EAB - Variation in maintenance difficulty by manufacturer

ArrowFlyer86

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The Little Arrow That Could
When it comes to EAB aircraft are there any prevailing thoughts/wisdom in the community about manufacturers or models that are easier to work on than others? Not necessarily the ease of building the kit from scratch, but in terms of ongoing mx.
Specifically for the things you might do in normal operation like upgrade a component in your avionics stack, replace a radio, changing a tire, servicing a strut, replace a hydraulic gear pump, ... Not things like body work / fixing it after a gear up or something like that.

Most curious about the faster EAB makes, like Lancair vs Glasair (RGs, not their tail draggers) vs Vans vs Velocity... Are there any that are notably more difficult to work on?

NOTE: Asking as someone who hasn't turned a wrench on their airplane for anything more difficult than unscrewing an oil filter, so if the question doesn't make sense... that's why :)
 
MODS: In case this should have been filed under "Home Builders & Sport Pilots" category, please feel free to reassign. Sry.
 
The more complex the design, the more difficult the maintenance. A retractable-gear aircraft is going to harder to work on.

I think most designs will allow you to add access panels, etc. that give you better ways to get at stuff to maintain them. Here's a shot of my Fly Baby, partially disassembled for ADS-B Out installation:
1701477598428.png
Note that not only does the top of the airplane come completely off, there's a panel on the floor that lets me drop my legs down to allow leaning into the area behind the panel....

Ron "Yabba Dabba Doo" Wanttaja
 
It really depends on the builder.....a real craftsman thinks of maintainability.....a cobbler maybe not so much.
 
I have an RV-8 and think it’s pretty easy to work on. Access behind the panel is not optimized for large people, though. But overall it’s well thought out. Plenty of inspection plates, cockpit floor and side panels easily removable, cowling has to be removed to check anything but the oil but it’s simple. Things like routing and bundling wiring are entirely dependent on the builder, of course.
 
The best mod anyone can do, especially for glass panels, is provide outside access to the back of the panel.

If you want simple? Simplify the systems. Standard aircraft engine and fixed pitch prop. Steam gauges.
 
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The more complex the design, the more difficult the maintenance. A retractable-gear aircraft is going to harder to work on.
I don't agree with that. A retractable-gear aircraft isn't necessarily harder to work on. It just has an additional mechanism that has to be maintained. That does not mean it's "harder" to work on. Just that there's "more" to work on.
 
When it comes to EAB aircraft are there any prevailing thoughts/wisdom in the community about manufacturers or models that are easier to work on than others? Not necessarily the ease of building the kit from scratch, but in terms of ongoing mx.
Specifically for the things you might do in normal operation like upgrade a component in your avionics stack, replace a radio, changing a tire, servicing a strut, replace a hydraulic gear pump
Other than things like wheel pants vs. no wheel pants, most of what you're asking about is going to depend on the builder.

Because I've spent a lot of time fixing and maintaining things, when I was building my Velocity, I was always thinking about "what happens when I need to work on this?" As a result, I made modifications that would make maintenance easier. For example, I can remove the canard cover in about 15 seconds. All 4 seats can be removed in less than 5 minutes. I can have the instrument panel out in about 20 minutes. All of that added to the build time, but it's SO much easier to work on.
 
I have owned a RV and currently have a Lancair.

The RV had fewer systems to maintain:
fixed pitch prop instead of electric constant speed
fixed gear instead of electro-hydraulic retract
mechanical trim instead of electric servo
Fewer systems means less stuff to require maintenance. It does not mean easier to work on.

Changing tires? The Lancair which is retract / more complex is easier to change tires as the tires are exposed instead of buried under wheel pants.

The RV series has alot of premade items which make mods easier. Example is installing autopilot servos. The RV has bolt up servo mounts as compared to the Lancair which requires composite work to build a custom mount.
 
In addition to the design, the support group behind a plane is important as well. They will provide tips and tricks that you might find helpful. Vans Air Force seems to be an enthusiast group.
 
In my opinion? Working on them is the best part of having an experimental. Building, modifying, and maintaining are favorite pastimes. I do a bit of maintenance on my Cessna, too, but the freedom of the E-AB category is awesome. Dream it, do it.
 
The more complex the design, the more difficult the maintenance. A retractable-gear aircraft is going to harder to work on.

I think most designs will allow you to add access panels, etc. that give you better ways to get at stuff to maintain them. Here's a shot of my Fly Baby, partially disassembled for ADS-B Out installation:
View attachment 122913
Note that not only does the top of the airplane come completely off, there's a panel on the floor that lets me drop my legs down to allow leaning into the area behind the panel....

Ron "Yabba Dabba Doo" Wanttaja
Is that panel in the bottom how you stop after landing??
 
As much as the brand/type of the airplane, the individual builder's prioritization for maintainability is important. Did s/he place things where they are accessible by someone who isn't a double jointed dwarf with x-ray vision?
 
Thanks all. It sounds like manufacturer is less important than the builder...

As someone with no build or mx experience I think I'd be relying on my A&P to advise me on that.

How did most of you learn how to work on your own planes and get comfortable with it?
 
How did most of you learn how to work on your own planes and get comfortable with it?
Reading, videos, advice from experienced builders/maintainers.

I've never been shy about asking the local IA or A&P "hey, how do I do this?" or "Can you take a look at what I'm trying to do?"

Nobody knows everything, so it is important to find multiple resources who can help in their areas of expertise.
 
Thanks all. It sounds like manufacturer is less important than the builder...

As someone with no build or mx experience I think I'd be relying on my A&P to advise me on that.

How did most of you learn how to work on your own planes and get comfortable with it?
By working on our own planes until we got comfortable with it.
 
How did most of you learn how to work on your own planes and get comfortable with it?

Build a few aircraft and you'll get the hang of it. ;)

Seriously ... I've had a mechanical heart since working as a very young teenager in a "fix it shop" where most of the fixing was gas powered equippment. Building airplanes came as a later hobby and I've had a couple of excellent mentors along the way. Like kyleb said above, don't be shy about asking the folks that know how things should be done. There are a couple of really smart people on this site that share some amazing information for free ...
 
It sounds like manufacturer is less important than the builder
Strictly speaking, the builder is the manufacturer.

For getting started in maintenance - that is what I grew up with. Manuals help a lot - there may not be a maintenance manual for the airframe, but there should be documentation for engines, wheels / brakes, etc. The FAA EMT manuals cover a lot of material as well. When I got my first car, I sat down and read the shop manual cover to cover...
 
How did most of you learn how to work on your own planes and get comfortable with it?
By watching A&Ps work, asking questions, taking notes, and having A&Ps and experienced, knowledgeable pilots/owners teach me. Youtube also has a ton of useful, credible info. When I do something new, it’s under supervision if outside or bordering on the edge of my skills. If I definitely know what I’m doing, I usually still have someone else do a QC check and critique it. After the work is done, debrief and make a plan for how to do it better next time.
 
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