Ultralight Adventures II: The Acquiring

My baby is here.  She requires a lot of little things, so.. prepare for that.

I am very excited about this airplane, it’s been a very long dream of mine to fly, and well, here we are. The story of this airplane is one that is very interesting, because as far as I can tell, its as old or older then me, and has never flown!  It was made by a retired aircraft mechanic as a hobby project, but before he finished it, he had some heart complications, and decided to stop working on it.  It was very close to flying, was stuck in a big shed building, and left to collect dust.

Now, I’m not one to turn down a very good price for an engine, let alone one that comes with a free airplane with 300 hours of labor already completed.  That means I fly in 2019, not 2029, given the pace of my projects and blogging.

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The first part of the adventure was getting the dang thing home.  This was not as easy as I anticipated.  It turns out that despite a 16ft utility trailer seeming absolutely enormous, when you have a large and very fragile aircraft with parts that don’t like to sit or rub on each other, you use that space pretty fast………

For anyone who finds themselves needing to do this, I found that the winning arrangement (for a minimax anyway) is to angle the plane slightly sideways and put the tail wheel up on a concrete block. Then you stick both wings under the side that has more room (from where its turned sideways slightly) and place said wings curved sides towards each other. There are strut mounts that would dig in and otherwise ruin the wings if it was the other way around.  After you do that, liberally apply many moving blankets and hope none blow off (they did) and then even more liberally apply tons of tie down string, hoping that doesn’t loosen up (it did).

Remember kids, use actual tie down string and not just what you had laying around, especially if what you had laying around is pull cord for pulling wire through electrical conduit and is literally designed to be as slippery as possible.  Hindsight is 20/20.  Thank you very much Nick for helping me do this and bringing your truck and trailer.

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And here we go! An airplane! Sans ailerons because I was lazy.  In retrospect they were actually really easy to attach and I should have just put them on.  Oh well ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

While horsing around with my friend and landlord, we discovered that the battery, despite not being charged for years, still had enough power to bump over the engine.  A dash of 2 stroke premix and some ignition-off spinning to lube everything up, and..

Friend filming, me being cold behind a giant fan on a 43 degree day.

Engine runs nice!  Now to tear it all down to inspect everything.. well, not now, but eventually.  Once I cart it all upstairs.

After having our fun, we made a stand to stick the wings on (with ailerons) so it could be safely tucked into the garage.

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Now, what to do.  Well, a deep clean first, when it STOPS RAINING.

After that, this is my fast and (very) loose checklist.  One you’d find sharpied badly onto a piece of torn cardboard and duct taped to the wall.

  • Preliminary inspection (I have to trust all the glued bits of popsicle sticks before I want to fly my butt around in it.)
  • DIY Glass cockpit display (because I want it)
  • Tall person mods (it is not.. able to fit me right now)
  • Engine work (actual 2 stroke exhaust, better sensors, maybe new mounts?)
  • Misc repairs to structure (trailing edges of wings have separated slightly)
  • Misc repairs to fabric skin (some tears here and there)
  • New paint (because right now, its kind of ass..)

To elaborate on some of these points:

Inspection is going to take a while, and I’ve already found some damage.  Mainly in the trailing edge of the wings, in the cavity where the ailerons attach.  The issue is that the tension of the dacron wing fabric tugs back on the wood they are adheared to, which due to the small surface area of the glue join between the trailing piece and the wing ribs, causes them to pop off.  This is bad.

Based on some forum talking, it appears to be a common issue with the old version of the mini-max (remember when I said this plane is older then me?)  I’ve been mulling over a few solutions, and one nice one was offered on the forums, which is to poke some strong thread through the fabric and around the trailing edge wood, and then around the wing rib, knot it all together, soak in glue to stiffen it up, and repeat.  I will post details when I get that far.

I am very excited about the DIY glass cockpit display.  I’m a sucker for that kind of needlessly complicated stuff, so here we go.  I am going for a raspberry PI based system, as well as a ridiculously bright 1000cd/m2 10.1″ IPS display I sourced from Alibaba.  I have no idea when it will get here and the sketchy Chinese tracking site seems a bit weird, but hey.  It’s by far the brightest HDMI display I could find, and cheap too! 60 bucks each for the display/HDMI driver, and 25 dollars shipping for 2pcs of them.  I spied kits of similar LCDs with driver boards at 1/3 the brightness, same resolution, for 140+!

Tall person mods are a must, and will likely be the first thing to happen because what mods have to be made and what ones do not will judge where everything else gets mounted and shuffled.

