Sheet Metal & Turtle Deck

T-deck ready for coating...

Panel stiffener...


Skinning the sides has gone very well, considering it's my first attempt. The main panels are made from .025 with a stiffener in the middle. The rear pilot panels are .032, I decided on the thicker material here, since this area will be prone to people peering into the cockpit and perhaps leaning against the sides.

While the side panel fabricating went well, other panels that I still have to contend with will be difficult. There are two panels that run from the upper longeron up to the where the canopy frame sits, this panel then spans from the t-deck forward to a little short of the cabanes. I am planning on trying to make this in one piece, the trouble is, it's going to take an advance metal banger to shrink and stretch this thing into place. I have a friend coming down from Waco next weekend who does this stuff (I have seen his work on some aluminum wheel pants and a car fender.. amazing). This will mean trailering the fuselage 70 miles North and leaving it there for a while, assuming he can do it. If he deems it not practical to attempt or it will be too costly in labor, then I will resort to making these two panels out of glass.

The top panels, running from the firewall to the PAX area will have to wait. I realize that I couldn't create a visual line from the PAX instrument panel to the firewall because that line needs to continue onwards to the final nose bowl - which cannot be mounted without an engine - which I don't have. Hopefully, some options are in place where I can resolve this.

The turtle deck went well, but aligning everything so there is a smooth transition/continuous visual line as the rear sheet panel blends into the turtle deck, was tedious to achieve, but I got there in the end. I thought long and hard regarding making the t-deck removal...I finally decided on a permanent fitting, since that gave the most seamless finish. I just have to make sure I have enough access holes for everything in the rear fuselage.

A big bummer, was that I had to butcher my nicely completed instrument panel and the PAX above backrest panel; the new canopy structure interfered with them badly, so lots of tweaking and cutting (I had done the panels 2 years back - things change!). A lesson learned here: Don't build out of sequence.

I think I have one more little steel bracket to make and weld on the fuselage, then it's...............time to powder coat!! I really can't wait for this stage, since lots of stuff will be going on and not coming off again.

Side panels done...