Canopy attached to skirt, fitted, and frame is built


As of the Sunday the 2nd of October, 2016, the canopy has been secured to the canopy skirt with 3M 5200.  It looks very good and you will see it with the clecos still in place as I had to wait at least 72 hours for the stuff to cure.  I will probably continue on the process on Sunday the 9th.  This canopy has been fitted to the fuselage with good results and the frame that attaches it to the fuselage has been built.  The following are some photos of those accomplishments.


All gooed up.


All cleaned up from the excess goo.


Fitted before it was secured with the 5200


Frame built.


Electrical Wire Routing


Most of the day was spent securing these wires.  I had tried several routings and finally came up with this one that seems to work well.  I will be making covered channels that will attach to the side skins as soon as the metal arrives.

Showing mostly the installation of the auto pilot and wiring.

Showing mostly the installation of the auto pilot and wiring.

More on Auto Pilot

More on Auto Pilot

Here you can see where the wiring will be routed.  It will go up or down the back of the cockpit and will run under the longerons to the area under the boot cowl

Here you can see where the wiring will be routed. It will go up or down the back of the cockpit and will run under the longerons to the area under the boot cowl

The wiring also comes from the trim servo in the tail, the OAT sensor in the wing, along with the lighting in the wings and the pitot and AOA sensor feeds from the pitot tube under the left wing.  This all goes to the ADAHRS mounted on top of the elevator control tube cover.


Assembling the Canopy


This part of the project starts with building a jig to hold the canopy skirt ( frame ) and canopy bubble.  There is a lot of trimming that must be done, to have the bubble fit properly into the skirt.  This is a photo of the bubble placed on top of the skirt for a preliminary marking and trimming.

3_29_2016 _ Canopy_01

Then use whatever tool works best for you.  I am using the Rockwell multi tool.  The blade vibrates instead of spinning.  The tools with spinning blades can sometimes catch in the material, and if that happened, it could destroy the bubble.  I am trimming a little at a time.  After trimming, I have to place the skirt in the jig, upside down, to be able to put the bubble inside it for a fitting.   Here is a photo of when I was trimming the edge of the bubble.

4_2_2016 _ Canopy_02

You see the blue tape which is how I mark the line to be trimmed.  On the skirt, you can see a line drawn.  That was the starting point for trimming.  The vertical pieces are sticks covered with tape, to keep the bubble separated from the skirt during trimming.   I went thru at least three iterations of fitting and trimming before doing the first trial fit on the plane.  This photo is of that fitting.  Brother Dave came over to help, as he always does when I need another set of hands and opinions.

6_12_2016 _ Canopy_23

This fitting showed us that the bubble was probably fitted into the skirt as it should be.  However, some trimming now had to be done to the “bulkhead” in the aft section of the skirt.  So we put the skirt and bubble back in the jig, upside down.  I do not have any photos of that bulkhead trimming process, but this next photo shows smoothing out the edges of the acrylic bubble after trimming.  The trimming process leaves the edges not smooth which can, and will, eventually cause the bubble to crack.  Smoothing those out of the edges, takes away those stress points.

6_12_2016 _ Canopy_37

I use a small hand held belt sander for this process.  I believe that if all the marks that may be left are in line with the edge of the bubble, they will not be the cause of any stress risers.

So, having smoothed the edges, and trimmed the bulkhead of the skirt, the bubble was once again attached to the skirt with clecos and another fitting to the plane was done.

2016-07-09 CanopyFit02

This looked good enough to both me and brother Dave that we are calling it “fit”.

Now to build the frame that attaches the canopy skirt and bubble ( canopy ) to the frame of the plane.  Stay tuned.


Test fit the wings to the fuselage


The purpose of this fitting is to find out if everything lines up, and if so, pin the wings in place and check them for twist.  Ideally, there is to be NO twist, but there is a tolerance of up to .2 degree of twist.  What you do if it is more than that, I really don’t know.  Call the guy, I guess.  This photo is of the plane with the wings attached and two of my brothers on hand to help with and witness the event.


It has been quite some time since the last post and the tasks have been so mundane that I decided not to include them in the post.  However, the details are in the usual place for the construction documentation of each topic.

Assembling Fuselage – Join, Empennage, On Gear


Over the last few weeks, since I got the interior parts painted, I have been focused on getting the fuselage halves joined, the empennage ( tail ) installed, and getting the plane on the gear.

First, the two halves were set level, re-joined with clecos, and level checked again.



The next step was to bolt and rivet the halves together at the joining tabs provided.

2_7_2016_AttachingFuse01When all that was accomplished, I worked on the prepping and installation of the empennage.


The brackets were bolted in temporarily when aligned with the horizontal tail (HT). and the HT was then prepped to be installed on the fuselage.

