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Front Control Stick

My front control stickMost of us figure out pretty quickly that the front control stick needs to be cut to fit in the RV-8.  If left at its original length, it bangs into the instrument panel before you can get full forward on the controls. 

The two big changes most of us make are bending the stick (if you are going to), and adding some sort of stick grip.  Here is what I did for both.

Bending the Stick

The choice to bend or not is another one of those personal things that make building your own airplane so much fun—you can customize it to fit you perfectly.  I have read and talked to a few builders who decided to keep theirs unbent.  If this fits for you, perfect.  Because I have shorter arms, I wanted the stick grip a little farther aft than it would be unbent.  Yes, this makes the grip pretty close to my stomach when full aft, but the normal, level flight position is comfortable.

In the past, a lot of guys sent their front control stick off to a guy who specialized in this kind of bending, but that service is no longer available.  The dimensions are available, though, so I used them as a starting point to bend my stick to the shape I wanted.

Original front control stick recommended bending dimensions

Original recommended bending dimensions

I live in a small town in Louisiana, so I brought my stick to the only shop in town that does this kind of metal fabrication.  He promised he could make the bends and not ruin the stick by having buckles or wrinkles.  Unfortunately, he couldn’t, and I got back a junked piece of metal that I would never put in my airplane.  So I ordered another stick from Vans, and decided to cut and weld it myself.

I used the ruined stick as a template to get the correct positions for the cuts.  I found that the dimensions for the original bending weren’t perfect for me.  The bottom bend was a little too low and caused the stick to hit the seat before full aft was achieved.  So I moved the bend up a little.  I added my final dimensions to this diagram.

My front control stick bending dimensions

My bending dimensions

I made two cuts almost all the way through the stick, one for each of the two bends.  Then I bent the stick in both places ensuring the stick stayed straight and untwisted.  Then I welded those two cuts shut.  I repeated this process a couple of times until I got the degree of bending I wanted.

I spent a little time with the grinder, making the welds look pretty, then I filled in the really low spots with JB Weld, but Bondo or any other type of filler would have worked just as well.  Then I primed and repainted the stick.

Stick Grip

Front Control Stick GripI waited until after the bending was complete before cutting and fitting the stick grip.  Bending the stick changes the total length, and I wanted to make sure everything fit properly.

Fitting the infinity grip was straight forward.  The hardest part was putting the grip back together onto the stick.  The switches kept falling out of the slots, and the wires kept moving in the way.  But with a little patience, I got it all to fit.

I chose to use a d-sub fitting for the electrical connections, as this seemed to be the smallest connector that would handle enough wires.

I haven’t assigned all the switches yet, but I do have the trim and autopilot disengage on the front control stick.  I connected every wire to the d-sub, so adding more functions in the future will be a lot easier—I won’t have to pull the stick apart, or do any more wiring on it.  I’ll only have to run the circuits to the d-sub.

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