Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Remembering why

While unpacking, from the move, I came across a small pile of photos. Amongst them were the photos from a visit to see Jim Moss back in 2001, at Pierce County Airport, WA.
Jim was kind enough to push his Super Solution out, and I spent the morning taking photos and examining the aircraft end to end.
I can still vividly remember the effect the aircraft had on me, it epitomised the Golden Age, the lines were stunning, and the colours dramatic. It was everything I felt a purebred racer should be.
Late January 2001, the day was cold, a little misty, and the airport was deserted, the airplane looked incredible. It had only a very few hours on it, but it already had that intoxicating smell of oil, fuel, fabric, wood, and metal.
I was hopelessly in love, and the die was cast,

I have not seen these photos for years, and thought they were lost, but finding them brought back all the memories of that visit, and what the Super Solution meant to me from that day forward.

Every time I look at these photos, they make me smile, this became my Goal on the spot, and I can now say I am actually getting there, 3 years, and at least 3 countries later from first cutting wood to present, it may well take 3 more, but one day......

(a rather younger version of me!)

From any angle the Super Solution lives and breathes the Golden Age.

* and to add a footnote, the builder of this Thoroughbred, Jim Moss, now in his early 80`s and not content to say he built and flew the Super Solution, is now only weeks away from flying his new Gee Bee QED racer.
Thanks Jim!

Fall update

Matty built the original Super Solution in 45 days! it has been 4 times that since last I posted, let alone built anything.

It`s been a while, 6 1/2 months, and I wish I could report that the lack of updates are the result of full on productivity,
sadly, no, or not exactly.

The big news is that the Super Solution project has recently made an Atlantic Crossing, although not in the finest tradition of the Golden Age, at 250 kts, but in a 40 foot container, .......on a boat.

It managed to safely circumnavigate Somalia, which was my primary concern, it then rounded the Cape, and steamed on past Sierra Leone, and the Ivory Coast, (another concern) and then set course direct to Montreal. It took eight weeks, but arrived safe and sound.
The reason for this epic journey; after 8 years in the Middle east, we moved home, family, project and career from Dubai, to Canada.
I had to wind down the project progress mid March, and pack the various parts and components. This included crates for the wings, and other parts.
The Project is now relocated to a nice, warm large workshop in Eastern Ontario, and I hope that soon I can make some positive forward progress. There are some really interesting connections between my new job, and the original Super Solution, which I will try to cover at some point in the future.

While I have not managed any hands on work on the project, this does not mean that there has been no progress, and in fact there has been some very encouraging progress in the last few months.
I arranged with a highly talented builder in Australia to build the basic fuselage structure, and I recently received photos of the finish welded fuselage which has been removed from the weld fixture.

These are some pretty encouraging images, although the fuselage now located 1/2 way around the world from the wings was not quite in the original plan!

The landing gear assembly, cabane assembly, and engine mount are also now underway,
and hopefully will soon join the fuselage.
The description of the landing gear will be very interesting, as the research that has gone into the damping system and gear assembly is extremely thorough.
The dummy upper and lower wing fixtures which I prepared some time ago, and shipped to Toowoomba are now also being put to good use to locate the wing attach fittings.

There is an interesting tie in between the 1931 Ford Model A, and the Laird control system, any guesses? This too is now underway.

Hopefully the complete welded assemblies will be ready to ship in the coming months.
(if anyone is planning to have a Laird Super Solution fuselage sized hole in a container from Australia to Canada in the next 6 months, I would be interested in having a chat........)
My main focus now is to complete the tail surfaces, and re assemble the upper wing, as it was dismantled for shipment. (fortunate I had not glued the ribs in place)

Recently I have also managed to add some more original instruments to my growing collection, with an original Pioneer VSI, of the correct 1931 vintage, and also a second bubble face compass.
Other parts arriving include a complete set of PW R985 inner and outer baffles, and a complete induction system.

The engine, until recently stored in Los Angelos, will now be travelling to eastern Ontario.

With my 5406 Ground Adjustable propeller now assembled and complete, I have 2 spare hubs available. I would be interested in sale, or trades.
Both extra hubs are 30 spline 5406 Hamilton Standard units, and are complete with all hardware and brackets.

