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Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Instrument panel

With the (finally!) correct combination of tachometer cable length and recording/non-recording type, it was time to mount the instrument panel! The panel was one of the first things I bought for this project after obtaining the aircraft itself. I picked up the panel in February 2013 when I was on a business trip to the US. The instruments are restored and yellow tagged by Keystone Instruments in Lock Haven, PA. The panel itself comes form Clyde Smith who has his workshop also by the old Piper factory in Loch Haven.

OK, once again, I must admit that the panel looks stunning. However, I was a little too quick with the research at the time. It turns out that only L-4A and L-4B models were equipped with cream face instruments. The L-4J should have all black instruments with the exception of the Steward Warner oil temp- and pressure gauge. I'm working on gathering all original instruments for a more authentic panel. I have the B-8 air speed, but missing the altimeter for now.

Once again a big thank you to my cousin Sander who has worked hard preparing all connections to the panel: oil lines, primer fuel lines, static and dynamic etc. And most of all his great effort creating a working BATTERY indicator which is very rare in L-4J's today even if most J models had them.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Birdcage (almost) complete!

LN-MAV "Maverick" was a modified L-4, resembling a PA-11. That was very common for the ex-military L-4's that came to Norway as US Army surplus material. It was mainly the birdcage and engine cowlings that was modified, so building a birdcage was a lot of work. However, with strips of 1 mm aluminum and a cheap plate bender tool, we managed to do a great job! Just picked up the strips from etch-priming and OD painting a few days ago. Also, the BC-659 radiobox has undergone sandblasting and repainting. The radio was not painted in the same OD as used on L-4's but a darker and more green variant.

Important to drill the holes in the glass larger to avoid cracks. All screw heads was primed and sprayed OD and locknuts was used, with a red plastic which looks more antique than the blank ones. Underneath the strips we sticked a window-sealant foam in order to keep water out. Don't know how well that will perform, but it looks very good from the inside and it was less "messy" than using silicon/Tec-7 etc.

We decided to split the aftmost windows so they can be taken off in order to access the avionics in the aft fuselage such as ELT and antennas.

The US Airforce Insignia star's are also produced and ready. They are made from high quality film of the same type as used on company-ads on cars etc. However, we need higher temperatures to mount those. We're missing only two cross-strips on top before the entire birdcage is done. A huge step forward.

Next up: waiting for a 30" Recording tachometer cable from Univair. When this arrives we can complete the instrument panel mounting. Then the exhaust pipes will be needed to complete the engine installation and it can be started soon...

Friday, March 13, 2015

Engine and tail installation

The key to progress: 3 days off work and a warm hangar... Took "Maverick" over to my EAA Supervisor hangar at Aeromech. Started by mounting the exhaust system... which turned out to be a waste of time because it was heavily modified and would not fit with my brand new cowls. We're trying to weld new ones that will fit perfect.

Next was mounting the engine which had been assembled by professionals.. It was on LN-RAK (another L-4J) and was blown over by heavy gusts on a frozen lake in 1976.. The engine was disassembled and kept in a box ever since I was 4 years old! Engine mounting was pretty straight forward. Once it was on I just had to test-fit the propeller. It just looks so much more like a plane with the prop ON... Will have to get 3" 31/32 prop bolts (on it's way from aircraft-spruce).

Tail also came on during these days. However, we have not finished control cable attachment quite yet. Since I'm off to a business trip for a week we spent all the time finishing the window strips. They are now in for priming and paint. Things are moving forward!

Testfitting the Hercules wooden propeller, a pretty good replica with great improvements such as carbin leading edge.
Tail surface mounted, a challenge to drill the inner cross tube without getting any slack.. 
Full tail on! Remember to cross the elevator cables.. :-)
Back in my own hangar.. happy that the spring seems to be established with temps above 0 most of the time.. 

Now working on exhaust system which will fit the precut hole in the engine cowl, at the same time as giving room for tach cable and oil temp probe. It's pretty packed in there!
Waiting to get back inside. Before first startup we need to finish exhaust system and tachometer cable (needed another angular drive also on the engine side). Then all controls must be attached as well as fuel..