Our fun Sportsman TWTT (two weeks to taxi) build experience

Discussion in 'Home Builders and Sport Pilots' started by 30703, Oct 22, 2010.

  1. 30703

    30703 Pre-Flight

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    hpl
    Here is a record of our Sportsman 2+2 TWTT build experience, a ‘documentary’ video on youtube

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P81unsClhbk

    Glasair assigned two main A&Ps, Ben Rauk and Ian Hawk, to work with us. We met Ben at Oshkosh. Rick was very doubtful on whether we could tackle the build (because of his bad ankle which prevented him from being on his feet more than few hours a day) until after talking to Ben. His enthusiasm and assurance that GA would find ways to accommodate Rick’s physical limitation was one of the key deciding factors for our purchase. The other was the ‘mistake’ which I made holding the plane order sheet while watching the air show after not having flown for a while. It was like going grocery shopping when you were very hungry ;-). Scott Taylor, GA operation manager sealed the deal by agreeing to give us a small additional discount on top of Oshkosh’s special price providing that we took the next production slot on September 20, 2010. He also guaranteed to give us a full refund after a test flight. Two weeks later, Helen, GA CFI flew their yellow Sportsman from Oshkosh to New York for our test flights. Scott was correct in stating that nobody backed out of the deal after flying the Sportsman.

    It took us 11 working days to build the Sportsman. We worked 10 hours a day from 7 is to 5:30 pm with two 15 minutes breaks and a half an hour lunch. The working hours were spelled out in the ‘welcome’ package sent ahead few weeks before the build. However, I was too busy with the avionic panel design, trip planning and financial arrangements to notice. We did have some ideas about the tasks by reading Dave and Ed's Sportsman 2+2 Project blogs:

    http://glastarsportsman.blogspot.com/

    GA also sent us the build manual CD, but I gave up after reading the first few pages. It was difficult trying to visualize all the steps. We figure that we would just learn on the spot.

    There were 6500 tasks laid-out steps by steps in booklets. All the jigs were setup, and tools were laid out on table for each task. Ian and Ben would give us a demo then watched us do the first part, and came back to inspect the final work. They also gave us lessons on how things work. At the end of the day, we would check & sign off all completed tasks, safety and instructional items on the board. It is clear that excellent procedures and good instructions are keys to make it possible for novices like us to assemble an aircraft in two weeks. We were greatly impressed by Ben and Ian’s attention to details, skills, pride in their work, and their patience in teaching and explaining things to us. We had a good laugh every so often. One was when Rick squeezed out half a tube of torque seal. Ben took a picture of big red globs all over several bolts, but Rick edited it out of the video. The other was a picture I took of the alignment laser beam - it was in the video ;-)

    During the build, I did manage to have three flying breaks with Helen in Glasair new red turbo charged Sportsman. One was a more than two hours of mountain flying over the majestic Cascade mountain range (unfortunately I did not bring a camera to record the views). Rick also had a break flying 2 hours with Helen over the Puget Sound and Cascade mountains (the video had some of his aerial shots).

    We also enjoyed the visit by Mort and Alma Joslin, parents of a rowing friend, who lived in Seattle area. Mort was a WWII pilot who flew missions in the Pacific. It just happened that one of the A&P, Ian, had done missionary mechanic work in Papa New Guinea and told Mort that many relics of the war like drop tanks and bomb fragments were still there. Helen, our instructor, also had a nice chat with Mort and told him about an airport restaurant in California making furniture out of WWII parts (drop tanks, aircraft components etc.). Mort helped with the construction of our plane by putting in a pop rivet in the wingtip fixture ;-)

    We got a chance to meet probably the entire Glasair staff during a celebration of Jeff Lavelle’s Glasair speed record of 362.481mph at Reno Air Race. Bad weather prevented Jeff from doing a flyby so he arrived a bit late by car. I had fun listening to Mikael Via’s story of the arrogant rival Lancair pilot who got beaten by Jeff. We also enjoyed meeting John’s fiancée, Misty. They just got engaged the day before and John was thinking of having the wedding at Glasair’s hangar.

    The build was hard work but we had lots of fun. Rick had been doing owner-assisted annuals on our old plane, the C177 Cardinal, for 7 years so he was more familiar with plane innards and the tools. It was an A&P (airframe & power plant) crash course for me. The hardest task was riveting the wings. I had never seen a rivet gun before let alone operating one. I practiced riveting like 3 large flat-head and 3 small round-head rivets against a piece of wood before actually doing it on the wing. I had to hold the rivet gun steady, straight on the head, and to synchronize the pressure with John (another A&P) holding the bucking bar behind each rivet. I got better by the end of the second day (near the end of the task!). John and Ben had to drill out 10 or so smileys (rivets with deformed head due to off-center pressure). My defect rate was less than 0.5%. I guess that Rosie, the riveter, would not have minded me joining her in the assembly line ;-). I was told later on that one of the builders suffered a heart attack while riveting, and had to be taken to emergency room. I only crashed to bed early on one day (on the second day of riveting) and not on the hangar floor. I put in 2 to 3 hours of my company's work after the 10 hours build each day, and was surprised that we got up bright eyes and bushy tails eager for the new tasks everyday. It showed that fatigue was all in the mind ;-)

