Building a Jabiru SK by Vic leggott

A couple of years ago I built a Rans S-6 in my two adjoining single garages (with half of the adjoining wall removed) so most of the work was already done in preparation for the arrival of this latest project.

The kit arrived on Wednesday October 10th '97 on the back of a lorry direct from Australia via Tilbury docks, the fuselage sections were in one box which was mounted on another box containing the wings. The boxes were separated to make it possible for four of us to lift it off the lorry. As one might expect it was absolutely chucking it down with rain! We unpacked the crate outside and carried the contents into my workshop, the ink was running on the parts labels!

Vics kit arrives

The rest of the day was spent doing the inventory of the parts and we found some were missing, lists were made and faxed to Valerie at S.T. Aviation the next day - they said they had never had a kit with so many missing parts before - just my luck! Some missing parts were not on the parts list so we didn't find out they were missing until during the build and getting to a particular stage of assembly.

We found that the manual could have done with a bit of updating with part numbers in the manual conflicting with the numbers on the part sheets. Maybe Jabiru in Australia are better organised now and geared up to meet the supply of Kits to the UK market through S.T. Aviation (who worked very hard to solve any problems).

Whenever I had the opportunity to take photos of S.T. Aviation's demonstrator Aircraft (G-OJAB) I did and they proved invaluable when the manual was less than clear.

Work started intensely on the Saturday and I had taken the following week off work to get a good start. All the internal controls had to be fitted and all the components required quite a bit of finishing and painting before they could be installed.

Fibre glass items were 'Flocked' into place (the flock is a mixture of resin and hardener mixed with cotton flock to form a paste). Hinges were riveted and flocked onto the stabiliser and rudder and the static vent tube flocked to the top of the fin.

The firewall was cut out of galvanised steel sheet and bent into shape then riveted to the bulkhead of the airframe.

After two weeks I was ready to join the top and bottom fuselage and tail. We enlisted the help of Andy Silvester (also building a Jabiru SK) as there is a lot to do in a short space of time. We all looked very smart in our new yellow Marigolds! The process involves locating the joggle joint (overlap) of the top and bottom fuselage having applied a layer of flock. My wife Claire was in charge of the flock while myself and Andy secured the joint with self tapping screws (these are removed when the resin has set). The horizontal stabiliser was also joined at this stage and time taken to ensure correct alignment. In various critical places inside the fuselage, glass cloth was applied, this was back breaking work and I was glad of Andy's help. I constructed a tent out of bubble wrap which was placed over the fuselage and heated to maintain a minimum temperature of 16 degrees C for 24 hours, although we managed between 20 and 30 degrees most of the time.

With the fuselage joined, work began on cleaning up the join and filling with P38. Many, many hours were spent rubbing down and filling to achieve a smooth finish. The windows were installed into the fuselage. They are bolted in against a bead of sealant and then blended into the fuselage with filler, a tricky process. The windscreen was bolted and flocked at the edges to form the front door pillar, trying to produce a smooth curve from around the screen and down the side door.

Quite often, fibre glass parts had to be heated and reshaped to fit, including the doors. Again many hours of work goes in at these stages. Claire was a great help when it came to the wet and dry finishing, but I think it will be a good few years before she would undertake that job again! We used various sanding blocks (cork and sponge) and an electric 1/3 sheet orbital sander. I sourced the interior upholstery from a car upholstery company and I made templates for the seats and sidewall coverings. The seats were time consuming but I am pleased with the result. All ready made upholstery can be ordered through S.T. Aviation if required. The instrument panel has changed dramatically from the raw items. I opted for the full size panel. The three parts were joined, the centre section reduced in depth by an inch. I cut out the front panels and made aluminium replacements with the holes cut out for the instruments. I have installed a standard light aircraft panel except for D.I., that is ASI, Artificial Horiz., ALT, Electric Turn and Slip, VSI plus the engine monitoring gauges. I have also fitted a Transponder, GPS and radio.

The wings required a good cleanup and fibre glassing on of the flap brackets, aileron reinforcing plate and aileron hinges. The engine cowlings required a lot of work to get a good fit and the engine oil dipstick hinged inspection cover in the top cowl was assembled and fitted. Goldwing Aviation, custom made a strobe head from a template I made of the top of the tail and have produced a neat installation with a strong twin flash. I invested in a compressor and spray gun and using a high build primer, primed the prepared areas. This is the time to find and fill all the 'pin holes' that seem to appear from nowhere!

On Sunday 14th December the big day arrived when we wheeled out our creation (in primer) for trial wing fit in the back garden. Back in the workshop many hours were spent getting a decent fit on the spats and strut/gearleg fairing.

At this stage I took delivery of my Jabiru engine. This is a 'Flat four' 2200cc air cooled four stroke engine producing 80hp at 3300 rpm. It was fairly straight forward to fit and also meant that the aircraft could sit on its nosewheel ( up to this point it had been tail heavy and needed supporting under the rear fuselage). I enlisted the help of a local paint sprayer for the top gloss coat which was done in my garage. This meant fitting extractor fans and an inlet filter to clear the air of overspray. I dread to think what my electricity bill will be with the 3kw electric heaters going! I decided on a design for the stripes and lettering and was soon applying these which transformed the look of the aircraft.

I fitted the panel and completed the wiring, labelling everything as I went. After a few checks the battery was connected and the master switched on. All the systems worked, with minimal interference from the tail mounted strobe considering the radio aerial is glassed into the fin near the rudder. We trailered the finished aircraft to our local flying strip and assembled the wings etc. ready for the final inspection. With the inspections complete and a flight release certificate issued the paperwork was collected up and sent in for the flight test permit. The PFA did a very quick turn round and it was all systems go - apart from one problem - April appears to be the monsoon season and it was almost 4 weeks before the airfield was serviceable!

Vics finished Jabiru

When the time came, Kevin Pearce from S.T.Aviation, acting as test pilot, took G-BXSI to the skies and returned shortly with a big thumbs up! A few days later I went up with him in my official role as ballast! This is what makes all those hours in the garage worthwhile. I couldn't believe how smooth and quiet it was, purring along at 90k. The handling is agile but very stable and is a joy in turns. The stall had no nasty surprises and is very forgiving. I can't wait for the summer to plan some trips and explore the capabilities of my Jabiru!

It has taken about six months to build including making all the upholstery and trim, all the instrument panel work and all the painting. This includes approximately three weeks off work and working most evenings and every weekend.

Many thanks go to Kevin Pearce and all the team at S.T. Aviation who work very hard to assist in the back up required to take the Jabiru kit through to completion and in my case a special thanks to Kevin who was my inspector and test pilot and gave up a lot of his valuable time.

Vic Leggott            

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