Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Summer's Over - Finally Some Time In The Shop!!!

Well, another crazy summer has gone by - and it was a pretty good summer.  I've got a lot of items for this update - so let's get started.  In this update:
1. Loss of Bud Warren and his daughter Phyllis Ridings of GearedDrives
2. Introducing the "MotionMonster" 
3. Making Room In The Shop 
4. AirVenture 2011
5. Builder Updates:
    5A. Builder Visit with Bryan 
    5B. Builder Visit with Rick 
    5B. Chuck's Accident
    5C. Bud's Oil Problem
    5D. Steve's Mods
    5E. Nicolas Inventory
6. My Kids Experience EAA Young Eagles

1. Loss of Bud Warren and his daughter Phyllis Ridings of GearedDrives - The experimental aircraft and alternative engine community suffered a great loss this past May.  Bud Warren was the owner, designer, and chief technician of GearedDrives, a company that makes a PSRU (and FWF solutions) for experimental aviation alternative engines.  His daughter Phyllis was his business partner and assistant.  The were both fatally injured in a crash of a customers aircraft.  Here is the NTSB's preliminary report:
As you might recall, I built a Prowler FWF mock-up using a full size mock-up of Bud's PSRU to see if it would fit into the un-altered Prowler engine compartment.  It will work and I was really planning on using the GearedDrives FWF solution to power our Prowlers.  This plan is now on hold pending the disposition of GearedDrives.  I have been told that there are at least 2 individuals that are insistent on keeping the company going.  Time will tell.
Regardless the final outcome, we are saddened by the loss of these two wonderful individuals and we would like to convey our condolences to the family and friends of Bud and Phyllis.
2. Introducing the "MotionMonster"   -  After searching for months, I finally found the next machine for Prowler Aviation.  It is a 4' x 8' CNC router system that was built by a company called MotionMaster.  Since this machine is pretty large (13'x8.5' and 5 tons), we have nicknamed it the MotionMonster.  MotionMaster no longer exists, but there are quite a few of there machines still out there, both in use and for sale at used equipment dealers.  I purchased mine in a liquidation sale from a specialty plastics company in San Bernardino, CA in an "as is, where is" condition.  This caused a very impromptu, 3-day excursion to get the machine and haul it back to the shop. Here is the machine as it sat in the plastics shop before the move:
Here are some pix of the move:
 Here is the MotionMonster after about a 10 days of reconstruction in the shop.  The work required to get the machine to this point included; days of searching info online, 3 days of tracing individual wires, splicing a GOB of wires, building an RS232 patch cord and loading laptop software to talk to the controller computer, reformatting the X and Y axis servo controllers, cleaning and lubing X, Y & Z linear motion components, remounting the spindle, more days of reading the controller manuals (installation and programming), etc., etc., Here's the pic:
 It's taking a lot of work to get the machine ready to make Prowler parts.  From above, the list of repairs and modifications to the machine are pretty numerous.  Also, there was not much information available online - so I have had to rely on help from various machining message forums for help getting the machine set up correctly.  You can read the more complete info on the work in these threads:

So, at this point the machine is operating in X, Y and Z axis (servos).  However, I have not run the spindle yet.  The machine was designed to operate on 460V 3 phase power, but I only have 220V single phase power in the shop.  The most important components needing the 3 phase power are the spindle and the vacuum table motor.  I am now re-wiring the power distribution panel to operate all of the machine's components on 220V 3 phase power.  In order to do this, I also need to finish building a 20HP rotary phase converter.  I've purchased the components for the RPC and I just need to put them together.  Here's the idler motor and the RPC controller:
Put these two together and you get a RPC that will power the spindle and the vacuum table motor.
  Here is a pic of the table moved to its (hopefully) final position in the shop:
This re-arranging of the machines in the shop to make room for the MotionMonster has gotten the shop a bit over-crowded - which leads to the next topic.

3. Making Room In The Shop - The last few days in the shop were devoted to trying to get several projects out of the shop that have been "hanging fire" for too long.  I was finally able to sell my 1st metal lathe that was replaced with a larger, more capable machine last year.  So, this went out the door this past week:
Craigslist is great!  Then, I worked on getting the 8ft sheet metal brake ready to list.  Here it is all ready to go - no calls yet though:
The last project completed before this commute back to work for a week was the mobile parts bin rack that has been taking up space in the shop for about 3 years.  Finally got the shelves and bins put in. 
Now it needs a coat of paint and then it will go out in the shed until I can find something else to get rid of in the shop to make room for it back in the shop.

