Project News for January 2004, to December 2007

December 27th, 2007
Sorry for the lag in updating with the pictures of the new fuel panel. Holidays and all that. :)
I hope you all had a nice holiday!
The fuel panel is now complete with the exception of some clean-up paint work on the PCB and a nick or two on the edge-lit panel.

In order of assembly: The panel mounting plate. The panel is made from .062" 6061 Aluminum and as previously mentioned, was cut out on my Shop Bot.
You can see video of the panel being cut out here:

The printed circuit board for the lamps. This is a single-sided copper clad board that is .0313" thick. The copper layer is somewhere in the neighborhood of .005". The PCB was cut out and routed on the Shop Bot. I used a two-flute .0625" end mill to cut the board out as well as engrave the circuit path and border areas. The 'bot has fine enough control that I'm able to just take away the copper layer without going into the epoxy glass board underneath.
The lamps are standard T1 size incandescent bulbs. They run on 5VDC and take about 155mA each. This is very close to the lamp specified by the MIL-STD for panels, but they're not so damn expensive. :)
The power connector is just a simple 2 pin connector on .100" centers. It's basically the same thing as what is used for a single-position jumper you'd find on a computer motherboard.

The edge-lit panel. As mentioned earlier, this panel was cut out by laser and all the pocketing in the back was done by 'bot. Each lamp pocket has a small bit of aluminum foil at the bottom. This serves to prevent any light "hot spots" and it also helps prevent damage caused by the heat given off by the lamp.
The panel was shot with four coats of FS white, followed by four coats of FS black. I then masked the panel, did all the engraving for the lettering and re-shot with FS white. After the mask was removed, the panel was shot with four layers of Testors Dullcote to protect the finish. The result is fantastic to say the least.

This is the panel assembled and powered up. The picture was extremely difficult to take so there is a bit of blurring going on. I picked two of the best out of the series that show the illumination. The light looks brighter in the "lowlight" picture, but that is strictly an artifact from the camera. The light level coming from the panel never changed between photos.

There is a little bit of leakage around the PCB visible - this is due to not having yet painted the PCB. When it's painted, it won't show light through the edges light it does in the two photos above.
As you can see, there are no "hot" spots, although there are a couple of areas that are just a little bit dimmer than the rest of the panel. This could be cured by adding another bulb or two. Considering the bulb count and positioning was "best guess", I think I did pretty well. :) On the other panels I build, I'll err on the side of more bulbs than fewer.
I need to find a single on-off-on toggle switch to complete this panel. I could have sworn I had all the ones I needed for this panel, but it turns out I'm short by one. Go figure. :)

The next panel up will be the Electronic Warfare panel. This one is really small and simple, with only three switches present.
Pictures of that will follow soon.

Thanks for visiting and have a Happy New Year!

December 16th, 2007
Here's the first production panel off the 'bot!

The laser & ShopBot differ just a little bit and it resulted in the holes that the laser cut being just a little bit off. Fortunately, the error isn't enough to prevent the pocketing on the back to interfere with the switch mounting hardware.
The back plate is made from .062 6061 Aluminum. I use a self-clinching nut called a PEM fastener to hold the acrylic edge-lit panel to the backplate. I'm also using them to hold the switch guard in place. On the original panel, the switch guard is actually riveted in place on the acrylic panel itself. I didn't want to risk the panel being damaged accidentally, so didn't go that route.

As of right now, both the edge-lit panel and the back plate are painted and ready to go. I wanted to give the panel a full 24 hours to dry so I won't be lettering it until tomorrow or the next night. I'll be sure to post pictures of the panel when it's done!

October 7th, 2007
The first panel prototype rolled out of the laser last night and it looks GREAT!

This was produced to test out the processes I had created in order to build the new panels I needed
to have. In my haste to see how it would look, I didn't let the white paint dry completely, but it's a prototype so I don't feel bad about the minor little defects on the panel.
I'm really looking forward to getting the rest of these completed and installed!

At the end of all this work will be a Type 5 panel. A Type 5 panel is basically an internally illuminated plastic panel that has a printed circuit board installed that holds all the lamp assemblies and the power connector for the lamp. I'll be posting pictures of the entire assembly when I've got it completed.

I'm going back to the shop now, bye! *laughs*
October 1st, 2007
Work is continuing and in preparation for doing the design work on the side console wiring harnesses I am creating the missing panels. Out of all the panels in the side consoles, I'm only missing 5 original parts. Here is a picture of the first new panel, Fuel Control:

The parts in the picture have been cut out on a laser and are made of heavy card stock. By cutting out the panel designs in paper first, I can avoid costly errors in plastic and metal.
The image on the right is the edge-lit panel and the part on the right is what the metal mounting plate looks like. The metal plate is where the all the hardware is mounted, although the Slipway Override switch guard is actually mounted on the panel itself.

