Cessna Aerobat A150K
The plan for this refurb will be a complete strip and repaint in an Aerobat theme, installation of all new glass, new strobes, and the addition of a smoke system.
The airplane had numerous layers of paint from various jobs, finally ending with a thick layer of DuPont vari-prime on the surface. Once the layers of paint are removed, the vari-prime can be removed by hand. This requires going around each rivet head and seam until the entire aircraft, flight controls, etc. are all spotless as you see in the last photo here. I like the way the finish looks under all this. It came out really clean.
Once the flight controls are all off and paint removal phase complete, we can now begin to remove the windows, skylights, doors, etc. which also means removal of the headliner and interior in order to facilitate the replacement of the glass.
At this point we see that the windows and cabin section have leaked water and carpet has held the moisture on the floor boards causing some corrosion. Might as well go ahead and take care of this while we treat the exterior because it'll make a better job in the long run. You can see that there is also some corrosion on the cabin roofline, which I'll address at this time as well.
As I put the exterior of the airplane through the acid etch process, I pay close attention to the interior to rid it of this corrosion for good. I'm really please with how this turned out. The side now looks like new metal. Too bad I have to cover it up, but that's all in the process.
Proceed on with the alodyne conversion coating and its now ready for the epoxy corrosion primer. While I'm at it, I'll go ahead and install the new skylights and get this part of it out of the way for now.
The epoxy corrosion primer goes on like silk. I'm really pleased with this. It now looks like its brand new from Cessna. The interior corrosion is history, and the raw metal treatment process combined with the expoxy corrosion primer means we won't ever have to worry about this again.
Now we have our plane ready to work with. This is where the fun begins. We get to see it come together with the installation of some cool stuff and see what kind of "nice" we can come out with.
Both com antennas were in need of an update and with the interior out, now's the time to do it. The RH com antenna was a later style, but looked ratty. The LH com antenna was the old wire style, so we're going with a new set of Comant antennas. The wire type com antenna requires a re-work of the antenna cable when you upgrade to the Comant style. So, you can see here the difference in the connector from a standard terminal to the BNC style. Also replacing the marker beacon antenna while I'm in there.
Next, we'll work with the exterior lighting and get the strobes all wired up. In the first photo you see the original Cessna flashing beacon. We'll be replacing that with a Whelen "comet flash" strobe system. The comet flash will activate the red tail strobe in synchonization with the wing tip strobes. This requires removal of the light, flasher unit, etc. and the installation of the new strobe light with a central power supply that serves as a power supply for all three strobes as well as a synchronizer. Just so we keep with the theme of general aviation maintenance, there's always a surprise around every corner. The power wire to the flashing beacon had rubbed raw on the fuselage stringer assembly. This was actually a good spot for this to happen because its right where I'm going to install the power supply. I can cut this area out and wire the strobe harness into it and it'll work just fine.
Moving on to the glass replacement, I've got the doors all stripped down and removed all the paint from the inside of the door and window frames. I went ahead and did this because the window frames we so nasty that I just didn't want to put the new glass in next to it. So, here it is all stripped down, acid etched, and alodyned. Ready for the window installation and paint.
With the new windows installed, I can now prime and paint. I'm going to go ahead and do the interior of the door just to make this as nice as I can. For this, I'll use Jet-Flex low gloss beige polyurethane interior finish.
O.k. I can't stand this. The doors came out nice, but the handles look like crap. Not only the chrome handles, but the plastic latch covers behind them. Well, here goes. A little bling for the 'bat.
So now we have a problem. The window frames look clean and neat and accent the new windows just the way we like. But the plastic we have to put back in the interior is pretty nasty. Since this is not in the original scope of what I'm supposed to do, I could probably get by with just cleaning it up a bit and put it back and be on our way. But, Mike's a good friend and my mother decided that she wanted to make this really, really nice. So here we go. I went all out and cleaned all the plastic interior pieces inside and out, repaired the cracks on the edges, etc. and refinished in my paint booth with the Jet-Flex beige polyurethane interior finish. The interior parts now all match each other and look a whole lot cleaner than before.
