RepetitionNo matter what kind of airplane you decide to build, or the specific type of construction you choose (metal, composite, wood, or tube and fabric), one constant in aircraft building is repetition. By the nature of their shape and structure, aircraft have a great number of common parts – many wing ribs, multiple rows of fasteners, endless shaping and sanding (for the compositors among us). Part of deciding if you are capable or ready to build an airplane is knowing how you, yourself, deals with repetition.

I thought of this today as I was building the seat pan for our Xenos motor glider. Basically a shaped piece of aluminum sheet, it attaches to the airframe via three 36” long pieces of piano hinge. Each hinge attaches across the sheet (top, middle, and front) with pulled rivets on one inch spacing. You start the process by measuring the rivet spacing on each length of hinge – then you drill pilot holes in each spot. Measure, measure, measure. Center punch, center punch, center punch. Drill, drill, drill…..

Now take the pilot-drilled hinge and place it on the seat pan to carefully-measured location, and clamp it in place. Drill it to the seat pan using the same sized pilot holes – this allows you to adjust it all slightly if you don’t get it perfectly straight piano hinge sags a bit). Cleco, cleco, cleco. Now go back and upsize to #30 holes – drill, drill, drill. Remove all the clecos and get out your deburring tool. Debur all 36(ish) holes on the hinge (both sides) and on the seat pan (both sides. Cleco it back in place.

Now do the same thing with the other two hinges. Bored yet? If the answer is yes, then you need to figure out a way to keep your interest and attention. A favorite radio show in the background, maybe a TV (careful – keeping your mind entertained is what we’re after – not distracting you from the task at hand. You can’t turn your brain off – you just want to numb the short attention span component.

Perhaps what we need is a new book – Zen and the art of airplane building….

Previous articleBack in the Saddle
Next articleSmythe Tango XR
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 and SubSonex jet that he built, an RV-3 that he built with his pilot wife, as well as a Dream Tundra and an electric Xenos motorglider they completed. Currently, they are building an F1 Rocket. A commercially licensed pilot, he has logged over 6000 hours in many different types of aircraft and is an A&P, FAA DAR, EAA Tech Counselor and Flight Advisor; he was formerly a member of the Homebuilder’s Council. He consults and collaborates in aerospace operations and flight-testing projects across the country.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.