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Todd's XE285 Build Log - An experiment in "If I can do it, anybody can""
Hello Mosquito World. Found this build log forum and figured I'd contribute. I've spent a lot of time researching and building... but not enough time networking, so here I am. I also just posted pictures on my build gallery. I'm a year into my build (Purchased after April 2017 flying), and in that time managed to log 210 hrs in my work book... this doesn't include the additional many hours of youtube, research, reading, prep, questions, tool purchase, etc, that's just time actually spent in the presence of the kit actually performing build tasks. Sadly that pace bumps me form a 1-2 year build like I hoped to a 3-4 year build unless I can really step up my game... which I hope to. With my lack of experience and doing it on my own, I'm estimating probably 800 hrs to complete.

Anyway, General information:

KIT:          XE285 - SN: 1308
METHOD:  5 stage build - home garage
OPTIONS: Quick Build
                Customer Pitot
                Large Dash
                Vertical Fin w/ Strobe

BACKGROUND: I'm a 39 year old electrical computer engineer graduate of OSU who got into the hardware maintenance and repair of computer data center equipment. I've been doing that for 13 years. Been following the mosquito since high school, when it was just the Air. My aviation interests began as early as I can remember with non-flying model planes, then ultralights, jets, planes, and helicopters, but remained a dream due to my humble beginnings, no link to the aviation community, and a family that always told me flying was a death wish. I never could shake it though, and at 30 I started taking heli lessons (about 25 hrs towards my PPL currenly), and finally pulled the trigger on the mosquito.

SKILLS: Building skills, almost non-existent. I've never done body work, never painted, never worked with fiberglass, or any resin, never worked with metal, never really built anything much more advanced than plastic models and Ikea furniture, never worked in a factory, never used a drill press, a press, a saw.... what was I thinking. The pro's...  been known to do my own dirtbike and car repairs for small things, carb work, rebuilt top end on a 2 stroke, brake jobs, that kind of thing. I've got a very engineering-based mind, and can understand tech drawings and figure out how things work better than most. A little OCD about some things, so will spend way more time than needed worrying or trying to get things perfect, and will obsess and loose sleep over mistakes. I'm going to have to rely on my neurotic overly obsessed brain and patience to keep me alive on this venture, if it doesn't drive me crazy first.

LOCAL SUPPORT: None currently. I've been an EAA member for a long time, and initially contacted some EAA chapters, followed some meetings, but after 6 months of missing every meeting I intended to go to (work or other schedule issues) I stopped pursuing it. I definitely need to reengage them and start making some friends in the home build industry.

PREP: After placing my order I had to prepare for arrival which meant downsizing my inventory. I sold my daily driver and rusty pickup, and went instead with a new pickup truck for a daily driver. I also sold my old VFR motorcycle which was my first motorcycle I'd had for 15 years, and my MX dirtbike. Got rid of all my older vehicles so I wouldn't have to worry about working on them while trying to build this. Built a spot outside the garage for my recycling/trash bins. Now half my garage was available for the heli. I will have to find a bigger shop before the project is finished, because with the mast on it won't make it out the garage door. Had all my manuals printed up by a print shop, and spend the remainder of time researching the process and what else I might need.

KIT 1 RECEIVED 8/15/2017 - Airframe

Definitely excited and overwhelmed. First I was a little concerned regarding build quality. Some edges didn't line up on the chassis, lots of pits and bubbles in the gel coat edges. Someone was a bit overzealous with a grinder leaving some ground edges I'll have to rebuild and the like. A little more "raw" than I was expecting. I sent pictures off regarding concerning areas (spots where light shined through, or where something seemed crooked), but was reassured everything was fine, and as this is a hand-built item things might not be exact in areas, but that it's all balanced, inspected, and aligned at the factory, and everything else is cosmetic. I guess refining all this body work is half of what the factory paint costs is for. Discussing with the factory at a later fly in I was told it took two people about 2 weeks of solid work to sand/fill the body to make it look nice. Lesson 1 learned.

Starting the gear I quickly learned accurate measuring and drilling in metal is a talent acquired through practice... which I don't have. I had to send the gear to a welder to fill in a few holes I'd mis-measured and/or mis-drilled in the landing gear, but eventually got it together and seemingly straight. I was also shocked at how non-straight things I used to consider straight actually were (even my wood yard stick has a bend in it I never noticed before). The gear paint job isn't the greatest, but looks pretty sharp and got better as I went. I found some of the manual instructions didn't match what I was working on, such as it said to use one type of bolt, but that's not what came in the kit, etc. Also some areas of fiber glass were thicker in areas requiring longer rivets than were supplied. I thought this whole process would be a little more precise and straight forward... I find myself needing to adjust my mind to the whole "custom build" situation, and not letting these things discourage me. I was surprised how quickly my mind went negative when something didn't line up exactly. I found myself going nuts trying to find the right answer to things, it took me a while and some coaching to realize there is no right answer to most of this.... a million ways to skin a helicopter.

