Ventus 2c: painting the canopy

Canopies are nicest with a white band around them. Painting this is always a bit tricky. Some of my mates paint it by hand. I like to spray paint it. This is a bit more work, but in my view gives a slightly better result. I first sand the edge of the canopy that I intend to paint. Then comes the most important part: covering the bits that should not get paint on them. I first apply good wax/painters masking tape around the edge. This must be good quality tape – cheaper tapes (including the commonly available TESA) often result in the paint getting under (or through) the tape and ruining the canopy. Make sure this is well pressed onto the canopy. Then comes the job of covering all the rest. One small hole anywhere in the covering and the canopy is ruined – spray painting will always find this hole. So don’t save on tape and make sure all is carefully covered. After that I first apply a few coats of primer to make sure that any remaining small gaps on the edge are filled. Allow this to harden out and, if necessary, slightly sand to remove any uneven parts. I then use a standard car paint to spray paint the edge. Important is not to wait too long with removing the tape – I usually wait until the paint is ok to touch but hasn’t fully hardened out. Waiting longer may result in chipped edges (one of the reasons I paint the canopy myself at home, and not with the rest of the plane in the paintshop).


Ventus 2c: filler

Before having the wings and tailplane spray painted, they first need a coat of primer to ensure an even surface and fill the structure of the glass covering and any pinholes in the glass covering. This is a terribly messy and smelly job, best done in a well-ventilated area on a not too cold/not too warm day. Not one of my favourite bits. I apply the primer using a metal “Japan Spachtel” (Japan or Surface spatula) and a paint brush. Note that this primer is extremely agressive and will dissolve plastic containers as well as normal paint rollers. I also use a good mask while applying it.


Ventus 2c: assembly to check if all is ok

With canopy and wingtips all done, it’s time to assemble my Ventus 2c to check if all is ok – and of course to admire the result of my work so far. I also weighed the glider. As in the picture it’s now at 2.71kg – this is without filler, paint and most of the electronics (except for elevator servo and cable, which are already in the fuselage). This means that it should be possible to get a final flying weight of less than 5kg – as planned. Fingers crossed.

Next step is to apply filler to the wings and control surfaces and give them a final sanding. Then I’ll need to prepare the plane for the paintshop.


Ventus 2c: canopy

Cutting the canopy to size and glueing it onto the frame is one of those jobs that’s tricky and easy to get wrong. Worst of all is that any mistakes are very visible afterwards – a badly fitted canopy can really ruin a glider. No wonder I’ve never met anybody who actually likes doing this. Same here. I always wait for a day that “feels right”. I first check that the canopy frame is sanded to size (approx 1mm back from the outside of the fuselage – depending on the thickness of the canopy). Then I make the first rough cut of the canopy, place it over the frame (mounted onto the glider) and mark where I should cut it. Important is to make sure you mark the center at the front and rear of the canopy, to make sure that it’s always in the same place. The first “rough” cut I do using my Tamiya canopy scissors. Then it’s time for the (very rough) permagrit and 80grain sanding paper. Fit, sand, repeat (very often). I usually takes me 2-3 hours to get it right. Just be extremely careful with the sanding – one slip over the canopy and it’s ruined….

Once I have a fit that I’m satisfied with it’s time to glue the canopy to the frame. I do this using epoxy resin thickened with aerosil and micro-balloons. First I make sure that the fuselage is nicely waxed and protected with tape. Then I use a syringe to add glue all over the frame. Then comes the tricky part: carefully place the canopy over the frame and center the front and rear markings. Then I use wax tape to glue the frame in place. In areas where the frame is standing out I use leftover ebechi wood (vertical grain) with double-sided tape to make sure that the canopy is level with the fuselage. Now it’s time to let the resin cure and see how well I did this time.There will always be places where there was too much or too little epoxy, and I’ll need to make some small corrections after the first epoxy is cured.