2_13_2016 _PreppingHT01 2_20_2016 _AftHTtempAttach01

Then the HT was placed back on the fuselage and secured with temporary bolts.  Next, the Vertical tail (VT) was put in position to be aligned for plumb and the rudder was installed to be sure the HT was straight to the rudder and that the rudder would move freely.  Then my brother and I went thru the most difficult task of getting everything drilled to size, the bolts installed and secured with the permanent nuts.

2_20_2016 _VTplumbCheck05 2_20_2016 _VTstreightCheck01

With all that being done, I temporarily installed the main gear wheels and brakes. This involved attaching a fitting after having it reamed to the proper size by a machinist, to take the axle. We then set it on the floor for a Photo Op. The wheel and brake install is not complete as there is an issue with getting it to fit flush to the bracket due to bolt heads protruding into the space. The fix for that in the next post.

2_27_2016 _EmpenageInstalled01

Main Gear Leg Fairing


I have joined the two halves of the fuselage, but before that, I realized that I needed a small fairing to keep the air out of the fuselage.  I got this idea from another builders site.  I guess the pictures tell the tale.  I will post the Full Fuselage work later.

2_6_2016 _GearFairing02 2_6_2016 _GearFairing01

Fuel Tank Tests and Forward Fuselage Progress


Since the last post, I have been waiting to get my interior fuselage parts painted, so they could be installed.  During that time, I have done all the tasks that could be done without the bottom skin installed.  This includes, installing all the wing guides, the control stick, and a test install of the main gear.  I also started testing the fuel tanks.

There are several ways to test the integrity of your fuel tanks.  The balloon test is one of them and the first one that I have chosen to do.  To do this, you simply attach a balloon to one of the fittings, insert an air induction valve in place of the fuel drain valve, and seal off the fuel cap.  I used Gorilla tape to seal the fuel cap area, a rubber band to hold the balloon on the fuel vent fitting, and a borrowed air valve from one of our RV builders.

1_2_2016 _ 09_48_56_BalloonAttach_27

This picture on the left shows the valve and the other shows the balloon attach and the cap seal.




1_1_2016 _ 15_10_10_TankTest_19This shows the full tank with balloon inflated and the tape over the fuel tank.

This tank held the air for over 24 hours, so I deemed it as having passed.  The other tank failed and I have found the culprit, but need to get the material to patch the hole.


The next part of this post is much more fun as it shows real progress on finishing the forward fuselage and a major step toward getting the two sections joined.

1_23_2016 _ 11_04_26_InteriorSideAndPocketPainted_03This is the newly painted side panel and map pocket, temporarily installed and posing for the photo.

1_23_2016 _ 18_24_02_MeAndDaveAfterInstallingBottom_05



This is Dave and I just after completing the bottom skin and associated parts install.  We first installed the gear legs, then sealed each rivet hole for the bottom skin with proseal, dabbed each rivet in proseal, inserted them into the holes and secured the rivet.  Then we installed the control stick and bottom wing guide.

1_23_2016 _ 18_32_52_LookAtBottomSkinInstall_04This is a look at the interior of the painted bottom skin installed.  I did proseal the front row of rivet holes, but chose not to rivet that until I am ready to permanently install the firewall.


Day After Christmas, 2015. Miscellaneous Accomplishments


It is the day after Christmas 2015 and I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas this year.  I got a new tool, for bleeding the brake system, when I finally get to that point in this project.  This post starts with the boot cowl clecoed in place and ends with the formation of the hole in the bottom skin of the forward fuselage, for the step that will be used to make it easier to get in and out of the plane.  There are several other items in between, as I am doing whatever I can to advance the project, while, waiting to get the interior parts painted.  I think I should have either just done it myself and accepted the results, or just not painted the interior.  Hindsight is a wonderful thing, for building the next airplane, isn’t it.

Here you see the boot cowl all trimmed out and ready for anchor nuts to be attached.

12_9_2015 _ 11_30_42_BootCowlClecoed_01

12_9_2015 _ 16_18_22_MarkToTrim_06






This is the cheek formers and the cowl attach flange on the firewall.  I am marking it for trimming.   Next, I installed the cheeks.  These are basically fairings to match to the cowling.

12_9_2015 _ 17_24_06_TapeForMoreHands_09

I needed an extra pair of hands, so substituted tape.  This is to get the cheek in place for clamping and checking for fit to the cheek former.  On the first try, it did not fit the former, so had to be moved back a bit from the starting aft location.  I arbitrarily used a tongue depressor stick width and it was perfect, so I did the same on the other side and it worked out for that side as well.  Now Clamping with special clamps and drilling the cheeks.

