Installing Wings Solo




I'm building a Zenith Zodiac 601XL. As much as my wife would like to help, I'm not good about accepting it.

So there I am, a fuselage that's almost ready to fly and no wings on it. All the airplane pictures I have show wings on either side of the airplane. Here's how to put them there.

The first time took about a day. Now it takes a couple hours. OK, thats not great, but you *are* doing it yourself.

PostScript - Initially I created this for other builders, forgetting that non-builders will view this too.
Here's some background links that will help if you're not a builder. (yet)

[] - The Experimental Aircraft Association provides active support for aircraft builders and restorers. If you're in America, chances are very good there's a chapter near you.

[] - My local EAA chapter. There are some guys in this chapter who have forgotten more about flying than I'll ever know. By the way, the chapter also has a couple of super tech counselors, Gary Collins & Howard Wells, who are eager to help when I get stumped. - The EAA chapter 174 newsletter that was kind enough to mention my project on pages 2 & 3. - This is the home page for my flavor of aricraft. Zenith makes a 4 seat version of this aircraft as well as 2 & 4 seat models of a STOL aircraft. - The rudder workshop. My wife & I knew nothing about aircraft building or working sheet metal. In a day & a half, we had built a rudder that we will be flying on our aircraft. - An email list where other builders offer advice. - The makers of my engine, the 3300. I was lucky enough to learn engine maintenance from Don Richter, the guy in Oz who designs & supports the engines. - An email list for people who fly the Jabiru - My local Jabiru distributor. - The company that enables me to have a glass panel. For non-builders, that's a panel that doesn't have any spinny dials. Just a little monitor with more info crammed onto it that the dials can show.
I'vc installed the Horizon 1 EFIS and EIS6000 engine monitoring system. You can see what they look like if you follow the newsletter link.

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Step 1: Introduction to Your Equipment

First off, you're going to require some specialized equipment. The first is a wing dolly. It's a stand that holds your wing leading edge down in slings.

The second is a wheeled movers dolly.

And if you have a slanted driveway, you will need all sorts of boards. Hint: Your airplane has wheels, your equipment has wheels, etc.

Note the yellow band clamp. You don't want this puppy falling off the dolly.

Step 2: Positioning the Wing

Position the wing ahead of the fuselage.
Place the movable sawhorse near the end of the wing and a fixed sawhorse near the root.

Step 3: Power Lifting

Balance your chakra's, center your chi and hoist the wing root onto the stationary sawhorse. Set the leading edge on the sawhorse vertically, being sure to set the wing down on a rib.

Step 4: A Slight Setback

Hindsight is 20/20.

When using a sawhorse, always place the load well *inside* the legs.

There was a sizable pucker moment when this puppy went over. Luckily when It fell, it went straight back into the dolly. I was able to unclench after I determined there was no damage done.

The pucker spasms tapered off over the next couple hours.

Step 5: Power Lifing, the Sequel

Chakra. Chi. Lift.

Place the load towards the inside of the sawhorse.


Step 6: Lift and Rotate

Next, position the movable sawhorse so the wing will rest on a rib.

Lift the wing time and rotate it backwards to rest on the movable sawhorse.

As I'm doing this myself, I'm sure you'll understand why where is only the 'after' picture.

Now that we've got the puppy on sawhorses, it's time to insert the spar into the center wing section.

Step 7: Mission One Eigth Accomplished

When the wing is on the sawhorses. lift the wingtip and move the wheeled sawhorse towards the center, not quite to the balance point.

Go to the wingtip and push down to lift the wing root. All the weight is on the wheeled sawhorse and now you can push the whole assembly towards the fuselage (fuse).

At this point, you go to the wing root and insert the spar into the center wing in the fuse.

Back to the wing tip and push the spar into the fuse. You will have to lift the rear of the wing to get the proper tilt so the spar doesn't bind in the fuse.

Step 8: More Highly Specialized Tools

As you can see, these are tools that most of you have or can make.

On the left you see some MIG welding wire. These help with the coarse and fine adjustment when lining up bolts.

In the center you see some brass stock the same size as the bolts. I bullet nosed the end by chucking it into a drill press and spinning it while holding a file to the end.

On the far right is a bolt that's one size down from the actual bolt.

Between the brass stock and the small bolt is the bolt that really belongs in the wing.

Step 9: Gross Adjustment

Now let's go inside the fuse and look rearwards at the center spar.

Use one if the MIG feelers. With one hand maneuver the wing so the spar is roughly in place. With the other hand feel until you get the position vaguely correct. Insert the wire.

Once you get one in, maneuver the wing to get a MIG wire in a second hole.

Step 10: Getting There 1

After you've got a couple feeler wire through, wangle the spar around until you get the undersized bolt through.

I prefer putting the undersized bolt through the outermost hole. The reason is that you have to go through the spar doubler which makes for 2 extra thicknesses. It's easier to install this bolt last when you're sure the wing is nearly perfectly positioned.

When you have the undersized bolt in place, this is when your wire turns into a precision measuring instrument.
Remove a wire and poke it into the hole. Whet you're looking for is resistance on the left & right sides. And the top & bottom, but to a lesser extent.

This is when a second person would REALLY come in handy. But for the purposes of this Instructable, let's say she's keeping the children from playing in the street and running with scissors.

If you feel the spar on the outboard side (the right in this picture) it means the wingtip is too low. Lift the wingtip and move the sawhorse inboard..
If you feel the spar on the inboard side, move the sawhorse outward.

