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Flybaby Elevator Trim

By: Chuck Baynard 6/2009

I completed my Flybaby (N7627C) and flew it for the first time in September, 2008. The
project took eight years, and I thoroughly enjoyed the building and learned a great deal
along the way. Flying a plane that you have built yourself is extremely satisfying. I have
about 65 hours on my baby now, and feel right at home. Its a real blast to fly, kind of
like a flying motorcycle.
With a fixed trim tab on the elevator, my plane flew hands off in cruise, but I found that
after about an hour in the air, forward pressure was required on the stick to keep it from
climbing due to the reduced fuel load forward of the CG. Additionally, when throttling
back on base, aft pressure was of course required to glide at a slower speed. Stick
pressures are so light on a Flybaby that this is little more than an annoyance, but there is
something truly sublime about an airplane that will fly itself in all flight regimes, so I
thought Id look into adding adjustable trim.
Since I didnt want to cut into my beautiful fabric job to install an aerodynamic system in
the tail, I decided to develop a spring system inspired by one in a friends Piper
Pawnee. The beauty of this approach is that the system can be entirely installed in the
cockpit area, and doesnt call for any alteration of the elevator controls or cables. The
system sort of rides along on the existing walking beam located just behind the pilots
seat at Sta. 5.
The trim system consists of three main components or assemblies. The crank box which
is mounted on the port fuselage side under the throttle, the Sta. 5 walking beam mount
with its cutout for the extended walking beam ears located just behind the pilots seat,
and the two directional pulleys that lead the cable from the walking beam mount to the
crank box. (see fig. 1 for a picture of all components)
The crank assembly ( fig. 2) is simply a 1/8 plywood box with spruce framing sized to
hold a 1976 Datsun pickup truck window regulator. You can find new aftermarket
regulators on the internet for about $20 just saw off the part you dont need. Im sure
any number of regulators would work, the Datsun one just looked to be about the right
size, and was. ( fig. 3) There is room next to my left leg to crank the handle, and it is low
enough not to interfere with the throttle. ( fig. 4)
The walking beam mount constructed of ply has two aluminum brackets riveted to the
bottom which bolt it to Sta. 5, and a piece of aluminum L at the front that is lapped
over and screwed into the forward vertical face of the Sta. 5 lower horizontal. As can be
seen in fig. 5, the horizontal surface of the mount is cut out to allow extensions or ears
to protrude through the top of the mount. The 1/16 trim cable dead ends at the ears, is
routed through two pulleys on the mount itself, and then goes to the side of the fuselage.
From there, it goes through two additional pulleys to align it with the crank box. (see fig.
6). The walking beam ears are simply two straps of .071 chromoly that are sistered to the
walking beam on either side. They are drilled to accept the clevis pins that capture the

ends of the two elevator cables, and have a large center hole that allows the center
welded-in tube of the walking beam to pass through them. There was enough room
inside my original walking beam mount to allow the two new ears to mate against the
sides of the walking beam itself without having to alter the mount. The top of the ears are
drilled to accept the AN-3 bolt that captures the end of the trim control cable. I suppose
you could construct a new walking beam with extended ears, but this approach worked
fine without having to alter any preexisting work. As can be seen, there are two pulleys
on the mount itself that provide a fair lead to the ears, and then turn the cable about 90
degrees to direct it toward the fuselage side. I made aluminum mounts and constructed
covers for the pulleys by means of the small forming buck in fig. 1 to insure that the
cables wouldnt jump out of the grooves. The 2 diameter, A-123 phenolic pulleys came
from Aircraft Spruce about $7.50 each.
The third component, for lack of a better term, consists of the two directional pulleys
mounted on the Sta. 5 vertical that route the cable to the crank box. Since the lower of
the two mounts stands off more and is less supported than the other mounts, I made it out
of chromoly the others are aluminum.
The springs are the final touch youll see that there are two. (fig. 7) The horizontal
(trim) spring creates the tension that raises or lowers the nose when you crank the crank.
(You need a spring in the system as opposed to just a solid cable so that you can override
a trimmed setting to dive or climb from the trimmed position think about it a minute.)
The vertical springs only function is to take up any slack in the cable when the nose is
trimmed way down and the stick is pulled all the way back. This is a safeguard against
the cable jumping the pulleys, perhaps not really necessary with the pulley guards in
place. I did not put an opposing spring in the system for nose down trim, although this
could be added. Instead, I have set the existing fixed tab on the elevator to provide the
nose down force just necessary for level flight when getting very low on fuel this
proved to be a very slight deflection of the tab, so not much drag. (Or at least not enough
for me to go to the trouble of figuring out how to mount a second trim spring) I tried a
couple of springs before I found the one that was just right to serve as the horizontal trim
spring it came from Home Depot. The one that proved to be just right has a pull of
about 3.6 lbs, the first one I tried at 2.1 lbs was too light. The vertical spring can be very
light, as again it just takes up the slack when there is no pull on the cable. Given a
Flybabys light stick forces, the trim spring is only required to exert a moderate pull and
is easily overridden even when the aircraft is trimmed full nose up an important
For a Flybaby that has a belly panel like mine, this is a very doable project. I was able to
work from a creeper below, and then from the top by sitting backwards in the cockpit on
the floor. By the way, the Pawnee system utilizes a cable that runs directly from the
crank box all the way back to a spring on the elevator horn, but its so tight back there in
a completed Flybaby that I thought working with the walking beam was the way to go.
The walking beam approach is necessarily more complex, but theres plenty of space to
work in, and you dont have to cut into anything.

How does it work? Like a champ. As the fuel burns off, just give it a crank forward, and
it settles back down to level flight. Crank it back a turn or two when you reduce power
for base, and it comes down hands off at 65 mph likes its on rails. Dont you love an
airplane that will do that?
Disclaimer: The foregoing is provided only as information that may be of interest to
Flybaby owner/builders. I am just a builder, not an engineer. If you intend to utilize a
system based on this approach, I would suggest having it inspected by an A&P with
Inspection Authorization, or at least an EAA Technical Inspector.