It always seemed to me that when RV airplane builders started working on their cowling, they were near the end of their project. This week, a little more than nine years after I started building my RV-7A, I started working on the cowling in earnest.
Don't get me wrong, I've still got plenty to do on the airplane -- there's the little matter of plumbing the engine, for example -- but other than the wing tips, this will be the last of the "outside" parts of N614EF that people will see when they walk around my airplane. And therein lies the problem, of course.
I don't want to screw it up, and yet, this is the part of Van's airplanes that everyone says has directions that are not very good. Indeed, I've spent two weeks starting at the plans, and reading the instructions and it was only today that I noticed that the instructions basically say, "make it fit." Swell.
Last week, my building pal, Warren Starkebaum, flew over to South St. Paul to give me the once-over on how this is done, so I started on the top of the cowling and after three or four days of being fairly finnicky, I got it to fit as good as I think it will.
So today, I started on the bottom of the cowling, after reading several Web sites with some tips. The problem with almost all of them is they are taildragger models, whereas mine is a nose-gear model. That means you have to cut a slot for the nosegear leg to fit through.
The problem is there's really no knowledge that I've come across that tells me -- exactly -- what I need to do next... and after that... and after that. It seems to me there's money to be made here somewhere for someone in a particular region of the country to be a "cowling coach," working with a builder for an afternoon until they get past the point of no return. These things are expensive, and there's no desire to have a cowling coffee table.
Anway, I found a new use for the wing stand (which I don't need anymore because the wings are attached to the plane now).
The instructions say the bottom cowling should match the radius of each bottom corner of the firewall -- and mine does. And now I need to trim the back end to make the front end match, I guess. But this is kind of crazy.
Still, I can see how it will end up looking like an airplane.
All this fitting seems to be a two-person job. So I think I'm going to wait to do anything more until I can find someone in Minnesota who's done this before, who's willing to spend a few hours helping me get it to a final fit. After that, the sanding and then the filling and sanding of the finish, can be done solo.