November 21, 2013
By Dave Hirschman
The owners of a 36-year-old Beech Sierra came up with a digital solution to an increasingly widespread real-world problem. They needed to replace a non-structural part (in this case, a cracked and crudely repaired throttle quadrant cover), and new ones were either unavailable or absurdly expensive. Their solution: 3D printing (see “P&E: Control+P,” March 2013 AOPA Pilot).
Dennis Moyes, a partner in the 1977 Sierra, removed the old cover and made a digital representation of it using AutoCAD, a drafting and 3D computer modeling program. Such programs are increasingly common. (Others include 3D Studio Max, SketchUp, Rhino, and Blender.)
With an .stl file in place, Moyes sent it via Email to a company called Shapeways for “printing.”
Moyes had several choices for materials, and he selected one of the least expensive, a nylon-based composite at a cost of $130, just in case it didn’t fit right the first time.
“Of the available materials, I thought it was best balance of economy and strength,” Moyes said. “I chose the cheapest route in case I had to remake it. It turns out that the material was fine for the finished part.”
More exotic materials were available at prices up to $1,100.
The printed part arrived two weeks later. Moyes painted and detailed it, and the finished piece adds to the appearance of an already sharp-looking panel. Aircraft owners have wide latitude to create such “owner-produced parts” under FAR 21.303(b)(2) as long as the replacements aren’t for sale and are only installed in the owner’s airplane.
AOPA Pilot Senior Editor Dave Hirschman joined AOPA in 2008. He has an airline transport pilot certificate and instrument and multiengine flight instructor certificates. Dave flies vintage, historical, and Experimental airplanes and specializes in tailwheel and aerobatic instruction.
The Flying Physicians Association (FPA) has become the latest group to lend support to third-class medical reform and urge government officials to speed up their review of the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM). The NPRM would expand the number of pilots who could fly without needing to obtain a third-class medical certificate, a standard that has been successfully used by sport pilots for a decade.
California pilot Christopher Braun has created a revamped version of the cleco plier that is said to be lighter and more ergonomic.
There is no shortage of pilots in eastern Washington, but there does seem to be a scarcity of clubs in that part of the country.
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