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Super Solution Artwork

I have found that while I do for the most part enjoy the build process, I have also really enjoyed meeting, speaking with and corresponding with air racing enthusiasts, full size and RC builders, and historians associated with the Laird Super Solution, as well as lots of people who just love antique aircraft.
For me this has been a great side benefit, and makes it much easier while building in Dubai.
There is almost no interest in Antique or sport aviation in this region, so It is a real pleasure when I can speak with like minded individuals.
I am also amazed at the amount of really talented artists and illustrators who have chosen the Super Solution as a subject.
The other day I was surprised to be contacted by Jim Newman. Jim is the artist who drew the Laird Super Solution Cutaway drawing for the EAA museum many years ago.
I have this drawing front and center in my little shop, and refer to it constantly, it has been a huge asset, and I am very thankful Jim made the effort at the time they were building the EAA replica to produce this fantastic drawing.
There is even a picture in the EAA Super Solution book, (now long out of print) of Jim with clipboard in hand recording the details of the Super Solution.
It is a real pleasure to be in contact with Jim, who is a former RAF pilot, and is still active in aviation.
Jim tells me he currently has a number of these posters available, so if anyone is keen I can provide Jim`s contact details on request.

I was also recently sent some CAD drawings by an RC modeller from Slovakia who is in the process of recreating the Super Solution digitally, and is extremely detail oriented. The drawings to date are amazing, and highly detailed as well. I am really looking forward to seeing the model he builds from these.
It is great to see the interest level still high for this wonderful aircraft, and lets hope there are many more RC models built and flown.

I have also corresponded with, the artist of this beautiful drawing, Lyle Brown. I love the way he has captured the aircraft, it looks like it is basking on the ramp, ready to leap forward!
If anyone is interested in a copy of this beautiful drawing, it can be ordered via:

finally something other than wings!

The original (and the EAA replica) had steel airfoil shaped ribs, and an all welded constuction.
I would guess that they hydroformed the originals? and the EAA ribs were made over bucks.
As I do not currently have a 1000 ton press in my garage, I decided to go the alternate route and use a big hammer.
I began by having a set of 1/2 inch thick steel rib templates water jet cut.
But when they came back from the water jet cutter they were pretty crude, and while the basic profile was there, they needed alot of clean up, and the edges radiused.
This was my first experience with water jet cutting, so I am not sure if this was a fair example of the process, but I would be hesitant to use it again over laser cutting.
I had to make two form blocks for each rib profile to allow the 025 4130 material to be sandwiched in between.

I then made up a set of templates to cut the 4130 sheet blanks out.
Next I cut the blanks out, bolted them into their respective pairs of steel form blocks and proceeded to whack the ribs into shape. After having recently made so many aluminum ribs and formers for the ailerons, I forgot how much harder you have to hit steel. The ribs proved to be a good workout.
The various vertical and horizontal fin ribs are now formed, still to complete are the flanged lightening holes, but these are on hold as I have ordered a set of combination punch, and flanging dies, and they are enroute via dogsled or similar based on how long they are taking!
I have left the ribs slightly long to allow for an exact fit on assembly.
Once the holes are all punched an flared, I can build some basic assembly boards, bend the various 4130 tubes and start to fit the ribs.
I now have a set of very heavy steel rib form blocks, stored away gathering dust along with every other one off fixture no longer needed.
Maybe I should put up a photo of my fixture graveyard, although I find it rather painful to look at, so maybe not.

wing fitting attach locating assemblies

I decided that I needed to build fixtures to mount the wing attach fittings to the fuselage.
As my basic welded fuselage is currently being fabricated in Toowoomba, Australia, this presented some issues with matching wings to fuselage.
(a small distance issue)....
The best way I could think of to accomplish this was to build dummy wing sections of the upper and lower wings, and mount the actual fittings in place. This then ensures that the wings will bolt to the fuselage exactly. (fingers crossed)
I built the lower wing fixture to be stub sections of both the Left hand and Right hand wings. The tube in the leading edge was for alignment only, but the tube behind the rear spar locates the aileron spar, and diameter to ensure there will be no longeron to aileron interference issues. I removed the fittings from the LH and RH wing spars and used them on the fixture, so all should line up on assembly.
Should being the operative word.
The top wing only required a spar assembly which locates the center attach fitting, and the rib profiles each side to set the incidence.
I plan that a side benefit of these two jigs will be to use them to fabricate the wing to fuselage fairings, as it is much easier to fit fairings on a stub wing assembly than to have the actual wings in place.
I boxed up these two jigs and shipped them off to Australia, where they are now on hand for fitting fitment.


