Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Prowler Year End Wrap-up

Hello Again,
Thanks for stopping by to check in on us here at the new Prowler Aviation. There has been a fair amount of news since our last post, so lets get started. In this post:

1. CAD Work Continues
2. New FWF Mock-up Update
3. Builder Updates
3A. Ray Seim (Kit #10)
3B. Nicolas Hombruex (Kit #11)
3C. Chuck Westcott (Kit #12)
3D. Bud Tedesco (Kit #16)
3E. John "Cabi" Cabigas (Kit #17)
4. George Is Back On His Feet
5. Looking Ahead

1. CAD Work Continues - We're back on the CAD horse again here. We just finished CADing out the Main Landing Gear. Here's a pic of the 3D composite drawing. Keep in mind that for each separate colored piece you see here, there is a full technical drawing with a 3D representation of that part stored in another file. This picture is a collection of all the the 3D part representations all gathered together in one place, with all parts then placed in the correct orientation relative to each other.
This main landing gear is going to be, hands down, the most complex and expensive part of the Prowler Kit. The retractable landing gear adds a huge level of complexity when compared to most kits out on the market (both in pieces to produce and systems to make it operate). This is where the new Prowler Kits will be "make or break." By this I mean, if we can find an efficient, practical and cost effective way to make these parts - the kit might still be affordable enough to make a go of it. That's where all this CAD and CNC stuff comes into play. If we can make production computer controlled, make it repeatable, and make it (fairly) simple - it just might be a successful endeavor. Time will tell.

2. New FWF Mock-up Update - We've completed a little more on the new FWF mock-up introduced in the last blog update. The most notable new portion of the FWF mock-up is that the engine has been moved back 2 inches and a 2 inch prop extension was added. This was necessary to gain clearance room in the lower forward area of the new PSRU. Geared Drives has confirmed that this extension is acceptable. Also, the stand to hold the engine in place has been completely re-designed. By making the stand more narrow, it is now able to hold the engine in the correct location and still allow the engine cowling longerons to be placed where needed in order to finish the mock-up later. Also new is the change in the upward sweep of the lower longerons (and eventually the skins) to more closely replicate the original Prowler look. Here are few updated pix of the FWF mock-up:Also new since the last post are the upper and lower longerons themselves. I am still waiting to fabricate the side longerons until I can better define what the new exhaust system will entail. There are some issues to sort out relative to the type of exhaust system, the location of the exhaust system, etc. I don't want to spend time and effort to fabricate something only to have to tear it off and start over again (when I figure out,or stumble across, a better design for the exhaust). So this part will remain open for now.
BTW - the exhaust pipes you see in these pics are the ones that George used to test run his engines after assembly. They are much longer and more steeply pitched down than what was used on the current kits. I just put these on to help give some reference, and to use as a basis to start from in considering the new exhaust system.
We are also just beginning our initial discussions with Geared Drives on developing this as a FWF package for them. So far Bud and his crew have been very positive about the Prowler. More to follow.

3. Builder Updates - I have several builder updates to share this time. Some I have new pix to share, some I only have the information - but the news is generally very good and great progress is being made on many fronts. Here ya go (in Kit # order):
3A. Ray Seim (Kit #10) - In early Sep this year, I was able to help Ray mount his engine on this airplane for the first time. By late Sep he had completed some of the initial, basic plumbing hook-ups. Here's a shot: By late Oct, Ray had completed fitting his entire engine compartment and was ready to pull the airplane off the fuselage jig. Here's a pic of Ray and I working on removing the airplane from the jig: And here is a pic of his airplane sitting on it's own gear for the very first time: Here is almost the same shot a few days later with the mostly completed engine compartment installed: Ray does outstanding work! The airplane is currently in Van Nuys, CA having the fairings put on by an expert sheet metal guy. Ray decided to pay to have this part of the airplane completed for him, instead of trying to learn the art of this type of compound bending and working of sheet aluminum. Here's a pic of his templates and fairing lines on the airplane before shipping to Will's shop: It will, no doubt, look awesome when it is done.

3B. Nicolas Hombruex (Kit #11) - The Prowler Kit is now certified in France! Nicolas sent an email recently telling us that the French government has approved him to build the Prowler kit. In his own words:

Hello my friends. Here is my good news. I get a good
email: (11/26/2010):

Suite à discussion avec Mr Hombreux pour répondre à
mes interrogations, la DGAC émet un avis favorable à
l'éligibilité au CNRA du Kit US du Prowler qui peut -être
considéré comme lot matière.

Jean-Marie KLINKA
Project Certification Manager

So now the Prowler aviation Jaguar's "kit" is allowed in

That's great news! Nice job Nicolas. Here are a few pix of some of Nicolas's kit shortly after he received the shipment that was arranged by John "Cabi" Cabigas.Nicolas tells me that he can now start working on his kit with the knowledge that it will be accepted in France and given an aircraft certificate. We look forward to supporting your efforts Nicolas. Congratulations!