12_11_2015 _ 16_30_24_DrillCheek_14

12_11_2015 _ 17_10_02_DeepClampHoldingLower_15





Notice the large and deep clamp aft and the seeming clamp holding the upper edge in place. I purchased these quite some time ago after reading ahead in the BM. They really worked out well. You will see in the manual that it requires hands to hold the edges in place and drill. This worked on the top and lower edge very well because of the huge depth. On the left, you see the angle attached across the firewall, to each of the cheek formers. This is to keep the formers on plane for checking fit, and later for drilling.  So, what is next.  Because I am an “early builder”, SN #20, all the manuals and parts for the entire kit were not available, so I could follow an orderly, step by step, progression thru the build.  So now, I have to go back to find  what I missed and what I now have parts and instructions for.  As of this post, SPA, has most, if not all, of this available for future builders.  I picked the seat bottom for the next preparation.

12_12_2015 _ 15_36_14_SeatBottom_19Here you see it assembled as much as possible at this point.  I did rivet the seam in the middle to join the two large sections, where they do not rivet to the frame.  I must wait till later in the build to rivet to the frame.

Next, I chose to get the gear legs temporarily installed, so I could find out if I would have to do any trimming on the bottom skin.  You will see, that the skin fit perfectly and is ready to attach permanently after it get’s painted on the interior.  I will permanently install the legs as well, before the skin.  I think it will be easier that way.


12_25_2015 _ 17_59_34_BottomSkinFit_31 12_25_2015 _ 16_58_04_BothLegsTempInstall_26I had to do a lot of grinding and trimming for the legs to fit properly.  This is shown more in the construction section.  The skin fit perfectly.



The last task for the day was to make the oblong hole where the step will be inserted.  Instead of using a drill bit or hole saw, I used a step bit on different angles and did the final trim using my special bit on the die grinder.

12_25_2015 _ 18_20_20_StartingHoleForStep_32

12_25_2015 _ 18_26_14_ContinuingHoleForStep_33

12_25_2015 _ 18_41_02_HoleForStep_34

I drew a square in the corner, .785″ and marked the center of that square.  I then punched and drilled a pilot hole and finished with the step drill to a diameter of .75″.  Then I attached the skin and followed up with the step drill bit on the angle of the step tube, and finished that off with the small bit on my die grinder.  I will have to show you that bit, because I used it for grinding mods to the gear legs, and found it to be most useful for removing the “proud” from proud rivets.

Progress on the Forward Fuselage


Now that the upper firewall has been prepared, I drill the holes for attaching it to the firewall.


Once the upper firewall and the instrument panel were attached, the “boot cowl” was drilled to the flanges on both the upper firewall and instrument panel. Then the boot cowl is marked for trimming to fit above the side skin. I took it to the EAA Chapter workshop to make the cuts and they came out perfectly.


Then I made the remaining dimples in the welded steel fuselage. This was easy as long as the squeezer could make contact on both sides of the steel tube. Where it could not, I had to resort to extreme measures and pound the dimple die with a hammer. I don’t like that way that worked out. Because of this, in hindsight, I would have used all protruded rivets on the forward and aft fuselage halves, and flush rivets most everywhere else.


The next step was to assemble the seat back. This was a very easy process and is almost complete now.


Having a great time building now and hope to be able to keep at it and get this plane to the airport by next November.

Finishing more tasks associated with the forward fuselage


My last post was back in August when I was working joining the two halves of the fuselage, documented in Fuselage Assembly.  I got delayed by not being ready to move to the next step of bolting them together and some issues with water leak damage to my home.  We now have all that under control and during the Thanksgiving holidays I have been able to get back on the Panther.  I attended the Corvair College in Barnwell this year and Rachel was kind to bring up my canopy skirt, a bunch of back ordered parts, and had a Corvair mount for sale.  So I brought all that home and am now back on a roll to getting this project complete.

I have the paint for the interior, from PTI, sold by Aircraft Spruce.  The color is HEATHGRAY, matched, as close as I can tell, to the color of the powder coated parts.  Some of the parts are now with the painter and I am prepping to be able so send off the rest of the interior to be painted.

I have now installed the floor stiffeners, the exhaust tunnel, and the fuel line cover.


After 30 minutes or more, I finally have these photos where I want them.. WP is sometimes very difficult to work with. The other things I worked on were the instrument panel and firewall flange installations. Here are some photos of that experience.



I am fairly please with the instrument panel, but quite disappointed with the results on the firewall Flange. I wish there were a more accurate method of getting the flange in exactly the right place. But it is done, and now I will have to deal with any adverse consequences that may arise.

Today, the 29th of November 2015, I expect to complete the installation of the firewall and instrument panels to the point described in the BM.

Panther fuselage halves are now attached


After getting a preliminary view of what it would be like to use the long benches for the joining process which was shown in the last post, I realized that I needed a much better method and work platform.  I came up with an idea and it started with making screw adjustable lift platforms.  Here is the one that I made and used on the tail end.  It is made with the better screw jacks and I thought that would be necessary for the high lift of the tail.  That turned out to not be the case and I wished I had used this for the front fuselage lift.  Anyway, it all worked out very well.


