Talk me out of building a Van's RV

Discussion in 'Home Builders and Sport Pilots' started by iamtheari, Nov 21, 2017.

  1. iamtheari

    iamtheari Line Up and Wait

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    My friendly local A&P used to build aluminum wings for a living. He wants to build a plane with me. I am absurdly tempted because this method will probably get the thing done in months (or at most years) instead of decades and it will probably fly straight, plus building the plane under an A&P's supervision could lead to qualifying for an airframe mechanic certificate, which will have other benefits in life.

    I just checked my logbook. I have 292 hours, of which 125 were solo (43%), 101 were with one passenger (35%), 62 were dual (21%), and 4 were with more than one passenger (1%). (There were a couple of flights with one passenger plus one dog but I have seen a dog ride in the baggage area of an RV-7 so I didn't count these separately.) You're supposed to own a plane for your 90% mission, and my mission is significantly over 90% in the "don't need more than two seats" category. Having a plane for 90% of my flying that I can work on myself will also save money (on entertainment costs because I'll always be working on it and on maintenance costs) that I can use to have access to a bigger plane for trips where it's necessary.

    I like the RV-9 and RV-7, which seem about equally capable for normal flying, and lean toward the RV-7 because it can do aerobatics. I don't have any aerobatic experience but I think I am interested in getting some and I think that a plane that can do aerobatics has a better market than an otherwise very similar plane that cannot. I know that the RV-9 is a little more stable, but I would be building with a two-axis autopilot to relieve fatigue on long flights. I also know that it stalls slightly slower than the RV-7, but not a lot slower. Correct me if I am wrong on the market or on the handling of these planes.

    I put together a costs spreadsheet for the airframe, powerplant, and avionics. I know that the interior and exterior finish will add to the cost but that should be in single-digit AMUs so having the big-ticket items priced out should give a reasonable idea of the total financial outlay for the plane. It looks like 25% of the cost is in the airframe, 25% in the avionics (G3X Touch system with GTN 650 for IFR flight), and 50% in the powerplant (new Lycoming engine and Hartzell propeller). Being able to sequence the purchases as we go is helpful, although not as helpful as it would be if I expected to spend 10 years riveting the airframe together and saving up for the engine.

    What I need now is someone to talk me out of the whole thing. Does anyone in the upper Midwest have a flying RV-7 and/or RV-9 they would like to have a pilot-rated passenger or safety pilot in for a couple hours to help? I'm in western ND so the entire states of MT, ND, MN, and SD are within easy reach and I would fly a little farther than that to get a taste of something before committing over $100,000 and many hours of my life to it. I hope someone can help convince me not to do this!
     
  2. Matthew K

    Matthew K Line Up and Wait

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  3. Bill Jennings

    Bill Jennings Final Approach

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    I'd love to build an RV-8 someday, so nope, not gonna talk you out of it. Do eeeeet!
     
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  4. Capt. Geoffrey Thorpe

    Capt. Geoffrey Thorpe Final Approach

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    RVs are a dime a dozen. Build a T-18 instead. ;)
     
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  5. Checkout_my_Six

    Checkout_my_Six Final Approach

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    you'll never get it built....you'll be lucky to get the tail kit done. And....it'll cost way more than what you've budgeted.

    Give it up.....and just go and buy one. :confused:
     
  6. CC268

    CC268 En-Route

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    I envy you. Sounds like a hell of a plan. RVs are amazing.
     
  7. mscard88

    mscard88 Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Don't do it. Give me the A&Ps number, I'll take your place.

    **** MAN DO IT!!!!!
     
  8. bnt83

    bnt83 Final Approach

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    You know what they say about building an airplane? Once it looks like an airplane you're half done.
     
  9. kyleb

    kyleb En-Route

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    I built an RV-6 and have been flying it for 16 years. It sucks so bad (both building and flying) that I'm almost finished building an RV-10.
     
