Building Means Buying

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With winter on the way and all of the current airplanes inspected, maintained, and generally in flying condition, we’re once again finding time to spend some quality time in the shop – building once again on the Xenos motor glider that has frequently been pushed aside for “other projects” in the past few years. Sitting patiently in the corner, the Xenos fuselage magically rose up on its gear a month ago when we found a few extra days, and that makes it easier to work around, since its at a good height for probing around in the cockpit. And that means that we can work on the fuel system and a few other things that need parts.

Ahhh yes – the need for parts! Sonex kits generally have come without hardware, but with a hardware list that can be filled by Aircraft Spruce (or now, I believe, with hardware kits available through another Sonex provider). We bought these bags of nut and bolts from ACS a few years ago, and they generally did a good job through aircraft construction – but now that we are venturing into outfitting, the need for additional hardware has become more obvious. To be fair, this is pretty much true regardless of whose kit you’re building – finishing an airplane is always a matter of buying a fitting here, a special bolt there, and some extra rare nylon washers for that gizmo over there.

aircrToday’s chase was for plumbing hardware. As an inveterate buyer of hardware at the big shows, and veteran builder with lots of drawers of nuts and bolts, I am pretty well equipped when it comes to spare parts. But Murphy’s law dictates that no matter how many boxes of AN fittings you might have, the one thing you really need won’t be there. And that’s where modern builders and the internet have an advantage.

It used to be that in order to buy parts, you had to keep track of your needs for a couple of weeks, then get on the phone with Aircraft Spruce, Wicks, Wag-Aero, or any of the other great supply houses, and dictate your way through your needs. Then you’d wait a week or more for your order to arrive so you could figure that alas – you had underestimated the length of bolt you needed, and you need a few one dash-number longer. No longer. Now I just grab my iPad in the shop, type in “AN Hardware”, find the right angle fittings, look for something that fits -6 tubing on one end, and 1/4’” pipe on the other (that’s an AN822-6D by the way…), hit “1” for a quantity, select USPS First Class ($1.70) for shipping, and hit “Buy Now!”

And because shipping is so cheap for little stuff like that, if you find something else you need tomorrow, you can order it just as easily.

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With a steady supply of parts flowing into the mailbox, it almost feels like we could finish this airplane… someday!

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Paul Dye
Paul Dye, KITPLANES® Editor at Large, retired as a Lead Flight Director for NASA’s Human Space Flight program, with 40 years of aerospace experience on everything from Cubs to the Space Shuttle. An avid homebuilder, he began flying and working on airplanes as a teen, and has experience with a wide range of construction techniques and materials. He flies an RV-8 that he built, an RV-3 that he built with his pilot wife, as well as a Dream Tundra they completed. Currently, they are building a Xenos motorglider. A commercially licensed pilot, he has logged over 5000 hours in many different types of aircraft and is an A&P, EAA Tech Counselor and Flight Advisor, as well as a member of the Homebuilder’s Council. He consults and collaborates in aerospace operations and flight-testing projects across the country.

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