So, here is the initial set up.  I used the Workmate with a couple of 2X4 clamped in the center, for the starting height.  I built two boxes of different heights for the lift tables to be attached to.  The one on the tail, I could have made a little shorter to give more room for level adjustment.  You can see that the tail lift table is almost all the way down.  These were made using the bench tops that are no longer needed.


I used bubble and digital levels to get both parts of the fuselage on the same plane, and a string running down the center to allow me to get it straight.  It was a very meticulous process because it had to be right.  Once the commitment is made to start drilling the attachment holes, that is it, it has to be right.  So, I checked and checked and checked and checked some more until I could see no way that it wasn’t right.  Then I made the commitment.

20150801Commitment02Only, when I am flying it, will I know for sure if I got it right.  Having had everything set up prior to this morning, I spent the entire day doing all that checking and adjusting, sometimes adjusting just to be sure it was level and straight and then adjusting it back again.  By the end of the day, all attachments were made and here is a photo of the entire fuselage all in one piece.  Clecoe, of course and there is still much more to be done.


Getting an idea for required setup


On Monday, July 13, 2015, after taking the wing jig down and re-configuring the shop and benches, I took a little time to get an idea of what it is going to take to put these two units together to make a complete fuselage.  Actually, both units just have a good start on them and there is a lot of work left, especially for the forward unit.  Anyway, here are a couple of photos to give an glimmer of what it will look like when assembled.


20150713_Fuselage02 20150713_Fuselage01

The Jig is up…. er down…., well, gone


On Sunday the 12th or July 2015, I finished the re-configuration of the shop.

The wing has been taken off the jig and is laying on the bench while the rack is being built for it, and the wing tip is being installed.  Thus, the jig is finally gone.


The wing tips have been installed using anchor nuts, so they can be removed when the need arises.


Both wings are now safely stored in their racks and resting out of the way.  This now gives me the room needed for completing the assembly of the fuselage.


Grandson helps keep the work clean and cool


Around June 25, 2015, my grandson came over to help me with the countersinking on the spar for the attachment of the fuel tank.  I found that if you keep the microstop and bit, clean and cool, it will give consistent depth of countersink.  My grandson is using the air tool to continually blow air over the work to accomplish this.  Not only is it much easier this way, but he loves it and I get to spend good time with him.



Fuel Tank Initial Installation Complete


Today, June 6,2015, I was able to get the first fuel tank installed but not riveted in place, on the left wing. This is a major milestone because when I get the Right wing tank installed to this point, I can move the wings to the hangar and free up some much needed space in the shop.
This is after the tanks were finished, except for the leak test.


And here is the first tank installation completed as far as it can go at this stage of the project.

Fuel Tanks Sealed but yet to be Leak Tested


On or around Sunday May the 3rd, I finished sealing up the fuel tanks.  On the first tank, you saw in a previous post that I had a couple of nice young persons helping me.  On this tank, I had a couple of nice old persons helping me.  My brother Dave and good friend and fellow Panther builder Bill, came over to give me the help and encouragement that I needed to get this done.

I had said in the previous post that I would use the existing gaskets for the sender, but have changed my mind due to some very negative comments about the rubber gaskets that I received from at least one RV builder.

All I have to show you in this post is a completed tank and a couple of associated photos.

03_SignedSealedAndDeliveredOne of the sealed tanks all cleaned up.


01_20150509_ProtectedPickupTo keep the pick up from getting sealant on the pickup, I took a piece of wide masking tape and folded it longwise, leaving a small strip of sticky so I could get it started on the pickup.  I added a strip of regular painters tape to finish the wrap.  The reason I folded the masking tape was so I would also not get sticky on the pickup grooves and also to make it easier to remove the tape when finished.



This is what the Acetone looked like after I finished cleaning the batch of clecos used on the second tank.  I let these sit in the Acetone, covered, for a couple of days till I could get ready to get back to it.  I did find that by holding the rivet, squeezed with the pliers, I got more off and it was easier because I could keep my right hand out of the Acetone and had better control over the cleco.


See construction details for a full description.

Sealing the first of two fuel tanks


This past Sunday morning around 10am, my eldest Grandson and his long time girlfriend came to the shop to help me assemble with sealant, the first of two fuel tanks.  I mixed the FlameMaster sealant in batches of 30g.  It 80g to get the ribs in with the initial application of sealant.  I chose to use “method 2” as described in the builders manual and was under the impression that I would not be able to stop the building of the tank, until it was done.  I have since found that it is OK to stop at the point of installing the back, so will do that on the next one.

Grandson and Girlfriend painting ribs and tank skin with sealant.


Now hard at work finishing up the ribs so we can fold the skin and put it in the saddle.


Air vent installed and fuel pickup kept free of sealant.

