Vertical Stabilizer is Completed

Finally, I’ve got my first complete assembly finished. The vertical stabilizer (the vertical portion of the aircraft tail) is complete, and ready for a rudder (that’s the next piece I will build). Overall, the vert stab was a fairly easy build. I learned a lot, made a few minor mistakes, corrected them, and I’m happy with the results. Here are some of the noteworthy issues I ran into…

During various phases of construction, the build plans suggest you cover certain pre-drilled holes with tape, so that you’ll be reminded not to dimple or countersink them. The blue painter’s tape in the pictures, above, is covering several holes in the rear spar of the vert stab. The build plans don’t remind you to remove the tape prior to installing the rear spar, though. I managed to get all clecos in place before I discovered that there was tape on the inside that needed to be removed. So, a minor setback of about 20 minutes, and a blister from using cleco pliers too much, and I had the rear spar back out again so that I could remove the tape. Another reminder not to become complacent, but to be looking ahead in the build … it’ll save some time.

Some of the rivets on the skin-to-rear-spar could be done using the pneumatic squeezer, while some left no choice other than to use the 3X rivet gun and the bucking bar. The pneumatic squeezer is fast and quiet, and produces more consistent rivet sets (at least for this inexperienced riveter at this point in my experience). But, being fast also means if you’re not ready, it’ll quickly do something wrong too. I managed in one case to not have the flush rivet sitting flush before I squeezed it … don’t ask how I did this, it was probably because it was late into the evening and I was getting tired. See below…


So, now all the mistakes have been made, right? Wrong. I had one more challenge before I could call this done. The very last rivets to set are three pop rivets to attach the center rib to the rear spar. While pop rivets are arguably easier than solid rivets, I’d not set any pop rivets before. How difficult can this be? I set the first two, it was easy. The third one, however, didn’t work out so well. The rivet gun pulled half the mandrel off, leaving a portion of it still in the pop rivet head.

Though the mandrel didn’t get pulled off as designed, the rivet was securely set (no wiggle – it was solid, tight in the hole). So, with some persuasion, I managed to snap the remainder of the mandrel off at the rivet head, and then made it look a little nicer with some careful filing. I made the rivet head look pretty ugly after my attempts to pull the remaining piece of mandrel off, but it’s only cosmetic … fortunately. Lesson learned: keep the pop rivet gun oriented perpendicular to the work, and don’t allow it to get out of alignment with that orientation.

Here I am, happy to have my first complete assembly finished.