A tool that will not be leaving the shop is the 8ft press brake.  I was actually working on designing and building a back-gauge for it when the deal for the MotionMonster popped up.  So, that hanging project is next on the hit list.  Well, it might be worked in conjunction with the RPC and getting the spindle powered on the big machine.  Here's a couple pix of the press brake DRO installations:
 If the DRO's look a lot like cheap Chinese digital calipers (with the calipers cut off) from a place with initials HFT - then that's 'cause that's what they are! These will allow precise control of the amount of plunge with the upper die. The depth of the plunge is what will determine the angle of the bend in the lower die - it works like this:
This drawing represents a 90 degree bend in the 0.040" piece of 2024-T3 with a 10 degree over-bend to account for spring-back of the material. After some research I've found that a change of just 0.003" (three thousandths of an inch) will change the bend angle by 1 degree. So, you can see that if I want to make accurate and repeatable bends, I have to have a digital method of measuring the plunge of the die while making the bends.
Here's the beginning of the back-gauge installation.  There will be a long piece of rigid aluminum tubing that will be mounted onto the brackets you see here.  This will allow for accurately setting the flange size when bending the long pieces of aluminum for the outboard spar web channels, the fuselage longerons, etc. etc.
I hope to have this machine stripped down, cleaned, painted, re-assembled and ready to use in the next month.  The outboard spar channels will be the first parts made in this press brake.  But, before they can be bent-up in the press brake they will need to be cut on the MotionMonster.  The goal is to get the spar channels cut and bent up by the end of the year.  My next two weeks in the shop will be busy.
4. AirVenture 2011 - I was able to make it to Airventure again this year, although it was only on Mon-Wed this time.  As always, there was way more to do than time to do it.  Monday and Tues were beautiful and it only rained a significant amount on Wed morning.  Bryan and I were able to get together with Rick again this year for a short while and talk Prowlers. We also tracked down several Prowler parts for Bryan.  There were LOADS of Naval aircraft there all week for the Centennial of Naval Aviation celebration.  Monday was the tribute to Bob Hoover day.  Our girls found this parked on the new Warbirds Ramp:
Areoshell Square (it's actually called something else now - but I can't remember what that is) was "littered" with Burt Rutan airplanes.  Wed was tribute to Burt day.  Here's my favorite:
This was a first for me:
Overall, it was a great show.  And, as the saying goes: Even the worst day at Airventure still beats the best day doing ANYTHING else.
5. Builder Visit and Updates:
    5A. Builder Visit with Bryan  - After my annual trip to Orlando for recurrent training this Sept, Bryan and I planned a builder visit.  I'd seen his airplane for years in pictures, but I wanted to see it up close and personal.  Bryan and his wife Lee were wonderful hosts, and we had a great time talking Prowlers for a few days.  He is doing a great job on his build.  Here is a shot of his tailwheel section with the tailwheel strut that I had built for Bryan about a year ago:
Bryan has been able to incorporate some fixes to the Prowler design that the previous builders have warned us about.  He has also recently confirmed several of these while trying to fit-up the aft empenage area.  I will attempt to incorporate much of this into the new Prowler design (CAD drawings).  Here's an example.  It's not a great pix, but several of the builder's have found that the Elevator frame must be made smaller.  They are finding that the elevator is rubbing on the aft end of the vertical stabilizer skin and that they have a reduced amount of rudder swing.  This pic is pointing at the inboard rib of the elevators to remind me to move it outboard by about 1/4":
The old radiator door operating system was a rather large collection of torque tubes and linkages all connected together to operate the two radiator doors with one motor.  Bryan has incorporated the use of small linear actuators that are electrically controlled.  It is a wonderful design and it greatly reduces my production parts count.  Overall, it's a great improvement.  Here's an external pic:
Here's another example.  Bryan and I discussed the possibility of taking the largest fuselage former just aft of the cockpit and tipping it aft just a bit to allow for a little more room and a little more reclined seating of the aft pilot seat.  Well, he's doing it!  I'll be watching closely on this improvement to see if I can incorporate it into the new Prowler design without having to change and/or re-design a huge number of parts.  We'll see how it goes.  Here's a pic:
One other change that Bryan has incorporated is the elimination of the inner gear doors.  Every builder has commented on how complicated, intricate, and futzy they were to build and operate.  So, Bryan has opted for a B737 style setup with outer gear doors and brushes about the wheels.  It will look great.  Whatdaya think?:
Overall, Bryan is building a beautiful airplane.  The design is well thought out and the workmanship is impressive.  It will be a great airplane.  Here's an overall shot of the plane in his garage:
Here's a shot of the Davies Estate:
You have a wonderful home Bryan and you are doing a excellent job on the Prowler.  Thank you for your hospitality.  I really enjoyed the visit and meeting the family again.

