Home > VansAirForceForums

-Advertise in here!
- Today's Posts | Insert Pics

Keep VAF Going
Donate methods

Point your
camera app here
to donate fast.

Old 06-22-2016, 12:48 PM
TimO TimO is offline
Join Date: Feb 2005
Location: Wisconsin
Posts: 649
Default Whelen Tail Strobe

Over the past couple years as LED NAV and Strobe packages became more popular, I've heard one thing about some of the systems. People complain about having noise generated by the LED's or Drivers, and it affects their avionics or audio. I've always done what I can to eliminate noise possibilities.
In both of my planes I have a single-point ground, and run nearly everything that requires a ground, to it. I do sometimes utilize airframe grounding but more often than not, I run a ground wire. Considering the rumblings I've heard about LED kits, I ran a ground for my NAV and Strobe wires.

One of the other things I did was to go with one of the lights that I have NOT heard complaints about, regarding noise. Many users will use other brands such as AeroLED's, but considering that there is virtually no cost savings by going with them, I went looking to Whelen at OSH last year.
I picked out my tail strobe as the Orion 500 series, which I liked the looks of also. In the end, I did not use their LED Wingtip Nav/Strobes, because I had a friend who did a DIY system that had no noise, and I copied it. But for ease of installation the Orion 650E system looks really nice as well. I spent a couple of nights building my own. For the tail position light and strobe combo though, you're going to have to look for a commercial product.

The Orion 500 has a great heat sink and looks to be very well made, so then the only question left was where to purchase it. I buy a lot of stuff from Spruce, but in this case I found that one of our own, Mike Stewart from Team AeroDynamix, is a dealer for Whelen, and preferring to support an RV guy, I went there. Same fast shipping, real good price, and good service as well. Here's their store link:

When it came time to install the strobe, I ran into one small complication... our RV-14 I believe uses the same rudder fairing as the RV-9, and when I inserted the strobe into the hole, the width of the fairing was just slightly too narrow, and I hate fiberglass. But, I wouldn't have sacrificed and gone another route anyway, so I had to set out and tweak it.

I'll write more inline with the pics. Here's a photo of the strobe: (See the big heat sink)

I started by looking at where exactly the strobe hit. Then marked it and cut out a notch in the fairing with a grinder. If I'd have been more careful I may have been able to make it smaller.

One other thing I carefully did was to grind the back corners of the strobe where it was hitting, on the deburring wheel. I found that you can actually round and remove quite a bit of the aluminum, so in the end my notches may have been able to be a lot smaller. I'm not sure.

One other difference is, due to the way the doubler is made, and the size of the hole in the doubler, you are not able to rivet in the aluminum doubler to the end of the fairing. I didn't know why the doubler was necessary really anyway other that for threading in the screws, because my RV-10 doesn't have one. So I just tossed the doubler and got the tail fairing hole sized properly for the strobe.

Once the strobe fit in, I put some tape over the strobe to protect it, and laid a couple of thin layers of glass over the notches, and after that dried, I used fairing filler to re-shape the fairing slightly. I did a slop job, knowing that I'd be doing some sanding on the fairing filler anyway. It sands pretty easily.

Since I wasn't using the doubler, my plan was to do like I did on the RV-10 and embed the nuts directly into the tail and epoxy them in place. I did find that the tail fairing aft seam was kind of flimsy and wanted to crack easily, so it was good to reinforce that with some colloidal silica and epoxy as well. I stuck some 4-40 nuts on a couple longer 4/40 screws, and put some oil on the threads. I used 2 nuts per screw, just to give more thickess, and when I embedded them into the aft side of the tail, I made sure they were inside at least 1/8" to allow epoxy to get between them and the aft end of the fairing. This would make sure they couldn't pull out.

These 2 pics show the filler and the holes:

Wiring the strobe is simple and only requires 1 power wire for the Position light, 1 power wire for the strobe function, and 1 ground wire. There is a 4th wire you can also use if you want, to sync it to other strobes. I didn't do that.

Once installed, it ended up looking pretty nice. The removal of the doubler brings the strobe in about .063", and gives it one less aluminum flange section, so it mates up nicely with the fiberglass.

Here are some pics of the installed strobe:

I did test it out now that I've been flying and there is no noise at all. I used the existing Van's wiring to connect least from the baggage wall back.
(I did not use the black airframe ground wire either, but a ground wire all the way to my central ground tabs) In my plane, there isn't really too much of Van's wiring left, as the only wires I used were the ones for the landing lights, and the Nav/Strobe lights. Everything else I ripped out and re-did with my own wires, removing all of the molex connectors in the process.

