Something to do on a rainy day

Fuel Filler After Polishing - Profile

One of the things I like to do is spend time working on our planes. Every time I walked by the  wing tips of our Eclipse I didn’t like the dull look of the fuel filler neck. The dull grey just didn’t match the sleek look of the plane.  The Eclipse service centers offer a service to polish the necks, and other components, however I like a challenge and always think it will take less time than it does! I was going to polish the engine inlets in any case, so just added this project to my list on a whim.

Fuel filler before polishing
Fuel filler before polishing

I started by assessing how to polish the neck without damaging the surrounding surface or worse, dropping something into the fuel tank.  I initially tried to polish it by hand however the surface was in such rough shape that it would take too much time. It was time to pull out the drill!

I’ve used a variety of metal polishes in the past, so I had a few to choose from in my inventory.  Due to the condition of the neck  I knew I would need a coarse polish to for the initial step.  I chose Rolite polishes which offer a wide spectrum of  grits, from very coarse to ultra fine.

The Process

To minimize and damage to the surrounding area and protecting the tank itself, I started with masking off the filler neck. This step is critical. If the polish residue or anything else contaminated the fuel, it could cause problems. I then masked the tank surrounding the filler neck. In hindsight it would have also been useful to drape the tank with plastic or cloth to minimize the hassles of cleaning the residue off the tank itself.

Initial masking of the filler neck itself. Use a sharp razor blade to cut around the circumference of the neck.
Initial masking of the filler neck itself. Use a sharp razor blade to cut around the circumference of the neck.
Filler neck masked and starting masking the filler mount
Filler neck masked and starting masking the filler mount
Masked and Ready for Polishing
Masked and Ready for Polishing

Tools of the Trade

I use a cordless drill fitted with a 3M 3 inch buffing attachment  onto which I attach foam polishing pads. A great alternative  is this inexpensive kit from Amazon  (full link below) that includes the adaptor and various pads. To make your projects easier, I suggest having multiple pads on hand so you don’t have to clean them as the residue builds in them.  Of course, I didn’t do that!

Getting Ready - Supplies and Tools
Getting Ready – Supplies and Tools

I used Rolite AP200 to start, if I could have found the AP100 that would have been a better initial choice. It is basically a messy job. The resulting black residue gets everywhere when you use a drill, including on the floor and your clothes. I should have used a friend’s hanger! As you polish  occasionally clean the consumed residue away to give you a better idea of your progress. If you have a slightly damp polishing pad it seems to work best for me. If it is too wet, the residue flies everywhere.

Polishing process - in action
Polishing process – in action

It takes patience and constantly check the status of your work. My filler necks showed machine marks from manufacturing and I didn’t try to obtain a perfectly smooth surface. It wasn’t necessary to obtain a nice result. As the aluminum was reaching my preferred look, I switched to finer grit polishes, including APS 500. Rolite also offers Supra 90, a very fine compound which works well. I used it and Flitz that I had handy as the final step.

Rolite AP500 - ultra fine polish
Rolite AP500 – ultra fine polish


After about 45 minutes I was close to being finished. The black residue, containing aluminum oxide, was all over my work area. No matter how careful I was, some also stained the surrounding paint as the masking tape was removed. From my previous experience polishing, I knew it wasn’t an issue. There are various methods to remove the residue, including any on the paint. I’ve found the easiest is to use a paint cleaner or polish.  I had Nulite NuPro handy. It is a great paint cleaner and easily removes turbine soot, dirt, and you name it.  It quickly cleaned the project surface and paint. I followed it with the use of an aircraft polish. I used what I had handy.

The Results

You’ve probably see the beautiful polished bare aluminum airplanes and props and were amazed at how nice they look. What you may not realize is what it takes to keep them that way.  When you polish aluminum, it looks beautiful however you are removing a protective layer of anodizing. Because if this it requires more frequent maintenance. I polish brightwork about once a month and The specialized metal polishes appear to work the best, however in a pinch any quality plush or sealant will work. If you don’t, you risk corrosion of the surface.

Fuel Filler After Polishing - Profile
Fuel Filler After Polishing – Profile
Fuel filler after polishing
Fuel filler after polishing

The result was great, maybe not as nice as what can be obtained by professionals, however at least my fuel fillers won’t bug me as I walk by them during preflight.  It also gave me an excuse to flight test my work!

Eclipse 500 Jet Tools

Rich with WT at Quincy California 2O1
Rich with WT at Quincy California 2O1
Rich with WT at Quincy California 2O1

 

When I purchased our Eclipse 500 jet, which is an amazing airplane, I found that there were opportunities to make it easier for operators to take care of their airplanes.  I had always wanted to explore 3-D printing and this was a great chance to create some useful tools.

Working with our son, Tigre Pickett, we embarked on a fun design experience to create useful devices for Eclipse pilots.  It was simple,  I needed the accessories, they weren’t available, so why not create them and improve the tools at the same time!

Eclipse Seat Release Tool

The Eclipse has an interesting seat design.  The six seats in the Eclipse 500 can removed after first disengaging the locking pawl on each corner of the seat.  This pawl is connected to a short cable that can be lifted from the locking position, when then allows easy removal of the seat…. once you now the tricks!

Eclipse at one point had the tool available, however the manufacturer no longer made the tool.  Tigre and I embarked on our first Eclipse 3D printing project.  I came up with the basic design, which was very close to the tool that was no longer available.   Tigre, using his design experience, generated our first prototype.  After four various versions we arrived at this tool:

Eclipse Seat Release Tool - First Prototype
Eclipse Seat Release Tool – First Prototype

Our first version worked perfectly, however when I tried to use one of the tools I found that it needed to be improved.  Underneath the seats, there may be very little light and to see the cable sometimes you need a flashlight.  I thought, why not create a tool with an integrated flashlight!  In this manner you would only need one hand to release the locking cable.  A new product was born!  Integrating a flashlight into a new version of the tool took several iterations to find the perfect combination of light and tool.  Our final lighted Eclipse Seat Release Tool makes it easy to locate the cable and release it, especially in low light conditions.