05_20150503_VentLineInstalled0101_20150503_NoSealantOnPickupBack is installed and the exterior of the skin cleaned of all excess sealant.

Cleaned up all the clecos also.

Ready to move on to the next tank.



Sticky Stuff Started


Having completed the “dry” assembly of the fuel tanks,


I did a quick test fit and I think I like it.  However, because I have riveted the inboard skin up to the last 4 rows, I have taken away the option for removable tanks.  There is no way to pull the skin back far enough to insert the anchor nuts if you do this.  So, if you want to have removable tanks, be patient and don’t rivet on any of the inboard skins.

So, now on to starting on the sticky stuff, but first to dimple the backs on the tanks using a borrowed deep throat squeezer.


This squeezer is just like the one I have, but I did not get the option of a removable head nor did I get this head.  However, I live in RV heaven, so had no problem borrowing one for a couple of days.  It is a Tatco squeezer.


You can see the borrowed one has the removable pins and the large head.  If you get this brand squeezer, you can get a whole set also.

I decided to install the fuel test drain on the outside of the tank because it is already countersunk for the solid rivets, it will be more likely to get the undesirable material to drain without the ridge of the flange, and it will provide more clearance for the fuel pickup.


So here is the finished product of the outside of the right and the inside of the left.  I do still have to install the anchor nuts on the right.  Again I reviewed Tony’s Picasa site and noticed that he install them last.  I had a difficult time installing them with all the sticky stuff in place and think this must be the best way to do it.  Also, I am going to use the gasket as I can always go back to using the pro-seal ( FlameMaster ), if I get a leak due to the gasket.


That is it for now.  I may wait for the rest of the builders manual and plans to be completed before I go any farther with the tanks.  See y’all at SNF.








Fuel Tanks ready for Dimple and Sticky Stuff


My brother is going to come over to assist me with the dimpling of the tank skins ( easier that way ), so while waiting, I decided to take the time to do some of the “paper work”.  Basically, these tanks are easy, even for a first time builder, with the saddles and match drilling, it would be difficult to go wrong.  I did have to develop a process for performing two tasks and they are, aligning the fuel sender in the center of the hole and building the fuel pick up.  I also was taught a good way to install anchor nuts, so I have documented those processes along with the general build of the tanks.  For full construction details, click on this link:

Here is a preview:

To align the sender, I put the sender on the inside and clamp it where it looks to be in the center.  Then turned it over and drilled.  See details


I need to make a note here.  After doing this, I read Tony’s Picasa site on Fuel Tank Construction, again and noticed that he has a more simple way to center the sender.  I certainly “overthank” this one.






















Now above is showing how I installed the anchor nuts.  Since the holes in the tabs are the size of #40, I will use solid rivets for this.

Below is my 4th pickup tube.  I ruined my supply of 3/8 tubing on the first two, and had to order more, so I got 4 feet to be sure.  Then I proceeded to ruin #3, so decided to take a step back and devise a process for this that could be repeated.  See construction details for a full description.

FuelPickup1I straightened out the tubing as much as possible and started with a piece longer than required.




FuelPickup2I did some measuring and bending and then did a test fit.










FuelPickup3One more little bend and it made the grade.  Of course at that point it was too long, but I had gotten past the hard part.




See construction details at:




Fuel Tanks drilled and Clecoed


I got started back on the Panther on February 27, 2015.  Many of the parts that were on Back Order arrived this week.  It felt like Christmas.  Anyway, I now have most of the parts for the complete kit, but still missing some very important ones.  The best thing is that the Builders Manual and plans for the Fuel Tanks came out a little over a week ago and I had some time to study them.  Today, March 1, 2015, I have the fuel tanks all clecoed together with fuel sender and fuel cap.  I had some problems getting the geometry of the fuel pickup exactly right, so will order some more 3/8 tubing and give it a few more tries until I am satisfied with it.  The next step is to install the fuel vent, deburr, and dimple the skins and get up the motivation to tackle the final assembly of these tanks.  The goal is to have them finished and attached to the wing.  I will then take the wings to the hangar, giving me room in the shop to finish up the fuselage.

Pictures to follow when I get another break in building.

Caught up with Panther parts and instructions


Tonight, 1/29/2014, I log the completion of all parts on hand up thru the forward fuselage. This of course excludes the fuel tanks as I am hesitant to proceed too much on those until I get the official words and photos from Dan. I will however, be reading thru the BM and getting the parts ready to assemble, as I know the rest of the BM will be coming soon. I also need to order my “Pro Seal”, Vans version, from Vans. Or, I might just take a rest. NOT!! ;)

Front Fuselage has graduated to the Work Bench


Today I made as much progress on the Tail Cone as the parts on-hand would allow.  Now I am moving on the construction the Front fuselage.  When both the Front Fuselage and the Tail Cone are completed, they will be joined to form the Panther Fuselage.  Here are two photos of the fuselage laying on the side with the bottom skin temporarily attached with Cleco clamps.