Might as well go ahead and jamb it out. The door jambs are not that wide in the 150, but its a detail that'll sure show up against the newly refinished plastic. More Jet-Flex Beige poly for this area. A detail gun with a .6 mm fluid nozzle works well for this.
I know it seems like I'm jumping around on this process, but certain things have to be addressed as you go along in order to complete certain phases of this project. Some things just have to be done in order to close areas up that hopefully we won't have to go back into again. This keeps me from having to do double work. Anyway, that said, I've been concerned about this buckle in the forward floor board skin for some time now. It aparently was left over from the previous nose section repair years ago. I just didn't like the looks of it, especially it being smack in the center line of the aircraft. So, after inspecting the structure under this area to the best of my ability and insuring everything is o.k., I straightened the floor board skin and fabricated this reinforcement plate to get rid of the "oil canning". Came out pretty nice and really helped the structural integrity of the floor board area. And yes, this doubler is small enough to be considered as a minor skin doubler so it does not constitute a major repair. Primed it all back up in order to keep with the process I did on the interior skin and then cleaned and re-installed the foot pans using the now correct new structural screws.
O.k., so back to the wiring. The harness for the tip strobes gets routed through both wings and into the fuselage where they connect into the power supply/synchronizer. The wiring for the wing tip landing lights and the wiring for the tip recognition lights are tied to the strobe harness prior to routing. Attention to detail is critical here so I use grommets on the holes where the harness passes through and route everything away from critical components. Also mounted the ballast for the HID landing lights and wing tip recognition lights.
The ultimate goal for this phase is to get the plastic interior pieces I refinished a few paragraphs up from here installed and finished out. We're almost there, but I've got a few more details to address first.
The ELT was mounted to the rear baggage compartment floor board. Not exactly the best place for it because it would be way too easy to activate it putting boxes, bags, or whatever in the back. Also, with the new smoke tank installation, this thing needs to be out of the way and located someplace else. So I got a Cessna factory ELT mount and mounted the exsiting ELT on it. The mount was then riveted to the fuselage in the exact same location that Cessna used a few years later on this same model aircraft. Installed a new ELT antenna while we're at it.
One last thing before installing the plastic. My mother wanted to add some high density sound dampener to the cockpit since the airplane had no sound insulation at all when it got here. O.k., so we go ahead put this on the side walls and roofline. This is 1/4" high density material and glues right to the skin of the aircraft. The theory is that the high density foam "absorbs" sound waves and tones down vibration that reverberates throughout the airframe. Will definitely make the interior feel more solid and cut down on vibration fatigue. Might be a little quieter too.
With the new sound dampener installed and the strobe cables run, we can now go ahead and install the plastic interior pieces we refinished earlier. Here are a few before & after shots of it.
Before After Before After
I didn't know so much about this color at first, but after it came together I really liked it. Its basically the color of new plastic and using the Jet-Flex allows us to get that nice, low gloss finish on the door jambs to match the door and window frames I painted earlier. This photo shows just how nice, smooth, and clean the plastic and door jambs look when they come together.
I'm down now to getting ready to install the door post plastic, but I need to get the windshield install done first. So here it is, all set up and ready to go. Also went ahead and ran the power wires to the landing and recognition lights down the door post channels before putting in the windshield to make it easier and save time.
Now that the windshield is in, I'm going ahead and installing some insulation blanket to the door post area before final installation of the plastic. This product comes in a roll blanket form so I have to cut it to size. Next, I roll it back up to the size I want and seal the plastic bag with a household iron. This keeps the fiberglass insulation blacket contained inside the plastic bag. These bags are then wrapped around the forward air vents to keep out the draft in the winter months. The door post pillar trim can now be installed.