I just thought I'd post this because when you read on strobes if you come to the conclusion like I did that you want the whelen, you will know what you are in for. It does require a little epoxy and glass work...maybe 3 hours worth is what I spent, but in the end it makes for a noise free strobe system that works and looks nice.
Tim Olson - CFI
RV-10 N104CD - Flying 2/2006 - 1400+ hours
RV-14 N14YT - Flying 6/2016 - 350+ hours
Reply With Quote
Old 06-22-2016, 02:08 PM
flightlogic's Avatar
flightlogic flightlogic is offline
Join Date: Nov 2013
Location: Prescott, AZ
Posts: 1,674
Default fun

Virtually the same result as
When you shop at Whelen or Aeroleds, you are paying for certification. I don't care if a company carries two lines of products or not. You ARE paying for certification... if that is what they do as part of their business model.
They tool up for mass quantities and make excellent products. I have Whelen in my 9A wingtips. Love them. I don't expect to ever replace them.
In the tail, I put a flyleds product. I like the design and the results. So, my money has gone a company that does ambulances, police cars etc. And also to a small one man company in Australia.
The nice thing is we get to choose. I see in the new issue of AOPA that we can expect to see more non TSO products installed in both types of planes. Makes sense to me, since I fly in the same cloud they do, and pose no more risk than my TSO neighbors.
Glad you posted... it is good to see how builders make things fit.... that don't fit the first time. It is all fun.
"Kindness is never a bad plan."

exemption option waived. Donation appropriate.
Reply With Quote
Old 06-22-2016, 02:31 PM
chrispratt's Avatar
chrispratt chrispratt is offline
Super Moderator
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 796

I couldn't help but notice the introduction of band aids as the build sequence photos progressed. Now that's what a call a true builder. Be sure to keep the photos in your builders log for your DAR to show you satisfy the 51% rule.

Nice writeup.

Chris Pratt (2021 VAF DUES PAID)
RV-8 Flying, 850+hours
Lycoming O-360-A1A, Hartzell CS
52F (Northwest Regional, TX)
Reply With Quote
Old 06-22-2016, 02:52 PM
Mike S's Avatar
Mike S Mike S is offline
Senior Curmudgeon
Join Date: Sep 2005
Location: Dayton Airpark, NV A34
Posts: 16,095

Originally Posted by TimO View Post
Here's a photo of the strobe: (See the big heat sink)

Big heat sink for sure. Wonder how much heat is generated in operation.

Also, wonder the effect of sticking that heat sink in a hole lined with insulation.............

Originally Posted by TimO View Post

Just thinkin "out loud" to speak.
Mike Starkey
VAF 909

Rv-10, N210LM.

Flying as of 12/4/2010

Phase 1 done, 2/4/2011

Sold after 240+ wonderful hours of flight.

"Flying the airplane is more important than radioing your plight to a person on the ground incapable of understanding or doing anything about it."

Last edited by Mike S : 06-22-2016 at 02:55 PM.
Reply With Quote
Old 06-22-2016, 03:00 PM
TimO TimO is offline
Join Date: Feb 2005
Location: Wisconsin
Posts: 649

No kidding on the band-aids! I don't remember which injury that was, but it could be one of the 2,755 times I ran my hand into the deburring wheel.
My kids actually have been trained pretty well... when they see me bleeding a bit on the heavy side but I'm not stopping to fix it, they say "Dad, can I get you a man-daid?" The definition of Man-Daid is a piece of paper towl, folded over and wrapped around you, covered with some sort of tape, be it duct, electrical, or masking. I tend to wear them fairly often.

Regarding the non-TSO lighting product, I wholeheartedly long as they don't make noise. I've heard of LED systems taking out a friends NAV radio on an ILS, and things like that. That's not what you want. But, if they are bright, and the right color, and noise free, I don't feel that there's any great benefit to paying more money for the TSO or certification. I did the old-fashioned LED Nav's on my RV-10, 10+ years ago. They are nowhere near what you can do today, in terms of brightness.

On my -14, I did Feniex Cannon 120 strobes in the wings, and mirrored plexi type LED Nav lights. The Feniex Cannons are simple, cheap at about $70 each, and work well. The LED Nav's were very inexpensive to make, and bright as heck. I had a friend who offered to cut them for me, cut me a 2nd set for my RV-10 to use later.

Here is how they look, installed. This is his install:

When I did mine, I wanted to ensure they would be bright enough in all directions (he assured me his were), so I added a couple more LED's above and below the strobe on that mirror. When I tested them out in the house they were actually blinding. I flew right up until my sundown time limit for the flyoff the other day, and although it was still plenty light out, 2 friends who saw me from the ground said they were very bright.

Here are pics of mine:

This one was taken when I was just installing the wingtips are laying on the wings.