 


Ventus 2c: wingtip dihedrals

The Ventus wing has multiple dihedrals. The first two were built into the wing as part of cutting the wing’s foam core. The last two (6 and 15 degrees) were too much for the thickness of the foam and must be added after the wing is completed. As it only concerns the outer two wing segments, there is no need for complicated spars or internal reinforcements. I simply separated the last two segments with a saw, sanded them back to get the right angle, removed some of the foam on both sides of the cut and re-attached the two segments using epoxy resin thickened with cotton flakes and aerosil. I did this in two steps, to make sure that I got the right and identical dihedrals on both wings. After letting the epoxy cure I will put a thin strip of 49gr glass fiber (45 degree fibers) over the seams, both on top and underneath the wings. That should be strong enough for this glider.


Monett Monerai: building the fuselage pod

I’m only planning to finish the Monerai next winter and hope to maiden it in Spring 2024. Richi, our shaper, however already finished the mould for the Monerai’s fuselage pod and built the first pod. He also kindly waxed and spray painted the mould for me, and pre-cut the glass, so that I could easily build the fuselage pod in the mould myself.

I’ve built fourteen fuselages together with our “master builder” Georg, but never did one all by myself. A small fuselage pod for the Monerai was thus a great opportunity to try it out. Even with such a small fuselage it took me over three hours (even with three instead of the usual four layers of glass), not including preparations and cleaning up. I also made a few mistakes along the way, but fortunately realised and corrected them on time.

After leaving the pod to cure for three days I released it from the form. The result was much better than expected – just a small airpocket in the nose (where FES spinner will be anyway), the rest looks very good. I’m pretty pleased.

 


Ventus 2c: fitting the wings and covering them with glass

Having completed the basic build of the wings I first spent a morning sanding down the ebechi and getting the leading edge into the right shape. A lot of very dusty work, best done outside on a sunny day. After that it was time to fit them to the fuselage. Lots of measuring and trying, before glueing the 6mm aluminium pins into place. To ensure a perfect fit with the fuselage I then first closed the end of the wings with a bit of carbon and with a bit of epoxy with lots of microballoons filled any remaining gaps between the wings and the fuselage. Following that I completed the wingtips, in two steps, using small bits of balsa wood, glued on using thickened epoxy resin. Following all that was another coat of transparent primer to ensure that the ebechi doesn’t absorb too much epoxy.

Then it was time to cover the wings in glass. We use 49gr glass, applied at a 45 degree angle to improve the torsional stiffness of the wings. We apply it using a paint roller and an old anti-stick frying pan. The epoxy is mixed with 30% methanol, so it gets really watery. First the underside, then let the epoxy cure (with the wings hanging leading edge up, to avoid deformation). Then the upper side, again letting the epoxy cure with the leading edge up.


Diana4: maiden flight of the first Diana4!

Today we maidened the first of our three Diana4 – the one built by Georg. He finished it just last week (having started the build at the end of last year – very fast, as usual). His Diana4 came out at 6.4kg, 7.1kg with ballast.

As always with a brand new plane, it needed a bit of finetuning. Georg started off with the CG of our Diana2 (which has the same wing profile), but that turned out to be too far back. Also mixing in down elevator with the butterfly needed a few tries. Once he got the settings in the right range the plane just didn’t want to come down anymore. There is still some more fine-tuning to do, but it’s a wonderful glider that will surely see much “airtime”.


Ventus 2c: closing the wings

It’s always satisfying to see the wings of a new build for the first time “in full”. I spent two mornings with help of my flying buddy EP to close both wings – the first time I am doing this in my own workshop. I was a bit nervous about how accurate my calculations for the thickness of the main spar were (if you get it wrong then the carbon roving “overflow” from the cutouts, which is a pain to correct afterwards) – but they proved about right. I’m also not unhappy with the weight of the wings: 588 and 594gr. I’ll be able to reduce the slight difference in weight when sanding down the ebechi. The wings are around 40gr heavier than the ones built in my club twenty years ago (they came out at around 450gr). The reason for that is that all inserts in the wing are carbon rather than a combination of kevlar, glass and carbon in the earlier builds. The biggest difference is that I significantly beefed up the amount of carbon rovings in the main spar – the wing is nice and stiff – perfect for the slopeĀ  :-).


