Welding, The Good the Bad and the Ugly.

Builders,

Since we have been looking at some nice welding in previous posts, let us look at the other side of the coin. Sometimes you can learn more by looking at the full range of work.

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Above, This is 100% NOT-AIRWORTHY.  This weld actually looks better than it is, the tubing is completely oxidized around the welds. This came off a complete fuselage which a builder brought to my hangar for inspection. I cut it up as garbage.  He had a $3,000 tubing kit and near 400 hours in welding it. How did this happen? This is the fault of closed-minded idiots in his local EAA chapter, and headquarters needs to directly address the attitude that produced this.

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The welder went to meetings, but told his EAA chapter president and tech counselor that he is using an automotive engine conversion on his plane. Because they are vermin who don’t understand the responsibility of their positions requires they share what they know with every builder, not just their friends assembling RV’s, They refused him any guidance and did their best to socially isolate him.  As a result of working in isolation, he missed that Gas welding is done this 5 psi pressure on both the O2 and  Aceteline. He mistakenly ran the O2 at 25 psi because that is the correct setting for a cutting head. It was a simple mistake that any qualified tech counselor would have seen in one minute….if he had been there instead of judging other builders choices. If you have found yourself in this situation, contact me early, I will be glad to offer all the assistance I can. To this builders great credit, he didn’t argue scrapping the fuselage at all. He just spent some time learning from Vern and myself, and is now doing good work.

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BTW, I have actually seen worse welds flying in planes that were signed off by a DAR, which tells you the DAR is there to inspect the paperwork, not the plane. Never assume just because a homebuilt ‘passed’ inspection that it is airworthy nor safe to fly in.

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OK, not all welds have to look like modern Tig welds to be good. I did the welds above with a gas welder, 22 years ago. This is a chunk of my Pietenpol mount.  If you look at the bent parts, you can see that none of the welds came anywhere near failing, even though the plane was completely destroyed from spinning in from 80′. Good welding is never brittle, and gas welds that look like the ones above will serve a lifetime in a plane, even if your friend makes a mistake close to the ground.

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Welding is a great skill to have in your personal capablity list. If you think of getting welding equipment just because you want a plane with a welded fuselage, forget learning the skill, just buy a factory fuselage, even if it is $10K (never go to a ‘buddy’ to weld a fuselage because he promises to be cheaper, I have never seen that as a success story.) On the other hand, if it is a skill you have always wanted to have, then go for it, but take the learning very seriously and understand it might be a long time before you can make something airworthy.

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Once you have the skill, you will suddenly see that since the industrial revolution, nearly everything in our world is made of steel, and you can now fuse it into nearly anything you like. The photo above is a mount for my Detroit engine. I made it last week. It is Tig welded.  The round tube is a section of a driveshaft and the 2×3 tube was laying in an outdoor pile. Clean them up in the blaster, fit them and weld, and you can have a structure which will mate a road grader engine to a pick up truck, something not for sale in stores. It’s liberating when your skills free you from the limited choices offered by the consumer world.

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Art work in the living room of a Motorhead. This is the remains of my Pietenpol. Cleaning up the hangar on Christmas Day I came across a drum of old burnt steel parts, rusty from being flooded several times in the last 13 years. I spread it on the floor of the hangar and Mig welded it into the shape you see. I call it “Please use carb heat.” Blow it up and get a look,  you can see how mangled it was, but none of the welds failed. I cut it into pieces, but every bend is a result of the accident. The Goodyear Zeppelin in the background belonged to my father, he got it when he was five in 1930.

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Happy building and flying,

Wewjr.

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Pietenpol CG and gear welding

Builders,

On day two of Earl Brown’s visit to my shop we worked on his Pietenpol gear legs. Earl is using split axle gear, laced wire wheels, and disc brakes. The pictures below show some of the stuff Earl, Vern and myself worked on today.

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How do you know where to place the axle in the plane? Follow the 1933 plans? Think again, pre-war Piets didn’t have brakes, and if you try the 1933 gear location of the axle 10″ behind the leading edge, you can be the next guy to put one of these planes on its back. People make that mistake all the time. Why? I have no idea, because from 2010-2012 Myself and Ryan Mueller did an enormous project measuring W&B data from 40 different Piets, developed a mathematical formula to calculate the heaviest pilot who could fly any Piet, and then wrote a series of very clear, concise articles on the information. Problem solved? Not at all, almost no one outside Corvair builders used the data, and they went merrily ahead believing old wives tales and building planes with aft CGs and the tendency to go on their nose.

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Fortunately Earl is a smart cookie, and in a few minutes we placed the location of his Axle 11.6″ behind the firewall, about 1″ behind the leading edge of the wing, and set up this way his plane will not go out of the aft CG limit unit the pilot weighs more than 280 pounds. Five minutes of paper work vs years of building wondering if you will have to move the wing or build new landing gear legs…..or both. Your choice, but Earl is a low stress guy, so he chose 5 minutes of looking at the old articles we wrote long ago.

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Above, a page from the 2012 BPAN newsletter, where all the CG articles were published. These are still available. The is no rational reason to ignore the existence of this painstakingly gathered data, but many builders do. I wrote the articles myself, they cover all popular engines for Piets, and they are presented very simply. It is not required to be a math wonder to use the data, there are many examples of each engine to follow.

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When I presented this data at Brodhead, a man actually told me that I was “ruining Pietenpols” because they are for people who “Like to fly low and slow, and not think too much.” I pointed out that he was literally advocating running out of Altitude, Airspeed and Ideas at the same time.  Some people you just can’t reach.

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Earl made a wood fixture which took the place of the bottom of his fuselage. It also located the axles. Pietenpols have a flat steel tension strap connecting the fittings on each side of the plane.  In the foreground are the the completed die spring assemblies.

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Above, a look at the front fittings, and the beginning of the landing gear leg. $130 steel parts were made by Earl, and Vern welded them with my Tig welder.

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Above, the rear attach fittings, these wrap around the sides, and are also the lift strut attach points.

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Above, Vern stops for “dinner.” It’s Herring out of a can. To make the shop smell better I had to burn more of Earls particle board fixture with the welder. It didn’t really cover the scent, so I may have to empty the contents of several cat litter pans into the shop just to freshen things up. Vern’s jacket celebrates the Bonneville Salt flats. He hand painted the image and the lettering on the jacket one day when he was bored, about 10 years ago.

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Wewjr.

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