LAA Aviation Wiring Course

Today I attended the LAA electrical wiring course at Turweston Aerodrome. Lucky for me it’s only about 45 minutes from my home so nice and easy to get to.

I have quite a lot of self-taught automotive wiring experience so I wasn’t sure quite what to expect from this course. The facilities for the course turned out to be excellent. It’s in a modern building with fully fitted workbenches and top quality tools.

The course itself was well structured with a logical flow as I had hoped. The course starts by talking about different types of wires and connectors and then there is a practical exercise. That formed the structure of the day, learn and do, until finally we had wired up a small wooden plane with a switch, breaker and battery.

I thoroughly enjoyed the course and I’m very pleased I attended. It gave me the confidence to know what is acceptable and what isn’t. The biggest lesson I learnt on this course, however, is that expensive tools are well worth the money.

The Training Project

I thought it would be a good idea to ‘prime’ all the new tools before using them in earnest on the actual aeroplane.  Some months ago I purchased the training project along with the preview plans / builders manual and now seems like the perfect time to get started.

Vans Aircraft Training Kit

On Tuesday I spent 2 hours making a start on the kit.  Most of that time was spent working out how to use the new tools and learning to read the plans.  I’d done pretty well on the whole, or so I thought.  Once I started back-riveting it all went wrong.  My back riveting was terrible and I couldn’t understand why.  At first I thought I hadn’t set the rivet gun properly or that I had faulty tools.  In the end I called it a night.  2hrs

On Thursday evening I ventured back up to the workshop and had a think about things.  I had read somewhere that the rivet gun may need a high pressure setting so I whacked it up to 90 PSI but still the rivets were not setting.  They would go to about half way and that’s it.  After 20 mins I decided to leave it alone.  20 mins

On Friday morning I had a visitor, Richard, who is an experienced builder having completed his RV build last year and won the LAA best home built 2014.  We chatted about everything from priming to dimpling.  When it came time to dimpling I tried to show him what was wrong but, would you believe it, it blooming worked this time.  So well in fact we had to turn the pressure down to 40PSI!  Richard thinks that I perhaps didn’t have the gun seated on the rivet properly due to the angle of the metal.  I probably agree.  2hrs

Once Richard left I cracked on with the training project.  I found a new lease of confidence following his visit and couldn’t wait to get through the project.  I could only manage another 2 hours before I needed to go out.  2hrs

On Saturday I was determined to finish the training project.  In hindsight I wish I hadn’t set a time limit as I am sure I could have done a better job.  Maybe that’s lesson 1 right there?

Anyhow, I did finish the training projects (there are 3 in the pack) and I am moderately pleased with the outcome.  While the finished product is not as good as I had hoped it would be I am now more aware of what can go wrong.  Some of the gotchas that caught me out on the training project are:

  1. Rivet gun pressure too high: Gun hops around the skin like mad creasing it as it goes, grrr!
  2. Unclamped work: Don’t, just don’t!  Go find some clamps or a friend and get that work locked down.  This is especially true when riveting.
  3. Drilling: USE DRILL STOPS!  That drill shoots out the other side no matter how much you think it won’t.
  4. Drilling 2: Be careful not to scratch the metal with the drill tip both before and during drilling.
  5. Bucking Bar: I should have covered it in masking tape, even the tungsten bar scratches up that metal good.
  6. SLOW DOWN:  This is by far the best lesson that I learnt.  Mixing up an AN3-3 rivet with an AN3-3.5 is not an issue on the training project but on the real deal it’s going to be expensive!

So the trainign project is/are complete.

Finished Vans RV Training Kit

Am I satisfied with it? No.  Have I learn’t from it? Without a doubt.

Would I recommend it?  Hell yeah, if you are a first time builder and need to ‘prime’ your new tools I think this kit should be compulsory.

Preparing for ordering

The Vans Aircraft Company are based in Oregon, USA which means that, as we are based in the UK and are technically ‘importing goods’, we normally have to pay import duty, VAT & transaction fees.  Luckily there are a few ways that I’ve found to save some money.  Start as I mean to go on, eh!

End Use Relief

The first thing to do is to apply for End Use Relief with HMRC.  Providing the aircraft is for personal use and not intended to be sold on for profit it (and parts for it) qualifies for End Use Relief.  Unfortunately this does not include the tools required to build it, but hey ho, anything is better than nothing.

I completed form C1317 and sent it off to HMRC.

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I believe there is a simplified procedure but I haven’t yet tried it.  As I understand it you simply ask Vans Aircraft to write the following on the outside of the packaging.

PARTS FOR CIVIL AIRCRAFT – COMMODITY CODE 8803300010 – CPC 40 00 028 – EU 9999/999/99

Then when the goods arrive in the UK the couriers should complete and submit form C88 (SAD) on your behalf and not charge you import duty.


The couriers will, however, calculate and charge you VAT based on their estimate of the value of the goods.  There is not a lot you can do about this and it MUST be paid or the goods will not be delivered.

Transfer Fees

These are the fees charged by your bank or credit card company for paying in Dollars.  Thankfully someone warned me about this BEFORE I made my first purchase.  Once I investigated I realised that I could have been stung for some serious fees in the £100’s!!!  I was definitely not about to let that slip.  Some research on the forums threw up a recommendation for who specialise in transferring money abroad.  I have to say they have been fantastic in every transaction I’ve done so far.  Highly recommended.

So that’s all the ‘financials’ worked out all I need to do is actually order the kit once I get my end use relief number.

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