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orion

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Only a few months into the project and already we received two calls from those wishing to order kits. While I love the enthusiasm, I must also pour a bit of cold water on it as we will not accept any orders until our prototypes have completed the flight test program. Sorry.

For those interested, here is our current status:

1) About 90% of the major airframe components have been designed, modeled and/or lofted, and are ready for prototype fabrication. There have been a few design changes, namely in that more of the critical components will be water-jet or router cut from 1" thick aluminum plate. While there is a weight penalty associated with this, we determined the part quality and ease of assembly will substantially outweight the slight increase in the airplane's empty weight.

When I get a bit more time I'll post pictures of several of the assemblies.

2) About half of the raw material for the prototypes has now arrived including the longeron tubing, the aluminum sandwich sheets and misc. sheet stock.

3) We now have one minor delay - we decided to conduct a further analysis of the selected bonding agent, as well as the surface preparation techniques. The first set of tests we conducted were extremely successful in that they resulted in unprecedented peel strength values. However, recently we discovered a less than ideal bond on one of the older samples. We are therefore conducting a second, more intense examination of the techniques and subsequent properties of the candidate materials. The aluminum sheets are here however the bonding agent has as of yet not arrived. I anticiapte the next series of tests will be conducted in the first part of January.
 

Jman

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Pacific NW, USA!
While I love the enthusiasm, I must also pour a bit of cold water on it as we will not accept any orders until our prototypes have completed the flight test program. Sorry.
Now that is refreshing to hear in the kit industry!

Glad to hear things are progressing. It's also refreshing to hear you mention little bumps in the road. I've seen several companies paint a perfect picture of their progress all the way until they go out of business. I think your approach adds a ton of credibility to your endeavor.

Jake
 

CAB

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Nov 26, 2004
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128
Location
Colorado
Questions, Questions

This ought to be fun- "watching" the design evolve; thank you,Orion, and puleeeez keep us posted! Of course, I have some annoying questions.
The structure sounds similar to the feul cells on the CH-47's I worked on lo, those many years ago. The pain with those (as I recall) was voids. The tiniest rock would hit, dent the outer layer, and leave a tricky repair behind. Do you have some way to avoid this? Sometimes voids would just "appear". Does your new "wonderglue" fix this? I also recall those feul "pods" as being VERY stong (they had to hold up a LOT of feul)!
Why are you building a one-or-two seat plane? The outhouse marketing guy in me thinks that you should be aiming at the high performance 4-seat market. The "exotic" materials, low build time, and resulting costs suggest this. I've seen (on this forum) people say that scale models and proof-of-concept planes don't tell you if the "real thing" will fly, making them a waste of time and money in the end.



P.S. If the last paragraph gets into corporate business,don't feel pressured to answer. Seems you've run your company just fine without me so far!:p:
 

Leighton

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Aug 25, 2004
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47
Location
Big bad New Zealand
i work on UH-1's, and certainly understand what CAB is talking about with bonded panels and whatnot having voids pop up out of nowhere. For anyone that is unfamiliar with the ol' Huey's, the airframe is a hodgepodge of Aluminium and rivets, bonded honeycomb aluminium, bonded honeycomb aluminium titanium, titanium bonded to aluminum, and a myriad of other stuff thrown in there for good humour. Keep in mind that the huey has been flying for 50 or so years, so im not sure that Orion is trying to reinvent the wheel at all, just exploring a design technique that hasnt yet come to the homebuilt market (much the same was as using new engine technology, but we wont go into that)

these voids that CAB mentioned generally come from two things, moisture ingress, or human error (dropping a starter/generator onto the work deck under the engine comes to mind real quick) I imagine that if these planes of Orions are looked after, and maintained properly they'll be pretty badass. I also like the fact that theres going to be redundancy built into it (chicken rivets) certainly will be good for peace of mind.

as for myself, im not going to argue the pro's or cons of going this way, im just going to sit on the fence and watch this unfold with a great deal of interest. I wish you all the best Orion.

Leighton.
 

orion

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One of the major design changes I mentioned earlier has to do with the subject of the last two posts, although not for the same reason. Initially I wanted to develop the kits around the idea of the aluminum sandwich. That is still the case however, having been down a similar road before, I also understand the amount of space that is needed for tooling when developing that kind of structural arrangement, not to mention the associated costs of the tooling itself. Given our current lack of facilities, I did not want to eat up my available floor space with tooling, nor use up available funds on items that did not directly contribute to the airframe itself.

