Module 3 – The cockpit shell

*This page will be updated with all the progress on building the structure of the cockpit. (The instrument fitout will be on a separate page later.)

The cockpit is going to be a lot of fun. Not only does it have to contain a range of interesting instruments, ( I have a lot of them now) but it has to be build to support the weight of a person.

Most of the craft will be, “NO STEP” areas, but the cockpit will need to have a strong skin on the outside and a good steel and timber support frame on the inside.

To that end, I have designed a steel frame that is welded and rigid, factoring in attachment points for the nose and stress calculations for the cantilever effect over the front skid. More on that later.

Slowly but surely, the build moves along. I have had a template printed for the cavity space in the cockpit, to fit the seat and all the instruments. This template is marked for central positioning on each of the cockpit formers, so the support timbers and steel all align.

Pro tip: I’ve discovered you can save yourself a lot of pain, fatigue and make less mistakes as a result, but giving yourself a good workspace, with good light and a comfortable height while you stand and move around your task.

Spacing for cockpit formers marked out on the spar.

Below: Some furious evening work. Traced the template for the cockpit cavity inner onto all the cockpit formers and cut them out. The centre post is for positioning on the spar until the welded steel frame goes in, then will be cut off, leaving the space empty for seating and instruments.

As well as the steel frame for support, I need some big struts inside to screw all the interior walls, floor and instrument panels onto.
LOTS of space inside this cockpit! Central spar not yet aligned, but once I’ve screwed all the formers down, it will be aligned with the module in front, then removed.

Finally the steel arrived. I got cutting right away and fixed the MIG welder’s wire feeder. The steel frame has been knocked into the woodwork, ready for squaring up and welding.

An important consideration in this build is the safety of a person sitting in the cockpit, without breaking anything or falling through the floor. To that end, I have constructed steel floor braces to support the main wooden joists that the plywood floor will be screwed to. These braces will also serve later to attach the undercarriage/skid to and support the front of the aircraft.

Interior walls and heavy duty floor being installed.

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