Scott Alperin’s TWTT Sportsman-Building Journey

Scott Alperin is the latest Sportsman builder/owner gracing the Customer Assembly Center (CAC) at Glasair Aviation headquarters here in Arlington, Washington.

Scott has built up more than 4,900 hours in 30 years of flying piston, turbine and jet-prop engines and fixed-, retractable-, and float-landing gear in models of airplanes too numerous to list here. Suffice to say, he knows a thing or two about flying and what he likes and doesn’t in his aircraft. We’re proud to have him as a Glasair Aviation customer and advocate.

Scott has big plans for his Sportsman. He’s assembling it in the CAC with taildragger landing gear. In warm months he’ll switch over to Claymar amphibious composite floats for trips from Cleveland to his second home on a lake in western New York. (Conversion to floats for someone practiced at it is typically accomplished in under 5 hours.)

When he’s not buidlilng his Glasair Sportsman, Scott is an oral and maxillofacial surgeon.

Lucky for us, he’s also a pretty fair journalist, having chronicled in words and photos the progress of his build so far. We are very happy to share here his day-by-day accounts, and invite readers to check back for more first-person entries describing Scott’s plane-building journey.

Day 1

These are three pics from the end of day 1. Much of the empennage was pre-built. The wings are in process. The cage (frame) was pre-completed. This is a very sophisticated airplane. I am very impressed. I have been drilling, riveting, cutting, painting, wiring, etc. I am very busy from 7-5:30. Study at night for the next day! There are 7 of us doing the work. The guys get lots of things ready then call me over to do a task and as soon as I am done [I’m] off to another task. The wings are only on temporarily for now to align them. We still have to complete them. More to follow.

Day 1 photo 3

Day 1 photo 1

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Day 2

Today was another great day. I am finding that I feel much more comfortable already with the systems and my responsibilities. It is amazing how many techniques that I have been experiencing and learning to do. A few of the projects today were bending fuel lines, wiring the wings, cabling the flight control cables in the wings, bucking my first rivets, working with fiberglass on the vertical fin, working on installing the tail wheel, installing the rudder trim tab, installing the flap controls, etc. The list is very long. The way this works is that the team is prepping areas and getting the parts [I] need together and when they are ready they call me over to complete the task. I actually have almost no downtime. There are manuals available with a pictorial guide on the techniques. We check and re-check each task to make sure it is completed correctly. All of the tools and materials are readily available. I am very impressed at the quality and construction of this airplane. I have included a few pics from today. I have to sign off now because I need to read over my manuals for tomorrow’s tasks. More to follow. 

Day 2 photo 3

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Day 2 photo 2

Day 3

Today I was working on the tailwheel assembly, elevator assembly, firewall installation, fuel lines in the cabin, and much time on the wings. The wings have many rivets to the skins and contains the fuel tanks (4), wiring, pumps, flight control cables, etc. We also were able to do some prep work on the engine, including installation of the motor mounts and part of the induction system.The pictures below are the elevator, tail wheel assembly, me riveting the wing, motor mount on the motor, and the firewall. The firewall is a stainless-steel unit the separates the engine compartment from the passenger cabin and is fireproof for safety. The entire structure is extremely strong thanks to steel and much carbon fiber.  There is still a lot to do, but I am told that we are on schedule to be completed in the 2-weeks time frame as planned.

Day 3 photo 1

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Day 4

Today was another milestone.  It is termed the First Landing because we progressed enough to take the plane off of the jig stand and rest it on its own gear legs. I began this morning with final installation of the tailwheel, rudder, elevator trim mechanism including the electric servo. We were also simultaneously working on completion of the firewall, and we were able to mount the engine to  the plane. After those tasks I installed the fuel tanks in the wings. Whenever I am doing a task the guys continue to work on other prep work. The main gear legs including wheels, brakes, and tires was the last step before we took the plane off the floor jig and rested it on its own gear. The crew is really very professional and I continue to be impressed by their attention to detail and perfection. Time to get to my preparation for tomorrow’s tasks.

Day 4 photo 4

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Day 5

Another good day with lots of progress. Doing this in such a condensed fashion is very rewarding because you see so much progress daily. I spent much of the morning working on the tail of the plane. We were able to complete the internal control areas and progress to putting on the elevator and all of its components. It is hard to explain how so many things can be put into a small area.The tail is now complete. Next, much of my time was spent working on the wings and their components. Many rivets, fuel pumps, fuel lines, and the most time consuming cove moldings on the rear of the wings. During in between times I worked a bit on engine baffling and fuel lines. During this Two Weeks to Taxi aircraft build we will also be working on Saturday. This is hard work but it is giving me a new appreciation for what actually goes into building an aircraft. I am almost half the way through this project and still excited and pleased that I have taken this challenge !

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Day 6

Today the shape of things really changed. We completed the wings and mounted them on the plane. This plane has folding wings, so the hinges are very strong and special. If I want to fold the wings for storage or transportation it only takes a few minutes. To have this feature requires special attachments to the structure. The wings are very formidable and we estimated that each wing weighs about 250 lbs. We were also completing the engine cooling baffling. The fuel lines are now all properly bent and run from where they enter the main cabin structure and extend through the fuel selector valve and through the firewall into the engine compartment. Final fairings are being fabricated for the elevator, horizontal stabilizer, and vertical stabilizer. We are also beginning to install many antennas for the extensive avionics including GPS, VOR, Transponder, ADS-B, marker beacon, etc.

Tomorrow is a day of REST for all of us (which we all deserve and are excited about). I have scheduled to fly another one of these planes and do some transition training and familiarization with one of the expert [pilots]. 

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Day 7

Today we were all a bit fresher following the rest day. We began this morning by installing the instrument panel and all of the accessory avionics into the plane. There are a large quantity of wires and radio gear that I have equipped this plane with. The panel was pre-made by a very fine manufacturer named Aerotronics. They build instrument panels for many different types of planes. It seems that most of the attention is now focused in a small area of the plane and the cabin. We are mostly all crowded into that space to do our tasks. We also have almost completed the wing tips including recognition and landing lights and the VOR antenna.  Two of the 3 doors have been aligned and fit to place and the engine cowling (enclosure) is being fit into place. Several of the many radio antennas have been installed. Because the plane is carbon fiber all of the antennas must be located outside of the structure because the carbon fiber will not allow radio transmissions to penetrate it. The day really flew by today and as it gets closer I almost wish the days were longer so that we could complete it.

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