6.4.5 Control Stick Assembly

Installing the side sticks turned out to be fairly easy, once I figured out where to place them. They are dependent on a number of other construction details:

   ➤ Instrument panel must be located and temporarily Clecoed into place.

   ➤ Instrument panel must be located as far aft as possible and slots must be cut on both sides at the bottom to make room for the control stick assembly to pass through.

   ➤ The Luxury Keel option must be temporarily installed to make sure that it fits the instrument panel location properly. (I had to do a bunch of trimming on the Luxury Keel as well as the main keel to get all of this to fit properly!)

   ➤ Canard must be installed in its final resting place. 

   ➤ Elevators must be installed and attached to the elevator pushrod on the side stick controllers. The length of that rod is whatever it is so the position of the side stick must be correct to make that work.

So, once all of that is done and the sticks are positioned properly, the hard points that eventually hold the assembly to the wall of the fuselage have to be temporarily glued into place. The manual recommends Bondo, but that didn’t work for squat. So, I went back to my trusty old hot glue gun and used that to glue them into place. The alignment has to be perfect; therefore, the controller assembly has to stay attached while the hot glue sets. That’s what you see going on in the photo below. I’m using a couple of wood wedges to position the assembly against the instrument panel and the wall of the fuselage. I’ve also got a bungie cord holding the front end of the assembly tight. That actually worked pretty good.

IMG 2138

Co-pilot side stick controller shown here temporarily mounted in position!

Once the hot glue sets I removed the controllers from the hard points and used real epoxy to permanently set everything into place. The perimeter of the hard points are packed with EZ-Poxy and Micro-balloons to hold the metal into position as well as to create a smooth transition between the hard point and the wall of the fuselage. Two layers of BID is applied over that to really lock it all in place. The peel ply in the photo below hasn’t been removed yet. It’s there to help soak up the excess epoxy and to help create a smoother surface.

IMG 2139

The side stick hardpoints are first epoxied into place then covered with 2 layers of fiberglass to make for a strong attachment point.

And here’s the final product. The hard points are installed and the controllers are attached. My plan worked perfectly once I figured it out! Eventually the bolts get safety wired to keep them from falling out. The hard points obviously have no locking nuts; therefore, the safety wire is required to lock them in place. The factory does supply pre-drilled bolts for the safety wire.

IMG 2140

This photo shows the side stick bolted to the hardpoints.

I mentioned on the sidebar on this page that the side stick instructions are meant for people modifying their center stick system. I’m building the side stick system as a part of the kit. One issue I had was trying to figure out how to connect the two torque tubes (one from each side stick) to the aileron bell crank. The instructions didn’t really spell that out. I initially tried doing it with washers, but that was ugly and didn’t seem right. The side stick kit included a bag with 3 spacers but the bag wasn’t marked for what they were to be used for. Well, the “ah ha” moment finally came when I was looking at a factory photo while researching a different issue. That’s when I saw the three spacers being used as shown below. Now it all makes sense!!!

Wings - Ailerons - Aileron Bell Crank

Closeup view showing how the two side stick torque tubes and rod ends get attached to the aileron bell crank.

So, side stick covers! Sounds like something easy to do, right? Especially since the factory premolded these things into the complex shape that they are. Well, ha ha ha ha ha!!! The joke is on me! If you scroll up to the top of the page, there’s a photo showing the side stick controller assembly with a push rod going through the center of the assembly. Apparently the factory supplies these rods in two different lengths - approximately 18” or 21”. I received the 21” long rods. That means that my controller mechanism, what I’ll call the controller “elbow”, extends a couple of inches beyond the leading edge of the door frame. That extra length gives the flight grip, that eventually gets attached to the top of the assembly, and the pilot’s hand, more room to maneuver the stick without banging into the instrument panel. Most of the other builders I chatted with like that extra room. The problem is that the cover, as show in the photo below, is designed for the shorter push rods. Therefore, my covers didn’t fit. They didn’t even come close! So I called the factory. I was given two choices:

   ➤ Shorten the rod by three inches. These are hardened steel and requires some complex welding.

   ➤ Modify the cover.

