First Steps…

Throughout all my planning and research, I always had envisioned getting some training on sheet metal for aircraft.  The EAA has a great program called “SportAir Workshops” that does just this through a traveling roadshow of classes throughout the year in various cities. Previously they are typically in the midwest or west coast. The closes to New Jersey I had seen previously was in Virginia.  But in the summer of 2017 they announced a class being held in Philadelphia, only 1.5 hours from home!  I signed up immediately and attend the class on November 18th and 19th.

I could not have been more excited.  After years of listening, reading, and watching aircraft construction techniques – I was finally getting a chance to pickup a rivet gun and learn aluminum building techniques.  It was hosted at an Aviation Maintenance training facility – humble, but well suited for what was needed in the class.  The EAA was actually hosting three other classes within the building also – fabric covering, electrical systems, and composite (fiberglass) construction techniques.  I may end up taking the last two in a few years when those skills become necessary.

The workshop had some cool, old engines on display as they primarily teach turbine engine repair:

After signing in and going over basic class logistics, we were shown to our classroom that would be “home” for the weekend.

I got flashbacks to middle school wood & metal shop.  The classroom has seen their fair number of students over the decade and I could feel that energey in the room.  Two students per workbench, with a bag of tools containing everything needed for the projects undertaken over the course of the weekend.

These are all the basic tools needed to build an aluminum airplane.  That’s it.  Anything else is just additional specialized tools that may be useful to speed up certain steps, but everything minimally required fits in that bag.  

Our teach was Mark Forss who works for the EAA, has built a few airplanes, and produces a ton of material for homebuilders via their videos and publications.  I was thrilled to have Mark as an instructor after having enjoyed a lot of his content.  He was an excellent teacher providing a perfect mix of lecture, lessons learned, tips & hints, and hands-on demonstrations.  

After a bit of background and basics via a PowerPoint slide deck, we started by learning basic drilling, deburring, dimpling, and riveting tasks on scrap aluminum.

After lunch we started the next project which would continue through end-day Sunday.  We went through the steps of building a mock-wing section.  Every hour or so we would pause to learn a new tool or technique required to continue.  By the end of Sunday we all (just) completed our sections.  It was amazing to see the skills required to build rapidly improve over the weekend and confidence levels truly increase to the point where all beleived this is a project that can be undertaken and completed successfully.

What a really fun weekend and I appreciate very much Kathleen handling all the soccer games at home so I can take the class. Next steps are finalizing the plane to build, collecting the tools needed, finishing up a project for Grace, and making final preparations in the workshop.

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