9.2.0 Lower Fuel Strake

The first step before building the strakes (which hold the fuel tanks) is getting the wings installed. Actually, there is a process, in Section 9.1 of the manual, for creating templates for installing the strakes without installing the wings first. This process is only recommended if the builder doesn’t have room to install the wings. In my case, I have the room, so on go both wings.

So, how to install the wings? Well, it’s not easy. I started by trying to get them lined up using my construction table and some pieces of foam along with help from my neighbor. After mucking about for over an hour, we decided that doing it that way wasn’t going to work. So, I decided that since I’m going to need a shop crane anyway (also known as an engine lift) down the road for installing the engine, I might as well also use this for installing the wings. And guess what? It worked perfectly! Harbor Freight and my 20% off coupon comes through again. I also decided to purchase the optional load balancer.

You can see the arrangement I’m using in the photo below. I removed the ailerons from the wing so that they wouldn’t be damaged and also to lighten the load. It turns out that the balance point for the wings is right there where the aileron is installed. Using the ratchet straps and the load balancer, I got the wing balanced as good as I could, then cranked on the load balancer to even it out.

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Another closeup view of the straps, load balancer and crane holding the wing in place.

The factory recommends installing the bolt closest to the engine firewall first. I used the crane to maneuver the wing into place and to get it at the right height. I then cranked the crane up until the bolt holes aligned at which point I inserted the bolt. But that’s when the problems began. I couldn’t get the other two outboard bolts to line up. They weren’t off by much, but just enough to keep the bolt from passing through the two sleeves. After another call to the factory, it was explained that over the years, the molds used to build the spars have ever so slightly changed, causing this misalignment. They recommended that I do what they do in the factory - ream out the holes carefully to get them to align. Nervously I got my 1/2” drill bit, stuck it in my big, variable speed drill, and started to ream. It didn’t take much but eventually I was able to get first one, and then the second bolt through those outboard holes. I had to do this for both wings. I also used a rat tail file to help smooth out the holes in the sleeves after reaming them. In the end, both wings are on nice and tight!

Although the photos don’t show it, I used a third ratchet strap to hold the wing tight against the main spar while reaming out the holes. That guaranteed that the bolt sleeves were touching each other and that everything was as tightly aligned as closely possible.

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Right wing being held in position by the shop crane - preparing to bolt it on to the main spar.

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Closeup showing how the ratchet straps are being used with the load balancer and crane to hold the wing in place.

Believe it or not, I was able to install both wings by myself with the help of the shop crane. That thing is worth every dollar I paid for it. Here are a couple of photos showing both wings attached. You can see that my hangar is now getting a bit crowded what with two (almost) fully built airplanes in it!

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The hangar is getting tight! Here's the Velocity with both wings on!

In the photo above you can also see my initial attempt at leveling out the airplane in preparation for installing the strakes. Initially I was a bit concerned because the fuselage was not level while sitting on its wheels. The factory confirmed that that would be the case and that I’d need to jack it up in the back to get it level for marking the strake locations. In addition, I also need to level the incidence of the wings, which I have yet to do in this photo. Once again, we’re back to dealing with a real 3D puzzle.

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Here's a photo from the other end of the hangar showing both wings installed. Like I said, it's getting tight in here!

With the wings attached, it’s amazing just how big this airplane really is. I’ve seen many of them outside (mainly at Oshkosh), but it looks bigger here in the hangar. Normally I roll the Cherokee outside while I’m working on the Velocity, but it’s been a bit chilly here in the 5000’ high mountains of Arizona so I’ve been keeping the hangar door closed. When I actually start to install the strakes (coming up next, so stay tuned) I’ll have to move the Cherokee out of the way so that I can back the Velocity up to give me a bit more room to work.

The next step, in Section 9.2.3 is to mark and prepare the fuselage for installing the strakes.

ui© John Trautschold 2018