Turning Dreams into Reality: The Rebuilding of N13DF
The dream started 30 years ago when I began building a LongEZ from plans. Life got in the way and I unfortunately had to sell it. Three years ago I was volunteering at Oshkosh when I ran across the Rutan Aircraft Flying Experience and decided to get involved with them as a retirement activity. The dream came alive again and I wound up buying a LongEZ, N13DF. For two years now I’ve been able to fulfill that 30 year old dream, but it needed some work and updates.
N13DF has been actively flying for 30 years and many prior owners had customized the airplane. The structure is in excellent condition and it has a powerful O-360. The ADSB mandate complicated things so a new panel was put on the list, but like most these projects once things started coming apart the update list got longer until N13DF version 1.9 is born!
JetGuys is a sponsor of RAFE and I’d been volunteering there. I’d seen the amazing work they have done. I was even luckier because Robert Harris and his team at JetGuys have maintained 13DF for the previous owner and knew the aircraft extremely well. They have 25 years of expertise in avionics, electrical and structures particular to these types of aircraft. I elected to tap into this best practice knowledge for the task of upgrading my LongEZ. They are very open about what they do, like to teach their customers the intricacies of Rutan aircraft and encourage owners to participate. Though known for building jets based on Rutan designs, Jetguys started doing EZ maintenance and it’s still its bread and butter work. They not only do maintenance and condition inspections; they’re known for complex repairs and overhauling of these designs. It’s probably the best equipped facility, not just in expertise but in tools and equipment to do this kind of work.
Before this, I was one of the first RAFE flight training students and got checked out in one of their LongEZ’s. That helped achieve my dream of flying a LongEZ. Jetguys helped achieve the dream of making N13DF make this this aircraft mine. These guys are fearless and it seems their favorite tool is sawsall ! Never would I imagine my first task would be to indiscriminately cut out all the wiring with a huge set of wire cutters. We filled an entire large trash barrel with wire, vacuum tubing, electrical conduit and other no longer necessary items. Turns out it is cheaper to start over than to try to trace 30 years of modifications!
Robert Harris and I plotted out the scope of work. At a high level, I would add a Garmin system with autopilot. Robert recommended purchasing pre-built wiring harnesses, which I had done at Aerotronics. This turned out to be a great decision and saved money in the long run. Making the airplane more maintenance friendly is something Robert is known for so I started cutting out armrests and identifying where access panels would go. In the end, the following changes were done to N13DF:
• Strip out all old wiring, switches and circuit breakers
• New panel, switches and placards
• Rewire the airplane with new a/c grade wiring and equipment compatible with Garmin systems
• Install a G3X Touch system from Aerotronics
o GNX 375
• Install heated AOA
• Remove primary and backup vacuum system
• Install new B&C alternator for this “all electric” Long Ez
• Rewire and relocate electronic ignition systems
• Install emergency battery power system
• Install new throttle quadrant with push/pull cables
• Oil heat installation
• Install crash axes in front and back seat
• Strip interior and repaint with grey Zolotone
• Roll over structure improvement
• Update manual roll trim
• Install electric pitch trim
• Install updated fuel system similar to the RAFE “Speed Canard”
• Install removable side consoles
• Add speed brake access door in front seat
• Expand nose access panel
Wrap it all up with a very thorough Condition Inspection
These upgrades took most of the winter and we finally flew in early June. There were no major problems just working of minor discrepancies and tweaks. A lot to learn with the new Garmin system but the configuration support from Aerotronics has been great. Looking forward to some great cross country and formation flying with the new look!
Participating with the Rutan Aircraft Flying Experience and the guidance of their members helped make my dream of flying my own LongEZ a reality. I’m not flying the LongEZ project I started 30 years ago but this one is now “mine” as much as it can be. I highly recommend JetGuys for a job like this.