The main issue is …. I’m not sure what the deal is, but the part where the top deck juts out from the back of the cockpit really causes most of the issues.  I’m hoping that widening the hole and moving the seat support rails back, plus shifting the rudder pedals forward will fix my issues.

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Where the seat belts hang over is like a 4 inch… spot, and I can’t figure out any reason for it to be there other then to cause misery and pain.  It does not have any key structural members in it (as far as I can tell) and only has the seat frame on it.  The huge main support beam is behind it, flush with that back seat wall plate thing on the turtle deck.

Engine work is not as much as I thought it would be.  The main things are to clean out everything, replace spark plugs, wires, rewire the entire electrical system (because the one right now is sketchy as frig), make a cable or servo to adjust the carburetor mixture in flight, a new drive belt because this one is old, cooling ducts so the engine doesn’t overheat as right now the cooling fins sit directly behind the main propeller pulley and get no air at all, a new exhaust because the current one is not meant for a 2 stroke and so gives no back pressure pulse to supercharge the engine, and possibly new engine mounts.

…….Okay so that is a lot of work.  But I shall prevail at the speed of procrastination and bad weather.

Fabric repairs and new paint are pretty self explanatory. Some of the fabric has little tears on it, some old before my interaction, and some entirely my fault being boneheaded transporting it home.

I believe that covers everything.  First chance I get, I’ll be working on cutting the old seat frame out and starting to inspect the entire structure for damage, so I can truly find out what a piece of junk my beautiful plane I naively bought without looking at it too hard actually is.


16 thoughts on “Ultralight Adventures II: The Acquiring

  1. Sounds like you’d be best off stripping all the fabric, tossing it, then applying some more modern form of covering material.

    1. Believe it or not, the fabric is the still used modern material, and its in great shape, not having been outside ever. Dacron is still to this day what is used to cover the aircraft, the paints have changed, but that is easy to fix.

      1. Are you guessing that it’s in great shape or have you used a testing tool?… you can get a covering testing tool for ultralights that will put measured strain on the covering to test against ripping… if the tool puts a hole in your covering, you’ll need to replace it (replace the covering, not the tool 🙂

      2. Totally agree. I have used the test tool I got on a few hidden areas of fabric and it passed with flying colors. I have not tried visible areas yet, however, so I do not know for sure that all major parts of the plane are good. I’ve been busy setting up my workspace to finish the plane over winter to give me a nice warm spot to finish stuff like this. If the fabric fails, believe me, I’ll be ripping it right off to start over!

      3. do the test on a non-hidden area of fabric. it’s about safety, and the more exposed areas are the parts you need to most worry about. watch a video of guys testing their ultralights, they poke them all over the place… I know it’s a downer to look at having to re-cover it, but safety is safety.

      4. Yeah, totally agree. I will be doing the test shortly =) If I have to take the skin off, honestly its not that sad for me. I’ll be able to get at a lot more parts of the aircraft very easily that are covered now.

      5. I wish you all the best though, am hoping to design and start building and ultralight next year. another handy resource are some of the ultralight and homebuilt groups on facebook… lots of brains out there to tap into.

      6. Yeah, I’ve became a member of a few forums and its been very enlightening what everyone knows! And cool! I hope you document it, please link it back here when you start doing it! I was actually designing my own from scratch, but before I could build it, here came this much cheaper already built one into my life. =)

  2. Hi
    I posted this on the article, but don’t think it’s be verified.
    Looks like a sweet aircraft. There’s thousands of them flying around the world.
    I know the man who owned Mini Max before he sold it to the guys in MI.
    If you want to meet him, the airport where he built and sold kits, has a fly-in / drive-in every New Years day. Plus hundreds of pictures.
    John Graber will be there and some of the guys who built mini max planes. There’ll be some of his planes there.
    You’ll be to pick his brain. Lol
    I’ve flown in there before. Doesn’t matter how cold it is, they always grill brats and
    have homemade food.
    I verifed that they’re having the fly-in / drive-in, I’ll be driving there this yr.
    It starts at 11 AM ends at 2 PM

    New Years Day Fly-In 2019
    Nappanee Municipal Airport (C03)
    24751 US 6 E
    Nappanee, Indiana 46550

    1. Wow, that’s incredible! I wish I could go there and meet him and pick his brain, but I live in NJ and that unfortunately is extremely far away for the two days off I’ll have at that time.. I’ll be sure to check out pictures though, and I hope you have a good time there!

      1. Email me and I’ll get you Johns number.
        There’s a EAA club there. They probably have a bunch of pictures posted.

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