Wings Before Fuselage or the Other Way Around?

I am only at home with my kits at the weekend so like to idle away some time thinking about engines, paint, instruments, all things that seem light years away. But today I got to thinking about what kit to build after I am done with the tail: the wings or the fuselage?

The wings are a more expensive purchase, especially with the fuel tanks and I think I want the nav etc lights option. I see that can be done as a retrofit but if I know I want it, seems to make sense to do it during construction? 

I'm building in my garage and I wonder if there is enough space between my table and the ceiling to build the fuselage though I see some people do these kits on sawhorses rather than benches perhaps making it lower?

Having the fuselage done would be a major excitement, start to see a plane taking shape, but storing it is going to be a hassle whereas the wings can go on a wall or in a bedroom if needs be. Having the wings done would surely be a milestone but it's one more curved surface with all the others. Then again.... having the fuselage done and not be ready to attach everything to it could be a bummer.

Well, just some idle rambling stuck here at work wishing I was home deburring my flaperons. But I'd be interested to know what other people chose, and why.

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Comment by Dr. Edward L. Olds III on January 29, 2011 at 10:49am
My mechanic told me to do the wings first.  He said if you build the fuselage, you'll just sit in it and make engine noises!  He was probably right.  I did it the way the factory said, small surfaces first, then wings, and in a week or so (I hope!) the fuselage.  The only positive for the fuselage first for me would have been that I could have gotten my garage emptied out sooner and hung things on the fuselage at my hangar.  My mechanic also told me early on, that you build one piece at a time and pretty soon, you have enough to build an airplane!  That is so true.
Comment by Paul Sanders on January 27, 2011 at 10:40am
Bob, yeah I think I am going to stick with my plan to build the wings next, just going to hurt a little bit more when I buy the kit and the lights. My plan is to get the nav/strobe/position combo from Zenith which seems to satisfy the night flying regulations, such as they are for LSA planes with private pilots in them.
Comment by Bob Jones on January 26, 2011 at 11:32pm
Paul I always tell builders to do the wings before the fuse. because you can tie the wings up to the ceiling and get them out of the way, Why nav. lights ? you cant see them  during the day and the plane cant be flown at night .its better to put your money into real good strobes and several, also the new collison avoidance units are cheap  BOB
Comment by Don Herbel on January 24, 2011 at 9:21am
Paul:  I started building a CH801 in 2002 in my double car garage and intended on doing the fuselage last.  Like you, I felt I could store the completed wings suspended from the ceiling.  My wife was still able to park her car in the bay opposite my assembly table, but would have to move it outside when I got the fuselage off the table.  Your garage should be tall enough to complete the fuselage work on the assembly table until you get it on its landing gear and attach the rudder.  I am now building a CH701 in a large aircraft hangar and decided to build my fuselage first.  Be aware that the dimensions between the fuselage front and back wing attachment points are greater than the dimensions given on the drawings for the wings.  I had to have ZAC build me a rear channel that had a 30mm flange because the root wing bay could not be built square it order for the wing to fit the fuselage and my rivet pattern for the top skin would otherwise run too close to the edge of the channel flange.  If you want to add nav lights later on, be sure to run the wiring inside the wings before you close them up.  I added two  CH750 access openings in my wing roots and wing tips to be able to reach the wiring connections if needed.
Comment by Luzius Thoeny on January 23, 2011 at 10:37am
 I built the fueslage first for the same reason like some others  (storage) . The wing mounts have to be right on or you might hav trouble bolting it together.I built myselfe a jig of the fuselage and then transfered it to the wing wich workes well. o by the way I am doing a  701 but  this should work  on  other models too.
Comment by Jerry Griego on January 22, 2011 at 7:35pm
build the fuse. you will get really excited when you attach the front fuse to the rear fuse and it starts to look like an airplane, besides when your done with the fuse you can sit inside it close your eyes -- you get the  idea-- try that with hanging wings. keep punching before you know it you'll be done. I have about 10 hours to go and I';ll have my fuse done.(my wings are done which is cool, more excited about the fuse.
Comment by Phillip Owens on January 22, 2011 at 10:48am
I would suggest building the wings first, reason; The distance between the front spar and the rear spar will determine the exact distance you must have when mating the fuselage front and rear sections. since the mounting point of the front spar is welded to the cabin frame it is specific, the location of the aft spar is attached to the aft section of the fuselage and leaves you a very small opportunity for tweaking. If this distance is not exact.....well the wings will not fit! Nuff said. 
Comment by Ken Podaima on January 21, 2011 at 7:50pm
Wings first as they are easier and also easier to store if space is a problem. Also a good idea to leave the skins drilled and clecoed to the rear spar at #40 drill size between the small root rib and the first full size rib. Finish riviting when the wings are mounted to fuselage.
Comment by Paul Sanders on January 21, 2011 at 4:39pm
Great comments, folks, really enjoying the discussion. I like the reason about taking a long time to build being a pro for the fuselage, I had not thought of that but I just don't think I have the space to store the pieces as I work on them in the garage. And in the summer time it will be in the 110s in my garage so I am likely taking the summer off anyway, so maybe I get the wings done before it gets too hot and look at the fuselage come winter.
Comment by Thomas Richardson on January 21, 2011 at 4:35pm


I built the wings first due to space in the garage. you still need the 12 x4 table on which you build the wings and with a fuselage in there, it really cuts down on your space. I was then  able to store the wings in the house in an unused bedroom and use the table to build and square the fuselage. That is what worked for me anyway.  Tom

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