Report by Ian Donnelly
I had Been Building a Zenair Zodiac CH601D for a year from scratch, when the promise of early retirement came along and I had to look again at where I would fly the Zenair.(we intend to move back north nearer our grass roots and family).
As with the big engine and no flaps the location we had was not suitable, so I looked at building a Zenair CH701 but did not like the option of a rotax 2 stroke and 912 was too expensive.
Cranfield 1996 where I was very interested in this new engine from Australia the "Jabiru", at the time I did not pay much attention to the aircraft as I thought it was just another piece of tupperware that would come and go, but the engine would be perfect for a CH701.
On my return from Cranfield I was in contact with two friends in Australia who told me about it's popularity as a "Certified" Aircraft, this made me very interested and at this point I contacted Kevin Pearce at ST Aviation to discuss delivery etc. and when his demonstrator would be test flown for certification, I then called Francis Donaldson at the PFA who advised me that as it was not yet accepted as a PFA type I would have to proceed at my own risk, from there I discussed the Jabiru with my local inspector Allan Middleton and with his thoughts being that the kit quality having been accepted by another inspector also as the aircraft was fully certified in Australia it should be OK if I was happy to go ahead.
At this point a kit could be shipped in two weeks to Brisbane for shipping and five weeks by sea to Tilbury, so I got my deposit away on the 18th July 1996 and final payment on 27th July for collection at Tilbury sometime at the end of September but due to shipping agents and the kit being a part load and also the time that customs took to release the kit it was not ready until 7th Oct.
My Collection plan was to travel down to Norfolk with my car and trailer stay with a flying friend Allan Tate who in fact took me over to downham market to meet Kevin for the first time, see G-OJAB and have a shot at taxying it. That evening we had a Jabiru discussion meal and I stayed in a very comfortable guest house with compliments of ST Aviation.
The Next Morning Kevin accompanied me to pick up the Kit at the shipping agents at Basildon. It was then on the road to Scotland via Downham Market a round trip of twelve hundred miles.
Next was the excitement of unpacking the crate and sorting out as per box number and contents at this my inspector Allan had a look at the parts which he decided were acceptable for the purpose and the build manual straight forward, the work area (my garage) was discussed and he suggested that I form a tent with polyethylene sheeting to reduce the area to a minimum, to make it easier to maintain the temperature and humidity required to cure the resin.(normal room temp will do)
On Checking out the components there were some items short i.e. rivets the odd bolt and a hinge, all were put on back order and were shipped very quickly. I had the big foot wheels which had no spats but discussing this with my inspector he said it would be better to stay with the standard kit in this case as the permit type and also that the larger wheels and no spats could degrade the performance and would require a PFA engineering concession for acceptance of the change, on discussing this with Kevin he agreed.
Getting all the tools etc. ready I decided to make a proportional balance for the epoxy resin 3-1 so that however much resin was poured into the cup on the short arm the exact amount had would be in the other cup once it was balanced.
I decided to follow the manual stages in sequential order starting with the empennage / vertical fin and rudder these smaller components where the resin was applied in a spare room in my house as were the wing aileron plates and flap brackets as I could maintain the temperature in excess of the minimum required, the only components resined in the tent was the fuselage and horizontal stabilizer the heat in the tent was with two 3kw fan heaters and three storage heaters (very cold in Scotland) I did a twenty four hour run to establish that I could maintain the heat.
Next after having fitted out the lower fuselage and undercarriage, offered top and bottom together with the tailplane, vertical fin secured with self tappers and satisfied myself that everything was lined up properly, I convinced myself that I was ready to start resining the parts together and that I would do it in two stages. First I resined all parts together and twenty four hours later, lay up the reinforcing in case I caused any misalignment of the tailplane and fin, to monitor the curing temperatures I used two RS comp, remote temp probes one in the tent one in the fuselage with the indicators outside the tent. On now to fitting the doors and windows when the doors were offered up I was not happy with the vertical gaps and my inspector suggested that I build them up with micro balloons and resin to match the gaps, this turned out very well. Fitting the windows is a nerve racking job I used an air driven miniature sander to carefully dress off a little at a time to get a fit then drilled the holes using a drill with the cutting edge ground back then bed the screen in sealant and carefully pull it down with fixing screws.