At this point you can use the brass stock or another undersized bolt.

Eventually, you will get it correct and finally slide the actual bolt. Savor your moment of triumph.

Then realize you are only 1/12th done.

Step 11: Getting There 2

OK, you've got a bolt in. Continue probing the hole and moving the wingtip up and down until you get a second bolt in.

Step 12: Bottom Bolts 1

OK, so you've got the first 2 top bolts in. Now it's time to think about the bottom bolts.

You'll want to put the bolts in from the back because you'll have fuel line running in from the wings.

I'm including a picture of my slight modification to the fuel system from my version of the plans. The original called for fuel valves running into a common gascolator and fuel pump.

I've added a gascolator and fuel pump at the base of each wing.

Later versions of the plans call for a mini-gascolator in each wing, so I'm adhering to the spirit of the plans if not to the letter.

Repeat the process for the bottom bolts. Feeler, undersized bolt, actual bolt. Believe it or not, as you get closer, the bolts actually slip in without force.

Step 13: Bottom Bolts 2

A better shot of the bottom bolts with my homegrown fuel system.

You can see two of he bottom bolts in place.

You're ready to start on the other wing.

BUT BEFORE YOU DO, you may want to prop up the first wing. With the engine mounted, there's enough weight to keep the fuse from tipping over. But you don't want to take a chance, right?

Step 14: Finished!

So now we've put the wings on all by ourself.

Your bird looks more like a plane than ever.

Enjoy this moment and take tons of pictures to show your family & friends.

Now all you have to do is -
Drill holes for the control/balance cables,
fuel level lines,
position/strobe power,
ram air/static lines,
landing/taxi power,
aileron trim,
install the ailerons,
set the angle of incidence for the wing,
determine the amount of aileron movement is within allowable limits,
determine the amount of flap movement is within allowable limits,
Oh, and there's the whole tail section with power, control cables, incidence, range of movement,
And of course we haven't even touched on the electrical system....
ad nausuem

You're into the final 10%! Of course, I've been in the final 10% for a year or two now.

Enjoy your time building. You're probably going to miss it once you actually flying. (I'm guessing on this...)

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    30 Discussions


    6 years ago on Introduction

    Um., I think there is a plane in your front yard. how did you land it there?


    10 years ago on Introduction

    Nice. My better half and I are working on a CH801, though we're still working on the tail. It'll be a while yet. We're a couple miles from our airport, and will trailer the components there just prior to mounting the wings and tail surfaces.


    12 years ago on Introduction

    awesome finally a homebuilt instructable, i plan on building a rv-7 with my father and brother very soon.

    4 replies

    Reply 12 years ago on Introduction

    I'm glad you like it. I hope it's the first of many homebuilt Instructables. While you're building please keep a couple things in mind - 1) To teach or Instructable something, your audience is someone who knows nothing about the subject. You DON'T need to be an expert on that subject. 2) As soon as you learn something, teach someone else what you just learned. (Or write an instructable!) This helps the other person and reinforces what you just learned. Thank you for your kind comment, kk


    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    Change of plans, were ordering a zodiac CH650 cant wait to get riveting how is your bird flying?


    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    I truly wish I could answer your question! Structurally, I could fly today. There's a minor squawk about the magnetometer that prevents me from getting my final inspection. So frickin' close!! I went to the Open Hangar Day this year, my first since I started in 2001. I saw the 650 canopy and loved it. More than looking cool, it's an elegant solution to the fuse pucker problem behind the canopy. Best of luck on your build! Perhaps you could post a few Instructables. The absolute best advice I received is "Work on it a little bit every day." I didn't. and it's taken seven years.


    Reply 12 years ago on Introduction

    that realy is the dogs bollocks it!! :D ive always wanted a plane :D lol that realy is quite an amazing build good luck with the rest of it :D


    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    When the terrorist force you to build a Zodiac XL at gunpoint, threatening to murder people one by one for every time you don't do the task and by this point the person they're going to murder is you so finally you look up the instructable and save yourself and everyone else they may get bored and kill..


    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    Ah well I'm actually interested in stuff like this... I fly in ATC quite alot so seeing someone build their own machine is something I'll look at... That and and 'I flew here in a plane I built' must be a great line lol


    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    That depends on if you're building a custom plane, what you're building, the order you're building it in and what components you have finished. I made this out for other Zodiac XL builders. If you're not in this group, you can safely disregard this Instructable. Regards, kk


    Reply 12 years ago on Introduction

    If you're aviation oriented, I'm abeam the numbers downwind for 24 at KISZ. If you're not, I'm within a mile of the nearest airport.


    Reply 12 years ago on Introduction

    im a pilot, but lemme just make sure, are you gonna try to taxi that plane to the airport, cuz that will be very cool


    Reply 12 years ago on Introduction

    It would be cool. Although I'm pretty sure it would be monumentally unpopular with my neighbors. Particularly at 2AM when I'd be sure the streets are empty. We'll see.


    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    AHAHAHA drag your wingless plane down the street at night....... that would be interesting


    Reply 12 years ago on Introduction

    Do you/can you take you plane there (from your drive)? I just have visions of you taxi-ing down the street in this. L


    Reply 12 years ago on Introduction

    I wasn't trying to make a pun, might not have spelled it correctly, but you do 'taxi' to a runway(?) L