[October 9, 2005]

Why would I build an airplane? Well, thats a long story, but one I am sure most beginner pilots can relate to. When I completed my primary flight training, my flight school only really wanted to rent me a plane for a few hours at a time. Some weekdays it was easy to get a Cessna 172 for the whole day, but forget it on the weekends. One of the last times I rented from the flight school was a Cessna 152 for 8 hours on a Saturday. On Friday they left me about 8 voicemail messages seeing if I could make it shorter because some student wanted to some some pattern work in the luxurious economical 152 ($59/hobbs ain't bad!!). I can't really blame them for this. They are in the business of trying to keep the plane running as much as possible to make money. But it was keeping me from getting in as much flying as I wanted.

Next thing I did was join a flying club. The club had a late 70's Skyhawk that was nicely outfitted with dual moving map GPS's, nice 180 HP engine and it was cheap to fly. Plus it had a CFII that was awesome (both a good instructor and cheap for this area). It is what I planned on getting my instrument ticket in. I flew it every now and then, but I ran into scheduling issues with it. Whenever I wanted it, it wasnt available.

OK, so the flight school thing didn't work out, and the flying club isn't ideal. Next thing to keep me flying more was to buy a used plane. OK, they want what for a VFR-only '152?? 172 IFR is how much?! OK, I can deal with that I guess. I am a fairly mechanically minded person, so I could do a bunch of the work myself....OH, I am not an A&P, so no-go there. What does it take to be an A&P? OK, no. So I could get a 1980's Skyhawk for $40,000 with the advanced ADF navigation system and 1500 SMOH. Toss in an overhaul in a year or two and updating the avionics and it was mind bogging how much it wasn going to cost. So, I could spend $60,000 on a 25+ year old plane that could do about 110 kts at 9ish GPH. Things were not looking up.

My friend Andy sent me a link to rvproject.com. At the time he was a few hours away from his PPL and spent every free moment at work on flying web sites. Truly a more dedicated than I was at the time. I took one look at Dan's page and immediately found myself going through every page looking at everything he did. I was in awe. About the time I started looking at the RV-7 page, summer started (Skydiving season) and I moved. Somehow the idea of building an airplane left my mind. In late summer, Andy called me up and told me that he just got done flying a RV-9A around Detroit. He went on and on about it. Next stop for me was about every RV web page out there. I looked at some other kit airplanes out there too. I wanted to get a good feel for what the whole kit airplane market was about. One of the things that struck me about the RV community was how large and responsive it is. Tons of great websites and Yahoo message boards. It looks like it is an RV I am building.

So what do I know about building an airplane. Uh, nothing. Metalwork? Nothing more than what I can do with a hacksaw, and a drillpress. Before diving into anything substantial, I decided to take a RV builders class. I knew that the EAA had a builders class. I looked up their schedule - only classes anytime soon were in LA and Atlanta. A little further from Baltimore than I would of liked, but I considered the LA one since I have friends out there. Dan Checkoway's site recommended Tom Emery's Western PA RV Builders class. Tom was the instructor for Dan's class when he took it out in California. Dan had nothing but great things to say about Tom except for him moving to BFE in PA. Bad for Dan, but Tom's workshop is about 4 hours from me. Next thing I do is send Tom a check for his October 2005 (15th-16th) class. My Dad wanted to go to it also - Booyah, perhaps a RV investor!

So now I am waiting for the class to happen before I make any moves other than research. If I like the class a lot and like what I hear, I am ordering the empennage kit from Van's and the Avery Took Kit (w/ pneumatic squeezer) from Avery.

So why did I choose the RV-7A? Lets start with why the 7? From looking at my logbook, all the flying that I do is either by myself or with one other person. There have only been about 2 flights that I have had more than 2 people onboard. I figure I can stick with my flying club for their spam can for when I need 4 people. OK, so two people, now side-by-side or tandem? When I fly by myself, I use the seat next to me for what I like to have handy. Very nice to have. When someone else in onboard, I use them. Even better. Plus, people that aren't that comfortable with flying don't really like to be sitting by themselves. This left me with the choice between the 7 and the 9 (the 6 is no longer available). As of now, I am leaning towards the 7. Its faster and has more useful load. I am also going with the tricycle landing gear for a couple of reasons. First is it is all I have ever flown. Second, a majority of pilots fly tricycle gear now, so when I sell it, there is a larger market. Supposedly cheaper insurance, but thats no biggie. But the main reason is definitely safety and comfort. On my first flight I dont want to worry about obvious stuff like landing something that lands different that what I fly all the time. I am sure I will have enough to worry about when that time comes.


Last Modified: August 13, 2023