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  10. N3368K

    N3368K Line Up and Wait

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    I didn't build mine, but I absolutely LOVE my RV-4...and doing basic acro is part of the reason. 90+% of my flying is solo, well than flying along with others in their RVs. :D
     
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  11. Ryanb

    Ryanb Final Approach PoA Supporter

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    How long did it take to complete from start to first flight (RV6) ?
     
  12. coloradobluesky

    coloradobluesky En-Route

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    If you want to build an airplane to build an airplane, build an airplane. If you want an airplane to fly, buy one already built. With building, its the building of it thats the fun. You can buy someone elses RV if you what you want to do is to fly.
     
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  13. CC268

    CC268 En-Route

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    Yea very true...lot of folks out there who build these RVs "professionally" (full time). They let you choose your panel, paint, engine, prop, etc and the rest is done. Not a bad way to go.
     
  14. iamtheari

    iamtheari Line Up and Wait

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    I want to build for a few reasons, including that I sold my fun car to buy an airplane so now I don't have anything to turn wrenches on. It's 100% true that you should not build for the sake of building. Spending somewhere on the order of 1,500 hours spread out over 15 years doing something you don't enjoy is not worth the dollars you might save by building rather than just buying a Cirrus or Extra. I enjoy building things and having a really good mentor takes away the fear of screwing it up and having a slow or unsafe aircraft if I did it all alone.
     
  15. kyleb

    kyleb En-Route

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    Drake the Outlaw
    About 6.5 years. I actively worked on it for about 5 of those years.
     
  16. coloradobluesky

    coloradobluesky En-Route

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    Its a two person job to do install all those rivets.
     
  17. rtk11

    rtk11 Line Up and Wait

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    If I had the time and patience (and funds), I would JUMP at the chance to put together an RV (or other aircraft.). The experience of being able to pull rivets and assemble the plane will be priceless. And you will have intimate knowledge about the inner workings of that airplane.

    As Nike (and others above) have said: Just Do It. ;)
     
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  18. kyleb

    kyleb En-Route

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    You need a helper <5% of the time. Honestly.
     
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  19. FORANE

    FORANE Pattern Altitude

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    I heard that vans was planning a price increase so if you are going to do it you might not want to delay.
     
  20. weilke

    weilke Touchdown! Greaser!

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    I can't. Do it.
     
  21. nauga

    nauga Pattern Altitude

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    If you want to build, build one. If you want to fly one, BUY!

    My -4 took ~13, but I paced it so that it was always fun and it didn't get in the way of life. I just had my first exposure to a prepunched kit and that would have shaved years off my project.

    I did probably 75-85% of the rivets by myself but a second (skilled) person would've made it go faster.

    Nauga,
    over and over...
     
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  22. skier

    skier Pre-takeoff checklist

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    RV's are, by all accounts, great planes that can do a lot of things well. The company has a great reputation for helping the owners when needed. Take those 2 things together and you can see why there are so many of them flying. You can't go wrong with an RV.

    On the other hand, because they are so common I doubt I'll ever own one. If I were looking for a non-LSA experimental, I'd look towards the T-18 Wittman Tailwind, Questair Venture, Davis DA-2, Bede BD-4, Long EZ, Q-2, Velocity, etc. Than again I tend to favor odd-ball things even if they aren't the best option.

    To the OP, what is your mission. You mention 2 seats and maybe aerobatics, but don't add many other details. I couldn't tell if sheet metal was a requirement since the A&P has experience with it, or whether you'd be open to other building materials. Heck, if those are your only 2 requirements, what about a Christen Eagle or Pitts S2?

    The Sonex isn't a bad option either and can do some mild aerobatics.

    What drew you to the RV-lineup?
     
  23. Grum.Man

    Grum.Man Cleared for Takeoff

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    I am really not a fan of the RV aircraft lineup but they really can't be beat. I just wish they would offer one with a little better looking lines at the expense of a little more work.
     
