the parts I have been able to form look worse than what you can buy. Forming
.016 2024 into an airfoil shape is kind of hard. This will never do. I came
across the site for D&E Aircraft and I really like the way they make their Super
Cub ribs. I decided to copy their design with the airfoil and material for the
Pup. My first attempts at the nose ribs have left something to be desired but
I've learned enough that I have a plan that I know will work. After Oshkosh,
I'll make another attempt and when I get good parts I'll get some pictures up of
the good and bad parts.
I have also been working on a 3-D solid CAD model of the
entire airplane. I intend to pre-drill pilot holes in the ribs and leading edge
skins and I need a model to get accurate flat patterns. Also, the plans leave
something to be desired for a number of details and an accurate model helps work
out the problems first before making parts.
Follow the links provided for the complete story and feel
free to contact me with any questions, comments or suggestions.