Down the road, I still want to transition to the sandwich construction but for now, the structural arrangement will be a bit more conventional. To make up for the panel stability gained through the sandwich though, all the material gauges are substantially thicker than what we commonly see in the light plane industry (fuselage and wing skins are .032").

Regarding airplane size, I agree with CAB - the market would seem to dictate that a larger airplane would be more attractive than the smaller configurations we're starting with. However, no company will survive in the market with only one design. So, along those lines of thought, we decided to develop a small airplane first, and then grow the product lines from that. Since structurally the family of our products is virtually identical, the larger airplanes can come along at a relatively quick pace once we have the smaller airplanes in production.

However, contrary to what CAB mentioned, the single place airplane is not a "scale" airplane. Those discussions usually dealt with RC airplanes or small, hand launched models. Our single place is quite sizeable and actually will use many of the same components, engines and flight surfaces as the larger airplanes.

The second reason for the single place is simply because I wanted one. There are no generously sized high performance single place airplanes available. There is a unique feeling associated with flying an airplane on its center line. That feeling of control and being one with the airplane is further enhanced in a smaller design where the pilot tends to feel more as a part of the airframe, rather than just a passenger. No, the market for this is not large, but since all the parts developed will be identical to the eventual two place tandem, and about 80% identical to the two place side-by-side and four place, we figured that this will be far from a wasted effort.

And lastly, given the airplane's smaller size, and our limited floor space (about a thousand square feet), the combination was sort of a natural choice. I can build the fuselage and wings in the space available, without having to shift things around each time I wish to work on a different component. Our last endeavor into this type of airplane (although that one was all composite) used up the thousand square feet here, about two thousand square feet in our hangar, and two storge units for another fifteen hundred square feet. Each time we neded a tool resulted in a complex logistical exercise of shifting things around to make room for the necessary tasks. I really did not want to go through all that again.
 
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CNCRouterman

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Nov 26, 2003
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Minnesota, USA
Space

Now, if I could just persuade you to move to Minnesota, I just have to think we could chisel out a couple thousand square feet out of this 60,000 sft building :D Besides it would make some of the cold temperature peel tests a lot easier, just set them outside overnight, and see if they shatter when you drop them in the morning. The mercury barely read 4 degrees F. this morning. "Ice" testing would be easier too, we had about 3/4" of freezing rain/snow/ice pellets this weekend. I drove my car on the hard pack to the pole shed and left NO tracks. Weird. Corrosion test, we use lots of salt on the roads here, keeps most people on the road, and quite a few road repair companies in business too.

Yeah, ok, so maybe wishful thinking. Well, anyway, good luck with your testing and product development, you know how to find me.

Eric
 

orion

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60,000 sq. ft.? Too bad there is no smiley face here with drool coming out of its mouth. Yep, that kind of floor space could certainly be useful. But Minnesota? Brrrrrrrrrrrr!!!!! I do like four seasons but that might be a bit too much.
 

dustind

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May 25, 2004
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146
Location
Saint Michael, Minnesota
Is the single seater significantly bigger than the Harmon Rocket 3? http://www.harmonrocket.com/planordHRIII.htm

What do you think the top TAS or mach number of the air frames will be for those of us that will turbo charge the engine?

Will staying with conventional building techniques effect the price? Will this allow more of a plans or slow build kit option?

I am not sure if you looked, but Infinity retracts come in all sizes and loads. They have everything from long ezs through 12,500 LBS sub orbital systems being sold, and they seem very willing to help design systems for people. I hope you offer an option that is designed to accept them or some other retract system.

Good luck. I hope you can keep the weight and drag down while still meeting your high standards of comfort and saftey.
 
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CNCRouterman

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Minnesota, USA
Aluminum and 4 seasons.

Ok, first, as a loyal Minnesotan, I just have to reply to the 4 season comment.
Yes Minnesota has 4 seasons. They are reckoned by Urban dwellers as Winter, Almost Road Construction, Road Construction, and, of course for the water skiing fans, Still Road Construction. Now, we Suburbanites reckon them as just Winter, Still Winter, Almost Summer, and Almost Winter again. Those of us Suburbanites who like to use two wheels for transportation of things besides our snowmobiles have lobbied for recognition of a fifth season, however negotiations usually breakdown into a Lutefisk brawl over whether it should be during the 36 hours in August we have decent riding weather, or in February when the riders who like to stud up their dirt bikes want to ride out to the Ice Fishing houses one last time. Personally, I find it tough to get my bike over the snow drift in the parking lot during Winter and Still Winter, so I voted for August. The mosquitoes are softer when you hit them than the 40 pounds of slush the snow plows kick up.:gig:

Regading Aluminum in general. My preferred vendor of Aluminum plate has informed me that the mills are actually planning on rationing the allocations of aluminum, so heavy users are well advised to plan FAR in advance, and bring along suitable collateral when placing orders. They have lost all sense of humor with regards to getting paid in a timely manor as well. Bye Bye net 60 terms. You will be lucky to get 1% 10 net 30, and they prefer payment when you start thinking about ordering:angry:
 

orion

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Since I don't like my suppliers to also be my bankers, I generally prepay all my orders - it's amazing the service you get when you do that. So far I've found several sources of 1" plate that have the material in stock and ready to ship. Too bad I'm not quite ready yet to start ordering.

Regarding the Harmon Rocket III - yes, the single place is bigger. First, the canopy on our airplane comes down almost to the pilot's elbow, thus allowing substantially more visibility out of the cockpit. The canopy shape aft of the pilot's head also allows for clear visibility aft.

Our airplane is longer, has a slightly larger span, more wing area and carries more fuel. The cockpit is also large enough to allow a 95 percentile occupant to sit virtually straight up (actualy a "straight up" seatback angle is about 20 deg.) - a position that from a human factors standpoint seems to be much more comfortable for most people than a reclined one. If however, one wants to recline, there is plenty of space to do that too.

Assuming the structures use similar material gauges, I would anticiapte that the empty weight and usefull load will be similar, although I hope to maintain the utility as well as the fuel capacity in our airplane. With sixty some odd gallons of fuel, a full sized person and gear, I'm shooting for a useful load of 900 to 1,000 pounds. The empty weight will depend mostly on the engine and accessories however at this point I am estimating it to be in the neighborhood of 1,200 pounds (with a six cyl. engine).

Cruise is anticipated to be in the 220 mph range with the fixed gear version and about 240 mph with retracts, although the latter is not in the works as of yet. The Vne is expected to be about 350 mph IAS. However please keep in mind that the purpose of these aircraft is not all out speed, or all out aerobatics, or all out anything. The weight and drag will be what they will be. The airplanes are designed to be a mixture of all that thus providing their owners with fun, safety and utility, in one package.

The building techniques are really not conventional as it will still be a bonded structure. As such, the price is not expected to change from that which I've posted earlier. There will be no plan built option, nor will there be a slow build kit since many of the intial construction steps will have to be controlled in order to create proper bonds.

I'll try to post some intial pictures of the structural assembly soon.
 

dustind

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May 25, 2004
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Saint Michael, Minnesota
Thank you for the information, the specs sound amazing!

I look forward to the pictures.

Where the cruise specs sea level IAS or TAS at a higher level? They seem almost too good to be true if sea level, not that I am doubting you.
 
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orion

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Here's the few promised pistures. The first shows the interior frame components of the fuselage. The frames are a mixture of the water-jet or router cut trusses and the router cut sandwich panels. The entire assembly is joined by the longeron tubes and the eventual outer skin. There is also a non-structural inner skin, which will be the finish surface of the cockpit.
 

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orion

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The next picture shows the primary structural components of the main gear. The arrangement is very simple but also durable. It is very similar to the configuration used on the Midget Mustang, as well as a few others.
 

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orion

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This picture is just a simple overview of the wing arrangement. In this layout the wing uses router cut sandwich panel ribs. Not shown are the angles that secure the ribs to the main spar. Shown are the spar fitting that joins the two halves, the spar stackup, the webs and ribs, and the control sufaces and associated hinges.
 

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orion

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This last picture shows an alternate concept of fabricating ribs (these are of course the mid ribs located between the two spars). Rather than cutting the ribs from sandwich panels, these are cut from a solid block of one inch thick aluminum plate. The gauges of the webbing is kept thin so as to minimize the weight penalty. Fabricating the ribs in this manner incorporates geometric features that will allow for very accurate positioning and self jigging of the components when assembled with the spar webs and other hardware components.
 

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CNCRouterman

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complex honeycomb structures

One of my customers primary business is to layup honeycomb structures. One of the things they do to accomodate high stress and load bearing areas, or where they need to drill and tap, they will include a frame, or plugs, or buildup blocks within the layup. I will try to include a picture or two for examples.
 

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CNCRouterman

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--

The last picture shows how we cut out the frame component, they install the honeycomb, and the skins, of course. In the last picture, the skins had not been applied yet. The finished table assembly, with a load capacity of around 300 pounds, had a total weight in the area of 10 pounds. I am a little fuzzy on the details, as we ran this order quite some time ago.
 
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