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The canopy has always been the part I have looked forward to most, because the canopy begins to shape the airplane. It seemed to me the most difficult portion of the kit. With lots of input from a few other builders, I am going to document it step-by-step in the hopes it will help Legacy builders coming behind me. Following is the first part of a three-part series.

I began by placing the stiffener in its joggle to get an idea of how it would fit and where things would be trimmed and altered. Fit was fine along the sides, but the front and rear needed pulling to seat squarely in its joggle. After removing it from the fuselage, I got to work assembling the locking mechanism. I won't spend a lot of time discussing this, as it's straightforward, and pretty much according to the manual. I did, however roll my latch handle over a pipe to get its shape contoured to the fuselage. Additionaly, it's worth noting that more needs to be trimmed in the latching cavity than is called for to get the latches in and swinging freely.

First step in the canopy, really, is the trimming so that it seats itself in the joggle. I transferred a scribe line to the stiffener that would match the joggle edge. Jim Thomas suggested using a carpenter's scribe where by you follow the edge of the joggle and it draws a line below. The stiffener is placed back on and the opposite is done using the transferred line to draw the trim line on the stiffener. What you'll end up with is a line to cut and it's safe to hold back about a 1/16" to 1/32" and sand off later.

I spent the better part of a Friday morning using my block sander to get the stiffener seated properly. The key here is to keep placing that stiffener in its joggle, mark with a pen where it's hanging over and sand. I'm certain I had it on and off about thirty times or more. The perma-grit sanding block takes the carbon off so quickly it really wasn't too much of a bother.

After the stiffener was seating well from the sanding, I made a note that the rear would need to be split to overcome the pulling back and fourth from the front and rear to get the proper seating. I then began drilling out my defroster holes. I marked out masking tape and placed it in to position to set my reference marks.

After cleaning up the defroster holes, I began installing the hinges by first clamping them into position to assess the process. My problem was that the pop rivets appeared too short to secure the nut plates, so with advice from Ron Jones, I set about making custom nut plates that would be bonded on from the top. I used 4-bid scrap, drilled holes, riveted the nut plates to the scrap and went about squaring up my hinges. A good tip is to super glue around the edges of the hinges and spacers when you’re good with the position. After removing the bolts from the hinges I applied car wax to the threads before the nut plates got bonded on. I prepped the top surface, wet out with Jeffco and bonded using flox. The bolts were screwed back in and a final check for hinge square was done. This process is more forgiving than the manual's pop rivet method and I'm happy for Ron's suggestion.

The stiffener is now placed back on and a centerline is marked from fuselage to stiffener before a cut is made in the rear. It's good to have shot bags holding the stiffener in position. After I made the cut I tried to determine how much would be trimmed in the center portion to accommodate a good fit. I came up with about an1/8" and cut a little at a time to keep from over-cutting. Amazingly, it's now seating fine everywhere without the pulling. I clamped and weighted the stiffener down and drilled for clecos along the rear and drilled bolt holes along the rails to hold the stiffener firmly in. With bolts and clecos set, the six-bid lay-up is bonded in. Potting-in the foam comes next, and I was careful to mark sections and trim to fit my foam with corresponding numbers to easily identify where they needed to be. The channel was wet-out and the foam set on a bed of Jeffco mixed with Micro. To hold everything down tight, I used clear packaging tape. The last step in the rear was to bond-in a 4-bid lay-up cut on the 90 degree. Lastly I filled the center cut, with flox, where needed.

Hinging the canopy with the supplied gussets was, at first, confusing. I think the problem I had initially was visualizing a very simple operation with a daunting set of instructions. The best thing to do here is get some double-sided tape out and stick those gussets in position to familiarize yourself with how it will look when completed. The fit is not going to be perfect, but the flox will take care of it all in the end. First off is to prep the bonding areas and apply the three-layers of tape called for in the manual. Next, get the flattest, cleanest popsicle sticks you can find and glue them on with Super Glue, but be sure you allow space for the hinge bearings. I marked out safe spots when I had them positioned in earlier. Once I had them prepped I got it clamped all together square against the hinge and deck where it will permanently live. Now I’m set to drill the first hole. If you think you can do this job without the 90-degree drill attachment you'll be wrong. This tool is absolutely necessary for this task.

When the first gusset hinge holes are drilled, (the smaller ones) the gussets can be unclamped and bonded into position. I was careful to make sure I got a good squeeze-out and that it was bonding solid on the firewall. The excess was cleaned up and last was to run bolts though the hinges and gussets (with car wax applied) to hold it all together. The popsicle sticks kept everything nice and square. After the cured, the bolts through the hinges were removed and the stiffener was taken off to allow for drilling out the bushing holes. I used a slim line drill to drill through the INSIDE gussets. This allowed me to go through the bearing and into the gusset on the OUTSIDE nice and square.

When the bushings got installed, I could see that what popped out of the hole did not equal the thickness of the stick spacer. I sanded the inside of the gusset down with #40 paper until it looked right on all four gussets. Bushings were roughed up and bonded in with flox and the stiffener was bolted in for the very first canopy swing, and a couple more. Woo-hoo!

With the hinges working and set, I bolted on the new doublers Carsten and Andy, of Lancair, sent me. The doublers change the geometry of how the gas strut will aid the opening and should aliviate the top deck bowing up. The metal spacers pictured are 10 1/2" long and, according to the manual, will set the distance of the gas strut anchors to the firewall. THIS IS INCORRECT as I discovered later. To set this distance, raise the canopy in the full open position, bolt on the gas strut assembly and that will show where the anchors really need to be. Part two will show this more clearly with a photo.

The latches and catches are next up. This part is easy. I took out the top inboard screw from each latch plate and carefully screwed in the hollowed-out screws on each side for drilling. I drilled my alignment hole on slow speed through the hollow screws.

The stiffener is now closed, clecoed and clamped down into place. After crawling into the baggage area, I slid the long #40 drill bit through the backside of the alignment hole, through the alignment hollow-screw and began drilling my reference hole. I repeated the process on the opposite side and climbed out to open the canopy.

Setting the catch plate is easy as long as a straight reference line is drawn between the two alignment holes using a straight edge ruler. I used my template plate to set where drilling would begin and found that the hole for the latches will need to be cut another 1/2 more off the bottom. Nut plates were installed after the bolt holes were drilled and the canopy catch was installed.

Trimming for the canopy strikers is simple enough. I decided to install an extra set giving me a total of four. I established center marks for all of them along the fusalage canopy rail and trimmed for the delrin bushings. After the cuts were cleaned up I set center marks on the stiffener for the strikers and began trimming cutouts from the bottom allowing a little notch for the nut plate to clear. Nut plates were added to the strikers and screwed into postion on the stiffener after holes were drilled and countersunk.

The very last step of the stiffener is to get the top decking ready for the Plexiglas. It needs some trimming. The scribe line is a decent reference and I used that and a piece of molding, clamped into position, to establish a cut line. After trimming, I sanded out the high spots with #40 paper taped around a small paint can. I kept working to get it clean and smooth.

Setting the Plexiglas on the stiffener for the first time means you'll have to stand back for a minute and smile. It's really looking like a plane. (a cool 300mph-rocket plane). This process really requires a helper. The key here is to position that glass so it's even all around in its overlap, cover as much as possible for bonding along the front, but it should not cover the defroster holes. When set, I marked a reference line everywhere with pen and tape so when the glass is placed on later it will be easy to position correctly.

More to come in part two...

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