  5B. Builder Visit with Rick (The RW&B Prowler)  - While I was visiting Bryan, he coordinated an opportunity to meet with Rick and see his airplane.  You might recall that Rick bought Kit #13 and the first production Red, White and Blue airplane.  I've also seen this airplane in pics for years, but it was a real treat to get to look it over, up close.  Here's a pic:
Here's a shot with yours truly:
It was interesting, although probably not unexpected, that much of the airplane is very, very similar to George's current airplane (the gray and black Kit #5).  As we were looking over the RW&B plane, Bryan and I noticed that the inside edges of the elevators had been worked down, with material removed very close to the rivet line where the elevators meet the aft edge of the vertical stab (sound familiar).  So, apparently this is not a new problem!  I can assure you that this will be fixed in the future though.  Here's a pic of Bryan looking over Rick's other airplane - a very well appointed Falco:
That is also a very, very nice aircraft.  Thanks for letting us drop by and check out your airplanes, Rick.  I really appreciate you taking the time to make this possible.  I learned a lot and really enjoyed seeing more of the history of Prowler aviation.

  5C. Chuck's Accident - I am really sorry to report that on one of Chuck's phase 2 flights of his Prowler he performed a gear-up landing.  He freely admits that he just plain forgot to put the gear down.  I talked to him shortly after he started tearing down the PSRU and the engine to inspect if for damage.  He reports that there was no detectable damage to any of the components (up to that point in time).  However, out of an abundance of caution, the were creating a list of items to replace.  According to Ray, Chuck started working on repairing the radiators pretty quickly.  Chuck visited Ray at one point to get a hand with some of the radiator work.  Unfortunately, I don't have any pics to go with this report, but I have to imagine that this scene must have looked something like this:
This was actually an XP-Talon that was being flown by it's builder and current owner.  Here is a link to the FAA incident report:
There are some that claim that this airplane is a modified version of a Prowler.  You can be the judge. Investigate this airplane via google searches and look over the information.  Sorry for the sidebar, but the point of all this is that Chuck can hopefully take some solace in the fact that he is (at least) not alone.  Good luck with the repairs Chuck.  Please let me know if there is anything more I can do to help.

    5D. Bud's Oil Problem -  I got a note from Bud recently telling me that he had spun a main crankshaft bearing in his engine.  He had been working on an engine oil modification to his Prowler that he and Steve had researched together online.  They were both experiencing oil pressure and temperature problems and found a modification package from a vendor offering a dry-sump system.  After finishing the installation, Bud was attempting to test his engine and experienced an oil starvation problem.  The net result was a spun bearing.  So, he is in the process of rounding up the needed parts and getting the necessary machining done.  Of course, we are really sorry to hear this bad news, but Bud is making good progress to get the repairs done.  Again, good luck with the repairs Bud.  Please let me know if there is anything more I can do to help you get your Prowler flying again.

    5E. Steve's Mods - As mentioned above, Steve is working on the same mod as Bud.  But, since he is not retired yet, he hasn't had as much time to devote to the mod work.  He is, however, still making great progress.  Here are a couple of pix of his mod work:
and; a file photo of his airplane in the past:
Nice work Steve!  Hope the mods go well for you.  Please let me know how it turns out.
    5F. Nicolas Inventory - Nicolas has been working on doing a thorough inventory of the parts in his kit.  We have exchanged emails and he has shared his list of parts that may need to be located or made in order to make his kit complete.  He has said that he will start work on the wing spar first.  Please send pictures when you get going Nicolas.  Here is a "Before" pic:
And, here are some "After" shots:
Awesome job organizing your parts Nicolas.  I will make sure that you get the rest of the parts that you need going forward.  Please update me on your progress.

6. My Kids Experience EAA Young Eagles - All work and no play makes..... well you know.  So, in May I took the day off from the day-job and the Prowler job and took my family to the local EAA chapter for their Young Eagles day.  My kids have flown commercial airlines since each of them were babies, but none of them has ever been up in a GA airplane.  So, we decided that the time was right and spent the day with them at my EAA chapter (1148).  Here's a pic of our girls with Andrea the YE volunteer pilot:
The girls really enjoyed the day.  The discussion at the dinner table that night was how we were going to buy an airplane after we got mom's van paid off.  Oh-oh, be careful what you wish for!!
Also, a huge thank you to the YE program and the YE volunteers.  It's an outstanding program.

Well, that's all for this update.  I realize this is a long update, but I wanted to get this info out there.  I will have to try harder to do more of these updates in smaller chunks.  Until next time, I hope you all have a great fall season.