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  24. Velocity173

    Velocity173 Final Approach

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    Not a huge fan of RVs. Like composites myself but you can't go wrong with an RV. Well thought out design and you'll never need to worry about getting parts, unlike my Glasair 1 which isn't supported anymore.

    Used to be hangered next to two military test pilots. Each building an RV-7 and an RV-8. They bought basic kits vs quick build for "the experience" of building from scratch. I used to hear them cuss all the time when they bucked a bad rivet. Must have heard a thousand rivets being bucked over there. I was neat to see a completed aircraft and then go up with them and do acro after the test phase was complete.

    When I retire I'd like to take on a project. Like I said though, most likely composite. :)
     
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  25. N3368K

    N3368K Line Up and Wait

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    Never heard of the Thorp T-18 or Mustang II grin...

    :D :D
     
  26. SkyDog58

    SkyDog58 Final Approach

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    What goes here?
    If you really don’t want to do it, don’t. No need for anyone to talk you out of it.
     
  27. mscard88

    mscard88 Touchdown! Greaser!

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    :eek: You went up with them after they messed up all those rivets?!

    jk ;)
     
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  28. Velocity173

    Velocity173 Final Approach

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    Yeah and believe me, after a couple of Cuban 8s, that was on my mind. But, they're test pilots so they know a crapload more about what keeps a plane together than me!
     
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  29. iamtheari

    iamtheari Line Up and Wait

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    My A&P brought the subject up with the Mustang II in mind. I like the Van's route because it seems to have a stronger community and a little bit easier assembly process. I also noticed that the RV-7 was well-supported by Garmin when I used Aircraft Spruce's website to price out the components, such as the availability of autopilot servo kits specifically for the RV-7.

    That could just be the bias of hearing from more people because there are more RV's out there. In reading about them, the Mustang II and RV-7 are nearly equivalent other than maybe a couple miles per hour top speed in level flight in favor of the Mustang. So I lean toward the easier plane to turn into what I really want.

    Good point. I define my mission based on what I have actually done in the air and what I want to do, with a bias toward reality. I seem to make numerous trips of about 150-250 nm which are sometimes for work and sometimes for personal reasons. I make a few trips a year in the 500 nm range. I only own half of my airplane so I haven't taken it for longer trips but I certainly would do so, around 1,000 nm or so, once or twice a year. I am instrument rated and I plan my trips with the idea that, if I have to be there, I need to leave early enough to get a thorough briefing, get in the air, realize it's a bad day for flying, land, put the plane away, drive, and still get there on time.

    Sheet metal isn't a requirement but it makes the most sense given the primary mission of traveling and my A&P having lots of experience with it. That's the same reason that I priced out the G3X including a two-axis autopilot. I don't even know if my stomach can handle aerobatics yet (anyone want to recommend a good school to get like a 2 or 3 day intro in the Phoenix, AZ, area so I can try to book for the next time I am there?) But if all else is equal, I would choose to build the plane that can go upside-down over the basically identical plane that can't.

    That's in stark contrast to the 2-seat factor. If the RV-10 took the same money and time to build as the RV-9, I would go with the RV-10 instead to have the free back seats. But they're not free and my mission does not require them, so I am not looking at the RV-10. I like the RV-7 and RV-9 because they will do 99% of my flights but at a speed 40 or 50 knots faster than my Arrow, using the same engine and fuel burn. That kind of jump in cruise performance normally would require a lot more expensive upgrade, such as to a twin burning three times the fuel or an A36 Bonanza with three times the hull value.
     
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  30. CC268

    CC268 En-Route

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    Chandler Aerobatics has a great course in AZ. I did the course there and posted a write up over in the Aerobatic section. There is another school that flies Extras, which would be sweet, but it is quite expensive.
     
  31. steingar

    steingar Touchdown! Greaser!

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    By Odin is I had an A&P all ready to assist me I'd have done this long ago. Truth time. Once done, your airplane will be worth little more than what you put into it, possibly less. Your labor will be worth nothing. Like the boys said, build if you want to build. If you want to fly, buy one.

