This blog is for entertainment purposes only, and is not meant to teach you how to build anything. The author is not responsible for any accident, injury, or loss that occurs as a result of reading this blog. Read this blog at your own risk.

Monday, March 04, 2019

Ch 22 - Electrical/Avionics - Part 17

Exterior lighting

The journey to convert JT from a VFR fun machine to a more all around worthy ride continues with a long overdue upgrade to the exterior this time.

“We are talking LED lights … Baby!”

Perhaps not these

“But why”, you might ask?

“Hmmm… I see your point. Let’s take a step back for a moment.”

While owning JT (the flying EZ) has been a blast for the most part, she has been suffering from an intermittent strobe light. 😱

I know... strobe lights are supposed to be intermittent, this one however was intermittent in the sense that it would choose when to work and when not to work. Now, I am sure the strobe didn’t start acting up the day I bought the plane, so why hadn’t it been fixed?

In my opinion there were two reasons for this. One, the strobe power supply box cost around $550, and two, it resides in the ever inaccessible strake

I struggled with this decision myself because reaching the power supply in the right strake would mean removing the right wing off of the airplane. If this sounds like a big deal, that’s exactly how I felt about it, even though in the past I had once helped my friend Walter to remove and reinstall his wings. 

Last summer however, an unrelated maintenance task forced me to remove both wings (this will be the subject of a future post), so it became go-time for addressing the strobe light situation.

JT "naked"

Wheelen lights/strobe power supply mounted in the right strake

A close up of the boat anchor

JT's original lights

As you gathered by now, I decided to get rid of the existing Wheelen system, and upgrade to the Wheelen Orion. While this doubled my bill, it did offer a few advantages, weight being one of them. Because it is so difficult to remove weight from these small planes, when given the opportunity to remove 2.1 pounds (953 gr) that far back in the CG range, one cannot pass on it.

Be careful choosing your LED lights, as some do not satisfy FAR 91.205 (c) night flight requirement

Not requiring a power supply that could go bad, makes LEDs more reliable, but the cool factor was certainly another big reason. LEDs nav lights are so good looking I had been lusting over them for a long time. 

If this was not enough, there is also no need for heavy shielded cables, and no issues with electromagnetic interference.

“Not convinced yet?”

“Wait, there is more!” 

Power usage went from 7 amps down to 3 amps, and they have the same footprint as my previous ones, so no fiberglassing, no drilling… nothing!

“That’s it, I am sold!”

Old lights, 246 grams each.

New lights, 241 grams each.

Replacement was quick and easy, and though not strictly necessary, I reused one wire from the old system and connected left and right LEDs to each other so that the LED strobes would flash at the same time (it’s an optional feature).

As good looking as JT already is, she looks even sharper now.

But wait, there’s more!

JT's landing light is an absolutely beautiful 250W GE unit, but  the amount of power it requires literally overwhelmes my electrical system, and causes the Low Voltage light to come on. Needless to say I have never used it much, even though I would have liked to.

Introducing the Teledyne Alphabet plus

Teledyne Alphabet plus

Though slightly heavier, the Alphabeam is a direct replacement for the GE light, uses only 45W for the same amount of illumination, and its whiter light makes it easier to see in the dark compared to the yellowish GE output. 

Old GE light, 229 grams.

Gained 172 grams, but also the ability to use it.

Diameter is the same

This LED light doesn't care which wire is positive and which wire is negative

Reusing the original landing light bracket

Used silicone to glue it in

Silicone curing

The new look

Cut a piece off the old radio bracket...

... and pressed it into new service.

Landing light in the deployed position

Looking like ready for business

"Now, that's what I'm talking about!"

The thick and heavy landing light wires went straight into the trash, and were replaced by lighter gauge ones thanks to the diminished demand on the electrical system.

With the outside lighting under control, I shall soon be directing my attention inside the cockpit and passenger compartment in order to shed some light on that situation.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

EZ mailbox

I was trying to keep this a surprise, when my neighbor walked by and asked… “What are you working on?”

“Nothing!” I replied, hoping to conceal the evidence, only to arise my wife's interest.

Trying my hands on something more interesting

Luckily she enthusiastically pronounced the part to be a perfect fit for our mailbox, snatched it, and ran outside.

