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Perseverance Pays Off in the End

Perseverance Pays Off in the End

They say that perseverance pays off and after trucking along for more than eight years, the finish line to Kevin Brewster’s homebuilding project is finally in sight (kind of).


I have now moved to King Island, and after quite a break am starting to work on the Sonex again. It was quite a packing job getting it here. I’m now building in the King Island Aero Club hangar, which means I have a lot more room, but on the other hand it’s not quite as close as it used to be when it was just ‘downstairs’.

I have returned to working on the tail section, and have alodined all the sub-structure pieces and begun to rivet things together. Now that I have more space, I am planning to build the fuselage before going further with the wings.

I’ve also ticked off a milestone by getting my Private Pilot Licence (PPL) and RAA Pilot Certificate in December. My next goal is a tailwheel endorsement for both GA and RAA aircraft.


Horizontal stab, elevators, vertical stab, rudder, flaps and ailerons are completed. Rear wing spars are completed. Main wing spars are completed except for final riveting. All ribs have been fitted and drilled, but require clean-up, alodine and riveting.

I’ve changed my mind again and have decided to build the wings before the fuselage and am currently working mainly on the right wing. I’m planning to seal up the first few wing-bays in the leading edge of each wing, to form auxiliary fuel tanks. These should add another 45-plus litres of reserve capacity for the occasional ‘long haul’ over Bass Strait.

I will be leaving King Island and moving back to Tassie in January, so I probably won’t get much more done until February or so, apart from packing everything into a shipping container (again!).

MAY 2008

It has taken a while to get back into building after moving from King Island back to Tasmania, but I’ve now started working on the left wing. I’ll get it to the same stage as the right wing (skins clecoed on) and then take it apart and rivet both left and right main spars before reassembling the wings for the final (I hope!) time.

I wasn’t happy with the fit of the leading edge on the right wing, and so I tried reforming the left skin by the ‘vacuum bagging’ method, with 43mm (1.7″) OD PVC pipe forming the leading edge. It helped, but not as much as I had hoped – the leading edge radius still seems too large. I’m going to try reforming it again using smaller diametre pipe.

JUNE 2008

After getting the left wing clecoed together and all holes drilled to final sizes, it’s finally time to set all those solid rivets in the main spar assemblies. Despite earlier thoughts of using a c-frame tool for this, I decided to try the Sonex suggested ‘hammer and bolt’ method, which so far is proving quite satisfactory. I started at the outboard end of the spar, thinking that my ‘hammer’ technique would improve as I went and the outboard rivets would be less critical (under least stress).

I drilled a hole in the bucking-bar to fit a 5/32″ rivet-squeezer set and then ‘back-riveted’ the rivet tails with a polished 6″ x 3/4″ bolt.

JULY 2008

Wing spars riveted and mated! I found that a 1/2″ diameter bolt seemed to set rivets better than the 3/4″ bolt, and I also stopped using the 5/32″ squeezer set, sitting the head of the rivet directly on the bucking-bar. The head gets flattened slightly, but I think it actually looks better, and the Sonex literature says it has no affect on the strength.


I have been deburring wing ribs and associated parts. Nearly ready to alodine all the wing parts prior to reassembly and final riveting.


I’ve now alodined all the wing ribs, gussets and aileron bellcrank parts. I’m currently riveting the gussets to the ribs and making the rib aileron bellcrank assembly. Next will be riveting the ribs to the right-spar, adding wiring conduit, static/ pitot/ aoa lines and wing tank plumping…


Well, I seem to have well and truly overshot my 2005 New Year’s resolution to build a Sonex by the end of that year … ahem! But, I’m now very close to having the wings finished and am going to renew my New Year’s resolution for 2009 – I will have the airframe finished and the engine in my workshop by this time next year.

My other major goal for 2009 is to qualify my five-year-old Quarab “Sojo” to compete in endurance rides. And get my weight from 85kg back down to 75kg. I think both Sojo and the Sonex will appreciate that one! In the meantime, I’ve begun riveting the right aft wing skins on! The right wing should be well finished by the end of January.


My 2009 goals are going well so far:

Sonex right wing is finished and installed for now up in the wood shed roof frames, awaiting a mate and a fuselage. Left wing has the frame riveted and now only requires some wiring and final skin installation to be complete. Should be done with it and started on the fuselage by the end of March.

My weight is down from 85kg to 78kg, so only 3kg to go.

Sojo and I completed our first 40km endurance ‘training’ ride on Feb-28 with a perfect vet through at the end. Another 40 and then three 80km rides to go before he’s qualified.

I’ve also been playing around with Xpanel and have a new panel layout. I bought an OKI C5650 colour printer last year, which can print out Sonex size panels at full scale onto a single 216x900mm sheet of banner paper. I’ve moved the Voyager left of centre to try and minimise crossing of arms (right hand on centre-stick, left hand pushing buttons).

