Tailcone is Done!

It’s hard to believe but I have actually finished the tailcone of my Bede BD-4C airplane. Lots of nutplates, screws, and rivets. I think the hardware to hold it together may well weigh more than the aluminum in the tailcone itself. Here it is assembled to the back of the fuselage. (Click any photo to see it larger.)

Left side of Bede BD-4C tailcone.
Left side of Bede BD-4C tailcone. Note rivets along the bottom and back. Screws hold it to the fuselage at the front and screws hold the top on.

Continue reading Tailcone is Done!

Return of the Bede BD-4C Tailcone

In December 2011, when I first started building my Bede BD-4C airplane, I made the tailcone according to the drawings. I documented that process in two blog posts, Top of the Tail Cone and Bede BD-4C Tail Cone. In the intervening three years, I ended up rebuilding the tail of the fuselage to fit the weldment which holds the horizontal part of the tail. (The weldment is the black piece visible in the photo below.) As a side effect of this rebuild, the original tailcone was too wide. I had to build a new one.

This time around, I used the old parts as templates but measured the fuselage and fabricated all of the parts to fit the airplane. I started with the two sides. (Click any photo to see a larger version.)

Left side of Bede BD-4C tailcone
Left side of Bede BD-4C tailcone

Continue reading Return of the Bede BD-4C Tailcone

Finished the Bede BD-4C Rear Seat Frame

The first brace for the rear seat frame of my Bede BD-4C airplane took so long that I thought the remaining three would take quite awhile. I was wrong. With help from my friend, Dave, I got them all done on Wednesday evening before Thanksgiving. Here are photos of the complete set of braces and Dave test fitting the two braces on the right side of the fuselage.

Rear seat braces.
Braces for the Bede BD-4C airplane rear seat frame.

Continue reading Finished the Bede BD-4C Rear Seat Frame

Fabricating Steel Parts

Now that I am a “master welder” (hah! :-P ) I am moving forward with fabricating steel parts for my Bede BD-4C airplane. My first attempt was the tail skid. I had to have the tube bent for me, since I do not have a torch, but then I cut the tube to length and sanded the ends to the angles necessary to mate up cleanly with the end plates. I made the end plates out of flat steel and then tack welded them to the tube. S.S. Welding took over from there and did the real welding for me. Here is what the skid looks like on the bottom of the back end of the fuselage.

Tail skid clecoed to Bede BD-4C fuselage.
Tail skid clecoed to Bede BD-4C fuselage.

With the tail skid done, I can now fabricate the ventral fin. Before I do the fin, though, I am going to finish up the frame for the rear seat. Continue reading Fabricating Steel Parts

Rear Seat Frame Progress

I made some progress on the rear seat frame for my Bede BD-4C airplane today. The rear seat is a surprisingly comfortable sling. I cut the tube which is the cross bar. I clamped some wood onto the fuselage to hold the tube in position. Then I continued fabricating the angles which will be riveted to the fuselage.

Here is what I have so far. Click any photo to see it larger. Continue reading Rear Seat Frame Progress


For years, I have joked that, I don’t weld. Well, now I do. There are a few steel components on my Bede BD-4C airplane that need to be fabricated to fit my plane. The main ones in front of me now are the door frames, the rear seat frame, the brackets for the front seat, and the tail skid. I talked to several people I trust and all advised me to just hire the welding done; that for the small amount of welding required it would not be cost-effective for me to acquire good equipment and learn to use it properly. Fortunately, I have found an excellent local welder so taking this advice is easy. (Hat tip to S. S. Radiator & Welding Service in Saint Peters, MO.)

But I was stymied because all of these components are made up of several bits of metal and, for most, I need to have the first few pieces fabricated and stuck together before I can fabricate the next few pieces. The solution, I decided, was to learn to do a tiny bit of welding, just the “tack welding” to temporarily hold stuff together while I fabricate. Then I can take the tack welded components over to S. S. Radiator & Welding for final welding.

So I acquired the bare minimum equipment and set to practicing and… ta da!… here are my first two pieces of steel, tack welded together:

First successful tack weld
First successful tack weld

So what do you think? Do I need a little more practice? :-)

Bede BD-4C Rudder Controls Access Panel

The Bede BD-4C airplane has a whole bunch of hardware inside the back end of the fuselage. The two rudder cables (one from each rudder pedal) are attached to a steel bellcrank. The bellcrank operates the front end of a push-pull rod (the back end of which is attached to a control horn on the bottom of the rudder). There are also four set-screws in this part of the plane, two for the rudder and two for the horizontal stabilator. And if that isn’t enough, there are bolts which hold the tail end of the stabilator push-pull rod and a whole bracket for holding the back end of the trim cable. It is a lot of stuff. Continue reading Bede BD-4C Rudder Controls Access Panel

Fabricating the BD-4C Dorsal Fin

In our last episode, our intrepid BD- had built a bending brake but been forced out of his airplane factory by the sweltering St. Louis summer heat. Once the temperature dropped, I was able to make the bend for the middle of the BD-4C dorsal fin and then cut it to shape, ready to have the flanges bent. It looked like this (you can click on this photo, or any other, to see a larger view): Continue reading Fabricating the BD-4C Dorsal Fin

Sheet Metal Bending Brake for Dorsal and Ventral Fins

I made a little progress on my Bede BD-4C airplane this week, though it is not photogenic enough to show here. I made two small steel plates which will attach the tail skid to the fuselage. They are drilled and clecoed in place, waiting for the welder to bend the ½ inch 4130 steel tube into the proper shape. I’ve tried bending this stuff cold and there is no way I can do it so every time I need some of the 4130 steel tube bent, it goes to the welder where he fills it with sand and heats it with a torch.

I then turned my attention to the dorsal fin and the ventral fin. I get to fabricate these out of sheets of .025 and .020 inch aluminum, respectively. The trick is that the dorsal fin needs a .25 inch bend radius and the ventral fin needs a .5 inch bend radius… and they each need to be bent to about 160 degrees, which is way more than the 100 degrees or so that my bending brake will do. Continue reading Sheet Metal Bending Brake for Dorsal and Ventral Fins

Straightened the Crooked Tail

I discovered a serious problem with my Bede BD-4C airplane as I was getting ready to install the top fuselage skin: the horizontal part of the tail was crooked. Specifically, the copilot’s side of the tail was about three inches higher (above the floor) than the pilot’s side. I did some careful measuring and figured out that the weldment that holds the horizontal stabilator was attached crooked to the end of the fuselage. Continue reading Straightened the Crooked Tail