Ventus 2c: Instrument panel

While searching the net for good pictures or examples of Ventus 2c instrument panels I was surprised by how little I found. Fortunately there was a nice drawing of an instrument panel among the papers from the first builds of the Ventus in our club 20 years ago. As this may be useful for others as well I’m posting it below. I’ve also found a good enough picture of an panel “in action” and used that to pick the instruments. I know the compass isn’t really in the right place….

 


Ventus 2c: preparing to “close” the wings

We build our wings “upside down”, i.e. the top side first. That’s the easy bit. The underside is much more work. First comes all the measuring and drawing out the position of the main spar, wiring channel and the spars at both sides of the hinge of the control surfaces. I mark the right position of each on packing tape, doing both wings at the same time and regularly cross-checking to make sure that all is in the correct place.

Then comes cutting out the foam for the three spars. Foam is a killer for blades. As we re-use the foam cut out of the two rear spars (carefully “dug out” using a sharpened screwdriver), it’s important that these cuts are clean. The same goes for the cutout of the main spar – too big or too messy and the calculations for the amount of carbon rovings no longer work, or the main spar may end up positioned slightly skewed. To make sure all is cut straight we use a thick board that is placed horizontally using a small inclinometer and cut along the edges of the thick board. I also cut out a bit of foam at the leading edge, so that I can fill it with micro-balloons in resin (easier to sand the leading edge into shape). Make sure that all surfaces that were glued before are carefully sanded and cleaned of dust so that the next layer of epoxy resin sticks. Using thick plywood I also prepared to bits that will be glued into the root of the wing and into which the two 6mm aluminium pins will be glued to attach the wing to the fuselage.

I glued together the foam cutouts of the two rear spars using 5 minute epoxy and pulled over a carbon sleeve. The core of the main spar is made out of Rohacell – a dreadfully expensive material, but very easy to sand into the right size. The size for the Rohacell core of the main spar can easily be calculated using the really cool excel sheet by Christian Baron (link to the 2013 version, example filled out for an ASK18). In this case I used the layout that was used for the Ventus 2c built by Georg over 20 years ago – with a few minor modifications. The spar will be much more robust than needed, but since I plan to mostly use this plane on the slope, the extra stiffness is welcome. I’ll have 2×20 1600k carbon rovings at the root, reducing by one roving every 10cm, finishing with 2×2 rovings at the start of the penultimate wingsegment. The bits of the main spar are also glued together using 5 minute epoxy and then covered with a carbon sleeve.

The channel for the wiring was cut out using a small soldering iron with an attachment made by our building team mate Richi.

Once all the bits for closing the underside were prepared it was time to prepare the workshop, including setting up the tool for adding resin to the carbon rovings. All is now set, I hope to close the first underside in the next few days.


Ventus 2c: cockpit frame and instrument panel

After leaving the “raw” cockpit frame to cure for a few days it was ready to be sanded into shape (our epoxy cures in 12 hours, but it’s easier to sand if you leave it a few days). With a lot of material needing to be removed, this is a messy job, but the result is ok.

I also used a glass fiber plate that I made with two layers of 100gr glass to shape the cover of the instrument panel. The plywood panel is based on a drawing of the original cockpit panel. After potisioning this with 5 minute epoxy, I cut the individual glass segments. These I also glued in place with a few dots of 5minute epoxy and then added two layers of glass with epoxy resin on the inside.

My mate Georg gave me a really old seatpan from his stock that fits well with the fuselage.

The result isn’t totally “scale”, but good enough for me.


Ventus 2c: Building the Wings (upper side)

The upper sides of both Ventus wings are now done. This is the “easy” bit of the wing building. Before starting with the epoxy I first prepared the foam shells and cores. Using a brush on the vacuum cleaner I cleared the “angel hair” remains of cutting the foam. The parts of the upper shell are taped to the building board (which has carefully measured markings for the right position of all parts) and glued together with UHU POR. The leading and rear edge of the shells, as well as the area underneath the main spar, are covered with packing tape (make sure you find a version that doesn’t stick to epoxy). I also applied a few bits of double-sided tape to ensure that the ebechi stays into place.