Front Fuselage Graduated to Work Bench_02 Front Fuselage Graduated to Work Bench_01

Locating SkyView modules in Aft Fuselage


Trying to find a good place for the modules that feed the SkyView and are good candidates for the Aft Fuselage location.  They must be protected from the baggage and installed according to the requirements.

SkyView Modules

SkyView Modules

The black unit on the bottom left is the ADSB In/Out.  It requires an antenna like the one for the transponder which is to it’s right.  The transponder is mode S.  This along with the ADSB gives me traffic and weather.  Both antennae will be mounted just aft of the unit and to the corresponding side of the aircraft.

The unit on top of the push tube cover is the ADAHRS.  This is what gives the attitude and other information to the SkyView and it must be mounted on the same plane as the aircraft.   Therefore, I will have to make an adjustable bracket on which to mount this module.

I believe this will provide easy access and meet the other requirements once I make protective boxes for those on the floor.



Wing starting to look like a wing


On Monday September 1, 2014, the Panther wing started looking like a wing.  One of my good friends was touring the Southeast, coming from Oregon, and stopped by.  He helped me get started and before we knew, here was the beginning of the right wing for the Panther.20140901WingAssembly_01

Tail Kit Complete on March 30, 2014 – YeeeHaaaa!


20140330_Stabilizers_3220140330_Stabilizers_10A really BIG YEEHAAA! is in order for the completion of my first kit of the Panther.  It was great fun except for dealing with proud rivets.

Click on the “Tail Kit Construction” menu item under the “Tail Kit” menu to see all the images and narrative of the construction process.  I still have the first part of that on this media, but am going to use this new format for the bulk of the images and narrative in the future.

Horizontal and Vertical Stabilizers

March 13, 2014 and I am picking the Horizontal Stabilizer back up.  In the first post, I completed the spars having riveted on the stiffeners.  I have already made two mistakes.  The builders manual says that if you are using flush rivets, you MAY rivet in the stiffeners after aligning and updrilling the skins.  I did not understand why, and thought it would be easier.  Since the plans gave me a choice, I chose to rivet now.



That was my first mistake.  I did not understand the consequences.  So now,  when I go to dimple the flange on the spar channel that has the stiffener riveted inside it, I am going to be very short on space and will have to shave off my rivet squeezer and dimple die to get it to fit in there.  Tony Spicer has a picture of this on his site, and I will too as soon as I get to that point on this part.

The second mistake was that I did not pay attention to the rib attach holes in the stiffener and channel.  For two of these on each spar, there are only two holes pre-drilled, so I made a template from one of the ones that have all three pre-drilled and used that to drill the additional hole.  You can save yourself this trouble, if you also have the same issue, by sliding the stiffener to that place and use it as a template.

I built the frame for the HS, and here you see that I am having to bend the nose rib away from the cleco, to be able to insert it.  This is because I was doing it wrong, but at the time it was the only way I could see to do it.  Dan sent me a picture that shows the way it should be.














Here Dan shows putting on the nose rib prior to attaching the main rib to the aft spar.  If I have this problem again, I think I will first try using solid rivets and a squeezer.  Am thinking this will come up again with the wing kit.

Here I am laying out the HS frame on the wood supports that are screwed to the bench.  The frame is to be attached firmly to the wood supports.  First, I must insure that it is all on the same plane, and square.  Checking for square is simply measuring on each diagonal and adjust the frame until the measurements are equal.










Here on the right you see that I had to turn that hole into a slot.  When you drill into wood, sometimes the grain wants to take the bit off to a place not of your choosing.  So, the slot allows for that movement and 20140313_SM_11still allows me to adjust the frame properly.

The picture above right shows the slot and is also showing the HS turned over after the top skin was attached.  These pictures below show attaching the skin starting at the aft spar and proceeding as instructed in the builders manual.






This is as far as I could get with the HS because I ran out of #40 Clecos and the next step is to up drill to #31 and my #31 bits will arrive tomorrow.  I had thought all along that for the flush rivets that I was supposed to use #30 and have a bunch of them, but found out that #31 may stop the stems from pulling thru.  So I will run some tests on that to be sure because I don’t know how I am going to remove the protrusions of those 20 or so that pulled thru.  You may have noticed that my rivet gun started out as a red one and is now a blue one.  That is because the red one had already been thru building an RV 12, and I thought it might have been the problem for the pulled stems.  I really expect that it is operator error, but the new gun at least rules out the old gun.

The first thing with the VS (Vertical Tail) is the same as with the HS.  Build the frame and this time don’t make the same mistakes.  Put it in a jig of sorts, on a flat surface, and put on the skin the same as before.