I'm still missing the height of the other panels I need to make, so if the requests I made don't pan out, I'll have to scale the PDF drawings to the correct width and hope the height comes out right. Since the panels are all designed according to the Military Specification MS25212 (Control Panel, Console Type, Aircraft Equipment, Basic Dimensions) there are a set of hard rules I can follow. This will help immensely in "guessing" the right dimensions of the new panel designs. For instance, the "height" of the panel will always be a multiple of .375. This ensures that properly located Dzus fasteners will match the hole centers in the mounting rail, which is also .375.

The copy of MS25212 that I have is pretty hard to read, so when I get a chance I'll create a new version in AutoCAD and post it for you folks to use in your projects if you need it.
There are a couple of changes I need to make to the metal mounting plate to accomodate anti-rotation washers on the switches, but I hope to be able to start cutting real material for this panel on Saturday.

As always, thanks for taking the time to stop by!

August 27th, 2007
The frame is done and the F-15 is now sitting on it!

As you can see, the cockpit is supported a lot better now than it ever has been.
The new frame weighs roughly 500lbs and is made of steel box-beam material and industrial strength

Click here for more pictures of the new cradle.
July 4th, 2007
Well amazingly enough, this update is about the F-15!
My neighbor Mike stopped by with his fork lift and we lifted the cockpit up so we could see what needed to be done to build the new all-steel support frame for it.

As high as the cockpit was lifted, it seemed very close to the original height it would have been at when sitting on the gear. *wistful sigh*

Here's a more detailed shot of the nosegear bay:

When I first got the cockpit, one of the things I did was attempt to remove the nosegear door that was still attached. Unfortunately, I could never break the sealant that had been used on the hinge line. When we moved the cockpit to the new house, the bottom rested on the transport cradle in such a way that the force broke the sealant loose and the door came free. I haven't been able to remove it until today. Here's a couple of pics:
As soon as the cockpit is set on the new steel frame, work will begin in earnest!
Thanks for continuing to follow the project!
June 11th, 2007
The work inside the shop is finally completed, with the exception of some Ethernet runs.  Yay!

Here's what the new work area looks like right now:

It's a mess right now, but I'm still in the process of getting things organized. 

One of the things that I really missed in the old shop was storage space.  I may have gone a little overboard in compensating for that prior lack of space. :)  I built a pair of cabinets that are 8 feet high, 4 feet wide and 18 inches deep.  Joined together they make a 9 foot long dividing wall between the ShopBot and the bench area.

The cabinet doors are 5 inches deep.  One side will have shelving that will hold small tools or parts and the other door has a sheet of  "peg" board that will allow me to hang tools and such on metal hangars designed for that purpose.

The cabinets have metal track inside that will allow me to put 23x18 shelves in wherever I need them.  This will come in handy if I have to store something taller than a regular shelving unit could accomodate.

The first 10 "cores" for instrument rebuilding are on the way.  I've chosen Beta Innovations AC360 2" gauges to build the new engine instruments, the VVI, backup ASI, AOA indicator and the Cabin Pressure indicator.  These gauges are based on air-core motors and are perfect for this kind of work.  I still haven't solved the issue with the odometer displays on the RPM, TIT and Fuel Flow indicators, but I'm sure I'll come up with something soon.  If I can't find suitable 7 segment or matrix displays, I'll try salvaging some other instruments I have for their mechanical movements.

December 10th, 2006
I know I've been remiss in updating the web site this year, so I'm producing one huge update.  It's 1 AM and I'm trashed, so I'm going to make this a multi-page update. Keep checking for more updates soon!

Massive Update Page #1
Massive Update Page #2
Massive Update Page #3
Massive Update Page #4

Update is complete, thanks for reading!

March 26th, 2006
Holy crap! It's been a long time since I made an update, so I'd better start off with a good one, eh?

Last month a heard from a nice gent named Steve about my F-15C. Seems that he had an interesting bit of history for me that no one else had told me about.
It turns out that my jet has a name, and boy did it ever earn it. Here's his story:

I flew RF-4C's at Zweibrucken during that time, but a friend of mine had just transferred to F-15s and told me the pre-accident story. Later on, USAFE safety and McDonnell Douglas came around and briefed the accident with a different video and stories.