The ebechi is painted with a primer to avoid it from absorbing too much epoxy. After the primer has cured, the side where the carbon and foam are applied to is sanded and cleaned.

I then prepared 45gr of epoxy resin (make sure you measure and note this down for the other wing shells – 35-40gr would have been ok as well). Using a small soft roller I applied the epoxy to the parts of the ebechi to be covered with carbon. Then I put the carbon in place and again applied epoxy to the carbon using the roller. After letting it rest for a bit I then used kitchen paper and a hard roller to remove excess epoxy resin from the carbon. I then added a bit of foaming agent to the remaining epoxy and applied that epoxy to the remaining areas of the ebechi wood (and also parts of the carbon).

I then put the ebechi with carbon into the foam shell (sticking it to the shell using the bits of double sided tape), after which I added the wing cores (make sure you position them carefully) and the top of the shell. I added some foam bits to the corners of the wing (to avoid them being pressed down too hard in the vacuum) and insert the whole board with wing into the vacuum bag. Using the vacuum cleaner I created a vacuum, and then attached my new vacuum pump. I stayed with the pump for a while to make sure it stabilises the pressure at -0.15bar and then I left it to run for around 12hrs (making sure that the room temperature is around 21 degrees). I use a timer to turn off the pump after 12 hours (usually late in the evening), leaving the wing in the bag until the next day.

After removing the board and wing from the vacuum bag I used a sanding block to remove any bits of ebechi or carbon sticking out (the carbon pins can be really nasty).


Ventus 2C: Canopy Frame

Building the canopy frame is always a bit of a pain. Here’s the method we use. First applying loads of tape to protect the fuselage in the parts around the frame. Then apply three layers of wax (leaving each layer to dry and polishing it carefully with some soft cloth). Then apply some thickened and coloured epoxy resin (with a “fast” hardener) and wait for the epoxy to cure a bit. Then I applied a layer of 100gr glass fiber, followed by four carbon rovings (entire length). I again waited for the epoxy to cure a bit. And then the “construction work” begins. Using coloured epoxy, thickened with lots of microballoons (so it stays in shape when applied) I built up the canopy frame on top of the carbon rovings/glass base. The result usually looks quite messy, but that doesn’t matter. Just make sure you apply enough material, so that you can sand away enough to get the frame into shape. I usually wait a few days for the epoxy to fully cure before sanding the frame into shape. Before sanding, make sure you drill the holes for the front pin and the rear lock. I always sand the inner part of the frame before releasing it from the fuselage. I use 2mm steel wire for both the front pin and the lock.


Chocofly JS3: maiden flight with the FES fuselage

In August 2022 I got a second fuselage for my Chocofly JS3 and built this as a “light” version, without retractable gear and towhook, but with a light outrunner FES (6S). As I lost the winglets for my JS3 just before that and I only got a new set of Winglets in the beginning of December, I did not yet get a chance to maiden the new fuselage before winter. Today’s great weather was the perfect opportunity to give it a go.

There are a number of reasons for me to get a second fuselage and set it up with a light FES. The first is that I really like Chocofly JS3 with the Jetec70, but the club airfield where I fly most doesn’t allow us to fly with impeller (it’s in a sensitive area). The second is that I wanted to have the possibility to fly a very light JS3 for conditions with very light thermals. The version with the JETEC70 weighs about 6.7kg. My scratch-built JS3 is about 6.6kg. The Chocofly version with the FES fuselage however only weighs 5.9kg. This weight difference makes quite a difference. It almost turns on its wingtips and is even harder to stall than the other version. But speed retention is of course much worse.

The maiden flight and subsequent flights to fine-tune the glider went well. It’s a dream to fly and a breeze to land. I like this version and look forward to flying it often.


Ventus 2c: preparations for building the wings

With the fuselages and tail sections of both the Diana 4 and Ventus 2c well advanced, it’s time to start on the wings. I will do the wings of the Ventus 2c first. All previous wings I built with my mate Andi. These ones I will be doing by myself.

