With the fuselage painting completed, it was time to reattach it to the rotisserie and it would stay that way for the next two years. Over that time I would complete the belly panel installation, floorboard project, interior sheet metal attachment and the complete fabric attachment and painting process.
The belly project continued with the trimming and fitting of the fixed and removable belly panels. The fixed sheet metal panels were attached with Avex pop rivets to the “Z” channels. The removeable panels were designed to slip fit into a forward slot created by an overlap of the adjacent fixed sheet metal panel and secured to the sides and rear edge of the openings with #8-32 machine screws that connected to fixed anchor nuts on the “Z” channels. It was at this time that I made a deliberate decision to standardize on #8-32 machine screws and anchor nuts on all detachable sheet metal skins versus using sheet metal screws. This would add time to the project since anchor nuts are time consuming to install but for as many times as I had to take these panels on and off it has been well worth the effort. Sheet metal screw holes would have enlarged and become an unreliable means of connection over time.
The forward belly panel was fabricated with clear Lexan. I originally tried clear acrylic (Plexiglass) but it turned out to be too brittle. The Lexan is very tough but is easily scratched and is not as optically clear as the acrylic. The clear Lexan panel is located just below the control sticks and my thought at the time was to have a glass port in the floorboard that could be used for targeting a belly camera or for general observation of the passing landscape below. During flight testing I quickly discovered the oil from the breather line would cover the Lexan belly panel and make it useless to see through, even with an Air/Oil Separator. This was more likely to occur when I filled the crankcase with over 6 quarts of oil. If I maintained a maximum of 6 quarts there was no oil blow back on the belly.
Another very useful purpose for the clear Lexan panel was for preflight inspection of components that would otherwise be unobservableable. I could easily inspect from above and below the torque tube, push-pull tube, aileron pulleys, brake line connections, hydraulic lines, fuel lines and fuel selector valve.