First I'll tell you the story of how it was that aircraft 007 was chosen to perform at the airshow at Soesterberg (pronounced Soo-sterberg) AB in the Netherlands. Your aircraft was almost brand new to Bitburg AB. It had arrived from the McDonnell-Douglas factory in St. Louis and had minimal hours on the airframe (about 10) when one of the pilots took it on a cross-country mission to Scandinavia.

(I'm not sure of your background, so I'll take a minute to explain cross-country: A cross-country is where they give you an aircraft for the weekend and allow you to fly it wherever you want in order to get training and flying hours for the wing. Generally you are committed to six sorties - two each Friday and Monday and normally two on Saturday or Sunday, giving you one day off in a country. In Europe, cross-country's were critical to maintaining wing flying hours because of the typical lousy weather over there.)

Anyway, it was summer and the squadron was going to have a big party, so on Sunday the pilot bought a whole bunch of Norwegian shrimp, which was packed in its own frozen brine and ice. He stored the boxes of shrimp in the large area behind the ejection seat Sunday evening. Well, given the temperatures and the two additional sorties he flew on Monday, there was naturally some melting and leaking from the boxes behind the seat. When he landed at Bitburg the pilot spot cleaned the area behind the seat, but unbeknownst to him the now-liquid brine had made it's way into lots of areas of the aircraft. Also, little did anyone know the corrosive effect brine had on aircraft aluminum. After about a week of flying a crew chief noted lots of rust behind the pilot seat(*). A closer inspection revealed sheet metal damage, and some corrosion on wiring and tubing. It was determined that the damage was so extensive that the regular Wing Level sheet-metal repair shop and maintenance could not handle the job, so the aircraft had to be sent to F-15 PDM (Programmed Depot Maintenance).

(*) When the initial rust was discovered and the story of how this happened came out, and even though the maintenance folks didn't find it amusing, pilots being who they are could not help but see the humor in the story and so the aircraft was given a name: "Shrimp Boat". Just so you know, very few AF aircraft are/were named it had to be something special to actually have an aircraft name all the pilots would recognize. Most times when you called maintenance after a flight you just called in the tail number....but 007 was now Shrimp Boat.

As an aside (maybe this is why I remember Shrimp Boat) my squadron had an aircraft (364) that departed the runway on landing and from then on was known forever as "Mud Slide". It was the only "named" aircraft in our squadron. About a year later the aircraft departed the runway again and the Chief of Maintenance claimed it wasn't a maintenance problem, but rather pilot sub-conscious because everybody called the aircraft Mud Slide.

Anyway, after about a month, the refurbished and newly repainted aircraft returned to Bitburg. The Soesterberg Air Show was coming up. (Note: Even though Soesterberg was also an F-15 base, the USAFE F-15 Demo pilot was stationed at Bitburg, so that's why a Bitburg F-15 was performing at Soesterberg). When they choose an aircraft for an airshow, they try to find the nicest looking aircraft, because in addition to flying, it is also used as a static display. Well, aircraft 007, aka Shrimp Boat, having just returned from Depot, had a brand new paint job and it was determined that the Bitburg F-15 Demo Pilot would fly Shrimp Boat at the Soesterberg Air Show.

THAT, is how your cockpit got to the Soesterberg Air Show....

Note, I agree that the aircraft had 9.5 hours on it when it was accepted at Bitburg, but not at the time of the crash: this aircraft had flown from the factory ~ 10 hours, a cross-country ~ 8 hours, a week of flying, and to/from PDM ~18 hours, and about a week before the airshow, so it had less than 50 hours total on it when it went to its final flight at Soesterberg.

Much shorter: The Accident: The following stuff came from the debriefings after the accident.

There is another, better amateur video out there. Whether or not the AF confiscated it or not or whether you might find a copy on the internet is a good question. But the other video shows the entire turn to final, the crash and slide, the (slightly) humorous post-crash incident, and the aftermath.

The F-15 has computers to assist the pilot. As he makes the final turn the folks from safety pointed out the aircraft computers realized there was a problem and you can watch the stabilator and rudders fighting the pilot all the way to the ground. As noted in the accident report, after he slid 1500 feet on the ground the pilot ground egressed safely...but what you can see quite plainly on the video is that after he runs about 100 yards away from the aircraft, he turns back, looks at the wreck, removes his helmet and throws it to the ground with his right hand (it's a lot funnier to watch than to read).