The first step is to mount the cut styrofoam parts to the building board (which takes a lot of measuring), clean them and glue together the upper part, prepare the obechi wood, draw out the layout of the carbon on the obechi (which takes even more measuring) and cut the carbon for all four surfaces.

We always build our wings “upside down”. I will first be doing the two upper parts, and then I will add the spars, in the same step as closing the lower part of the wing. All in all four “vacuum sessions”.

Each wing will be built in one piece. Once the wing is sanded and glassed, I will cut off the two outer segments and glue them back at the right angle.

A few details on how we build our wings:

  • We build the “traditional” way, around a foam core, cut with a hot wire. It allows for a light wing, perfect for the type of flying we do. The foam we use is from Schurg Modellbau in Germany. Our club purchased a truckload of the stuff decades ago, but it’s now running out, so we’ll be looking for a fresh supply – ideas for suppliers in Switzerland are more than welcome!
  • The foam cores are glued onto 0.6mm obechi (abachi) wood. A good supplier in Switzerland for this is RIK Modellbau in Mosnang.
  • We use carbon cloth to reinforce the wings at the front (carbon D-box) and rear (control surfaces), as well as around the wing joiner and underneath the servos. We’ve experimented with different types of carbon cloth over the years. Our favourite is 100gr Carbon Biax supplied by swiss-composite.ch. It’s good value, fibres are at a 45 degree angle, and it’s easy to cut and use.


Diana 4: motor bulkhead and cockpit cover

Sometimes things don’t go quite as planned, even if you’ve done it plenty of times. Installing the motor bulkhead of the Diana4 was a pain. The carbon bulkhead was just a bit too big for the fuselage, and I was sloppy in making the first cut on the nose. I ended up having to remove the bulkhead (fortunately only fixed with a few dots of 5min epoxy) and sanding it down by mounting it on the drill and rotating it on a bit of 120 grain sandpaper. Even the second try wasn’t quite as good as I wanted it to be, but with a few corrections on the fuselage it will come out fine once the fuselage is painted.

In-between I produced two covers of the instrument panel. The first one in the mould that was spray painted, the second one using thickened epoxy as the “basis”. Making these small parts in the mould are good for using left over bits of glass. Two layers of 160gr, or a layer of 50gr, one of 100gr and one of 160gr are more than enough for a robust cover.


Diana 4: Instrument Panel

The full-size Diana 4 is not yet ready and we don’t have any pictures of what the instrument panel will look like. So I’ve had to make something up. Below is the result. It’s actually almost identical to that of our JS3. The only thing I changed is the logo at the top of the VNE chart. Click on the link below to get a printable PDF file – if that’s of use to anybody.

 


Diana 4: decals

The first of our three Diana 4, the one that Georg Staub is building, is nearing completion. It came back from the paint shop almost two weeks ago and Georg is now in the process of finishing the wings. It should be in the air in another month or so. So time for me to finish the decals. The decals I’ll be cutting are inspired by the Diana 2 logo, as well as the layout of the Diana 3 and the plans of the Diana 4 available on the internet. As there is no full scale Diana 4 as of yet, that’s all we have to work with for now. Linked through below is a full scale PDF of the decals, made by me, in case anybody else is interested and wishes to use them.


New Vacuum Pump

With my previous projects I built the wings and stabilisers together with Andi, using his workshop and pump, or borrowed a vacuum pump. As I hope to build quite a few more planes in the future and wanted to have a go at building a glider all by myself, I though it was time to purchase my own vacuum pump. For building the horizontal stabilisers I used a small KNF vacuum pump that I purchased second hand a while ago. It worked well with the smaller vacuum bags, but it will be at it’s limit with the larger bags that building the wings of the Ventus and the Diana 4 will require. Last month I thus ordered a larger pump through Lindinger – it’s also a KNF pump, made in Germany, and distributed through R&G. It took almost a month to be delivered, and seeing the production date on the pump it looks like it was made to order. Am looking forward to trying it out on the wings of the Ventus.