N79FT A Skybolt Story

Strobe Shields for Cheetah


On: Oct 24, 2014
In: blog
Tags: 9891U, mechanicing, sheet metal

No Skybolt news, you say?

Well, with dead alternator, tons of work, and unfinished install of a gauge that is supposed to keep you informed about your engine, not much time for the Bolt.

Oh well.

I love to fly at night. It's just something out of a different world, something... else.

There are a few things that are extremely important at night. Most importantly, the old "See and be seen" rule.

To be seen, you need blinking lights on your airplane, nav lights, ideally a landing light, and such.

To see, you need to retain your night vision. That means, no bright white or any color light besides something like red or blue. Otherwise, your eyes readjust for "daylight", and you are at good odds of not seeing other blinking lights... like the ones on an airplane you might fly into!

You see, I don't have strobe shields on my plane. Take a look at the picture below, and imagine you sitting in the cabin.

Strobe Shields on a Grumman

Strobe Shields on a Grumman

You see that vertical little metal "fin" I circled? That's what blocks you from seeing the strobe - a bright flashing white light. If that metal fin is not there, you basically get blinded every second or so.

It's so bad I ended up flying with strobes turned off a couple times I was up after dark. I figured, just one beacon on the tail and no strobes is better than a blind pilot.

And especially now, when the weather in Texas is so nice and night flying is just calling and calling and calling, that became a priority project.

So, on to it!

Those shields go under the wing tip light cluster lens, and the spot they're supposed to go into is curved. Shields themselves are nothing but a curved L - angle out of aluminum.

So, I needed a stretcher.

The Stretcher

The Stretcher

Prepared one of the wingtips:

Wingtip light cluster with the spot where the shield goes cleaned up.

Wingtip light cluster with the spot where the shield goes cleaned up.

First, I decided to make a test piece to get some practice. Never used a stretcher before.

We start with a simple L-angle. I used 6061-T4, 0.025 thick.

Simple angle

Simple angle

And then, stretch-check-stretch-check... Not bad at all. Just takes time.

Stretching

Stretching

Close enough for a prototype.

Close enough for a prototype.

You can see on the pictures that the stretcher leaves pretty deep "scratches". On the prototype, I tried sanding them out -- only to get my metal turn paper thin.

On the real one, I decided to fill them up with Bondo.

So, bought some, and made myself a pattern too -- which I printed full size.

To do that, asked Adam, the guy who bought my 28797's share (thanks again, man!) to take some pictures of strobe shield on his Tiger.

And then, just drew around it in Solid Works. Turned out nice.

Sketching around the photo in SWX.

Sketching around the photo in SWX.

Note the tape measure above -- I first drew a line 6 inches long and scaled the photo until that line matched 6 inches on the tape measure. This way I ensured proper scale.

SolidWorks part for the Strobe Shield

SolidWorks part for the Strobe Shield

Drawing of the part for the patterns.

Drawing of the part for the patterns.

So with those patterns printed out, I went to town.

First thing I noticed is that curvature on the wingtip I was working on doesn't match the pattern :). Of course. They're all different (and by the way, on the other wingtip it matched perfectly. Go figure.). I wanted the pattern to primarily get the general shape right.

So, here I am stretching my L shaped angle, and... SNAP!

:(

:(

So now, bend another L angle, deburr, clean up, size... sigh.. I went much much slower...

I think, getting it perfect took around 3 hours of careful work. That curve gets aggressive towards the end. And, when I was almost done.. snap! I tore it up again, this time the very tip.

Damn!

Damn!

Luckily, it actually still was long enough (I started with a piece longer than necessary), so I was able to get away with this tear. Phew.

Perfect fit!

Perfect fit!

Cut to about the right size

Cut to about the right size

Next, came a lot of sanding, filing, and emery-clothing to get it to the right shape. And then, the holes.

Those had to be duplicated and match up with the existing holes in the wingtip, so I made a simple hole duplicator. No, I'm not paying 10 bucks for that thing!

Homemade Hole Duplicator

Homemade Hole Duplicator

And, we have the holes.

And, we have the holes.

Finally, I filled all the scratch marks with Bondo, sanded it down, and called it a nite. I think it was around 3 am then :).

Next day, the other wingtip.

Prep

Prep

Notice that this one has rivnuts and not just holes. I now have a theory why this plane is missing strobe shields.

I think the guy who tore all the threads in the fiberglass wingtip and installed those rivnuts (remember, the other one doesn't have them?), was too lazy and didn't want to tweak the holes in the strobe shields to match with the rivnuts. That's my guess.

Initially, I thought about making oversized holes in the shield, but that would put one of them too close to the edge. Then, I tried filing the rivnut down a bit, but decided that I'm not gaining much there, and that notching the strobe shield base would be best. That's what I ended up doing.

I made just the first notch, and to stretching it was!

First Notch

First Notch

When it was close to the other rivnut, I notched area around it.

Secont Notch - close!

Secont Notch - close!

They came out perfect.

And then, tons of filing, shaping, sanding, Bondoing, sanding, washing, and...

All done!

All done!

They're not quite complete yet. I'll have to clean up the rest of black tape from under the wingtip lenses and replace them with new ones, but that'll come after painting the shields. I'll ask Dave Fletcher to paint them into the same Imron he's gonna use for the (now soon to come) wheelpants.

And you know what.. that was fun!


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This construction log only shows how I did things during the construction of my Skybolt. These pages are for information and personal entertainment only and not to be construed as the only way, or even the perceived correct way of doing things. You are responsible for your own construction techniques.