Thorp T-18 Mutual Aid Society
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T O P I C    R E V I E W
Vigilant1 Posted - 12/14/2010 : 15:31:13
First, thanks for this great forum. Nearly 50 years after the T-18 debut and the aircraft still generates so much interest and loyalty--that's quite a testament.

I'm new here. 49 years old, just earning my PPL, and always wanted to build an airplane. Now I've got time to do it. I"m a plans holder for the Vision, a plans-built composite acft with specs similar to the T-18. Two things it doesn't have: a folding wing option and 400+ completed aircraft. Still, it's a good looking plane and what I've been planning to pursue for a long time.

As all of you can appreciate better than I, the real issue is: will I enjoy working in metal? Will I enjoy working with fiberglass and goop? If 2000+ hours are going to be spent on this project, I'd like to be sure I'm headed down the right path.

1) Any recommendations on how I could check out T-18 style metalworking without investing a lot of $$ in breaks, forms, etc? Would you recommend signing up for the EAA Sportair workshops dealing with metalwork? Maybe a local community college course? Thousands of holes, bucking rivets, handling big sheets--it doesn't sound like fun on the face of it, but hundreds of T-18s are testament that it can be enjoyable, or at least worth the effort.

2) Folding wings: I've heard lots of folks think they'll use 'em, but that most stay down and locked virtually all the time. The Sunderland design has a lot of fans. Once built, does it really take less than 20 minutes to unfold or fold 'em up with one person?

Thanks again for any information or opinions.
10   L A T E S T    R E P L I E S    (Newest First)
Vigilant1 Posted - 12/15/2010 : 21:44:51
Thanks very much for chiming in, I can see you've thought the same things I'm thinking now. I've got Vision plans #175, and have planned on building a two place extended wing version, tricycle gear.

Reading about the Thorp's service history should give any builder of a "less mature" design some reason for reflection. The design is clearly top-notch, and yet the early builders discovered quite a few items that warranted additional attention. Some of the items were safety related. So, every T-18/S-18 builder today has the advantage of these folks who built decades earlier, and if your acft is close to plans, it's unlikely you'll discover a new gremlin or a new corner of the flight envelope hiding a monster. With just three Visions completed (and no 4-place ones yet), builders today are going to be the ones discovering the issues. Steve Rahm was very conscientious and gave us a great design, but he'd be the first to say that the early builders are going to be the first to find any issues.

I'll drop you a PM on the Vision builder's site rather than clog up this forum with a Vision question I have.

Thanks again.

Mark Waldron

Rich Brazell Posted - 12/15/2010 : 19:49:45
Thanks Les. Not sure how I feel now that the last plans part has been made ? Did I say the last part ? The first taxi test will be exciting, but the first lift off will be more like my first arrested landing and catapult shot off the carrier! No way to put it into words. Yes I will be the one at the controls for the first flight. The WX is not cooperating for the last few small items (gear pants/fairings) I need to paint and it's not warm enough to apply the side decals, so I will finish the work on the trailer, installing the "outriggers" and 12 volt wench to pull the A/C onto the trailer. As soon as I can get it to the airport it will be weighed ( W & B ) and then a DAR sign off. The test area will probably be around the Ramona airport (about 10 miles North of KSEE ).

I will be sending Lee all the data on the A/C (weights, engine data, etc.), including a video (hopefully) from the first flight, to be posted in a future NL edition.


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ljkrume Posted - 12/15/2010 : 17:02:13

Congratulations! Now that you're on the way to the airport, what's your plan? Are you going to be the one to take it up first? What's the test plan for your first 25/40 hours? Please take it easy, relax, and be careful.

bfinney Posted - 12/15/2010 : 13:59:02
This missive is from the perspective of a Thorp owner and a Vision builder, #233 4 place. I acquired the Thorp when I could see the building was going to be far longer than I originally had anticipated. I choose the Vision for several reasons that also apply to the Thorp: plans built - ability to modify the design, pay as you go plan - no big outlay for a kit, it's not a run-of-the-mill RV, etc, etc, etc. My main reason for going with the Vision is the composite construction, I can work in my home workshop til the wee hours of the morning and not disturb the neighbors, I don't need a rivet buddy, not a lot of specialized tools required. Note: since I purchased the Thorp my building time has almost completely stopped, I'm spending too much time flying and tweaking the Thorp.

