Finishing Kit

December 28, 2013

Riveting Top Aft Fuselage Skin in Place - 7.0 hours

Well, it's time for a major event! I have been staring at this skin and the clecos that hold it on, ever since it was first fitted and drilled to the fuselage over 4 years ago. You can go back and check here on my fuselage pages, if you like, and see what I mean. So I am so ready, so excited, and so anxious to get on with it here. You are probably wondering, why did I wait so long? I know I'm slow, but there's a lot to the story. I held off until I could finish installing every last item in the aft fuselage that I think will ever go in there, simply because it's so much easier with this skin off. That includes not only the elevator bellcrank and pushrods, but things like electrical wiring runs that go back to the tail, the pitch servo for the autopilot and associated wiring, the antenna I installed for the eventual ADSB system, the ELT transmitter and associated wiring, static line runs, and a shelf and wiring for the magnetometer or ADAHRS for the EFIS system I will have installed in my panel. It's true, you can climb in back there if you have to. But I just took the easy way out and left this skin off until I'm as sure as I can be (you're never 100%) that I won't have to squeeze in back there again. At least, as little as possible. By the way, I will be documenting all those things I mentioned in the appropriate pages of the Wiring chapter I'll be adding to my web site, or wherever it's most appropriate.

In addition to all those things, I thought it would be easier to do the final trimming and fitting of the rear window if I could uncleco the skin and pull it off if I had to. Once I had the rear window fitted, it was easier to do the scuffing and prep work for the SikaFlex material, by taking the skin off and doing it on the bench. I'm glad I did it all that way. By the way, if you'd like to see more on the final trimming and fitting of the rear window, you can go direct to that page here, from August 15, 2011.

I think it's also appropriate at this point to insert a few pictures from a few months ago, back on Sept. 14, 2013. It was a nice day and I rolled the plane outside onto the driveway, as I love to do on nice days. I realized at that point that before riveting this skin on, I needed to prime the overlap area between the top skin and the fuselage side skins. I have all the overlap areas primed everywhere in the plane, so I didn't want to overlook this important task. I don't want corrosion creeping in there under the edges of these skins.

You can see that with the skin clecoed on, I taped on some masking paper right under the edge of the skin, and over the top of the aft top skin where they overlap.

With this done, I unclecoed the skin and took it off, scuffed, cleaned, and primed the overlap areas. You can clearly see the results in the pictures below.

So with all the installation of systems finished inside there, and with all the prep work done as best as I could, I knew I wasn't going to attempt to rivet this skin on by myself. This is highly visible and I wanted those rivets as perfect as possible. So I called on a very good friend to see if he could come help me. It's late in December, still in the holiday season, so I gently asked and inquired to see if he could come help me. I can't thank him enough for driving all the way over here from St. Helens (about an hours drive) to come help me pound some rivets, on a cold day late in December, during the holiday season. Thank you, Mark Cattell, for coming over and helping me today. I owe you big time! Mark built one of the most beautiful RV-9A's you will ever see in your life. And he's now building an RV-14! I had the privilege of going for a flight in his 9A, too, not long ago. Mark is a first-class guy and I am very grateful for his help.

So here's the skin clecoed in place with the first rivets about to go in. You don't have to cleco the entire skin down and crawl in right away. I realized that many of these rivets, especially on top, can be reached easily from underneath, standing outside on the floor. Don't crawl in there until you have to. So Mark had the rivet gun on one side of the plane, standing on my short ladder, and I was on the other side to reach in underneath and buck the rivets. Worked great!

By this time, you can see how many rivets we were able to install, before clecoing down the skin. It was time for me to crawl inside. You can also see the copper clecos on top. There's a handful of 1/8" rivets right there on top, for the doubler plate and so on. We'll turn up the air pressure and get to those later.

Mark grabbed my camera and took a few shots of me inside with the bucking bar.

With a pillow and a board to lay on, it's not too bad. Having the shop light laying there is essential.

BIG smiles when it's all finished! "Here, Mark, can you grab this bucking bar? I want outa here!"

Here are a few shots of Mark's outstanding work. Every single rivet is PERFECT and I couldn't be more pleased. As has been my habit throughout the build, when something is riveted on for good, I peel off the blue vinyl. Some guys leave it on longer, but I can't wait to see how good it looks! Wow! I'm really pumped! Time to slide the rear window in again and make sure it fits right after all the riveting, and just to see how good it looks.

A handful of clecos remain on each side "arm" of the skin. This is to make it easier when I install the rear window with SikaFlex. It will be easy enough to do these rivets at that time.

The rear window looks great! Nice! That's my next big project, getting it installed for good.

A final close-up shot of the rivets. Once again, THANK YOU Mark! This couldn't be better!

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