Before closing up the interior, I want to get the smoke tank and assorted lines installed. In the first photo, Baron checks all the components to make sure we have what we need. Yep, pretty much it. So, I go ahead and run the hoses, electrical wiring, etc. under the floorboard carefully avoiding lines, cables, and whatnot. A fitting is installed on the firewall to distribute smoke oil to each exhaust stack. Another fittng has to be riveted to the belly of the aircraft and a line run down to it in order to vent the tank. The tank is placed at the same location as the manufacturer's optional child seat. Kit supplied bracketts are used along with 1/4" bolts to fasten the bracketts to the floor. The tank is quickly and easily removable by use of thumb screws on each side of the tank and disconnecting the lines and electrical plug. The tank can literally be removed or installed in a matter of minutes. The bracketts will remain bolted to the floor and we will customize the carpet to fit around this area regardless of whether tank is in or out of the aircraft.
The carpet is now customized to accommodate the smoke tank. Came out pretty nice and I believe it'll look pretty much seamless whether the tank is in or out. We did do some black binding on the edges where the lines and wires have to come through carpet.
Here, I'm prepping the flashing beacon installation to go on the forward fuselage belly. I ran the wires previously while the floor pans were removed. I'll mount this in an existing hole, wire it up and see how it works. Also gives me a chance to try out that new wire marking gizmo I got. Pretty neat !
The old carpet was pretty bad, plus having to extensively modify something for the smoke tank installation made it to where there wasn't that much carpet left to make it all new. So here you go. Went ahead and cleaned up the rudder pedals, close out plates, etc. before installing the new carpet in the front. Might as well go ahead and do a new fuel placard too.
Next I'll move on to installing the new wing tips. First, the tips are lined up with wing in accordance with the installation instructions and then drilled & fitted. The ballast for the HID landing lights and the power supply for the tip recognition lights are mounted.
At the same time all this is going on, the flight controls are in the paint booth getting refinished. The process is the same as the rest of the aircraft except the booth allows me to keep these items away from the main part of the airplane until I'm ready for them. Here's a peek at some of the detail the comes out of there. Here we see where I paid close attention to the aileron control rods. The flight controls are now finished and ready to install, so I'll play catch-up with the main part of the airplane for a day or two.
The recognition lights are now ready to mount up and install. After carefully mapping out the best location and pointing the light, the holes are drilled to accommodate the L.E.D. fixture. Countersink the holes and use flush rivets for a smooth, almost seamless install.
Having this many add-ons proves to be a problem when locating switches, breakers, etc. for everything. Just because something "looks" like it'll fit from the front doesn't necessarily mean it will from the rear. Here we see a plate I made as an extension of the trim console to house some of the stuff I need. I was able to get the landing light oscillator control mounted on the upper part of the panel. That's a good thing because although the knob is fairly small, the unit itself is pretty big on the backside and takes up a lot of room. Also if you look close, you can tell the two breakers on the right are not the correct value. I used these for a mock-up while I was making the panel because I was out of stock on what I needd. The correct breakers can be easily swapped out when they get here.
Micro Dynamics vortex generators have to be installed before painting. Careful measurments coupled with the manufacturer's supplied templates make this a painstaking process.
At first I wasn't sure about the position of the wing tip landing light oscillator control. This was really the only place with room that would work. However, after I thought about it a while, I realized this is really the best place. Being next to the flaps, it'll give easy access to the switch on approach (where it will most likely be used the most). The switch allows the pilot to turn on the H.I.D wing tip landing lights and control their operation. The pilot can even flash the lights in a wig-wag pattern and also control the speed of the wig-wag flash. Will sure come in handy if you think somebody is going pull on to the runway in front of you while you're landing.
Now that the painting is done, I can concentrate on installing the flight controls and detailing out the stripes. This will be a custom stripe job using special colors. Brilliant Black Metallic and Mango Tango Toxic Orange metallic.
O.k. let's pull it outside and see what we have. Get ready for that all important test hop !
The initial smoke test was a success and I'm pleased to report that we had to make no adjustments to the system. I'm glad Mike decided to do injection into both exhaust because it really puts out a nice plume of smoke as opposed to some weaker systems I've seen.
These pictures don't even come close to showing how much fun this was. Smoked up everything and everybody around ! And the light show was nothing short of incredible.
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