The next job fitting the rudder & elevator, setting up the deflections was a straight forward job then onto fitting the engine and the electrical wiring. Once the engine is hung life is easier as it sits the nose wheel on the ground and can be moved about easily. The wiring diagrams are easily followed one circuit at a time and a guide length for cutting the wire is even given, the only thing to watch is the mag switches have a piece of metal on them with On & Off remember off is when the circuit is live and On is when the circuit is closed i.e. Mags are earthed not live. best thing to do is once the switches are the right way, remove the On - Off plate.
On now to fitting the cowls Kevin had pointed out some of the problems he had, but sods law my cowls were of an upgraded design and they fit nicely, although on the left hand side the exhaust has not been chamfered and is rather close to the cowl, so I have stuck some aluminium tape on the cowl to spread any heat if there was a local hot spot
Now the fuselage is ready for filling and preparation for painting which will be done after the wings are finished so we set the fuselage aside for the meantime.
The work on the wings is very straight forward, first clean up the areas we are glassing to and obtain pieces of 1/4 steel plate to hold the aileron attachment plates and make up templates to hold the flaps in position and to maintain the cord width when the flap hinges are being set up, you can make these from the packing case, when the flap hinges are sanded to give a good match to the wing they are initially fixed with five minute epoxy to the wing the flap can now be removed and the laying up done in one session that is the flap brackets/aileron hinges to the wing maintaining the cord width accurately from the leading edge.
We now disassemble all these parts of the wing and fuselage for the finishing preparation and I can assure you there are no short cuts it is pure hard monotonous work but the finished product depends on attention to detail at this stage, at this point I had decided to use two pack acrylic paint for the finish and to contract this work out as a special breathing apparatus etc. is necessary so I got the painter round and he showed me the standard required, the preparation took me ten days and at least six to eight hours a days with the painter calling in every second day.
My target of finishing by Christmas was gone but the week before Christmas the painter said OK its ready now take it to the paint shop. Three days later we towed it up the road in the village all nice white and shiny. I then started refitting the parts:- elevator/rudder/trim mechanism/ailerons/door catches and instruments, the upholstery I had made by a friend of Kevin's and it looks very smart.
Next move was to borrow a trailer and take it to the airfield, Deeside Gliding Club where my inspector Allan Middleton runs his business "Aboyne Aircraft Services" we rigged the "Jabiru" in the old hanger for weighing, fingers crossed that it would be 236kg or lighter than G-OJAB but not it was 246.3kg but by producing various weight and balance examples it was decided by Allan that no ballast was required in the tail.
The Engine runs have gone well, my initial problems were, that I had not cleaned the shellac varnish off the starter motor cable before crimping it to the battery lead and that the engine does not like low temperatures (you need to run the prop over by hand 4-6 times then use the choke with no throttle it then works fine) The oil pressure was a touch high until the engine had warmed up, extended ground runs did not effect the CHT it was in the green all the time proving that the baffles work great.
To date general remarks on the kit and building are that the majority of the components are very well made and require very little additional work i.e all flying surfaces wings, tailplane, elevator, fin, flaps, ailerons and doors are 9.5 out of 10, the fuselage, cowls, spats and fairings 7/10 and metal work u/carriage, engine mount , control parts and doors 10/10
As far assistance required went 90% was done with my wife who is five foot one inch and 130lbs, and for somebody who enjoys a lot of flying and a little building the Jabiru is the answer I only hope now that it flies as well as it looks.
It most certainly does!!!
Written by Ian Donnelly