Eclipse Seat Release Tool - Light Version
Eclipse Seat Release Tool – Light Version

The test in actual use proved our concept, and the ease of use.

Eclipse Seat Release Tool - in Use II
Eclipse Seat Release Tool – in Use II

We also designed the tool to have an integrated flashlight storage capability, simply turn the light around!

Eclipse Seat Tool - Lighted version in storage
Eclipse Seat Tool – Lighted version in storage

Ordering your Eclipse Seat Release Tool

Eclipse Seat Release Tool - non-lighted versions in the foreground
Eclipse Seat Release Tool – non-lighted versions in the foreground

Either version of the tool can be ordered in high performance plastic, or stainless steel – both in various colors (white, black, blue, red, yellow, green, orange).  Steel infused with bronze (black, silver, gold) is much more expensive to make, however it is very cool!

Pricing:

  • Plastic – non-lighted       $30
  • Stainless steel -non-lighted    $60
  • Plastic – with light (light included)   $40
  • Stainless steel with light (light included)  $90
  • Extra flashlight – $2.50

Contact Rich at Rich@PersonalWings.com for more information or to order the Eclipse Seat Release Tool!

Eclipse Static Port Covers

The Eclipse has a rather unique static port installation, one that can be problematic with it rains.  The location of the port, on the top of the nose, can result in water ingress into the static system with associated issues.  There have been a number of solutions over the years, including the use of tape to cover the ports.  We decided to develop a custom solution that works well for the Eclipse jets.

Our goals were:

  • Utilize high quality materials that will provide a long life to the Eclipse pilots.
  • Accommodate the high temperature of the static port in situations where it had not completely cooled down to ambient temperature.
  • Provide an excellent seal against the elements, namely moisture.
  • Be easy to use, and superior visibility to avoid leaving them in place!
  • Avoid any dissimilar metal incompatibility issues.
  • Have yet another family design project.
  • Have fun designing the tool!

Starting with the basic concept of a cover, we designed several configurations and tested them on our Eclipse jet.  With each iteration we got closer to meeting our goals.  After nearly two months of development, we had our current version, the Personal Wings Eclipse Static Port Cover.

It took some time to source all of the materials for the design, from the Remove Before Flying (RBF) tags to the fasteners.  We tried various components, with an eye to provide a lightweight device that would last for some time.  For example, all of the commercially available RBF tags were either too heavy which increases weight and potential damage to the aircraft paint, or too bulky.  We decided to design our own from a high visibility and reflective material.  They are also so light that even in high winds they should not damage the paint.  It takes a lot more time to make them, however we like the result and we can improve it over time.

The Eclipse fuselage is curved, so we wanted to match that curve.  The net result is a static port cover that requires minimum force to secure to the aircraft and provide an excellent seal at the same time.  Our design utilizes high quality nylon fasteners,  to avoid any incompatibility issues with the jet static port and potentially get stuck!  Even if they do get stuck, it is easier to remove a plastic fastener than a metal one.  We tested the fasteners with considerably more force than even a ham-fisted pilot might use and they didn’t break!

The seals are a high durometer silicone compound that is highly resistant to heat.    Silicone has a melting point of 330 degrees Celsius, so if a pilot accidentally leaves them on, at ground idle they reduce any potential damage to the airplane.  Nylon has a lower melting point,  220-265 C, which still provides some protection if they are inadvertently left on when starting the engines. All pilots using our covers need to do a careful preflight and remove them before starting the engines. Of course, we can’t control what pilots may do, and are not responsible, however we wanted to expand their options!

They may not help in extreme precipitation events, however our testing so far indicates that virtually no water gets into the static ports

Eclipse Static Port Cover - Complete Set
Eclipse Static Port Cover – Complete Set with Optional Nose RBF Tag
Eclipse Static Port Cover with RBF and Nose Strap - Side View
Eclipse Static Port Cover with RBF and Nose Strap – Side View
Eclipse Static Port Cover Profile
Eclipse Static Port Cover Profile

Ordering your Eclipse Static Port Cover

Pricing:

  • $160 for 2 complete static port covers
  • $20 extra for nose ‘Remove Before Flying’ streamer.

Each set is covered by our limited 6 month warranty.  Basically, if you lose any subpart (screws, seals, streamers, etc.) we will repair or replace, at our discretion, the defective component.  For an additional 6 months, we will repair at our cost of parts and return postage.

While we do our best to make a quality product that should seal very well, the purchaser assumes all responsibility for usability and effective use of the device.  Since we are constantly looking at ways to improve the product, the versions we ship may be slightly different than the photos above.

How to Order:

Contact Rich at Rich@PersonalWings.com for more information or to order the Static Covers.

Eclipse Pitot Covers

In looking at various options for pitot probe covers for the Eclipse I knew we could come up with a great solution.  After several designs, I settled on a high temperature, fiber reinforced  silicone option.  The material, while not intended for use on active probes, can withstand up to 390 F.  They provide a very tight seal on the probes, and will stay on even in high winds.

Eclipse Pitot and Static Port Cover sets
Eclipse Pitot and Static Port Cover sets with optional nose strap
Left Pitot and Standby Probe Covers
Left Pitot and Standby Probe Covers – shown without optional nose strap

 

How to Order:

Pricing:

  • $120 for 1 complete pitot probe cover set (three probes)
  • Optional nose strap:  $15

Contact Rich at Rich@PersonalWings.com for more information or to order the Static Covers.