I think they're plenty visible! All without a TSO.
Tim Olson - CFI
RV-10 N104CD - Flying 2/2006 - 1400+ hours
RV-14 N14YT - Flying 6/2016 - 350+ hours
Reply With Quote
Old 06-22-2016, 03:38 PM
leok leok is offline
Join Date: Apr 2013
Location: Clarkston, MI
Posts: 421

There are two common ways to drive LEDs. Since LEDs are current driven, the current flow must be limited to the LEDs rating and can be from 20 ma to 3 amps depending on the particular LED rating
One is to use a 'buck-puck' switching driver. These are high frequency switching devices that turn the current on and off to manage the current flow. They come in a lot of different switching frequencies and can generate noise in the Comm and Nav frequency ranges. (LED Flashlights use this method as batteries last longer with switching drivers. Since switching frequencies vary from brand to brand, some will cause radio interference and some will not)

The second way is to use a resistor to limit the current. This generates no noise, but does generate heat that needs to be managed. Where the voltage supply is closely regulated and a little power loss to heat is inconsequential, this is the preferred method. This is how AeroLEDs are regulated. No radio noise.
Building started Oct 5th 2014, Flying since 1/16/2020
RV Hotel, come by and visit if you're in town
Dues paid 2020
Reply With Quote
Old 06-22-2016, 04:36 PM
RONSIM's Avatar
RONSIM RONSIM is offline
Join Date: Feb 2008
Location: Largo, FL
Posts: 1,071
Default Replaced my exsisting Whelens

with the Orion LEDS for strobes and navs --- ran into the same problem with the tail strobe --- lacked 1.25 inches of fitting the way the old 500 did. On the -6, there is actually structure in the way. Temporary extension on the rudder fairing has it working well.

But, boy, are they bright!! Hurt your eyes to look at them.

I also installed Whelen PAR 46 landing lights to replace my old Bob Olds set.

RV-10 Co-built, maintained, flown (sold)
RV-8A Maintained and flown (Sold)
RV-6A (Sold) Bought and Flying (N177RV), upgrades $$$
IO360, 180HP/CS, AFS 5600T, D10A, G650, G430, G327, ADS-B, VIZ385 AP
Very Happy Contributor
Based at KCLW (Clearwater, FL)
Reply With Quote
Old 06-23-2016, 07:29 AM
Robert Anglin Robert Anglin is offline
Join Date: Mar 2008
Location: houston, texas
Posts: 900
Default Us too

We had the old flash type Whelen strobes installed from the start of our little bird, but early last year we had the power pack go dead on the tail light strobe. We were at Oshkosh and I stopped buy Whelen's booth and they were kind enough to direct me to the lowest price on the field for the new Oreon 600 lead type strobes. When I found out that there was a good airshow discount, I broke down and bought all three units and not just the tail light. We took out all the old school style lights and the other power pack for the wing lights. Installed all three new leads and even put in a sync. switch to all three. Easy refit and we love it. Less weight, less power needed, a lot more cool factor to the look of the new style units and the "RMI" shielding wire and energy is gone for ever. I would do it again without hesitation. Hope this helps, if you are on the fence. Yours, R.E.A. III #80888
Reply With Quote
Old 06-23-2016, 07:43 AM
Walt's Avatar
Walt Walt is offline
Join Date: Aug 2005
Location: Dallas/Ft Worth, TX
Posts: 6,342

Not to take anything away from the Whelen, but I recently faced with this same situation on a customers aircraft. I elected to go with the Aeroled Sun Tail which is a drop in replacement for the old Whelen tail light rather than modify and repaint the rudder to make the Whelen fit.
Walt Aronow, DFW, TX (52F)

EXP Aircraft Services LLC
Specializing in RV Condition Inspections, Maintenance, Avionics Upgrades
Dynamic Prop Balancing, Pitot-Static Altmeter/Transponder Certification
FAA Certified Repair Station, AP/IA/FCC GROL, EAA Technical Counselor
Authorized Garmin G3X Dealer/Installer
RV7A built 2004, 2000+ hrs, New Titan IO-370, Bendix Mags
Website:, Email:, Cell: 972-746-5154
Reply With Quote
Old 06-23-2016, 09:34 PM
flightlogic's Avatar
flightlogic flightlogic is offline
Join Date: Nov 2013
Location: Prescott, AZ
Posts: 1,674
Default heat

I would want some air flow around the heatsink, if at all possible.
Heat is a big enemy. The effects may take some time to manifest in a failed component though. Current draw (and therefore heat creation) is listed right on the product... so it is something that can be calculated... in terms of dissipation needed.
"Kindness is never a bad plan."

exemption option waived. Donation appropriate.
Reply With Quote

Thread Tools Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

vB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Forum Jump

All times are GMT -6. The time now is 11:44 AM.

The VAFForums come to you courtesy Delta Romeo, LLC. By viewing and participating in them you agree to build your plane using standardized methods and practices and to fly it safely and in accordance with the laws governing the country you are located in.