The canopy is the area of construction considered by the experts to be "the most challenging", so of course I worried a lot about it for
months just like the rest of you. I planned it in my construction sequence for
the summer to take advantage of the warm temperatures. I followed all the usual precautions advised by many builders in order to avoid
disaster (cracked canopy): workspace heated to at least 70 degrees, use plexi
bits to drill all holes, and polish all edges thoroughly.
The most important tip however was passed along to me by another builder, Jon
Ross, and it is to draw a centerline down the exact center of the canopy before
you make the first cut. Once you've cut the flange off and are making the many
cuts necessary to get a good fit you'll understand... you don't want to take
more off one side than the other. This made all the difference in the world, and
really should be in the manual.
The canopy skirt actually presented a greater challenge for me. See below for
(click on a pic to see a larger version)
|| This is the front of the canopy after a couple of cuts. Note how the
left side in the left of the picture is actually lower than the right?
It's easy to find by measuring up the centerline a fixed distance, then
measuring from the center out each side along the bottom, and then
measuring from those points up to the centerline point. They should be
equal. If they're not, then you have a problem.
|| This is right after that cut that gives you sweaty palms and dry
mouth... cutting the thing in half. Draw a clear line, use one eye, and go
for it! RV-8 builder Brian Denk advised me to cut this thing in half much
earlier than called for in the manual. He was right.
|| Here is the back half about to be drilled. The plastic clamps work
pretty well to hold things in place without scratching.
||And here it is after the holes have been drilled both through the plexi
and the steel. Remember the proper drilling sequence: drill through the
plexi with a #40 standard bit SLOWLY, then through the steel, then use a
Unibit to open up the plexi hole to 5/32" once the canopy is back
off. Finally, make sure you chamfer the plexi holes from both sides with
your deburring tool, and lastly drill the steel out to #30 with a standard
bit, of course deburring there too.
||After one unsuccessful start at getting the canopy skirt to fit I bagged
it and went on to other things for a couple of months. I finally went back
to it, and with the help of a local guru got it to fit. I just wasn't
happy with the standard notch most folks put in the back to clear the
track, so I did some extra work and made this conforming treatment.
||I thinks this looks a bit more finished, but also should eliminate the
wind leaks back here that most builders have reported once they're flying.
After seeing my work here fellow Builder Mike Robbins did similar work
here also. You can see pics of his skirt on his page at Mike
||As of fall '00 Van's supplier is
now shipping canopy skirts in two pieces, essentially already cut up the
||Of course we can't forget the
windscreen fairing. Glassing this thing in is a pain which is probably why
I didn't take any pictures along the way. Here it is essentially done.
I've sanded the thing until I'm blue, and then shot more primer/filler
and sanded more. In this pic I'm masking it just prior to painting the fuselage.
Electrical tape is the only way to go for masking the curving contours...
leaves a nice clean edge, can be sanded, and comes off easily. The
primer/filler used is PPG K38 and I highly recommend it. See the Painting
page for more info.
||You have several choices of how
to have the windscreen fairing integrate with the canopy skirt. I chose a
butt joint, you can also overlap the fairing over the skirt so that when
the canopy closes the skirt tucks in under it. I preferred the looks of
the butt joint, but this required a bit more time and attention to get the
gap just right. In this pic you can see where and how it is built up with
glass and filler to get the contour right. Now it's time to paint the
fuselage, see the Painting page for details
on painting the fuselage.