Finally, the folks from McDonnell-Douglas and Pratt & Whitney were quite proud of the F-15s performance during and post accident. In addition to the video showing the computers trying to recover from the pilot's maneuvers, the video showed something else. Look closely at Mr. Steehouwer's pictures and you'll see what I mean: After the aircraft slid 1500 feet across the infield you'll notice all the smoke and dust blowing in the air. That is because after the crash, going across grass, dirt and rocks and sucking in all of those, the right engine is still running. The engine continued to run well after the pilot had egressed and it ran until the fire department was able to get enough water into it to shut it down.

Pretty damn cool eh? Shrimp Boat. Makes me think of an F-15 with a pair of net cranes instead of wings. :)

Interestingly enough, shortly after Steve sent me that cool story, I got an email from Mario, the webmaster of the Slobberin' Wolfhounds Squadron website. It turns out that he's got a couple of photographs that were taken by an RNLAF Fire Brigade member by the name of Ruud Vrakking. Mario was kind enough to give me permission to use these:

You'll notice that the fireman in the lower picture is drowning the right engine just as Steve mentioned in his story. That is pretty damn cool.

I'd really like to get my hands on that video footage that Steve mentions above. If you know where it's hiding, PLEASE let me know!

We've recently moved and I'm waiting for the shop at the new house to be built before I can resume work on the F-15. The wait is going to drive me out of my mind. At the rate things are progressing, I won't have a shop until June or later. :(
The good news is that the new shop is a lot bigger than the old one. I'll be going from a 42x24 building to a 60x36 with a 14' high cieling. This means that I'll be able to use the canopy I'm going to get soon.

Until next time!
October 12th, 2004
Minor update. Moved one of the banners to the bottom of the news page.

The email is fixed. I'd accidentally trashed the mx record. *d'oh*
September 12th, 2004
As promised, I've got more goodies from the Eagle Talk digests online. The new sections cover the hydraulic system, the hydro-mechanical control system and the directional control system. There are 5 more parts to the series and I'll get them online soon!  

You'll also note a big rework of the Project News page.  I hadn't realized how large the page was so I decided to cut it down a bit and move prior year updates to their own page.  You can find them here or follow the link at the bottom of this page.

August 7th 2004
I got a nice package from the Washington State Dept. of Transportation today.

I'm having difficulty deciding between, "W00t!", "This is cool." or "This rawks!"

*ahem* if I only had the time to work on the silly thing. *wistful sigh*  
July 31st, 2004
Here's a couple of pictures that show the new HUD control panel lightplate that Peter Cos of Flightdeck Solutions made for me.

The old lightplate is shown on the left.  Pretty sad looking, isn't it?

Here's a better shot of the HUD.  The HUD camera has been installed for this picture.  If I can get it to work, I'll leave it there.  Otherwise, it'll get removed.

The UHF radio control head that was on the HUD when I got it is in pretty rough shape.  Fortunately, I've got a replacement for it that is in MUCH better condition, although the Channel selector control shaft has been broken on this one as well.

Another new goodie that I haven't mentioned yet is the brand new Fuel Quantity indicator I got.  It was built by Malwin Electronics for specific use in a
flight simulator.  The indicator can be driven by the R&R Electronics Gauge and Meter module.  In fact, Matt Wietlispach's flight simulator uses this same instrument.  His website is here.

Here's a picture of the new indicator:

I'd like to thank Matt for his help, advice and generosity.  Without him, this project would be much farther behind than it is today.  Thanks Matt!
July 20th, 2004
A gentleman from The Netherlands contacted me a short time ago with an amazing thing! He said he had footage of my F-15C during it's last flight and subsequent accident! Many thanks to Michael Pols for supplying this fantastic footage to me! This first link is of the last moments of the flight demonstration, followed by the crash demonstration. :) Baby's Last Steps The second link is a short walk-around done by the local Dutch TV crew: Wreck walk-around Thanks to Roy Coates for hosting the movie files for me.  
June 11th, 2004
In the Operation section, there is a new document titled The F15 Flight Control System that you might want to check out. It's the first of the Product Support Digest articles that I'm reprinting from the Eagle Talk Digests that I have. It gives a very clear overview of how the flight control system in the F-15 works.
May 11th, 2004
Added a banner for a neat new F-15E research website that's based in Hungary. Great stuff there!  
January 1st, 2004
Happy New Year everyone! I've got some good updates today. The first covers the new Instructor Console that is under construction. You can check it out here. Next up are details on the AC power system that the simulator uses! This has been in the works for quite a while, but I only recently got the time to write it up for you. You can head over to the Tech section or click here. This: the third 1,000 foot spool of wire I've used so far. That's right folks, the F-15C simulator project has officially consumed 3,000 feet of signal wire. :)


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