Deciding on a Hinged Turtledeck

Fabricating the Turtledeck 1 of 3The Sportsman 2+2 plans provide the builder 2 Turtledeck options – A fixed in place Turtledeck or a hinged Turtledeck.  I chose the hinged option and I have never regretted it.  The hinged turtledeck has its origin from the U.S. Navy Piper HE-1 designed to carry a patient litter.  From a practical weight and balance stand point there is only so much you can load behind the passenger compartment, but also from a practical stand point having a hinged deck allows for very easy preflight inspection of all things below and makes sense for easy fabric repair, for access to replace aging rubber fuel lines and for checking elevator cable tension all without ever needing to remove or cut fabric.

Fabricating the thin wall steel channel puts your welding skills to a real test.  Most all of the light weight structure is made from .035″ X 3/8″ x 3/8″ Piper mild steel channel, including the stringers and frame channels.  Too much heat and you burn right through it!

My styling side got the best of me when I could not resist to change the shape of the window from trapezoids to nautical portholes similar to ones found on one of my favorite STOL aircraft, namely the Helio  295 Super Courier!  Granted my Super Sportsman is no Super Courier but why can’t it look like one!   I welded  small steel rings to the channel structure so the fabric would have something to attach to and used clear plastic lenses from wall clocks for the round bubble windows.  Luckily they still make the clock so I have a replacement source for the windows. My next post shows these porthole windows installed.

The Starting Point

Trip To Orillia, OntarioEvery Project has a starting point and N728DC started with a trip to  Orillia, Ontario to inspect a Sportsman 2+2 fuselage that was for sale.  In November of 1995 we packed up the family, rented a trailer and headed to Canada to inspect and possibly buy a former builders uncompleted project.  A set of color coded plans were used to inspect tube diameters and a thorough set of measurements were also taken to confirm if the fuselage fabrication was done correctly.

It turned out that everything was spot on.  The frame was square and true, the welds looked good, and there was no corrosion.  In fact it also turned out that the fuselage was actually fabricated by Wag-Aero and sold as a kit in their catalog for a much higher price.

There was still a lot of welding to complete but this fuselage would provide a huge head start to a long and complicated project.