“Eureka!” I thought. I really had had no plans on what to do with it. 

We all ran out after her.

"What you think of this?!"

Everyone loved the idea. 

Now it was up to me to figure out how to mount it. I wanted it on the mailbox for good, so double-stick tape didn’t sound permanent enough. 

So, I went out and bought an 8-32 threaded rod from Lowes, put it in my CNC mini-lathe and programmed it to cut ¾” sections. I cut four, so that I could make another EZ for the backside of the mailbox.

After drilling and tapping two holes in the strakes and screwing the rod sections in, I set it on my table, looked at it, and started laughing at the tiny Long EZ in the grazing position.

It even kneels like a Long EZ!

I TIG welded the threaded rods to the EZ, painted it white (of course), drilled a couple of holes in the mailbox, and Voila!

"See honey... I told you, I'd eventually use the TIG welder on something useful!" 😁

One gear leg "down and welded", one more to go.

If only flipping an EZ was this EZ 😅

A little sanding, and we were ready for paint.

Strictly white of course, per Rutan instructions.

It was a little like having a fly-in on my dinner table!

Here's the finished mailbox

I used extra nuts on the outside to space it off the mailbox for a more 3D effect.

Back side too, in case the mailman ever looks in the rear view mirror. 😁

I used extra nuts on this side as well

Mailman's view

Let there be no doubt a Long EZ builder/pilot lives here 

This project consumed a couple of days for various reasons, but the plasma cutting portion of it only really took about thirty seconds of that. Regardless, I think the mailbox looks awesome now, and what's more important... the boss agrees. 

"Glow in the dark"?... Why not!

Friday, February 15, 2019

Ch 22 - Electrical/Avionics - Part 16

Passenger’s USB outlet

The most interesting man in the world is rumored to have said (at least once) 

“I don’t always have a back seater, but when I do she's got to have two big… outlets!“

Jonathan Goldsmith aka the most interesting man in the world

Really, nowadays this sounds like such a no-brainer. USB outlets are cheap, plentiful online, and so useful. One can keep a passenger entertained (and quiet) for hours at a time, without any complaints of dead cellphones upon arrival.

And when the GIB (Guy/Girl In Back) is another pilot, you can turn them loose on Foreflight, and have them be useful all the way there and back.

I recall, my first Rough River trip with Wade in 2016. On that first cross-country flight the vacuum pump failed (in VFR weather) right after climbing above the cloud deck (pre-instrument panel upgrade). We continued flying westward on top into improving conditions.

Wade and me at a fuel/restroom stop

A bit later, his tablet's battery also died, so I handed him the one I was using up front, but because of the lack of power in the back seat that one eventually died too. For the rest of the flight, traffic alerts and moving map were only available through my iPhone (connected to JT's Main Bus). While definitely not an emergency, the situation was certainly less than ideal, and a bit inconvenient. 

But it doesn’t have to be that way anymore, because today I am installing a twin USB outlet behind my seat for the GIB's use.

USB outlet from eBay

I was looking for a unit with a shell

Wiring this thing is as easy as it gets


I was originally going to mount it horizontally, right beside the fire extinguisher behind my right shoulder, but I discovered that this location could be troublesome. When I tried closing the canopy, its thin brace tube (behind the headrest) swept a vertical plane that would hit any plug attached to the outlet. 

You can imagine how the brace tube swings down with the canopy

Even worse, it could become difficult if not impossible to open the canopy until whatever device connected to the outlet got unplugged.

That wasn’t going to fly!

My second best location turned out to be pretty close to number one. I chose to install the outlet almost vertically, by attaching it to the front seat back surface. 

The volume above the servo was already dead space

The brace tube doesn’t swing that low, so the outlet can be in use at any time without fear of damage, or entrapment. Also, by placing it above the pitch servo, I recycled some unusable space, and took advantage of existing wiring runs and ties.

Leftover firewall plywood recycled for yet another project

The plywood was floxed to the front seat-back

Two wood screws hold the outlet in position

With the Master Switch ON, the outlet is automatically powered.

Wiring the outlet to the Master Bus allows me to automatically shed its load in case of alternator failure, after switching to the Essential Bus.

I am now looking forward to long more relaxing flight with a much happier GIB.