    The one advantage to building it is you don' have to pay for it all at once.
     
  32. N3368K

    N3368K Line Up and Wait

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    I think both the Thorp T-18 and Mustang II are both good airplanes. I have friends who built them. I think the biggest thing the RV series has over both the Thorp and Mustang is slower stall speed, which equates to shorter landing/takeoff. RVs are typically pretty good short and unimproved field planes by comparison. That said, if one is really proficient and on their game, both the Thorp and Mustang can be flown from smaller grass strips. On guy routinely flew his Mustang II in and out of 2700' with trees on each end.
     
  33. Ravioli

    Ravioli En-Route

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    If you're doing a fresh build, go for the RV14. 9's are nice cruisers.

    I considered a Mustang II but went with the crowd and bought the most prolific kit airplane ever designed.
     
  34. iamtheari

    iamtheari Line Up and Wait

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    What does the RV-14 do that the RV-7 doesn't, other than cost more to gain a little bit of cabin space?

    The dollar figures are:
    RV-7 kit: $23,680
    XIO-360 (180hp): $28,700
    Hartzell prop: $7,775

    RV-14 kit: $33,800
    XIO-390 (210hp): $33,800
    Propeller? assume same: $7,775

    So the basic airframe and powerplant are $60,155 for the RV-7 and $75,375 for the RV-14. That seems like quite a price bump for unspecified gains.

    But this is also why I want to at least sit in one before I put any money on the table. If I hate how it feels to sit in a plane, it doesn't matter how easy or hard it is to get that plane.
     
  35. Ravioli

    Ravioli En-Route

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    You could price your RV7 with the 200HP and see that the costs aren't that different.
     
  36. iamtheari

    iamtheari Line Up and Wait

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    The power plant costs about the same, yes. But the airframe kits are still $10,000 apart.
     
  37. Ravioli

    Ravioli En-Route

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    You may be right. Everything else is relatively equal and there is no slider option for the 14. (Not sure if that's a factor for you)

    I'm a pansy with a 6A Tipper... what do I know?
     
  38. OkieAviator

    OkieAviator Cleared for Takeoff

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    When calculating your costs, take the highest number and add 50%.
     
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  39. SoCal RV Flyer

    SoCal RV Flyer Pattern Altitude

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    I'm a little biased because I've flown my -9A for about 200 amazing hours, but when I sat in the demo RV-14 at Oshkosh, it just looked/felt too bulky. And some of the cabin width gain is offset by the canopy linkage that intrudes on elbow room. (This may be the same for 7/9 tip-ups; I'm not sure.) I HAD to have a slider canopy, so that ruled out the 14 entirely.

    Everyone has a different take on how much room is enough, but at 6'3" and 195 lb., I'm plenty comfortable in the -9 (which is essentially a -7 fuselage as far as dimensions go). Flew to Osh with a friend an inch taller and 50 lb. heavier and I never felt cramped.

    Another nice thing about the 7/9 fuselage is its lack of a prominent center tunnel. On a long cross country, it's nice to be able to stretch and extend your right leg all the way to the heater vents! I made sure to route throttle/mixture cables up nice and high so I wouldn't snag them with the tips of my big shoes.

    Also, the Van's planes fly amazingly well with very affordable and virtually maintenance-free FP props. I know a lot of folks can't live without a constant speed, but with a composite Catto 2-blade, it'll do 1800-1900 fpm with a 160-horse I0-320 on a cool day at solo weight.
     
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  40. Dana

    Dana Pre-takeoff checklist

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    RVs are great planes. Builder support is second to none. Not my cup of tea personally, I'm an open cockpit / biplane kind of guy, but I'd take an RV over a Wichita spam can any day. My brother in law used to fly F-106's, now his RV-8 keeps him happy. He flies it out of a 900' grass strip.

    Somebody once said RVs aren't best at anything, but they're second best at lots of things.