I have now managed to complete the assembly of the second aileron, and I am quite happy to see them assembled and moving nicely.
I am happy that they have turned out almost friction free, and move easily, but this also makes me concerned about flutter. I am quite amazed at how much weight is required fwd of the hinge points, somwhere around 4 pounds per aileron! but this can not be determined exactly until I rivet the ailerons together, and this will have to wait until the inspection.
So with the fittings now all attached, and the wires in place, the only part left to do on the lowers is the leading edge and tip plywood, which again shall be after the inspection.

When I stand back and look at these two wings with ailerons I am just amazed at how much time they have sucked up!, I think I could have finished a single seat Pitts in the same time these have taken. But they are done, and the balance of the top wing is much easier to complete.... I hope.

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Top wing progress

With the ailerons worked out I thought it was time to start the steel parts for the top wing.
More jigs!

I really envy guys building RV`s, their parts come in a box, mine are somewhere in steel sheets.

Anyway, the top wing has a central attach fitting, built up of plates and tubing, with bent up U channel fittings holding it all together.
I made up matching sets of steel plates, and match drilled them. I then bent up some steel u channel fittings.
They had to be bent to match the lower taper on the front and rear spars.
I then made an assembly and welding fixture. This has an aluminum channel base, 2 stub spars, and a channel to hold the fore to aft tube.
I wanted this fixture to be very solid, as the plates and the tube are quite thick and so require lots of heat when welding.
Once all the parts were made, and securely bolted in the fixture they were welded.

Regards the actual welding, all finish TIG welding is done by my good friend Christiano.
Chris is an extremely talented welder, and machinist, who moonlights as a Boeing 777 Captain.

Once the assembly popped out of the jig I put it on the wing, and amazingly it fit.
With this central fitting now complete I can work outwards in both directions, making the wire tabs and I strut attach fittings.
Once the tabs are all done, I can measure and order for the top wing drag anti drag wires, and get them underway.
I will also work out the wing tip lights, which I am looking forward to.
I shall try not to burn the wing down in the process.

EFIS 1931 style

It is interesting to see exacting replicas, or restored antiques, which have modern instruments installed in them.
I know of one fellow who is currently planning on fitting a full glass cockpit to a 1930`s Monocoupe. Ouch!

Well I have been trying to locate all of the original instruments, and have so far managed to find most of them.
The original SS had a mix of Pioneer and US gauge instruments fit, some were quite unique, others fairly generic.
Probably the most unique was the Pioneer Turn and Bank with the "shiny steel ball" 
This was only made for a very short time, as I believe the ball would become magnetised and the compass would always point at the T&B. 
(Not an ideal result in an airplane designed for cross country racing)

I managed to locate this exact T&B
Another fairly hard to find instrument is the Pioneer Bubble face compass. They do come up time to time, but they are getting very expensive. I was lucky to locate this one some time ago.
I have also found the floor mounted second compass which was installed for the trans continental record flights.
I will be interesting to see if they both agree after rebuild, I guess this aircraft needs 2 correction cards.
I have had mixed results to date with the balance of the instruments, I have most of the engine instruments, with the exception of the correct RPM gauge. 
I have also found a few suitable Lunkheimer primers, and the correct Scintilla mag switch.
Regards the flight instruments, again I have some, but not all.
I have the correct pioneer ROC, but I have yet to locate the correct Altimeter and ASI. 

I would really like to hear from anyone who may have the correct ASI, ALT, or Tach and would like to sell or trade them. I do have plenty of other instruments for trade. 

