The Build


Home Instruments Fuselage Tail Wing Fairings Tanks Canopy Cowling Engine

     With a bit of an understanding for aircraft structures I'm amazed at the consideration in the design and planning that went into this aircraft.  My hat is off to Mr. Van Grunsven who has really done a nice job in the design and marketing of these aircraft.  The completeness of the kit and work he's done in developing accurate plans is awesome.  At the same time he's made it possible to build an entire plane with basic tools.  The RV's  will open the door for a guy to take his building abilities as far as he wants. It's the perfect example of a kit plane with a true balance of economics, precision, complexity and looks. 


Not that I particularly care about time comparisons but I managed to get the airplane done in about 2 years and 7 months. Working a full kit with kids and a wife doesn't make for the most comfortable situation for a 2-1/2 year build time. Having a full time job doesn't make it any easier. I kept telling myself that the longer it took...the longer it would be before I could relax with the family. Even when we went on vacation, I'd hear airplanes fly over head.  They always reminded me of what I had sitting in the garage.

My theory on time is this...Who really cares anyway. You're the guy who's gonna fly it. I cannot stress how important it is to consider what you want when you're done.  Nobody spends this kind of money on something they plan on finishing in the "Good Enough To Fly" category. Whenever someone says this to me I wonder how they justified biting off on the project in the first place. They had to be pretty sure of themselves in the beginning.  You normally wont see this attitude until the tail end of the project.  Guys get in a rush at the most crucial stage of the kit. Here's some things to think about as your instructions get thin towards the end.

If you haven't noticed it by now, you will.  The step by step plans in the early stages of the project are necessary for familiarizing the builder with the sequence of construction. They are very specific and helpful.  One of the smart things Van's did was removing the repetition in similar steps later in the kit. It was really a way of saying.."Hey dude, if you can't figure it out by now...give it up..or get someone to help". When things got complicated the instructions returned to the step by step mode.  The Canopy is a good example.  Although Van's does an excellent job providing example installations, system integration is really up to the builder.  It's at this point that guys (gals) go down their own path.  It's also the point that some may head down a difficult road.  Before you get there, think about it...

Building the tail, wing and most of the fuselage is fun.  The rest can go either way depending on your planning.  At about this point you will be looking at something resembling a plane.  The big pieces are done. If you have the room, you might even be tempted to clamp it all together to look like a plane.  I think everyone does it at some point.  It's exciting and a way of seeing your accomplishments.  This is an excellent time to do some hardcore planning. Start thinking about access, additional equipment, wire runs and anything that may cause problems down the road. As you plan the instrument installation think 'out of the box'. Look for any indication of problems related to panel real estate and access.  Consider tooling limitations you may experience down the road while trying to maintain the aircraft after the build.  Screw direction, the use of nut plates, clamping and ease of view are crucial.  If you don't, what took five minutes to install may take two days of disassembly to fix. That really sucks when your finished and ready to start it for the first time.  I experienced that with the wing tips. After that killer paint job that took two months I put the wing tips on.  They didn't line up with the ailerons. Like others, I had to split them, install a new rib, re-glass and repaint. It took a truckload of extra tools to get it done at the airport.  I wished I had looked a little harder at the "zeroing" of the bell cranks 4 months prior - when I had all the wing stuff hooked up.  That was just one small detail of many.  I was normally thinking ahead and taking care of things like that. I knew from experience why I needed to.  For some, it only takes a few times before they understand.  Unfortunately many builders may not have been involved in a project that requires this level of planning.  They may think that it's all going to magically work out.  It doesn't.  Every shortcut you take will come back to haunt you.  It doesn't matter if it's mechanical or cosmetic. You'll think about it.  Even the best remember all the little mistakes.  Getting one of these planes finished is an accomplishment that anyone would be proud of. There's a definite connection between the guys that do.  They know what you've gone through no matter how long it took. For those of you that have, Congratulation's! For those making the attempt, keep your focus.  You'll need it.