APRIL 2009

Well it took a few extra weeks to get around to it (we went on a short holiday to Fiji) but I finally got the left wing-tip on today! So the left wing is now done, wrapped in plastic and stored up in the top shed with its mate.

I now have the wings, tail and all control surfaces completed, so the only major part of the airframe left to build is … the FUSELAGE!  I sure hope it’s true what they say about the fuse being much easier and faster to build than the wings … :-)

I’ve started organising all the parts to make the aft fuselage section. I cut most of the channel parts to length back when I first got the kit in 2005, but they now need to be completed, along with some small parts that go together to make the aft fuse sides.

MAY 2009

The aft fuselage box is well on the way. I had hoped to have it finished and riveted, complete with turtledeck by the end of the month, but it’ll probably take until next month now. I haven’t riveted anything yet as I need to disassemble for alodining and priming prior to final assembly.

Some minor home renovations and replacing all the guttering on our house is slowing the Sonex down a little, but I am informed that preventing it raining in the kitchen whenever it rains outside has a higher priority! Unbelievable, I know … ;-)

MARCH 2010

Well the ‘minor home renovations’ I mentioned in May somehow evolved into a year-long effort culminating in the purchase of a new property! So there has basically been zero progress on the Sonex for the last 10 months. I did get the aft fuse parts alodined, but that’s about it.

The Sonex is partially responsible for this latest move actually, as I wanted somewhere I could build a Sonex-suitable airstrip. It was not easy to find! But – our new property has an area that I think will work. It’s only about 300m/1000′ and is on a bit of a slope, so one-way, but it should be fine for the Sonex in most conditions that I will be flying (read as: good weather!).

It will probably take the best part of another year before I get back to work on the Sonex, as I want to build a proper hangar/workshop here, directly off the left end of the house, opening into the ‘airstrip paddock’. There are also plans for some horse yards and stables and a few other miscellaneous jobs to do before that. So I’m thinking of this time as a ‘long term investment’ in the Sonex!

MAY 2011

It seems impossible, but the last entry in my builders log is dated October 2009 – a year and a half ago! Time flies, as they say. The thing is I want my Sonex to fly too, so I had better get back on with it! It has been something of a financial stretch for us to buy this property with airstrip-in-potential, and so the intervening time has been spent … well, stretching! :-)

But things are getting back on track again, and I’ve just finished setting up my workshop again (for the fourth time would you believe, after three moves in the last five years!). Due to the aforementioned stretch, the planned hangar and workshop has not yet been possible, so I’ve set-up in the garage for the time being. Next steps will be to reassemble and rivet the aft-fuse box and construct the turtle-deck. Then on to the forward-fuse.

A timely inspiration boost has come from getting to have a fly in Tim Midgley’s Sonex. Thanks Tim – awesome! It flies beautifully, although is more pitch sensitive than I am used to. It also reaffirmed my decision to use the Jabiru 3300 engine and the Prince prop. This was the first completed Sonex I have seen ‘in the flesh’, and I also have to say that I was slightly surprised by how small it seems in real life. In fact, while we were pushing it back to the hangar I had a momentary impression that it was not unlike a large-scale radio-controlled model!

JUNE 2011

May/June saw the aft fuse box come together fairly quickly, as I had already finished most of the parts before the last move, back in May 2009 (!!). I just had a few holes to cut in the side skins, install the rudder cable guides, do some tidy-up and then work out all over again how everything fits together!

In my rush to get things finished and packed before moving, I made a mistake in 2009 by drilling all the upper longeron holes to final size. They should stay at pilot size until the turtledeck has been fitted, so I had to be extra careful when drilling the turtledeck to the longerons, not to enlarge the existing final-size holes. I got away with it, but it highlighted the need to carefully look ahead in the plans and understand the next few steps ahead of time.

After a lot of stomach crunching exercises fitting the turtledeck formers I eventually got everything fitted and drilled and clecoed. I’ve now taken the turtledeck assembly off again for deburring and corrosion proofing. July should see it back in place with rivets.


Not a lot of work on the Sonex in the last eight months I’m afraid, but some small progress towards a workshop/ hangar. There was a LOT of discussion about what it should look like, what it should be made of, where it should be sited, how it should be oriented, etc. We had a lot of trouble imagining what it would look like next to the house, so eventually I had a number of sketch-up models created.

Of course building is not for everyone, and there are many partly built kits and unfinished projects for sale by disillusioned builders out there.

The video from Van’s Aircraft puts it nicely – that depending on your perspective you either get to build it, or you have to build it, before you can fly it. Even though I enjoy building things, I am sure there are going to be some very frustrating periods where it feels like it’s going on forever and I’m getting nowhere.

But perseverance pays off and eventually I will be airborne and carving up the sky, visiting wonderful places and seeing wonderful things …



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