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 Jim Belcher on January 21, 2011 at 4:31pm

I find some of the construction techniques used in the Zenith a little unusual for aircraft. Not wrong or bad, just different. That creates a bit of a learning curve. Thus, I'd lean towards building the simplest things first, and progressing towards the more complex.


I'd say the fuselage is the most complex, followed by the wings, the elevator, then the rudder. Thus, I'd build them in the reverse of that order, unless you are totally comfortable with aircraft and sheet metal work. That is, start with the rudder, then the elevator, then the wings, then the fuselage. Mind you, the world won't end if they're built in some other sequence, but it may be easier to learn in that order.


That's my 25 cents worth, reminding everyone as always that 25 cents won't but what it once did.

Comment by Paul Bonasera on January 21, 2011 at 1:57pm

I went with the fuselage before the wings mainly due to the fact that I am scratch building an dont have access to a long enough brake to do the wings or horizontal tail. I can tell you there is a lot more work involved in the fuselage than all the other parts combined (wireing, fuel lines, control cables, rods, linkage, panel, seats) it seams like it never stops but you sure do get a lot out of it. I know that when I get to the wings that will go by much quicker.  Well back to building.


Comment by Don Walker on January 21, 2011 at 9:29am

Hi Paul; I'm building a 601XL and just finishing the horizontal stabilizer (rudder is done). I have the fuselage kit in my shop and will attack it next. Like others have noted, I want something to sit in with my headset on making airplane noises, but would also like to 'finish' the tail surfaces and that needs a fuselage to hang them on. My other garage (where my wife's car lives), has a 15' ceiling, so the fueslage will be hanging there while I work on the wings. Happy Building!!


Comment by Tom Anderson on January 20, 2011 at 11:43pm
Building wings first as they can be finished in my basement shop. I will need to move up to garage for fuselage and it is too cold to do that now.
Comment by Larry Ward on January 20, 2011 at 9:31pm
I finished tail kit before Christmas. Ordered fuselage kit last week for a February 15th delivery. Ordered fuselage for same reason as many others have commented--I wanted to start building something that would look like an airplane and I could sit in. All I have ever flown is military jets so I'm not sure about making engine noises though. Good luck on your build.
Comment by Mason Bullard on January 20, 2011 at 9:18pm

Like most, I did the tail feathers 1st, then I did the wings for the storage situation. I ended up keeping all my finished parts in the house, ( my shop is not dirt dobber proof or bird proof). I hung my wings form the ceiling, and just leaned everything else up against the wall in one of the boy's bedroom,(they are grown and flew the coop), moma don't like it to much, but she's gettin used to it. With the parts in the house she helps keep me motivated to hurry up an finish the rest of it so I can move (all that junk) out of her house.

Comment by Mike Daniels on January 20, 2011 at 8:03pm
Yeah I'm still in. Should have enough cash to order Fuselage by end of the month. Hopefully I will have it by the time I get home from my LSA Repairman class in March.
Comment by Michael Herder on January 20, 2011 at 7:59pm

It's nice to sit in the plane and make noises.  Good motivation.  I think the fuselage is probably a little more difficult, but not enough to steer you one way or the other.  When you have a big fuselage sitting in your garage it's easier to keep motivated so that you can regain your space.  My wife wanted it out, so it was a little nudge to keep on pulling rivets. 

Comment by Paul Sanders on January 20, 2011 at 7:38pm

Hey Mike, glad to hear you are still in the build and yeah I think the idea of being able to sit in it and make noises would be cool. But if I do the wings first I might strap them to my arms and flap them about like a bird :)

Thanks for your comments Randy and Robert.

Comment by Mike Daniels on January 20, 2011 at 6:39pm
As you know Paul I have the Rudder, HS and Elevator finished. I'm shooting for the fuselage next. For me it makes the least sense space wise, however having it around will be inspirational and give me more to tinker with/think about while waiting on wing kits. Panel, rigging,... Plus I can sit in it and make airplane noises...


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