    Our build was not entirely free of mishaps. Rick fell off a chair while racing from one work table to another (he had a bad fused ankle and was assigned to most of the sitting down jobs). Few days later, he aggravated the strained back muscle while bending down to look at the underside of the engine. He had to take some exercise breaks during the build - it was documented in the video ;-), and could only work half a day in the last two days. Luckily, we were ahead of schedule at that point and did not need his full participation.

    I now feel like knowing everything about a plane and would not hesitate to tackle some minor repairs or modification work in the future (with the right tooling, materials and to be inspected by a real A&P).

    We completed the build to taxiing state on Friday 10/1. I came back to NY on Sunday and Rick stayed until Tuesday for the FAA inspection. Our plane passed the inspection with flying color. The inspector only found one non-critical stabilator bolt which was not tight enough to his standard (for the record, I did not work on the tail section ;-)). He gave the plane its 'birth certificate' on 10/5 which happened to be Amy, our daughter's birthday. In a way, this plane is very much like a second 'birth' child for us.

    Since our avionic panel is a custom design with some new-to-market avionics like the Garmin G3X dual displays, it took Glasair factory few days to work out the wiring bugs and did the instrument calibrations. We were told that the 1st flight was supposedly to take place last Tuesday. After around 12 hours of test flights, the plane will be painted (see our paint scheme design at the end of the video) then flown for another 13 hours to meet the FAA 100nm flying restriction hours before Rick can fly it back to NY. We hope to get it back it before the start of winter weather.

    Hai Longworth
     
  2. AdamZ

    AdamZ Administrator Management Council Member

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    Great post and narrative.
     
  3. Arbiter419

    Arbiter419 Cleared for Takeoff

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    That is most awesome.

    Congrats!
     
  4. TangoWhiskey

    TangoWhiskey Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Fantasticness! I got a ride in the GlasStar at Arlington's EAA flyin before I moved to Texas. LOVED that plane!
     
  5. Air_Ogre

    Air_Ogre Filing Flight Plan

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    !!

    Great post and an awesome video.

    I've been considering home building and the TWTT program and this gave me a ton of insight.
     
  6. 30703

    30703 Pre-Flight

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    Thank you all who read my loong post and watching the video.

    As I posted earlier (in an Oshkosh related thread) that we made the decision to go with the Glasair Sportsman TWTT program somewhat 'impulsively' while at Oshkosh.

    It was a big purchase decision which put a huge dent in our retirement saving and got us in debt (luckily we got a low home equity loan rate at 2.9%). I also did not know whether we could complete the build in two weeks & there were questions about insurance rate, finding an A&P for an experimental etc.

    Now the build was behind us. We got a reasonable insurance rate through Skysmith insurance. Our Cardinal A&P who had previously said that he would not work on an experimental now told us that he considered our Sportsman very close to a certified plane (with the Lycoming engine and the fact that it was built under the factory's assistance and supervision). He also told us that there were several A&Ps in the area who work on experimental.

    It was an incredible learning experience which was as exciting and enjoyable as our bush pilot training and self-fly safari/diving trip to South Africa last spring. I was telling Rick the other day that I would not trade our Sportsman and the build experience for a spanking new Cirrus costing twice as much.

    We are looking forward to many more fun trips with the new bird such as a coast-to-coast plane camping trip then later on another one all the way to Alaska. We chose the Sportsman for the high wings, the unobstructed views (its struts sit further back than the C172 thus allowing views comparable to our old Cardinal), its third door and huge baggage capacity (up to 300lbs). These attributes make the Sportsman ideal for plane camping trips.

    Hai Longworth
     
  7. colohan

    colohan Pre-takeoff checklist

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    One thing I've never gotten a good feel for from Glasair's web site: when you complete this plane to taxi readiness, what construction tasks are left?

    Is it ready to fly (sans paint), or are there still major tasks (such as getting the rigging right, completing panel installation, engine baffling, etc.) to perform?

