Support Your Wings

Plane and simple.

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Having constructed several high-wing aircraft kits, I can attest to the anxiety that comes from the exercise of mounting wings to the fuselage. This process entails hours of carefully aligning those beautiful wings you built to the now almost completed fuselage. Measurements must be taken in many directions to get everything just right: angle of attack, sweep and dihedral to mention a few. While the process is educational, the effort of making physical adjustments to such large objects can be challenging. You need a good helper at each end to hold those heavy wings steady. You really need a wing stand.

Observing what other builders have used for this purpose will provide some ideas. A couple of questions are in order to help you make a good selection. How much time or expense should you invest in a tool you might only use once? After your wings are mounted, will you ever need the wing stands again? Yes! You may need to remove the wings for painting, maintenance or aircraft transportation at some point in the future. And with each removal operation there is a need for reinstallation. I have used my wing stands more often than I ever thought I would.

This 2-ton metal adjustable post stand is adjustable from 4 to 8 feet. The jackscrew provides fine height adjustment.

If you want to use something already found in your shop then consider a stepladder. A common six-foot variety might work depending on your aircraft design. It may be too tall—or it may be too short. Short is OK as you can add shims in the form of carpet or cardboard pieces stacked on the very top step. It is worth a try as it is easy to borrow from a neighbor if several are needed. The ability to make fine adjustments in setting the wing height requires adding just the right amount of shims between the ladder and wing bottom.

Another popular option is a custom support you make yourself. Whether from lumber, metal or plastic PVC pipe, you can design and build something that fits your specific needs. I still have the stands I built years ago. I remember spending quite a bit of time and trips to the lumber store to create them. They were the right size for the job but still required playing with shims to adjust the wing height. I knew there had to be a better design somewhere.

Using the post stand while mounting the wings on a Zenith CH 750.

One day, Herman, a fellow builder, invited me over to help him detach his wings for some maintenance work. I realized he was using the ideal equipment for wing stands. I say “ideal” as it addressed the shortcomings of my ladders and homemade contraptions. It is called a jack stand or post support with a jackscrew adjustment on the top. Because this stand was fully adjustable from about 4 to 8 feet, it provided a universal solution for most any high-wing installation. It is overly sturdy and the jackscrew allows precise adjustment for height without touching the wing. That feature is really nice when setting the dihedral. The top fitting provides a convenient place to attach a padded 2×4 or similar support for contacting the wing bottom. Because it can adjust to such a wide range of precise heights, this wing support is useful for other purposes around the home and shop.

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The model we used was from Harbor Freight for less than $80. Keep your eyes open for a lighter-duty version from other vendors as this 2-ton capacity is overkill for our purposes. When comparing the cost in time and money spent for constructing a custom wing stand versus purchasing these post supports, the decision for me is easy. These adjustable posts also save time during the wing alignment process by allowing fast, precise height adjustments with the turn of a screw.

This is another homebuilder “tool” that will make you quite popular. Other high-wing aircraft builders in the neighborhood are sure to want to borrow your stand from time to time!

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