I decided to modify the cover. I certainly could find a welder to make the change to the rod, but most everyone I talked to said they liked the longer throw. I figured I would too so I decided to modify the cover. How hard can that be? Well, not too hard - just tedious!

Fuselage - Side Stick Covers

Original side stick cover - partially trimmed!

I determined that I needed an extra four inches in length and two inches in depth. Since I wanted to keep the complex parts, I decided to keep about an inch on the curved end. I marked a cut line and used some pre-marked (at four inches) popcycle stickes to extend the length. These are just temporary until I get the duct tape covered foam pieces installed inside.

Fuselage - Side Stick Covers 1

Expanding the length of the covers by four inches.

Sticks have been removed. You can see the various pieces of foam and duct tape inside of the original pieces. They are hot glued into place. I’ll be doing layups on top of all of that exposed duct tape. (The fiberglass and epoxy doesn’t stick too hard to the duct tape; therefore, I can pry those foam pieces away once the epoxy is cured.) I also had to round the edges of the foam before applying the duct tape so that the fiberglass lays smoothly across those transitions. The top of the cover is thicker than the sides, therefore, I need more layers of fiberglass on top. I believe I did eight layers of BID on top, slowly decreasing to six layers along the sides. That seemed to work perfectly, or at least close enough! 

Fuselage - Side Stick Covers 2

Using foam covered with duct tape to expand the size of the cover.

Here’s what the inside looks like before doing the layups. It’s messy, but at this point, who cares? It all gets removed eventually! (Now you know why you should always keep all of your scrap pieces of foam from the kit! They come in really handy in cases like this!)

Fuselage - Side Stick Covers 3

Inside view showing the foam used to expand the size of the cover.

And here are the finished products. In addition to the internal layers, I also wrapped one larger layer of BID around that whole expanded area, both on the outside and on the inside to strengthen the joint. This entire process took about a week, between cutting and shaping and doing the layups. The end result is good, and once these are covered with upholstery, they’ll look great. But wait! We’re not done yet. The fun continues!

Fuselage - Side Stick Covers 4

The finished result - both covers are now expanded both lengthwise and depth.

Of course, I needed some way to attach the cover to fuselage so I made a small bracket and attached it to the carbon fiber support. A couple of rivets and structural epoxy works perfectly. I used a piece of angle aluminum and a 10-32 nut plate. Although you can’t see it in this photo, I also attached a second nut plate along the bottom of the instrument panel which helps to secure the cover tightly.

Fuselage - Side Stick Covers 5

Side stick cover attach bracket - simple but effective!

But I’m still not finished with this project! Now I have to create an opening for the handle (see photo above) to which a grip eventually gets attached. You can see the opening in the photo below. This is the project that never ends!

Fuselage - Side Stick Covers 6

Before the final set of layups to enclose the end, each cover is trimmed to open up an area for the controller mechanism to protrude.

Finally finished - well, almost. The cover is now installed and screwed into place. The handle sticks out like it should and I’ve got a full range of motion available. Eventually that hole gets covered with a leather bootie, kind of like what you have on your gear shift lever in your car. 

Fuselage - Side Stick Covers 7

This photo shows the final, trimmed cover, bolted in place. It came out ok, considering!

Fuselage - Side Stick Covers 8

This photo shows the cover for the other side, which also has the door side now enclosed with fiberglass.

But we’re still not finished. There’s one final step - enclosing the outside part of the cover that faces the door. Now that everything is trimmed, I need to make one more duct tape covered piece of foam to be used as a guide for a series of layups to cover that opening. The photo below shows the foam piece in place. And, in fact, the layup is already finished, although it still needs to be trimmed.

Inside view of the piece of foam covered with duct tape used to form the outside fiberglass layup.

Another view showing the duct tape covered foam inside the cover.

And here - FINALLY - is the finished product. Everything is now fully enclosed. What a project this has been!

Fuselage - Side Stick Covers 9

And here's the pilot side cover showing everything now enclosed.

There’s still more to do, but that happens later when it’s time to attach all of the mechanical systems. I’ll come back and revisit this once all of those mechanicals are hooked up.

ui© John Trautschold 2018