I realize that we have not posted on the blog in over a year! It’s not that we didn’t want to, it’s that we were all busy building the darned thing! I hope that within the next few weeks we can put up several posts with more detail on what we’ve been doing for the past year. For now though, I want to entirely dedicate this post to a MAJOR event that we just accomplished: WEIGHT ON WHEELS!!!
It all started a couple of weeks ago with a challenge from our advisers to complete wing-to-body joint before the end of July. At that time we estimated that we had enough work to take us to the middle of August before we were ready for the join. The challenge was on!
After two and a half years of building an airplane we have greatly improved the skill of estimating how long it will take to complete a task. We used to overshoot our estimated by more than 100-200% before but now we have managed to get things down to 50% or less overshoot of our goal. It involves a lot of planning to be able to keep the team one step ahead of what is required on the airplane. The leads spend a lot of time reading through the manual and ensuring that we have all the parts and sub-assemblies required to keep the airplane moving forward. We’ve also gotten better at analyzing what is involved in a specific tasks and how long the operations will take. It also helps that most of the team has gotten very good at the required tasks so first time quality has greatly improved. We all say that “if we had to build a second one, it would go SO much faster”. Principles of production at work hehe.
What this all meant is that we were pretty confident that, if we upped the amount of time we spent on the project, we would be able to meet the challenge! It happened on July 27th and it took two weeks of almost non-stop work every evening after work and on the weekends. Needless to say that we were all very proud to see the airplane sitting on its own three wheels.
Unfortunately I was not there for the actual join but the procedure was to take the fuselage and muscle it over the wing, attach the bolts, and then remove the sawhorses from the wing. An additional challenge was that the engine was mounted on the fuselage at the time of the move! Due to trying to work lots of parallel tasks we had already mounted the engine and done a lot of the plumbing on it. An engine hoist was very helpful as it held the entire weight of the engine and a lot of the forward fuselage while we moved it. The whole assembly is approaching 500-600 lbs by our estimation. As you can see in the picture below a small army of folks came together to get the fuselage positioned over the wing and then attached.
After the physical positioning Chris Foster jumped into the fuselage and inserted and tightened the four bolts that keep the wing and the fuselage joined together. That really makes you wonder when you fly the airplane… After that the sawhorses were removed from the underside of the wing and the airplane had weight on wheels!
A lot of work has been accomplished to get us to this point since we last posted here. We mounted the engine on the aircraft and put many of the accessories on it, we completed the elevators and the rudder on the fuselage, we completed the ailerons, the short wingtips, and are most of the way through the flaps, and built an almost complete mockup of the electrical and avionics system. I hope that in the near future we can add individual posts on each item and have the blog come back to life!