Friday, February 10, 2006


I almost got some flying in last night. The automated weather reporting system told me winds were 290 at 6 knots. I rushed on over to the airport and dragged the bird out of the hangar, saddled up, cranked the engine, and called the tower.

Tower: "Winds 290 @ 12, gusting 18."

Me: "Never mind."

I could live with the 12 knots, but the 18 is currently beyond my comfort zone, especially since I haven't been flyng very much.

School has been kind of slow too. We're still talking about aircraft materials, although we've finally finished with metal alloys. We had relatively brief discussions about wood, plastics, and composites. I'm not sure what's next, but soon we will be working on fabricating fluid lines, and that will be primarily lab work. That's the best stuff as far as I'm concerned. It's not that the things we're doing now aren't important - it's just that I prefer the actual mechanical work.

Next quarter is looking good. Rather than the regulations and environmental systems classes, I'm registered in one of the Structures classes. And, it's the one I want the most: aluminum shaping, fabricating, riveting, etc. Yeah! That's some stuff I can really, really use!

Why, you ask? Well, as regular readers will know I've been trying on ideas for ways to use some of this new learning on my own. I thought about restoring a Pitts, but eventually decided against it because of economic viability. It would be an open-ended project (essentially a money pit) with little possibility of recouping the costs at the end. A Pitts is a wonderful plane, but an experimental Pitts doesn't have a huge market. I also thought about building something less complicated than an RV, but again I would end up with a plane I don't want and would likely end up selling at a loss.

I finally came full circle and decided to build an RV. There was another option I considered, which was building an F1 Rocket. I love the Rocket, and if I could have any plane I wanted, this would be it. But it just doesn't fit what I'm looking for right now. It's only available as a quick build kit, which defeats the purpose of building. The other issue is cost. The quick build kit costs $40,000+, and you have to have that right up front. The engine is a six cylinder Lycoming, and that alone would cost more than $30,000.

I'm thinking a better approach would be to build an RV-8, which is the plane I wanted instead of the RV-6. I couldn't afford one, and Co-pilot Egg didn't want to have to ride in the back seat. Affordability can be addressed by building, and five years from now (the absolute soonest I would expect to have it done) I don't think she will be as concerned about where she rides.

The affordabilty issue is somewhat mitigated by the slow build. It starts out pretty easy: $1,450 for the tail kit. The tail will take at least a year for me to build. The next kit is the wings, and they go for $5,800. They too will take at least a year. Then comes the fuselage, which goes for around $7,000, I think. What it comes down to is that it will be at least five years before I need to make the major purchases like engine and avionics, and when I do, I will be looking at a 180hp engine rather than the very expensive 250hp the F1 Rocket wants. That will be much, much cheaper.

Of course, there are other costs right up front that I need to worry about. Tools alone will cost around $2,500, and I will need to build myself a shop. Preliminary measurements indicate that I might be able to build the tail, wings, and fuselage in my basement, and not have to work in the hangar until all those parts are done and ready to be assembled into an airplane. That would be a huge benefit for reasons of temperature control (it gets VERY hot and VERY cold in the hangar) and being in the house rather than a mile away in the hangar. The latter benefit is far more important than the former; a lot of planes don't get built because the time away from the family becomes an issue. Being right downstairs in the basement goes a long way towards resolving that.

So, this is all tentative, but I'm already pretty invested in the idea. So much so, in fact, that I'm already planning the paint scheme. I'm leaning towards staying with the military look, but using the Supermarine Spitfire as my model. Woooo, baby, that's one beautiful airplane!

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