Thursday, May 11, 2006

Annual unstalled, thoughts about the future

The screws I've been waiting for arrived via Pony Express from Oregon yesterday, so I can put all of the panels, etc. back on the plane tonight. I repaired the trim tab by fabricating a doubler in school Monday night, although I'm still awaiting the arrival of the rivets I need to attach it to the trim tab. Hopefully those will come today, assuming the pony isn't too tired from his cross-country jaunt in bringing the screws.

The idea for the doubler comes from the compendium of 24 years worth of newsletters from the Van's factory. This problem has been well known since the mid-90's, and in fact caused a change in the design of the trim tab. For me, though, the suggested fix is adequate: stop drill the crack, remove the control horn, fabricate a doubler from .032" or .040" 2024-T3 sheet metal, and rivet it all back together. I'm not thrilled with the look of the stop drill hole, but this plane has always been intended to be a weekend flyer, not a show plane. I'll stop seeing it within a week or two anyway once I get used to it being there.

I'm nearly done with my sheet metal class, and I think I'm going to miss it. There's something almost therapeutic about the work, and the feeling of accomplishment arising from creating a piece of airplane starting with a drawing and a flat piece of metal is going to be hard to substitute. This has gotten me to thinking about building again.

I had previously considered building an RV-8, but the more I think about it, that doesn't go far enough ahead of where I am today with my -6. All it would accomplish, other than the immense satisfaction of creating my very own airplane, would be a change in seating arrangements. I don't mean to discount the value of the building process, obviously, but co-goals in all of this MUST be to make a sound financial decision and to advance the capabilities of my airplane.

Thge sound financial decision aspect excludes building anything that doesn't have a vibrant and sustained resale value, and the run-away leader in that realm is clearly the Van's planes. Even today, with over 4,000 of them flying, it is possible to build for $80k and sell for $100k. I can't think of any other homebuilt that has that benefit. The combination of the immense and supportive user community and the reasonable insurance rates that result from the well-known safety history of the fleet combine to make a unique offering within the homebuilt community. The financial stability of the factory is important too.

I think about this a lot. A whole lot. I've narrowed it down to a couple of possible approaches, each having its own set of pros and cons. Approach 1 would be to find a 50% partner in building/owning the 4-seat RV-10, selling the RV-6 when the -10 is just about done, and buying my own single-seat "play" plane to address the non-travel, throw it around the sky kind of flying. Single-seat planes are very cheap because nearly everyone wants to carry at least one passenger now and then. The options run from a single-seat biplane such as an EAA biplane, up to an RV-3.

Here's an RV-10:

Not as sexy as the taildragging RVs, but great performance for 1/4 the cost of a similar store-bought plane.

Approach 2 goes the whole-hog into having a 2-seat airplane and no partner. In this case I would be building my dream plane: an F1 Rocket.

The Rocket is simlar in size to the RV-8, but uses a much larger engine, usually at least 260hp, compared to the 160-180 hp of the RV-8. Fun, fun, FUN to fly! It's a quick-build kit, which offers the benefit of faster completion but increases initial cost significantly. Still, one can be built for just under $100k, but easily sold at at least a 20% profit should I ever decide I'm not interested in having fun anymore. I have to say, though, that it's hard to see me ever getting tired of 190 knots and 3000fpm climb!

If neither of those works out, there's always this:

Well, probably not that.

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