3C. Chuck Westcott (Kit #12) - Chuck called a few weeks ago and reported a very successful follow on test flight for his Prowler. He reported that the airplane flew very well, all systems were working well, and the engine was running great. That is GREAT news after the troubles that Chuck has gone through recently with his plane.
He commissioned a very knowledgeable gent from the area to help him overhaul his engine after he started having serious engine trouble approx 18 months ago. They tore the engine down and started over essentially from scratch. The short story is the airplane now has a completely rebuilt LS1 engine with an improved PSRU (new bearings). The most notable improvement was the ignition system. After much research, they determined that George's original ignition system was not very robust and has the potential to ground itself out under some situations. Chuck's engine guy figured out a workable solution and I have distributed that information to all kit owners via our prowler builder's yahoo group. It has apparently made a significant difference in how well the engine now runs. Here's a file pic of the engine work in progress:
Chuck is now going to have Keith finish flying off the 40 hours for the experimental certificate. Good Stuff. Thanks for sharing the helpful information Chuck. Congratulations on a large step forward on your airplane.

3D. Bud Tedesco (Kit #16) - Well, Bud has the most incredible Prowler story so far. About a month ago I got an email from Bud explaining that while on test flight #4 the canopy departed the aircraft at approx. 5,500 ft and about 200mph! Nope, no joke! But that's not the amazing part. When he got the airplane back to base, he called and informed the Sheriff's office in two counties (BTW - he reports that the airplane flies very nicely "sans canopy"). Later that day, one of the Sheriff's offices called and told him that a farmer had found the canopy in a field! But wait - the story gets even better. When he picked up the canopy it APPEARED ALMOST COMPLETELY UNDAMAGED!!!! Turns out that the canopy apparently landed inverted and down on the forward end. This caused the canopy frame to be sprung outward in the forward portion. Using some undisclosed magic, Bud was able to "massage" the canopy back into shape and it is being re-installed on the airplane. Amazing!
Bud has the only Prowler, to date, that has a sliding canopy. The cause was determined to be the latching mechanism on the aft of the canopy. The forward part of the canopy is held by a flange mounted on top of the windscreen frame. The front of the canopy slides into/under this flange in the front and then the aft part of the canopy drops down and is held in place by pins into pillow blocks mounted to the canopy frame. There is a detent used to hold the aft latches in place when closed, but it had apparently vibrated out of the detent allowing the aft to pop loose. The canopy then only had to slide aft a short distance and it departed the plane. The only other damage was a short slice in the fuselage skin in the baggage compartment area on the right side of the aircraft.
Here is a file pic of Bud's airplane shortly after he moved it out of his basement and into it's new hangar this spring (the date on this pic is not correct - it is probably more like Apr/May of 2010).
That is an AMAZING story Bud. Awesome job on getting the aircraft, pilot and pieces all back down and back together safely!

3E. John "Cabi" Cabigas (Kit #17) - Cabi recently sent me some pix and a movie showing his plasma cutting system making his main wing spar cap strips. Here's a sample:
Cabi reports that the plasma works well on the .160" 2024-T3 material for the spars. That's good news. I have only tried 0.040" 2024-T3 so far (while cutting blanks for the FWF mock-up longerons), but I've been very pleased with the results. Good news for future Prowler Production. NICE JOB Cabi and thanks for sharing. Now get retired already so you can really get after that Prowler that is lurking in your garage and hangar!

4. George Is Back On His Feet - I am very happy to report that George is recovering very well from his broken femur surgery. In fact, I went to help him drag the airplane out of it's new home at the Red Bluff, CA (RBL) hangar a few days ago. The airplane hadn't been run in a while and it was a nice day - so we got it out at fired it up to circulate some fluids around in the motor. Before he fell recently, George had completed the annual on the airplane and got it back to airworthy condition. There have been a few lookers, but the airplane is still currently "For Sale." Here's a file pic from last year's Redding (RDD) airshow:

5. Looking Ahead - As 2010 becomes history, we're trying to set some loose "goals" for the new Prowler Aviation in 2011. Here's what stands out so far:

First- GET THE MAIN WING IN THE JIG. We've got to get set up with a sheet metal brake that works. The 8' sheet metal brake project from earlier this year has not paned out so far. Initial attempts to bend anything heavier than flashing material have resulted in poor bends. The brake isn't currently rigid enough to handle bending 0.040" 2024-T3. I'm surprised how tough and starchy this material really is. I think that it actually bends harder than mild steel. Here's a pic of the brake when we were working on it earlier this year. We'll try one more time to add some plate and beef it up, but if it doesn't improve it will end up out the door and we'll purchase a good machine:
Once we get a good working sheet metal brake, we can bend up the outboard wing spar channels and proceed to mount the center and outboard wing spar components into the jig. That will eventually (probably in 2012) give way to producing the wing ribs to place onto the spars.

Second - Continue working on the FWF mock up. Next step is to design and build the motor mounts that will be used with the Geared Drives PSRU and then put those on the mock-up to see how they fit. Then finish researching the exhaust system and complete the cowlings.

Third - Continue to complete the CAD work for all of the parts of the Kit that will be produced by Prowler. This work also lends itself to future assembly manual work - as these 3D representations will make valuable pictures to help describe the "how to" of kit assembly. With the CAD work completed we will also be able to begin learning the CAM techniques to take these drawings and start using the CNC mill to make some landing gear parts.

That's all for this update. Thanks for stopping by to see our progress.
We wish all of you a health and happy holiday season.
And, we look forward to seeing you all back again in 2011.