20140313_SM_2120140313_SM_23The picture with the wood supports clamped on is to show that you need to be sure to leave as much room on the end at the top of the VS, as you possibly can.  Otherwise, you will be re-placing the supports.

So as of today, March 16, 2014 I am finished with the tail kit, excluding updrilling, deburring, dimpling and riveting.  Yes, that is about another week.  I have placed on order the spar, wing, and aft tail section.  So there will be no rest for the weary.

First Construction Post


February 17, 2014 and the Cave is ready, so today I start the construction of the Panther.  The first thing I do is get all the hardware that came with the Tail Kit and store it in bins properly labeled.


Now on to the Builders Manual.  There was a newer version of it available on the Builders site, but I was unaware of it until I got to a page referencing photos that were not there.  So check for the latest version before you start.  On to the first component, the Right Elevator.  They say it is the easiest and you will soon find out why.  I started it this day and finished it the next.  Well, finished up to what I am going to call DDR for Deburr, Dimple, and Rivet.  I had to stop on this to wait for tools.


At first, I found it challenging to round up all the parts and identify then and relate them to the tasks in the manual and the plans.  So I laid them out on the table and began preparing them as stated in the manual.


Using my edge deburring tool, I made short work of this.  Then I tried using my new power hole deburring bit, but as you can see, I can not get in there.  I asked for a better way and Dan suggested the Burr Away.  These are about $80 each and Dan suggested ordering it from ENCO.  Their web site is and the part is  619-1310, made by Cogsdill and the price was $49.67.  So, I am waiting for that to arrive.  Now to start adding hinges.  This is the Elevator hinge.  This is how I set up the spacing for punching and drilling.


Here is my first component with the hinge installed.  Then to updrill to #30 and cleco again.  Hands and fingers are starting to cramp.  I hope that power cleco gun arrives soon.


So, on to the Left Elevater, you know, the one that has the trim tab on it.  Adding another challenge.  First, I had a little difficulty getting the end rib aligned.  Using the edge deburring tool to catch the part by the small hole in the end, I was able to get it in the right location for drilling.  The next challenge was how to get to the hinge for the trim.  I had to remove the end rib and make this little tool out of wood to give support to the hinge assembly for drilling as shown below.


So, now both the R and L elevators are ready for DDR and time to move on to the rudder.


I did not follow the procedure in the manual or the one on Tony’s site, because I just did not understand what they were trying to tell me.  I did know that the rib had to fit snug to the back of the rudder, so figured that if I got it in place, pressed down and back, I could get the rivets into the back side of the rudder and rib.  That worked OK, but I don’t recommend it as I am sure there is something wrong with that process that I will find out later in this project.  I then aligned the front of the rib and cleco clamped it into place while I drilled and clecoed the rest.  From there is was pretty much the same as the elevator, with the exception of installing the stiffeners.  Oh, this one is not to DDR yet, because I messed up the hinge for the trim and borrowed some from the rudder, so am now waiting on a replacement hinge from Aircraft Spruce (AS).

February 28 and I have the new hinge.  These are some of the tools that I will be using.  I now have a new one.  It is the black one and will be saving my hand and fingers from all the cleco pulls.  It is a pneumatic cleco gun.  So, I got a 3 port manifold from Avery along with some 12′ light air hose so I would not have to change the air supply each time I needed a different tool.  20140228_SM_01This shows the jigging block that was sent in my kit.  In the past, this was made form a piece of plywood.  It is only about 1/4″ thick, so was not very stable sitting on the 2X4 support.  I added a wad of hot glue all along the bottom edge, pressed it down to the wood, then ran a bunch more along the edge, so it would be secure to the support, which I have clamped to the bench.  This worked very well and kept the component locked in place while I got it ready for DDR.  There will be a separate post on DDR because I had a lot of questions and want to document what I did in a separate post.  20140228_SM_02Riveting in the hinge and then finished for the day.20140228_SM_0520140228_SM_04








Jumping back to February 24, 2014 and I am starting the Horizontal Stabilizer (HT).  When I read that I had to round out the lower edge of the spar stiffener, I just about flipped out, thinking that I had no way to do that.  Then I spent time studying Tony’s pictures and narrative and was convinced that I could do it.  I started with the belt sander, but that did not move along very quickly.  The other option was the vixen file and it went much better.


Then after using the file, I took a piece of 80 grit sandpaper and smoothed out the edges created by the file.  Now you can see that it fits inside the aft spar, perfectly.

20140224SM_16_StreightEdgeAlignHTSpar 20140224SM_17_HTSparReadyForDDT

The BM says to put a straight edge on it to be sure that it is straight as you assemble the stiffener to the spar parts.  The spar sections butt together in the center of the stiffener.  Now, I am asking myself, with all these holes drilled and clecoed into that stout stiffener, if the holes are in the right place, it has to be straight, and if they are not, the only thing I can do, is complain and you know how much good that would do me.