Here is a list of all the instruments as originally fit:

Pioneer floor compass and drift meter
Pioneer Airspeed 50 to 350 mph 175 at bottom dead center
Pioneer turn and bank 3 1/8th No dog houses shiny steel ball
Pioneer rate of climb +/- 2000 fpm 1000' at bottom, 2000' at 3 O'clock
Pioneer tachometer 600-3000 rpm. 1900 rpm at Bottom dead center
Altimeter, insensitive 0 to 15000' setting know at bottom dead center
cylinder head temp 0 to 600 F
US gauge oil temperature 2 1/4 0 to 100 C 50 degrees at top dead center
US gauge oil pressure 2 1/4 0 to 120 psi 60 psi at top dead center
US gauge fuel pressure 2 1/4 0 to 10 psi 5 psi at top dead center
mag switch scintilla vintage

Once I have all the correct instruments I will send them off in one shipment for rebuild.

Based on the available visibility I may as well fit a DVD player in the panel, at least you could watch an inflight movie!

Functional Art

The propeller has now been returned, inspected, assembled, certified and is ready to mount.

It looks beautiful, but was the original polished? probably not, but I shall take a mulligan on this one, it just looks too good to paint!
I persuaded my wife that the propeller was much safer sitting in our front room on a stand, as opposed to tucked away in a crate. 
So I built a stand. 
We get plenty of comments, most are favorable.

The propeller is 9 feet long, with a 5406 30-spline hub and W2 blades.
The propeller has been quite a saga; I managed to find a few 5406 30-spline hubs some time ago. I then located and bought a set of 4350 blades, as I thought they were going to be suitable. It turned out they were not suitable for the horsepower, but I was fortunate to then find a set of correct blades, and trade my 4350 blades for them.
I then sent all the blades, the hub and parts to The Prop Shop, in Oklahoma, who did a really nice job assembling and certifying all the components. The blade angle has initially been set to 12.5 degrees, which is probably a good first setting.
We were also able to locate a set of the correct 1931 Hamilton Standard decals, which have been applied to the blades, and finish them off nicely.
This assembly is probably as close to the original propeller as can be assembled today. I still have a 2D30 Constant speed propeller which we could use if required, but as it would have a large adverse CG effect, I would not want to use it if possible, although it would be a better prop to explore the envelope.
(but what a great excuse to build another airplane)

I found an interesting comment in a write up by Gen Doolittle on testing the Super Solution, he mentioned they set the blade angle over 30 degrees! And it took over 8000 feet to get off the ground the first flight!
This brings up a couple of points, one they must have had a BIG field, and two, why would you keep going after the first 3-4000 feet?

Anyway, once it got on the step he said it went pretty fast.

Time flies!

Well, it would appear it has been a while since I last posted.
This is not, as some have suggested :) due to a lack of progress, but I have been in that stage of building where a huge amount of work produces almost nothing to look at.

My main progress of late has been the ailerons. It turned out that building the ailerons is almost as big a job as building the wings.
The original aircraft ailerons had a steel tube spar, (similar to the Ryan STA method) with aluminum nose ribs, aluminum main ribs, aluminum rear spar, and trailing edge.
The hinges are permanently attached to the tube, and held in place by steel brackets.

First step in building the ailerons was to work out the actual size and articulation. Since I know the airfoil and chord, as well the hinge points are fixed, I could work out the size of the aileron. I have no idea what the original travel was, but based it on basic practice, max 25 degrees up and down, with no bias as of now.
EAA replica showing the uncovered aileron
I had a good idea of how the original was built, based on the EAA replica photos, so this was my guidline, but I did not really know what they were like under the leading edges, so this is more of a guess.
 I started by making the aluminum rear ribs. These take a number of fixtures, one to router the blanks, another to router the lightening hole, another to drill the loactor holes, another to bend the LH and RH flanges, and another to bend the attach flange.
Once I had the rear ribs done, I started on the small leading edge attach ribs. They are also aluminum, and attach to the steel brackets which are welded to the spar. The process for these was the same as the rear ribs, router and forming fixtures. I determined that I would need 12 nose ribs per aileron, 7 LH and 5 RH, so it involved alot of cutting, drilling and forming.

The white material shown is teflon. I was able to get a large section of 1/ 1/4 inch thick teflon block. This stuff drills and machines really well, and holds up well to the forming process. I understand it is extremely expensive, but luckily I did not have to find out!