I decided to hone my body work skills on the vertical stabilizer, the thought being if I really screw it up I can just buy another one. The Vert had many pot marks and bubbles all along the seams. I started with Bondo, but that slowed down after a curing issue that had me sitting for hours with a pick, picking uncured putty out of all the tiny holes I was originally so proud of filling. After discussing body work with Mike M, he recommended using fiberglass or epoxy instead of using Bondo as that or other types of putty may result in some cracks in the paint over time, especially at bends. I've got me some Vinyl Ester Resin and milled glass... still getting the hang of that, but the vertical stabilizer is coming along and I recently started on the body.

Cold weather slowed the body work (I don't have a climate controlled garage), and now Hot weather has done the same. I don't remember Ohio being either 15 F or 90 F and nowhere in between but that seems to be mainly what we've had for my first build year. It seems every time it was nice out I was out of town on business. I did manage to get my windshield finished, the fuel tank work done, and a little seam filling complete. After the body work is finished I will paint, then attach my gear.

KIT 2 RECEIVED 3/11/2018 - Controls Kit

I ordered this kit as the body work was progressing. John had warned me that without the drive kit there isn't anything I can really install (as almost everything in the controls kit is mounted to the rotor shaft which I don't have yet), but the kit did have plenty to work on. With the arrival of the Controls kit I'm not weather restricted as I've set up a little shop area in a spare bedroom for the metal work. If it's nice out I work on the body in the garage, if not, work on the metal in the spare room.

Bought a Ryobi drill press and miter saw, and a 6 ton press. I still have some problems getting holes straight (even with the press it might be 1/32 of an inch from where I meant the hole to be). Kit 2 is coming along although I lose a lot of time trying to get over the anxiety of messing something up before I finally start a task (something like a week of worry and procrastinating before finally sitting down to do 1 hr of work) but I'm trying to get past that. Collective lever assy is complete, and got my control tubes started.

KIT 3 ORDERED - Drive Kit

I ordered kit three thinking that by the time it arrives I'll be done with all the little things in Kit 2. Last I talked to John I was advised it should arrive by end of August. Several days later I learned of his accident. With John's passing and the heartache felt in the community right now, I'm in no rush, and figured I'd give the gentleman in charge plenty of time to process the grief and challenges this tragedy has brought on before requesting an update. I have plenty to keep me busy, and I know they'll finish up my kit when it's possible, so I will patiently wait. I will check with them on the kit in Sept if I don't hear anything.

So far this has been a troublesome and exciting journey. I've probably aged 10 years this past year with all these new experiences and challenges and worries and frustrations, but I look forward to completing this project, hopefully sooner than later. I'm torn between paying someone to accelerate this project (like hiring a painter), and the desire to do it all myself, regardless of outcome. I'll keep the community posted, and if you see something in my pictures that might end up getting me into some trouble, please let me know.


Thanks for posting your experience Todd. Makes me glad I'm doing the factory build. Course, I'm retired so I can afford to spend a couple weeks at a time in Trenton. I was too impatient to wait the several years garage build, so when I couldn't find a suitable used one, I bit the bullet. I will say that you really know your craft inside and out when you build it. And having the Repairman Certificate will also make it worthwhile.

I have a friend in my local EAA chapter who built a Rotorway in his garage, and his mast was too tall for his garage door. He has some fun pictures of him and buddies tipping the bird over on its side with furniture dollies under the skids to roll it out.
XE285 #1329 N869DJ
Start: June 2018
Done:  Sep 12, 2018  Sleepy 
AWC Issued: Sep 26, 2018  Big Grin  
Wow! Thanks for sharing Todd! You are a braver man than I haha, I want a Mosi so bad but I just could not bring myself to do a home build, like you, I have no real fabrication experience and 3 weeks after the kit would arrive my boss would come looking for me wondering why I haven’t been to work and would find me huddled in the corner crying and clutching some sand paper haha

But it’s awesome to see you pushing forward and making progress! Quite the inspiration!
"Into the fires of forever we will fly through the heavens
With the power of the universe we stand strong together
Through the force in our power, it will soon reach the hour
For victory we ride, Fury of the Storm!" 

The bottom line is that you are going to know that machine inside-out! Keep up the work and know that there is help on this forum.

XE 285  1205 (Myrtle)
Start: 8/1/2013
Finish: 5/24/2014
Arrived home: 10/11/2014

(08-24-2018, 08:35 PM)Casey Wrote: Wow! Thanks for sharing Todd! You are a braver man than I haha, I want a Mosi so bad but I just could not bring myself to do a home build, like you, I have no real fabrication experience and 3 weeks after the kit would arrive  my boss would come looking for me wondering why I haven’t been to work and would find me huddled in the corner crying and clutching some sand paper haha

But it’s awesome to see you pushing forward and making progress! Quite the inspiration!

Too funny. Clutching sand paper....  blahaha haha!
Welcome Todd, congratulations on going ahead with the build. Good write up, and keep us posted on your progress. A real handy tool is a dremel, I lost count of the number of jobs I was able to do with that in my build.

New Zealand

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