Building a Kit Plane – Part 4

As the seasons continue to change, the Zenith project is blooming into what will soon not just look like an airplane, but actually be a flying machine.

Since the last update, many small items have been fabricated or assembled and installed. A pair of auto pilot servos are now in the plane and hooked up to the controls. The manufacturer of the servos, Dynon, doesn’t offer an installation package for the Zenith models, so we had to fabricate mounting brackets. Even though the aluminum used to make the brackets was only .063″ thick (about three times thicker than the wing skins), it allowed me to test the strength of some of the tools I had been using until I exceeded their capabilities.

So now I have bundles of cables and wiring running to the front of the plane and nothing to hook them to. That means it’s time to start on the instrument panel. The first step was to figure out what avionics and instruments were going to be mounted. Next, was planning switches and circuit breakers to protect the wiring. Once that is sorted out, I made a cardboard “blank” of the instrument panel, grabbed a Sharpie and a ruler, and practiced drawing. It only took two tries before we were satisfied with the layout.

We brainstormed on the best way to cut the openings in the panel and checked with a local shop that has the capability of CNC cutting. This would require a CAD drawing and layout of the panel so the machine could put the holes in the right places. I made the executive decision to try it myself. This is the beauty of experimental aircraft!

Next, we turned the plane so we could fit the wings to the fuselage. That brought on a whole new set of challenges due to a miscalculation of fuel line placement when building the wings. Both wings had to have MANY rivets drilled out to access the fuel lines and to fit replacement lines. This is the frustration of experimental aircraft!

Hopefully, we’ll be talking about paint, more avionics, and an engine next month, but I’m trying not to get too far ahead of myself. The progress is very exciting and as I mentioned, sometimes frustrating. Going into the project, I expected more frustration than I’ve experienced so far… we hope the remainder of the build involves the beauty and fun of experimental aircraft!