Once all the aluminum rib sections had been formed, I started on the steel brackets which would mount to the 4130 steel tube spar. I decided the best way to mount the brackets accurately would be via a tube section which slid over the spar, and I would rosette weld the tubes with the bracket attached, as this would minimise heating the ailerons spar, (I was concerned about distortion over the 8 foot length, as it has 3 hinge attach points.

To make the brackets, I cut the tube sections, and also the steel plates. I cut multiple steel plates from .040 4130 sheet by making a cutting block I could run an air nibbler around.
Once the tubes and plates had all been made, for a total of 48 brackets (more on why so many later) I made up a fixture to weld them in LH and RH pairs.

Once all the LH and right hand brackets had been welded, and cleaned up, I could start assembling the ailerons.
I then needed to permanently locate the hinge locations to the rear spar, and I had been concerned about drilling holes directly through the wooden blocks which glue behind each hinge point.
I decided to try and mount the hinges via a "floating bushing" arrangement, which would hopefully self align the attach bolts.
I made up bushings which fit within the hinge, and over the attach bolts. I then milled a square cut through the wooden blocks which was about 1/16th wider and deeper than the bushing.
I cut grooves into the bushing (065 wall) for better glue adhesion, (but realised later where could the bushing possibly go anyway!!)
The theory is that by glueing the block over the bushing and allowing the glue to set with the spar and hinges bolted in position, there will be no misalignment of the three hinge positions. The difficult part is not permanently glueing the aileron to the wing in the process.

But thankfully once the glue dried the bolts slid out (pre waxed) and the hinges released nicely.
The spar now moved freely on the wing, with no friction or binding. I polished the spar tube under each hinge location, but it`s a shame the original did not allow for some sort of bearing, rather than tube on tube.

Next step was to rosette weld the LH and RH attach brackets in place on the spar, which locates the leading edge aluminum brackets, and also locate the rear ribs on an aluminum U channel which I bent up from 032 2024 T3 aluminum.
I cut down some standard trailing edge stock to more closely match the original width.
I ran the trailing edge through a shrinker to shape the section which matches to the wing tip bow.

I made up a separate steel attach bracket, as well as smaller nose and main tip ribs, to match the tip bow area. The aileron tapers in this area both in width and depth. More router jigs, form blocks, drill blocks.

I then fit the 5/8th aluminum tube through the ribs and drilled it to secure.

The next step was to form and mount the leading edge sections. I started by rolling some sections of 020 2024 T3 sheet to get the basic shape, the built a fixture to mount them to the leading edge brackets.
By moving the uprights to different locations I was able to drill and mount each section.
Once all the leading edge sections had been drilled, I removed them and trimmed each to the final size, and refit the aileron to the wing for a final check.

To complete the ailerons to pre cover stage the following needs to be done:
Paint the steel aileron spar black.
Form the curved section of 5/8th aluminum tube at the tip.
Replace all clecos with screws, bolts, and rivets as required.
Add a counterweight in the leading edge section.
*I suspect the original did not have counter balanced ailerons, and with so much weight behind the hinge point why did it not flutter at speed? well the EAA replica may show why. When I moved the aileron on the EAA version it was almost solid, now I imagine that 20 years sitting in a museum does not help, but I noticed the ailerons were mounted directly via bolts through the spar, and this obviously created a great deal of binding friction. If the original was done the same way, then it would have been very hard to move the ailerons, and this may have actually helped to counter act flutter.
Then again, Gen Doolittle had so many other issues associated with flying and racing the SS, maybe he forgot to mention it also had the odd indication of flutter!
My ailerons are almost friction free at this point, so I think it would be critical to balance them at minimum 10% nose down, (110% total weight forward of the hinge point)
I have temporarily hung a steel weight to give an idea of balance, but without all the correct fasteners in place and the clecos removed, as well the fabric and paint estimated, I cannot determine the required weight yet.
Due to the extremely short area ahead of the hinge, it will take a substantial weight to balance them.
I have allowed attach points between the steel leading edge brackets to attach a balance weight tube, and this will be completely hidden.

I will also need to leave the leading edges un rivetted at this stage to allow for the Canadian stage inspection.

The RH aileron is also all ready to assemble, with all parts completed, so this should go together quite quickly compared to the first one!