My Thorp has the folding wing, I can fold it in about 10 minutes. I keep my airplane at the airport so I don't fold it on a regular basis but it is handy when I have moved the airplane home to my garage to do some major mods instead of traveling to the airport to do them, 30 second walk verses a 30 minute drive.

Besides the Sportsaire workshops (EAA), I'd try to find a builder in the area and become a rivet buddy or in the case of a composite airplane help slop some goop to find out what the construction methods are all about. It doesn't have to be a Vision or a Thorp, it's the construction method that matters.
Rich Brazell Posted - 12/15/2010 : 08:26:59
Thanks John. It is been a long, long road...27 years to be exact since I first bought the plans from Ken Knowles. I don't have any "numbers" on the A/C yet as it hasn't been to the airport to be weighed, etc. I still need to make the "outriggers" for the trailer and installed the 12 volt wench. We expect rain this weekend (after 90 degree heat), so the final few items to paint and the decals will have to wait.

An up date on the Sky Tec 149-12LSX starter that I was having problems with (after only 5 starts on a new starter). It appears after sending the starter back to Sky Tec, the nose bearing had failed and the motor magnets had become detached ? According to Sky Tec, internal damage is associated with back fires and kick backs, but they could not find any evidence of either and the fact the engine is "new" and right off the test stand from Aero Sport Power, with no mods from me. To end this rather long story...Sky Tec sent me a new starter (even though the old starter was out of warranty) and paid for the return shipping, all at no cost ! Pretty Sweet !

jrevens Posted - 12/14/2010 : 22:41:32
Way to go, Rich!!! I’m very proud of you… I know what it takes to see a Thorp project to completion. You’re a member of an elite group. Now the real fun will begin. Be careful my friend- lots of good times to come.

John Evens
Rich Brazell Posted - 12/14/2010 : 21:44:54
The EAA workshops are time well spent. I took the sheet metal class as I had very little experience working with aluminum. It provided hands on experience with cutting, drilling, bending, counter sinking AND bucking rivets. They provided all the material and tools on just show up.

NX115RX is now complete (finished the last part 2 days ago...right wing gap cover). Only a few parts left to paint (fairings, wheel pants and cuffs) and then apply the decals. Hopefully the WX will hold...90 degrees on Sunday ! Will post pics when it is fitted to the trailer and then off to the airport.


Vigilant1 Posted - 12/14/2010 : 20:57:39
We live near Dayton, OH. I noticed there are some folks here on the T18Net near me (OH, IN), but I'm not sure who is building. There are guys working on RVs in my EAA chapter, but nothing from plans. I'm guessing the skills needed are different in important ways.

In the late 80's we lived in Vegas, about a mile from Nellis. It would be a good place to own an airplane.
James Grahn Posted - 12/14/2010 : 19:45:09
I recommend the Sportair workshops. They give you a good idea of what to expect, not only with the materials, but also the regs and timeframe involved. Another idea is to find a builder in your area and lend a hand. As a builder, I can tell you that an extra set of hands is always welcome. Where are you?
Las Vegas
qjayz Posted - 12/14/2010 : 17:16:51
I have very little experience with composites, but i have found sheet metal work to be enjoyable, easy, and very satisfying. If you do go the fiberglass route, which I know people have very mixed opinions about, just make sure you arent allergic to epoxy. I was considering building a Vision, but the Thorp's stellar reputation and excellent flying qualities were a deal breaker. Just my two-cents worth.

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