    Chris
     
  8. 30703

    30703 Pre-Flight

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    Chris,
    As you see in the video, we discovered that the idle was set a bit low in the first taxi. We also did not have the windshield installed (it was fitted and ready to be installed but they wanted to make sure all the avionic wirings were finalized first). If we had a 'standard' Glasair IFR panel, I would not be surprised if the first flight can take place the next day.
    Since our panel was a custome panel with many components which Glasair had never installed before, it took them sometimes to resolve some wiring bugs. With the exception of few missing probes from Pacific Coast Avionics department (one CHT, the rpm and fuel sensors), the engine compartment was completed. We installed all the baffles (I believed) by the end of the first week.
    Since we did not finalize the panel with PCA until like 3 weeks before the build, the missing parts may be due to the rush order.
    I have seen reports from several TWTT customers that they had the fist flight done few days after the taxiing and after some minor adjustments they flew their planes home and got the painting done later.
    Glasair offered an Oshkosh special price which included FAA inspection paperwork and paint job so we will just let them do it.

    Hai Longworth
     
  9. wabower

    wabower Touchdown! Greaser!

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    The Sportsman is the only airplane in that class that has repeatedly drawn me back to the booth at OSH. If I didn't already have a pretty decent taildragger, it would be at the top of my list.

     
  10. TangoWhiskey

    TangoWhiskey Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Wayne, what do you think of the 4-place Bearhawk or 2-place Patrol (a tandem version of the Bearhawk)? Those, plus the Sportsman, are on my short list.
     
  11. wabower

    wabower Touchdown! Greaser!

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    I haven't really paid much attention to them, since I already have the equivalent airplane. The little Sportsman is just an attractive package.

     
  12. pilotmattk

    pilotmattk Pre-Flight

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    It's been awhile since I posted here, but this came up on my Bearhawk radar.


    This is a good write up and vid of the Sportsman experience. My wife and I considered the Sportsman and Bearhawk (both mentioned in the thread) and we went with the Bearhawk. It's not as fast, we didn't get 2 weeks to taxi, and tri gear isn't an option. The deciding positive factors are the much more roomy backseat, a huge cargo area, and the qb kit was less than half the $$$ of a full sportsman qb kit. If we go with an overhaul 540 we can get a cheaper engine, similar cruise fuel burn, more takeoff HP, and ability to burn unleaded. So far I'm really happy with the decision and enjoy working on it although it will be a longer build process.

    TangoWhiskey in Ft Worth, Avipro is practically in your back yard.
     
  13. 30703

    30703 Pre-Flight

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    Yes, I did check in the Bearhawk but since tri gear is not an option, it was off the list. Rick has a bad fused right ankle and think that a tail wheel plane would require more rudder work than he could handle. It appears that the Sportsman's rudder control was designed for tail wheel configuration so very little rudder work is required when making a turn.

    TWTT is the only way that we could consider building a plane. We visited a 'scratch-built' Sportsman builder's project before our trip to Arlington. He has a big walkout basement with huge doors. Unless one already has a lot of tools, I'd expect a home builder to spend a considerable sum of money for tools. GA has many special tools which made the jobs easier and speedier. I have tremendous admiration for folks who build from scratch for their skills, hard work and dedication.

    How far along are you with your build? Good luck and have fun.

    Hai Longworth
     
  14. colohan

    colohan Pre-takeoff checklist

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    For a basic set of tools required to build a kit (say, a RV) you will spend about $2k. If you go all-in and get everything (including a small drill press, band saw, pneumatic squeezer, etc.) you'd have to work pretty hard to spend more than $5k.

    So it can be expensive, but the tools are far from the most expensive part of building a kitplane.

    Chris
     
  15. TangoWhiskey

    TangoWhiskey Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Yeah, I've been talking to Mark and will get down to Austin to see his project soon.
     
  16. TangoWhiskey

    TangoWhiskey Touchdown! Greaser!

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    And that's if you buy the tools new. Lots of used sets out there to be had.
     
  17. pilotmattk

    pilotmattk Pre-Flight

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    I've had the kit since late April (2010) and have almost 170 hours into the build so far. It's my first plane so I'm slow to work and am pickey about how things come out. I expect it to take me 2000 hours to build (they say 1200 is average). The tail is mounted and elevator balanced. Floor boards, controls, seat frames, and brake cylinders are all in. Next steps are to get the firewall attached and put it on a fuselage rotator for some welding mods. (Skylight, float fittings, etc) My build log is at http://bearhawkproject.com but I tend to just write what I did for the day to hold the hours, then go back a few times a month and add pictures.

    On the topic of tools, they're a drop in the bucket compared to the plane parts. Also you'll end up using many of them for maintenance anyway. I picked up most of my tools off vansairforce for 45%-65% of new cost. Many folks give up and sell their tools after just building the tail. Aircraft tools are made for a production environment so after a single full build there's a lot of life left in them. You have to watch cleco's because if someone used them for welding, they're junk. I have A LOT of tools, most of what I'll need and only have about $1500 in them. I did buy a few new things that do not come up 2nd hand in good condition very often.

    I hope you both are enjoying your Sportsman. That is a real nice plane!

    -Matt Kunkel

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Oct 27, 2010