So, not having the #30 120 degree counter sink, I have to put the spars up until that bit arrives.  I am thinking that I am done for the day, but then I see the VT standing up on the other bench, saying, “what about me”.  Well, OK.  I did get it started, but only worked on the spars.  I will finish this after getting back to the rudder and horizontal stabilizer ((HT).




Construction Cave is now Ready


20140217SM_01_PantherCaveThis is the Panther Construction Cave ( Shop ).  It is where the Black Bird KR2 was built.  One thing I learned from the way I went about building the KR, was that I should have spent more time getting ready to take on a project like that.  So, this time, I began by cleaning out all the junk.  I took 3 truck loads to the dump and gave away another truck load, and still have stuff stored in other places.   I added insulation to the aft wall and installed  a suspended ceiling with really good lighting.  I acquired some benches from a friend and modified them somewhat for the Panther project.  Then I organized, cleaned, and purchased some new tools for working with metal and a beautiful bird like the Panther.


New suspended ceiling with 6 4 bulb lights.  Good lighting is very important.  You see several benches that  are new.  All have castors, some locking.


On this newly insulated wall at the far side of the shop I have 2 4 X 8 sheets of plywood with very smooth surfaces.  These are to be able to add work area to the two long roll around work benches, when I need it.  The picture to the right shows just that.

20140217SM_08_ToKeepMeWarm 20140217SM_09_ToKeepMeMoreWarmAndCompressor

Here you see the full length bench that was there when I built the Black Bird.  I have placed on that bench, 4 of those storage bin boxes to store and keep organized all the hardware for the panther.  Right in front of the bench you see the heater to keep me warm and the pic on the right of that show what keeps me “More” warm and the new 26 gallon compressor which I felt would be required for all the air tools that I had to get.

20140217SM_04_PlansTable 20140217SM_14_PlansOnLongBenchGettingFlat

This is the smaller roll around bench that is mostly used for the plans.  On the right you see where I have removed the staples from the plans sheets and placed them on the long table with the 4 X 8 top on it. I then placed some of the long parts on top of those sheets so the next day, they would lay flat on the plans table.  This table on the right is where I will do most of the building to start with.

20140217SM_07_StoredTailKit 20140217SM_06_SuperDimplerOnSpecialTableOnLongBench

In the left corner is a 4 shelf unit that has come in handy for storing the tail kit as it was delivered, and may be used to store components as they get to different stages of completion.  To the right of that is the other long bench with the “Super Dimpler” and custom table on it, ready to dimple away when the components are ready.  This dimpler and the custom table are on loan to me by some of the RV builder members of EAA Chapter 242, Palmetto Sport Aviation.  They had gotten up a “group buy” some time ago to get this dimpler for the use of builders like me.  Another example of this is when several of us got up a group buy for a very nice set of scales for doing the weight and balance when the plane is completed.  If you are a builder, you need to belong to your local EAA Chapter.

20140217SM_11_WaitingToBuildSparRoller stands for building the spars.

I hope it won’t be too long before I get to start on that part.  The tail kit is stacked on the queuing shelves.  And the plans are laid out on the Plans Bench.


So, good night to the Panther Cave, tomorrow we really get started.

Saturday, March 15, 2014, the Cave became a REAL cave with the addition of a small HVAC system.  It really keeps the Cave warm at least in 50 degree weather.  I hope it does as well keeping it cool in 90 degree weather.TheNewKeepMeWarmAndKeepMeCool

Construction Cave Progress


Well, the month of January keeps rolling along while the Construction Cave preparation is being slowed by this extremely cold weather and my not wanting to go out in it.  However, today, I will start the installation of the drop ceiling with the help of my brother and a couple of propane heaters.

The benches are just about ready and on casters for easy positioning, with shelves for storage.  I still have a bit or cleaning up and organization to do, but I think I will be ready to start on the tail kit in about two weeks.

Happy building.

Tail Kit Arrival

1-10-2014, the tail kit was waiting for me on my front porch when I got home from work today.  I took the packages into my small home office and my Grandson and proceeded to take inventory.  Everything is accounted for and all is well.  Now to get the construction cave ready for the build to start.  It is close, but it is still not Haynes.2014_TailKitArrival_012014_TailKitArrival_02

Preparing for the coming of the Panther

This is where the Black Bird KR2 was constructed.  I never had it set up for constructing an aircraft, so decided to take some time and get it ready for building the Black Panther.  The first task was to clean out all the junk that has accumulated since the Black Bird took up residence at the airport.

Then, for this to be a real Construction Cave, some repairs had to be made, it needed some insulation for year round construction, and I decided that it would be easier to heat and cool if I installed a drop ceiling. I will also be building some benches and installing parts organizers, in the near future.

More to come as progress is made getting the Cave ready.