As I came to write this blog post, it dawned on me that it has already been 1 year since we made the decision to take on this project ... how time flies! Excuse the pun. We've put in a lot of work during that year, most of which was taken up by converting the garage into a workshop, but we've also been working on the fuselage, so it's about time that we provided an update on our progress now that the blog is up and running.
One of the first tasks we did was to fit the canopy to the fuselage, as this would act as our datum for other components on the aircraft. I've always said that if I build a Pitts then it must have the Wolf canopy, and that's exactly what we've gone for.
The traditional/stock canopy for the S-1-11B is a two piece sliding canopy, whereas the Wolf canopy is single piece and side-hinged. This means we wont have the ugly rails down the side of the fuselage (where the canopy would slide backwards on) and it should improve visibility too. It also looks incredible. Combine the canopy with the Wolf Cowl and it changes the look of the aircraft.
Next up was to get the fuel tank installed, which we had made by Aviat as making this ourselves was completely outside of our skill set. Some things are best left to the professionals! The tank straps are something we had to make, though these are very simple. Just a strip of 4130 steel cut to length and with the ends bent.
It did take some time to get the tank physically inside the fuselage though, as when a tank is pressure tested the slides can often bulge out a little bit which makes the tank physically bigger than it should be. A common problem, apparently. So after pushing the sides in (gently!) a little bit, the tank now fits in and is supported by the tank straps.
Undercarriage, wheels & brakes
Our undercarriage was made by Grove, and has been gun drilled meaning that the legs of the undercarriage have a small hole drilled up them. This allows the actual leg to be used as a brake hose, with the advantage being that you don't need to run brake hoses down the outside of the leg - cleaning the aircraft up visually and aerodynamically.
Scott put a lot of time into researching different wheels and brakes, trying to find something lighter and easier to work on than the go-to Cleveland setup. In the end we decided on Beringer wheels & brakes which not only look awesome, but are much, much lighter and stronger.
The wheels and brake calipers are CNC machined instead of from cast, and are anodised in a beautiful deep red ... which may influence our colour scheme!
The wheels are also tubeless which will help reduce weight, and we're told it should also reduce the risk of bursting a tyre ... hopefully. It's never good being stuck at an airfield due to a flat tyre.
Various other small tasks have been completed, or near completion, these include:
- Foot trays, though it has been suggested to us that we cut these down to reduce their length a little. Also less weight, so why not.
- Fuel valve is mounted near the firewall, with a remote selector coming up to the cockpit (think Andair style).
- Tail wheel & spring have been fitted. Instead of going for the Haigh lockable tailwheel that is spec'd in the plans, we have decided to go for an API tailwheel & spring. I don't feel the need to have a lockable tailwheel, some may disagree though.
- Control linkage & stick are in place (with a lovely custom moulded grip, thanks TMR!)
Where we are at now
Currently we are working on the turtle deck, which is the area behind the cockpit/pilots head that leads to the tail, and also acts as a luggage compartment. This has been a tricky area for us that we have been working on for quite some time now.
When we purchased the Wolf canopy, a carbon fibre bulkhead was provided, however unfortunately for us this bulkhead was rather twisted and didn't seem to fit the canopy/our fuselage correctly at all. This means we've got to make our own, but trying to get the correct shape that still allows the canopy to open has been quite tricky!
In the past few days we have also received some great news from the LAA, allowing us to move forwards on purchasing the engine that we found a few months ago. A Lycoming AEIO-540-X, a rather special engine that has been built by Barret Precision Engines in the states. Though more about that later...
From now on we'll be providing updates at least once a month, so keep an eye out or simply enter your email address below to stay updated.